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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: "What's in a name?"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1591  Monday, 25 June 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Jun 2001 09:38:29 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1587 Re: "What's in a name?"

[2]     From:   Rainbow Saari <
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        Date:   Saturday, 23 Jun 2001 12:23:50 +1200
        Subj:   Re: R & J query

[3]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Jun 2001 09:38:29 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1587 Re: "What's in a name?"

From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Jun 2001 09:38:29 -0700
Subject: 12.1587 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1587 Re: "What's in a name?"

Since Stuart Taylor is pleased to call me a knave, I'd like to
knaviously point out that burden of proof is on the person making a
claim.  Please show a phallic reference to the name Peter in English
dating back to early modern times, or the time machine you use when you
do your research.

Knave Jensen

From:           Rainbow Saari <
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Date:           Saturday, 23 Jun 2001 12:23:50 +1200
Subject:        Re: R & J query

I didn't intend to take so long to get back to this; the flu has dealt
to me this past week. There are quite a variety of interesting responses
to my interpretation of the Capulet/ Paris dialogue in the post! Don
Bloom writes ( SHK 12. 1509 )

Perhaps I tend to take things too literally, but I try to imagine what
sort of man would engage in this extended dirty joking about his
daughter- with a man hoping to marry her. And I fail.

A reasonable point. But while I see/hear in their dialogue a level of
sexual meaning ( and I'm not claiming that's the only level of meaning
there is here ) I don't see this as 'extended dirty joking'. I will
admit though that my use of the 'Nudge, wink, say no more', phrase may
sound sleazier than I had intended. They have talked about the marriage
before and Capulet is restating, with language that suggests to me the
issue of her sexual readiness has been discussed, that, " Hey, we're
both men of the world; I think you understand me. " If Juliet actually
desires/loves Paris, his own objection (because of her tender years)
will not count. (Oops! Better watch my language.)  I said in my original
posting on this topic "I think Juliet's father shows in this scene a
genuine interest in securing an alliance for his daughter in which she
stands (!) a chance of being physically/ sexually happy. Does the line
"And too soon marred are those so early made" hark back to the
difficulties of his own marriage to a sexually unwilling bride? Juliet's
mother tells her  "By my count (cunt; indeed!) I was your mother much
upon these years that you are now a maid."

No one has chosen to comment on the validity (or otherwise) of my
perception but this is the conclusion I came to, based on the ambiguous
language of several passages in their dialogue. Whether I 'should' have
arrived at this conclusion is a matter I think Robin and I are unlikely
to agree upon.

What your comment brought to mind for me, Don, was the account I read
(and I've honestly no idea where to find the reference to this at
present) of Sir Thomas More pulling the bedclothes off his sleeping
naked ( ? ) daughters so that his prospective son in law, William Roper,
would be able to assess the physical charms of his future bride.
Something to do with the concept that one wouldn't buy a horse without
close scrutiny of the beast; wasn't it more sensible to know what you
might be getting in a prospective bride, than to be unpleasantly
surprised after the wedding? ( I'm not aware of any account of Margaret
being given the opportunity to examine her future husband. I hope she
was given the same option. )

More does propose in his Utopia ( 1515 )that couples should be given the
opportunity to see each other naked before marriage, because the
physical/ sexual dimension of a marriage is important to the happiness
of both parties. The relevant paragraph, which begins, "In choosing
their wives ..." is found at the link below. The language of this text
is somewhat modernised; both  my printed texts have "Furthermore, in
choosing wives and husbands..."

I'm not suggesting a Capulet/ Sir Thomas More connection here, but I
believe that the possibility of a father caring about his daughter's
future physical happiness in a marriage and talking about it with her
wooer (even joking, perhaps to cover possible embarrassment ? ) may not
have been in the 1590's quite as unlikely as we might choose to believe.
One of the customs associated with Lammastide, my book on English folk
customs tells me, was that for the duration of the the Lammas Fair
couples could conduct a 'trial marriage' and if at the end of the period
either party was unhappy with the other, they could part with no ill
feeling or obligation. The book doesn't tell me if this practice existed
in Elizabethan times. It would be interesting to know.

I thoroughly enjoyed the humor of your posting, Abigail, and thank you
Robin for that delightful quote from Donne. You both express well the
idea that just because a ribald reading of a word is possible, it is not
necessarily appropriate. We do agree on that.

It is a fact that a vast number of words over the centuries have
acquired additional phallic/ yonic/ anal/ scatological dimensions of
meaning, and it is hard to avoid using words that can be construed in
this way ( I think I just failed).

The point you raised (oh dear!), Robin, about the linear progression of
a play in  performance, as opposed to the reading of it, is an important
one.  Certainly we, as audience, are some distance from the Gregory/
Sampson dialogue when Capulet and Paris are before us, but there is no
shortage of sexual innuendo in the preceding 'scene' between Romeo and
Benvolio ( whose name means 'good will' ; good grief! ). I perceive
sexual puns in 'she hath Dian's wit', 'nor bide th'encounter of
assailing eyes', in ' The precious treasure of his eyesight lost'.,
amongst others. Perhaps you do not. My impression of young Romeo, is
that he's far from being 'ruled' by Benvolio, because in his love for
Rosaline he is ruled by his rooster ( otherwise known as his cock or his
good 'will' ). ( I couldn't resist the 'ruled by his rooster' ; I'm not
claiming it's an Elizabethan useage.)  And from this we are taken
straight into a discussion about whether a young woman is 'ripe enough
to be a bride.'

>I said I thought "the 'ear' of at least
>some of the audience is primed to hear in the phrase " may stand in
>number, though in reck'ning none" the possibility of a sexual allusion."

You say "I think the juxtaposition between the two scenes [ Gregory/
Sampson, Capulet/ Paris ] could be used to make exactly the opposite
point.  We shift from two lower class characters indulging in
clearly-signalled bawdy by-play in prose, to two upper class figures
speaking in verse --  different contexts, different registers, quite
different expectations."

But in making this point haven't you just taken us outside the linear
progression of the play? The dialogue that precedes 1. 2, is conducted
by two upper class characters, Romeo and Benvolio, speaking in verse
with plenty of, if perhaps more subtle, bawdy language.

Fair enough, your comment on my use of a Troilus and Cressida reference
here. WS certainly hadn't written his  Comical Satire on the Trojan war
yet and though I think there was another version on the boards, it may
well not have been performed as early as R & J. So it's perhaps
reasonable to postulate that the illiterate masses would not be
expected  to know much about Paris at that time. However Marlowe's
popular Faustus mentions Paris. When Faustus has Helen ( of  "Is this
the face that launched a thousand ships, And burnt the topless towers of
Ilium?" fame. Eat your heart out, Will! )brought to him to ' glut the
longing of [his] heart's desire' and to be his 'paramour', he tells her
"I will be Paris, and for love of thee, /Instead of Troy, shall
Wurtenberg be sacked." He then goes on to list some of his deeds.

My thanks for the info on Paris being taken from Brooke's Romeus and
Juliet. I hadn't read it before and found it charming. But I notice that
both the references to Paris you quote

Emong the rest was one inflamde with her desire,
Who County Paris cliped was, an Earle he had to syre ...

[Arden (1980), p. 264]

cf. earlier in the poem:

At length he saw a mayd, right fayre of perfect shape
Which Theseus, or Paris would have chosen to their rape ...

[p 244]
emphasize both the  Paris of myth, and Juliet's suitor, County Paris'
think lustfully, not just lovingly, of women; 'rape' , and 'one inflamde
with her desire' [desire of her] are not  terms one associates with a
pure, chaste or unsexual love.Likewise, Chaucer in his Troilus and
Criseyde, Bk I. verse 9 states;

It is well wist how that the Greekes stronge
In armes with a thousand shippes wente
To Troyewardes.....
The ravishing to wrecken [avenge ] of Eleyne
By Paris done,...

It is the 'ravishing' that gets mentioned.  Paris was, admittedly,  a
pawn in Zeus' game but I still think that those in the R & J audience
who knew the story of the Trojan War, 'the greatest love story ever
told' , would be aware that  it was also the greatest lust story ever

I found it interesting that in Brooke's Romeus and Juliet, Juliet is
sixteen. I assume the tender age of  the  Juliet of Shakespeare's play
is pointed out because the boy playing her appeared too young to
credibly be a 16 yr old Juliet. ( ? ) Also interesting is the fact that
physical/ sexual happiness is remarked upon;  by the Nurse.

"There is no loss," quod she, "sweet wench, to loss of time,
Ne in thine age shalt thou repent so much of any crime.
For when I call to mind my former pass


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