Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020731, Wed, 15 Sep 2010 14:47:25 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] Idling about the Ides of March
In "The Magic of Artistic Discovery," Brian Boyd mentions the night in which Hazel commits suicide ("Canto Two culminates in the dreadful discovery that the Shades must make about their only child's suicide, one March night in 1957, two years before the poet undertakes "Pale Fire." The counterpoint between Hazel's last hours and her parents' uneasy vigil at home while waiting for their unattractive daughter to return from her first blind date creates an unbearable tension and poignancy as time swings back and forth, ticking away to the irretrievable moment of her death at the very midpoint of the poem...For all his sense of the mystery behind death, Shade knows he cannot force the door to the beyond..") Later, Brian Boyd shall disclose his own theory about the influence of Hazel's ghost in the developments of the novel, "Pale Fire."

Having recently inquired into "the ides of March" in Shakespeare, I read his lines about Julius Caesar, walking stealthily towards his death, inspite of various warnings (Calpurnia's dream and a prophet warning him about the ides of March). The seer's warning to Cesar carried me to Shade's walk towards Judge Goldsworth's house and the Red Vanessa, as accounted for by Kinbote. However, inspite of the reference to a Coriolanus lane (linked to Timon, in one of the Zemblan events) and Shakespeare's alley of trees, this passage cannot sufficiently account for considering Shade's muder, and Hazel's death in March, as a hint to Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"... This play has not been considered by Meyer, nor was it cited by Boyd but, in his index to MAD, he includes another play (among the Roman ones), "Antony and Cleopatra" (Cf. mainly on pages 238/239), related to the moment in which Shade writes about the tormentous March night and parodies Eliot's "image in 'The Waste Land' of a seated beauty amid multiple reflections, and the way it responds to Shakespeare with a kind of deliberately brittle vacuity." ( the lines, in question, are from Antony and Cleopatra).

Anyway, two of Shakespeare's three "Roman" plays are, even if indirectly, referenced in Pale Fire. Neverthelss, there's no hint of the third, "Julius Caesar," a ruler exiled by death, although scholars frequently mention the links between Nabokov's novel and his personal grief after his father's murder in Berlin (was it in a theatre?).

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