Mure? Mural? Morall? Moon? - A Midsummer Night's Dream at SDSU

A Midsummer Night's Dream at SDSU

 
 
One day in rehearsal, we were all wondering what one of Theseus's line meant: "Now is the mure rased between the two neighbors." Our photocopied Arden script did not explain the "mure rased." I recently discovered that the Arden edition does indeed address this line: in the appendix... over the course of THREE pages!

After searching through several versions of the play, I found that the Quartos (the first published in 1600 and the second in 1619) have Theseus say "moon used" in place of the Arden's "mure rased." This however, as most editors note, makes no sense in the context of the scene. After all, it is not Moonshine that has just exited, but Wall. Interestingly, the Folio (published in 1623) uses "morall downe." Harold Brooks, in his Arden appendix, posits that perhaps "rased" was replaced after an actor refused to say the line for fear that "rased" (raze=demolish) would be mistaken by the audience for its antonym "raised." R. A. Foakes, the editor of the Cambridge edition, writes that it is possible that the "morall" in the Folio came from the result of someone trying to correct "moon" with "wall" and having the resulting smudge be confused with "morall." In any case, the Arden uses "mure rased", the Pelican uses "mural down" and  the Cambridge, Folger, and Oxford use "wall down."  

Take your pick!
Tom Snout
4/22/2010 09:01:50

I personally think that "Morall" is just a phonetically spelled out version of "Mural", written in a west country dialect. Shakespeare's actors kind of talked like pirates, so if you say that word with a pirate accent it actually sounds like "Mural". As for the rased/downe debate, I think that Shakespeare put "rased" as a double meaning (demolished/lifted) possibly due to a wall costume that would have to be lifted by the actor when they would want to move. An example of such a costume would be one that is literally a box, with a hole for the chink, that the actor could wear like a sign board and set down when in place. If that was the case, then lifting up the costume piece to move would prompt Theseus to use the phrase "Mure rased" as a joke to the revelers.

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Matt
9/24/2010 02:56:41

Thank you for posting this information! I'm playing Theseus in a production right now that's using Original Pronunciation, the dialect of Shakespeare's time, and was really curious about the meaning of that line. Apparently, "mure" is derived from the Latin "murus," or "wall." So "the mure is rased," in this context, most likely means "the wall is leveled."

@Tom Snout: While you are right that Shakespeare's actors did sound like pirates, the word "morall" would not have sounded like "mural." Actually, it would've sounded like "morale." The pun on "rased" seems more likely. Thanks for pointing that out! I'll be sure to use it in our production.

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12/5/2010 09:01:55

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