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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: April ::
We men may say more, swear more, but indeed...
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0957  Tuesday, 27 April 2004

From:           Douglas Galbi <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Apr 2004 13:04:45 -0400
Subject: 15.0918 We men may say more, swear more, but indeed...
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0918 We men may say more, swear more, but indeed...

Difficulty in understanding "Our shows are more than will" (TW, 2.4.129)
is recognized in the New Folger Library edition of TW.  That edition
includes this note: "129. shows...will: outer expressions are larger
than actual desires."  It seems that everyone who has commented more or
less agrees that it is correct (although there apparently is some
disagreement about whether the phrase is clear).

A more interesting challenge is to relate the interpretation of the
phrase directly to its specific language and broader circumstances of
use (scene, play, corpus).  Some of the comments:

 >I think we have a grammatical elision of the word "our" from "Our
 >shows
 >are more than [our] will." Omission of "our" preserves the line's iambic
 >pentameter. We swear more than we intend to do."  (Jack Heller)

 >And should we extend this way of thinking that that other meaning of
 >"will"; it would give a kind of "kick" to the line, although purchased
 >by a daring bit of pornography
 >at a time when the mood of the scene does not invite it." (L. Swilley)

 >Surely these lines turns on what we take "will" to mean.  If we read
 >it as something like "real conviction to take action" then the line
 >makes perfect sense without alteration.  Our shows (what we say) exceed
 >our will (what we are actually willing to do), demonstrated in the fact
 >that we make great vows but "prove little" in our love." (Todd
 >Pettigrew)

 >I think it's a lot more likely that the line "Our shows are more than
 >will" in its context means something along the lines of "actions
 >('shows') speak louder than words that merely express one's intentions
 >('say,' 'swear,' 'vows,' 'will')." (Jillanne Michell)

 >It seems to me a run-of-the-mill Elizabethan-Jacobean sexual joke,
 >contrasting Cesario's
 >"shows," i.e., her codpiece and male attire generally, with the "will",
 >i.e., penis, male sexual urge, capacity, etc., that in her case is not
 >there at all and generally as to all other males, is a lot less than the
 >proud promise of the tailor's craft.  Same old familiar
 >duality-appearance versus reality-that Shakespeare plays with all the
 >time, but which was particularly in the forefront of his mind when he
 >was writing TN and Hamlet almost at the same time. (Tony Burton)

L. Swilley notes that the mood of the scene doesn't favor a sexual
reference.  While recognizing that Shakespeare is a great bawd, I agree.

What about the relation of the phrase to Viola and Orsino's
understandings of love, and practice of love? Do you believe that
Orsino's "shows are more than will," i.e. he lacks the will to act on
his love for Olivia?  It seems to me, rather, that he lacks interest or
consent from Olivia.

How does Viola's love-grief relate to "shows" and "will"?  Viola "pined
in thought...smiling at grief."  "Was this not love indeed"?  It seems
to me that this love is set in contrast to will.  It can be understood
within a real difference between Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

Douglas Galbi

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