miércoles, 12 de febrero de 2014


Since last post was about The Winter's Tale, I would like to comment on the same Shakespearean play in this post as well. And, since last post dealt with a bear, this post will deal with honey.
The premise: in the kingdom of Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic), boy meets girl (at harvest festival). He is royalty, while she is a shepherd lass (actually, an estranged royal child, adopted by a peasant family). A courtier is keeping an eye on the young lovers, and thus he informs His Majesty of the upcoming mesalliance. Threats imposed by the Crown on the heroine's relatives, should the fated marriage take place, ensue (in Act IV, Scene 4). The nastiest one of them, in my opinion, is the probable (but never carried out) fate of the Young Shepherd (or Clown), Perdita's foster brother...

who shall be flayed alive; then 'nointed over with
honey, set on the head of a wasp's nest; then stand till he be
three quarters and a dram dead; then recovered again with
aqua-vitae or some other hot infusion; then, raw as he is, and in
the hottest day prognostication proclaims, shall he be set
against a brick wall, the sun looking with a southward eye upon
him,—where he is to behold him with flies blown to death.

Glossary to understand the text 

  • 'nointed: anointed
  • three quarters and a dram dead: comatose, in a deep state of unconsciousness
  • recovered: revived
  • aqua-vitae: brandy (French eau-de-vie) (Norwegian aquavit)
  • hot infusion: distilled liquor
  • prognostication: weather forecasts
  • the sun looking with a southward eye upon him: the youth shall be chained facing south, for the midday sun (at 12:00 AM) to shed its light directly on his body. The bugs would come attracted by the honey, and they may lay their eggs on his searing, blazing frame, where the larvae would certainly hatch. The larvae would gradually consume his flesh from within. Add this to the searing heat and excruciating pain... Could I have some more aqua-vitae?

Reaction of the Clown or Young Shepherd:
Give him (the courtier) gold. Show the inside of the purse to the outside of his hand, and do no more. Remember "flayed alive".

Shakespeare scholars remark that this was a punishment used by Spanish conquistadors on their slaves and on the natives... and also by the SPANISH INQUISITION on HERETICS. Some of the spectators must have shuddered indeed.

The scenario practically writes itself, especially in Thermidor (mid-July through mid-August). Flayed alive and anointed with honey, that nest of wasps --thirsty wasps drawn to sweet drinks, such as the mix of blood, perspiration, and honey-- hanging overhead. When the victim is unconscious, recover to consciousness with strong drink --in the evening or night, I may guess, for a shot of liquor in the middle of a hot summer day makes anyone go out like a light!--. Then, the next day around at twelve or one --here in the Mediterranean, summers are pretty hot, but landlocked Bohemia is not that refreshing in Thermidor either!--, tied to the wall, raw and half-dead, for pregnant female houseflies and horseflies, especially the latter, to lay their eggs in the raw flesh of the heavily sunstruck victim, who must have also been thirsted to death throughout the procedure.

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