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 20.0310  Friday, 12 June 2009

[1] From:   Markus Marti <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 21:45:30 +0200
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus

[2] From:   David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 21:54:53 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus

[3] From:   John Zuill <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Thursday, 11 Jun 2009 16:11:27 +1000
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

[4] From:   Jim Ryan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:   Thursday, 11 Jun 2009 06:24:48 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Markus Marti <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 21:45:30 +0200
Subject: 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus

Single real dogs on stage are always fun and provide opportunities for 
great comic interaction and improvisation, cf. The Two Gentlemen of 
Verona. But I don't think that the dogs in MND were "only stuck in to 
set the groundlings rolling around the aisles laughing", as Robin 
Hamilton suggests.
Stage directions like "from hunting" may always be an indication that 
real dogs were brought on stage (e.g. in Tempest, 4.1.254, Titus 
Andronicus II.2, II.3;  Taming Ind.), although Dessen/Thomson (A 
Dictionary of Stage Directions . . .) only suggest that the noise was 
"made within" (as in a SD in the Quarto of Merry Wives, 5.5.102). If 
available, a whole pack of well trained hunting dogs on stage would have 
pleased the aristocracy more than the groundlings; hounds were status 
symbols (cf. Sonnet 91); they were judged not only for their hunting 
skills and the colour of their fur but also for the tune of their 
barking, their "sweet thunder", which had to fit to the sound of horns 
and the song of birds to create a melody that made every hunter's heart 
leap for joy. It is difficult for us to share this 'musical' taste, but 
if we imagine a cultural context in which such a sound could have 
pleased people's ears, we may well assume that it also stimulated other 
parts of their bodies.

Strangely, though, as we can see in MND and in a similar situation in 
Titus Andronicus II.3.10ff, the combination of bark, horns and bird's 
twitter was not meant to stimulate lust but rather to help against 
postcoital tristesse: For Tamora this music would provide an ideal 
lullaby (!!!) AFTER an amorous adventure in a pastoral setting.

Therefore, if real dogs had been chosen for this scene in MND, these 
"supernumeraries" would have induced 'high' aesthetic pleasure rather 
than 'base' erotic stimulation or even 'baser' comic effects.

Markus Marti

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 21:54:53 -0400
Subject: 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus

To add a little to the many good comments already made about Theseus, 
Hippolyta and the hounds, we might see one key in Orlando's remark, in 
TN, that "my desires, like fell and cruel hounds,/E'er since pursue me." 
The Shrew also offers a friendly disagreement about hounds as a trope of 
aristocratic conversation.

As the fairies end their night watch by putting the lovers to sleep with 
magic music, the day shift of the earthly rulers begins by waking the 
lovers with hunters' horns. Fortunately not all the night's magic has 
worn off.

The hounds are "Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells,/Each 
under each". Though of Spartan blood they are slower and more musical, 
their slowness all the better for appreciating their music, which seems, 
for Theseus, the point of the hunt. He's an Athenian who though a proven 
warrior appears to be more concerned, now, with demonstrating the arts 
of peace. Each under each in harmonic discord they echo the hierarchy, 
of mechanicals -- lovers -- rulers -- fairies, whose clashing desires 
resolve in the end into such sweet harmony.

The hounds' "musical discord" echoes the amazing "gentle concord" in 
which the sleeping lovers are discovered, when they had hated each 
other, the "concord of this discord" sought by Theseus in the "tragical 
mirth" of the play, and before all, the new amity of Oberon and Titania. 
A world at peace, like un-Spartan Athens, which needs to find ways to 
"ease the anguish of a torturing hour" between supper and bed, will 
appreciate plays like this one, where divertingly discordant desires are 
brought into harmony, with the grace sometimes required to augment 
effort with imagination, and understand that lovers' quarrels help keep 
love awake.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       John Zuill <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Thursday, 11 Jun 2009 16:11:27 +1000
Subject: 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0290 The Hounds of Theseus

In directing MSND, I treated it as a convivial rivalry, two people in  a 
forced marriage (from Hippolita's point of view) feeling their way 
toward an understanding of some kind. Obviously, Hippolita's pals have 
better dogs. But Theseus gets a minor victory by saying his are more 
tuneful. That's useless in a hunting dog, but he perhaps wins because 
the marriage is moving from being a political responsibility to being a 
pleasant necessity. So compromises are the order of the day. Neither 
Theseus or Hypolita really want to make this marriage intolerable, even 
though it's not a marriage of love. His dogs are not good hounds but 
they look nice and the sound great. A bit like the stage play that comes 
later which also confirms Hip and Thes in conviviality through their banter.

I had them played as very imperious and really they are the only ones 
who could marry each other. Who but Theseus could possibly marry the 
queen of the Amazons? Theseus is an impossible bore perhaps and the 
lovers make a welcome break from his nonsense. Hypolita isn't too much 
better. She knows all the gossip about Theseus. It's possible that they 
have slept with Titania and Oberon. The odious incest of celebrity. 
Theseus's mundane chatter about hunting also reminds us that the magic 
changes and creation of new romantic circumstances is over. We are back 
in the real world. In the fairy world, reality and imagination are the 
same thing. In the real world, reality is dull but imagination  saves us 
from the evenings boredom of the company of a stodgy old king. 
Imagination, in the real world, distains to associate itself  with the 
drudgery of existence. But it is never hard to approach it's welcome 
release from the dull boring world. The mechanicals take us to 
imagination's simple place of inventive privilege. Far from royalty's 
vain political efforts and boring dogs.

That's my take.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Jim Ryan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Thursday, 11 Jun 2009 06:24:48 -0400
Subject: 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus

Paul Swanson asks what contribution the talk of hounds makes to the 
theme of MND. The symmetrical structure of the play casts some light on 
how the passage functions. The music of the hunt-the hounds and 
horns-occurs in the central episode of the third-last scene (4.1) and 
constitutes a prologue to the awakening of the lovers, which ends the 
hallucinatory forest sequence. In the corresponding episode of the third 
scene, Oberon orders Puck to fetch the flower love-in-idleness, 
initiating the forest madness. Characteristically, Shakespeare begins 
and ends a significant action in paired scenes. The five episodes of 
each scene:

      2.1 Puck tells Fairy of Oberon's anger toward Titania (1-59)
     4.1  Bottom & Titania fall asleep (1-45)

      The contention of Oberon & Titania (60-145)
     Oberon restores Titania (46-103)

      Oberon sends Puck for flower to anoint Titania's eyes (146-87)
     Theseus & Hippolyta wake lovers (104-86)

      Demetrius and Helena squabble (188-246)
     Lovers puzzle over their "dream" (187-99)

      Oberon & Puck take flower to anoint eyes (247-68)
     Bottom puzzles over his dream (200-19)

The central episode of 2.1 begins with Oberon's memory of a mermaid 
singing on a dolphin's back and continues with the incident of Cupid's 
"love-shaft. Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon." After the 
musical hounds and horns of the central episode of 4.1, Demetrius 
exclaims that some power has melted his attraction for Hermia and 
returned his love to Helena. We are invited to remark the musical 
preludes of the episodes and their contrasting "courtships"-the singing 
mermaid and the baying hounds, the ineffectual Cupid and the 
newly-faithful Demetrius. Basically, the reflecting episodes express yet 
another variation of Shakespeare's frequent contrast between moony and 
aggressive love, as the dreamy Romeo, absent from the opening-scene 
brawl of R&J, becomes the committed lover who kills Paris in the last 
scene. In context-the context of episode, scene and symmetrical 
reflections-the slightly discordant dialogue of Theseus and Hippolyta 
sounds the prelude to a restored love, signals the end of the dreamlike 
forest sequence and provides an alternative to Oberon's fairyland vision 
of Cupid.

Tallyho!

Jim Ryan

_______________________________________________________________
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.