Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 1, No. 129. Friday, 30 Nov 1990.
(1)   Date: 30 November 1990, 07:39:21 EST                   (14 lines)
      Subject: weeping deer
(2)   Date:         Fri, 30 Nov 90 18:22:01 EST              (55 lines)
      From:         Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
      Subject:      Weeping Deer
(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 30 November 1990, 07:39:21 EST
Subject: weeping deer
In Act II, Scene i of *As You Like It*, an anonymous lord describes
seeing Jaques who himself is observing a deer wounded by hunters, weeping
into a stream.  Jaques moralizes and even politicises the event, saying
to the herd that fled their wounded companion "Sweep on, you fat and
greasy citizens."  But what I and my students worried about was how the
deer could cry.  Shakespeare, though he seems to observe Jaques as a
melancholy moralist skeptically, lets the weeping deer pass as a natural
possibility.  What gave Shakespeare the idea that a wounded deer could
cry enough tears to "augment" a stream?  Roy Flannagan
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------60----
Date:         Fri, 30 Nov 90 18:22:01 EST
From:         Ken Steele <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject:      Weeping Deer
Several years ago I noticed that Shakespeare mentions weeping deer
only twice (to my knowledge), in *As You Like It* and in *Hamlet*.
A survey of occurrences of the words deer, hart, hind, doe, etc. in
proximity to tear, cry, weep, etc. produces only these three examples
in the Riverside Shakespeare (WordCruncher version):
                       As You Like It 2.1:47
    <1. Lord.>   O yes, into a thousand similes.
  First, for his weeping into the needless stream:
  "Poor deer," quoth he, "thou mak'st a testament
  As worldlings do, giving thy sum of more
  To that which had too [much]."  Then being there
                       As You Like It 2.1:66
   <Duke S.> And did you leave him in this contemplation?
   <2. Lord.> We did, my lord, weeping and commenting
 Upon the sobbing deer.
    <Duke S>                  Show me the place.
 I love to cope him in these sullen fits,
                       Hamlet 3.2:271
   <Pol.>  Lights, lights, lights!
                   <Exeunt all but Hamlet and Horatio.>
  <Ham.> "Why, let the strooken deer go weep,
                The hart ungalled play,
            For some must watch while some
Not only are these plays chronological neighbours, but I would argue
that they have many other similarities as well: usurping brothers,
an on-stage duel or physical contest, Hamlet's and Jaques' melancholies,
the descriptions of the conventional stricken lover (by Ophelia and by
Rosalind), the metatheatrical focus (the players at Elsinore and Jaques'
"All the world's a stage" speech, for example), and even the similarity
between "play false strains upon thee" (AYLI 4.3.68) and "play upon me"
(Hamlet 3.2.364).  Like RJ and MSND, these are two plays which work out
very similar materials in different genres, I think, and enlighten each
other greatly.  Has anyone noticed other paired plays like this in
I thought I had encountered an article or book on weeping deer, in fact,
but can't find the reference right now.  Does anyone have any recollection
of it?  Perhaps the scope was wider than just Shakespeare....
One explanation, at least, for the proverbial association of deer and
tears is that the shape of a deer's eye, with a tear duct (or something)
almost swollen at the front edge, does indeed look like a tear swelling
in its eye.  Any more reasoned explanations?
                                             Ken Steele
                                             University of Toronto

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.