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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: April ::
Much Ado "Picture"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0183  Saturday, 25 April 2009

[1]  From:   Jim Ryan <
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      Date:   Thursday, 23 Apr 2009 07:23:58 -0400
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0171  Much Ado "Picture"

[2]  From:   Thomas W. Krause <
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      Date:   Thursday, 23 Apr 2009 07:30:59 -0400
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0177 Much Ado "Picture"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Jim Ryan <
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Date:       Thursday, 23 Apr 2009 07:23:58 -0400
Subject: 20.0171  Much Ado "Picture"
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0171  Much Ado "Picture"

Skip Nicholson asks about the last line in Act 2 scene 3 of Much Ado, 
when Benedick exits saying that he will get Beatrice's picture. 
Benedick's desire for an image of Beatrice is one stage of the dynamic 
of language in the play. Words stimulate the imagination and this in 
turn causes a physical change in the character. Much Ado dramatizes a 
number of analogous instances of this "psychosomatic" phenomenon, 
summarized most succinctly by Benedick in agreeing not to reveal that 
Hero is alive: "I will deal in this As secretly and justly as your soul 
Should with your body" (4.1.247-49). The process is most explicitly 
stated by the Friar in describing the effect the fiction of Hero's death 
will have on Claudio:

             The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
             Into his study of imagination
             And every lovely organ of her life
             Shall come appareled in more precious habit,
             More . . . full of life
             Into the eye and prospect of his soul
             Then when she lived indeed . . . .
              . . . Then shall he mourn      (4.1.223-30).

The mourning succeeds the recreation of the ideal Hero "in the eye and 
prospect of his soul." The mourning is consequent to the workings of the 
imagination; the mourning embodies the fiction. The other two plots also 
turn on this same process. Overhearing that he is loved, Benedick first 
takes off in a flight of imagination, torturing Beatrice's invitation to 
dinner and desiring her picture, her idealized image (2.3.257-264). He 
then becomes, embodies, the fashionable image of a lover: he shaves and 
spruces himself up. He has a real or feigned toothache as the socially 
accepted means of explaining his lovesickness. The lovesick Beatrice, 
similarly touched to imaginative excess, soliloquizes in a 
one-quatrain-short sonnet (3.1.108-17). She then appears in the scene 
mirroring Benedick's lovesickness "stuffed" (3.4.61-2) with a cold, with 
Margaret's punning on the word suggesting a psychosomatic preparation 
for requiting Benedick's love. In both lovers the word stimulates the 
imagination toward an artful construct -- a picture, a  sonnet -- and 
then alters them physically. This language dynamic is, comically, denied 
by Leonato. He refuses to believe that a comforter might "Charm ache 
with air and agony with words" (5.1.26) just before responding with 
alacrity to Antonio's words of advice. At the other extreme is the Watch 
who creates from a mere word a person named "Deformed" (3.3.125); the 
word becomes flesh indeed. The further implications of this language 
dynamic, not only for the third plot but for the entire play, are 
suggested by Dogberry's elliptical reference to the Incarnation -- 
"God's a good man" (3.5.35) -- in the constable's crucial speech 
denigrating Verges. Throughout Much Ado, by means of the incarnating 
efficacy of imagination, the word becomes flesh.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Thomas W. Krause <
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Date:       Thursday, 23 Apr 2009 07:30:59 -0400
Subject: 20.0177 Much Ado "Picture"
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0177 Much Ado "Picture"

I agree that Benedick was probably thinking about a miniature.

For those who cited Hamlet's "picture in little" line and the 
"counterfeit presentment" of two "pictures" from the queen's closet 
scene, I agree that both of those scenes can also bring miniatures to 
mind. But it's interesting to consider that those lines might also 
embody the sort of "carefully counter-posed alternative possibilities" 
remarked on by Ron Rosenbaum (as recently quoted on SHAKSPER).

Long ago, Frank Marshall suggested that "picture in little" might refer 
to coins bearing Claudius's picture  (A Study of Hamlet (1875), p. 172 
n*, available for free on Google Books). And I've always felt that use 
of coins in the queen's closet scene (a la Michael Redgrave) breathed 
wit into the queen's "this is the very coinage of your brain" line.

Perhaps (continuing the Rosenbaum quote), these alternatives "deepen and 
enrich" "our appreciation of what we would otherwise think of as the 
strict single-mindedness of reality."

n.b. For those with long memories, I'm not trying to rekindle old 
arguments; I'm just joining Anna Kamaralli in considering Rosenbaum's 
musing worth pondering.

Tom Krause

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