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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0787  Wednesday, 28 November 2007

From:		Arnie Perlstein <
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Date:		Sunday, 25 Nov 2007 09:42:20 -0500
Subject:	Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

"I don't know if the soliloquies offer the chance for characters to lie 
outright, but they certainly are a frequent opportunity for Shakespeare 
to misdirect."

You raised an excellent question, Aaron, and I have a particular 
soliloquy to bring to this group's attention, which I would like to hear 
comments about, i.e., Helena's soliloquy in Act 1, Scene 1 of All's Well:

O, were that all! I think not on my father; and these great tears grace 
his remembrance more than those I shed for him. What was he like? I have 
forgot him: my imagination carries no favour in't but Bertram's. I am 
undone: there is no living, none, if Bertram be away. 'Twere all one 
that I should love a bright particular star and think to wed it, he is 
so above me: in his bright radiance and collateral light must I be 
comforted, not in his sphere. The ambition in my love thus plagues 
itself: the hind that would be mated by the lion must die for love. 
'Twas pretty, though plague, To see him every hour; to sit and draw his 
arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls, in our heart's table; heart 
too capable of every line and trick of his sweet favour: but now he's 
gone, and my idolatrous fancy must sanctify his reliques. Who comes here?

Helena's soliloquy in which she appears to reveal her own great and 
secret love for Bertram, son of the Countess who has cared for Helena, 
is interrupted by the arrival of Parolles.

But then, in Act 1, Scene 3, the Countess hears the following from her 
steward:

Madam, I was very late more near her than I think she wished me: alone 
she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to her own ears; 
she thought, I dare vow for her, they touched not any stranger sense. 
Her matter was, she loved your son: Fortune, she said, was no goddess, 
that had put such difference betwixt their two estates; Love no god, 
that would not extend his might, only where qualities were level; Dian 
no queen of virgins, that would suffer her poor knight surprised, 
without rescue in the first assault or ransom afterward. This she 
delivered in the most bitter touch of sorrow that e'er I heard virgin 
exclaim in: which I held my duty speedily to acquaint you withal; 
sithence, in the loss that may happen, it concerns you something to know it.
This raises many questions in my mind, such as:

1. Does Helena intend to be overheard by the steward, who perhaps has 
been watching Helena closely for some reason?
2. If Helena does intend to be overheard, does she speak what she 
actually feels, or does she present a false front of humble, hopeless, 
but true love, as opposed, say, to a more cynical attempt to marry up?
3. If the steward is reporting the same soliloquy quoted above, he 
presents the Countess with a "translation" that seems to stray widely at 
some points from what Helena actually said, as in the children's game of 
Telephone. Or is the steward giving a reliable report, given that he has 
observed Helena's nonverbals?

ARNIE

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