The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0336 Wednesday, 24 June 2009
From: JD Markel <
Date: Monday, 22 Jun 2009 21:00:52 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0330 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment: Re: SHK 20.0330 The Hounds of Theseus
Re: the idea that dogs are visually presented at the beginning of Act 4.
Humans can bark too. The Mechanicals, save Bottom, are off stage. One or
more of them could enter with Theseus and his train, crawling around
comically. 4.1.106 would be the cue to start exiting. Any disguise they
wear would not hide their faces or previously seen clothing in order for
the audience to identify the Mechanicals. The performance should be
played for laughs against Theseus' high-minded language. Besides being
funny, such performance foreshadows the Mechanicals' later subversion of
high culture via the Pyramus and Thisbe playlet, serves an appetizer of
Snug's imitation of a lion, and presents another Ovidian human to animal
metamorphosis fitting to the play.
As the playlet is "'Merry' and 'tragical'? 'Tedious' and 'brief'?", so
the sounds of the hounds of Sparta heard by Hippolyta are described
oxymoronically, "I never heard, So musical a discord, such a sweet
thunder." (4.1.116-117) Theseus replies his hounds are "bred out of
the Spartan kind" and the Mechanicals could be as bad barkers as they
are awful actors. I suggest that 4.1.126 "Judge when you hear." is a cue
for Mechanicals, now offstage, to bark, ruff and otherwise make
discordant hound noises. If there is anything in nature less musical
than a pack of hounds, I do not know it. The idea of musical hounds
invites humor from the get-go, like herdable cats.
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