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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: "What's in a name?"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1659  Friday, 29 June 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Jun 2001 09:20:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1624 Re: "What's in a name?"

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Jun 2001 11:30:37 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1639 Re: "What's in a name?"

[3]     From:   Rainbow Saari <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Jun 2001 11:07:02 +1200
        Subj:   Re: What's in a name

[4]     From:   Stevie Gamble <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Jun 2001 20:17:53 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1639 Re: "What's in a name?"

[5]     From:   Rainbow Saari <
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        Date:   Friday, 29 Jun 2001 17:30:01 +1200
        Subj:   Re What's in a name


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Jun 2001 09:20:48 -0500
Subject: 12.1624 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1624 Re: "What's in a name?"

Stuart Taylor writes, in reference to the Peter of R&J,

>In fact, (to the chagrin of Don Bloom?) the proposed
>phallic defender here too becomes a phallic threat.

Not at all. It makes perfect sense for Peter to pick up the cue from
Mercutio's manic ribaldry. Because he maintains it in puns, moreover, he
could hope to keep from being disciplined if the Nurse reported him on
their return home by claiming that he meant only what he literally said.

"Phallic defender / phallic threat" cause me some problems. Obviously
Peter is pretending to be such, when he is really neither. Such terms
worry me because so often I see people taking them seriously, or far
more seriously than they deserve. I understand how the surface content
of a great deal of male speech (both defensive and aggressive) was
important to feminist critics, especially in the early days when it was
important to make clear the way that it contributed to an array of
customs and attitudes toward women that were very serious indeed.

But now it seems to me that it often gets over-stated. Peter is
displaying: not only his wit but his (borrowed) feathers. In fact,
though, he is no cock-of-the-walk (like Mercutio or Tybalt) but an
insignificant pipsqueak.  I don't know that I'm actually arguing with
Stuart about this, but merely trying to emphasize that anybody can use
words and they may mean little beyond their immediate effect.

don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Jun 2001 11:30:37 -0400
Subject: 12.1639 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1639 Re: "What's in a name?"

Shakespeare wrote poetry and drama and used both poetic and dramatic
logic.  Dramatic logic is cause and effect, with the classic example
being you can't show a gun in the first act without firing it in the
third.  In poetic logic, truth is reached by association. It is not
"perverse meaning" when more than one thing seems to be true. It is
associative meaning. Religion works by poetic logic (not surprising
since the first poetry seems to have been religious hymns) so it is
possible for Jesus to be both shepherd and lamb, now, isn't it? Is one
of those meanings "perverse?" Can a word or a phrase really only mean
one thing or the other but not both?

It's disingenuous for Sean Lawrence to say, "after all, we do this in
everyday speech." Poetry is not everyday speech. The Sermon on the Mount
is not comparable to asking directions to a bus. Neither is the St.
Crispin's Day speech, or a sonnet. Poetry is richer, like the difference
between fruitcake and bread.

Also, words meant more, before pictures were easy to obtain, before
civil rights were guaranteed. Now we use photographs, movies, videos,
closeups, advertising art to convey our double and triple and hidden
meanings.  Remember those scandals about subliminal advertising? Our
words, however, are plainer, more stripped down, than they have ever
been. "Everyday" speech, has no need to hide meaning within meaning
anymore. There's little chance we'll go to jail, for instance, for being
totally upfront about sex or religion or politics. When, in the history
of the world, was that true before?

In Shakespeare's time, in all other times but now, here, words carried
much heavier burdens, needed to do far more than we ask of them now.
How is it possible to ignore that?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rainbow Saari <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Jun 2001 11:07:02 +1200
Subject:        Re: What's in a name

People are making assumptions about what I assume. Don writes,

'Rainbow must... re-think her assumption that every word that can be
forced into a sexual meaning must have it,'

Don, I don't assume this. You misunderstand me if you think this is what
I think. In fact in my posting (12. 1591) I made a point of
acknowledging, to Robin Hamilton and Abigail Quart, my support of the
opposite view.

'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.'

Stevie Gamble comments on my mentioning the Lammastide  'marriage'
custom,

'Unfortunately books on English folk customs are not noted, in general,
for their accuracy and your apparent conviction that they represent a
source of unimpeachable evidence merely suggests that you are not well
acquainted with the concept of gathering evidence to enable you to
formulate hypotheses which can then be tested in the light of further
evidence. This explains a great deal about your observations, but it
doesn't help us to get any further with considering Romeo and Juliet.'

Where did I state my 'conviction' that books on English folk customs are
sources of 'unimpeachable  evidence'? I recall saying I thought it would
be interesting to know if this 'custom' existed in Shakespeare's day.

My statement that

'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.' Elicited this response; 'Your choice of the word 'choose'
indicates your belief that someone disagreeing with you does so not
because of the inherent defects in your analysis but because they are
unwilling to believe it for reasons you don't elucidate. You may care to
bear in mind that phrasing your observations in this way reduces the
likelihood of someone believing that you are capable of analysis in the
first place...'

Well, no; my use of the word 'choose' in the instance quoted actually
reflects my view that what we  'believe' is always a matter of choice.
"There's nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." As for my
ability to' gather evidence and formulate hypotheses', while I'll
happily acknowledge I'm thirty years distant from interacting in any
scientific environment, I continue to question the validity of all sorts
of perceptions in all sorts of ways. You are apparently not impressed
with what you see as my methods, and that's fine. I undoubtedly lack a
great deal in knowledge of the traditions of inquiry into and debate
over matters, but part of what appealed to me about joining the SHAKSPER
List was that it would probably help me to learn, by both observation of
others and practice, how to more ably present and defend my various
theories. I continue to strive to be open to learning.

I think the issue you raise, Stevie, of the dangers of childbirth is a
good one and I acknowledge that I did not think of this when looking at
this scene. However, when I said I thought that Capulet's remark

>  "And too soon marred are those so early made" [might] hark back to the
>  difficulties of his own marriage to a sexually unwilling bride?"

I was not proposing he was "brooding over his sex-life", rather that
both he and his wife might have experienced difficulties if she had been
a sexually unwilling bride. Since I did not fully explain this at the
time I can hardly blame you for not taking my meaning. However, since
Juliet's mother offers her daughter the remark "By my count, I was your
mother much upon these years that you are now a maid" in order to
encourage her to accept Paris, not to dissuade her from the idea, I
wonder how sound an argument this can be.

Janet Costa asks,

If Capulet cares so much about his daughter's physical happiness in
marriage (which by the by, at this point in time was not a major
consideration in marital contract negotiations), why does he threaten
her with street life if she doesn't get to the church on time???

This was something I looked at and concluded that, while he genuinely
had her good will at heart, stating that she might pick a husband from
'within her scope of choice' ( the appropriate range of suitable young
men ) once he had ( foolishly ) told Paris that she would be ruled by
him, her totally unexpected refusal to do as she was commanded, enraged
him because he would 'lose face' before Paris ( and Escalus! ) if he
allowed his daughter to rule him. Better have no daughter at all than
one who shames her father by being self-willed!

She is* his* to be caring towards and concerned about,  his to be angry
with, his to 'give' to his friend, ultimately  simply * his* to dispose
of.  I thought it interesting that the language Capulet uses of his
recalcitrant daughter includes 'harlotry' ; then, as now, how quick
people are to use sexual language to denigrate one another. Reading
Brooke's poem makes it clear that the inclusion of the word 'harlotry'
does not come from the source text; it is Shakespeare's own.

Thanks to Gary Allen for finding that Sir Thomas More reference for us.

Cheers,
Rainbow

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stevie Gamble <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Jun 2001 20:17:53 EDT
Subject: 12.1639 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1639 Re: "What's in a name?"


>  One might add to Stuart Taylor's list of derivations from *petra*,
>  *petrel*, or "the stormy petrel", a bird that seems to walk on water as
>  Peter did at Jesus' invitation (Matthew 14: 25-31).  When a storm came
>  up Peter faltered and Jesus had to save him from sinking.

I think the problem isn't about Peter=rock. It's about rock=penis, a
counter-intuitive proposition given the characteristics of rocks, and
penises.  John has now introduced another problem of this type with his
petrel; rocks don't walk on water, they sink. At this stage it is
obvious to me that we need to call in specialist expertise.  Does anyone
know a good geologist?

Best wishes,
Stevie Gamble

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rainbow Saari <
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Date:           Friday, 29 Jun 2001 17:30:01 +1200
Subject:        Re What's in a name

Mike, what is it about the way I phrased

I would like to offer a couple of * possible * explanations of how the
word 'peter' came to be associated with 'penis'. I am* guessing*  that
.....  There  may well be...Perhaps they mean the same?

That suggests to you that I am claiming I am  *not* speculating here but
stating " This *is* how Peter means penis."???

Of course I'm speculating and I don't believe I've been 'intellectually'
dishonest about it.

To continue my speculations; one ingredient in the making of the
explosive substance gunpowder is potassium nitrate, known as saltpeter.
(from Old French salpetre, from Latin sal petrae, salt of rock.)  That
it was known by this name earlier than Shakespeare's day is evidenced
below. (Quotations from EMEDD )

(Palsgrave 1530 @ 675811) Salte peter   salpestre s ma. (Wm. Thomas 1550
@ 5444030) Nitro, salt peter. (Minsheu 1599 @ 21617457) [*]Alatr['o]n,
[m.] salt-peter.

(Cotgrave 1611 @ 36943860) Salpestrier: [m.] [A Salt-peter-man, or
Salt-peter-ma

 

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