Puns, Prophecy, and Pizza

On Puns, Considered in Shakespeare According to Hermetic Principles

“Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man,” a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is, in my opinion, the epitome of everything a good pun should be (and yes, there is such a thing as a good pun).  And in the spirit of good analysis and not-so-great humor, I will now explain precisely how this joke works and why.

The context is important here. The speaker, Mercutio, lies dying, having been mortally wounded by Tybalt. Mercutio is precisely the sort of character who takes very little seriously. Here, even as he is about to die, he makes a pun. Whatever he is, he is not “grave” in the sense of being serious. However, he is about to die and thus will find himself in a “grave”, namely the place where one buries dead bodies. That said, the only time he could ever be “grave” (sense 1) is if he is in a grave (sense 2). Thus the full sense of “you shall find me a grave man” is “you’ll take away my sense of humor over my dead body, which it presently will be”, which we may label “grave” (sense 3).

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Traditional Symbolism (Christian Content)

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Lethal White: The Swan Symbolism

Even the relatively casual reader of Robert Galbraith’s fourth Cormoran Strike mystery, Lethal White, is struck by the imagery of the swans in this novel.

The story begins — its first words — at the Cunliffe wedding reception with a photographer trying to get a picture of the newlyweds that includes two swans in the pond behind them. The swans stubbornly refuse to come together, but, as soon as Robin rises to separate herself from Matt (with the intention of looking for Cormoran), they swim side by side. The clueless father of the groom observes, “You’d think the buggers were doing it on purpose” (p 3).

The story ends — its very last words — with “twin swans,” a return to the beginning as evident bracketing:

Head bowed against the rain, [Robin] had no attention left to spare for the magnificent mansion past which she was walking, its rain specked windows facing the great river, its front doors engraved with twin swans. (p 647)

Brad  Bellows told us, in a comment attached to Evan Willis’ post on the hermetic and mythological meaning of Lethal White, that “the paired swans Robin fails to notice in the final line, actually exist, on Swan House, built in 1876 by R.N. Shaw, overlooking the Thames.” Mr Willis in that post had suggested this might be Jonny Rokeby’s home in keeping with his theory that, per Leda and the Swan/Zeus mythology, that Strike’s mysterious paternity, the pairing of his super-groupie mother with the other-worldly rock-star, explains why Rokeby remains off-stage but ever-present. The myth holds that Leda has twins, two sets of twins actually, with two fathers for each set; Castor and Pollux are the off-spring of Leda with the swan who is Zeus and with the king of Sparta, her husband. Robin and Cormoran, great driver and former boxer, are the novel’s stand-in for Castor the horseman and Pollux the pugilist. [See the discussions of this mythology and the Strike mysteries in the Gray/Granger and Willis posts on the subject.]

While the predominant symbolism of the story is white horses, which occur so frequently that Strike remarks on it and Billy Knight laughs about it (pp 394, 496), white swans occur often enough, not only as the story’s framing brackets but in references to individual birds on signs (see Robin’s noting and overlooking the Swan pub sign on pp 56 and 166), that we are obliged to consider their meaning beyond markers of Leda mythology in which the books are set. Swans, as you might expect in a Rowling novel, have an alchemical meaning as well, one that we will explore after the jump.

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The Passion of Harry Potter, according to Saint John the Evangelist

Much has been said about the Christian themes, symbolism and allusions in Harry Potter, and indeed much remains to be said. In a previous essay, I explained what Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has to do with Holy Week: the time when Christians commemorate the passion (suffering), death and resurrection of Christ. Here I’d like to add a small but (I think) significant observation to my articulation of the striking parallels between Harry’s self-offering and Christ’s.

In John’s Gospel and in none of the others, Jesus takes a moment, almost immediately before surrendering his spirit to God the Father, to “give” his mother Mary to the disciple whom he loved:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19: 26-27)

The text implies that with this act, Jesus completes his mission on earth: “After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished…” (19:28a) Indeed, after acknowledging his thirst to fulfill what had been written in Psalm 69, “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (19:30b)  [Read more…]

Attention UK Readers! LondonMoot is coming!

Get ready, dear readers in the United Kingdom, for the erudite nerdiness of Signum University and the Mythgard Institute to finally come to YOU! Later this month, on April 28, Signum U. (digital disseminators of some of the best and most accessible learning and teaching in imaginative fiction studies anywhere) will host its first London “moot” at the Sir David Davies lecture theater, Torrington Place.

A “moot,” of course, is a meeting of Ents (tree-people) in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; Signum’s version promises to feature few talking trees, allowing proceedings to be held at a slightly hastier pace. Signum/Mythgard has been hosting such moots around the US for a few years now, with their main gathering, Mythmoot, held annually over a weekend in Leesburg, Virginia.  [Read more…]