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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: December ::
Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and Reality
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2294  Friday, 5 December 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 4 Dec 2003 07:01:44 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and Reality

[2]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Thursday, 4 Dec 2003 11:57:54 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and Reality


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 4 Dec 2003 07:01:44 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and
Reality

John Webb writes, "One of the themes in A Midsummer Night's Dream
concerns 'dream' and 'reality'. May I solicit list-members' views about
whether Bottom the Weaver, and specifically his craft as a weaver, is
fundamentally connected with this idea? This question might be
significant because Plato seemed to believe that language, and possibly
the world itself, were 'woven'. These beliefs are not confined to Plato,
though I don't know of their actual cultural origin or extent."

Interesting thread [!]: obviously, woven linen goes back to ancient
Egypt, probably as early as 3000 BC if not earlier.  Others can correct
me on this.  Indeed, there was probably a weaving tale in the ancient
Egyptian myths.  Another interesting pre-Platonic metaphor about
"weaving" can be found in the circa 850 BC Homeric tale *The Odyssey*.
Therein, the hero King Odysseus fights for the fabled return of Helen of
Troy, and then wanders lost across the Mediterranean for 10 years while
his faithful wife Queen Penelope at home in their island kingdom of
Ithaca fights off the suitors for her hand in marriage as a supposed
widow; her husband returned after twenty years.  Queen Penelope had the
suitors waiting while she pretended to "weave" a royal burial garment
for her father-in-law, Laertes [sorry: but some of these "names" and
"threads" might be seen later in the play Hamlet by Will S!].  But,
ironically, it was a ruse: every night she would unravel some of the
golden threads, so the project lingered on until the day her husband
returned and she was saved by her son Telemachus, as loyal to his father
as Hamlet.  These mythic details were later incorporated in Renaissance
art and literature of the fifteenth century, and was probably known to
the Bard!  As to "naming" it has long been taught in the world
literature classics that the ancient Homeric *names* were allegorical,
and Penelope equated with *faithfulness* and Telemachus equated with
*loyalty* and Odysseus equated with *bravery* and thus it is possible
that Will S was privy to the linkage from the ancient Greeks of
*weaving* and allegorical *naming* woven together in one *tapestry* as
was attempted by the archetypal Weaver Penelope.  Do not forget that the
anonymous Homer of these tales *The Iliad* and *The Odyssey* was
considered the archetypal *dream weaver* who employed the archetypal and
allegorical *names* which served as morality plays of the times.  They
were oral tales passed down from generation to generation.  In Homeric
times, the *abstractions* of words like *faithful* and *loyal* and
*brave* were not separated from personal pronouns as we find them
today.  Thus, faithful Queen Penelope, brave King Odysseus and loyal
Prince Telemachus were commonplace.  What a contrast we find in the
*disloyal* Claudius and *unfaithful* Gertrude!

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 4 Dec 2003 11:57:54 -0500
Subject: 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and
Reality

The weaving myth is so ancient, good luck on tracking the origin. The
Spinners, Fates, Parcae, Weird Sisters, Moirai, Norns spun, measured,
and cut the thread of life for each individual. The four thousand year
old Gobi mummies wore garments of complex weaving patterns, pushing the
dates for that skill farther back than we'd imagined. We now realize
that the quaint fat figurines of women like the Venus of Willendorf were
wearing woven garments and headgear. The net, a woven object, is one of
the earliest appurtenances of a god. It is commonly pictured with
Aphrodite. Then it was taken over by male gods in the famous scene where
Hephaestus catches Aphrodite in adultery by using a net.
Anthropologists now posit that instead of man the mighty hunter of giant
meat, we have woman, the rabbit-catcher with her handy little net. That
pushes weaving back what?  100,000 years? A million? It's old.

As to the relationship between weaving and language and reality, I
picked this up on a quick Google of the Three Fates:
http://www.angelfire.com/journal/ravensgatekeep/thefates.html

"The original, single, eldest Norn was Mother Earth, Ertha, Urth, Urdr,
Urd, etc., who represented Fate and the Word of creation. She was Wurd
in Old High German, Wyrd in Anglo-Saxon, Weird in English. She/they
lived in the cave at the source of the Fountain of Life, Urdabrunnr, the
cosmic womb under the root of the World Tree. She/they were older than
the oldest "heavenly father: and had power over every god."

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