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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: May ::
Hamlet's Feminine Endings

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0211  Thursday, 27 May 2010

[1]  From:      Tom Rutter < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 26, 2010 11:10:45 AM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
 
[2]  From:      Nicholas Clary < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 26, 2010 12:01:45 PM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Ending
 
[3]  From:      Thomas Le < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 26, 2010 2:32:41 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
 
[4]  From:    Laurie Johnson < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:    May 26, 2010 7:00:24 PM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
 
[5]  From:      Nicole Coonradt < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 26, 2010 8:57:34 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
 
[6]  From:      Abigail Quart < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 26, 2010 9:07:52 PM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
 
[7]  From:      William Sutton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      May 27, 2010 3:30:02 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Tom Rutter < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:      May 26, 2010 11:10:45 AM EDT
Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
John Briggs writes 'I think that you ought to first carefully consider when a "feminine ending" was first called a "feminine ending".'

The OED's first example (6b) is from Samuel Daniel's _Defence of Rhyme_ (1603): ' Two feminine numbers (or Trochees, if so you wil call them).'

It also gives a brief account of the origins of the term in French versification.

Whether Shakespeare would have expected anyone to make the connection between feminine endings and emasculation is, of course, another matter.

There's a divinity that shapes our endings?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Nicholas Clary < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 26, 2010 12:01:45 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

I agree with the recommendations made by several respondents to Richard Waugaman’s inquiry. Might I suggest that a good starting place for such an inquiry is www.hamletworks.org? This database extends beyond the Furness variorum edition and is more comprehensive than the latest editions of Hamlet. In this particular case, consult the Commentary Notes for TLN 2743+26, which includes commentaries from Rann (1791) to Arden (2006).

By the way, there appears to be no such commentary as is mentioned in the Waugaman inquiry.


Cheers,
Nick Clary

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Thomas Le < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 26, 2010 2:32:41 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Here is a distinction between "rime feminine" and "rime masculine" taken from Wikiperidia (Rime) on French versification.  My translation is in square brackets.[]  I hope it provides some perspective.

Une rime est dite : [A rhyme is said to be]

• féminine lorsque le dernier phonème est un e caduc (nommé autrefois « e féminin ») ; ainsi, les deux fin de vers suivants ont des rimes féminines : [feminine when the last sound is an e caduc, formerly called "feminine" (i.e., deciduous, falling off, or reduced to a schwa); thus the two verse-final words below show feminine rhymes]

[...] abolie :
[...] Mélancolie,

Rime féminine /oli?/.

Le e caduc forme une rime féminine même après voyelle. C'est aussi le cas devant -s et -nt désinentiels (mais pas dans les subjonctifs soient, aient non plus que dans les imparfaits et conditionnels en -aient – -oient dans l'orthographe classique). [The e caduc forms a feminine rhyme even after a vowel.  It is so before -s and -nt in verb conjugaison (but not in the subjunctive soient ("they be" plural), aient ("they have") or in the imperfect and conditional tenses ending in -aient, -oient in classical orthography).]

•  masculine dans les autres cas : [masculine in other cases]

[...] inconsolé,
[...] constellé

Rime masculine /le/.

Les deux extraits sont tirés du « Desdichado » (in Les Chimères) de Gérard de Nerval. [The two examples came from "Desdichado" in The Chimaera by Gerard de Nerval].

Ces noms proviennent d'une conception ancienne de la langue, dans laquelle le e caduc (que l'on a prononcé en fin de vers jusqu'au XIXe siècle, et même dans certains théâtres au XXe ; c'est encore souvent le cas dans la chanson) était réputé faible et mou, donc associé, selon les idées de l'époque, à la féminité, ce que renforce le fait qu'un e caduc de fin de vers n'est pas compté dans le nombre de syllabes du mètre. [These names of rhymes came from the old-fashioned conception of language by which the e caduc (which is pronounced at the end of verses until the 19th century, and even in certain theaters of the 20th century;  and is still often pronounced in songs) is thought of as being weak and soft, therefore, associated, according to the thoughts of the period, with femininity.  This reinforces the fact that an e caduc at end of verse does not count towards the number of syllables in the verse's meter.]

Rimes masculines et féminines ne peuvent rimer ensemble, du moins jusqu'au XIXe siècle. Ainsi, on a longtemps considéré, soit pour des raisons sonores (tant que le e caduc a été prononcé en fin de vers), soit pour des raisons graphiques, que mer et amère ne pouvaient pas rimer plus que aimé et désirée. Actuellement, cette séparation entre rimes masculines et féminines est plus rarement respectée. [Masculine and feminine rhymes do no rhyme together, at least until the 19th century.  Thus, for a long time, for phonological reasons (as long as the e caduc ends a verse) or for orthographical reasons, the words mer "sea" and amère "feminine of bitter" do not rhyme; neither do aimé and désirée.  Nowadays the distinction of feminine and masculine rhymes is rarely observed.]

Cette partie de l'article provient de la page

http://coursdefrancais5.canalblog.com/archives/2007/12/09/index.html?[This section of the article comes from the web page....]

Thomas Le

[Editor’s Note: I normally send digest in ASCII, but since the ASCII character set does not have most of the French characters I will try to send in an alternative character set. Any problems with the transmission of this post are due to these issues. –Hardy M. Cook]

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Laurie Johnson < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 26, 2010 7:00:24 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

On the question of when the term "feminine" came into use in English prosody, Samuel Daniel used the term in 1603 in his Defence of Rhyme, which suggests the term was in use beforehand, certainly at least in French poetics, from which the concept derives. The idea of a gendered metre was thus available to the English poets at least around the end of the sixteenth century, although perhaps not widespread.

Amy Stackhouse has written about gendered prosody in Sonnet 20 (Explicator; Summer2007, Vol. 65 Issue 4, pp 202-204) but discussions of the possibility are not common, as far as I can tell. Still, while gender in prosody is not, grammatically, intended to refer metaphorically to socialised concepts of femininity and masculinity, Stackhouse's provocative article has influenced my teaching of Elizabethan sonnets, to at least suggest that the distribution of feminine endings and other metrical effects would quite often be deliberate and with just such a metaphorical charge.

I agree, though, that more detailed analysis would be required of all dialogue before any conclusions could be drawn about a single character within a play.

Laurie Johnson
Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural Studies
School of Humanities and Communication
and The Public Memory Research Centre
Faculty of Arts
University of Southern Queensland
Toowoomba QLD 4350
< This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Nicole Coonradt < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 26, 2010 8:57:34 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Regarding the reason it's called a "feminine" ending, here is what OED says (It's a French thing!):

b. Prosody. feminine rime: in French versification, one ending in a ‘mute e’ (so called because the mute e is used as a feminine suffix); hence in wider sense, a rime of two syllables of which the second is unstressed. So feminine ending, termination (of a line of verse or musical phrase); feminine cæsura, one which does not immediately follow the ictus. the e feminine: the French ‘e mute’, and the similar sound in ME. (dropped in the later language).

Swinburne in 1880 makes note of the fact that it's not quite the same in English as in French (we don't have "gender" for words in English).  "Verses with a double endingwhich in English verse at least are not in themselves feminine."

Apparently in French poetry they alternated in a stanza, line by line, if that's any help.

First recorded instance at OED in date charts lists Samuel Daniel, but I'm guessing it predates this (MED is often more precise):

1603 S. DANIEL Defence Rhyme sig. H3r, Two feminine nbers (or Trochees, if so you wil call them).

So whether English poets then saw it as actually having to do with gender or whether it was simply linguistic and a poetic term borrowed from the French, I am unsure.  It seems, however, that to make such a leap, may be reading too much into it-- perhaps too anachronistically?  We must have plenty of poets at this forum who might be able to give a more scholarly answer to the history of this issue, etymologically speaking.  I'd hesitate to say it offers proof of Hamlet feeling or being "emasculated."

Nicole Coonradt
University of Denver

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Abigail Quart < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 26, 2010 9:07:52 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Arghhh! The thing about feminine endings is that William Shakespeare thought of them as feminine. How do I know?

THIS is how I know:

Sonnet 20

A woman's face with nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion:
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

FOURTEEN feminine endings FOURTEEN. The only sole one single sonnet with FOURTEEN feminine endings FOURTEEN. He was enjoying a big fat giggly in-joke and those FOURTEEN feminine endings FOURTEEN are on purpose.

That's how I know.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         William Sutton < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 27, 2010 3:30:02 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0205  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

Yeah but that said...

English doesn't differentiate between genders with nouns, whereas many other languages do. Why are boats invariably a she? knee jerk PC responses like Mr Mazer who sees no correlation between stressed and unstressed endings and masc or femininity is a trained response. Like the joke, how many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb, that's not funny.

But no correlation?

In Sh's lyric verse such as sonnet 20, which is entirely feminine lines. The argument is clearly based on real world gender differences between masculine feminine characteristics. But you're right, 100% correct feminine lines should have nothing to do with the 'weaker' sex.

But a line is composed of syllables and those are accented, stressed and unstressed, or weak and strong, ictic or non-ictic. The whole house of cards of defining what each is leads to new terminologies to describe the process. But feminine and masculine lines remain exactly that.

I too am interested in whether Renaissance rhetoricians deemed them so. Whether in a time when masculine and feminine were quite clearly delineated along lines similar to the query originally made: whether Hamlet feels emasculated and that's why he uses a higher proportion of feminine lines.

How about Oliphant's 'feeble terminations' as an alternative?

Cheekily yours,
Will


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