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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
Lear's little dogs
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1458  Monday, 5 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	Charles Weinstein <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 3 Sep 2005 09:45:23 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1447 Lear's little dogs

[2] 	From: 	Thomas Bishop <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 03 Sep 2005 16:41:19 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1447 Lear's little dogs


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Charles Weinstein <
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Date: 		Saturday, 3 Sep 2005 09:45:23 -0400
Subject: 16.1447 Lear's little dogs
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1447 Lear's little dogs

In the New Penguin edition (1972, reissued 2005), G.K. Hunter glosses 
Lear's outcry as "I am now so despicable that even the little lap-dogs 
(perhaps bitches, by their names) know they can bark at me."  Jay 
Halio's gloss in the New Cambridge edition (1992) is essentially the same.

In Arden 3 (1997), R.A. Foakes notes that the dogs' names are suggestive 
of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia in that "Trey could mean 'pain', or 
'betray'; Blanch make pale with fear as in Macbeth 3.4.115; and Cordelia 
is to be Lear's darling."  In the Oxford edition (2000) Stanley Wells 
agrees that Trey could mean "pain, affliction," citing the OED, but 
relies on the same source to note that Blanch "could be the worn-down 
form of blandish ('flatter', suiting Shakespeare's habitual 
characterization of dogs)," though he admits that the OED records this 
only as a verb.  Wells goes on to add the following performance note: 
"In Yukio Ninagawa's RSC production (1999), the three dogs were 
represented as toy figures; Lear (Nigel Hawthorne) threw the first two 
into a brazier, but clutched Sweetheart to himself."

In The Masks of King Lear (1972) Marvin Rosenberg writes that Lear "now 
affects the archetypal figure of the exiled beggar-king forgotten by his 
palace hounds."  Rosenberg believes that the names should be spoken as 
"building to the third, the meaningful one of the triad, with the loved 
name--even Sweetheart."  He notes that on this line "Gielgud broke down, 
wept hysterically, in Kent's arms, in utter misery," but that "the 
association returned [Solomon] Mikhoels to awareness of his own animal 
nature, and he was barking again, Tom joining in."  Similarly, in the 
Applause edition (1996), John Russell Brown notes that "At 
Stratford-upon-Avon in 1968, the king and Poor Tom were both nearly 
naked here, 'crawling...and barking like dogs who have been kicked' 
(Daily Mail)."

A once-popular Stephen Foster song was entitled "Old Dog Tray."  I 
gather that the name was proverbial for a loyal canine:   (or one who is 
normally loyal); but I don't know whether this originates with 
Shakespeare or precedes him.

--Charles Weinstein

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Thomas Bishop <
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Date: 		Saturday, 03 Sep 2005 16:41:19 -0400
Subject: 16.1447 Lear's little dogs
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1447 Lear's little dogs

Dear Dave,

I can't find the lyrics online, but it might be worth hunting up Stephen 
Foster's once-famous minstrel show song "Old Dog Trey". Foster was 
literate enough to have alluded, but Trey seems to have been a 
long-standing dog name (unless the allusion is the joke: minstrel 
numbers are often hard to read), which survived in country and folk 
parle after Foster (because of?) also. It's the name of a down home or 
blues dog, and appears, for instance, in the folksy theme song to that 
staple of American sentiment "The Andy Griffith Show". Blanche and 
Sweetheart are still popular dog names according to 
http://www.petrix.com/dognames/s.html (Oi! The things you can Google!), 
but Trey, possibly from low connotations, seems to have disappeared. The 
former two look like lapdog names even in Lear-they are "little dogs" 
after all-though about Trey (= OF Trei? a name one might expect for one 
dog of a trio) it's harder to be sure. Hunting dog names in Shakespeare 
seem to work differently: Clowder, Merriman, Silver (= Argos?! the 
oldest poetic dog) , Echo, and Belman from "Shrew" are presumably 
intended to be convincing versions of dogs a Lord might have, and 
compare with Mountain, Silver (again), Fury and Tyrant in "Tempest", 
though the mimetic purpose of the names there is less sure, I think. 
Then there's "Sowter", apparently a scent hound (cf. Sounder, another 
hound name, esp known from a famous children's book), in Twelfth Night. 
And, of course, there's the cruel-hearted and infamous Crab.

Forgive this doggy diversion.

Tom

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