Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Parallels in Hamlet - Stamp of one defect; Pales and forts of reason

And here is another group of Hamlet parallels. You'll need to read it over carefully several times to appreciate it. And it really doesn't do the analysis justice as it is much more extensive than I can show here.


So oft it chances in particular men
    That, for some vicious mole of nature in them,
    As in their birth,- wherein they are not guilty,
    Since nature cannot choose his origin,-
    By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
    Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,   {ACT1|SC4 line 28}
    Or by some habit that too much o'er leavens
    The form of plausive manners, that these men
    Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
    Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
    Their virtues else- be they as pure as grace,
    As infinite as man may undergo-        
    Shall in the general censure take corruption
    From that particular fault. The dram of eale                 [modern editions 'evil' or 'e'il']
    Doth all the noble substance of a dout To his own scandal.  [modern: "often dout"]
Hamlet 1.4.23-38

And now some Bacon excerpts:

"[Catholic priests who] had by their own acts and poisons depraved and soured with a new leaven of malignity the whole lump of Catholics".
  In Felicem Memoriam Elizabethae

".......sour the lump of all Papists in their loyalty".
  Charge against St. John

"The best men are like the best precious stones, wherein every flaw or icicle or grain are seen and noted more than in those that are generally foul and corrupted".    [compare "every flaw or icicle or grain"  to "The stamp of one defect"]
  A Speech in Parliament

"Here a little folly in a very wise man, a small offence in a very good man, a slight impropriety in a man of polite and elegant manners, detracts from their character and reputation".    [compare "a little folly" "a small offence" "a slight impropiety"  to "The stamp of one defect"]
  De Augmentis

(Sir William Stanley had been largely responsible for gaining the victory at Bosworth Field. But years later he became a suitor for the Earl of Chester, whereupon, says Bacon:) "His suit did not only end in denial but in distaste [on the part of the King, despite his earlier service. So Bacon adds:] And as a little leaven of new distaste doth commonly sour the whole lump of former merits".
  History of Henry VII

And here are some additional Shake-Speare quotes:

"Since the more fair and crystal is the sky,
the uglier seem the clouds that in it fly
  Richard II, 1.1.35

"Wise men, folly-fall'n, quite taint their wit"
  Twelfth Night, 3.1.75

[Note: Both Bacon and Shake-Speare were very fond of the same Bible quotations, though they also both could modify them in the same way. One of these was: "Dead flies cause to stinke and putrefie the ointment of the apoticarie; so doeth a little folie (folly) him that is in estimation for wisdom and for glorie."
  Ecclesiastes x, 1 --  Geneva Bible of 1585]

Cockburn's comments:
  The whole of Hamlet's speech is wanting in Quarto 1 of 1603 and in the First Folio of 1623. The last sentence is as it appears in Quarto 2 of 1604 and Quarto 3 of 1605, except that Quarto 3  substitutes "ease" for "eale".
[For more on Shake-Speare Quartos see http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/playhamlet.html ]

Obviously the various compositors misread or misunderstood whatever texts they were working from. The Arden editor in a Long Note at page 449 describes the sentence as "probably the most famous crux in Shakespeare". Scholars have tried almost ad absurdum to reform it, and numerous suggestions are summarised in the Variorum edition. The Arden editor's own reconstruction is:
  "The dram of evil Doth all the noble substance often dout [put out, extinguish] 
    To his own scandal."

This expresses the obvious meaning of the sentence, namely that the one fault overshadows the man's good qualities, to the damage of his reputation [to his own scandal]. And "often" for "of a" is obviously right.

[My note: the Hamlet scholars could have saved a lot of time if they had read Melsome's "The Bacon-Shakespeare Anatomy", 1945, where he explains that "deale" in Scotland is equivalent to "devil" in England; and then removing the "d" from each, and you have "eale" and "evil" left. In the 1604 Hamlet quarto there is "The spirit that I have seen may be a deale; and the deale hath power." Hamlet, 2.2.638. Again, "deale" meaning "devil".]

Cockburn continues: The parallels between Shake-Speare's sentence and Bacon's in History of Henry VII are striking. Both authors state the same principle (admittedly proverbial, at any rate in the form "Dead flies do cause the best ointment to stink" - see Bacon's De Augmentis. Shake-Speare's "all the noble substance" matches Bacon's "the whole lump of former merits"; and "often" matches "commonly". And both authors state the principle in a metaphor of distaste, using the same word "sour" (implied by 'o'er leavens'). And both authors state the principle with reference to leaven. This reference would not be an obvious way of expressing the principle, especially as it seems that "leaven" was only rarely used in Elizabethan times to imply "corrupt". The same principle is found in Pliny the Elder's History of the World which Bacon definitely knew as this was a major source for his Natural History. And there's a similar passage in the Bible: Galatians v. 9 "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump". Pliny the Elder wrote about housewives withdrawing a portion of the yeasted dough of today to infect the fresh dough of tomorrow's baking; and when tomorrow came, this withdrawn dough had become sour; and the sourness was thought to be caused by over-leavening, and that to over-leaven dough was to sour it; and so the author of Hamlet's speech thought he might write o'er-leavens as the equivalent of "sours"; just as Bacon thought he might write "A little leaven ...doth commonly sour the whole lump...".

So in line 29 of Hamlet's speech the "o'er leavens" is suggesting that some invidious habit that, by exciting the ill will of the people, sours their minds against even his plausive or pleasing actions, or corrupts all their otherwise virtuous reputation.

Then there's "the pales and forts of reason" in line 28. Plus the following:

"Reason become the marshal to my will"
  A Midsummer Night's Dream 2.2.119

"Armour of the mind"
  Hamlet 3.3.12

  "Thus is fortitude the marshal of thought, the armour of the will and the fort of reason".
  Speech on Fortitude in Conference of Pleasure

  "I know but two forts in this house which the King ever hath, the fort of affection and the fort of reason; the one commands the hearts, the other commands the heads".
  Speech on "undertakers"

The only relevant parallel found in another Elizabethan source:

"What war so cruel, or what siege so sore
As that which strong affections do apply
Against the fort of reason everywhere."
  Spenser's Fairy Queen

"Fort of reason" may have been fairly common. But Shake-Speare (though in different texts) used both "marshal to my will" and "armour of the mind" to compare with Bacon's conjunction of "the marshal of thought, the armour of the will". Further, "marshal of thought" and "marshal to my will" seem not to be known elsewhere. These texts are a good example of how Bacon and Shake-Speare built with the same bricks, even if they arranged them in lightly different ways.

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