Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What’s Your Favorite Mistake(*)?

So the other day during a meeting we notice that the boss’s clock is not out of batteries, it is in fact broken.  “Did they have clocks when Shakespeare was writing?” he asks, knowing me to be a Shakespeare geek.

“Funny you should say that,” says I, and tell him the story of the Julius Caesar anachronism, how Brutus hears the clock chime three times when, for ancient Rome, there wouldn’t have been such a clock.

(*) We can debate whether that’s a mistake of whether Mr. Shakespeare knew what he was doing and just went with it, but it’s no fun to say “What’s your favorite anachronism”?

What are some other “mistakes” Shakespeare might have made?  Little things that, once you draw attention to them, don’t make a whole lot of sense?

6 comments:

Bill said...

My favorite anachronism is in Henry VI, Part 3, when Richard (still Duke of Gloucester) says he will "set the murderous Machiavel to school."

Richard is crowned King in 1483, and this scene obviously takes place earlier than that. Richard dies in 1485.

Machiavelli's The Prince is written in 1513 and published in 1532. The term "Machiavel" could not meaningfully describe an ends-justifies-the-means personality before this time.

Andrew Huntley said...

Or perhaps Corialanus waving his hat in the Forum.

Duane said...

...ok, you've got me there Andrew. Did they not have hats in Coriolanus' time?

JM said...

I'm amazed that the "clock" thing most of the time has gone unnoticed by someone watching the play. Those who make the most fuss seem not to notice or care that with the adjustments by the academics, if the "poetic" lines are played as emended, Cassius really has no time to hear how many times it has rung.

Ray said...

Probably most of Shakespeare's audiences wouldn't have recognized most of his anachronisms. But have you noticed how a large portion of 20th-century mystery movies have become dated because of cell phones? Many movies had plots that would have fallen apart if the main characters simply had cell phones. How many of Shakespeare's plots depend on confusion that would vanish if the characters had access to cell phones?

Ray said...

audiences wouldn't have recognized most of his anachronisms. But have you noticed how a large portion of 20th-century mystery movies have become dated because of cell phones? Many movies had plots that would have fallen apart if the main characters simply had cell phones. How many of Shakespeare's plots depend on confusion that would vanish if the characters had access to cell phones?