Friday, May 30, 2014

"Bless thee, Bottom! Bless thee! Thou art translated."

Bottom as an Ass
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The character Nick Bottom in Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream is famous for being transformed into an ass.

That's fitting, of course, since he's something of an ass anyway and is named "Bottom." Actually, only his head is transformed, but he's all 'Bottom' below the neck, so we're not wrong to say he's an entire ass!

The character Peter Quince is famous for the expression of surprise upon seeing the transformed Bottom in Act 3, Scene 1, lines 118-119:
"Bless thee, Bottom! Bless thee! Thou art translated."
He means "transformed," but is "translated" wrong? No, because "translation" can mean "transformation":
II. 3. Transformation, alteration, change . . . (OED, Vol 2, 1971, p. 266c)
This usage dates from 1382. Unfortunately, the British variant "ass" meaning "arse" dates officially only to 1721 (OED, Vol. 1, 1971, p. 498b), so there appears to be no Shakespearean pun on "Bottom" as "ass."

Unless Shakespeare's choice of "Bottom" as name of the character fated to receive the ass's head is itself evidence of an earlier date for "ass" as "arse" . . .

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At 1:48 PM, Blogger Dario Rivarossa said...

it also implies that translating is an "art."

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

What is "it" in your sentence?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:00 PM, Blogger Dario Rivarossa said...

the Shakespearean rêve-elation

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, shiver me timbers and shake my spheres . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:34 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Along these lines... What about the different shade of meaning ascribed to "transmigration," as in μετεμψύχωσις or metempsychosis?

A different kind of "coming over."

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And the vexed question whether "metempsychosis" is the translation or transliteration of "μετεμψύχωσις."

Jeffery Hodges

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