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Can't see the wood for the trees.

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PDR
943475.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:07 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
On the other hand, I agree with exnihilo - his explanation is how I have always understood it: if you don't waste, you won't want (in the sense of being in want rather than in the sense of desiring).


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PDR

 
exnihilo
943491.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:33 pm Reply with quote

Absolutely. He saw it as a kind of exhortation to charity, 'don't waste stuff you don't want' but to me it was always clearly and unambiguously if you don't waste stuff you want go wanting. A penny saved is a penny earned, after all!

 
'yorz
943495.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:50 pm Reply with quote

I understood it ex's way.

 
CB27
943509.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:34 pm Reply with quote

TBH I never thought much about it, and you have to remember that English was a second/third language to me, so interpretations of some phrases are based on what I originally thought they meant. In this case, I assumed it meant that if you have anything left over that you don't want, don't waste it, as in either save it for another time, give it to someone else or recycle, which I thought was what ex's flatmate meant :)

 
'yorz
943512.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:41 pm Reply with quote

How do you interpret, "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!", CB? (Richard III)

 
CB27
943515.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:48 pm Reply with quote

In the context of the play I assume it's simply a play on words to show how anything can become worthless in the right/wrong circumstances. I wasn't aware there were different interpretations :)

 
'yorz
943518.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:53 pm Reply with quote

I was taught that it was more disbelief than a desperate offer:
"A horse? A horse? I lose my kingdom for want of a horse?!"

 
exnihilo
943519.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:53 pm Reply with quote

That was exactly what my flatmate meant, but that was based on not recognising the 'older' meaning of want.

 
MinervaMoon
943521.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:54 pm Reply with quote

I would say it means that anything (e.g., a horse) can have a LOT of worth in the right/wrong circumstances.

 
CB27
943530.  Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:25 pm Reply with quote

Yeah, the horse is worth a kingdom, or the kingdom is worth a horse, but I've never heard of anyone interpreting it as disbelief at losing a kingdom, that's a new one on me.

 
Moosh
943579.  Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:18 am Reply with quote

'yorz wrote:
I was taught that it was more disbelief than a desperate offer:
"A horse? A horse? I lose my kingdom for want of a horse?!"

I understood it more this way, that it was his disbelief that he lost the battle (and hence the kingdom) for the trivial reason that he'd lost his horse and couldn't find one at the critical point.

 
exnihilo
943585.  Thu Oct 04, 2012 4:39 am Reply with quote

Yep, that's my understanding. He's not offering his kingdom in exchange for a horse or anything of that sort. He's not looking for a horse in order to flee, or he would take the one offered to him by Catesby in the next line. Instead he says "I have set my life upon a cast and I will stand the hazard of the die!"

 
'yorz
943599.  Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:48 am Reply with quote

Remains the question why Shakespeare didn't put question marks in stead of the exclamation ones - if he wanted this to be understood, different punctuation would have helped.

 
exnihilo
943602.  Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:51 am Reply with quote

Hmm, no, I don't read it as a question at all. Although I agree with your interpretation that it boils down to "I lost my kingdom for want of a horse".

 
Arcane
943605.  Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:59 am Reply with quote

I always thought "cant see the wood for the trees" referred to not getting bogged down in small details and instead you should be looking at the bigger picture?

Bogged. Trees. Coat.

 

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