More 2006 Words
Words for "Sharp"
Digression on "Horns"
Collective Nouns I
Collective Nouns II
Collective Nouns III
Collective Nouns IV
Collective Nouns V
Chameleon, et al.
Hard-Favored, et al.
Ariadne in TG
Orpheus in TG
The prefix "Expi"
Minding Your "P's"
Minding Your "P's" II
Words for "Red" I
Words for "Red" II
A Historical Irony
Glister, Spraddle etc.
Matter of the "Heart"
Dabchick, et al.
Dalmatic et al.
Decline of Language?
Language Decline? II
History of Insults I
History of Insults II
History of Insults III
History of Insults IV
History of Insults V
History of Insults VI
History of Insults VII
Words Beg. with "Ga"
"Ga" Words II
Insults ag. Women I
Insults ag. Women II
Argot of Addicts I
Argot of Addicts II
1997 "Bee" Words
1997 Words II
1997 Bee Words III
1997 Bee Words IV
1997 Bee Words V
More Words from Two Gentlemen of Verona, Acts I and II
Bill Long 8/6/06
The words I will explore tonight are "hard-favored," "clerkly," "table," and "codpiece." None of them is much in use today in the way Shakespeare used them, but each of them opens a world of understanding which is useful to know.
In a word, hard-favored means "ugly." Thomas More first used the word in 1513: "Richard the thirde sonne..was..hard favoured of visage." In TG, Valentine's servant Speed uses the word to describe Valentine's new "flame," Siliva. Valentine says: "Dost thou know her by my gazing on her, and yet know'st her not?" Speed replies: "Is she not hard-favored, sir?" To which Valentine responds. "Not so fair, by, as well-favored" (with all manner of graces), (2.1.43-48.) Indeed, Valentine later will say that her "beauty is exquisite, but her favor infinite," (2.1.52-53).
But this was not the first time that S used the word hard-favored. In his poem Venus and Adonis, which the scholarly consensus assigns to 1592-93 (about a year before TG), the following lines appear, referring to Adonis:
"Were I hard-favoured, foul, or wrinkled-old,
Ill-nurtured, crooked, churlish, harsh in voice,
O'erworn, despised, rheumatic, and cold,
Thick-sighted, barren, lean, and lacking juice,
Then mightst thou pause, for then I were not for thee;
But having no defects, why dost abhor me? (133-138)
But Shakespeare obviously has learned some invective in the early 1590's, for he has the Duke of Milan, Silvia's father, utter these words about her in Act 2.1 of TG:
"No, trust me; she is peevish, sullen, froward,
Proud, disobedient, stubborn, lacking duty,
Neither regarding that she is my child
Nor fearing me as if I were her father."
It looks as if Shakespeare, at the beginning of his career, is flexing his verbal muscles with terms of derogation. They will always come in handy in describing human nature. Hard-favored is one of the words that comes to S's aid.
Let's hasten on to this word, which means "scholarly." Silvia has asked Valentine, who is swooning over her, to write a letter she would write to a "secret nameless" friend of hers (2.1). Valentine completely misinterprets her request. She has really asked him to compose a love letter to himself, a letter which would capture the feelings of her heart. Valentine has, instead, composed a letter of generality, imprecision and lack of passion, since he has just "heard" her to ask him to write a sort of "Dear John" letter. The miscommunication about letters here feeds into the theme of letters either going astray or being misread throughout the play. When he reads it to Silvia, her response is: "I thank you, gentle servant--'tis very clerkly done," (2.1.108). The meaning of "clerkly" as "scholarly" goes back about a century before S. From 1551: "It is the clarkliest part of all..to frame an argument aptly." So much does S love the word that he uses it a few other times in his work. In Merry Wives, he says, "Thou art clerkly: thou art clerkly (Sir John)." And, from II Henry VI, we have: "With ignominious words, though clerkly couched." The world is ultimately derived from "clergy" or "clerical," and it means "schoarly" because that was the scholarly class in the late Middle Ages.
Let's finish this essay with a brief word about "table." We all think we know what a table is, but since the word is derived from the Latin "tabula," meaning a "flat board, plank, board to play on, writing tablet," etc. we see that it didn't originally carry the rather limited notion of a flat surface on which to place food or goods-- which is the way we use the term. So, what precisely does Julia mean when she says these words to Lucetta just before she wants Lucetta's help in disguising her as a man so she can make a trip to Milan to see how faithful her beloved Proteus is as he is absent from her?
"Counsel, Luceta; gentle girl, assist me;
And ev'n in kind love I do conjure thee,
Who art the table wherein all my thoughts
Are visibly chacter'd and engrav'd,
To lesson me and tell me some good mean
How with my honor I may undertake
A journey to my loving Proteus," (2.7.1-7).
Well, it is easy enough to see the meaning of the word "table" as "tablet" here or some kind of book in which one would write important things.
The Riverside Shakespeare, considered by many to be the best one-volume collection of S's work, has a picture of a "table book" from 1581 on p. 180. Hamlet also refers to such a book when he says: "My tables--meet it is I set it down/That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain" (1.5.107-108). As the note says, it was called a table because it was composed of a series of thickly and heavily waxed cardboard leaves, each of which was a table, as table is defined in the OED ("a flat and comparatively thin piece of wood, stone, metal, or other solid material"). The example given in the Riverside Shakespeare has an almanac for the year 1581 at the beginning and is bound with Elizabethan stamped leather binding and held together by brass clasps. Thus, Julia is saying to Lucetta that the latter is a sort of devotional or valued book into which Julia places all her thoughts.
A little historical and linguistic work goes a long way in giving us additional pleasure as we read the play. And, you just will have to wait until tomorrow to see if I can put together my thoughts on the codpiece.
Copyright © 2004-2008 Wiliam R. Long