By Professor M M Mahood
`Professor Mahood's e-book has confirmed itself as a vintage within the box, now not a lot as a result of the ingenuity with which she reads Shakespeare's quibbles, yet simply because her elucidation of pun and wordplay is intelligently similar either to textual readings and dramatic significance.' - Revue des Langues Vivantes
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Additional resources for Shakespeare's Wordplay
1 Death-marked can mean ‘marked out for (or by) death; foredoomed’. If, however, we take passage in the sense of a voyage (and this sub-meaning prompts trafficque in the twelfth line) as well as a course of events, death-marked recalls the ‘euer fixed marke’ of Sonnet 116 and the sea-mark of Othello’s utmost sail, and suggests the meaning ‘With death as their objective’. The two meanings of fearful increase the line’s oscillation; the meaning ‘frightened’ makes the lovers helpless, but they are not necessarily so if the word means ‘fearsome’ and so suggests that we, the audience, are awe-struck by their undertaking.
Hamlet lets off flashes of wordplay in the thunderous atmosphere of the Play Scene, and once his plot to catch the conscience of the King has succeeded he gives his triumphant feelings vent in a topical flight full of puns. Lear’s Fool tries by punning to relax the tension of his master’s thoughts; but because such relief cannot come from another, his quibbles only act as an irritant to Lear’s imagination. Finally, there is the explosive wordplay through which Leontes’ jealousy erupts in the first act of The Winter’s Tale.
Finally, there is a powerfully tragic instance of this triple wordplay in Othello’s ‘Put out the light and then put out the light’. If, as Granville47 SHAKESPEARE’S WORDPLAY Barker suggests, Othello is carrying a taper steady in his hand, the words suggest a man both performing a ritual and walking in his sleep. They are in effect a kind of black-magic tenebrae, in preparation for the deed that Othello has deceived himself into thinking a sacrificial murder which will purge the honour of his family.