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Re: Sticking place

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 04, 2009 at 23:24

In Reply to: Re: Sticking place posted by ESC on January 04, 2009 at 22:41:

: : : What exactly is a "sticking place" where one may "screw their courage to"? I know it's from Shakespeare & I know what it means but I can't imagine what or where a sticking place is.

: : Here is a very early explaination:

: : The Monthly Review, Or, Literary JournalĂ˝ - Page 121
: : by Ralph Griffiths, G. E. Griffiths - English imprints - 1808

: : Few persons will perhaps be inclined to agree that the sticking place means ...
: : that she means to exhort her husband to wind up his courage to such a pitch, ...

: : " Macbeth" has furnished many opportunities for producing curious points of faith in regard to the powers and dispositions of witches.-Few persons will perhaps be inclined to agree that the sticking place means the stabbing place ; and without inquiring whether Lady Macbeth drew her metaphor from a pile-driver or the peg of a violin, the generality of readers will be satisfied with believing that she means to exhort her husband to wind up his courage to such a pitch, that it might act with force and vigor,-This play, more especially the part allotted to its hero^ abounds with obscure passages ; and perhaps it is not impossible that the poet might sometimes intend, by the obscurity of his language, to paint the agitated state of a mind employed in horrid actions at it jrevoltedj distracted with scruples, torn by remorse,

: MACBETH: If we should fail?
: LADY MACBETH: We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking place, And we'll not fail.

: Here are two theories: "...the twisting of a tuning peg until it becomes set in its hole" and "the mark to which a soldier screwed up the cord of a crossbow." From "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare!" By Michael Macrone (Gramercy Books, New York, 1999). Page 128-129.

I'm inclined to think that the tuning peg of a violin is a metaphor a shade too esoteric here. There are many instruments besides violins that have tuning pegs. I'm not convinced that Shakespeare had in mind a musical instrument, but if he did he had many to choose from. Besides the large family of viols, there were lutes and their close relations, such as theorbos and citterns. I've never given it any thought, as "sticking point" seemed obvious enough to me, but surely there were other fasteners that could be screwed in until they were tight, no?
SS