Saturday, May 24, 2008

Shakespeare: Onion or Garlic?

... but definitely some type of Allium:

Now, some of you will finely think I've gone off my rocker, but hold in there:

(It's going to be a rough 'ne).

There is a scene in Peer Gynt when Peer eats an onion (raw) - one layer at a time. The onion is seen as a metaphor for Peer - by peeling off one layer at a time he should be able to get to the core.

I suspect that most people reading a Shakespeare play treat it in the same way - as a sequential thing, going deeper and deeper 'til you get to the core. For many readers, that core is encapsulated in the words and consequently (although not logically) the language and words become the core - you move from them to 'the' understanding.

I have never been happy with the metaphor.

Nor, the consequences - reducing a play to 'Literature'.

Taking up my theme of Multiple Intelligences, what the Onion represents is just one of the talents - at best, two (Language/Literature and Mathematical/Logic). It is an unsatisfactory and incomplete way of looking for both the text and the play.

Much better is another member of the Allium family, Garlic:

I think it is possible to view each play as a bulb of garlic - made up not of layers one outside the other going deeper to a central core, but of parts that are united at a root base, which can be peeled back but which have much less a core than a unity - the garlic smell, breath and flavour.

Each clove of garlic can be peeled - and there is a unifying outer skin, but it is a unity of parts rather than a sequence.

And the groundlings smelt of Garlic if Shakespeare is any judge!

(And an onion is only useful for making you cry - if the Induction to The Taming of the Shrew' is anything to go by.)

Technorati Tags: , ,


Craig said...

Interesting idea--I think I'll have to steal it some day.

Surbhi Goel said...

a very good idea. Infact it imparts a whole new perspective to Shakespeare.
Although i have used the example of "chutney" ( a spicy tangy paste popular in indian subcontinent and may be some other countries- a cousin of sauce) to describe Shakespeare. Each ingredient adds to the ultimate flavour and yet the connoisseur of arts and plays can differentiate and recognize every condiment. So you keep on tasting the parts and the whole at the same time.
Thank you for this info. I will certainly use it in my lesson plans.

Surbhi Goel

Alan K.Farrar said...

chutney - yes, I like that!

Is Shakespeare an ingredient rather than a dish?

Goodness - I feel some fermentation starting - a whole set of posts on which play = which dish!