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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
A Wedding Ring Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0101  Thursday, 2 March 2006

[1] 	From: 	Bob Linn <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 01 Mar 2006 16:50:16 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question

[2] 	From: 	Abigail Quart <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 2 Mar 2006 06:16:53 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question

[3] 	From: 	John Briggs <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 2 Mar 2006 16:43:16 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bob Linn <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 01 Mar 2006 16:50:16 -0500
Subject: 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question

Joe Egert says, "Clearly she [Portia] is somehow mystically involved in 
bringing Antonio's three lost ships home 'safely to road.'" How is 
Portia "mystically involved" in bringing the ships in?  I always thought 
that she was just reporting the good news.

Bob Linn

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Abigail Quart <
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Date: 		Thursday, 2 Mar 2006 06:16:53 -0500
Subject: 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question

The ring question, coupled with Joe Egert's response that 'Portia may 
even be seen as an early prototype for Prospero. Clearly she is somehow 
mystically involved in bringing Antonio's three lost ships home "safely 
to road,"' reminded me of something Shakespeare may have known about 
Venice: the annual marriage to the sea. I don't know if that's been 
mentioned in this context, but it seems to possess elements that have 
crept into Merchant of Venice.

http://www.jjkent.com/articles/ceremony-doge-venice.htm

"... the Doge, from the year 1311, was accustomed to go out into the sea 
annually on Ascension Day, to throw a ring into the water, and thus to 
marry, as it were, the Adriatic, as a sign of the power of Venice over 
that sea."

http://www.d.umn.edu/~aroos/venice.html

'From 1173 to 1797, a sumptuous ceremony expressed all that constituted 
the grandeur of Venice. As the Republic had supported Pope Alexander III 
in his struggle against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa, the Pope gave 
the Doge a ring as a "symbol of your empire over the sea". To 
commemorate this, each year on Ascension Day, the Doge, robed in cloth 
of gold, paraded ceremoniously in his galley, the Bucintoro, and cast a 
ring into the sea with the words "We espouse thee, O Sea, in token of 
our perpetual sovereignty." '

A chance meeting in a tavern with any returned tourist might have 
brought up a description of this splendid ceremony with its wedding ring 
and its 'mystical,' powerful connection with the sea. The two sources I 
quote give a very pat explanation of the ceremony, a very 
officially-sanctioned Catholic explanation. But, as with Hamlet, the 
sources of MOV reek of pre-Christian mythology. So does this ceremony. I 
don't know if Portia can be considered a "prototype for Prospero," but I 
can agree that they are both humanized deities, with the process of 
humanizing such figures begun before Shakespeare came along to make them 
again immortal.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Briggs <
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Date: 		Thursday, 2 Mar 2006 16:43:16 -0000
Subject: 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0086 A Wedding Ring Question

As this thread is threatened by the guillotine, I must expend my 
precious daily resource of a single post on it.  ("Arden3 Hamlet" will 
have to wait until tomorrow - at this rate I shall never manage to rail 
against "Administrative Issues", which may have been the intention.)

Where was I?  Oh, yes. Paul E. Doniger writes:

 >I can't remember if anyone brought it up on this thread, yet, but
 >Sebastian and Olivia "interchange" rings in Twelfth Night, The
 >Priest's says that their marriage was "Strengthened by
 >interchangement of your rings"  (5.1.159). Clearly WS knew of the
 >custom. Does anyone know whether he would have interchanged rings
 >with Anne Hathaway?

Once again, I must insist that this is just evidence of Shakespeare's 
knowledge of continental European marriage customs (not necessarily in 
Illyria), rather than of contemporary English custom.  Shakespeare may 
have learned this from the Huguenot Mounjoy family, and he may have 
imagined it to be contemporary English Catholic (or pre-Reformation 
English) practice. If so, he was wrong.  Compare this extract from the 
1552 Book of Common Prayer:

And the priest taking the ring shall delyver it unto the man, to put it 
upon the fourth finger of the woman's left hand. And the man taught by 
the priest, shal say, "With this ring I thee wedde:  with my body I thee 
worship: and with al my worldly goods I thee endow.  In the name of the 
father, and of the sonne, and of the holy gost. Amen."

With the 1543 Sarum Manual (also reprinted in the Douai editions of 1604 
and 1610-11):

... et manu sua sinistra tenens deteram sponsae, docente Sacerdote, 
dicat: "With this rynge I the wed, and this gold and siluer I the geue, 
and with my bodi I the worshipe, and with all my worldly catel I thee 
endowe."  Et tunc inserat sponsus annulum pollici sponsae dicens, "In 
nomine  Patris": deinde secundo digito dicens, "Et Filii": deinde tertio 
digito dicens, "Et Spiritus Sancti": deinde quarto digito dicens, "Amen".

[There is an addition to the service which Henderson (York Manual, p. 
20*) claimed to have found in a MS Sarum Manual at St John's Oxford: 
after the groom puts the ring on the bride's finger, "Tunc procidat 
sponsa ante pedes ejus, et deosculetur pedem ejus dextrum; tunc erigat 
eam sponsus."]

John Briggs

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