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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Ambiguous Words
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1845  Wednesday, 24 September 2003

[1]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:56:08 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

[2]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 14:32:35 +0000
        Subj:   Ambiguous Bum Note

[3]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 11:58:35 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

[4]     From:   Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 11:16:15 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

[5]     From:   Dana Wilson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 09:17:17 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

[6]     From:   Bob Rosen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 15:03:30 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:56:08 -0400
Subject: 14.1837 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

Don Bloom infers from my prior post that "The phrase 'supposed and
equally misunderstood malice' suggests that he wasn't malicious in
attempting to have his old enemy judicially murdered. I am not sure what
definition of malice could be offered that Shylock's murderous intent
did not qualify under. But perhaps I have indeed misunderstood
something."

Indeed, he has misunderstood something.  The "supposed" in my remark
referred to the supposed nature of Shylock's malice, and certainly did
not suggest that I hold its very existence to be in doubt.  If I did not
presuppose the existence of malice, I would have had no reason to say
that it is misunderstood.

Us deep thinkers require close reading, or our supposed meanings will
surely be misunderstood.  I kinda feel Shakespeare would want me to make
this point to the list members.

Tony

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 14:32:35 +0000
Subject:        Ambiguous Bum Note

Carol Barton's flatulent gloss on petar/d (14.1837) is not the only
direction in which the wind blows. Some detect a whiff, particularly
with the Q2 s(m)pelling, of a homonym for "Peter". This would indicate a
play with "penis"; "sport... hoist... hard... delve" combined with the
previous abstinence speech exchanges ("start up and stand an end", for
example) where a son counsels the mother about her sex life, tend to
stiffen this interpretation. What a tease our Willy is. And stew'd in
corruption are our editors.

Best wishes,
Graham Hall

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 11:58:35 +0000
Subject: 14.1837 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

Carol Barton: "Easiest first: Melvyn, a "petard" is not strictly
speaking a "bomb" in this context . . . unless you mean a "stink bomb."
This is a bit of scatological humor, and means to be raised up on your
own . . . wind egg  . . . not to put too fine a point on it, fart."

Etymology notwithstanding, this is false: a petard is "a small engine of
war used to blow in a door or gate, or to make a breach in a wall, etc.;
originally of metal and bell-shaped, later a cubical wooden box, charged
with powder, and fired by a fuse" (OED).  Or perhaps Carol supposes that
a pet-de-nonne is no more than an unpleasant smell in a convent.

Peter Groves

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melvyn R. Leventhal
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 11:16:15 EDT
Subject: 14.1837 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

Re: Carol Barton's statements:

1. First, she states that a petard "is not strictly speaking a bomb."
Carol should check the Oxford English Dictionary wherein "petard" is
defined as  "a small engine of war used to blow in a door or gate or to
make a breach in a wall. "According to that rather important source, it
was made of metal or wood, was "bell shaped,"  and "charged with powder
and fired by a fuse."  That sounds like a bomb to me.

A number of examples of uses in 16th Century literature are provided by
the Dictionary all establishing that a petard is without question, a
bomb.

If the Oxford English Dictionary is not good enough, Carol should check
on how the great editors of Hamlet footnote the word "petard" in their
editions.  She will find that "bomb" is indeed what a petard was in the
16th century and what Hamlet meant when he used the phrase - hoisted on
one's own petard.

2.  The continuing comment that Shylock meant his bond as a joke is
clearly wrong.  While that's what he may have implied in his statement
to Antonio, he makes his intentions clear to the audience with his aside
"if I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient
[Jewish] grudge I bear him."  Shylock is the comic villain of the play.
You might also check Jessica's description of her father's intentions --
based on what he told her: Merchant of Venice, Act 3 Scene 2, 282-288.

3.  Carol's reference to the Uniform Commercial Code is, as lawyers say,
"inapposite."  The UCC provision that favors the consumer lay-person
over the merchant-expert applies to the sale of goods, Article 2 of the
UCC. Here we are dealing with a promissory note.

4.  I agree with Carol that the play is profoundly anti-Semitic. She's
in excellent company in insisting upon that interpretation.  But it is
Shylock, the villain, who is the victim of his own trick -- the bond he
wrote and always insisted upon enforcing -- not Antonio.  But again, the
trial scene is part of the comedy -- the "biter bit," with the flippant
Portia in disguise as a lawyer (comic devise) insisting upon capital
punishment for the breach of a promissory note.  Only lawyers and
judges, not intelligent and sane people, would insist upon such a
remedy.

Melvyn R. Leventhal

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Wilson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 09:17:17 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1837 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

Forum,

Easiest, first, Carol,

The first bombs were named petards for the sulphur reek, which is an
example of synecdoche.

D-

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Rosen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 15:03:30 EDT
Subject: 14.1837 Ambiguous Words
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1837 Ambiguous Words

>I'm afraid I would disagree with your "yes, but" to Todd Pettigrew
>as a result. Shylock's insistence on enforcement occurs only AFTER his
>"friend" Antonio has hauled him into court---it is anger and hurt and
>humiliation that prompts his retaliatory insistence on the letter of the
>law, provoked by Antonio's treachery, not by the "viciousness" with
>which Todd (and Antonio) invest the Jew. I would suggest that by the end
>of the play, things have come full circle: Shylock proves to be a better
>man than Antonio thinks "Jews" are, and Antonio proves to be a worse man
>than Shylock believes "Christians" to be. Each is a victim of his own
>stereotyping of the other.

I've never heard of any Western legal code that grants executionary
power to a party. Usually a marshal or sheriff carries out the verdict
of a court in civil law when presented with the court's decision in a
document, not the successful party.

Besides, in a civil case the award can only be financial, never
corporeal. I don't know where Shakespeare got his legal references. On
the windy side of creativity? Even Gilbert in his operettas did a better
job, but WC was a lawyer early on. My object all sublime....

Bob Rosen

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