June 01, 2011


Spun yarn and listened to another film version of a stage production of Hamlet.  This time I think caught a reference to textiles, something besides the obvious clothes that weigh down Ophelia in the stream and tapestry behind which Polonius eavesdrops.  Unlike those, this reference does not figure in the plot but rather serves to emphasis the play's themes of violence and feuding:
roasted in wrath and fire, 
and thus o'er-sized with coagulate gore, 
with eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus  
Old grandsire Priam seeks. 
If I have my weaving and my metaphor right, "o'er-sized" means Pyrrhus is drenched in blood here the way warp threads are saturated with goop and dried in order to size them so they don't stick to each other, allowing the shed to change easily.  If I have my history and literature right, this play within a play is about Pyrrhus, an ancient Greek, who is out to kill Priam, the king of Troy.

Knowing something about the fall of Troy (from having read Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida as well as Hamlet), I can make sense of the following sentence in Frances Goodrich's Mountain Homespun.  It regards naming conventions for coverlet drafts.  Drafts are the written directions or diagrammed sequences for threading heddles and tromping treadles to weave.  The same draft can have multiple names, and similar drafts or adaptations can have names related to each other.  Goodrich writes, "Why 'Downfall of Paris' should be like 'Sunrise on the Walls of Troy' is hard to tell."  It is hard if you think the name refers to the city of Paris, but not if you think it refers to the historical figure Paris.  The Trojan Paris, Priam's son, stole Helen away from the Greeks who then besieged Troy and caused Paris' downfall.  If I've got it right, the city's defeat came at sunrise.

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