It's sometimes hilarious when people borrow from the world of literature without knowing what the original means. A recent book on peaceful life outside the city is titled Country Matters, in reference to a phrase from Hamlet. But do the author, editor, publisher, and reviewers realize that Shakespeare was using those words as a bawdy double entendre? In The Friendly Shakespeare (1993) Norrie Epstein notes "When Hamlet, with his head on Ophelia's lap, tells her he is thinking of 'country matters,' he pointedly stresses the first syllable." Not exactly the rustic image that the new book's title was meant to evoke.

Similarly, a wealthy New Yorker calls his suburban mansion "a fine and private place" for when he feels the need to escape from town. The source of that phrase, Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress", reads:

The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Not quite as apropos to a rural retreat as someone now apparently thinks.

Tuesday, May 08, 2001 at 05:57:35 (EDT) = 2001-05-08

TopicPoetry - TopicLiterature

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