Saturday, March 12, 2011

Parallels - Causeless, Galen and Paracelsus

All's Well That Ends Well  2.3.1-18

Lafew:    They say miracles are past; and we have our philosophical persons
              to make modern and familiar, things supernatural and causeless.
              Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves
              into seeming knowledge when we should submit ourselves to an
              unknown fear.
Parolles: Why, 'tis the rarest argument of wonder that hath shot out in our
              latter times.
Bertram:  And so 'tis.
Lafew:    To be relinquished of the artists -
Parolles: So I say - both of Galen and Paracelsus.
Lafew:    Of all the learned and authentic Fellows.
Parolles: Right; so I say.
Lafew:    That gave him out incurable -
Parolles: Why, there 'tis; so say I too.
Lafew:    Not to be help'd.
Parolles: Right; as 'twere a man assur'd of a -
Lafew:    Uncertain life and sure death.

Let us take first the first 3 lines. The Arden editor notes that causeless here must mean something like "whose cause is hidden", i.e. inexplicable. Of course. But he might delete "something like" if he knew the Bacon parallels. In his Novum Organum Bacon wrote:

"For we are not to give up the investigation, until the properties and qualities found in such things as may be taken for miracles of nature be reduced and comprehended under some form of fixed law; so that all the irregularity or singularity shall be found to depend on some common form, and the miracle shall turn out to be only in the exact specific differences, and the degree and the rare occurrence; not in the species itself; whereas now the thoughts of men go no further than to pronounce such things the secret and mighty works of nature, things as it were causeless, and exceptions to general rules".

Thus Shake-Speare's "supernatural and causeless" corresponds to Bacon's "secret and mighty works of nature, things as it were causeless". Bacon had expatiated on the same theme 25 years earlier in the Speech of the 2nd Counselor which he wrote for the Gray's Inn Revels of 1594-5:

"When your Excellency shall have added depth of knowledge to the fineness of your spirits and the greatness of your power, then indeed you shall be a Trismegistus; and then when all other miracles and wonders shall cease, by reason that you shall have discovered their natural causes, yourself shall be left the only miracle and wonder of the world".

Now take lines 3-6. They mean (to adopt the Arden editor's paraphrase) that we make trifles of terrors, "seeking refuge in presumed knowledge, when we should be admitting humbly that the world is fearfully unknown". Bacon said much the same thing in his Preface to Novum Organum:

"[It is] absolutely necessary that the excess of honour and admiration with which our existing stock of inventions is regarded be...stripped off, and men be duly warned not to exaggerate or make too much of them".

Lastly let us look at lines 7-18. The ancient physicians Galen and Paracelsus held that some diseases are incurable. Shake-Speare in these lines berates them for this view. Bacon too poured scorn on it.

In his Temporis Partus Masculus he wrote:

"Galen was a man of the narrowest mind, a forsaker of experience and a vain pretender. Like the dogstar he condemned mankind to death, for he assumed that whole classes of disease are incurable ...But I could better endure thee, O Galen, weighing thy elements, than thee, O Paracelsus, adorning thy dreams. With what zeal do both of you take shelter under the authority of Hippocrates, like asses under a tree? And who bursts not into laughter at such a sight"?

Again, in his Filum Labyrinthi he wrote:

"The physician pronounceth many diseases incurable and faileth oft in the rest".

Further, in The Advancement of Learning he uses the same word "relinquished" in connection with Paracelsus as does Shake-Speare in the line by Lafew:

"Though the inhumanity of anatomia vivorum [vivisection] was by Celsus [Paracelsus] justly reproved; yet in regard of the great use of this observation, the inquiry needed not by him so slightly to have been relinquished altogether, or referred to the casual practices of surgery; but mought have been diverted upon the dissection of beasts alive".

Though Galen lived in the 2nd century A.D., his authority was still much respected by Elizabethans. Yet Bacon despised him. And so too, it seems from the above lines from the play, did Shake-Speare.  There is perhaps also a hint of contempt by Shake-Speare in Coriolanus 2.1.111-17:

Virgilia:      Yes, certain, there's a letter for you; I saw't.
Menenius:  A letter for me! It gives me an estate of seven years' health; In
                 which time I will make a lip at the physician. The most sovereign
                 prescription in Galen is but empiricutic, and, to this preservative,
                 of no better report than a horse-drench.

So Menenius receives a letter which he says is as good as giving him a guarantee of 7 years health in which time he will sneer at physicians. He says the most sovereign prescription in Galen is but empiricutic (i.e. the work of a quack) and, compared to the preservative of the letter, of no more use than a draught of horse medicine. When one couples this text with the All's Well text (in both of which Galen is dragged in unnecessarily), it is reasonable to infer that Shake-Speare himself, and not just his characters, felt (like Bacon) an unorthodox contempt of Galen.

The whole of Shake-Speare's lines above from All's Well are unadulterated Bacon. They yield, as we have seen, 4 Bacon parallels - 1) miracles "causeless", 2) over-confidence in presumed knowledge, 3) ridicule of Galen and Paracelsus for holding some diseases incurable, and 4) use of the word "relinquished". And the Coriolanus text adds a 5th parallel - contempt of Galen generally.

On the first and second points in All's Well Shake-Speare, if he was William Shakspere, could not have borrowed from Bacon since Novum Organum was not published till 1620; nor Bacon from the published play which first appeared in 1623. On the third point Shake-Speare could not have borrowed from Bacon since neither Bacon work in question was published in Shake-Speare's lifetime. And Bacon could not have borrowed from the published play since his works in question were written long before it. On the 4th point Shake-Speare could not have borrowed from Bacon since the play was written before the Advancement was published; nor Bacon from the published play which did not come out till 1623. On the Coriolanus point, the Bacon work was not published in Shake-Speare's lifetime but was written before Coriolanus was published in 1623.

1 comment:

  1. Great! Francis Bacon pen's name means "the Will of the I AM Shakes the Spear" of Truth at the World!