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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: February ::
Solid Flesh Once More
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0131  Monday, 25 February 2008

From:		Martin Mueller <
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Date:		Sunday, 24 Feb 2008 13:39:05 -0600
Subject:	Solid Flesh Once More

There is a little more to be said about "too, too solid flesh." Some of 
it involves benefits that come from having access to increasingly large 
data banks that let a scholar evaluate evidence about orthographic 
variance more critically. There are also interesting questions about how 
to compare paleographical with lexical evidence.

Jenkins' "longer note" on Hamlet 1.2.129 in his Arden edition of the 
play may be taken as a good summary of traditional scholarship on the 
question (The note was helpfully quoted by Hardy Cook in his posting of 
February 15). Jenkins' argument can be reduced to three points:

1. The Q2 reading 'sallied' is not a typographical error, but represents 
an orthographic/dialectal variant of the verb/noun 'sully', for which 
there is other evidence.

2. 'Solid' is probably a corruption of 'sallied', although it fits in 
with a lexical pattern that is apparent from passages in 2 Henry IV and 
Troilus.

3. Although the reading 'sullied' has no direct paleographical evidence, 
it is to be preferred as a more standard spelling of a verb that appears 
typically in the form 'sully'.

Jenkins' argument that 'sallied' is not a typographical error is 
strongly supported by Polonius' remarks to Reynaldo about "laying these 
slight sallies on my son (Hamlet 2.1.4). Jenkins points out that the Q2 
readings 'sallied' and 'sallies' were not set by the same compositor and 
are therefore likely to represent somebody's consistent spelling. There 
is also the reading "too much grieu'd and sallied" from the equivalent 
passage in the "bad" quarto (Q1), and the phrase "pure as unsallied 
lily," which is found both in the quarto and folio version of Love's 
Labor's Lost (5.2.352).

While this is very strong evidence for the correctness of the spellings 
in question, it does not really support the assertion that 'sally' is a 
variant form of 'sully'. Consider the passage from Dekker that Jenkins 
cites to attest the presence of this variant outside of Shakespeare: 
"sally not the morning with foul looks" (Patient Grissill, 1.1.2). The 
modern researcher has access to digital data providing evidence that is 
fuller by orders of magnitude than what was available to Jenkins a 
generation ago. With the help of Mark Olsen's Philologic search engine 
one can search 4528 texts between 1560 and 1630 and discover within 
seconds that there are 869 occurrences of the spellings 
"sally|sallyed|sallied|sallies." It is clear at once that the word is 
overwhelmingly a military term.

Nine occurrences are associated with texts that Dekker had a hand in. I 
reproduce the concordance output below:

1. bring in day: Then SALLY not this morning with foule lookes, But tea
2. nothing: yet by those desperat SALLIES, what by open setting vpon 
them by
3. so ere the day be, SALLY you not forth. Fust. No, no, nay if I stir,
4. For then SALLIES he forth, then is his day: Rapes, robberi
5. make their desperate SALLYES out, quicke retyres in (con|trarie to  the
6. Pome, till the watch-word be giuen for SALLYING forth. Amb.Duns the 
Mouse.
7. Iacke Dapper will SALLY sa, sa; giue the counter, on, set vpon him.
8. Battels, Seidges, SALLYES, Batteries, and skyrmishes; (Continuing f
9. as the English Gipsies are, that SALLY out upon Pullen, lie in 
ambuscado for

In the context of these passages, it seems more plausible to assume that 
in the line cited by Jenkins 'sally' has its usual meaning of 'assail.' 
But from that perspective a shadow falls on the Q1 reading "too grieu'd 
and sallied," which can easily be read as a hendiadys for 'assailed'. It 
is a little harder but not impossible to take the Q2 readings of 
'sallied' and 'sallies' in a military sense, and readers have done so. 
The LLL passage "pure as unsallied lily" resists such a reading. But 
overall, there is not much support for the argument that 'sally' is an 
established variant for 'sully' inside or outside Shakespeare.

At least one person at the time thought that it was, and it is odd that 
Jenkins does not mention the fact. In the First Folio, the Q2 reading of 
'sallies' in Polonius' advice to Reynaldo appears as 'sulleys', while 
the 'sallied' from Hamlet's soliloquy appears as  'solid.' In other 
words, the emendation 'sullied' does to 'sallied' what some contemporary 
actually did with 'sallies'.

There is no paleographical evidence for 'solid' before 1623. Did the 
reading exist when the play was written, whether as the "true" reading 
or as a variant? For this, the evidence is lexical and probabilistic. 
It is a nice question what weight to give to such evidence as compared 
with the harder or more material evidence of black ink on paper. Leaving 
aside Hamlet's soliloquy, the adjective 'solid' appears three times in 
Shakespeare in a chronological range of "Hamlet ?3  years" (2 Henry IV 
3.1.48, Troilus 1.3.113, Othello 4.264). The noun 'solidity' appears 
only once in Shakespeare and is spoken by Hamlet to his mother: 
"heaven's face does glow o'er this solidity and compound mass" (Hamlet 
3.4.48).

'Solid' in these passages is always under attack, whether Lodovico 
speaks of Othello "whose solid virtue/The shot of accident, nor dart of 
chance,/Could neither graze nor pierce" or whether King Henry and 
Ulysses imagine cosmic deaths by water. An oddly cosmic perspective also 
hovers around the use of 'solidity' in the closet scene. It is evident 
that the reading 'solid' in Hamlet's soliloquy fits very well into this 
pattern. But the fact that it fits does not constitute proof.

Proof of a sort may be looked for in probability. In 2 Henry IV, one 
finds 'weary', 'solid', and 'melt' within five words. In the Folio 
reading of the soliloquy, they occur within 30 words of each other. Such 
clusters are low probability events, and the hypothesis of some 
associative link is more plausible than coincidence. A Philologic search 
for texts that contain 'weary', 'solid', and 'melt' produces a very 
striking result in the form of a stanza from Fairfax' translation of 
Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, published in 1600.

The sturdie bodies of the warriours strong,
Whom neither marching far, nor tedious way,
Nor weightie armes which on their shoulders hong,
Could WEARIE make, nor death it selfe dismay;
Now weake and feeble cast their limmes along,
Vnweildie burthens, on the burned clay,
And in each vaine a smouldring fire there dwelt,
Which dride their FLESH, and SOLLID bones did MELT. (13.61)

It is even more remarkable that in addition to the words 'weary', 
'solid', and 'melt' the stanza contains the words 'flesh'. Almost as 
striking, and perhaps even more telling is a passage from Philemon 
Holland's translation of Plutarch's Moralia. Its publication in 1603 
postdates the conventional date of Hamlet, although not its first 
publication. The sixth book discusses a number of questions, and the 
eighth question discusses bulimia or unnatural hunger. Here we find the 
same association of 'solid', 'weary', 'melt', and flesh, although in a 
context of some 800 words. In the vicinity of this passage we also find 
two occurrences of 'solidity', which Holland uses relatively often.

'Solidity' and 'melt' occur within some thirty lines of each other in 
the closet scene, where Hamlet speaks of his mother's sexuality as a 
depraved form of hunger or bulimia.

A cautious conclusion to be drawn from this web of verbal associations 
is that 'solid' is unlikely to be a corruption of 'sallied' but in all 
probability existed as a reading when Hamlet was written or first 
published. It fits into a dense network of Shakespeare's usage around 
the time of that play, and it fits into the medico-moral usage of the 
period.

There may not be a Right Reading in this case, and the main point of 
this posting perhaps is to remind readers how much easier it has become 
to think and write about variant readings and questions of usage in 
terms of the very large and quickly searchable archives that have become 
accessible over the past ten years. In this context, it may be 
appropriate to take a quick look at the "Indian/Judaean" crux of 
Othello. In his characteristically evidence-minded and judicious manner, 
Richard Levin a quarter century ago argued that the paleographical 
evidence was against the Folio reading 'Iudean', because the spellings 
in the OED had many witnesses for the string  'Iudaea..' but none for 
'Iudea..' He did himself produce a passage for the spelling 'Iudea..' a 
year later. Well, today it takes you ten seconds to learn that between 
1560 and 1630 the string 'Iudea' beats 'Iudaea' by a score of 1302:884. 
 From which we learn that this crux, like the crux of 'sallied' or 
'solid', cannot be determined on the basis of paleographical evidence. 
It is an open question whether arguments about lexical or stylistic 
patterns will ever yield to rules of evidence that readers or scholars 
will want to play by.

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