Tooting one’s own horn

Yesterday I received an email letting me know that my article on modal verbs in Twelfth Night had been published in the journal Shakespeare (the journal of the British Shakespeare Association)! It exists out in the world and everything.

If you have online access to the journal and are curious about modal verbs, here is its identifying information:

“What they will: comic grammar in Twelfth Night
Rikita Tyson (that would be me)
first published: 19 Apr 2013
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17450918.2013.766252

(The journal’s publishers make the articles immediately available online, and then later assign them a journal issue and page numbers.)

This is my first published article, so I’m very excited about the whole thing.

How not to introduce your children to strangers

Last week’s meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America, as always, inspired me: I saw old friends and met new ones, and saw and heard much that will fuel my thinking and teaching for some time to come. In particular, two stimulating talks on the weight of greetings in Shakespeare, by Lynne Magnusson and David Hillman, have made me want to revisit the very beginning of King Lear, and the way Edmund, Gloucester’s illegitimate son, is introduced to us in the play. He enters with Gloucester and Kent, but we don’t know how he might be related to either of the two men until Kent hazards, “Is not this your son, my lord?” (1.1.7). A perfect opening for an introduction and a greeting – and yet Gloucester completely fails to take it, instead forcing Edmund to stand by while he makes bawdy jokes about Edmund’s conception and illegitimacy. Kent tries again to get the script back on track with an awkward return to Edmund’s actual presence – “I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper” (1.1.16-17) – but Gloucester again dodges his social responsibility, talking instead about his elder (and legitimate) son Edgar, then cracking yet more jokes about Edmund, until finally arriving at the tactless segue, “…and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?” (1.1.22-24). (Really, I shudder to think what Gloucester would be like at parties.)

The brief interaction between the three men, even after such unpromising beginnings, is perfectly decorous, but also revealing:

EDMUND                  No, my lord.

GLOUCESTER          My lord of Kent: remember him hereafter, as my honourable friend.

EDMUND                  My services to your lordship.

KENT                         I must love you, and sue to know you better.

EDMUND                  Sir, I shall study deserving.                (1.1.25-30)

The modal verb in Kent’s gracious reply (“I must love you, and sue to know you better”) speaks eloquently – as the rest of the scene, with Lear’s love test, will go on to do – of the ways in which love is a social obligation: not just a fickle, fleeting passion, but part of the bedrock of interaction. Love is a duty, not a mere feeling – a concept that might be foreign to many of us raised on the idea that love should always be based in individual, private feeling. We should love because we want to, not because we have to. [1] But this exchange of compliments attempts, at least, to create a different kind of love – one that will bring Edmund in out of the cold and into the community’s fold, as Kent tries to solidify Edmund’s status as Gloucester’s son, however inappropriately he might have come into the world.

That moment of community, however, is all too brief, as Gloucester dismisses Edmund as perfunctorily as he introduced him, telling Kent, “He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again” (1.1.31-2). Edmund is by no means one of my favorite Shakespeare characters, or even my favorite of Gloucester’s two sons (my heart belongs to Edgar, thanks to that stunning soliloquy of his), but that sentence still reads to me like a slap in the face, every time. Gloucester seems not even to care where Edmund has been, or where he’ll return to, sparing only the vaguest words “out” and “away” with which to dispose of his son. And in introducing him only to send him away again, he denies even the possibility that Edmund might be able to build sustained, long-term connections with his father’s friends, men like Kent.

A tiny detail later in the play constructs exactly the opposite picture of Gloucester’s legitimate son Edgar. As Edmund schemes to convince Gloucester and the court to believe that Edgar had designs to kill his father and inherit his lands, Lear’s daughter Regan exclaims in shock, “What, did my father’s godson seek your life? / He whom my father named, your Edgar?” (2.1.91-2). In those two lines, we realize that Edgar has been closely knit into this society from birth, that his ties of kinship are far-ranging – that whereas Edmund is all but unknown to his father’s friends and barely even given a proper greeting before being packed off, Edgar’s name – that is, his greeting into the world, and his introduction ever after  – was given to him by the king himself. Which must make the wrench of Edgar’s sudden and undeserved severing from that world even more shocking for him – but I hope to have more to say about that in a future post.

 

Text: King Lear, ed. R. A. Foakes (London: Arden Shakespeare, 1997).

 

[1]This is not the place, perhaps, for a lengthy defense of Cordelia’s actions during the love test – though I have one – but I think it is worth noting that when she describes her love for her father, her language is perfectly in keeping with this language of love as social obligation:

                               Good my lord,

You have begot me, bred me, loved me. I

Return those duties back as are right fit,

Obey you, love you, and most honor you. (1.1.95-98)

This is not an alien tongue in the world of King Lear, even if Lear refuses to understand it for what it is, and how much it matters.

An autumn sonnet for a winter night

I hope to get back to Edgar soon, but in the meantime, a brief post occasioned by my preparing to teach some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In particular, I found myself thinking about the first four lines of sonnet 78:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. (lines 1-4, my emphasis)

Once, I read a novel in which a character, looking out a window at an autumn day, recited to herself, “When yellow leaves, or few, or none do hang…” And that brought me up short, not so much because the words in the second line were reversed, but because of what that reversal suddenly made clear to me about how the line works in unexpected ways. The version of the line from the novel is a reasonable linear progression, as the leaves flutter from the trees day after day: from few to none. But the sonnet actually conjures up separate images, disparate flashes of autumn: no single tree can go from complete bareness back to having a few leaves on its branches. The poem presents us with absolute starkness, in “none” – and then backs away from it, tempers it with “few,” as though afraid to go quite that far.

And then there’s the bite of the closing couplet, which is to my mind equally surprising:

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long. (lines 13-14, my emphasis)

We don’t get “lose,” which is what we might expect after the depiction of the trees losing their leaves, or the other images in the middle of the poem: the twilight sky losing its light, the fire losing its strength, all natural processes of inevitable decline. Instead of “thou must lose” (in other words, “I must die”), we get “thou must leave,” which short-circuits those natural processes entirely. The ending of the love described here isn’t an unavoidable outcome, but a decision that could be made at any moment by the sonnet’s addressee. The modal verb “must” tries to coerce us into seeing this separation as something as inevitable as death, but “leave” contradicts that force. And how “strong” could such love truly be, if the addressee could choose to leave it behind? A note of uncertainty, even perhaps capriciousness, sneaks into the sonnet by way of that punning little word, as we follow the poem from leaves to leaving.

Punctuation: something or nothing?

Note to self: October and November are apparently not good months for blogging.

I hope that this post is a prelude (or possibly a pre-emptive epilogue?) to another piece I want to write soon. But in the meantime, I bring you possibly excessive thoughts on a punctuation mark.

(If nothing else, I am discovering through this blog that I have far more feelings about punctuation than I thought.)

As I was thinking recently about Edgar’s soliloquy in King Lear, I happened to use the Norton Shakespeare to look up the speech, since it was closest to hand at the time. I’ve taught from the Norton before, but never before noticed the punctuation of the last two lines, when Edgar finalizes his decision to disguise himself as a madman to escape detection by his father’s men:

…Poor Turlygod! poor Tom!

That’s something yet! Edgar I nothing am. (2.3.20-1)

It was the exclamation mark after “That’s something yet” that actually caught my attention: I’ve written a little bit about Edgar’s soliloquy in the past, and didn’t remember seeing that particular punctuation mark in the other editions I’ve used. On further exploration, it turns out that this exclamation mark has been introduced by the editors of the Norton, and only in the conflated version of Lear; the Norton also includes side-by-side texts of the First Quarto (1608) and Folio (1623) texts, both of which render the last line as “That’s something yet. Edgar I nothing am” (Scene 7, line 182 [Q1] / 2.2.178 [F]). (Edgar’s soliloquy is generally presented as a scene on its own, 2.3, in conflated editions of the play.)

That made me wonder what the punctuation looked like in the original First Quarto and Folio texts. So away I to the University of Victoria’s Internet Shakespeare Editions, where I discovered that Q1 has

…poore Turlygod, poore Tom,

That’s something yet, Edgar I nothing am. (lines 1271-2)

whereas F has

 …poore Turlygod, poore Tom,

That’s something yet: Edgar I nothing am. (lines 1271-2)

A comma and a colon—but no periods or exclamation marks in sight. According to David Crystal in Think on My Words, exclamation marks are scarce on the ground in sixteenth-century texts anyway, since they only start to come into use in English texts in the 1590s (72). And of course, the punctuation in the original editions shouldn’t be taken as “Shakespeare’s own punctuation”; all we can really say is that it reflects the usage of the time. Nor do I think that original punctuation is necessarily better for modern readers: we use punctuation differently (and more frequently) now than would have been the case in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so it makes sense that modern editors update punctuation to help modern readers understand the sense of what’s being said.

Still, what’s interesting here is that in all three of its texts, the Norton’s punctuation suggests a more concrete distinction between the first and second utterances in Edgar’s final line than might be assumed from the original punctuation. And I think that does have implications for interpretation and performance. Exclaiming “That’s something yet!” (either as an exclamation on its own, or following the exclamations of “Poor Turlygod!” and “poor Tom!”: the various Norton texts differ here as well) just feels completely different from simply saying it—and simply saying it seems to offer us more ways of saying it than does the exclamation. Is Edgar determined? Breathless? Thoughtful? Disheartened? The exclamation mark rules out some of the line’s possibilities, I think: it’s such an intense little mark, not suited to hesitance.

Logically speaking, too, the Norton’s period or exclamation mark suggests something very different about the relationship of the clauses to each other. The period and the exclamation mark both mark out the end of a sentence; “That’s something yet” and “Edgar I nothing am” are separate, sharply divided utterances, and the emphasis falls on the latter. (This is in keeping with the scholarly emphasis on “nothing” in this play.) But the Q1 and F comma and colon (cards on the table: I prefer the colon) keep  these statements as two sides of the same utterance, part of a balanced thought: the “something” just as important as the “nothing,” both still dependent on each other for meaning. I gravitate toward the original punctuation here, for this line, precisely because it keeps more “somethings” in play.

 

Notes:

1.  Here’s what Manfred Görlach has to say about the development of the colon in the early modern period: it “originally was a mark indicating a pause of medium length, but which developed into an indicator of text coherence expressing logically consecutive or adversative relations (‘therefore’; ‘on the other hand’). This change is clearly related to the introduction of the semicolon (or comma-colon) from 1580-90, which more or less assumed the syntactical function of the earlier colon, that of separating two closely connected main clauses.” (Introduction to Early Modern English [Cambridge UP], p. 58)

2. On the different difficulties that editors and actors face when dealing with early modern punctuation, see Janelle Jenstad, Peter Lichtenfels, and Lynne Magnusson, “Text and voice,” in Shakespeare, Language, and the Stage, eds. Lynette Hunter and Peter Lichtenfels (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2005), pp. 10-37.

Emoticons and unnecessary scenes

I’ve embarked upon a minor project to get rid of some of the Shakespeare editions I seldom or never use by copying my teaching notes into the editions I use on a regular basis. (I’ve acquired a lot of editions that I wouldn’t otherwise have purchased in the course of teaching various Shakespeare classes.) This project is occasionally mortifying, because my teaching notes can sometimes veer into the ridiculous. For example, I drew a starry-eyed emoticon (*_*) in the margins of one copy of Hamlet, instead of, you know, proper words. Because I am a grownup and a scholar.

What caused such an ignominious descent into emoticons? This exchange in 1.2, when Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo approach Hamlet with the news that his father’s armor-clad ghost is wandering the parapets of Elsinore:

HAMLET

Armed, say you?

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Armed, my lord.

HAMLET

From top to toe?

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

My lord, from head to foot.

HAMLET

Then saw you not his face.

HORATIO

O yes, my lord, he wore his beaver up. (1.2.225-228)

This may seem like a strange passage to go starry-eyed over, especially as it follows fairly close on the heels of Hamlet’s tortured first soliloquy, the first of the play’s sustained glimpses into Hamlet’s mind. This exchange is, by contrast, prosaic, even unnecessary. As it happens, though, that’s precisely why I love it – because it doesn’t need to be there, and yet there it is. We’ve already heard from Horatio that the ghost is “Armed at point, exactly cap-a-pie” (1.2.199), so in addition to being unnecessary, the exchange verges on the redundant – although it does provide a helpful gloss on “cap-a-pie” for those of us who need one. But if that’s the reason for the passage’s existence, why do we need both “From top to toe” and “from head to foot,” when some other expression of confirmation on the part of Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo would suffice? The nitpicky insistence on exactly how much armor the ghost is wearing starts to feel a little bit ludicrous.

But then comes the next line: “Then saw you not his face.” And this is where the starry eyes come in. Suddenly, instead of telling us about the ghost’s armor, the exchange is telling us something about Hamlet: it’s showing us his quick wit, his need to interrogate even the most innocuous facts for inconsistencies. And his line has the potential to be an accusation: you’re lying, it says; I don’t trust you. (I think the rapidity of the exchange contributes to that sense.) But even if we see it as a question – see the note about punctuation, below – it still shows us that Hamlet cannot simply accept what he’s told, can’t turn off his thinking self, even for a moment. The first soliloquy shows us what Hamlet’s mind is like in extremis, under the pressure of extraordinary passions; this odd, unnecessary exchange shows us the everyday workings of his intellect.

(There’s another one of these unnecessary passages in this scene, when Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo start arguing about the length of time the ghost was visible for: Horatio says that the ghost stayed “While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred,” causing Marcellus and Barnardo to cry out, “Longer, longer.” Horatio then responds, “Not when I saw’t” [1.2.236-8].  Since we have only seen the ghost once so far, with Horatio, there’s no inconsistency for the audience in the two appearances of the apparition, and no particular reason to draw our attention to one. The sole function of this little argument, as far as I can see, is to provide the kind of extraneous detail that refers us to a world beyond the immediacy of the scene: things happen even when we don’t see them.)

Text: Hamlet, edited by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006).

A note on punctuation: The line “Then saw you not his face” ends in a question mark in the First Quarto and the Folio, but with a period in the Second Quarto. Since I like the idea of this line as accusation rather than question, I prefer the Second Quarto’s rendition.

On Jane Austen and the subject of “ought”

I only lasted for one post before I went off-subject! I wonder if that’s some sort of record.

Still, I’ve got Jane Austen on the brain at the moment. This is, it’s true, a thing that happens to me fairly frequently anyway, but on Wednesday I sat in on a lecture on the opening of Pride and Prejudice, and I’ve just started reading Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures by Claudia L. Johnson in my spare time, so I hope you’ll forgive me the detour. (Incidentally, Johnson’s book opens with a discussion of her adventures in editing Mansfield Park – specifically, which edition’s punctuation to follow in one instance – and it says something about me that I was immediately both charmed and hooked by this. I may or may not want to know what that something is.)

There are many things I could say about Mansfield Park – how much I love the novel’s main character, Fanny Price, for example, and how few others seem to join me in loving her; or how Austen uses Shakespeare in the novel to suggest value judgments (this is, after all, the novel in which one character says that “we all talk Shakespeare”), but instead I’ll go with something else near and dear to my heart: Austen’s use of modal verbs.

(My dissertation was partly on modal verbs in Shakespeare. Funny thing about writing a dissertation: you start noticing your topic everywhere. And since modal verbs – “can,” “may,” “must,” “will,” “shall,” and “ought” – actually are everywhere, I’ve been doing a lot of topic-spotting lately.)

The word “ought” is important in Austen, as you might expect given her reputation as a moralist, or as you’ll know if you’ve ever read Emma: Mr. Knightley’s estate, Donwell Abbey, is “just what it ought to be, and it looked what it was”; when Emma agrees to marry Mr. Knightley, she says “Just what she ought, of course. – A lady always does.”  And in Emma, the social “ought” and the moral “ought” come together, at least when it comes to Emma and Mr. Knightley. But Mansfield Park is a novel about the clash between tradition (upheld by Fanny and her clergyman cousin Edmund Bertram) and expensive dissipation (Edmund’s sisters Julia and Maria, as well as his older brother Tom; the alluring newcomers Henry and Mary Crawford), so it only makes sense that the social “ought” and the moral “ought” usually fail to meet up. When Henry Crawford takes it into his head to flirt with both Bertram sisters at once, the narrator calls our attention to what the behavior Henry, Julia, and Maria ought to have been, in contrast to what it was:

[Henry Crawford] went for a fortnight — a fortnight of such dullness to the Miss Bertrams as ought to have put them both on their guard, and made even Julia admit, in her jealousy of her sister, the absolute necessity of distrusting his attentions, and wishing him not to return; and a fortnight of sufficient leisure, in the intervals of shooting and sleeping, to have convinced the gentleman that he ought to keep longer away, had he been more in the habit of examining his own motives, and of reflecting to what the indulgence of his idle vanity was tending; but, thoughtless and selfish from prosperity and bad example, he would not look beyond the present moment. (Vol. I, ch. 13; my emphasis)

(I love, by the way, that Henry’s leisure here is only “in the intervals of shooting and sleeping”; he has so little to do that he even has leisure from his leisure activities.)

Meanwhile, there’s the “ought” of mere social consensus or appearance, unattached to any particular moral force (or even substituting the social as a claim higher than the moral), as when Mary Crawford declares that Julia “ought to do better” than marry a mere baron with no actual money (Vol. III, ch. 9), or when Maria shows off the bumbling Mr. Rushworth’s property at Sotherton in order to gain in standing and consequence by her engagement to him: ” ‘Now we shall have no more rough road, Miss Crawford; our difficulties are over. The rest of the way is such as it ought to be. Mr. Rushworth has made it since he succeeded to the estate’ ” (Vol. I, ch. 8).

Edmund, as we might expect from a sober clergyman, resists the pressure of the social “ought” and judges by what is actually required; when he procures an invitation to Sotherton for Fanny by agreeing to stay home himself, we get this exchange between him and his sister Julia:

“I am sure she ought to be very much obliged to you,” added Julia, hastily leaving the room as she spoke, from a consciousness that she ought to offer to stay at home herself.

“Fanny will feel quite as grateful as the occasion requires,” was Edmund’s only reply, and the subject dropt. (Vol. I, ch. 8)

(Edmund’s biggest problem, I believe, is his inability to see other people’s social “oughts” – that is, he takes merely flattering or insinuating behaviors for evidence of real moral and ethical judgments, as when he comments that Mary Crawford speaks of Fanny “just as she ought” in wanting Fanny to marry Henry [Vol. III, ch. 4]. This is probably because the merely social has so little claim upon him; it blinds him to its hold over other people.)

And both he and Fanny are the most persistent in using the moral “ought,” which others fail to do: ” ‘No one here can call the office [of clergyman] nothing. If the man who holds it is so, it is by the neglect of his duty, by foregoing its just importance, and stepping out of his place to appear what he ought not to appear. …it will, I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation’ ” (Vol. I, ch. 9, emphasis in original). Fanny censures Henry by saying that he “can feel nothing as he ought” (Vol II, ch. 5), and examines her conscience minutely to determine whether she should be a part of the scandalous play the others are putting on, even though she knows that her uncle would never approve:

she had begun to feel undecided as to what she ought to do; and as she walked round the room her doubts were increasing. Was she right in refusing what was so warmly asked, so strongly wished for – what might be so essential to a scheme on which some of those to whom she owed the greatest complaisance had set their hearts? Was it not ill–nature, selfishness, and a fear of exposing herself? And would Edmund’s judgment, would his persuasion of Sir Thomas’s disapprobation of the whole, be enough to justify her in a determined denial in spite of all the rest? It would be so horrible to her to act that she was inclined to suspect the truth and purity of her own scruples… (Vol. I, ch. 16, emphasis in original)

(This is one of the reasons I love Fanny: she’s so quick to see the right course of action, but so quick to discount her own judgment because of her habitual shyness and poor treatment from most of the Bertram family.)

I don’t know if the two “oughts” ever really come together in Mansfield Park, in the end; the failures of many of the characters in Mansfield Park seem to stem from just that inability to bring together the social and the moral.

On introductions and yellow stockings

Since I finished my dissertation in May, I’ve been planning to start a Shakespeare blog. Despite the glut of blogs on the internet, I thought I could articulate several good reasons to do so. It would keep me busy, I’d say to myself. It would give me the chance to explore my thoughts, with less of the immediate pressure that comes with trying to write an article or a chapter for one’s advisors. It would allow me to find my own voice, to see what I sounded like when writing primarily for myself.

And yet, as the weeks ticked by, I didn’t start the blog. I had the desire, I had the reasons, and I even had a name. But what I didn’t have was an intro post. Introductions have always been hard for me: close attention to detail I can do, but laying out the broad rationale for a project tends to make me seize up. There always seems to be so much riding on any individual project, and in academic writing, the bigger the stakes, the better: writers are expected to say something utterly new with every article, change the field with every book. That’s obviously not the case with a little personal blog, but once you get into the habit of thinking (and worrying) in this way, it’s hard to break.

But then I remembered the yellow stockings. Twelfth Night fans will recall that Malvolio, pompous puritanical steward to the lady Olivia, is tricked by Olivia’s gentlewoman Maria into believing that Olivia is in love with him – and in the forged letter that Maria drops in his way, she asks him to wear yellow stockings and cross-gartering as proof of his love for her. We’ve seen this scene play out dozens of times, on stage and screen, as Malvolio sheds his customary black for showy yellow in his ardor to follow the commands of the letter.

Except it turns out that that’s not actually what happens. The letter never actually commands Malvolio to wear yellow stockings at all; it merely says, “Remember who commended thy yellow stockings and wished to see thee ever cross-cartered – I say remember” (2.5.149-150). Maria is sure that Malvolio will adopt these fashions after receiving the letter (2.5.191-4), and he does in 3.4, but – as with so many things – this has much more to do with the way Malvolio is led to read into the letter than with what it actually says. (Maria is a very subtle trickster.)

Even more interesting, though, is what the choice of yellow stockings for this trick tells us about Malvolio. And here we encounter a collective blind spot. It starts with John Manningham in 1602, who writes in his diary about a performance of the play, recording that there was “a good practice in it to make the steward believe his lady widow [sic] was in love with him, by counterfeiting a letter as from his lady, in general terms telling him what she liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in smiling, his apparel, etc.” (Oxford ed., 1). The assumption is, and remains, that the letter introduces the idea of yellow stockings and cross-gartering, because Malvolio, puritan that he is, would never dream of such sartorial excesses on his own. But here’s how Malvolio responds to the letter:

“I do not now fool myself to let imagination jade me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered, and in this she manifests herself to my love and with a kind of injunction drives me to these habits of her liking.” (2.5.159-165, my emphasis)

Various editions of the play struggle to reconcile Malvolio’s announcement here with the fact that according to Maria, Olivia actually “abhors” yellow and “detests” cross-gartering (2.5.193-4). The Arden second series edition notes that Malvolio’s declaration is “obviously inconsistent” with Maria’s (p. 70), while the Oxford edition says that “Malvolio must be making this up” (p. 150). The Arden third series edition is a bit less certain, suggesting that Olivia’s praise “is evidently invented or imagined by Malvolio – unless he is referring to the letter” (p. 248). What all of these editions seem to overlook, however, is that even if Malvolio is making up Olivia’s approval of his attire, he says nothing to indicate that he never wore it in the first place. In fact, his eagerness to confirm what the letter says heavily implies that he’s remembering a time when he did wear yellow stockings and cross-gartering (whether together or separately). Maria’s trick really only works if Malvolio can recall wearing such attire, in order to go on to “remember” that Olivia liked it; otherwise the letter would risk drawing Malvolio’s suspicion instead of his support. What this means is that, at least once, Malvolio has worn yellow stockings of his own accord – and that instead of thinking of him as a complete Puritan in his costuming, tricked into dressing himself against his nature1, we might rather heed Maria’s shrewd observation that Malvolio is only “a kind of Puritan” (2.3.136), and see that the character we tend to think of as a dour and sober killjoy has always had an unexpected little bit of the fashion-conscious dandy in him. In this case, our focus on the Puritan label has hidden the peacock who has been there all along.

And so I thought, if I wanted to start as I meant to go on, this would make a pretty good introductory post. Because I’m interested in the little things, the things we overlook as we take the bird’s-eye view toward Shakespeare, looking for overarching interpretations and field-changing arguments. Those are necessary and important things to look for, of course – but there ought to be some room for the local and particular as well, and it’s there that I want to set up shop with this blog. I want to talk about the bits that don’t always fit into an article or present a big enough ground for an entire thirty-page argument, the lines and scenes and speeches that nevertheless reveal something quirky and unexpected if we spend a little more time with them. I hope this will be a place for the random, for the small picture, for the “quick bright things” that can illuminate familiar corners of Shakespeare, even if they don’t rebuild the house.

I also hope it will be fun.

1In his introduction to the Arden 3 edition, for example, Keir Elam makes exactly this argument, stating that Malvolio “is fooled…into betraying his personal integrity by dressing up showily against all his puritanical principles” (47).

Notes:
Quotations from Shakespeare taken from the Arden Shakespeare edition of Twelfth Night, third series, ed. Keir Elam (London, 2008). Also cited: the Arden second series edition, eds. J. M. Lothian and T. W. Craik (London, 1975); the Oxford edition, eds. Roger Warren and Stanley Wells (Oxford, 1994).