Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's in a name?

A question to think on:

Why does Shakespeare call the play Othello, Othello?

And why is Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar?

Well, of course, the first thing to notice is that they weren't:

Julius Caesar, as first published in the First Folio was called:


And the word Tragedie makes a difference -

Othello was called:

The Tragedy of Othello the Moore of Venice

Here we seem to have got the spelling right - but notice the emphasis on Othello's Mooredom and his Venetian-ness!

I don't think we have the playbills for either of these plays - but I wonder what the audience entering the Globe in London thought they were going to see as a consequence of the playbills posted?

By putting the character's name in full view - they become a focus - and that is something we tend to loose a sense of when we spend hours studying the text.

With some plays though, it becomes more important to know exactly what Shakespeare called it in the first place:

In the Folio we have:

The second Part of Henry the Sixt,
with the death of the Good Duke

Which we reduce down to Henry the Sixth, Part two- decapitating poor old uke Humfrey!

But if you go back 30 years to the first performance it had a very different title:

First part of the Con-
tention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke
and Lancaster, with the death of the good
Duke Humphrey:
And the banishment and death of the Duke of
Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinall
of VVinchester, vvith the notable Rebellion
of Iacke Cade:
And the Duke of Yorkes first claime unto the

Now - not a mention of part 2 nor a mention even of Henry 6! Is it even the same play?

A rose, is a rose, is a ... sweet briar!

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