Blog powered by Typepad

« Allow me to introduce you to . . . | Main | Shostakovich kept me up last night! »

Monday, 16 November 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Do you remember the opening of Christmas Carol? Marley is said to be as "dead as a doornail", and then Dickens goes on to say he doesn't know why doornails are said to be dead, but that's what Marley was, dead as a doornail.

I've used the expression like most have, without ever knowing why doornails are dead. I just googled, and apparently a nail is dead when the point is hammered to one side so it can not be removed. And doornails were almost always "killed" (or clnched) like this.

Shakespeare's world must have been rich in this way, and it gave rise to a rich language. Our world is richer, what with computers and all, but we don't have direct access to it. Shakespeare may have hammered a few doornails in his life, but you won't find many poets who have wired a computer's logic board. What would we say now? "Marley died as quick as broadband bits on an optical network." Doesn't work for me.

Nor me, Dom! But you raise an important point about WS's use of imagery and metaphor. There is a 1930s book by Caroline Spurgeon:

in which she undertakes a highly detailed analysis of his uses of imagery and confirms with no doubt that only a country boy of modest background could have written those plays, not an aristo like Oxford, the favourite of the various loons who refuse to believe that a non-university oik like WS could have written such brilliant plays. The knowledge of how to clinch a door nail is a perfect example.

The comments to this entry are closed.