Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Winter's Tale, Act 4, Scene 4, Lines 1-180

This scene is gigantic, and Paul and I only managed to make our way up to line 180. Being a 12-year-old boy, he is already fed up with the romantic banter, though he does like the idea that Florizel and his father are both wearing disguises. He says to tell you that his favorite lines are "But come, our dance, I pray. Your hand, my Perdita. So turtles pair that never mean to part." He was disappointed to learn that turtles means turtledoves because the image of inseparable dancing turtles definitely improved the love stuff.

What I'm thinking of as I read this scene are the varying definitions of nobility, of high and low, of pure and bastard. This focus on rank and order reminds me of Leontes' downfall--how behaving like the Lord of All ruined his life. Yet of course, we know that Perdita really is his daughter--a princess, not a shepherdess. So even as he toys with the supposition, Shakespeare is not denying the power of rank. Or is he? He's a very slippery writer.


Ruth said...

Just quickly: Perhaps Shakespeare is quietly and gently making mock of rank as he has done so adroitly before. He himself was all too aware of the power of rank.

Lucy Barber said...

Earlier today I sent our gracious hostess a link to yet another story about how what I call the interwebs (i.e. internet plus World Wide Webs) might be destroying society, or our youth, or all of us. It was from somewhere and can be found perhaps by googling the "American Scholar" and "reading in the digital age."

The only part I found at all interesting was the section on how reading novels is an escape. Otherwise, I think all this focus on the "distracted youth" really does not take into account how distracted most people in the "olde times" or what I call the "time before" were by all the things they needed to do to survive and/or fit in. The American myth of a democratic society is not a myth, because these colonies did let people remake themselves, but still only if they carefully copied others. As a result of all this thought on the other subject, the section that I noted was when the Shepherd reprimanded Perdita for not being on all her tasks:
Fie, daughter! When my old wife liv'd, upon
This day she was both pantler, butler, cook;
Both dame and servant; welcom'd all; serv'd all;
Would sing her song and dance her turn; now here
At upper end o' th' table, now i' th' middle;
On his shoulder, and his; her face o' fire
With labour, and the thing she took to quench it
She would to each one sip. You are retired,
As if you were a feasted one, and not
The hostess of the meeting.

I am both a daughter who has helped her mother at such rituals, a single woman who has tried to be a good hostess without any sous chefs; and a professional who feel obliged to be the "hostess of the meeting." I know that the "interwebs" can make me frantic, but I still say getting a meal together on time is a task that challenges all of us.

I appreciate that the Shepherd recognized that his dead wife had "her face o' fire with labour" but I have to wonder what color his face was. And I can totally sympathize with Perdita for preferring her flirtations to the tests by Polixenes about her attitude to genectic engineering. Let her stay with her local plants!!

Dawn Potter said...

Lucy, I think you must be right about distraction: it is timeless. Only the tools of distraction vary. Like you, I noticed that passage about the shepherd's wife and thought about the multiple roles we all play simultaneously. I suppose that idea really does go along with the "disguise" theme of this scene, as well as (I'm turning here to Ruth's comment) the ebb and flow of rank. Maybe one can be highborn and lowborn at the same time.

Ruth said...

"Maybe one can be highborn and lowborn at the same time." I would say most definitely. Perdita is highborn, though raised in lowly surrounding; yet, she has grace,dignity and yes, class. When both Polixenes and Leontes behave so arrogantly, they are surely not displaying the essence of the highborn.

Al and Adam said...

Conor says he also likes that everyone is in disguise.

I am enjoying these whimsical scenes with disguises and bears and the clown, but I have to say that I felt disgruntled about the idea that this "low-born lass" who "smacks of something greater than herself" actually IS Leontes's daughter, and, thus, high-born. While Shakespeare may be gently mocking the power of rank and privilege in his world, he's also powerfully reinforcing it here by suggesting that only the truly (if secretly) highborn could be so beautiful and graceful. I guess he injured my egalitarian, twenty-first century, American sensibilities a bit.

Also, I've been meaning to look up somewhere what the idea is with the "clown." Does anyone have a quick answer to what Shakespeare means by calling him a clown?


Lucy Barber said...

quickly, in an earlier posting, I noted that clown could mean "rube" or "country innocent." I.e someone so untouched by society to not filter rank. In contrast to the "fool" who lives in rank. In Measure for Measure in high school in the 1980s I played such a character and I learned I was to be as silly and unintentionally witty at the same time. I did it poorly.

Al and Adam said...

Thanks for filling me in (sorry I missed your explanation before). It does sound like a deceptively difficult type of role to play. My son Conor loves to read the part of the clown with a goofy accent that sounds like he could just as well be playing the not-very-bright sidekick of the hero of a 1950's western.

Dawn Potter said...

Hey, that's exactly the same voice Paul uses!