The Compendium of Renaissance Drama

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.113  Wednesday, 6 April 2016

 

From:        Brian Corrigan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 6, 2016 at 7:25:09 AM EDT

Subject:    The Compendium of Renaissance Drama

 

CORD is a five-million-plus-word database featuring synoptic treatment of every extant play from the English stage to have been performed in English between 1486 and 1642. It includes interactive maps, illustrations, finding lists of persons and plays, a complete prosopography of every character to appear or be mentioned on the Renaissance English stage, a complete topographical dictionary of every place-name mentioned in the period drama, animated stemma of the British monarchs from the Conqueror to Charles I and another of the Julio-Claudian Emperors, comprehensive timelines of playhouses, playing companies, and playwrights, all inter-linked to the relevant play synopses.

 

My current project on the CORD is the creation of a searchable, chronological, fully linked version of Henslowe’s diary that features both the original and transliterated spellings. I expect to add it sometime in 2019.

 

************************

You are invited

 

Dean Chris Jesperson welcomes you to an introduction of the Compendium of Renaissance Drama, a comprehensive collection of English Renaissance drama, painstakingly assembled by UNG Professor of English Dr. Brian Corrigan on Saturday, April 23rd, 5:00 in the evening, Dahlonega Campus Library Special Collections Room. RSVP This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Phone: 706.864.1910 Reception to follow



Brian Jay Corrigan, J.D. Ph.D.

Senior Professor, Renaissance Literature

General Editor, The Compendium of Renaissance Drama

Georgia Author of the Year

Georgia Board of Regents Outstanding Professor of the Year

 

 

Identity of the Clown in Othello

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.112  Tuesday, 5 April 2016

 

[1] From:        Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 4, 2016 at 4:02:02 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown 

 

[2] From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 4, 2016 at 4:21:37 PM EDT

     Subject:    Iago’s "enematic" Clyster-Pipes, the Clown’s wit re Shrovetide flatulence, & Othello’s Trumpet

 

 

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

From:        Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 4, 2016 at 4:02:02 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

Kristina Sutherland inquires about the provenance of ‘I am what I am’.  The unavoidable source for any English Renaissance writer is Exodus 3:14 where God says to Moses ‘I am that I am’.  The difference between the absolute being of divinity and the unbeing of evil is a central theme of Augustinian theology.

 

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

From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 4, 2016 at 4:21:37 PM EDT

Subject:    Iago’s "enematic" Clyster-Pipes, the Clown’s wit re Shrovetide flatulence, & Othello’s Trumpet

 

Over the weekend, I took a closer look at one key aspect of my claim that the Clown is really Iago in disguise, which I’ve only touched on in passing in my prior posts. I.e., how closely the Clown’s specific sexual innuendoes echo the specific sexual innuendoes which Iago utters at other points in the play. I’ll show that these echoes only make sense if they are the intentional acts of Iago, whether spoken openly by Iago as himself, or in disguise as the Clown.

 

I start with a series of short quotations from prior scholarly analyses of the Clown’s and Iago’s sexual punning, interspersed with my brief comments as to their significance for my claim that these are all Iago speaking.  After these scholarly quotations, I’ll revisit the text of relevant excerpts in Othello to tie it all together:

 

“ ‘A wording poet’: Othello among the mountebanks” by Bella Mirabella [in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England,  Vol. 24 (2011), p150 et seq.]:

 

“When in an aside, Iago, commenting on Cassio’s kissing Desdemona’s hand remarks, “Yet again, your fingers to your lips? would they were clyster-pipes for your sake” (2.1.176), the audience would have understood the complexity of this remark. Not only is this moment a lewd allusion to flatulence and rectums, which was one staple of mountebank humor, the mention of clysters and pipes is also a reference to mountebank cures….The long harangue that Act 3 encompasses begins with a bawdy, musical skit like any mountebank performance, which explains the occurrence of the comic routine in Othello, between a Clown and a musician, who pun on “wind instruments,” clyster-pipes, and flatulence (3.1.6). The skit refers back to th[at] earlier scene with Desdemona….”

 

Shakespeare’s Feminine Endings  by Philippa Berry (1999) at p 29:

 

“ …a chain of carnivalesque and scatological imagery in the play which has been very convincingly elucidated  by Francois Laroque….He points out that the wind imagery that runs through Othello draws on this carnivalesque tradition of fertilizing bodily winds…..in the motions of bodily wind or flatulence, evoked  both in Iago’s scatological medical figuration of the kiss between Cassio and Desdemona in terms of ‘clyster pipes’ (2.1) and in the Clown’s jesting depiction of the human body as a ‘wind instrument’ with ‘a tail’ (3.1)….”

 

Shakespeare’s Festive World, by Francois Laroque, trans. By Jane Lloyd (1991) at p. 47:

 

“The ‘circulation of blasts of air” comprises the custom of consuming flatulent foods on Shrove Tuesday and then breaking wind in a way that suggested a correlation between the microcosm of the human body and the cosmic forces as a whole. During this festival period, people were recommended to stuff themselves to bursting point, so as to be at one with the natural elements…”

 

Significance: Iago pushing Cassio, Roderigo et al into overconsumption of drink is a cruel parody of these Shrove Tuesday traditions.

 

“The ‘Double Time’ Crux in Othello Solved” by Steven Sohmer ELR 32.2 (Spring 2002) p 214:

 

“Above, I offered to identify one other important way in which Shakespeare construed Othello  as a sequel to Merchant. The central action in both plays concerns a contract sealed at Shrovetide, a debt which goes unpaid, and the dire consequences ensuing. In Merchant, the contract is a loan. In Othello the contract is a marriage contract, and chaos ensues when the marital debt goes unpaid. Desdemona, according to the dying testimony of her intimate servant, lived and died ‘chaste,’ meaning as chaste as the Portia of Merchant, ‘as chaste as Diana’ (Merchant 1.2.103), a virgin enwheeled by the grace of heaven, before, behind, and on every hand (2.1.85-7).

 

Time, Narrative, and Emotion in Early Modern England by David Houston Wood (2016), p.78:

 

“…the Shrove Tuesday (Gregorian) which confronts us in Act 1 of Othello becomes five weeks later in the integration of the two calendars, according to Sohmer, the identical Shrove Tuesday (Julian) which confronts us in Act 2 of the play, in Cyprus (17-21)….”

 

Significance: Shakespeare wants us to realize that Iago, human antichrist that he is, is in effect forcing Othello and Desdemona into an involuntary Lent (the period of abstention that immediately Shrove Tuesday), since his entire project is designed to destroy their marriage before it can even be consummated!

 

Early Modern Theatricality by Henry S. Turner (2014) p.216:

 

“In both Rich and Phillips, social mobility is cleverly critiqued by contrasting the improprieties of class crossing with the appropriateness of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Shakespeare, too, draws on the pancake bell’s associations with issues of social class to parody the verbal affectations of courtiers….In All’s Well, when Lavatch wittily asserts that “O Lord sir” is an “answer that fits all questions”, he insists that the phrase is as ‘fit” as “a pancake for Shrove Tuesday”. In both plays, Shrove Tuesday pancakes are mentioned by clowns offering jabs at those who act above their proper station by mimicking aristocratic behaviour…”

 

Significance: Iago as the Clown in Othello is another example, but this time veiled, of this same point—I.e., Iago is parodying Cassio’s social-climbing affectations.

 

“’Then Murder’s Out of Tune’: The Music and Structure of Othello” by Rosalind King Shakespeare Survey 39 (1987): ppg 149-58: 

 

“…[Iago] perverts the former innocent though overdone courtesies to a gross anal sexuality [clyster pipes] However, when he likens the embrace between Othello and Desdemona to a well-tuned instrument…he is describing no more than the truth….Roderigo has already drunk ‘potations pottle deep” and Iago “has flustered with flowing cups” the three remaining guards (2.3). 

 

…These musicians are playing wind instruments or ‘pipes’. This is a neat visual and aural pun on the ‘clyster pipes’ that Iago has already said should be at Cassio’s lips, and the bawdy jokes made by the Clown on the nature of anal wind music in this scene indicate that the connection is deliberate…”

 

Signficance: If you’re wondering why King says “clyster pipes’ are so bawdy, read this:

 

The Mystery of Hamlet: A Solution  by Myron Stagman (2009) p. 39:

 

“…For good measure, Cassio and the Clown both say “honest friend”, the person which practically everyone in the play considers Iago to be. What does the resonance [between 2.1 and 3.1] communicate to us? The key: Iago’s “clyster pipes” remark is filthy. He refers to a syringe for injecting an enema. The Clown echoes this obscenity. His entire patter represents a dirty echo of a filthy remark.

“Wind-instruments” alludes to the posterior. “Tale” means “tail”. “Nose”, because that’s what gets wind of the gaseous substance which emanates therefrom. “Put up your pipes in your bag” corresponds to the modern “Shove it!”, and it refers to the allied employment of Iago’s clyster pipes. “Vanish into air” indicates the dissolution of that gaseous substance into the atmosphere. This kind of humor was not intended to be nice. In delivering it, the Clown acts as a surrogate Iago. Hence his ‘posterior”-humor is sinister. Who—or what—is this Clown who acts on behalf of Othello, echoes Iago, and makes a lewd reference to ‘nose’, anticipating Othello’s “O I see that nose of your [D’s] But not that dog I shall throw’t to. The clown is a materialization of Othello’s Iago-influenced mind…”

 

Significance: Stagman was sooooooooo close to taking that final step to seeing the Clown as Iago in disguise!

 

02/12/09 “Iago’s Foul Music” by Matt Wallace

 

“Act 3, Scene 1…As the musicians perform, the Clown enters the scene to pick up where Cassio leaves off and to serve as his proxy. He begins with the first of his insults: 

“Why, masters, ha’ your instruments been in Naples, / that they speak i’th’ nose thus?” (3.1.3-4)

 

A note to the text explains that the Clown is asking why the instruments “sound so nasal” and suggests that this is “a reference to venereal disease, often associated with Naples, or a phallic or anal joke”. The Clown appears to be suggesting that the musicians are so bad because they are playing with diseased instruments, read infected penises.

 

…After the Musician asks for clarification, the Clown continues with the second of his insults: 

 

“Are these, I pray you, wind instruments?” (3.1.6). 

 

This begins an exchange which, as the textual note indicates, “depends on the connection between wind instruments, flatulence, and ‘tale/tail’”. After the Musician affirms the Clown’s observation, the Clown replies: “O, thereby hangs a tail”. The Clown is clearly referring to the anus, thus suggesting that the musicians’ playing sounded like flatulence, hence it also stunk. The Musician fails to distinguish between the homonyms and asks: “Whereby hangs a tale, sir?”. The Clown recognizes the homonym and retorts: “Marry, sir, by many a wind instrument that I know”. The Clown is relying on the notion of talking out of one’s hindquarters, the uttering of falsehoods ranging from simple exaggerations to outright lies, all of which have their own peculiar stench about them. With the second compound insult, Shakespeare uses flatulence as a metaphor for the lies used to manipulate sexuality, especially the lies of Iago.”
 

 

I think you get the picture by now just how gross and foul the Clown’s and Iago’s joking on wind instruments and flatulence really is, and how there are traces of Iago everywhere in that joking. And now, in light of all the above, let’s first reread Iago’s aside right after his exchange with Desdemona in 2.1: 

 

IAGO: [Aside] He takes her by the palm: ay, well said, whisper: with as little a web as this will I ensnare as great a fly as Cassio. Ay, smile upon her, do; I will gyve thee in thine own courtship. You say true; 'tis so, indeed: if such tricks as these strip you out of your lieutenantry, it had been better you had not kissed your three fingers so oft, which now again you are most apt to play the sir in. Very good; well kissed! an excellent courtesy! 'tis so, indeed. Yet again your fingers to your lips? would they were clyster-pipes for your sake! 

Trumpet within

The Moor! I know his trumpet.

 

Viewed in the context of all that Shrove Tuesday flatulence, Shakespeare means for us to understand that “The Moor! I know his trumpet” is Iago’s witty suggestion that Othello is also a social climber whose trumpet is yet another “wind instrument”—This is nothing less than the grotesque but somehow still hilarious image of Othello’s arrival being announced by a colossal fart!  And doesn’t that just about sum up, in a single sound/smell, what Iago really thinks about Othello?

 

And now seems an opportune moment to respond to what Harry Berger wrote on Friday in this thread: 

 

“Looking for hidden meanings? Is that what we do today?   I didn’t know that. I thought we were doing this: The play text represents the character as trying to say one thing. At the same time his language “says” more than she/he is trying to say. When we read the play’s text we try to put these two together to see what it shows about the character. Does this = “looking for hidden meanings”?”

 

Harry, in the case of the Clown’s scatological punning in 3.1 of Othello, I think you’re begging the most important question when you write “his language ‘says’ more than she/he is trying to say”- i.e., if the Clown really were just a random, minor character inserted by Shakespeare for some unfunny comic relief or some other comparably nonthematic purpose, then your description would be accurate—indeed we’d be left with trying to figure out why Shakespeare chose to have the Clown unwittingly echo Iago’s crude sexual wordplay so closely, as I have elaborated, above.

 

But…to me that would diminish Shakespeare’s artistry greatly, if he felt he had to resort to such a gambit, which damages verisimilitude to real life, by relying on an unrealistic coincidence of word usage between two seemingly unrelated characters, in order to amplify Iago’s repellant sexual innuendoes. In Othello, we are not in the fantastical, unrealistic worlds of the late Romances, or of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Titus Andronicus, or even of the comedies with their absurdly improbable coincidences bringing the couples together at the end. Strongly coincidental echoes shouldn’t happen without some plausible reason for them within the fictional reality of the play.

 

Othello strikes me as being among the most realistic of Shakespeare’s plays—which makes it all the more tragic and horrifying, because we can see how a malevolent being in the real world, like Iago, without assistance from ghosts, witches, soothsayers or other supernatural powers, really could, using ingenuity and psychological acuity, do tremendous harm to other people. Whereas, if it really is Iago disguised as the Clown in 3.1 and 3.4, then, using your terminology, the character is knowingly saying exactly what he means to say, even though the major characters he speaks to (first Cassio, then Desdemona) have no idea that it is really Iago, or what he means.

 

Now, as I suggested in my first post in this thread, I believe Iago pops in as the Clown in 3.1. and 3.4 for the primary purpose of delaying first Cassio and then Desdemona in their movements, so as to prevent them from actually meeting with each other before Iago’s “handkerchief” gambit has time to work. 

 

But the content of what Iago says is irrelevant to that primary purpose, and so Iago can choose whatever topic he wants for his exchanges with the Musicians, Cassio and Desdemona, as long as he keeps things going long enough. And, being the malevolent being that he is, he elects to vent his ugly sexual spleen on two of his victims, as a kind of sadistic private joke for his own amusement. In a way, he’s like the hunter who gives his prey a fair chance to get away, because that spices up the hunt for the hunter—he gets to have a private chuckle at the obtuseness of Cassio and Desdemona, who don’t hear the echoes of Iago in the “Clown’s” joking. 

 

And these two scenes then perfectly complement all other scenes in the play in which Iago works his evil manipulations on others—both the scenes in which he is not disguised and presents himself as the “honest friend” of the very people he is trying to destroy, and also the scenes (like when he slanders Othello while hidden in the crowd outside Brabantio’s estate).when he achieves anonymity by being hidden in a crowd at a distance from the character he is working on—and when he advises Roderigo to don actual disguise to do Iago’s bidding in Cyprus.

 

Best of all, I suggest that the above analysis provides an extraordinary positive transcendence of the apparent paradox of the question of reading vs. seeing Shakespeare. I believe it would make a spectacular bit of stagecraft if, in 3.1., the Clown delivers his speeches and then starts to leaves the stage in 3.1, but then, just before completing his exit, and while in full view of the audience, but not of Cassio, he quickly sheds his beard, wig, and dirty clothes to reveal……Iago in his normal attire, who then immediately enters and starts talking to Cassio. I think it would elicit a collective gasp, if the clothing, body movement, and voice disguise were really effective (and I’d guess Robert Armin would have excelled at them all). They’d gasp because, suddenly armed with the knowledge that the Clown had been Iago all along in 3.1, they’d start wondering, why has Iago done this? And so then when the Clown reentered in 3.4, the audience would already know right from the start that he was Iago in disguise, and therefore this would add an extraordinary extra oomph to the Clown/Iago’s verbal parrying with Desdemona. 

 

In particular, the audience would be wondering, why has Iago chosen to come back a second time as the Clown and to engage in this crude sexual banter with Desdemona—and that is when they’d surely recall that this was a dark reprise of the relatively mild, witty sexual banter between Iago and Desdemona in 2.1, when Cassio kisses her hand, and then Desdemona playfully invites Iago to say how he would praise her. 

 

I think it clear that this becomes a much more powerful scene if it is Iago, disguised as the Clown, who is using his disguise to safely vent his ugly sex-based anger at Desdemona, than if a servant who is otherwise peripheral to the action of the play suddenly appears and inexplicably starts doing this.

 

And…one final artistic payoff on stage—when the audience hears the following exchange in 4.1….

 

Iago. Lie--

Oth. With her?

Iago. With her? On her; what you will.

Oth. Lie with her? Lie on her? We say lie on her, when they belie her. Lie with her! (4.1.34-38)

 

…they will not merely recall the Clown’s riffing on “lie” in 3.4, they will understand that Iago is reprising his own crude sexual punning, this time with Othello instead of Desdemona, as if to fulfill the arc that runs from 2.1. to 3.4 to 4.1 that I have just outlined. It pulls the whole thread together---instead of leaving the audience puzzled as to why the Clown was in the play in the first place, which is the very question that a number of Shakespeare scholars have wondered over the years.

 

To conclude: I wonder whether there has ever been a production of Othello in which the above scenario has been enacted—if so, I have searched the Internet and all relevant databases and cannot find evidence of same, but I would not be surprised to find out that it has been done. The best evidence, of course, would have been to know what was done when Othello was first staged, presumably under the direction of Shakespeare himself—but alas, we don’t have such precious data at hand, and probably never will.

 

Cheers, 

ARNIE

 

 

 

Identity of the Clown in Othello

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.111  Monday, 4 April 2016

 

[1] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 1, 2016 at 12:00:10 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown 

 

[2] From:        JD Markel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 1, 2016 at 4:20:04 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown 

 

[3] From:        Kristina Sutherland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 1, 2016 at 11:52:06 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clow 

 

[4] From:        Lynne Kinder <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 2, 2016 at 5:25:17 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown 

 

 

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

From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 1, 2016 at 12:00:10 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

I believe there were many hidden meanings of a comparable nature (including, but not limited to, disguised characters, acrostics, and imaginary characters) in many, if not all, of Shakespeare’s plays. Many of these would have been difficult, if not impossible, to detect without reading his plays.

 

This loses me.

 

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

From:        JD Markel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 1, 2016 at 4:20:04 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

“I’ve read many hundreds, if not a thousand or more, of scholarly articles and book sections about Shakespeare through the lens of that intertextuality”

 

Well I cannot find even one that considers the plain meaning of Clown’s observations and jokes to inform us that the “noise” he hears is poorly played bagpipes. Or that bagpiping in such context was taken as funny. In other words, the comedic relief of this episode begins with the music, not Clown’s comments on the same. So do not put much reliance on the intertext.

 

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

From:        Kristina Sutherland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 1, 2016 at 11:52:06 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

Query: "I am not what I am" quote

 

In light of the recent discussions revolving around Iago’s “I am not what I am,” I have a question about the use of the reverse of this statement in early modern English drama.

 

I have read that Spanish drama of the time used the phrase “soy quien soy” (“I am who I am”) as a phrase to emphasize the character’s sense of honor.

 

Is this also a frequent phrase in English plays? I don't think I have personally seen it much, so I would appreciate any information on its use and the plays it may be in.

 

Thanks,
Kristina Sutherland

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Lynne Kinder <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 2, 2016 at 5:25:17 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

Arnie, I am responding to your comment: 

 

'there has been a long and lively debate that remains unresolved to the present, among many Shakespeare scholars other than myself, as to whether he wrote his plays to be seen in the theater or to be read. For me, the clear answer is BOTH'

 

I cannot agree with you. I am not a scholar, but a very keen enthusiast. I believe that Shakespeare wrote plays and acted in them for a living and that he didn't realise they would live on into posterity. Shakespeare returned to Stratford upon Avon years before he died, and was reputedly a wealthy man. If he had wanted his canon to be studied, surely he would have organised the printing of it himself? My belief is that his work had served its purpose, giving him enough money to retire and give up writing all together. I am not an expert, but I have read many books, theories and arguments on the subject of this brilliant man, and fascinating though some of these theories are, I do believe some of them stretch credibility too far - well my credibility anyway.

 

Sincerely,

Lynne Kinder.

 

 

 

The Unbelievable Hamlet Discovery

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.110  Monday, 4 April 2016

 

[1] From:        Nicholas Clary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 1, 2016 at 10:56:20 AM EDT

     Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Hamlet Discovery 

 

[2] From:        Peter Holland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 2, 2016 at 5:38:11 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Hamlet Discovery 

 

[3] From:        David Crystal <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 3, 2016 at 9:38:45 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Hamlet Discovery 

 

[4] From:        Keith Johnson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         April 3, 2016 at 10:16:00 AM EDT

     Subject:    Hamlet Discovery 

 

 

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

From:        Nicholas Clary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 1, 2016 at 10:56:20 AM EDT

Subject:    RE: SHAKSPER: Hamlet Discovery

 

April Fool! on the “unbelievable discovery!

 

Nick Clary

 

 

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

From:        Peter Holland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 2, 2016 at 5:38:11 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Hamlet Discovery

 

David Crystal is to be congratulated on his remarkable discovery. I take it that the fact that the only non-h word I have identified is ‘for’ (p.76) is the consequence of its being the opening syllable of Fortinbras (the speaker of the stray word) and hence indicates Fortinbras’ wish to hint at the otherwise unknown F quarto which would focus on Fortinbras’ view of the whole narrative.

 

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

From:        David Crystal <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 3, 2016 at 9:38:45 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Hamlet Discovery

 

Thank you, Peter. Yes, I have long puzzled over this curious anomaly. It does reinforce a view, which some scholars are suggesting, that the disease was more deep-rooted, affecting more than H alone. Loves Labours Lost provide further food for thought, as does The Merry (clearly a replacement of Wicked) Wives of Windsor

 

Oulipian greetings.

 

David

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Keith Johnson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 3, 2016 at 10:16:00 AM EDT

Subject:    Hamlet Discovery

 

David Crystal’s Unbelievable Hamlet Discovery (Shakespeare Conference, 1st April) hits on heavy and heretofore hidden hints about Hamlet’s history. Huge happenstance.

 

Crystal’s H Quarto has implications for various areas of Shakespeare scholarship, including the field of Original Pronunciation, in which Crystal himself has been the guiding spirit. He has pointed out that in Early Modern English, an initial ‘h’ was often unpronounced. The first few lines of his H Quarto might then have read:

 

BARNARDO ’ark!

FRANCISCO ’o! ’enchman?

BARNARDO ’e.

FRANCISCO ’ey, ’our ’eedfully ’eeded.

BARNARDO ’orological ’alfnight’s ’appened. ’op ’ome.

 

Taken as a whole, there seems no doubt that the H Quarto gives us the longest stretch of uninterrupted h-dropping in the entire canon of English literature, including in the works of Dickens, with all his various Cockney h-droppers. 

 

There is, however, more to the h-dropping than phonetic quirk. The following thoughts occurred to me a couple of days ago (it is today 3rd April). The hero’s name, and the play’s title, start with a dropped h, so would have been pronounced ’Amlet. There is, however, a little-known vowel change (known as the ‘Quite Small Vowel Shift’) that took place in just a few streets in Stratford-upon-Avon for a few months in the 1600 period. It is one of the few sound changes in English that took place retrospectively. In it, today’s vowel [æ] came to be pronounced as [ɒ]. It was not ’Amlet at all, but ’Omlet

 

The word omelet first appeared in the language at around this period, and there is a little-known Elizabethan Cookbook entitled Chippes Withal (a title which, as it happens, the twentieth-century English playwright Arnold Wesker took for one of his plays). On the topic of omelets the book (written in verse) has this to say: Who wolde an omelette make, Perforce must egges brake.  But this is just what the play previously known as Hamlet is about. In the process of becoming a fulfilled man, Hamlet creates mayhem. In culinary terms, eggs get broken.

 

When Crystal next feels like a walk, one can only urge him to return to New House, and give his full attention to other broken drains. There may be other H Quartos to discover: The Happy Housewives of Henley, perhaps, and Hiems’ Homily (pronounced ’Iems ’Omily: the play about Leontes and ’ermione). 

 

Keith Johnson

 

Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Language Education, 

Department of Linguistics and English Language,

University of Lancaster

 

 

 

Identity of the Clown in Othello

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.109  Friday, 1 April 2016

 

[1] From:        Carol Barton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 31, 2016 at 11:14:26 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown 

 

[2] From:        Bill Lloyd <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 31, 2016 at 12:23:39 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown 

 

[3] From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 31, 2016 at 12:51:27 PM EDT

     Subject:    Othello's Clown: Iago (or Roderigo) in disguise? 

 

[4] From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 31, 2016 at 1:40:42 PM EDT

     Subject:    Shakespeare's plays to be viewed and/or read 

 

[5] From:        Harry Berger Jr <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 31, 2016 at 2:12:39 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown 

 

[6] From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 31, 2016 at 7:03:01 PM EDT

     Subject:    Othello's Clown: Iago (or Roderigo) in disguise: a quick P.S. 

 

 

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

From:        Carol Barton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 31, 2016 at 11:14:26 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

In support of Lynne Kinder’s contention, below: those who doubt the legitimacy of her claim that Shakespeare’s audiences did not study intertextuality the way we do today need only check the literacy rates among the general populace in 1649 (when Charles I purportedly published his posthumous Eikon Basilike). Most of its “readers”—nearly 50 years later—could not read—that, or anything else (but owning a copy of “the King’s Book” had talismanic and/or political properties that made it an attractive purchase, nonetheless). I say that because I know that there is evidence to support it; other than to assume even fewer people were literate in the decades before the execution of the son of James I&VI, though, I have no specific data on the literacy rates during the Elizabethan period.

 

Best to all,

Carol Barton

 

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

From:        Bill Lloyd <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 31, 2016 at 12:23:39 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

re Iago/Othello's clown

 

I don’t find it very credible that Robert Armin was the first actor of Iago. The ‘evidence’ is pretty thin—90 years after Othello’s premier Charles Gildon said he heard from someone that the part was played by a comedian and that Shakespeare wrote him some extra comic material to please the crowd. Well, maybe; but even if (a big IF) this is reliable information, there were more experienced comic actors in Shakespeare’s company than just the official Clown—how do you think they staged Merry Wives or Much Ado?

 

I’ve long suspected that Henry Condell was the first Iago. I don’t want to subscribe to the inflexible typecasted ‘lines’ of T W Baldwin, but there was a tendency for some actors to take similar roles from play to play. Here are three parts we know Condell acted:

 

- 1606  Mosca in Volpone.  Volpone was played by Richard Burbage and the parasitic Mosca buzzes around him like a fly.  Burbage and Condell act out a poisonous symbiotic relationship.

 

- 1610  Surly in The Alchemist.  Surly is a cynical, ill-tempered soldier.

 

- 1614  The Cardinal in The Duchess of Malfi.  The murderous machiavellian Cardinal is the brother and sidekick of the psychotic Duke played by Richard Burbage.

 

To me these add up to Iago. Burbage and Condell were a team—although he lived until 1627 Condell seems to have retired from the stage around 1620, a year after Burbage died.

 

Armin did stray outside the narrow clown category occasionally—he probably played Abel Drugger the tobacconist who was one of the victims in The Alchemist. But if you were hired by 20th Century/Chamberlains to cast Othello would you choose Feste or Drugger to play Iago? or the hovering, cynical, machiavellian Condell? 

 

Bill Lloyd

 

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

From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 31, 2016 at 12:51:27 PM EDT

Subject:    Othello's Clown: Iago (or Roderigo) in disguise?

 

Julia Griffin wrote: 

 

“If the Clown really has to be someone else, why not Roderigo?  He has nothing to do in Cyprus except hang about paying Iago and getting into fights for him - and he seems to have travelled from Venice in the Iago-Desdemona-Emilia ship, without raising anyone’s interest.  Indeed, if she ever noticed him, Emilia seems to have forgotten him by Act V (“Cassio, my lord, hath kill’d a young Venetian/ Call’d Roderigo”).  Perhaps he went in Clown guise, in an usurped beard? If he is Roderigo, the Clown’s unfunniness and general tiresomeness would make perfect sense ...”

 

Julia, I’m really glad you embraced the possibility I’ve suggested, of a Shakespearean character in disguise (undisclosed to the reader/audience), and gave it real consideration. And, as you say, it’s certainly the case not only that the Clown is unfunny and tiresome like Roderigo, but also that Iago gives Roderigo several tasks to perform during the course of his plotting—so why couldn’t Iago have given Roderigo one more task, that Shakespeare does not permit us to observe?  Plus, Roderigo dressed up as the Clown would feel disinhibited and licensed to safely, verbally vent his sexual frustration at the former object of his desires (Desdemona) and the man who wooed her on Othello’s behalf (Cassio). All of this does make Roderigo a plausible suspect.

 

However, I still think Iago is a far better choice, for the following reasons:

 

ONE: As I’ve already detailed at length in my original posts, several other Shakespeare scholars have observed that the Clown eerily echoes Iago in numerous ways, including but not limited to his obscene punning about beasts and music, and the suggestion that each of these two roles was played by Robert Armin. None of those points fits Roderigo, nor has any scholar I’ve read (and I believe I’ve now read pretty much everything ever written about Othello’s Clown) ever suggested that Roderigo resembles Iago.

 

TWO: As I also previously argued on my own account, the Clown’s apparently random interactions with Cassio and then Desdemona, upon examination, are not random at all. They perform the function of delaying Cassio’s and Desdemona’s movements at two crucial points, keeping them from speaking to each other and perhaps discovering Iago’s plot. That thereby enables Iago’s daring, improvised stage management to succeed. And it makes much more sense that Iago does this, rather than that he cons Roderigo into doing this, because things are moving REALLY fast at those two junctures, so there’s no time (or reason) for Iago to enlist Roderigo’s help. Iago has to turn on a dime and improvise, and he does.

 

THREE: When Roderigo and Iago have their final tete a tete in 4.3, not a word is said by either to indicate that Roderigo had just fulfilled Iago’s directions by acting as the Clown—not once, by the way, but twice. Iago would have stroked Roderigo’s ego, commending his acting ability, using that to further pump Roderigo up for his final task. But not a peep in that vein—that silence is deafening in this case.

 

FOUR: You raised a very interesting point about Emilia not seeming to be aware of Roderigo in Act 5. But there is a very good explanation, which actually fits with my claim. Here’s the passage when Emilia is told about Roderigo’s death:

 

EMILIA  'Las, what's the matter? what's the matter, husband?

IAGO

Cassio hath here been set on in the dark
By Roderigo and fellows that are scaped:
He's almost slain, and Roderigo dead.

EMILIA  Alas, good gentleman! alas, good Cassio!

 

It is clear from the above that Emilia has had no prior contact with Roderigo, nor does she know of Iago’s relationship with Roderigo. He’s nobody to her, so his name means nothing to her. Indeed, that’s precisely why Iago employs Roderigo at various points in the narrative as his secret agent—although we in the audience know all about their relationship, no one else does. That’s why, I suggest, Shakespeare seems to go out of his way to subtly alert us of this, by having Emilia ignore Iago’s report of Roderigo’s death, and focus instead only on Cassio’s being seriously injured. 

 

FIVE: Above all, it simply fits perfectly with the Satanic Iago’s character to “assume an (un)pleasing shape” for him to assume a disguise. We get no sign that Roderigo could be Satanic in this way.

 

So, while you’ve raised a very fair question, worthy of serious consideration, and there were good reasons supporting your suggestion, I still think Iago is the far better choice to be the man disguised as the Clown.  What do you think, in light of all of the above? 

 

Cheers, 

ARNIE

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 31, 2016 at 1:40:42 PM EDT

Subject:    Shakespeare's plays to be viewed and/or read

 

Lynne Kinder wrote: 

 

“My point is that not many of Shakespeare’s contemporaries were actually readers of his plays. They went to the theatre, they watched the play then they went home. They did not study the playtexts looking for hidden meanings in the way that we do today.”

 

Lynne, that is true but, I think, not relevant to my claims. Why? Because (as I just suggested to you yesterday) while Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed on stage for the majority of his contemporaries, he also wrote them to be read both by an intellectually sophisticated minority of his contemporaries—as well as future readers, and I am one who believes Shakespeare knew his work would survive his death—who would study the playtexts for hidden meanings. 

 

Do you disagree? 

 

Larry Weiss wrote: 

 

“I don’t want to open a debate about Lucas Erne’s theory, but, so far as the question of Iago deliberately disguising himself as Clown is concerned, please consider this:  Othello was written c.1604, when Shakespeare was a name to be reckoned with.  By then, he could have gotten anything he wrote published, but Othello did not see print until the 1622 Quarto.”

 

Larry, your point seems to be that it is curious that Othello was not published prior to Shakespeare’s death, even though such publication would have enabled, or at least facilitated, Shakespeare’s sophisticated readers’ detection of the Clown as Iago in disguise. 

 

I believe there were many hidden meanings of a comparable nature (including, but not limited to, disguised characters, acrostics, and imaginary characters) in many, if not all, of Shakespeare’s plays. Many of these would have been difficult, if not impossible, to detect without reading his plays. I also understand that about half of his plays were not published before the First Folio, after Shakespeare’s death. 

 

I can’t tell you for sure why Shakespeare would have waited to grant public access to the hidden meanings in those 18 unpublished plays till after his death. However, my best guess is that those unpublished plays, which obviously were preserved in some print form (handwritten and/or typeset) during Shakespeare’s lifetime, would have been circulated by Shakespeare among a targeted sector of the cognoscenti all along, who kept their insights secret from the general.

 

Cheers, 

ARNIE

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Harry Berger Jr <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 31, 2016 at 2:12:39 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Othello's Clown

 

They did not study the playtexts looking for hidden meanings in the way that we do today.

 

Looking for hidden meanings? Is that what we do today?   I didn’t know that. I thought we were doing this:

 

The play text represents the character as trying to say one thing. At the same time his language “says” more than she/he is trying to say. When we read the play’s text we try to put these two together to see what it shows about the character. Does this = “looking for hidden meanings”?

 

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 31, 2016 at 7:03:01 PM EDT

Subject:    Othello's Clown: Iago (or Roderigo) in disguise: a quick P.S.

 

As a quick followup to my post earlier today under this Subject Line:

 

First, let me correct one typo of mine, which I hope did not confuse anyone. I wrote “nor has any scholar I’ve read…ever suggested that Roderigo resembles Iago.”  However, I meant to finish that sentence with “...ever suggested that Roderigo resembles the Clown.”

 

Second, after further reflection on Julia Griffin’s very interesting response, I realized that I missed the point of her partial quotation of Iago’s instructions to Roderigo prior to the voyage to Cyprus, which, in full, were:

 

“defeat thy favour with an usurped beard”

 

This somewhat cryptic line has generally been understood, by both scholars and directors alike, as Iago’s advice to Roderigo to literally wear a beard to disguise himself while in Cyprus. And that interpretation would (obviously) lend support to Julia’s suggestion that the Clown is Roderigo in disguise as well, presumably also acting at Iago’s direction.

 

However, I also revisited my reasons for seeing the Clown as Iago in disguise, and I’d like to add a few further comments in support of my interpretation:

 

If the Clown was Roderigo in disguise, then how to account for the fact that, tiresome and obnoxious as the Clown is, he is also very quick on his feet; and even if he doesn’t make us laugh, as we have come to expect from Shakespeare’s fools, he is clearly an intelligent, verbally facile person?  How do we reconcile that with the dullness of mind, in particular his gullibility, that we see in Roderigo in the rest of the play? We’d have to think of Roderigo as a very different character than generally understood, if he is suddenly improvising that sort of acid wit for two short scenes, but otherwise gives no sign of this wit. Whereas the Clown as Iago in disguise fits perfectly with the universal understanding of Iago’s Satanic character.

 

Second, as I briefly outlined earlier, take a close look at the following three words that the Clown uses, and then check to see who is the character in the play most closely associated with those words: 

honest, music, and lie. These are all words that Iago uses memorably, but Roderigo not at all.

 

For all of these reasons, I would like to present a modified version of my interpretation: 

 

I believe that Shakespeare meant for a close reader of the play (which would include, by the way, a director of the play deciding how the Clown should be played) to first wonder whether the Clown was Iago or Roderigo in disguise, and then to analyze the pros and cons of Roderigo and Iago as the Clown, before deciding, on balance, that it must be Iago. 

 

Cheers, 

ARNIE

 

 

 

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