Sunday, May 1, 2011

Promus - 2 - unbonneted

Parallels between Shake-Speare and Bacon's Promus

Part 2

This is a parallel which may explain a Shake-Speare text.

From Othello 1.2.21-4

Othello:               I fetch my life and being
          From men of royal siege, and my demerits [merits]
          May speak unbonneted to as proud a fortune
          As this that I have reached;

and from Bacon's Promus (entry 1538):

"Language de hauts bonnets ["Language of high bonnets"]

Comments: The Arden Othello editor notes on "unbonneted": "This must mean, in the context, 'without taking the bonnet off', i.e. 'on equal terms'". But it is difficult to make the adjective "unbonneted" mean "bonneted". The editor says "unbonneted" does not appear elsewhere in Shake-Speare, but in fact one finds it in Lear 3.1.13 where it is said of Lear "unbonneted he runs", which of course means "without his hat on". The Promus entry may explain Othello's reference to "unbonneted". Randle Cotgrave in his Dictionary of the French and English tongues (1611) translates the Promus phrase as: "An old wives tale; or a stale, obsolete or overworn language; a fashion of speaking that's old and quite out of fashion". So probably Othello meant: "My merits speak for themselves, without the need for formal or high-flown language". "Unbonneted" then relates to the type of language, not to whether he doffed his hat. The French phrase may have prompted Shake-Speare to use "unbonneted," a word he may have coined since till 1818 the O.E.D. (Old English Dictionary) gives no instance of it apart from the Lear text. In Coriolanus 2.2.25-8 he used "bonneted" to mean "doffed his hat to". There "bonneted" is the verb "bonnet", from the French verb "bonneter", with the meaning just stated. The O.E.D. gives no other instance of the verb "bonnet" till 1824. So Shake-Speare may have coined that verb too, from the French verb.

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