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the same reasoning, we are supposed to find a meaning in the other; for we have read Shakespeare to little effect if we do not understand him well enough to know that he never took pains without a purpose.
THE TIME OF SCORN
but, alas, to make me
(Othello, iv, 2, 53) ATTEMPTS to take this figure of speech apart and examine its works have resulted in much disagreement. Partisans of the First Folio, which reads “slow and moving" ask those who prefer the Quarto, how it is possible for a thing to be slow and unmoving. Again, does the imagery refer to a timepiece, a dial? Steevens thought it did; Knight and others have thought that it has no such implication. The difference of opinion still exists, editors of annotated editions drawing upon conflicting notes according to their fancy.
I think the standard modern editions are right in giving the Quarto reading as Shakespeare's and that the reference is to a timepiece. The trouble seems to be that no one has been able to set forth the point of view in a statement that is quite convincing. My own point of view is as follows.
The Germans have an expression, "to write it on the town clock,” the meaning of which is to advertise a thing in the most public place. I have always seen it used in a spirit
of ridicule, as when a man has been caught in some misdeed and persists in writing and talking publicly in his own defense, thus spreading his disgrace wider. He writes it on the town clock. As this expression is a folk saying which is probably very old, and as it has been caught up and perpetuated till it is virtually a part of the language, it shows that there is nothing strained or unnatural about it. So there would be nothing unnatural in Shakespeare's expressing public disgrace in a similar way.
But Shakespeare carries it a little farther. Othello feels as if he were the very figure, the symbol, the standard of public reference for marital disgrace. He feels as if his figure or person stood for obloquy itself just as authoritatively as a figure on a clock stands for the hour itself; and when people look at him it is time to scorn. Hence “time of scorn."
So deep is his consciousness that he feels as if it were always that time of day with him; hence “slow unmoving finger.” This “time of scorn” is a very Shakespearean style of expression, as when Hamlet says “It is the breathing time of day with me," or, as in “Love's Labour's Lost,” “What time o' day — The hour that fools should ask.” I think that future annotators would supply the deficiency in their elucidation by explaining that this is supposed to be a public clock.
As to the literal truth of “slow unmoving
this is a very good description of the hand of a clock; it is even psychologically perfect when we consider that we are aware through our intellect that the motionless hand is moving whereas our sense of sight tells us that it is not. The Folio reading, however, is mere tautology and un-Shakespearean; for it is hardly necessary to explain that a thing which is slow is also moving.
You saw the mistress, I beheld the maid;
(Merchant of Venice, iii, 2, 201, Globe edition 1895)
(Neilson 1906) As will be observed in the above examples, the meaning here is so uncertain that the most scholarly modern editions make of the lines entirely different statements. And in neither case has the meaning of the statement been finally established; it all remains a matter of conjecture.
Theobald (1733) did away with any punctuation after “intermission” and expressed himself so positively, and with such disdain for those who might think there could be such a thing as loving for intermission, that several generations followed him. The resulting statement, "intermission no more pertains to me, my lord, than you,” failed to satisfy the intellect of later scholars inasmuch as its meaning is not certain and convincing. And so we find the Globe text, whose readings have long been the standard of Shakespearean scholarship, putting