Thursday 4 November 2010

her Marcia

It’s one of my duties to take the minutes during oral exams, which  students have to sit who want to get a master's degree in either British or American Studies. In one of those exams the professor asked his candidate: “What is the /həˈmɑːʃə/ in Shakespeare’s Othello?” I must admit that I couldn’t recall all the dramatis personae of this Shakespearean drama at that moment and so was at a loss what to write down: “her Marcia”? Highly improbable because it wouldn't fit into the sentence structure of that question apart from the fact that it didn't make any sense. To my surprise the candidate gave the correct answer, and now I suddenly realised they were taking about the concept of hamartia.

/hɑːmɑːˈtiːə/ is how I would have pronounced it, but I wanted to make sure if  /həˈmɑːʃə/ existed as an alternative. LPD3 keeps schtum; ODP proposes /həˈmɑːtɪə/; EPD lists /ˌhɑːmɑːˈtiːə/; Merriam-Webster Online has /ˌhä-ˌmär-ˈtē-ə/ (which is the MW way of transcribing /ˌhɑːˌmɑːrˈtiːə/.

Hamartia or tragic flaw is not a concept that you discuss with your Significant Other every other day. In literary studies, however, it does pop up every now and again. I think I ought to take the professor aside and tell him how to pronounce the word.

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