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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1004  Thursday, 26 May 2005

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 May 2005 06:24:08 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

[2]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 May 2005 13:25:59 -0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

[3]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 May 2005 12:16:44 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0983 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

[4]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 May 2005 17:58:28 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

[5]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 May 2005 12:01:53 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 's "worm"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 May 2005 06:24:08 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

Michael B. Luskin writes, "This is not really about the worm, it is
about scholarship.  As a previous poster pointed out, sometimes a
worm/cigar is just a worm/cigar.  The instances of worm in A&C cited
here do not demand phallic interpretations.  Snake, worm, what's the
difference?"

Elliott Stone writes, "I did not find any of the replies to my inquiry
concerning Shakespeare's use of the word 'worm' rather than 'asp' in
Anthony and Cleopatra 4.3 very convincing.  I do believe, however, that
while Freud might not have gotten his Shakespeare correct Shakespeare
certainly got his Freud correct!...It would be helpful to have more
input on these two issues."

Well, Emily Dickinson got her Bible right, her Shakespeare right, and
her Freud right, also.  It seems that this notion of man as worm, and
man *BECOMING* the snake aka serpent, comes from the Adam and Eve story.
  A debate rages over an *overt* poem by Dickinson which in my mind
illuminates this question in Shakespeare.  Her's is Poem 1670, from the
Johnson edition, the capitalizations as per the text:

In Winter in my Room
I came upon a Worm --
Pink, lank and warm --
But as he was a worm
And worms presume
Not quite with him at home --
Secured him by a string
To something neighboring
And went along.

A Trifle afterward
A thing occurred
I'd not believe it if I heard
But state with creeping blood --
A snake with mottles rare
Surveyed my chamber floor
In feature as the worm before
But ringed with power --
The very string with which
I tied him -- too
When he was mean and new
That string was there --

I shrank -- "How fair you are"!
Propitiation's claw --
"Afraid," he hissed
"Of me"?
"No cordiality" --
He fathomed me --
Then to a Rhythm *Slim*
Secreted in his Form
As Patterns swim
Projected him.

That time I flew
Both eyes his way
Lest he pursue
Nor ever ceased to run
Till in a distant Town
Towns on from mine
I set me down
This was a dream.

--Emily Dickinson

I find it to be *phallic* as a metaphor of the poem, inasmuch as it is
the subject of the poem.  I also have interpreted it as descriptive of
her secret love, his name evoke in the *italicized* word.  But, alas,
that is another matter.

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 May 2005 13:25:59 -0000 (GMT)
Subject: 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

Dear All,

Might I suggest that this worm (which word is repeated 8 times in a
short span of lines) has overtones of both death and sex to it? Michael
Neil talks of the EM connection between vile bodies and death's dominion
over the lusty flesh. As he points out, what often seems a very
Shakespearean theme (as in Hamlet) is in fact a broader EM concern with
the whited sepulchre of the body in the years of mass death and plague.

Consider this staggering passage from Donne (which Neil quotes):

'we must all pass this posthume death, this death after death, nay this
death after burial, this dissolution after dissolution, this death of
corruption and putrefaction, vermiculation and incineration, of
dissolution and dispersion in and from the grave, when those bodies that
have been the children of royalk parents, and the parents of royal
children, must say with Job, to corruption, thou art my father, and to
the worm, thou art my mother and sister. Miserable riddle, when the same
worm must be my mother, my sister, and my self! Miserable incest, when I
must be married to my mother and my sister, and be both father and
mother to my own mother and sister, beget and bear that worm which is
all that miserable penury, when my mouth shall be filled with dust, and
the worm shall feed, and feed sweetly, upon me...' (Donne: Death's Duel)

The imagery here is sexual, thranatorial (if that's a word!) and
intense.  The word Worm actually seems to appear on its own (albeit
spelt with an e) more often in A&C than other Shakespeare Folio plays
including F1 Hamlet).

All the best,
Marcus

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 May 2005 12:16:44 -0400
Subject: 16.0983 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0983 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

Norman Hinton <
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 >"Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar." -- Sigmund Freud

As a cigar smoker himself Freud pretty well had to say that.

Otherwise a Freudian interpretation of the cigar as a phallic symbol
would make him a   ???   -:)

John Ramsay

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 May 2005 17:58:28 +0100
Subject: 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 4.3

 >this issue just as puzzling as Hamlet's four O's in line 358 of 5.2. A
 >year or two ago The New Yorker Magazine had a long article on the
 >mysterious O's in the Canon that likewise gave no satisfactory answer
 >to an ambiguity at the very crux of the drama.

What is ambiguous about Shakespeare's so-called O-groans?  Hamlet,
Othello, Titus Andronicus, Lady Macbeth and King Lear are all reduced to
inarticulate O-sighs or O-groans at moments of intense emotional
anguish.  I believe that E.A.J. Honigmann in Shakespeare Survey 29
(1976), 123 suggested that the Oooo is a sigh or groan.  Thus, in
Hibard's 1987 (Oxford) Hamlet, he footnotes 5.2.311 as 'He gives a long
sigh'.  This seems to be a perfectly clear explanation that the actor is
making a sound, but not actually articulating any words.  Maurice
Charney, in 'Hamlet's O-groans and Textual Criticism', Renaissance
Drama, 9 (1978), 109-119, suggests that these Os give us a specific clue
about Burbage's acting style (rather than Shakespeare's writing style)!

Kathy Dent

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 May 2005 12:01:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 's "worm"
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0994 Antony and Cleopatra 's "worm"

The reaction to my suggestion that the "worm" has phallic meaning
puzzles me, as I would have thought the phallic meaning to be obvious.
It's not my idiosyncratic reading to find bawdy meanings in the play's
use of "lie," "die," and "worm." Have a look at David Bevington's
footnotes to 5.2.252.  For those who disagree, what do you make of this
passage from the Clown?

Cleopatra: Remember'st thou any that have died on 't?
Clown: Very many, men and women too. I heard of one of them no longer than
yesterday, a very honest woman--but something given to lie, as a woman
should not do but in the way of honesty--how she died of the biting of it,
what pain she felt. Truly, she makes a very good report o'th'worm; but he
that will believe all that they say shall never sav'd by half that they
do. But this is most falliable, the worm's an odd worm.

Bevington's note: to lie--(with sexual second meaning hinted at also in
honest, i.e., chaste, die, i.e., reach orgasm, and worm)

I don't write all of this simply because I like dirty meanings. I think
Cleopatra's interaction with the Clown is central to the play's
juxtaposition of, or clash of, comedy and tragedy. Why does a clown
(peasant) bring in the asp and make malapropisms moments before
Cleopatra's suicide? Here, I think, the bawdiness is fully intentional.

Jack Heller

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