Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: June ::
The Hounds of Theseus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0302  Wednesday, 10 June 2009

[1] From:   Robin Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 19:59:07 +0100
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

[2] From:   Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Tuesday, 09 Jun 2009 20:25:39 +0100
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

[3] From:   Charlotte Pressler <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 15:48:41 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

[4] From:   David Frankel <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 17:29:32 -0400
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

[5] From:   Judy Prince <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 23:49:59 -0400
     Subj:   SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

[6] From:   Hugh Grady <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 10:40:49 -0400
     Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Robin Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 19:59:07 +0100
Subject: 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

 >Why does Shakespeare have Theseus and Hippolyta talk about the hounds?
 >
 >What contribution does this discussion make to the themes of 
Midsummer's Night Dream?
 >
 >All the best,
 >Paul Swanson

It's only stuck in to set the groundlings rolling around the aisles 
laughing.

Robin Hamilton

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Tuesday, 09 Jun 2009 20:25:39 +0100
Subject: 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

Paul Swanson asks:

 >Why does Shakespeare have Theseus and Hippolyta
 >talk about the hounds [at the start of Act 4 of MND]?
 >What contribution does this discussion make to the
 >themes of Midsummer's Night Dream?

Stanley Wells argued that this exchange regarding the differing voices 
of the baying dogs illustrates the theme of unity-in-diversity, a 
concord or harmony that does not require sameness, "an agreement that 
can include disagreement" (Penguin edition of 1967, p. 31). The stage 
picture at this moment is of four sleeping lovers who were formerly at 
enmity, and the exchange of Theseus and Hippolyta about the "musical 
confusion" of the pack of hounds is another way of expressing the 
reconciliation of the competing love interests.

Social attitudes to such things change over time. Until just a few years 
ago one could witness in many parts of Britain a routine, familiar, and 
healthy outdoor pursuit undertaken by young and old, aristocrat and 
commoner, town-dweller and country-dweller, all coming together for a 
socially-cohesive and traditional purpose.  Since then a government ban 
has all but brought the long-standing practice to an end. I mean, of 
course, the tradition of hunt saboteuring.

Gabriel Egan

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Charlotte Pressler <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 15:48:41 -0400
Subject: 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

Hippolyta begins by getting in a not-very-subtle dig at Theseus, who in 
the roster of Greek heroes occupied a distinctly lower place than 
Hercules, her former hunting companion. Her enforced match with Theseus 
may be diplomatically necessary, and as a queen, she is prepared to do 
the right thing by her country, but she is hardly enthusiastic about it, 
especially after she has had to listen to her future husband demand 
Hermia's submission to her father's will in Act 1. So she is getting 
what satisfaction she can from needling Theseus about his second-rank 
status. When Theseus assures her that his "hounds are bred out of the 
Spartan kind," Hippolyta, for the first time, sees a glimmer of 
consolation. Athens may be an awful place for an Amazon to have to live, 
but at least she can go hunting, and there's a good pack of dogs on the 
premises. It's after this scene that Hippolyta begins to thaw.

Charlotte Pressler
South Florida Community College

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       David Frankel <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 17:29:32 -0400
Subject: 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

For one thing, it provides a way of presenting the development of the 
relationship between Theseus and Hippolyta. Of course, there's more than 
one way to play it -- they can be delighted to discover that they have a 
shared passion in hunting hounds and music (one of the ties to the 
themes of the play, of course -- note the many uses of the terms 
concord, discord) -- or, Hippolyta can be lashing out at Theseus, 
putting him down by praising another, leading Theseus to argue back that 
his hounds (and, therefore he) are a match for those of Hercules.

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Judy Prince <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Tuesday, 9 Jun 2009 23:49:59 -0400
Subject: The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

Paul Swanson wonders how the 'hounds" discussion between Hippolyta and 
Theseus in MND contributes to the play's themes.

The following makes sense to me, and may be helpful to Paul:

1]  After the Bottom'ed interlude, Theseus directs the couples: "lovers 
to bed", and in nearly the same breath: "sweet friends, to bed."

2]  One assumes that he and Hippolyta will bed that night, as well -- 
-- a moment which I believe was intended from this lively love play's 
beginning.

3]  I'll call the discussion "Hound Hunt Talk", and Theseus and 
Hippolyta are the talking hounds. The sexual wordplay's subtle to some, 
perhaps, but I think sufficiently contexted and convincing. Theseus 
begins the HHT:  "We will . . . up to the mountain's top,/ And mark the 
musical confusion/ Of hounds and echo in conjunction." [my underlining]

4]  Hippolyta, having heard the hounds of Sparta, advances the HHT: 
"Every region near/ Seemed all one mutual cry: I never heard/ So musical 
a discord, such sweet thanks."

5]  Theseus, whose hounds come from "the Spartan kind", compares his 
hounds with other animals, and finds his hounds more deliberate and 
effective:  "Slower in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells,/ Each 
under each . . ."

6]  MND celebrates love and sensual pleasure. It favours lovers' choices 
for their mates [in contrast to arranged matches or matches not favoured 
by the female], whilst at the same time showing the irony of lovers' 
oft-daft choices. This play, like the playwright's other comedies, 
concludes with happy matchups --  -- rather a difficult logic to manage, 
one would think, given Shaksper's portrayal in MND of love's capricious 
leadings. I feel, though, that the playwright wanted to illumine love's 
singular strength -- -unanswerable to logic because it is not a thing of 
logic. It is love, and love is love: that which cannot be confined to 
definition and explanation, and is outside categorisation.

Best,
Judy

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Hugh Grady <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 10:40:49 -0400
Subject: 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    RE: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

Innumerable critics have assessed the lines as metadramatic or 
meta-aesthetic comments on the play's heterogenous materials, numerous 
plots, and interacting layers of "reality" and the problem of 
unity/disunity they create. The theme comes up in several other places 
as well, as in the remarks about making a concord of this discord.

  -- Hugh Grady


_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
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.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.