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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: June ::
The Hounds of Theseus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0316  Monday, 15 June 2009

[1] From:   Terence Hawkes <
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     Date:   Thursday, June 11, 2009 7:01 AM
     Subj:   The Hounds of Theseus

[2] From:   Robin Hamilton <
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     Date:   Friday, 12 Jun 2009 19:07:51 +0100
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0310 The Hounds of Theseus

[3] From:   Joseph Egert <
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     Date:   Friday, 12 Jun 2009 12:13:50 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus

[4] From:   David Evett <
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     Date:   Sunday, 14 Jun 2009 12:55:37 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0310 The Hounds of Theseus


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Terence Hawkes <
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Date:       Thursday, June 11, 2009 7:01 AM
Subject:    The Hounds of Theseus

We should not forget that the "mutual cry'" celebrated in Hippolyta's 
lines also contains the sounds of a bear, fighting for its life. 
Bear-baiting was big business at the time and both Henslowe and Alleyn 
seem to have divided their time between these activities. A current map 
of London shows two adjacent and almost  indistinguishable buildings, 
labelled 'The Bear howse' in one case and 'The Play howse' in the other. 
The same audience, moving indiscriminately to both, would find the 
elements of concordia discors more distinctive than we imagine.

T. Hawkes

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Robin Hamilton <
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Date:       Friday, 12 Jun 2009 19:07:51 +0100
Subject: 20.0310 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0310 The Hounds of Theseus

Markus Marti <
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 >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.

I think Markus Marti misconstrues the import of my perhaps too brief 
earlier post.

I think it unlikely that Shakespeare's company would have a cry of 
hounds conveniently to hand in the middle of London -- a single trained 
dog or a superannuated toothless bear, perhaps, but not a full pack of 
tuned curs.

Perhaps I should reword my earlier statement with the irony removed:

"This particular purple passage is inserted to allow the young Inns of 
Court members of the audience to indulge in a little nudge, nudge, wink, 
wink over the classical references in the speech."

It's an attractive piece of poetry, and deserves its place in the play, 
but let's not make too much of it.

No doubt the margin of that point in the text was much-thumbed when it 
was eventually printed in 1600, and later.

Robin Hamilton

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Joseph Egert <
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Date:       Friday, 12 Jun 2009 12:13:50 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0302 The Hounds of Theseus

Judy Prince believes, "MND celebrates love and sensual pleasure."

Whether MND celebrates or rather fiercely burlesques sensual love is, 
like most things Shakespearean, open to debate.

Probably both.

Joe Egert

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       David Evett <
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Date:       Sunday, 14 Jun 2009 12:55:37 -0400
Subject: 20.0310 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0310 The Hounds of Theseus

To the many suggestions by others let me add these. The episode is in 
its way the hinge of the play, as it swings from complication and crisis 
to denouement, from confusion toward harmony and separation toward 
togethering. It's been fashionable for decades to play Hippolyta as 
Theseus' unwilling, forced bride, but there's little or nothing in the 
text of the last third of the play to indicate that she's any more 
reluctant than her fairy counterpart, Titania - whom we have just seen 
dancing with Oberon in reconfirmed amity -- at this point. What we hear, 
then, is two people finding mutual pleasure in a shared experience, one 
with deep-seated erotic connotations - not, intriguingly enough, 
expressed here with the kind of leer the venereai pun often carries, but 
focused elsewhere for the moment.

An important element is the passivity of this moment. The action is 
elsewhere, down in the western valley; this pair of hunters, like the 
lovers dreaming at their feet, are in stasis, at the still center, yet 
full of esthetic excitement and stimulation, looking toward the 
radically physical climax ('nother pun) that awaits them just beyond the 
end of the play.

This nodal quality appears repeatedly in this play (all arising, I 
think, from its Ovidian foundations): Theseus' invocation of conventual 
chastity (1.1.67-78; Oberon's long rich catalog of the consequences of 
his falling out with Titania (2.1.82 ff.), his vision of the Queen 
(2.1.148-63);  "I know a bank," etc. (2.1.249-56); Titania's 
instructions to her minions to take care of Bottom (3.1.157-67); Puck's 
account of the terror of the mechanicals on seeing Bottom's 
transformation (3.2.19-30); Helena's lament for her broken friendship 
with Hermia (3.2.202-214); Theseus' celebrated tribute to the 
imagination (5.2.2-22).

This last reminds us that in their various ways all of these raise up 
the power of art to move; they make of the play as a whole a skirmish in 
the paragone not only between literature and visual art but between 
drama and narrative poetry and between art of all kinds and the 
alternative formulations of quotidian reality. The lovers pay tribute to 
the power of the hounds' music to tell the story of the hunt, to thrill, 
to enchant, but in terms that also open cultural and historical vistas, 
toward the classical past (the references to Hercules, Cadmus, Sparta, 
Crete), and invest the action with the social significance of the one 
pursuit (pun 3) that was the peculiar prerogative of the aristocracy.

Venereally,
David Evett

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