[LMB] Penric reread, the very beginning / Desdemona

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Wed Jun 26 21:15:16 BST 2019

Questions are asked about why we ask questions of Desdemona. So ...

Of late I have been wondering how much Lois did or didn't know about the
name made famous by Shakespeare, besides it containing the pleasing pun on

Shax got it from Cinthio, where it is translated as "ill-fated", but it is
in fact a smoothed transliteration of Sophoclean Greek, from his *Elektra*.

A less smoothed transliteration would be -disdaimoni-, where (as the Stoic
-eudaimoni- would suggest, as readers of Ada Palmer's *Ex Urbe* will know)
the -dis- is the prefix that = bad/ill, and -daimoni- is a word to chew on.
-Daimon- (whence daemon, demon) can simply mean 'a god' : in classical Gk
one often does not name a god, but rather employs an epithet, as 'the mouse
god' for Apollo &c. ; -daimon- is an all-purpose placeholder = "the god in
question". BUT when Sophocles speaks of -disdaimoni-, he means the ill
destiny / fate / nature of the Atreides, the whole cycle of events that
runs from Pelops > Atreus & Thyestes > Agamenon & Iphigeneia > Agamemnon &
Clytemnestra / Aegisthus (surviving son of Thyestes) > Orestes &
Clytemnestra / Aegisthus, and so collectively leaves Elektra facing the set
of circumstances she faces.

That is, (dis)daimoni is a *cumulative*, unfolding, iterative, fractal
(self-similar) set of successive inscriptions of (ill) destiny / fate /
wyrd / family inheritance ; a matter of cursed inheritances, or
circumscribed enablements, or powerful distinctions one could very well do

Any of that sound familiar? And though the etymology of Desdemona is
editorially and critically remarked less often than it might be, it is a
datum that is out there ; while Lois almost always knows more than she lets
on ...

Just sayin' ...

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Associate Member & Director of Studies in English, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs

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