Email on Twelfth Night

(1. 15/4)

also re initial speech of 12th Night ('notwithstanding thy capacity') - do you follow the Folio punct or Rowe's emendation? editors I think are wrong in preferring Rowe.

(2. 16/4)

As for 12 N: the difference is clear, isn't it. The Folio punctuation means that the next sentence, 'Naught enters there' etc, is explanatory, and in appostion to the preceding, rather gnomic statement :- 'notwithstanding Love's vast capacity, it receives like the sea. That is, everything is devalued by it'. Whereas in Rowe's punctuation the logic is shifted to a long concessive clause 'although love's as capacious as the sea, [yet] it degrades everything'. I guess editors refer to Juliet's 'My bounty is as boundless as the sea, / My love as deep; the more I give to thee / The more I have, for both are infinite'. But that is expressing a much simpler and more innocent idea, in comparison to the jaded 12 N's take on high-fantastical love.

So which do I prefer? The Folio version is more uncompromising, isn't it; and the medial stop is dramatic. Rowe is more logical.

I don't think you'll think this is significant - but the Folio edition of Twelfth Night probably derives from a playhouse text, rather than foul papers: it has signs of Viola's part being changed from a part for a boy who can sing (see I.ii.58), to the songs being transferred to Feste. The punctuation in all printed texts was freely changed by the compositors: the MS of Hand D of Sir Thomas More (our only Shk dramatic MS) has virtually no punctuation. But the compositor who set the first page of 12M was Compositor B. who had a free hand with his texts punctuated heavily. So it is probably his punctuation we are appreciating.

(3. 22/4)

exact folio punct:

O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity,
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity, and pitch so e'er,
But falls into abatement, and low price
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy,
That it alone, is high fantastical.

every line but one is punctuated medially - is this usual? the effect is to impose ungainly caesurae where the pentameter's natural caesura does not want emphasis ('validity, and pitch') while giving support to the idea that after 'sea' there is not so heavy a stop, as I first read. Editors emend to

That notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought...

making notwith-sea one clause, where the folio's comma has suggested (they think misleadingly) that 'receiveth' refers back to the spirit of love rather than to the spirit of love's 'capacity'. My problem with this is What's quick and fresh about having everything which enters you fall into abatement & low price, and why 'notwithstanding' if love's capacity is just, essentially, big? Where's the point of notwithstanding between having large capacity and having everything of whatever value which enters you fall to abatement etc.? Why would love's 'capacity', if sealike, be thought usually to mitigate against the falling to abatement of things which enter it (& in this case, because of 'notwithstanding', to have failed)? The Oxford man explains 'notwithstanding' by a contrast between the sea, which always transforms (he ropes in 'sea-change'), and love, which always depreciates. But the contrast is his own: in WS there is no counterpart to love's capacity which supposedly is transforming like the sea, and I can illustrate by paraphrase. The Oxford version would run: 'O love, how quick & fresh you are that, notwithstanding your sealike transforming capacity, nothing enters it but depreciates.' What's the point of mentioning or asserting love's potential for sealike transformation, according to Oxford neutral either way (tho seas tend to erode & to hasten decay; I don't see how that contrasts usefully with falling to abatement), when you are just going to say that 'nothing' that enters there but falls to low price in a minute? The Oxford 'notwithstanding' has no weight or force, because to say that love's capacity is always depreciating cannot function with 'thy capacity receiveth as the sea' in a 'despite' relationship; if love's capacity is always depreciating, it -never- receiveth as the sea, and there is no 'notwithstanding' (which would imply the continued existence of a contrary state of affairs, the substance of the 'despite') to be written about.

All this is glossing instinct, since anyway 'capacity receiveth' is bloody stupid & the subject of 'receiveth' is clearly 'the spirit of love'. I reckon that's what led critics awry: the distance between 'receiveth' & its true subject, & the grammatical jolt it causes. My punctuation would run:

O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou
That, notwithstanding thy capacity,
Receiveth as the sea. Nought enters there ...

Love is so quick & fresh that despite its holding power it like the sea keeps swallowing & swallowing, which results in the abatement of everything it swallows; thereby love, 'full of shapes' (reality/truth fallen into the abatement of imagination), becomes itself quickly & freshly 'fantastical' - rather as the sea, if it absorbed enough pollution, would go black. So that's my reading: sorry it's overlong, but he's inexhaustible as you know.

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