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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: February ::
Solid Flesh
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0101  Friday, 15 February 2008

[1] From:	Donald Bloom <
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      Date:	Thursday, 14 Feb 2008 11:48:30 -0600
    Subj:	RE: SHK 19.0095 Solid Flesh

[2] From:	William Godshalk <
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      Date:	Thursday, 14 Feb 2008 14:45:20 -0500
    Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0095 Solid Flesh

[3] From: 	Hardy M. Cook <
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      Date: 	Friday, February 15, 2008
    Subj: 	Re: SHK 19.0095 Solid Fles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Donald Bloom <
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Date:		Thursday, 14 Feb 2008 11:48:30 -0600
Subject: 19.0095 Solid Flesh
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.0095 Solid Flesh

I hate to be simplistic, but the reason why "solid" is glossed for 
"sallied" is because it makes the best sense. A solid ice cube melts 
into something liquid (like "a dew"). The solid flesh of living 
organisms also melts away (into a ghastly dew, I might venture), as we 
may note from small animals found by the roadside.

Sullied, of course, has connections with the rankness of the "unweeded 
garden," and is thus an interesting alternative. But it lacks the 
immediacy of "solid-melt. (There is an old theory that it is a 
deliberate pun (whose I don't recall) assuming the hearer will catch 
both senses.)

In such a case, with two plausible senses, you can opt for A or B or 
both, but there is no point in asserting one as absolute. A has it 
values (primarily the close proximity of "melt") and B it's (the more 
distant proximity of "rank and gross"). Obviously, I pick A because of 
this matter of proximity, but I can see the reason for B.

Can we leave it at that?

Cheers,
don

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		William Godshalk <
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Date:		Thursday, 14 Feb 2008 14:45:20 -0500
Subject: 19.0095 Solid Flesh
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0095 Solid Flesh

 >Gordon Williams in his Dictionary of Sexual Language and
 >Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature defines
 >"dew" as "sexual emission." Williams defines "flesh"
 >(entry 5), as "allusive of erection." I leave "solid flesh"
 >to your imagination.

Since suggesting that "solid flesh" has a decidedly sexual undertone, I 
have again checked Gordon Williams' dictionary. Surprisingly, he offers 
no definition of "melt," but he does cite a series of passages where 
"melt" is used in an erotic context. Also in the next scene of Hamlet, 
1.3, both Laertes and Polonius are concerned with Hamlet's sexuality and 
Ophelia's obvious affection for the young prince. I was tempted to write 
"randy young prince," but I won't.

Bill

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
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Date: 		Friday, February 15, 2008
Subject: 19.0095 Solid Flesh
Comment: 	Re: SHK 19.0095 Solid Flesh

I just spent the past several hours getting lost in my library, 
gathering infomation that I hope will be of use.

Harold Jenkins reads the crux in I.ii.129 as "sullied" in his Arden 
second edition, explaining his choice in a short annotation and in one 
of the longest LN (Longer Notes) in the edition:

sullied] LN.
129-30. melt . . . dew] Warhaft (see 1. 129 sullied LN) stresses as the 
contrast to 'self-slaughter' (1. 132) the resolving of the baser element 
into the higher, whereby Hamlet might return from melancholy to normal 
health, or, if to become dew is to die, then from 'misery' to 
'felicity'. But there is surely no thought here of being restored to 
health or happiness, only of being free of the 'flesh' whether through 
its own deliquescence or through suicide. Cf. Paul on the desire to be 
dissolved and the necessity of living in the flesh (Philippians i.23-4, 
as regularly cited in the Homily on the Fear of Death and elsewhere. Cf. 
also 2 Corinthians v.1). To resolve (change into another form or 
element) into a dew (moisture) is another synonym for melt and thaw, and 
does not imply (as Warhaft would suggest) a further transformation into 
vapour.

LONGER NOTE
I.ii. 129. sullied] The most debated reading in the play in recent 
years. Earlier editors, with their preference for F, naturally adopted 
solid, though Furnivall defended the Q sallied in the sense of 
'assailed' and Furness recorded the conjecture sullied, which also 
occurred to Tennyson (SQ, xi, 490) and which Dowden thought might 'be 
right'. Dover Wilson's establishment of Q2 as the more authoritative 
text brought sullied into favour (see MSH, pp. 307-15; Greg, Principles 
of Emendation, p. 25; Bowers, SS 9, 44-8). Seven other Shakespearean 
instances of the word include two with the 'a' spelling: Ham. II.i.40, 
sallies (Q2); LLL V.ii.352, 'pure as the unsallied lily' (Q, F 1). Cf. 
also Dekker, etc., Patient Grissill, I.i.12, 'sally not the morning with 
foul looks'. So whereas Dover Wilson took sallied as a misreading of 
'sullied', it is reasonably regarded, Kokeritz notwithstanding (Studia 
Neophilologica, XXX, 3-10), as an alternative form (Crow, Essays and 
Studies, n.s. VIII, 8-9; Bowers, loc. cit.). Solid has obvious (too 
obvious?) aptness in the context and it too has the support of 
Shakespearean usage: 2H4 III.i.48, 'that one might . . .  see . . .  the 
continent, Weary of solid firmness, melt itself Into the sea'; Troil. 
I.iii.113. S. Weiss found it consistent with Shakespearean patterns of 
associated imagery (SQ, X, 219-27), and S. Warhaft related it to the 
essential characteristic of the melancholy humour  (ELH, XXVIII, 21-30). 
Briefly, melancholy is the cold dry humour, and 'of this coldness and 
dryness riseth hardness whereof the flesh of melancholy persons is' 
(Bright, p. 128). In Shr. (Ind.ii. 129) melancholy is associated with 
the congealing of the blood; and 'of the congealing of the blood' the 
flesh, according to Burton, is composed (I.i.2(3)). Melancholy among the 
humours thus corresponds to earth among the elements, and its remedy is 
for the excess of earth to melt into water, which in turn may resolve 
into vapour. But see II. 129-30n., resolve; and while all this may 
illuminate the passage, its support for solid would be stronger if the 
word actually occurred in Warhaft's illustrative quotations. The 
significance he attaches to solid is already implicit in flesh. And, 
just to show how one may argue either way, the alchemical transmutation 
of the baser element (flesh) into the purer (dew) has been held to 
support sullied (ES, LIX, 508-9). Though 'too solid flesh' escapes 
tautology, sullied enlarges the meaning as solid does not. With the 
thought cf. (from the poem in Tottel's Miscellany beginning 'The life is 
long, that loathsomely doth last') 'Wherefore with Paul let all men 
wish, and pray To be dissolved of this foul fleshy mass' (11. 37-8). The 
suggestion of contamination and self-disgust begins an important 
dramatic motif (cf. MSH, pp. 313-15). The textual evidence for sullied, 
moreover, cannot be dismissed. For sallied is less likely to be a 
corruption of solid than the other way about, and though Q2 may have 
derived it from Q1, this suggests that solid did not occur in Q2's 
manuscript authority, while Q1 is against its having been familiar in 
performance (though if Chapman, Revenge of Bussy d'Ambois, V.iv.7-9 is 
an echo, if must presently have become so). Further, the fact that Q2 
sallied here and sallies at II.i.40 occur in the work of different 
compositors argues for a manuscript origin. It is sometimes contended 
that Shakespeare would not use too too with a participle; but OED shows 
it often used with verbs, and Q1, 'too much grieu'd and sallied', shows 
that a participle was in the reporter's recollection. The possibility of 
an intended play on both words cannot be ruled out; but what happens 
perhaps is that by a natural mental process the word (sullied) which 
gives at once the clue to the emotion which the soliloquy will express, 
brings to mind its near-homonym (solid), which helps to promote the 
imagery of melt, thaw, resolve, dew. Those who accept some F variants as 
authentic Shakespearean alternatives (cf. Honigmann, The Stability of 
Shakespeare's Text, pp. 70, 134-6) are likely to find an example here. 
(But see Intro., p. 43n.)

In the Arden 3, Thompson and Taylor gloss the line as "sallied," 
(following Q2) with this annotation:

129 <B>sallied</B>  assailed, besieged. Q1 also reads 'sallied' - 'O 
that this too much griev'd and sallied flesh'. F's 'solid' provides a 
more specific sense for melt (and see 2H4 3.1.47-9: 'and the continent, 
/ Weary of solid firmness, melt itself / Into the sea') but which chimes 
unhappily for some readers with Gertrude's later statement that Hamlet 
is fat (see 5.2.269n.). Many editors emend sallied to 'sullied', meaning 
'contaminated': see the Princess's reference to her 'maiden honour' as 
an 'unsullied lily' in LLL 5.2.351-2, where both Q and F texts read 
'unsallied'. MacDonald glosses sallied as 'sullied', which, despite his 
commitment to F, he thinks 'nearer the depth of Hamlet's mood' than solid.

In the second volume of the Arden 3 _Hamlet_ Thompson and Taylor provide 
these annotations to the Q1 and F1 texts:

Q1
<B>55 grieved and sallied</B> Urkowitz ('Basics', 261) notes that this 
Q1 reading is an example of hendiadys, used extensively by Shakespeare 
in the longer texts of Hamlet (see Wright; and Ard Q2, p. 155).

F1
<B>127 solid</B> MacDonald follows Q2, but Edwards and Hibbard argue for 
solid; both readings make sense.

Just for kicks, I checked my library both electronic and print:
Rowe (1709): solid
Johnson (1765): solid
Steevens (1773): solid
Malone (Boswell: 1821): solid
Clark and Wright (Cambridge: 1865): solid
Craig (Oxford: 1914): solid
Wright (Cambridge: 1936): solid
Alexander (1951): solid
Harrison (1952, 1968): solid
Riverside (2nd.: 1997): sallied
New Pelican (Orgel and Braunmuller: Penguin: 2002): sullied
Bevington (5th: 2004): sullied
Wells and Taylor (Oxford, 2nd.: 2005): solid
Bate and Rasmussen (RSC: 2007): solid

Well, you pays your money and you . . .

I had a great deal of fun putting all of this together (I hope it helps 
someone, at sometime, in some place; after my semester long sick leave 
ends this coming fall, maybe I will retire fairly early, for as much as 
I love teaching, I also love scholarly pursuits that have always taken 
the back burner throughout my life.

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