The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0336  Wednesday, 24 June 2009

From:       JD Markel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Monday, 22 Jun 2009 21:00:52 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0330 The Hounds of Theseus
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0330 The Hounds of Theseus

Re: the idea that dogs are visually presented at the beginning of Act 4. 
Humans can bark too. The Mechanicals, save Bottom, are off stage. One or 
more of them could enter with Theseus and his train, crawling around 
comically. 4.1.106 would be the cue to start exiting. Any disguise they 
wear would not hide their faces or previously seen clothing in order for 
the audience to identify the Mechanicals. The performance should be 
played for laughs against Theseus' high-minded language. Besides being 
funny, such performance foreshadows the Mechanicals' later subversion of 
high culture via the Pyramus and Thisbe playlet, serves an appetizer of 
Snug's imitation of a lion, and presents another Ovidian human to animal 
metamorphosis fitting to the play.

As the playlet is "'Merry' and 'tragical'? 'Tedious' and 'brief'?", so 
the sounds of the hounds of Sparta heard by Hippolyta are described 
oxymoronically, "I never heard, So musical a discord, such a sweet 
thunder." (4.1.116-117)   Theseus replies his hounds are "bred out of 
the Spartan kind" and the Mechanicals could be as bad barkers as they 
are awful actors. I suggest that 4.1.126 "Judge when you hear." is a cue 
for Mechanicals, now offstage, to bark, ruff and otherwise make 
discordant hound noises. If there is anything in nature less musical 
than a pack of hounds, I do not know it. The idea of musical hounds 
invites humor from the get-go, like herdable cats.

JD Markel

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