Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Homework: Jephthah (and the Fishmonger)

The Reformation Study Bible. Gen. Ed. R. C. Sproul. English Standard Version. Orlando: Ligonier, 2005
Your homework is to read Judges 11. What? You expect to read this blog without having to do homework? You’re kidding!

Oh, all right. I’ll shorten it a bit. Click here, read Judges 11:29-40, and come back.


If only Polonius could have pulled out his Blackberry and done the same.

Perhaps that’s really the problem. Polonius is working from the third Arden edition and Hamlet is working from the second—Hamlet’s barbs hit home less seldom because of Polonius’ inability to see beyond the madness (either acted or real).

Anyway, the point is this. The fishmonger reference sets up this analogy:
Fishmonger:Polonius::Fishmonger’s Daughter:Ophelia
If we follow Jenkins, which I do, we may equate fishmongers to bawds (in more modern parlance, “pimp” might be used). The darker analogy follows:
In other words, Hamlet, having overheard Polonius’ plans . . . or just knowing how power-hungry Polonius is . . . accuses him of attempting to prostitute his own daughter in order to get ahead.

The Jephthah reference seems to me to be very similar. You are willing to sacrifice your own daughter in order to achieve victory. Polonius doesn’t seem to know the full story—only what Hamlet provides. He says,
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well. (II.ii.407-08)
Hamlet’s response—”Nay, that follows not” (II.ii.409) means both “That’s not the next line of the famous ballad about Jephthah that I’m quoting” and “That’s not the conclusion to be drawn from my analogy.

Jenkins glosses the line in this way: “. . . he is thus the opposite of a fishmonger” (260), but I think that the two situations are parallel.

All right, here’s another analogy to clarify that:
Fishmongers:poor treatment of daughters::Jephthahs:poor treatment of daughters.
They both are willing to sacrifice their own daughters to gain their own desires. And Polonius fits too well in that camp.

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