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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: January ::
Littered Under Mercury
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0054  Wednesday, 30 January 2008

[1]	From:	Martine Van Elk <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 10:32:03 -0800
	Subt:	Re: littered under Mercury

[2]	From:	Stephanie Kydd <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 13:10:58 -0800 (PST)
	Subt:	SHK 19.0049 Littered Under Mercury

[3]	From:	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 23:13:17 -0500
	Subt:	Re: SHK 19.0049 Littered Under Mercury


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Martine Van Elk <
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Date:		Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 10:32:03 -0800
Subject:	Re: littered under Mercury

Hi Steve,

Autolycus says: "My father named me Autolycus, who being, as I am, 
littered under Mercury, was likewise a snapper-up of unconsidered 
trifles" (4.3.24-26). The pronoun "who" refers to Autolycus, the 
mythological figure. Autolycus, the character in the play, is a regular 
human being, but also "littered under" Mercury. Where the mythological 
Autolycus was actually fathered by Mercury, the figure Autolycus in the 
play was born under the star of Mercury--both described as "littered 
under." The character in the play is not literally saying his father is 
Mercury, but talking astrology. The Norton Shakespeare says in a 
footnote for littered under: "Fathered by Mercury; born when the planet 
Mercury was in the ascendant."

Hope this helps,
Martine van Elk

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Stephanie Kydd <
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Date:		Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 13:10:58 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Littered Under Mercury
Comment:	SHK 19.0049 Littered Under Mercury

In F1, these lines from WT run as follows:

   My Trafficke is sheetes: when the Kite builds, looke to
   lesser Linnen. My Father nam'd me Autolicus, who be-
   ing (as I am) lytter'd vnder Mercurie, was likewise a
   snapper-vp of vnconsidered trifles:

In the F1 text, "as I am" is clearly parenthetical; "was likewise" 
refers to Autolicus' father. The line seems pretty straigtforward: both 
Autolicus and his father were "lytter'd vnder Mercurie." The suggestive 
sexual context (Trafficke, sheetes, Kite, Linnen, snapper-vp, trifles) 
suggests that "Mercurie" has nothing to do with the god or the 
astrological sign and everything to do with "Mercurie" as a treatment 
for venereal disease.

   - Stephanie Kydd

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John W. Kennedy <
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Date:		Tuesday, 29 Jan 2008 23:13:17 -0500
Subject: 19.0049 Littered Under Mercury
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0049 Littered Under Mercury

Stephen Merriam Foley <
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 >I am wondering about the lines in A Winter's Tale 4.2 when
 >Autolycus reproduces his naming. "My father called me Autolycus"
 >This seems clear enough, if suspiciously indirect, and parallel
 >to the naming of the false Autolycus (Some call him Autolycus).
 >But then the next pronoun is "someone who was" which should
 >be Autolycus himself (nearest noun) but who is clearly (tense of
 >verb "was") the father and not the son. So "littered under Mercury"
 >presents a puzzle. Since the father IS Mercury. Autolycus and his
 >half-brother twin were the result of two inseminations, one by
 >Hermes and one by Apollo. So what I am wondering is how
 >Mercury is littered under Mercury. Where have I gone wrong?

It is not generally taken that Autolycus of Bohemia is the classical 
figure, literally engendered by Mercury. The connection is more 
symbolic: Mercury is, among other things, the god of thieves.

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