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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: November ::
Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2256  Friday, 28 November 2003

[1]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 07:33:01 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Peter Hyland <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 09:33:48 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Mari Bonomi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 09:43:28 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Markus Marti <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Nov 2003 01:23:11 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

[5]     From:   Ed Quattrocchi <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 10:49:11 -0600
        Subj:   Concept of Time in Shakespeare's 1HenryIV.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 07:33:01 -0600
Subject: 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

>but nothing on how Shakespeare uses specific
>times of day

I have no references ready-to-hand, but the mention of   "what's
o'clock" in Shakespeare has interested me for some time (sic). The idea
of a personal timepiece and the ability to check the  time of day at
will  was somewhat (not altogether)  novel in Shakespeare's  day, and
for  some odd reason, the Bard's  favorite moment seems to have  been
"two  o' the clock." (I think a concordance search will bear me out.)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Hyland <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 09:33:48 -0800
Subject: 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

I don't know if this is quite what Ian is asking about, but Sigurd
Burckhardt has interesting things to say about the striking clock in
JULIUS CAESAR in "How not to murder Caesar", originally in Centennial
Review 11,2 (1967) and reprinted in Mark Rose (ed) SHAKESPEARE'S EARLY
TRAGEDIES.

Peter Hyland

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mari Bonomi <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 09:43:28 -0500
Subject: 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet contains an interesting reversal of day/night
conventions, used I believe to highlight various other distortions of
the "natural" order and presage tragedy.  Romeo wanders the woods all
night, but at sunrise heads home, "shuts up his windows, locks fair
daylight out and makes himself an artificial night."  There are a number
of references to "blessed blessed night" and "window let day in and let
light out" and so on.  I will forbear an exegesis here <smile>.

And of course there's Hamlet's "time is out of joint"

Mari Bonomi

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Markus Marti <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Nov 2003 01:23:11 +0100
Subject: 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2243 Time of Day (or Night) in Shakespeare

Take any electronic version of all the plays: Search for "torches" - and
see what you'll get.

Markus Marti

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Quattrocchi <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Nov 2003 10:49:11 -0600
Subject:        Concept of Time in Shakespeare's 1HenryIV.

I am new to the Shakespeare list and have never posted a response
before, although I do read the post every day.  I am not sure about the
proper protocol for responding to post, but I am responding as my
intuition prompts me. I have been interested in the concept of time in
Shakespeare since my days as a teacher at Ohio University in a former
life. The idea pervades both his plays and his poems. Now retired in
Evanston, Illinois, I write an occasional article on literary subjects
that have caught my fancy. I copy below a short article on the concept
of time in works of Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Dante, which was
published in the Caxtonian, the monthly journal of the Caxton Club of
Chicago, an organization of bibliophiles. Since the journal is published
primarily for the membership of the Club, it is not likely to be read or
listed in the usual sources for Shakespeare scholars or students. I have
a much longer version of the same paper in my files if your student
needs more material.

Sincerely,
Ed Quattrocchi,
Evanston, Illinois

Redeeming Time

When Bob Cotner invited me to submit a piece about Shakespeare for this
issue of the Caxtonian, several possibilities flitted through my mind. I
nixed them all with the excuse that I had no time. Then I thought of the
irony in that reaction since I had given a seminar at the Newberry
Library last fall on "The Concept of Time in Works of Dante,
Michelangelo, and Shakespeare."

All three of these titanic artists seemed obsessed with time. Dante
learns from Virgil, his guide in the Divine Comedy, that "the more one
learns, the more one comes to hate the waste of time." (Purg.. Canto
III, ll 77-78) He sees the slothful sinners in Purgatory punished by
their compulsion to be constantly in motion. As they run in a horde, the
two in front cry out:
"Faster! faster, we have no time to waste, for time is love," Purg.
Canto XIX, ll 103-104).

Michelangelo, at the end of his long life at age 89, working on two
unfinished marble versions of the Pieta, expresses in a sonnet what to
me is the most poignantly ironic utterance I have ever read:

Ah me, ah me, how I have been betrayed
by these fleeting days of mine and by the mirror,
which tells the truth to all who gaze in it!
This happens to those who leave too much to the end-
as I have done, until my time has fled-
and find themselves, like me, grown old in a day.
Too late now to repent or to prepare,
too late for counsel, with my death so near.
My own worst enemy, I spill my soul in tears and sighs-in vain,
for there's no greater evil than lost time.

Shakespeare also felt keenly the effects of time in his life. It
permeates many of his works, especially the sonnets. But in Henry IV
Part One time shapes the characters, plot, language and imagery like no
other. All of the characters display various attitudes toward time. At
one extreme Falstaff could care less about time. His first exchange with
Prince Hal reveals his child-like attitude:

Falstaff: Now Hal, what time of day is it lad?
Prince: "Thou art so fat-witted with drinking of old sack, and
unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches after noon,
that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly
know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? unless
hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the tongues of
bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the blessed sun
himself a fair hot wench in flame-colour'd taffeta, I see no reason why
thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of the day." (Act Iii
ll. 2-7)

On the other extreme Hotspur, is the warrior workaholic. He is impatient
to go to war and urges his father and uncle not to be so wimpish:
"Uncle, adieu: O! let the hours be short, Till fields and blows and
groans applaud our sport!" (Act 1, iii ll 312-313). He cannot abide his
wife's attempt to dissuade him from rushing off to war with the macho
boast, "we must have bloody noses and cracked crowns." (Act IIIiii l 98)

Prince Hal, who later becomes King Henry V, England's most celebrated
monarch, represents the Aristotelian golden mean. He reveals his
attitude toward time and his plan to emerge from behind the clouds when
the time is ripe in his famous soliloquy at the close of the first
tavern scene.

Prince.  I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyok'd humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the Sunday,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds   68
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists   72
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,   76
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behaviour I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am   80
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes   84
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will. (Act I ii)

In redeeming time Hal defeats Hotspur at the battle of Shrewsbury.
Hotspur's last words reveal that he has come to recognize that his
impatience has caused him to lose both his honor and his life:

"But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool;   88
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop." (Act Viv ll 88-90)

Not only the characters but also the plot and imagery of the play are
informed by the concept of time. Hal conspires with the tavern thieves
to work as "minions of the moon" to rob the travelers on the road from
Gadshill to London. This extended episode takes place in a 24 hour
period in the dark, starting at 2 AM (Act II i) and ending at 2 AM, the
following morning in the Boarhead's tavern (Act IIiv). At the climax of
the plot (Act IIIii) Hal emerges from behind the "base contagious
clouds," when he vows to his father, King Henry, to regain his honor.
The action in the remainder of the play takes place during the day. Act
V, the battle at Shrewsbury, encompasses a period of time from sun up to
sun down, in which the Prince emerges as the future sun/son king.

As I enter the seventh decade of my time on earth, I wistfully regret
that I had understood earlier in life the lessons that the poets and
artists could teach me about not wasting time. I recommend to my
Caxtonian friends that the next time you read a work of Shakespeare,
Dante, or look at a work or read a poem of Michelangelo, pay heed to
what these wise men can teach you about redeeming time.

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