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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: August ::
Helens and Helenas
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0482  Monday, 18 August 2008

[1] From:   William T. Liston <
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     Date:   Friday, 15 Aug 2008 22:25:27 -0400
     Suct:   RE: SHK 19.0469 Helens and Helenas

[2] From:   Abigail Quart <
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     Date:   Saturday, 16 Aug 2008 03:25:28 -0400
     Suct:   RE: SHK 19.0469 Helens and Helenas

[3] From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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     Date:   Monday, August 18, 2008
     Suct:   RE: SHK 19.0469 Helens and Helenas


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       William T. Liston <
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Date:       Friday, 15 Aug 2008 22:25:27 -0400
Subject: 19.0469 Helens and Helenas
Comment:    RE: SHK 19.0469 Helens and Helenas

Dear Jack,

I went back to Stratford for another trip, and saw All's Well, on 6 August, as 
well as several other plays.

Just before going up there, I read Patricia Parker's Shakespeare from the 
Margins. The index is not so detailed as I wish it were, but check 208, on which 
she makes some of the same points you are suggesting about the 3 Helens.

And I liked the production very much. Juan Chioran was certainly excellent as 
Parolles.

Sincerely,
Bill

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Abigail Quart <
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Date:       Saturday, 16 Aug 2008 03:25:28 -0400
Subject: 19.0469 Helens and Helenas
Comment:    RE: SHK 19.0469 Helens and Helenas

I have no idea how "sexually-motivated" makes either Helena the "opposite" of 
Angelo. Angelo's downfall is entirely the result of action motivated by sexual 
desire.

The relationship between Angelo and the Helenas is a similarity in that they are 
all named ironically. Angelo ain't no angel. Because of Helen of Troy, the name 
Helen has a connotation of The Most Desired. Which is exactly what the Helenas 
are not.

Since I steadfastly refuse to believe that Shakespeare considered the desire to 
get laid to be unusual or weird in women (after all, I had to learn Juliet's 
serenade by heart: Come Night...), I feel I must direct attention toward a 
likelier reason for the names: Shakespeare's passionate interest in perception, 
most particularly the perception of lovers. Take note, the women don't change. 
At the end of the plays, they are the same as before, loving exactly as they did 
before. The difference is in the perception of their men. Where before they 
looked upon the Helenas and felt nothing, now their perception is utterly and 
permanently altered. Now each sees His Beloved.

Helen of Troy herself was kidnapped. She was the object of Paris' lust. It was 
HIS sexual motivation that caused the Trojan War (we're using the myth, not 
historical logic here), not hers. When the Trojans are given the ultimatum "Cry! 
Cry! Troy burns or else let Helen go," Shakespeare doesn't make the Trojans 
hurry to Helen and say, "Pack up, girl, you're outta here." They don't ask her 
what she wants, either. The men confer. The men decide.  This is all about the 
men. Paris is willing to fight all of Greece for Helen, because HE is sexually 
motivated. I don't recall Helen lifting a finger.

Had Paris not seen The Most Desired when he gazed upon Helen, there would have 
been no Trojan War. It is HIS perception that mattered, not hers. Thus also with 
Demetrius and Bertram. Neither Helena was The Most Desired until the man she 
loved saw her that way.

The only nod to what women desire is that, in the end, not only do the Helenas 
get the man of their choice, but Hermia is relieved of the unwanted attentions 
of the man who is not her choice. Which could be interpreted as meaning that a 
happy ending depends on satisfying the woman. Even if the man must change 
everything he believed of her.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Monday, August 18, 2008
Subject: 19.0469 Helens and Helenas
Comment:    RE: SHK 19.0469 Helens and Helenas

Although this matter has nothing to do with your concerns, I would keep in mind 
that the issue of the name of the female lead of _All's Well_ is not determined 
conclusively.

Rowe: Helena
Pope: Helena
Theobald: Helena
Warburton: Helena
Johnston: Helena
Capell: Helena
Malone-Boswell: Helena
Collier: Helena
Clark-Cambridge-Globe: Helena
Bell: Helena
Craig: Helena
Harrison: Helena
Alexander: Helena
Riverside: Helena
Bevington: Helena (or Helen)
Penguin-Pelican: Helena
Oxford-Norton: Helen
RSC Shakespeare: Helen (occasionally known as Helena)

As you can see from my survey above, editorial tradition since Rowe has favored 
Helena; however, in the most recent editions, there is clearly a movement to 
favor Helen over Helena.

As we know, _All's Well_ appears only in the First Folio. Here is how the 
character's name appears throughout the First Folio:

Enter yong Bertram Count of Rossillion, his Mother, and
Helena, Lord Lafew, all in blacke.                        (TLN 3)

Mo.
'Tis the best brine a Maiden can season her praise
in. The remembrance of her father neuer approches her
heart, but the tirrany of her sorrowes takes all liuelihood
from her cheeke. No more of this Helena, go too, no        (TLN 53)
more least it be rather thought you affect a sorrow, then
to haue-----

Clo. That man should be at womans command, and
yet no hurt done, though honestie be no Puritan, yet
it will doe no hurt, it will weare the Surplis of humilitie
ouer the blacke-Gowne of a bigge heart: I am going
forsooth, the businesse is for Helen to come hither.     (TLN 417)

Par. Mor du vinager, is not this Helen?                  (TLN 936)

Enter Helena and Clowne. 
(TLN 1209)

Enter Helena. 
        (TLN 1325)

Ber. I shall obey his will.
You must not meruaile Helen at my course,                 (TLN 1331)
Which holds not colour with the time, nor does
The ministration, and required office
On my particular.

Kin.   Well excus'd:
That thou didst loue her, strikes some scores away
 From the great compt: but loue that comes too late,
Like a remorsefull pardon slowly carried
To the great sender, turnes a sowre offence,
Crying, that's good that's gone: Our rash faults,
Make triuiall price of serious things we haue,
Not knowing them, vntill we know their graue.
Oft our displeasures to our selues vniust,
Destroy our friends, and after weepe their dust:
Our owne loue waking, cries to see what's done,
While shamefull hate sleepes out the afternoone.
Be this sweet Helens knell, and now forget her.            (TLN 2774)

Laf. Come on my sonne, in whom my houses name
Must be digested: giue a fauour from you
To sparkle in the spirits of my daughter,
That she may quickly come. By my old beard,
And eu'rie haire that's on't, Helen that's dead             (TLN 2784)
Was a sweet creature: such a ring as this,
The last that ere I tooke her leaue at Court,
I saw vpon her finger.

Kin. Platus himselfe,
That knowes the tinct and multiplying med'cine,
Hath not in natures mysterie more science,
Then I haue in this Ring. 'Twas mine, 'twas Helens,          (TLN 2816)
Who euer gaue it you: then if you know
That you are well acquainted with your selfe,
Confesse 'twas hers, and by what rough enforcement
You got it from her. She call'd the Saints to suretie,
That she would neuer put it from her finger,
Vnlesse she gaue it to your selfe in bed,
Where you haue neuer come: or sent it vs
Vpon her great disaster.

Although I cannot lay my hands on my Textual Companion right now, one can see 
from the excerpts that "Helen" (Helen = 4; Helens = 2; Helena = 1) is the spoken 
choice while "Helena" (3 out of 3 times) appears in the stage directions.

Although tradition favors Helena, a good case can be made for Helen.

Hardy
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_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
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The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the opinions 
expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the editor assumes no 
responsibility for them.
 

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