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we have the conclusion that Shakespeare's allusion “is obviously to the Black Prince.” That is to say, the son of the English king, Edward III, defeated the French at the battles of Crecy and Poictiers; and this is held to be the explanation of the clown's allusion in "an English name” which is "more hotter in France" than in England.
This is not the primary allusion at all. The clown begins by saying that he can find service with "as great a prince" as the man he is talking to, and when Lafeu inquires who that prince may be, he replies that he has an English name, meaning simply that his name in English is the Devil; but in France he has a “hotter” fisnomy or name, which is, of course Lafeu, or fire. The reference is wholly to the name Lafeu and the fun consists in the clown's calling him a devil without his seeing the point.
Hanmer, not being able to see how “hotter" could belong in this passage, emended it to honoured; and to this day there is a wavering inclination to this conjecture as can be seen by Gollancz's note: “Hanmers' proposal 'honourd' for 'hotter' seems to be a most plausible emendation."
In the First Folio, the only source of this play, the text reads "an English Maine.” It was Rowe who corrected it to name, thinking however that the allusion was to the "name" of the son of Edward III. Certain zealous adherents of the First Folio still contend that
maine is correct, explaining that in English morality plays the devil was a “very hairy personage”; therefore the reference to his “mane.” What I have here pointed out ought to settle all doubt regarding these moot points in the text.
If further proof is needed we have but to read farther along. When young Bertram comes home from the wars with his face all scarred up, Lafeu makes mention of it, whereupon the Clown makes rejoinder:
Lafeu. A scar nobly got, or a noble scar, is a good livery of honour; so belike is that.
Clown. But it is your carbonadoed face.
Note the idea of fire still running in the clown's mind whenever he talks to Lafeu. “Carbonadoed” = Fr. carbonnade, from the Latin carbo, a coal, meaning carbonadoed meat, which was slashed or scored preparatory to broiling. When the Clown addresses Lafeu he cannot get it out of his mind that his name means fire and that a man with such a hot name must be related to the devil. The intimation is that Bertram's face (who was none too moral a liver) was all ready for the devil's privy kitchen — an idea that we have again in “Henry IV” regarding Bardolph. And so we can have no further mystery as to whether the proper word is "name" or how that name is “hotter” in France than in England.
In the “Winter's Tale,” Act I, Scene 2, there occurs a long passage which no one has been able to read. There are ten lines altogether, beginning with line 137. It is of signal interest in the fact that, despite all effort, it yields up no certain meaning either in part or as a whole; it is totally dark.
Leontes, king of Sicily, is speaking to his little son Mamillius who stands beside him:
Most dear'st! My collop! Can thy dam? — may't be?
Furness in this case recommends to his readers Collier the view of Collier who wrote: - "Not one of
the commentators, ancient or modern, has concurred with another in the poet's meaning, and there can be little hesitation in coming to the conclusion that mishearing, misrecitation, and misprinting have contributed to the obscuration of what, possibly, was never very intelligible to common readers or auditors.”
Furness does not attempt to give a solution Furness himself, nor does he see enough plausibility in the various conjectures upon the passage to make any choice between them. There has, in fact, been no complete solution offered nothing which takes up every word and line and brings forth a central idea which fits the play. I therefore offer the following explanation, which, I think, proves itself.
In these obscure lines, Leontes is preparing his mind for the resolve to kill his wife. He is clearing away a mental obstacle; and he does it by a course of reasoning. A mental obstacle must be overcome by mental means.
As for killing Hermione, he has not the least compunction insofar as she is merely his wife. He suspects her of adultery with the king of Bohemia; and that is enough. But the little boy Mamillius is the idol of his soul, the apple of his eye - a perfect being in his estimation. Hermione is the boy's mother; she produced this perfect good; and whenever the enraged Leontes looks upon the boy he sees her in that light and his resolve to kill her is baffled. Moreover this puts a new light on his deed. Insofar as she is his own wife, he is responsible to himself. But in doing away with her he would be killing Mamillius' mother; and there he feels himself unable to give the command. It touches too closely upon the person of his boy. Indeed, for him to pronounce her utterly and wholly bad - as he must conclude before he
can feel justified in ordering her death — offers a difficulty in itself; for how can he think the mother of such a boy utterly bad? He cannot.
Here then is a problem, a mental difficulty to be overcome if possible. Any reader who has the imagination to put himself in Leontes' place must see that this would be a very real and genuine mental difficulty - it would be inevitable. Any true reader of Shakespeare must know that he would not have Leontes plunge ahead and condemn his wife to death without giving any thought to its bearing upon a boy so idolized. To do so would not only be untrue to life, but it would be neglecting an opportunity for showing inner turmoil which makes true drama — a thing Shakespeare never did. Whatever Shakespeare did, he was never forgetful of the deeper activities of human nature which make a story vital. We have either got to conclude that he had Leontes decide to kill Hermione deliberately, but without the least thought of his boy's relation to her, or else we have got to be prepared to find the subject taken up in these lines, for it certainly occurs nowhere else in the play.
Leontes' mental dilemma was a hard one to deal with. How is he to overcome this inability utterly to condemn and kill this boy's mother? Plainly, there is but one way. He must convince himself that, though he knows her to be his legitimate parent, she is not his parent in any deep essential way. What is needed is a