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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: September ::
Antony and Cleopatra Passage?

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0252  Friday, 30 September 2011

[1] From:         Mari Bonomi < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         September 29, 2011 2:21:39 PM EDT

     Subject:      Re: Ant. Passage 

 

[2] From:         Chris Kendall < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         September 29, 2011 8:24:18 PM EDT

     Subject:      Antony & Cleo 

 

[3] From:         Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         Friday, September 30, 11

     Subject:      Re: Ant. Passage 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Mari Bonomi < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         September 29, 2011 2:21:39 PM EDT

Subject:      Re: Ant. Passage

 

Jack Kamen writes,

 

>I am confused by the final words of this Antony 

>and Cleopatra (2.2.200) passage.

>

> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . on each side her

> Stood pretty-dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,

> With divers-coloured fans, whose wind did seem

> To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,

> And what they undid did. (2.2.200)

>

>Clarification would be much appreciated.

 

Could it be that the wind of the fans both cool her cheeks and also cause them to "glow" or blush, thus undoing the cooling: what they undid (heat on her cheeks) did (causing them again to blush)?

 

Mari Bonomi

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Chris Kendall < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         September 29, 2011 8:24:18 PM EDT

Subject:      Antony & Cleo

 

The fans undid (cooled) the heat of her cheeks, but the bright colors of the fans, reflected on those cheeks, made them appear to glow, so that the fanning seemed to make the cheeks warm.

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         Friday, September 30, 2011

Subject:      Re: Ant. Passage 

 

Chris Kendall’s reading above is similar to Staunton’s reading from the 1907 Variorum: “We should prefer, 'what they undy'd, dy'd,' that is, while diminishing the colour of Cleopatra's cheeks, by cooling them, they reflected a new glow from the warmth of their own tints.”

 

I, however, find Malone’s reading from the same edition to be less literal and thereby more metaphorically packed with possible meanings: “The wind of the fans seemed to give a new colour to Cleopatra's cheeks, which they were employed to cool; and 'what they undid,' i.e., that warmth which they were intended to diminish or allay, they did, i.e., they seemed to produce.” 

 

Heat is often associated with sexuality, lust, and lechery as evident in these two passages from Othello with the first speaker being Iago, and the second Othello):

 

Were they as prime as Goates, as hot as Monkeyes,

As salt as Wolues in pride, and Fooles as grosse

As Ignorance, made drunke. (F1, TLN 2051-2053)

 

This argues fruitfulnesse, and liberall heart:

Hot, hot, and moyst. This hand of yours requires

A sequester from Liberty: Fasting, and Prayer,

Much Castigation, Exercise deuout,

For heere's a yong, and sweating Diuell here

That commonly rebels: 'Tis a good hand,

A franke one. (F1, TLN 2181-2187)

 

In the first passage Iago lists a number of animals associated with lechery, the monkeys being “hot.”

 

In the second passage Othello describes Desdemona’s hand as “Hot, hot, and moist” and identifies her as a “sweating Diuell.” Thus being "hot" can mean both hot from the sun and hot from lust.

 

While I do not deny the readings above, two selections from Venus and Adonis as derived from my notes to the Internet Shakespeare Editions of the poem may be helpful in teasing out some of the implied meanings of “what they undid did.” 

 

And yet not cloy thy lips with loathed satiety,

But rather famish them amid their plenty, (19-20)

 

In lines 19-20, Venus ironically argues that overindulgence will "famish" rather than "cloy", provoke the desire rather than satiate it, which we can compare to Enobarbus's description of Cleopatra: "Other women cloy / The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry / Where most she satisfies" (2.2.235-237).

 

Thus one interpretation of “what they undid did” might be to that the wind from the fans designed to “cool” Cleopatra, the embodiment of sexual energy, kindled her lustfulness even more, an ironic reversal. 

 

[See annotation at http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/Ven/M/stanza/4#tln-19]

 

In lines 35-36, Venus is hot as a "glowing fire", causing Adonis to become "red for shame, but frosty in desire." Then in lines 49-52, “Venus’s tears and sighs are intended to cool Adonis down from his being overheated by the sun so that she will again be able to attempt to enflame him with desire for her:

 

He burns with bashful shame; she with her tears

Doth quench the maiden burning of his cheeks.

Then with her windy sighs and golden hairs

To fan and blow them dry again she seeks. (49-52)

 

[See annotation at http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/Ven/M/stanza/9#tln-50]

 

It seems to me that “what they undid did” can be read that the wind from the fans cooled the lustful Cleopatra, hot from the sun, and in doing so enabled her to be hot with desire again.

 

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