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Sonnets > Sonnet #91, Week 36 (October 23)

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their body's force,
Some in their garments though new-fangled ill;
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest:
But these particulars are not my measure,
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments' cost,
Of more delight than hawks and horses be;
And having thee, of all men's pride I boast:
Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away, and me most wretched make.


message 2: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Could one ever receive greater praise? And all without one note of skepticism. Or do others disagree?


message 3: by JimF (last edited Jan 20, 2018 05:53PM) (new)

JimF | 219 comments Sonnet 91 has similar design as sonnet 66 but simpler. Each "some" indicates a type of person. Following is my list.

[1] nobles; courtiers;
[2] millionaires; soldiers;
[3] fashion leaders;
[4] tax collectors and spies/censors; "some in their Horse"?

Singular "Horse" rhymes with "force" but still odd, especially with "Horses" in line 11. I think Shakespeare was thinking of whores but wrote differently and expected we to understand.

Only animals are capitalized here. The three H-words (Hawks, Hounds, Horse) may not be a coincidence. A king, like King James, would use hawks to prey, hounds to trace, horses to ride. Ride has the definition in OED as "to mount the female [or male]; to copulate."

Sonnet 91

SOme glory in their birth, some in their skill, [01]
Some in their wealth, some in their bodies force,
Some in their garments though new-fangled ill:
Some in their Hawkes and Hounds, some in their Horse.

And euery humor hath his adiunct pleasure, [05]
Wherein it findes a ioy aboue the rest,
But these perticulers are not my measure,
All these I better in one generall best.

Thy loue is bitter then high birth to me, [09]
Richer then wealth, prouder then garments cost,
Of more delight then Hawkes or Horses bee:
And hauing thee, of all mens pride I boast.

Wretched in this alone, that thou maist take, [13]
All this away, and me most wretched make.


message 4: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Jim: Do you attach much significance to the caps? In general, I tend not to take the original punctuation too seriously, given that the first editions of Shakespeare's works are replete with errors and inconsistencies. (Am I right that your typescript follows the 1609 edition of the Sonnets?)

As for the 'Horse' in line 4, I think there's little doubt that Shakespeare intended a pun on the word "whores." I suspect the pronunciation of 'whores' and 'horse' would have been much closer in 1600 than it is now. Also, it's a pun Shakespeare couldn't resist. It shows up in a number of the plays, if memory serves.


message 5: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments David: Am I right that your typescript follows the 1609 edition of the Sonnets?

Yes. You are right.

Do you attach much significance to the caps?

Possibly. I try to make the best reading. No caps in following dialogue (Much Ado About Nothing) for the answer is given. A single sonnet would need other way to make the wordplay significant, at least to me.

BEATRICE. I am exceeding ill, hey ho. [h- & h-]

MARGARET. For a hawk, a horse, or a husband?

BEATRICE. For the letter that begins them all, H.

MARGARET. Well, and you be not turned Turk, there's no more sailing by the star.


message 6: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments JimF: " A single sonnet would need other way to make the wordplay significant,.."

You're probably right, though I find myself wondering if there were associations with the other two H words (hawks and hounds) that modern readers don't get. The sound-rich "hawks" cries out, especially.

I'd forgotten about that passage in Much Ado. Any idea what the joke is in Margaret's last line?


message 7: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments David: the other two H words (hawks and hounds)

The other two H words in line 11, Hawks and Horses, mean not the same as those in line 4. I believe the key is in line 9's bitter. Some change it to better.

David: Any idea what the joke is in Margaret's last line?

If I say directly what's in my mind, people will say I'm mad. It's too bawdy. Maybe something similar before that can smooth it, or just ignore them.

Shakespeare prepared this very carefully. I only quote the main part, that Ophelia masturbates Hamlet:

OPHELIA.
He took me by the wrist, and held me hard; [1]
Then goes he to the length of all his arm;
And with his other hand thus over his brow,
He falls to such perusal of my face,
As he would draw it. Long stayed he so, [5]
At last, a little shaking of mine Arm:
And thrice his head thus waving up and down;
He raised a sigh, so piteous and profound,
That it did seem to shatter all his bulk, [9]
And end his being.

The key is to position their hands.

[1] This act locks one hand of Hamlet and Ophelia.
[2] An arm's distance allows her other hand to move freely between them.
[3] This line is a hint to count their hands. One hand is free.
[4] Hamlet treats it as a real sex by "such perusal," and something else.
[5] to "draw" in Ophelia's face ... (Not hard to figure this out I guess.)
[6] "a little shaking of mine Arm" is his orgasm by Ophelia.
[7] "his head" can be just the head or penis head.
[8] "a sigh, so piteous and profound" is a relief of his very ecstasy of Love.
[9] to "shatter" is to disperse, ejaculate; "bulk" means semen here. This "bulk" is useful in another Hamlet riddle.
[10] "end his being" is to die, end his life, end his climax.

It's a challenge to visualize this elegantly.


message 8: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Very interesting reading of Ophelia's speech, one I had not heard before. (But what evidence do you find for concluding that 'bulk' means semen? And what's the other Hamlet riddle?}

I'm not clear on why you think the two H words mean something different in line 11 than they do in line 4.

No one is going to think you mad, Jim, if you spell out what you mean. After all, Shakespeare is extremely bawdy a good deal of the time--and it's unwise to ignore the bawdy in either the plays or the sonnets.


message 9: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments David: But what evidence do you find for concluding that 'bulk' means semen? And what's the other Hamlet riddle?

Bulk has the definition of a cargo as a whole. Semen would be the best interpretation in this context, together with the riddle of "Remembrances."

Ophelia insists that Hamlet gave her something. The only thing in this play will be semen, if you agree with the masturbation scene, and imagine how Ophelia may handle her hand.

OPHELIA.
My Lord, I have Remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to re-deliver.
I pray you now, receive them.

HAMLET.
No, no, I never gave you ought.

OPHELIA.
My honoured Lord, I know right well you did,
And with them words of so sweet breath composed,
As made the things more rich, than perfume left:
Take these again, for to the Noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor, when givers prove unkind.
There my Lord.

Ophelia comes to Hamlet for her pregnancy. Hamlet knew well who is the true father so rejects her rudely, and tells her five times "to a Nunnery." Nunnery was for the unwed mother then.

David: I'm not clear on why you think the two H words mean something different in line 11 than they do in line 4.

In line 4, the three allude to tax collectors, spies, horse's nature for riding (whores). In line 11, the two are for hunting delight. I try to find the best interpretation for each sonnet by connecting the 154, like one 154-piece jigsaw puzzle.

David: No one is going to think you mad ...

Margaret is talking about masturbation by a cross-staff rude as a Turk, something a Christian shouldn't do. The key is "catching of cold" at the end, catching a cold cross in her hay-hole to cure a stuffed maid.

BEATRICE. by my troth I am exceeding ill, hey ho. [1]
MARGARET. For a hawk, a horse, or a husband?
BEATRICE. For the letter that begins them all, H.
MARGARET. Well, and you be not turned Turk, there's no more sailing by the star.

[1] "ill, hey ho": hey ho sounds like hay-hole. Margaret catches her mind that she is ill in her vulva-vagina.
[2] Beatrice needs a husband who can make love illy, greedy and fierce like a hawk, durable as a horse.
[3] H sounds like edge or itch; edge has the definition of ardour, stimulation, incitement.
[4] "sailing by the star": a hint on cross-staff, a navigation instrument like a cross in Shakespeare's time or earlier.

"you be not turned Turk": Beatrice couldn't get such a man yet, so Margaret tells a way to cure her illness (via apophasis). Turk has the usage as a cruel man and a non-Christian. Masturbation with a cross-like instrument suggests making love with Christ (pure logical, no offence).
"no more": this cross-staff cannot be used for sailing after that.

BEATRICE. What means the fool trow?
MARGARET. Nothing I, but God send every one their heart's desire.
HERO. These gloves the Count sent me, they are an excellent perfume.
BEATRICE. I am stuffed cousin, I cannot smell.
MARGARET. A maid and stuffed! there's goodly catching of cold.

Cross-staff in OED:
1. An archbishop's cross; also, by confusion, used for crose-staff, a bishop's crook or crosier (appeared in 1460, ... 1884).
2. An instrument formerly used for taking the altitude of the sun or a star (1594, ... 1839).

David: it's unwise to ignore the bawdy in either the plays or the sonnets.

You're right. One interesting thing I found is, Shakespeare carefully planted various kinds of bawdiness without repetition like a guide; however, in my reading there is no bawdiness in any of the 154 sonnets.


message 10: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel | 176 comments Jim, your interpretations are very interesting. Also puzzling. I don't feel that Shakespeare 'carefully planted' bawdiness, rather that the bawdy associations were integral to his way of seeing people. But would we find just as many double meanings in other Elizabethan authors if we subjected them to the same amount of analysis? Or is this kind of multiple meaning one of the distinguishing features of Shakespeare? I don't recall much of this sort of analysis of Marlowe or Ben Jonson for example, but maybe that's because we don't approach them so forensically...?


message 11: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments I agree with your "that the bawdy associations were integral to his way of seeing people." He did integrate various kinds of bawdiness into plays, like a full research of seeing people's dark desires, and a mission to record them to entertain certain readers.

My "carefully planted" means his way of doing that. Each is a scene, not just few words, so it needs more lines. Each scene's clues are hidden carefully, enough to escape censors and to entertain readers. For me, right answer for a good riddle can smooth the reading. Many of his sonnets have such nature. The 154 sonnets can be treated as 154 riddles.

I didn't find similar bawdiness in Marlowe or Jonson or others. I read not so many, or I miss them, or they don't reach that bawdy level. Thomas Nashe's The Choosing of Valentines is bawdy enough, but too direct to be published then. I believe Nashe invented the word dildo (dilldo for dill-do), and Shakespeare used that to tease Dido (The Tempest).

For the multiple meanings without bawdiness, Ben Jonson is equal to Shakespeare in my view, especially his 1616 Epigrammes; some are shorter and bolder than Shakespeare.

For the puzzling, below I bold some clues for a quick read, to show how they are carefully done.

[Enter Ophelia.]

POLONIUS.
How now Ophelia, what's the matter?

OPHELIA.
Alas, my Lord, I have been so affrighted.

POLONIUS.
With what, in the name of Heaven?

OPHELIA.
My Lord, as I was sowing in my Chamber,
Lord Hamlet with his doublet all unbraced,
No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,
Ungartered, and down gyved to his Ankle,

Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,
And with a look so piteous in purport,
As if he had been loosed out of hell,
To speak of horrors: he comes before me.

POLONIUS.
Mad for thy Love?

OPHELIA.
My Lord, I do not know: but truly I do fear it.

POLONIUS.
What said he?

OPHELIA.
He took me by the wrist, and held me hard;
Then goes he to the length of all his arm;
And with his other hand thus over his brow,
He falls to such perusal of my face,
As he would draw it. Long stayed he so,
At last, a little shaking of mine Arm:
And thrice his head thus waving up and down;
He raised a sigh, so piteous and profound,
That it did seem to shatter all his bulk,
And end his being. That done, he lets me go,
And with his head over his shoulders turned,
He seemed to find his way without his eyes,
For out adores he went without their help;
And to the last, bended their light on me.

POLONIUS.
Go with me, I will go seek the King,
This is the very ecstasy of Love,
Whose violent property foredoes itself,
And leads the will to desperate Undertakings,
As oft as any passion under Heaven,
That does afflict our Natures. I am sorry,
What, have you given him any hard words of late?

OPHELIA.
No my good Lord: but as you did command,
I did repel his Letters, and denied
His access to me
.

The last line affirms that Hamlet cannot make pregnant Ophelia, eliminating the guess the two might meet again later. Good "Remembrances" of his, and only that.


message 12: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) JimF wrote: "I agree with your "that the bawdy associations were integral to his way of seeing people." He did integrate various kinds of bawdiness into plays, like a full research of seeing people's dark desir..."

I don't actually see this scene with Ophelia & Polonius as a riddle, if it's as you say then it's actually quite straight-forwards. I think S included (embedded) lots of personal commentary in both his plays and his sonnets -- in-jokes and barbs and seductions. But also romance and pain and guilt. Not everything is a sexual innuendo.

I think probably all creative artists have used their art to project their messages, private and personal as well as public.


message 13: by JimF (new)

JimF | 219 comments Janice: I don't actually see this scene with Ophelia & Polonius as a riddle, if it's as you say then it's actually quite straight-forwards.

You're right. It's quite straight-forwards. I wondered for a while why Shakespeare did that. If we treat the play as a detective fiction, this scene ruins Ophelia's chaste image, provides answer to "I have Remembrances of yours," leads to her pregnancy by "to a nunnery." I then try to find the true father and why Hamlet can know that. This process can reason many seemingly tedious lines. In my view, the scene triggers an investigation.

Not everything is a sexual innuendo.

Agreed, so I make other comments too, but I don't avoid that either. It's one way to see why Shakespeare did that, and I see he did with cautious. I must do a research of condom's history to decode some of his lines.

I think probably all creative artists have used their art to project their messages, private and personal as well as public.

To me, Shakespeare's art creates an undiscovered brave new world (e.g. the tragedy _Hamlet_ with a happy ending). He compared his own achievement with Magellan's circumnavigation via _The Tempest_, the first play of all, to make the First Folio a tempest of the drama world then, even today.

Enter Alonso, Sebastian, Anthonio, Ferdinando, Gonzalo, and others.

Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521),
Juan Sebastian Elcano (1476–1526),
Antonio Pigafetta (1491–1531),
are three key persons of the venture.

MIRANDA.
O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here?
How beauteous mankind is? O, brave new world
That has such people in it.


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