First, my thanks to all of you who suggested new names for this series on identifying objects in our collection. The best suggestion came from Jeremy Dibbell, on twitter, who found this perfect moment in Antony and Cleopatra:
LEPIDUS: What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?
ANTONY: It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth. It is just so high as it is, and moves with it own organs. It lives by that which nourisheth it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.
LEPIDUS: What color is it of?
ANTONY: Of it own color, too.
LEPIDUS: ’Tis a strange serpent.
ANTONY: ’Tis so, and the tears of it are wet.
(2.7.43-52) ((New Folger Shakespeare Library, eds Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, New York: Washington Square Press, 1999.))
There are many things to love about this passage. But for my purposes here, what I love is that its self-referentiality (What does a crocodile look like? It looks like itself, of course!) mixes, at the end, with a warning that what be more self-referentiality (Tears are wet) can also mean something that points outside of itself (Don’t forget that crocodile tears aren’t to be trusted, and neither is Pompey). Part of the challenge in this series of posts is to give name to things that look like themselves, but it is also to understand the larger meaning of those items and to learn something from asking, “what manner of thing is this?”
So on to this month’s crocodile challenge:
If you follow me on twitter, you might recognize this photo, since I tweeted it out when I came across this. But if you missed it then, leave guesses about the nature and message of this crocodile in the comments below!
UPDATE: Given the quiet comment thread below, perhaps I erred too far on the side of the unobvious this time! I’m not interested in the words on the page, although they do help make a joke about what it is that I am seeing, a joke that has to do with early modern printing practices and who works in the printing house.