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Discrepancy: The quality of being discrepant; want of agreement, variance, difference, disagreement. Discrepant: Exhibiting difference, dissimilarity or want of harmony; different, discordant, inharmonious, inconsistent. (O. E. D.)
Discrepancy, in its various manifestations, has been with us for a long time. It goes back at least to the Book of Genesis which informs us that God created light before bringing the sun and moon into existence. Not to be outdone, William Shakespeare consciously dramatizes the manifold discrepancies in human behavior and experience. His characters, especially the eponymous heroes of the four great tragedies, are preoccupied by the divergencies between reality and appearance, expectation and event, substance and shadow, being and acting. Discrepancies lurk in the crevices of Shakespeare's favorite tripartite structure: an action or event which is first planned, then represented, then reported or reacted to (e.g., the Gadshill episode in 1 Henry IV, the eaves-dropping scenes in Much Ado About Nothing, the "sounding" of Hamlet by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Prospero's dealings with Ariel). Differing levels of awareness, knowledge and understanding, what Graham Bradshaw has termed "opposed or discrepant perspectives," (1) exist among Shakespeare's characters; they also obtain between these characters and the audience, a topic energetically pursued by Klaus Peter Jochum in his Discrepant Awareness: Studies in English Renaissance Drama. It seems to me that all of Shakespeare's plays, not just the so-called "problem plays," create divided sympathies by resisting a single and "comfortable" point of view.
Yet Shakespeare himself never employs the word "discrepancy" (according to the O. E. D., the first recorded use dates from 1623). Nor does he avail himself of its related forms such as "discrepance," "discrepant," and "discrepate" which go back as far as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Instead of "discrepancy" or "inconsistency" (another term he never uses) a character will indicate a perceived lack of agreement between two or more entities by asserting that they "do not agree" (or "cohere," or "jump" or "sort") with each other, that they are "disproportioned" or that they show "no consonancy." The three examples which follow pertain to characters wrestling with the problem of contradictory …