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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
There's Magic in the Web
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0470  Monday, 14 March 2005

[1]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Mar 2005 09:12:14 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Mar 2005 11:09:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web

[3]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Mar 2005 16:38:49 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Strawberries and Sex

[4]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Mar 2005 01:02:20 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web

[5]     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 12 Mar 2005 17:46:21 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Mar 2005 09:12:14 -0600
Subject: 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web

 >The handkerchief
 >represents marital consummation through its association with the
 >wedding-night sheets, ritually displayed in early modern culture
 >immediately following consummation of the marriage.

This is a well-known and generally convincing idea. I'd like to know
more about specific early modern English references to it. Puttenham
treats wedding-night ritual in considerable detail (writing of the
epithalamion form, in book 1, chapter 26), but his description of the
morning after does not contain any reference to the display of the
sheets. Versions of the custom survive today; I recall reading about
provisions for not bleeding in contemporary Ethiopia, I believe. But
what specific evidences do we have about the practice in Shakespeare's
time, in England or on the continent?

Frank Whigham

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Mar 2005 11:09:51 -0500
Subject: 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web

Evelyn Gajowski <
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 >

 >Boose, Lynda E.  "Othello's Handkerchief: 'The Recognizance and Pledge
 >of Love."  English Literary Renaissance 5 (1975): 360-74.
 >
 >According to Boose, the handkerchief is a "'presentational image' which
 >spans the entire drama and connects within its symbolic fabric the
 >motive forces of the play" (361).  Its meaning may well "lie hidden in
 >rituals and customs which were accessible to Elizabethans but have since
 >been lost" (361).   Shakespeare changes his source by adding a detailed
 >description of the handkerchief (red strawberries on white) to represent
 >"a visually recognizable reduction of Othello and Desdemona's
 >wedding-bed sheets, the visual proof of their consummated marriage, the
 >emblem of the symbolical act of generation so important to our
 >understanding of the measure of this tragedy" (363).  The handkerchief
 >represents marital consummation through its association with the
 >wedding-night sheets, ritually displayed in early modern culture
 >immediately following consummation of the marriage.

One shudders to think what her interpretation might be of "Richard III".

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John V. Knapp <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Mar 2005 16:38:49 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Strawberries and Sex

Mike, Ira, and Evelyn - --

Well folks, fruit as sex is certainly intriguing, but the basic problem
remains, no matter the authority: why does (or should) X = Y)?  Since I
haven't read Ms Boose's argument in 20 years, I frankly recall not a
word, but I am always curious how "rituals and customs which were
accessible to Elizabethans but have since been lost (361)" get
"recovered" without some assumptions colored by our own critical mindset
(aka Freudian sex symbols)?  A strawberry does not, to me, look like the
end of wang unless one knows a male w/ strawberry colored skin, etc.
Yes, strawberries could look like drops of blood but then turnips could
give off a similar color too, and so on.

I am not arguing that there might not have been S's "intent" to make the
strawberries and sex connection.  I am merely arguing my suspicions that
X ALWAYS equals Y is not a heuristically interesting critical stance.

John V. Knapp

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Mar 2005 01:02:20 -0000
Subject: 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web

M Yawney <
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 >

 >Please forgive my explicitness, but strawberries resemble the head of a
 >penis, hence they are invoked today in vulgar sexual slang (such as the
 >term "strawberry shake" to refer to semen).

The Beale/Patridge 8th Ed. of Slang doesn't record this -- nor indeed
*any* sense of "strawberry" with a sexual connotation.

Not that that's conclusive, but it does suggest that the association was
neither early nor documented.

Perhap a nonce-usage, or a transformed and extended temporary attribution?

I say this as someone with a slightly unfortunate given-name:

         Eke lullaby my loving boy-
         My little robin, take thy rest!
         Since age is cold and nothing coy,
         Keep close thy coin, for so is best.

George Gascoigne.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 12 Mar 2005 17:46:21 -0500
Subject: 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0461 There's Magic in the Web

Gordon Williams, A Glossary of Shakespeare's Sexual Language, has an
entry under Strawberry, with reference to Othello. He suggests that we
may wish to consult Berry in his Dictionary of Sexual Language.  I
wonder why Richard III wants strawberries.

Bill Godshalk

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