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Would that a love alone were all that he would detain from me," etc.
I suggest this reading more especially because the present text-"alone, alone" does not make satisfactory sense as generally explained. It is supposed to mean simply by himself or away from other women. But when we proceed to the next line the word "so, which must be taken either in the sense of providing or of thus, does not fit satisfactorily. The first makes utter nonsense and the latter an inane truism. Then, too, the chain is mentioned only to be dropped in a detached sort of way.
It is generally considered that Shakespeare wrote "alone, alone," and that the printer of the First Folio, by getting a letter upside down, turned an ʼn into a u, which latter was a v in Elizabethan times. But it is a rule that works both ways; the printer of the Second Folio possibly turned a u into an n. In any case, the ingenuity of a typographical theory should not blind us to consideration of character, situation, continuity of sense and literary needs in general.
The same understanding of "love" would clear up that long passage in "All's Well That Ends Well," beginning with i, 1, 180. In this case the love tokens, instead of gifts, are thoughts - tokens of the mind. As Ophelia says, "Nature is fine in love, and where 't is fine, it sends some precious instance of itself
after the thing it loves." So Helena sends her whole multitude of emotions, her various thoughts and inward attitudes after the absent Bertram. The fact that so much might thus be cleared up is in itself an indication that there is something in the Shakespearean use of the word which editors have missed.
ADRIANA'S POINT OF VIEW
I see the jewel best enamelled
Will lose his beauty; yet the gold bides still
Keep then fair league and truce with thy true bed;
(ii, 1, 147)
THESE passages, which comprise two of the three most famous difficulties in "The Comedy of Errors," are best solved together because they embody the same point of view. Aside from the fact that it has so long baffled students of Shakespeare, the point of view is interesting because Shakespeare here carries to its logical conclusion the biblical view that man and wife are flesh of one flesh. At the same time it is his strongest means of giving us an insight of one of his ideal women.
Adriana believed, in the most absolute and unqualified sense, that husband and wife are one. She believes this just as the theologian believes that the Trinity is one, and with quite as metaphysical a thoroughness. Husband and wife together form a self; each half of that
self is the other; neither of them, as an individual, is so great and perfect and beautiful a being as the self that is formed by both. They are, in short, flesh of one flesh; and there is really no self of one without regard to the other. This being true, the facts must have their logical outcome. If a If a man commits adultery, it is his wife's virtue that is lost, not merely his own.
To this point of view we must add another fact which Adriana took into account when considering her status as the wife of an unfaithful husband. According to the custom of the world, the man is not greatly dishonored. As to this latter, neither does her reputation suffer for his misdeeds; but that is not what concerns her. She is concerned about her virtue in fact, and she does not confuse it with mere reputation. Thus, when he is unchaste, her virtue suffers, and his reputation does not. Shakespeare makes her arguments on this rather unusual point the means of bringing vividly to our minds a fine woman's sense of revulsion toward any violation of the married relation, and this apart from any mere jealousy on her part. He makes this latter plain by placing her in contrast with her sister who is always accusing her of being merely jealous.
The Bible states in so many words that man and wife are "one flesh"; but when Shakespeare follows it out to this logical conclusion it seems somewhat strange and metaphysical.
However, the reason that critics have not been able to come to any positive conclusion as to the meaning of these passages is that they have not entered with full sympathy into the woman's point of view and accepted what is plainly put before them.
The "enamel❞ of this figurative jewel is her beauty; the solid gold her virtue. As her husband seems to have lost his early infatuation with her she feels that her beauty has faded. While this superficial adornment of a woman may be somewhat worn with her she feels that the solid gold of virtue is left. So much certain critics have perceived, uncertainly; but now comes the crux of her point of view.
That others touch and often touching will
She here means that her own virtue is being lost by other women touching that of her husband. If we have accepted the point of view which I have stated, this must be perfectly plain; and when we stop to consider it the idea is not so very far-fetched; for virtue is an ideal, a state of inner purity as well as a mere act; and so a woman like Adriana might easily feel that when the virtue of their mutual relation is contaminated her own virtue becomes as nothing. Certainly if she did not have some such feeling her ideals would not be very high; and Shakespeare deals largely with