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#23900 - 03/20/01 07:44 PM Sonnet 121  

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i'm reading a book which is a collection of Shakespeare's most famous lines (which incidentally includes a list of some phrases which are often miscredited to him, eg "All that glisters is not gold" and "Et tu, Brute?" ), in which there is a brief discussion/interpretation following each phrase.

one such phrase, "Tis better to be vile" is addressed:


'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed
Not by out feeling, but by others' seeing.
For why should others' false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?


i understand and agree with the interpretation that the Bard's intent is akin to of troy's"You might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb--" sentiment, but i'm not sure i agree with the author's interpretation of the final line. He suggests that "give salutation to" means "to judgmentally address themselves to", but somehow that doesn't sound right.

Could these lines could be translated to "Why should others' opinions cause me to choose to give up ('say goodbye to', 'give salutation to') my 'sportive blood' [in this case, clearly his passion]. must 'salutation' always be interpreted as a greeting, rather than a farewell?


TIA
~b



#23901 - 03/20/01 09:53 PM Re: Sonnet 121  
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(which incidentally includes a list of some phrases which are often miscredited to him, eg "All that glisters is not gold" and "Et tu, Brute?"

By that do you mean that he did not coin the phrases in question? Or were you referring to the misquotations, "Et tu, Brute? instead of "Et tu, Brute!" That's a bit like the old "Elementary, my dear Watson", "play it again, Sam" malaquotes Looking at the quote from the MoV, he seems to be very up front about the fact that the saying is not original: "often have you heard that told." As for the other, well I guess we would have to assume that eyewitnesses to the event in question remembered what the "pompous ass" said.

The Merchant of Venice
Act 2, Scene 7
MOROCCO O hell! what have we here?
A carrion Death, within whose empty eye
There is a written scroll! I'll read the writing.

[Reads]

All that glitters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:

Julius Caesar
Act 3, Scene 1

CAESAR Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.




#23902 - 03/20/01 10:24 PM Re: Sonnet 121  

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yes, i meant to say that the origin of those phrases are often mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare. interesting, max, that you would use "glitters"... is glisters considered archaic? i'm not sure i've ever seen it; only as as glisten.


#23903 - 03/20/01 10:31 PM Re: Sonnet 121  
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interesting, max, that you would use "glitters"... is glisters considered archaic

'Tweren't I, m'lady! I just pasted from http://www.psrg.cs.usyd.edu.au/~matty/Shakespeare/


#23904 - 03/20/01 11:30 PM Re: Sonnet 121  
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this too shall pass
my Clark & Wright edition has "glisters", which is what I expected to find. the OED has this b. Proverb. (Cf. glitter v. 1b.)
(In mod. use ‘glitters’ is commonly substituted for glisters.)
1553 Becon Reliques of Rome (1563) 207 All is not golde that glistereth. 1596 Shakes. Merch. V. ii. vii. 65. 1649 Milton Eikon. viii. (1851) 395 They think all is gold of pietie that doth but glister with a shew of Zeale. 1650 T. Hubbert Pill Formality 36 Seriously trie before we choose, lest we take all for gold that glisters. a1771 Gray Death Fav. Cat. vii, Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes+is lawful prize+Nor all that glisters, gold. 1802 Canning Poet. Wks. (1827) 44.



#23905 - 03/21/01 12:01 AM Re: Sonnet 121  
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the origin of those phrases are often mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare.

I'm confused. Max's quotes (from Shakespeare) seem to suggest that those phrases should be attributed to him. No?


#23906 - 03/21/01 12:05 AM Re: Sonnet 121  
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this too shall pass
you'll note in the 'glister' citations that somebody edged Will out by 40 years or so (at least in the gist of it).

#23907 - 03/21/01 12:20 AM Re: Sonnet 121  
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Max's quotes (from Shakespeare) seem to suggest that those phrases should be attributed to him. No?


At least for "all that glisters" the answer is indeed, no. In the quoted text, Will himself admits that it is not a phrase of his invention.


#23908 - 03/21/01 08:21 AM Et tu, Brute  
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There'd be no reason for Shakespeare to burst into Latin at that point unless he was quoting "famous" last words, which he would have got from whatever his source for the history was. The original is Suetonius (always with a caveat that I should rather be saying Tacitus, but I think Suetonius), who says that according to some reports Caesar said kai su, teknon "and you, lad". An Elizabethan theatre audience couldn't be expected to understand Greek, so a switch into Latin would give an equivalent feel. Well that's my theory anyway.


#23909 - 03/21/01 12:57 PM Re: Sonnet CXXI  
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The sonnet is an endless descent into hell.

No, I hardly agree with a word of what you have said here! This is the whole sonnet, so we can see it in context.

‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost which is so deem'd
Not by our feeling but by others' seeing:
For why should others false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.


http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/MobSons.html


Here is my gloss on the poem’s argument:
If you are going to be falsely accused (“esteem’d”) of being vile it is better to actually be vile, since at least you are then ‘true’, and will have enjoyed a pleasure that is actually “just” despite the fact that it is named vile by the mob (“so deem’d”). (lines 1-4)
For why should my natural sportive actions be coloured by the judgement of “false adulterate eyes” who assume I behave as do they, or why should my imperfections be gauged by even poorer people’s standards, whose morals are different to mine? (lines 5-8)
No, I am true to my own beliefs, and those that judge me otherwise are simply reflecting their own warped natures: I am straight to their bent, and my deeds must not be judged by their corrupt imaginings – (lines 9-12)
Unless this vicious generalisation is held to be true: Mankind’s nature is inherently evil and thus our natural actions are perforce evil too. (lines 13-14)

This is, I would suggest, an incredibly modern poem in its outlook. Its insistence on a kind of personal truth is one we may fondly imagine to have been invented in the 20th C – yet here is a poet (pre-dating the foundation of America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) saying “follow your natural instincts, these can’t be wrong unless you believe our basic nature to be evil; and disregard what the vicious mob might say about your actions because it is more important to be true to yourself!” Note he is saying it in a sinuous poem of 14 lines that harks back to classical forms and classical rhetoric – note the choice of an obvious Latinate word, not ‘greet’ but salutation, and the closure with a couplet perfectly encapsulating the idea of reductio ad absurdum..

In short, far from being a descent into hell it is an uplifting account of what the human spirit can be.

YART alert!
BTW, if anyone new wants a steer towards World Wide Will, try some of these resources:

Complete Works:
http://tech-two.mit.edu/Shakespeare/

Complete guide to Shakespearian resources on the net:
(one of the best literary sites in the world – has both good content and excellent researched and annotated meta-search functions)
http://daphne.palomar.edu/Shakespeare/

Basic guide to scansion of the poetry:
http://sterling.holycross.edu/departments/theatre/projects/isp/measure/teachguide/scansion.html

Index (Library of Congress) of Shakespeare on film:
http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/mopic/willfilm.html

Good text access:
http://etext.virginia.edu/shakespeare/works/

SUPERB general look up resource for anything academic:
http://www.boxmind.com/default.asp
(it beats the hell out of a plain vanilla google for this type of searching, IMO.)

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