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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Taming of the Shrew Query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2118  Thursday, 16 December 2004

[1]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 08:47:15 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:05:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[3]     From:   Phyllis Gorfain <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:33:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[4]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:43:30 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[5]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:49:36 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[6]     From:   JD Markel <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 10:41:50 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[7]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 16:04:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[8]     From:   Sarah Cohen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 13:15:50 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Taming of the Shrew Query

[9]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 15:16:29 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

[10]     From:  Kris McDermott <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 23:35:50 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 08:47:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

"My question, then, is about line 109, which seems to drop the jargon of
the tailor and speak about insects. I haven't yet been able to perceive
the logical thread that starts him in on the insect references."

A common stereotype of tailors is that they were exceptionally thin and
therefore weak. It seems to me that Petruchio, running out of
tailor-specific insults, simply shifts to other weak, tiny annoying
things--hence the bug insults. Crickets, especially, are thought of as
thin, so the connection to tailors is strongest there. Other than that,
I cannot see a connection, as you say.

Annalisa Castaldo

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:05:31 -0500
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

Michael Friedman <
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 >I have a question about a passage from *Shrew* that I am working on with
 >an actor about to play Petruchio.  In 4.3, Petruchio responds to the
 >Tailor's suggestion that Petruchio is making a puppet of Kate with the
 >following outburst:

 >O monstrous arrogance!
 >Thou liest, thou thread, thou thimble,
 >Thou yard, three-quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail!
 >Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter cricket thou!
 >Braved in mine own house with a skein of thread! (4.3.106-10)

 >Throughout the passage, Petruchio obviously draws his terms of abuse
 >from the vocabulary of tailors.  My question, then, is about line 109,
 >which seems to drop the jargon of the tailor and speak about insects.
 >Clearly, Petruchio sees the tailor as an insignificant little bug, but I
 >haven't yet been able to perceive the logical thread that starts him in
 >on the insect references, then takes him back to the milieu of the
 >haberdasher.  For a moment, I considered that these insects might be
 >cloth-eaters, but I'm only aware of moths doing such a thing.  None of
 >the editions of the play I have consulted throw any light upon this
 >question.  Can anyone out there help?

It /could/ be no more than taking off from the descending series "yard,
three-quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail" ("nail" being an old term for
1/16 yard).

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Phyllis Gorfain <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:33:12 -0500
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

In reply to Michael Friedman:

 >I have a question about a passage from *Shrew* that I am working on with
 >an actor about to play Petruchio.... I
 >haven't yet been able to perceive the logical thread that starts him in
 >on the insect references, then takes him back to the milieu of the
 >haberdasher.

Perhaps I am being too simplistic, but I don't see why the "thread"
between all the insults needs to be logical within the technical
vocabulary of haberdashery and tailoring.  Other types of "logical"
(associative) connections seem to apply, within Petruchio's rant to the
tailor: from small measures to still smaller measures, then to small
insect pests (that bother the domestic world), leading, by association
of both small and invasive pests, to the final point about P. being
braved in his own house by a skein of thread, back to the tailoring
terms but linked by psychological association with the insects and small
objects and measures.

  Similarly, the "thread" between all the insults that Katherina and
Petruchio pursue, in their famous wooing/confrontation scene in 2.1,
follows an associative logic based on first on function
(moveable-->stool-->weight-bearing item-->asses-->bearing/women (with
pun now on "bear" so a new form of linkage based on punning.  And so on,
including the set of aural and insect/bird associations from "be"
("bee") to "buzz", then "buzzard," "turtle[dove]," and on to synecdoche
from "wasp," to "sting".

Would this be a direction of thought that can make sense of Petruchio's
imagination?

Phyllis Gorfain
Oberlin College

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[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:43:30 -0600
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

Michael Friedman quotes Petruchio on the tailor:

 >Thou liest, thou thread, thou thimble,
 >Thou yard, three-quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail!
 >Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter cricket thou!
 >Braved in mine own house with a skein of thread! (4.3.106-10)
 >
 >And wonders why he drops the haberdashery insults and shifts to size
 >insults, then switches back.

An interesting point. Since Petruchio is still doing his Katherine
imitation (rampaging around, shouting, threatening, throwing things), I
don't think it needs to make any more sense than that the Tailor is a
small man, insignificant in size as well as occupation.

On the other hand, thread and especially thimble also suggest diminutive
size. So the question might equally be: why does he drop size insults to
turn to occupation insults? Except that "yard, three-quarters,
half-yard, quarter, nail" also relate to size. "Nail" (two and a half
inches) makes sense here, but do the others? Why start with "yard"? Is
he saying the tailor is only three-feet tall, or even less, down to the
point of being some kind pixie?

Cheers,
don

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 09:49:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

Where angels fear ... Not knowing the play it occurs to me that the
first part refers to whatever it's referring to in tailor's terms and
that the second part refers to the speaker in insect terms and concludes
by linking the two.

Best, S

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           JD Markel <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 10:41:50 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

Perhaps parts of the audience are not so familiar with the tailor
terminology and Shakespeare wanted to drive his point home, the sense of
insignificance, by additional reference to very small matters his
contemporaries were all well-acquainted with: fleas and nits.

On insect scale I wouldn't consider a cricket on par with a flea or nit.
  Perhaps the "winter cricket" alludes to uselessness or meekness, the
cricket in the cold of winter not chirping, or chirping at a slower
tempo.  You might need to consult a UK entomologist about local cricket
winter habits!

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 16:04:07 -0500
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

In Petruchio's invective against the Tailor, Michael Friedman has
trouble seeing "the logical thread that starts him in on the insect
references, then takes him back to the milieu of the haberdasher."  I
suggest something theatrical: a skinny little actor playing the
haberdasher who, with the suddenly incensed Petruchio raining insults
upon him like blows, begins to skip frantically about the stage, like a
desperate insect.

David Evett

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sarah Cohen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 13:15:50 -0800
Subject:        Re: Taming of the Shrew Query

 >"O monstrous arrogance! Thou liest, thou thread, thou thimble,
 >Thou yard, three quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail,
 >Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter-cricket thou.
 >Brav'd in mine own house with a skein of thread!
 >Away, thou rag, thou quantity, thou remnant,
 >Or I shall so bemete thee with thy yard
 >As thou shalt think on prating whilst thou liv'st.
 >I tell thee, I, that thou hast marred her gown."

I have high hopes that a scholar on this list will come up with a
brilliant, hitherto obscure connection between fleas, nits,
winter-crickets, and tailors. Until that happy time, allow me to offer a
logical explanation for Petruccio's line that requires no connection
whatsoever. My explanation is an actorly one, since Mr. Friedman is
working with an actor.

As always, when the character says his words, he is saying them for the
first time.

Petuccio would dearly love to be rhetorically consistent in his abuse of
the tailor, but he allows his mock rage to outpace his inventiveness.
After the diminishing series "thou yard, three-quarters, half-yard,
quarter, nail", he is momentarily at a loss for another sufficiently
belittling clothing term. So, he explodes beyond the realm of
haberdashery with "thou flea", which leads naturally to "thou nit" and
"thou winter-cricket". In the next line, he tries to return to his
theme, but he is stuck on a variation of his first insult ("skein of
thread"). Then he gets a second wind. "Away, thou rag, thou quantity,
thou remnant" - what a great insult for a tailor, "remnant"! Satisfied,
he finishes strong: "I tell thee, I, that thou hast marred her gown".

This way, the actor can stay engaged with his speech and bring the
audience along with him. No etymology (or etymology) required.

I hope this helps.

Sarah Cohen

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 15:16:29 -0800
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

Michael Friedman asks about the line in Shrew:

 >Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter cricket thou!

As I understand the reference it arises because the part of the tailor
was played by a small boy. It is a direct stab at the actor in the part.
This may also be connected to the notion that 'three 'tellers' make a
man'. When a man died the church bell was tolled three X three times (a
woman received three X two times!). The modern notion that 'nine tailors
make a man' did not arise until the mid 18th century and should not be
applied.

Colin Cox

[10]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kris McDermott <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 23:35:50 -0500
Subject: 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2110 Taming of the Shrew Query

I'm not sure about the connection between the two sets of metaphors
(there doesn't necessarily have to be one), but I know that tailors are
proverbially small and slender, and their traditional cross-legged
sitting position could probably seem bug-like.  The "winter-cricket," I
expect, is a reference to the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, in
which the hopper (often equated with the cricket), having failed to
prepare for winter, wastes away and must throw himself on the mercy of
the providential ant.  So a winter-cricket is a particularly diminutive
one.

Additionally, all three insects are ones that invade the domestic sphere
(the winter-cricket warms himself and sings on the hearth when it's too
cold outside), as this tailor is accused of doing.  Tailors (and
weavers) are also proverbial songsters (see 12N, 2.3.55).  And never far
beneath references to tailors is their reputation for cuckoldry, which
could account for Petruchio's anger at even a hint of usurpation.

Kris McDermott
Central Michigan University

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