Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

September 18, 2007

O.J. Tab Heds Go Head to Head

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:25 am

One of the perks of living in New York City is that every once in a while you get to see the masters of the daily tabloid headline science go hed-to-hed. (I probably don’t need to say this but “hed” is ink-stained newspaper and magazine shorthand for headline).

I know it’s not a matter of world-shaking significance, but I did have a feeling of anticipation picking up the papers at my local bodega yesterday morning to see how the New York Daily News and the New York Post would handle the late breaking mystifying O.J. arrest.

What I discovered was a true challenge for the connoisseur of the headline art. The News gave us:



While the Post went with:




Who won? How to judge? The News went with the more literal version. “in the can” meaning obviously in jail. Although it must be pointed out there’s a troubling additional connotation to “IN THE CAN” which unfortunately calls up associations with the Larry Craig story.

The News probably wanted to get the punning conflation of canned orange juice and “the Juice” in jail. But it’s slightly off: in addition to the Larry Craig connotation creeping in, the fact is orange juice rarely comes in a can, so the equation doesn’t exactly work. It doesn’t really call up an instantly familiar punning joke since OJ usually comes in a carton unless it’s the increasingly rare frozen o.j.

. (Hey, what about:



wouldn’t that be an improvement? Hire me!)

On the other hand consider the Post‘s choice. Their hed “O.J. IN A CAN” reads more mellifluously, but it’s slightly a cheat because while you get the orange juice container connotation immediately, you lose just the slightest instant recognition of CAN as jail. A small but noticeable sacrifice. Each paper found the canned O.J. trope irresistible yet fell slightly short of the potential for tab hed perfection.

The gold, no, platinum standard was set a quarter-century ago by the Post‘s infamous



I know: you probably don’t think close exegesis of tabloid headlines is a worthy occupation. But I would point out the subtle insinuation of the ancient philosophical question known as “the mind/body problem” in the HEADLESS/TOPLESS hed. I don’t think tabloid sensations should be disdained the way many look down their noses at them, but rather, studied for what they reveal about the nature of human nature, both the perps and their readers.

And as author of %%AMAZON=037550339 The Shakespeare Wars%%, I believe in the close reading of all language including popular demotic headline- speak attunes us to the evolution of the way we use and think about the ambiguities of words.

I’m going to go out now and get today’s papers–and some OJ–and I’ll let you know if they’ve topped themselves.



  1. Of course, the NYC tabs produce several classics per month — the News fulfilled all expectations recently with their bon mot, Eliot Mess, headlining Gov. Spitzer’s troopergate problems in the early days of the scandal.

    Comment by richard schrader — September 18, 2007 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  2. Isn’t the platinum standard the (most likely apocryphal, but still…) headline about the mental patient who rapes someone before escaping from the asylum?

    Nut Screws and Bolts

    Well, sounds like a smutty newsroom joke, or as you put it “apocryphal”. I can’t see it ever getting printed. I’d still say “Headless/Topless” is platinum

    Comment by Bill Allison — September 18, 2007 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

  3. The late Herb Caen used the phrase in an August 19, 1993 column in the San Francisco Chronicle:

    “THAT two-column headline in yesterday’s Chron — ”Search Continues for Rapist Who Escaped Mental Hospital” — seems a bit long. How about the old hardware version ”Nut Screws, Bolts” . . .

    …however, the phrase doesn’t appear as a headline anywhere in Nexis, so I suppose that Headless / Topless remains the tabloid standard.

    One of my favorites appeared during the trail of televangelist Jim Bakker, who had a nervous breakdown at one point (I believe it might have happened in the courtroom). The Philadelphia Daily News headlined it, “Bakker Goes Bonkers.”

    Comment by Bill Allison — September 19, 2007 @ 12:32 am | Reply

  4. Headless/Topless still wins, but the Herb Caen commen reminds me of an English chestnut, courtesy of Alastair Cooke’s old “America” series. Commenting on San Francisco’s generally chilly weather, he remembered a headline from 1930s London: “Heat wave continues. 71 degrees tomorrow, and no relief in site.”

    Cheers, Rob’t

    p.s. time to update your bio, sir. Still has you toiling at the now sadly diminished NY Observer.

    Comment by Robert Swartz — September 19, 2007 @ 9:09 am | Reply

  5. Your OJ “hed lines” & mention of Shakespeare Wars reminded me that, after I read the latter last year, I uncovered some fabulous wordplay and unexpected sources–including the non-Biblical genesis of Bottom’s dream–unmentioned in any commentary I’ve seen on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And, while the NY Post is most certainly worthy of criticism (all too worthy, perhaps), Shakespeare might be more fun for you.

    To make it the more gracious, I have shaped my discoveries into an acrostic. In the unlikely event that you get stuck, scroll down to the Notes in my wayyyy-too-long-to-post comment.

    1) In Act II scene i, “jealous” and “jealousy” are used three times within sixty lines to describe Oberon, culminating in baby-stealer Titania’s accusation, “These are the forgeries of jealousy….” II.i.81.This is either raving carelessness by the Bard, or he’s trying to grab our attention. So–what’s a Latin word meaning jealousy, which is also the term for a crucial practice in Elizabethan rhetoric?

    2) Before the play-within-a-play Pyramis and Thisbe begins, Quince provides a summary of the plot (V.i.126-151). In classical oratory, such a preliminary statement of fact is called what?

    3) One day and night are missing; the planet Venus rises twice in Act III; the moon is either dark, full or something in-between; the wood is either one league (3 miles) or one mile outside Athens; the Hellene Demetrius speaks in Latin, while Theseus anachronistically refers to St. Valentine’s Day and the Mechanicals swear by the Virgin Mary; the scene changes from palace to workmen’s quarter to forest and back again; the characters are a mishmash drawn from classical mythology, a French romance, English folklore, and Elizabethan Stratford; beautiful maidens behave like predatory males while respectable elderly men rant and workmen declaim bombastic verse–all of these aspects of the Dream deliberately violate theatrical concepts of unity and decorum derived from what writer?

    4) Titania “hath/A lovely boy stol’n from an Indian king” II.i.21-22. What’s the Latin noun for such a criminal, from which we derive a literary term?

    5) Synesthesia has a long history in Western poetry, from Homer’s Iliad (circa 700 BCE) to Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae (411 BCE) to Sophocles’ Oedipus At Colonus (circa 405 BCE) to the Elizabethans & beyond. Shakespeare borrowed his synesthetic parody of I Corinthians 2:9-10–not from the Bishops’ Bible nor the Geneva Bible nor indeed from any Bible at all–but from the following near-blasphemous preface to a book entered into the London Stationers’ Register on April 12, 1595:
    “…support me poor midwife, whose daring adventure [in pirating this manuscript for publication] hath delivered from Oblivion’s womb this ever-to-be-admired wit’s miracle. Those great ones, who in themselves have interred this blessed innocent, will with Aesculapius condemn me as a detractor from their deities…Those who have neither seen, thereby to inter, nor heard, by which they might be inflamed with desire to see, let them (of duty) plead to be my champions….”

    Give the last name of the author of this preface.

    6) Catholic martyr and Euphuistic poet Robert Southwell drew directly or indirectly on Plato for the preface to a collection of his own poems, first published posthumously in early spring 1595; Southwell’s verses expressed his beliefs about the duty of poets, “because the best course to lett them see the error of their works is to weave a newe Webb in theire owne loome.” Fill in the missing word of this sentence, borrowed by Shakespeare for the Dream V.i.7-8:
    Poetes by abusing their talent, and making the follies and feyninges of love the customary subject of theire base endeavors, have so discredited this facultye that a Poett a lover and a ___, are by many reckoned but three wordes of one significacon.

    7) “Wander” is an important word in the Dream, where it seems to be a metaphor for using tropes and figures of speech-a meta-metaphor, in fact. What’s the Latin verb for “to wander about”? Hint: It may be the basis for the name of a character Shakespeare inherited from Lord Berner’s translation of Huon of Bordeaux.

    8) Elizabethans could have read the following words in 1592 and inferred that Shakespeare stole the work of other writers: “…for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you….”

    What’s the surname of the putative author of this slur?

    9) Philip Sidney uses this Greek word meaning “appearance, form, or manner” to refer to what he also calls the “fore-conceit” in poetry; Sidney translates it as “to see.” Plato uses it for his infamous Forms. What is the word?

    10) In Acts I-IV, the Lovers speak in a stilted combination of stychomithia, antithesis, alliteration, metaphors drawn from “unnatural history,” and other highly artificial contrivances characteristic of what Elizabethan rhetorical fad?

    11) This work by Shakespeare’s favorite poet possibly inspired the mermaid-on-a-dolphin’s-back image from Act II scene i. Name the poem, which Shakespeare also drew upon for The Rape of Lucrece. (No, it’s not the Metamorphoses.) Hint: The date February 3 is pertinent.

    12) In the Dream, all of the references to children are paired with images of death and/or nameless souls–perhaps poets who failed to achieve immortality through artistic offspring. (The churchyard referred to twice by Robin is probably St. Paul’s, where booksellers kept their shops; a 1598 book dedication refers to “that pure elemental wit, Christopher Marlowe, whose ghost or genius is to be seen walk in the Churchyard in at the least three or four sheets [books]” five years after his death.)

    What harbinger of death “screeching loud” disturbs the repose of the living in Act V?

    13) Section 253e of the palinode from Plato’s Phaedrus features the image of a charioteer guiding two horses, one obedient and self-disciplined (think Hippolyta), the other “wanton” and “insolent” (think Titania).This metaphor was put to heavy use by Christian writers of later centuries. What does the charioteer represent in Plato?

    14) What Elizabethan writer Englished the terms hypallage and hysteron proteron as “changeling” and “preposterous,” respectively?

    15) Some of Philostrate’s lines from Act V scene i of the 1600 First Quarto were reassigned to Egeus in the 1623 First Folio, thus allowing Theseus to do what a second time to Hermia’s father? Hint: The first instance occurs at IV.i.178.

    16) Titania’s Act II scene i lament concerns the disruption of the seasons. What are the Greek names for the three seasons (collectively, the Horai: Having Good Laws, Judgement, and Peace)? These goddesses are referred to obliquely at III.ii.377, IV.i.126, V.i.123, and V.i.409.

    17) “Shakespeare needed no other source than imagination working on life to create Bottom, Quince and the mechanicals….” Maybe so, but in fact that group of characters was inspired by a passage from what Russ McDonald has called “that greatest of all Elizabethan treatises,” which was issued by two different publishers in 1595:
    And truly Plato whomsoever well considereth shall find that in the body of his work, though the inside and strength were Philosophy, the skin as it were and beauty depend most of Poetry: for all standeth upon dialogues wherein he feigneth many honest burgesses of Athens to speak of such matters, that, if they had been set on the rack, they would never have confessed them….

    Shakespeare liked this passage so much, he even stole the rack for these lines in Act V:
    Hard-handed men that work in Athens here
    Which never laboured in their minds till now,
    And now have toiled their unbreathed memories
    With this same play against your nuptial.
    …I have heard it over,
    And it is nothing, nothing in the world,
    Unless you can find sport in their intents
    Extremely stretched, and conned with cruel pain
    To do you service. (lines 72-81)

    Give the last name of the essay’s author.

    18) One of Plato’s early works “proves” that poets and reciters of poetry are mere unskilled mouthpieces composing and speaking solely through the inspiration of gods. Name the Socratic dialogue.

    19) Act V features a lengthy (and rather tedious) quibble on the subtitle of what play by John Lyly, which includes mischievous fairies in the cast?

    20) Russ McDonald warns, “…a serious occupational hazard for some Shakespeare scholars is the temptation to believe that every play (and each of the sonnets and poems as well) is mainly about language.” Pace McDonald, the first letters of the answers to 1-19 above form an acrostic revealing the controlling theme of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    1. AEMULATIO. (Dream II.i.24, 61, 81; Cassel’s Latin Dictionary 5th edition, Macmillan 1968; Brian Vickers, English Renaissance Literary Criticism, Oxford University Press 2003, pages 26-27.) The juxtaposition in this scene of jealousy, forgery and kidnapping is suggestive, because there were protests against teaching imatatio and aemulatio precisely because the practices raised questions regarding originality and literary theft. Note the many references in the play’s text and situations evoking counterfeits and lying–the numerous snakes, for example.

    The image of Titania as foster-mother should remind us of that godlike father of whom Theseus speaks to Hermia at I.i.46-51, “…one/To whom you are but as a form in wax,/By him imprinted, and within his power/To leave the figure or disfigure it.” Is the Duke describing a parent, or a poet?

    To parse Shakespeare’s allegory: The Dream’s changeling is a Conceit sired by an Indian king (that is, another poet) and kidnapped by Titania/Imagination; Oberon/Judgement now desires to play his part in the creative process (promoting her “page” to his “henchman”), by applying artistic skills to transform the changeling into a fresh work which equals or surpasses the original, one without “the blots of Nature’s hand,” as he describes at V.i.401. In order to complete this desirable metamorphosis, Oberon is forced to bamboozle Titania by subjecting her to a false love for Nick Bottom, a creature utterly lacking both judgement and imagination. (Remember Titania exclaiming to the ass, “Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful,” III.i.140. Truer words were never spoken.) The Dream thus contains Shakespeare’s most brilliant comic inversion: here, Judgement plays tricks on the Imagination.

    2. NARRATIO. (Brian Vickers, Classical Rhetoric In English Poetry, Macmillan 1970, pages 65-68.) Arguably, the Mechanicals’ performance also contains an exordium, complete with captatio benevolentiae and “the modesty formula” at V.i.108-117; a combination confirmatio and confutatio, provided by the amateur players and their audience, respectively, 168-341; while the Wall, my personal favorite, serves as a partitio (“the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse,” V.i.165-166)–though it is plausible that the appearance of oratorical components may simply be a coincidence arising from the play-within-a-play format.

    In another example of aemulatio, Shakespeare probably got the talking Wall from a similarly loquacious door in Catullus LXVII. (The Complete Poems, translated by Guy Lee, Oxford World’s Classics 1998, pages 110-113.)

    3. ARISTOTLE. (The Poetics, 1451a.) According to Thomas Wilson’s 1560 The Arte of Rhetorique (Vickers, Lit Crit, pages 44 and 123), failure to observe decorum results in “fondness.” “Fond” is used derogatorily of lovers throughout the Dream: see II.i.266, II.ii.94, III.ii.114, and III.ii.317. (Forms of “dote” and “vile” are also frequent. Someday I will figure out why.)

    This is also perhaps the place to note that, rather like the stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera, the Dream’s impression of chaotic action is maximized by its confinement within a perfectly balanced scenic structure. Character groups too are balanced: Theseus-Hippolyta/Oberon-Titania, Lovers/Mechanicals, Robin Goodfellow/Philostrate; Egeus is, intriguingly, the odd man out. These symmetries partly reflect thematic concern with the concordia discors beloved by Elizabethan writers.

    Many scholars have commented upon what Peter Holland calls the Dream’s “neat and symmetrical scenic form” (Dream, Oxford World’s Classics 1994, page 103), without much wondering why it exists. Similarly, scholars tend to be dismissive of certain aspects of the Dream as irrelevant: the canine harmonics dialogue of IV.i (Ron Rosenbaum, The Shakespeare Wars, Random House 2006, pages 451-456); most of Act V, especially the fairy blessing (a point of frustration for many critics, e.g., Anne Barton, The Riverside Shakespeare, Houghton Mifflin 1974, pages 219-220); and even the existence of the changeling (see note 14 below). Titania’s lament gets far more ink for its possible clues to the date of the play’s composition than for any deeper reason; as Stanley Wells asserts, “Most of it has no relevance to the plot, nor is it important in characterizing Titania. It is sometimes thought of as no more than an extended topical reference.” But, as Wells points out earlier in his essay, “Her lines [here] are thematically of high importance,” (Dream, New Penguin 1967, pages 24, 12). These allegedly superfluous aspects tend to relate to the play’s unifying theme, rather than the surface action.

    To paraphrase the eighteenth-century writer Thomas Edwards, “A critic has the right to declare irrelevant any passage he or she does not understand.” (Canons of Criticism, published 1748, quoted in Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion, W.W. Norton 1997, page 54.)

    4. PLAGIARIUS. (Vickers, Lit Crit, page 28 and Cassel’s Latin Dictionary.) It was this etymological curiosity which led me to translate “jealousy.” The juxtaposition of these hidden Latinisms in II.i.20-25 is unlikely to be coincidental. The Dream also places a heavy emphasis on sight; the Greek word for “to see” is of course the basis for our word “theatre.” (Bonus factoid: the first London “theatre” was not built in Shoreditch by the Burbages in the 1570s, but decades earlier in Westminster Abbey, where it served as the focal point for coronations and royal weddings.)

    5. OLNEY. (R.W. Maslen, An Apology For Poetry, Manchester University Press 1989, page 119. The text of Henry Olney’s “To the Reader” is also given in Jan van Dorsten and Katherine Duncan-Jones, editors, Miscellaneous Prose of Sir Philip Sidney, Clarendon Press critical edition 1973. The opening lines of the preface, not quoted above, are an affectionate parody of the opening lines to Shakespeare’s Richard III. That play is usually assigned to the period 1592-1593; it did not appear in print, in a goodish “bad” quarto, until late 1597, so presumably Olney was a theatre-goer with a good memory.)

    At the end of the Bottom’s Dream speech, Bottom declares his intention to have his whispy memories made into a ballad, the lowest of poetic forms. Ballads are among the bastard children begotten upon the Muses, a mere “confused mass of words, with a tingling sound of rhyme, barely accompanied by reason” (Maslen, Apology, pages 109-110).

    In this phase of his career, at least, Shakespeare was no egalitarian. He chose for the epigram to Venus & Adonis a tag from Ovid’s Amores: “Vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flauus Apollo/Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.” (Riverside Shakespeare, page 1705). And he was presumably the one who, in the stage directions at IV.ii.0 of the 1600 Quarto, designated the Mechanicals as “the rabble” (intriguingly reminiscent of the motto on the cover of Olney’s edition of Sidney’s treatise: “Odi profanum vulgus, et arceo.” Maslen, Apology, page 79.)

    Given such an attitude, modern romanticizing of Bottom and his Dream as a profound spiritual insight really is futile–on par with attempts to tie the Dream to an aristocratic wedding or to political infighting and misogynist rebellion at Whitehall Palace. Polysemy should go only so far as textual evidence justifies (unless you are attempting to draft a new chapter for Frederick Crews’ hilarious Postmodern Pooh).

    6. LIAR. (Plato, Phaedrus, 244a-245b; Peter Davidson and Anne Sweeney, editors, St. Robert Southwell: Collected Poems, Carcanet Press 2007, page 1.) I learned of this connection between Southwell and the Dream from Michael Wood, In Search of Shakespeare (BBC Worldwide Ltd 2003, page 153). Contra Wood, there is no evidence that Shakespeare was related to or even acquainted with Southwell, who was arrested in summer 1592, tortured ten times by the notorious Richard Topcliffe, and executed in February 1595. As a baby, Southwell had been stolen by a gypsy, but was rescued by a family servant; it would be interesting to know if this kidnapping was discussed in London following his arrest. Southwell’s lines “Still the finest wits are stilling Venus’ rose…playing with Pagan toys” were probably written prior to his arrest, perhaps in response to publications such as Sidney’s Astrophil & Stella, first printed in a pirated edition in 1591; Shakespeare used Southwell’s lines in combination with one of Erasmus’ Colloquies to compose Theseus’ speech at I.i.65-78. (For Erasmus, see Stuart Gillespie, Shakespeare’s Books, Continuum 2001, pages 155-156.)

    7. OBERRO. (Cassel’s Latin Dictionary; Harold Brooks, editor, Dream, Arden third series 1979 & 2003, pages 145-146.)

    8. GREENE. (Stanley Wells, Shakespeare For All Time, Oxford University Press 2003, page 49.) Katherine Duncan-Jones has proposed Thomas Nashe as the true author of Greene’s Groats-worth of Wit (Ungentle Shakespeare, Arden 2001, pages 43-48); other scholars favour Robert Greene’s publisher, Henry Chettle.

    9. IDEA. (Maslen, Apology, page 85.)

    10. EUPHUISM. The interchangeable, creakily poetic Lovers, of course, burlesque Lyly (predominantly in verse in the Dream, although most of Lyly’s works are in prose), paralleling the burlesque of the pseudo-Senecan style through the Mechanicals. (G.K. Hunter, John Lyly: The Humanist as Courtier, Harvard University Press 1962, page 265.) In one instance, Shakespeare borrows an unusually unadorned phrase from Lyly’s Endymion II.ii.3: “moonshine in the water” (an Elizabethan cliché meaning fruitless longing), which is elaborated by the Dream’s arch-Euphuist Lysander as “when Phoebe doth behold/Her silver visage in the wat’ry glass” I.i.209-210. (David Bevington glosses Lyly’s line in his Revels Plays edition of Endymion, Manchester University Press 1996, page 103. Endymion was first printed by “the widdowe Broome”, SR October 4, 1591.)

    11. FASTI. (Ovid, translated by Sir James Frazer, revised by G.P. Goold, Loeb Classical Library-Harvard University Press 1989, pages 62-65. Riverside Shakespeare page 1720 identifies the Fasti as Shakespeare’s source for Lucrece.) Ovid’s verses for February 3rd provide: a dolphin carrying a musical rider, whose voice “could hold back the running waters…soothing the ocean waves”; the moon goddess Cynthia standing still to enjoy the music; a new-formed constellation; and a robe “twice-stained with Tyrian purple.” Other lines from this passage about the unnatural behavior of wild creatures may have inspired Helena’s verse at II.i.230-233.

    12. OWL. (A.D. Wraight and Virginia F. Stern, In Search of Christopher Marlowe, Adam Hart Publishers 1993, page 179.) Note too the Induction to Ben Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels from 1600: “…the umbrae or ghosts of some three or four plays departed a dozen years since have been seen walking on your stage here…take heed, boy, if your house be haunted by such hobgoblins ’twill fright away all your spectators quickly.” (Quoted by Hunter in John Lyly, page 290.)

    13. REASON. (Plato, Phaedrus, 253d-e, translated by Stephen Scully, Focus Philosophical Library 2003, page 35; Liddell & Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford University Press 21st edition; James Morwood and John Taylor, Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, 2002.) “Hippolyta” means loose or stampeding mare; the character is implicitly identified with Titania through the martial language II.ii.1-4. which aligns with Titania’s own description of the Amazon queen: “Your buskined mistress and your warrior love” II.i.71.

    14. PUTTENNAM (Vickers, Lit Crit, pages 240-241; Puttenham is the probable author of The Arte of English Poesie, which renamed classical rhetorical terms to sound like “characters out of a lost canto of the Faerie Queene,” per Vickers, Classical Rhetoric, page 88). Critics fixated on metatheatrics as a metaphor for the illusions of passion are grasping an ear or a nose and declaring it to be the entire animal; they miss the point that metaphor and figures of speech are the illusions through which poetry (and not merely dramatic poetry) effects its transformations–best expressed in that master shape-shifter Robin Goodfellow. As Russ McDonald puts it, “Metaphor…is fundamental to the making of fiction. It is also a crucial element in the Platonic suspicion of and the Puritan outrage at the theatre”–points which I suspect were important in Shakespeare’s choice of theme for this play. (Shakespeare and the Arts of Language, Oxford University Press 2001, page 65)

    “Ambage,” Puttenham’s term for periphrasis, which he defines “as when we go about the bush,” page 251, may be relevant to such passages as IIII.ii.396-399 and V.i.22; his use of “heresy” (Vickers, Lit Crit, page 232) may be relevant to passages such as II.ii.145 and 147. And the Dream is replete with words such as figure, conceit, transport, transpose, concord, knit, graft, compose, tunable and harmony, all frequently used in discussions of poetic practice. There is an excellent reason that Quince exclaims to asinine Bottom, upon the latter’s change into a literal ass, “Thou are translated!” (III.i.113); translatio is the Latin word for “metaphor” (Vickers, Classical Rhetoric, page 86).

    Jan Kott found the changeling “quite unnecessary… Apparently the introduction of the boy was essential to Shakespeare for other, non-dramatic purposes.” (Shakespeare Our Contemporary, translated by Boleslaw Taborski, WW Norton 1974, page 221.) Sadly, few productions since this 1964 essay have gotten off Kott-free.

    15. OVERBEAR HIS WILL. Sidney’s Apology makes much of the need for rules in dramatic composition (Maslen, Apology, pages 110-113); I believe Shakespeare wanted to make the point that, in the hands of a master, rules may be judiciously broken.

    Egeus himself may represent the Elizabethan anti-theatrical crowd, which included ex-playwright Stephen Gossen, polemicist Philip Stubbes, and Sir John Spencer, Lord Mayor of London November 1594-November 1595. The challenges faced by the theatre industry in 1589-1595 were formidable: censorship (the Martin Marprelate closures, arrests of Thomas Nashe1592, Thomas Kyd 1593, and Christopher Marlowe 1593); long-standing municipal opposition; the not-in-my-backyard obstructionism of Blackfriars residents; anti-theatrical rants in print and pulpit; and bubonic plague. These issues have been well-chronicled by Andrew Gurr, who notes, “The political maneuvers surrounding [establishment of the Chamberlain’s Men and the Admiral’s Men as permanent theatrical companies in London]…suggest that their creation was far more risky and their success more doubtful than we would like to think.” Combined with the interest raised by Sidney’s Apology and Southwell’s attack on non-religious verse (both published spring 1595), the timing was right for a dramatic defense of poetry. (“Henry Carey’s Peculiar Letter,” Shakespeare Quarterly 56.1 2005 page 53; see also Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642, Cambridge University Press 2001 and Gurr, The Shakespeare Company 1594-1642, Cambridge University Press 2004.)

    16. EUNOMIA, DIKE, EIRENE. (Pierre Grimal, Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Blackwell 1985, page 217; Apollonius of Rhodes, The Argonautica, translated by Richard Hunter, Oxford World’s Classics 1998, page 59. I have translated Dike here as Judgement; it can also mean custom, rule, law, justice, etc.) Note that “art” can mean a set of rules pertaining to a specific skill, rather than pure imaginative power; works of art that endure arise from a harmony or marriage between skill and imagination, not from fantasy alone. (It is safe to assume that no person from Porlock would have stopped Shakespeare from finishing Kubla Khan.)

    According to Apollonius of Rhodes, “the Amazons…did not respect laws…they were descended from Ares and the nymph Harmonia….” Hippolyta’s line criticizing Quince–“He hath played on this prologue like a child on a recorder: a sound, but not in government” V.i.122-123–thus has great significance in showing her new respect for the creative powers of Reason, without denigrating the benefits of Imagination. Titania’s paved fountain at II.i.84 is probably the Hippocrene; her speech sounds very like an improvement on Euterpe’s lament from Spenser’s Teares of the Muses. The disruption of these poetic seasons–Good Laws, Judgement and Peace–makes poesy (poetry-making) impossible.

    17. SIDNEY. (R.A. Foakes, editor, Dream, The New Cambridge Shakespeare 2003, page 9. Maslen, Apology, page 82; McDonald, Arts of Language, page 173)

    There are many references to Sidney’s Apology in the Dream–for instance, Sidney’s “purifying of wit” is expressed in Shakespeare by words such as “consecrate” and “dew,” seen as drops from the Moon itself (e.g. IV.i.52-55). Choleric characters like Egeus, whose “words (as it were) double out of his mouth” are mocked by Sidney ( Maslen, page 114). And, contrary to Titania’s promise to “purge thy mortal grossness so/That thou shalt like an airy spirit go” (III.i.151-152), Bottom’s soul remains stuck firmly within its “clayey lodgings,” never to freely range “within the zodiac of his own wit” (Maslen Apology, pages 88 and 85).

    Brooks follows Nevill Coghill in suggesting that the Mechanicals were inspired by Anthony Munday’s John a Kemp & John a Cumber, which may be the play recorded in Henslowe’s Diary as the huge hit The Wiseman of West Chester. Foakes dismisses the connection, but I think the idea has some merit, particularly in light of my analysis of Henslowe’s gallery receipts from September 1595: Wiseman and Herakles parts 1&2 took unprecedented swan dives at the box office, while takings for the rest of the Admiral’s Men’s repertoire remained steady. We do not know why this happened, but something caused that anomaly–a new parody by the star dramatist of the Chamberlain’s Men first staged in that month?

    18. ION. (Plato, the Ion in Early Socratic Dialogues, translated by Trevor Saunders, Penguin Classics 1987, pages 39-65.) Pace Ben Jonson, Shakespeare seems to have been familiar with this dialogue in either Greek or perhaps a Latin translation: 535a-e is the direct inspiration for the “what’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba” business in Hamlet II.ii. (The great classicist Henri Estienne, aka Henricus Stephanus, published a three-folio edition of Plato, in Greek with Latin translations, in Geneva in 1578; this must have been an expensive set, but perhaps one of Shakespeare’s patrons or a friend in publishing owned a copy.) Plato’s claim is vigorously denounced by Sidney, who believed that poetic art results from that rare alliance of reason and imagination within memory (even Bottom observes that “…reason and love keep little company together nowadays” III.i.136-137)–a sentiment shared by Shakespeare in the Dream, which is why the play proper ends with Oberon’s blessing. This is also the reason for that absurdly patriarchal speech by Theseus at I.i.46-51 and Bottom’s loss of memory. (Note that Titania has retained stronger impressions of the night’s events.)

    19. ENDYMION, THE MAN IN THE MOON. (John Lyly, Endymion, edited by David Bevington, Manchester University Press 1996, page 78.) Bonus factoid: The only mammal which does not experience REM sleep (and therefore presumably does not dream much if at all) is Tachyglossus aculeatus, the spiny anteater. This has nothing whatever to do with Shakespeare.

    20. AN APOLOGIE FOR POESIE. I nominate it as the controlling theme, because it dictates the play’s structure, character groupings, dominant imagery, and the Oberon/Titania plot. Only the intimate embrace of Judgement and Imagination can produce poetic offspring which will stave off oblivion. In this Dream, making love is just a metaphor for making art.

    Dent, Young and McDonald all argue that imagination is “privileged” over reason in this play, but Foakes is surely correct that the Dream “achieves a splendid balance between the two; if the imagination makes possible visions and experiences otherwise inaccessible, and liberates natural energies from the restraints of reason, those visions and experiences are only given form and meaning through the reason.”

    To some, it may seem a meagre exchange—rhetoric rather than human love. But the poet’s priorities are not ours. This is to him an enterprise of great pith and moment: immortality, not of his soul but of his art.

    Have I been too clever in seeing allusions to rhetoric where none exist? I think these poetic devices are embedded in the Dream for important reasons, but today’s critics and audiences typically lack the training and/or inclination to respond to them. As Brian Vickers has said, “Most modern critics have yet to acquire the basic knowledge of rhetoric that would allow them to identify the verbal devices used by Renaissance poets, the first stage in evaluating how they have been used….” (Vickers, Lit Crit, page 22.) And T. Walter Herbert in Oberon’s Mazèd World (Louisiana State University Press 1977) has reminded of us the potential benefits of attempting to experience the play as would an educated Elizabethan.

    Whether or not I am on target in my interpretation, if the sourcing of key aspects of the Dream to Sidney, Olney and Southwell is correct, the terminus ad quo for the play’s date of composition is narrowed to late spring/early summer 1595, which fits well for a work usually assigned on stylistic grounds to the period 1594-1596.

    (McDonald, Arts of Language, page 165; Foakes, New Cambridge Shakespeare, page 37; R.W. Dent, “Imagination in AMSND”, Shakespeare Quarterly 15.2 1964, reprinted in AMSND: Critical Essays, edited by Dorothea Kehler, Routledge 2001, pages 85-106; David P. Young, Something of Great Constancy, Yale University Press 1966, page 141; McDonald, editor, Dream, Pelican Shakespeare 2000, xxx-xxxi, xxxviii. Gary Jay Williams provides a good summary of critical thought in Our Moonlight Revels, University of Iowa Press 1997.)

    Comment by C.A.M. Brady — September 20, 2007 @ 1:02 am | Reply

  6. The only Post front page to rival “Headless,” in my humble opinion, doesn’t involve word play so much as an unfortunate (or, at least, ironic) juxtaposition of headline and photograph.

    It’s from the early 80s, but if memory serves, the headline read, very simply, “Jerry Lewis Rushed to Hospital.” No spin there, right? The problem is, the photo editor came up with a full head-shot of Lewis from his act . . . in his most antic, maniacal, over the top, eye-popping (literally), mouth-contorted shtick. You could almost hear him screaming –anguished, high-pitched, partly-crying out, partly-pained and totally out of control . . .

    And then you looked back and re-read: “Jerry Lewis Rushed to Hospital.” I don’t imagine there were many buyers of the Post that day who didn’t picture what the scene in that ambulance might have been like . . .

    Comment by Ed — September 21, 2007 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

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