Saturday, May 10, 2008

A kind of Chameleon ... hyper-link

This fascinating animal gets dragged up twice in Two Gentlemen:

SIL. What, angry, Sir Thurio? do you change colour?

VAL. Give him leave, madam, he is a kind of chameleon.

THU. That hath more mind to feed on your blood than live in your air.

Usually associated with love ...

SPEED. Ay, but hearken, sir; though the chameleon Love can feed on the air, I am one that am nourish'd by my victuals, and would fain have meat.

But, published around the time of the play's writing, I came across this fascinating little snippit:

But herein they rather disgrace than adorn their persons, as by their niceness in apparel, for which I say most nations do not unjustly deride us, as also for that we do seem to imitate all nations round about us, wherein we be like to the polypus or chameleon; and thereunto bestow most cost upon our arses, and much more than upon all the rest of our bodies,

It's in a description of England by one Mr William Harrison - part of Holinshed's Chronicles. What I like is the connection with clothes - which is the context it pops up in with Thurio ... killing two birds with one stone.

Do you also notice the 'polypus'? Now, searching high and low I eventually got a 'none-medical' connection ... the cuttlefish. What on earth is Proteus? Well a sea creature ...who changes shape in order not to be captured. I admit, I am stretching it a bit, but I can just hear this sort of conversation going on after the play - all very 'witty' all very 'intellectual' and schoolbookish.

We've also got the poor thing popping up in Lyly:

Love is a chameleon, which draweth nothing
into the mouth but air and nourisheth nothing in the body
but lungs.

So linking in the theatrical hyperspace too.

Am I getting into tangled webs here? Most likely, but I get the impression that this is the way this play works ... sparks of ideas fly around and 'conceits' abound.

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