Sunday, 19 February 2012
Six Pirates of Verona
In a little town in South West Scotland is The Bookshop. Whenever I go to Galloway a trip to The Bookshop (and the bookshops) is completely inevitable. And there's always treasure to find. Most recently I found the most awesome book.
It's not in great condition: it was a cheap book in 1827, and the year's have not done it any favours. I'm clearly going to have to be careful about using it, the boards of the cover are fairly bashed, and possibly mouse-nibbled, and there's the liver-spots common to old books and old ladies. But it's amazing. It is:
REMARKABLE PASSAGES AND WORDS
MADE USE OF BY
TO POINT OUT THE DIFFERENT MEANINGS TO WHICH THE WORDS ARE APPLIED.
which is practically a Shakespeare play in itself. The point of this is that I can tell you 'demi-cannon' is used once, and it's metaphorical, referring to sleeves. Apparently 'lemon' only occurs once, in Love's Labours Lost. I can even tell you the page numbers. Which is the rub. They refer to a particular edition of the collected works, printed before 1827. But of course, the good thing about Shakespeare is that there's also the Act, Scene and Line reference to get you there, even if you're using the Penguin Classics version.
Unfortunately the six pirates are all deeply disappointing in their context. The real prize of this book is the sheer range of words collected within. This was not an author who stuck to his basic 20000 words. Many of them just appear the once. The famous wind-up from Othello, for example, 'an old black ram is tupping your white ewe' is one of just three uses of the forms of the verb - all from the same play. Too rude? Too blunt?
I shall leave you with an exhortation from The Tempest: 'Cut his wezand with thy knife!'.
Yeah, I don't know either.