Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1021  Friday, 27 May 2005

[1]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 26 May 2005 22:27:11 +0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.1004 Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]

[2]     From:   Gene Tyburn <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 26 May 2005 10:10:57 -0700
        Subj:   Regarding the Worm Controversy

[3]     From:   Jack Heller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 26 May 2005 12:47:25 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1004 Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]

[4]     From:   Rainbow Saari <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 27 May 2005 23:13:07 +1200
        Subj:   SHK 16.1004 Can of .....



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 26 May 2005 22:27:11 +0800
Subject: 16.1004 Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.1004 Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]

So far, Elliot Stone has been offered most of the standard annotations
of the Clown's use of 'worm': that 'worm' means snake and thus asp; that
'worm' means worm and thus is connected with death (which is what the
Clown brings her); and that 'worm' is phallic and thus part of the
sexual word play that pervades the Clown's speech and virtually
everything, down to her dying words, that Cleopatra says in the course
of the play.  If he finds this 'unconvincing', then he needs to give us
some idea of what he is seeking.

Arthur Lindley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gene Tyburn <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 26 May 2005 10:10:57 -0700
Subject:        Regarding the Worm Controversy

Here is how I handled the worm controversy in my libretto version if
anyone cares to read it.

Cleo-   Caesar is no more trusting then love that's hired for quick
comforting.

Iris-   Let's make a finish good lady. We no more for the sun.

Cleo-   Iris go!  Fetch me my robe and my crownet .  Immortal love is
calling me.
Immortal love is calling me.

Charmein -  Madam here is that kindly man that you requested bring us figs.
Approach, good fellow, fear her not.

Cleo-   Hast thou the worm of Niles brought? He is a little weezend up
farmer

Man - Truly, but I would not touch him
As those that do most often die of sleep
Like death, no pain nor cry.

Cleo - Thank you fellow, now get thee hence.

Man -  I wish you care in the handling.  But what it bites it seldom
eats. Again, tis not worth feeding much, beware my
Lady of what you touch.
She sings to the worm

Cleo- No more the grape of Egypt drink
Now quench your thirst on this heavenly brew.     She puts the asp on
her bosom
Me' thinks I hear my Antony
He beckons forth, I bid adieu.
Come, come releasing worm, come dispatch
I'm at death door, you must throw the latch!  The asp stings her
This is from the last scene of the libretto of Antony and Cleopatra the
opera.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 26 May 2005 12:47:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 16.1004 Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1004 Can of . . . [Was Antony and Cleopatra 4.3]

One other point: the very first definition of "worm" in my compact OED
is "serpent, snake, dragon." Citations for this meaning extend from
Beowulf to the 19th century, so there should be no problem with the
substitution of "worm" for the asp.

Jack Heller

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rainbow Saari <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 27 May 2005 23:13:07 +1200
Subject: Can of .....
Comment:        SHK 16.1004 Can of .....

To those who have noted the phallic undertones of the Clown's dialogue
with Cleopatra in 5.2. I add my affirming voice. A quick scan of
Shakespeare's use of "worm" elsewhere in his plays reveals to me no
other place where the term carries such an obvious undercurrent of
sexual meaning, but here it is deliberate and appropriate.

Why give the word such phallic resonance? Probably because doing so
allowed him to expand the layers of meaning available to his hearers.
Can we be sure that some of his audience would be likely to have picked
up on this phallic level of meaning? I believe we can. In the most
explicitly bawdy/erotic surviving contemporary poem of Shakespeare's
time, Nashe's " A Choise of Valentines", the protagonist laments  that
during his lovemaking with his mistress he has spent himself  before the
act itself "in thought of hir delight" and describes their attempts to
revive his recalcitrant penis:

I kisse, I clap, I feele, I view at will,
Yett dead he lyes not thinking good or ill.
Vnhappie me, quoth shee, and wilt' not stand?
Com, lett me rubb and chafe it with my hand.
Perhaps the sillie worme is labour'd sore,
And wearied that it can doe no more. (ll. 129-134)

No doubt here what kind of "worm" this is. To add to the sexual imagery
that others have rightly commented on  in this passage, I'd like to
point out  that the rustic clown--- a character who, as his language
reveals, knows of "country matters", sex and sexual "death"--- brings
Cleopatra a basket of figs,  yonic symbols, containing "worms", phallic
symbols.

Jack Heller writes that "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."

I agree it is intentional. The clown's malapropism "falliable", glossed
as "infallible" leads me to suspect that Shakespeare is employing both
obvious and convoluted wordplay in their dialogue: " But this is most
falliable, the worm's an odd worm".

Shakespeare knew the word "fallible",  meaning likely to fail; he had
used it in Measure for Measure 3.1. and  its opposite "infallible" in
the following scene, 3.2. "Infallible" is spelled correctly in all of
its five uses in his canon ( a search of the Internet  Shakespeare Draft
Early Texts confirms this) as is his single instance of the use of
"fallible". The Folio text of Antony and Cleopatra contains the botched
term "falliable". The spelling of the word might well be a printer's
error, though it  seems to  have found acceptance by editors as a
malapropism.

What suggests to me this is not just a printer's error is that the word
as it is spelled allows it to be pronounced as "fall-liable" by the
clown. We can assume he thinks he is saying "this is most infallible",
most certain, unfailing ---as do Armado in Love's Labors Lost and
Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well--- but he affirms that ' this is
most liable to fall, the worm's an odd worm.' The "worm" that is most
liable to fall or fail, at inconvenient moments, is the old trouser
snake, or penis. The "odd worm" is one likely to "fall at odds" with a man.

Again, why give the word "worm" phallic resonance in this passage?
Cleopatra calls the "worm" an "aspic", or asp, in each further instance
after the clown has left. The play is, of course,  full of reference to
the intense sexual attraction felt by the lovers for each other. The use
of sexually loaded language here just before the Queen ends her life
suggests that WS wished to emphasise to his audience a connection
between sex and the lovers' deaths. Shakespeare was fond of contrasting
opposites The bawdy here, which I envisage as being played absolutely
straight by an earnest Clown who means Cleopatra nothing but the best,
is juxtaposed to and contrasts with the nobility of her actions.
Ultimately it may be that the bawdy connotations of "worm" serve as a
vehicle to draw the audience's attention to the irony of her death by
the bite of a literal snake;  it suggests her fate was sealed when she
"died" from the  bite of  Antony's metaphorical "worm".

Cheers to all,
Rainbow Saari

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.