The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1099 Friday, 21 May 2004
Date: Thursday, 20 May 2004 11:21:47 -0500
Subject: 15.1078 Touchstone and the Gods
Comment: RE: SHK 15.1078 Touchstone and the Gods
Chris Whatmore rightly reminds me that religious terms were not
officially forbidden until 1606. But that only partly resolves my
question. That is, it explains why Shakespeare felt no worry about
referring to God in most cases, but not why he should feel shy in a few
The problem seems to reside primarily in AYLI and 12N, and in three
passages in those two works -- Touchstone-Audrey in the former, and
Malvolio's two soliloquies in the latter. For clarity, I will take the
trouble to cite them, using the facsimile Folio to avoid getting into
[Clo] 1626: . . . truly, I would the Gods hadde
1627: made thee poeticall.
1633: Aud.Do you wish then that the Gods had made me
1643: Aud.Well, I am not faire, and therefore I pray the
1644: Gods make me honest.
1647: Aud.I am not a slut, though I thanke the Goddes I
1648: am foule.
1649: Clo. Well, praised be the Gods, for thy foulnesse; slut-tishnesse
1650: may come heereafter.
1656: Aud. Wel, the Gods giue vs ioy.
1657: Clo. Amen
1175: . . . Ioue, and my
1176: starres be praised
1179: . . . Ioue
1180: I thanke thee . . .
1597: I haue lymde her, but it is Ioues doing, and Ioue make me
1604: . . . Well Ioue, not I,
1605: is the doer of this, and he is to be thanked.
(We also find from AYLI -- "841: Ros.Ioue, Ioue, this Shepherds passion,
842: Is much vpon my fashion." -- and from 12N -- "1256: Clo. Now Ioue
in his next commodity of hayre, send . . .")
My problem -- to state it again -- is that I see no reason why Jove /
the gods should be substituted for God in these cases. There are, of
course, dozens and dozens of references to the gods in the classical and
pagan plays. But these seem so needless, so gratuitous, that I have long
assumed that they were evidence of censorship.
The foolish and egotistical Malvolio, praising and thanking God as all
good Puritans do, might easily be quite offensive to devout people who
do the same, even if they belonged to a very different theological camp.
Touchstone, attempting to seduce Audrey, might likewise be considered
intolerable if he actually referred to the Lord in his strategic talk.
My feeling of the passages is that they were written originally with God
in place of the gods or Jove, and the euphemism then substituted.
Does this seem likely to others?
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.