The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0060  Friday, 1 February 2008

From:		David Evett <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:		Wednesday, 30 Jan 2008 15:21:38 -0500
Subject: 19.0054 Littered Under Mercury
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0054 Littered Under Mercury

Stephanie Kydd's argument concerning Autolycus that "The suggestive 
sexual context (Trafficke, sheetes, Kite, Linnen, snapper-vp, trifles) 
suggests that 'Mercurie' has nothing to do with the god or the 
astrological sign and everything to do with 'Mercurie' as a treatment 
for venereal disease" falls apart in the wash. The VD joke may operate 
in the moment; but the traditional characteristics of Mercury the 
god/planet and the related physical characteristics of the metal 
reappear far too often and far too aptly in the demeanor and behavior of 
the character to be summarily dismissed. Like Autolycus, Hermes/Mercury 
was often a trickster, often a thief, a master of disguise and sleight 
of hand. In an odd way, Autolycus, by preventing the clowns from 
revealing the secret of Perdita's birth to Polixenes in Bohemia and thus 
helping to draw the king to Sicily, has a hand in the restorations and 
reconciliations of the ending, and, like Mercury, heals. His speeches, 
for all their raffish wit, are full of sensible suggestions; like 
Mercury, he is in his way quite wise, and like Mercury he is extremely 
observant and hence knowledgeable.  Like mercury the metal he is 
slippery, hard to contain or control, and in his modest way dangerous. 
These qualities seem to me to run much deeper into the play than a mere 
topical jest.

David Evett

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