Sunday, April 17, 2016

17th-Century Booger

Speaking of Shakespeare, I went up to the campus and looked at the First Folio they have on display in a big, dark room. I was the only person there. Well, there was a young woman sitting in a chair against a far wall. I believe she was the guardian. They had the First Folio opened up to Hamlet's "To Be Or Not To Be" soliloquy, which I thought was a little on the nose. I asked the young woman if they ever turned the page. "I've been here two days and they haven't turned the page," she said. It was a foolish question: all the banners and posters and informational plaques were about that soliloquy. You can't really see the front cover or back cover. I bent myself into all kinds of positions trying to look. But you can see some fancy gold filigree along the inside of the covers. Here's what caught my eye (I'll use the spelling from the HAMLET facsimile that Lee Durkee gave me, so it might not be exactly the same): "the power of beautie will fooner transforme honeftie from what it is to a bawde, then the force of honeftie can tranflate beautie into his likenes, this was fometime a paradox, but now the time giues it proofe, I did loue you once." And then Ophelia says, "Indeed my Lord you made me belieue fo." I didn't really need to include her reply for my purposes but ouch! Poor Ophelia. The point is, there was something pale - a splotch, a lump - lying there over Hamlet's phrase "what it is" - maybe it was a 17th-century bug that accidentally got mashed when the book was shut! Or maybe some old dude from ancient days sneezed on the page. Or it could be a 19th-century piece of chicken for all I know.