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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: December ::
Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and Reality
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2312  Tuesday, 9 December 2003

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Dec 2003 10:13:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and Reality

[2]     From:   Dana Wilson <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Dec 2003 10:52:16 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and Reality


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Date:           Monday, 8 Dec 2003 10:13:05 -0500
Subject: 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.22876 Bottom, Weaving Metaphors, Language and
Reality

This question has always bothered me. There is an anonymous play of 1661
I haven't read called Bottom the Weaver that might shed some light. I
think it's obvious that the mechanicals refer to Shakespeare's company,
but in what sense? Probably one of the links provided by Mr Webbe points
out that a "text" is a woven object, from  texo, to weave. It's a
textile object just like the papyrus or paper it's written on. This idea
turns up in an astonishing variety of cultural myths. In addition to the
examples already given, there's Arachne who was challenged by Juno to a
weaving contest and according to Ovid was turned into a spider for
outweaving her with pictures of the metamorphoses of Jove:

 ...Chang'd to a bull to gratify his love;
How thro' the briny tide all foaming hoar,
Lovely Europa on his back he bore.
...Next she design'd Asteria's fabled rape,
When Jove assum'd a soaring eagle's shape:
And shew'd how Leda lay supinely press'd,
Whilst the soft snowy swan sate hov'ring o'er her breast...
Ovid Met Book 6

In the ME Emare, the daughter of the Emir of heathendom weaves a cloth
on the four corners of which are depicted: Ydoyne and Amadas; Trystram
and Isowde; Florys and Blawncheflour; the Sultan of Babylon and herself.
In the center is a unicorn representing virginity

These are two examples the poetic use of weaving as a metaphor for
constructing narratives. In the former, Arachne weaves together an
allegory of her own impending fate. In the latter, the Emir's daughter
weaves together her love into a coherent and supernaturally beautiful
whole with three love myths. There are four of five love myths woven
together in MND: Theseus and Hippolyta; Oberon and Titania; the four
Athenian youths; Pyramus and Thisbe; and perhaps, Bottom and Titania.
Like the four corners of the cloth/robe in Emare, these separate tales
are somehow woven into a coherent aesthetic object. The idea that what
is woven in text is not merely cloth but a sort of attire as in Emare is
set in a negative light in Merchant of Venice. Antonio tells Bassanio:

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
... O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

Later Bassanio rejects the gold casket because:

So may the outward shows be least themselves:
The world is still deceived with ornament.
... In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?

Antonio claims that an evil soul can clothe itself in a holy text. The
idea of the soul weaving attire for itself was less threatening to
Neoplatonism:

"Henry More tried to give a poetic representation of [Plotinus']
panpsychism.  The soul sits at the loom and causes an unceasing flux of
images to issue from itself.  It is for ever creating forms, and it is
concealed from us behind the profusion of its forms.  We never see the
soul itself, but only its cloak and drapery. ... What we call nature is
but the appearance of the original creativity, the fabric and veil which
it had woven about itself."

Cassirer, Ernst.  The Platonic Renaissance in England. Translated by
James Pettegrove.  Austin: U of Texas, 1953. 139

The goddess Astarte helped God create the world by her weaving of nature
as did many mother goddesses. Goethe refers to the Powers working at the
whirring loom of Time, and the Rig Veda describes the whole process of
creation as weavers weaving, but their shuttle is hymns:

Rig-Veda 10 HYMN CXXX. Creation.
1. THE sacrifice drawn out with threads on every side, stretched by a
hundred sacred ministers and one,- This do these Fathers weave who
hitherward are come: they sit beside the warp and cry, Weave forth,
weave back.
2 ...they made the Sama-hymns their weaving shuttles.
3 What were the rule, the order and the model? ... What were the hymn,
the chant, the recitation, when to the God all Deities paid worship?
4 Closely was Gayatri conjoined with Agni, and closely Savitar combined
with
Usnih. Brilliant with Ukthas, Soma joined Anustup: Brhaspati's voice by
Brhati was aided.
5 Viraj adhered to Varuna and Mitra: here Tristup day by day was Indra's
portion. Jagati entered all the Gods together: so by this knowledge men
were raised to Rsis....
7 They who were versed in ritual and metre, in hymns and rules, were the
Seven Godlike Rsis. Viewing the path of those of old, the sages have
taken up the reins like chariot-drivers.

So the weavers of the world are poets who weave together pairs of gods
in their hymns as the mythological couples are woven together on the
robe of the princess of heathendom in Emare and in the various plots of
MND.

Regarding the connection of the weaving of the tissue of the world with
a net Giorgio Santillana, who usually associates net and weaving myths
with the Pleides and Hyades points out many parallels including the
following remarkable echo of Saxo's Amleth in Hawaiian mythology:"Then
there is a true avenger-of-his-father, the Tuamotuan Ta

 

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