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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: August ::
Just My Imagination
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0502  Monday, 6 August 2007

From: 		Bruce Young <
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Date: 		Friday, 3 Aug 2007 16:23:23 -0600
Subject: 18.0496 Just My Imagination
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0496 Just My Imagination

First, in response to Chris Whatmore, I think Mike Shapiro is looking 
for characters whose (dramatically represented) imaginations get away 
from them rather than characters who demonstrate Shakespeare's 
imagination getting away from him.

Besides Macbeth (already mentioned), I think Shakespeare's jealous 
characters are among the best examples of those afflicted with 
"horrible" and excessive "imaginings."  There's Othello, of course.  I'm 
sure some telling passages could be located.  There are a couple of 
characters in Cymbeline: Posthumus, but also Jachimo.  Imogen doesn't 
suffer from jealousy but falsely imagines Cloten's body to be 
Postumus's.  But maybe simple mistakes shouldn't count here.

Another prime example is Leontes, accused by Paulina of "weak-hing'd 
fancy" and "Fancies too weak for boys, too green and idle / For girls of 
nine" (Winter's Tale 2.3.119 & 3.2.181-82).  Note that Shakespeare is 
about as likely to use the words "fancy" and "fancies" as 
"imaginations/imaginings," etc., in referring to this phenomenon.  One 
reason I think Leontes a great example of unconstrained imagination is 
that he is betrayed by his own words, especially two speeches in which 
the word "nothing" reveals the power of imagination to build its 
structure on a completely insubstantial foundation.  The speeches are 
located at 1.2.138-46 ("Affection!" etc.) and 1.2.284-96 ("Is whispering 
nothing?" etc.).

And then Leontes suddenly realizes what he's been doing: "I have too 
much believ'd mine own suspicion" (3.2.151).  Fitting nicely with the 
idea of unconstrained imagination, he refers to himself as having been 
"transported by my jealousies" (3.2.158).  I just did a word search and 
discovered that, along with the words "jealous," "jealousy," 
"jealousies," "fancy," and "fancies," Leontes's problem is several times 
referred to as "suspicion" (1.2.460, 2.1.160, 3.2.151, 5.3.149)--all 
different ways of talking about an imagination that is poisoned (and 
poisonous) and out of control.

The plays doubtless include similar examples I haven't mentioned as well 
as more innocent examples of imagination gone wild.

Bruce Young

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