Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray

From The Taming of the Shrew (1.1.25-).

And therefore, Tranio, for the time I study,
Virtue and that part of philosophy
Will I apply that treats of happiness
By virtue specially to be achieved.
Tell me thy mind; for I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come, as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.
Mi perdonato, gentle master mine,
I am in all affected as yourself;
Glad that you thus continue your resolve
To suck the sweets of sweet philosophy.
Only, good master, while we do admire
This virtue and this moral discipline,
Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray;
Or so devote to Aristotle’s cheques
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured:
Balk logic with acquaintance that you have
And practise rhetoric in your common talk;
Music and poesy use to quicken you;
The mathematics and the metaphysics,
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you;
No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en:
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.

I like the sentiment but there’s also an interesting pun here – one that John Lyly had used twice a few years earlier in Euphues. It is rooted in the near identical pronunciation at the time of ‘Stoic’ – as adherent of the philosophy – and ‘stock’ – as OED 1c ‘as the type of what is lifeless, motionless, or void of sensation. Hence, a senseless or stupid person.’ Lyly’s two uses are less compressed than Shakespeare’s (and better capture the continuing instability of spelling in both instances)

Who so severe as the Stoickes, which lyke stocks were moved with no melodie?

Thought he him a Stoycke, that he woulde not be moued, or a stocke that he could not?

For the bored, more of Shakespeare’s liftings from Lyly can be found here and the full (standardised spelling) text of Euphues here

One thought on “Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray

  1. This is lovely, I am so enjoying these blog posts.
    I have been too long following arguments, and the marshalling of argument; now find this savouring of phrase and line so enjoyable.
    I, for one, shall certainly follow up your links.

    Liked by 1 person

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