Lunedi Lunacy

In a comment on a recent in-depth posting on Shakespeare by my friend Debra in deepest darkest Alberta someone mentioned a piece by Robert Benchley the American humourist, journalist, and actor. Benchley is perhaps best know for a telegram he sent to his editor when he arrived in Venice. “Streets flooded. Please advised.”

In the following little vignette he out-scholars the scholars.

SHAKESPEARE EXPLAINED

Carrying on the System of Footnotes to a Silly Extreme

PERICLES
ACT II SCENE 3

Enter first Lady-in-Waiting (Flourish, [1] Hautboys [2] and[3] torches[4]).

First Lady-in-WaitingWhat [5] ho![6] Where[7] is [8] the[9] music?[10]

NOTES:

1. Flourish: The stage direction here is obscure. Clarke claims it should read “flarish,” thus changing the meaning of the passage to “flarish” (that is, the Kings), but most authorities have agreed that it should remain “flourish,” supplying the predicate which is to be flourished. There was at this time a custom in the countryside of England to flourish a mop as a signal to the passing vender of berries, signifying that in that particular household there was a consumer-demand for berries, and this may have been meant in this instance. That Shakespeare was cognizant of this custom of flourishing the mop for berries is shown in a similar passage in the second part of King Henry IV, where he has the Third Page enter and say, “Flourish.” Cf. also Hamlet, IV, 7: 4.

2. Hautboys, from the French haut, meaning “high” and the Eng. boys, meaning “boys.” The word here is doubtless used in the sense of “high boys,” indicating either that Shakespeare intended to convey the idea of spiritual distress on the part of the First Lady-in-Waiting or that he did not. Of this Rolfe says: “Here we have one of the chief indications of Shakespeare?s knowledge of human nature, his remarkable insight into the petty foibles of this work-a-day world.” Cf. T. N. 4: 6, “Mine eye hath play’d the painter, and hath stell’d thy beauty’s form in table of my heart.”

3. and. A favorite conjunctive of Shakespeare’s in referring to the need for a more adequate navy for England. Tauchnitz claims that it should be pronounced “und,” stressing the anti-penult. This interpretation, however, has found disfavor among most commentators because of its limited significance. We find the same conjunctive in A. W. T. E. W. 6: 7, “Steel-boned, unyielding and uncomplying virtue,” and here there can be no doubt that Shakespeare meant that if the King should consent to the marriage of his daughter the excuse of Stephano, offered in Act 2, would carry no weight.

Drawing by Gluyas Williams

4. Torches. The interpolation of some foolish player and never the work of Shakespeare (Warb.). The critics of the last century have disputed whether or not this has been misspelled in the original, and should read “trochies” or “troches.” This might well be since the introduction of tobacco into England at this time had wrought havoc with the speaking voices of the players, and we might well imagine that at the entrance of the First Lady-in-Waiting there might be perhaps one of the hautboys mentioned in the preceding passage bearing a box of troches or “trognies” for the actors to suck. Of this entrance Clarke remarks: “The noble mixture of spirited firmness and womanly modesty, fine sense and true humility, clear sagacity and absence of conceit, passionate warmth and sensitive delicacy, generous love and self-diffidence with which Shakespeare has endowed this First Lady-in-Waiting renders her in our eyes one of the most admirable of his female characters.” Cf. M. S. N. D. 8: g, “That solder’st close impossibilities and mak’st them kiss.”

5. What—What.

6. Ho! In conjunction with the preceding word doubtless means “What ho!” changed by Clarke to “What hoo!” In the original Ms. it reads “What hi!” but this has been accredited to the tendency of the time to write “What hi” when “what ho” was meant. Techner alone maintains that it should read “What humpf!” Cf. Ham. 5: O, “High-ho!”

7. Where. The reading of the folio, retained by Johnson, the Cambridge editors and others, but it is not impossible that Shakespeare wrote “why,” as Pope and others give it. This would make the passage read “Why the music?” instead of “Where is the music?” and would be a much more probable interpretation in view of the music of that time. Cf. George Ade. Fable No. 15, “Why the gunnysack?”

8. is—is not. That is, would not be.

9. the. Cf. Ham. 4: 6. M. S. N. D. 3: 5. A. W. T. E. W. 2: 6. T. N. I: 3 and Macbeth 3: I, “that knits up the raveled sleeves of care.

10. music. Explained by Malone as “the art of making music” or “music that is made.” If it has but one of these meanings we are inclined to think it is the first; and this seems to be favored by what precedes, “the music!” Cf. M. of V. 4: 2, “The man that hath no music in himself.”

The meaning of the whole passage seems to be that the First Lady-in-Waiting has entered concomitant with a flourish, hautboys and torches and says, “What ho! Where is the music?”

July 22 is Casual Pi Day – People in countries that write their dates correctly in the date/ month format celebrate Casual Pi Day on 22 July or 22/7. Go figure – repeatedly.

Lunedi Lunacy

Back in May of 2016 it was announced that the library on Fogo Island, the largest of the offshore islands on the east coast of Newfoundland, was to close.  There was concerted effort by the people of the Island to keep it open – protests, petitions, and confrontations with Provincial politicians.  The list of services that their library offer to the upwards of 3,000 people living there include:  Free Internet, Fax, Printing, Photocopying, Digital Camera loan, scanning, computer training, magazines, story time, audio books, DVDs and videos, and large print books.  It was more than shelves of plastic covered, thumbed, books – it was the heart of  learning, recreation, and community life.  Fortunately it is still open – for only three days a week but open none the less and still available to the residents of the Island.

I’m not sure what is more lunatic: the decision of politicians to “save money” by closing  libraries or Tracy Ullman’s musical threnody to the last day of a library in a small Welsh town.

At least Ullman’s is lunacy inspired by wit – the decisions made by the politicians by half that.

On this day in 988: The Norse King Glúniairn recognises Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, High King of Ireland, and agrees to pay taxes and accept Brehon Law; the event is considered to be the founding of the city of Dublin.

 

 

 

Lunedi Lunacy – More Shakespearean Jackanapery

It seems that the internet is being flooded with Shakespeareana to celebrate the good man’s birth/death whatever.  Some are educational – as witness my friend Spo’s comment on the previous post – others are pure jackanapery.  And no that was not one of the some 1700 words that the Bard of Avon added to our language – though it would appear that tomfoolery is!  So here are three little pieces of jackenapery that could very well pass for tomfoolery.

In the true spirit of the millennium generation I found this particularly amusing:

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And aside from the words he gave us there’s all those idioms – who knew he was the originator of the “knock knock” joke?

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And when it comes to insults – whoa did this guy know how to parry a thrust (as it were!).  And the best we can come up with these days is “BITCH”!

shakespeare-insults

Once again Happy Birthday you whey-faced rump fed playwright, you!  Sorry was that “playwright” thing a bit too much of any insult?

On this day in 1859: British and French engineers break ground for the Suez Canal.

Lunedi Luancy

Back in the Plasticine era – okay maybe not that far back ’cause that would have meant kindergarten – but back while I was in Junior High I developed a passion for Shakespeare. My father had taken me to my first Shakespeare play when I was ten – an adventure in a tempest to see the play of the same name that I really must recount one day (that man was a saint!).  My sister-in-law, always one to encourage an eager young faggot in training mind gave me a worn copy of Tales From Shakespeare by Charles Lamb and his sister Mary.   This rather odd brother and sister team  retold the stories much adapted to the sensibilities of children of their period – no bawds or bawdiness for the Lambs!  It had some interesting Arthur Rackham illustrations and served as a good introduction but I soon graduated to the real stuff.   I plowed my way through the canon from All’s Well to Winter’s Tale. Now that’s not to say I understand a good deal of what I was reading but being in those days a fairly good actor I gave a passable imitation of literary precocity.

By the time I hit the first year of high school, as my fellows were struggling with the authorized for Ontario school’s edition of Macbeth, I was trotting around with a copy of the unexpurgated version where the Porter “did bepiss” himself.   My English teacher was not pleased when I asked why we had skipped an entire scene which obviously would have had them rolling in the aisles of the Globe – and sent my classmates snickering.  I had to serve a “library” detention for my youthful  inquisitiveness or perhaps because I was being an obnoxious little show off????

And in that same library there just happened to be a critical study of “The Works” that gave a decidedly different twist to Shakespeare’s Tales.  In fact in his introduction to Twisted Tales from Shakespeare Richard Armour promised that:

Shakespeare’s best-known plays are presented in a new light, the old light having blown a fuse; together with introductions, questions, appendices, and other critical apparatus intended to contribute to a clearer misunderstanding of the subject.

Some of the humour was sophomoric but as with any good satire it was based on a thorough knowledge of the plays and much of the humour depended on the reader knowing their Shakespeare.
Because of Mr Armour’s little book I discovered that there was a wealth of memorable lines beyond the Tomorrow and Tomorrows, the Where For Art Thous and the Quality of Mercies.  I mean where else, other than that original unexpurgated text of the Scottish play, would I have found and remembered:
Aroint thee witch, the rump-fed ronyon cries! 

Which leads me to today’s Lunacy.   As well as being pretty handy with blank verse and the odd rhyming couplet Shakespeare was pretty good at the snappy put-down.  Every one of the words or phrases in the lists below are taken from one of “The Works of”.

The game’s a pretty simple one:  Take one word from each of the three columns below and preface it with “Thou”:

The combinations are almost limitless and just think how you will stop friends, foes and families in their tracks.  I mean who could possibly find the appropriate retort to:  Thou pribbling unchin-snouted skainmate?  Damn did that man know how to write!

And if you’d like leave me a comment with your insult of choice.

16 April – 1346: Dušan the Mighty is proclaimed Emperor, with the Serbian Empire occupying much of the Balkans.

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What the Dickens???

Been a bit busy at work this week so I haven’t been able to do much in the way of celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens – and besides I’m on a Mitford kick right now.  However lest you think of me as an uncultured dolt who doesn’t observe important literary anniversaries I present the following sent me by my friend Cathy.

Behind every great writer there’s a nit-picking editor!!!!


08 February – 1879:  Sandford Fleming first proposes adoption of Universal Standard Time at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute.