Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parallels on War and "Vent" 2 of 2

The Bacon and Shake-Speare parallel views on War - and "Vent"

Part 2 of 2

continuation of "vent" parallel

Note that, like Bacon, (but unlike Plutarch or North) Shake-Speare uses the word "vent" of the foreign war. The same word takes us next to Coriolanus 4.5.227-31 where the word has caused much perplexity:

"Let me have war, say I. It exceeds peace as far as day does night; it's sprightly walking, audible and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy; mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible;"

The Arden editor comments on "sprightly walking...vent": "a much disputed passage, but there is little doubt that the metaphor makes war a hunting hound...vent" is "scent" and "audible" refers to the hound's cry upon scent...It is just possible, however, that "audible" is here used in the rare sense "able to hear". The numerous other interpretations of "full of vent" include "full or rumour", "full of deeds deserving to be vaunted", everything whereby one may throw aside all restraint" and "efficacious to clear the country of its surplus population". One can say that, of the Arden editor's thoughts, the passage has nothing to do with hounds. Would Shake-Speare liken war to "sprightly walking" hounds (like poodles parading at a dog show) rather than to hounds in full cry?

The Bacon text from Henry VII helps to point the true meaning which is "full of emission or discharge" (as has been recognised by one scholar independently of the Bacon text). When Henry VII in his speech said that a foreign war would "vent" sedition at home, he meant that it would discharge it, get rid of it. but Shake-Speare's "full of vent" is not confined to a single type of emission or discharge, but embraces any type which may follow from war. War emits liveliness and fury. It also discharges sedition at home. And the sloth of too long peace. And surplus or starving or diseased population.

Bacon also uses "vent" in the analogous situation of a discharge of surplus population by means not of war but of colonization. For instance, in one of the two sources cited for The Tempest and ascribed to Bacon  (The True and Sincere Declaration; and the True Declaration) one of the Virginia Council's aims is stated to be:

"To provide and build up for the public Honour and Safety of our gracious King and his estates...some small Rampier of our own,  in this opportune and general summer of peace, by transplanting the rankness and multitude of increase in our people; of which there is left no vent but age, and evident danger that the number and infiniteness of them will out-grow the matter, wherein to work for their life and sustentation, and shall one infest and become a burthen to another".

Does "the rankness and multitude" remind one of Shake-Speare's "musty superfluity"?  In the second Declaration it says:

"[By the colonisation] the meaner sort have been provided; the matter of plagues, famine and sedition hath been exhausted; the fens of a state politic were drained...he is overblind that doth not see what an inundation of people doth overflow this little island. Shall we vent this deluge by direct and unchristian policies"?

The author also mentions alternative methods of depopulation which are harsher than colonisation. I regard the use of "vent" in both these reports as further evidence that Bacon was their author; and also as helping to show the wide meaning of Shake-Speare's "full of vent".

(f) In his Promus Bacon noted 'Repice res bello varias' [Consider the varying chances of war]. In Cymbeline 5.5.75 a character says: "Consider, sir, the chances of war". This is obviously based on the Latin tag which Bacon noted.

Conclusion on war and "vent":
  The comparison of war to "exercise" is a small point. And the ideas that civil war was a curse, and that a foreign war cured sedition at home (and perhaps also the idea that it cured the sloth of peace) were commonplaces. However, it seems that the collocation of the words "just" and "honourable" as a definition of legitimate war, was not a commonplace. Nor was the use of "vent" in the type of context quoted. Nor probably was "Consider the chances of war" in that exact wording, based on the Latin. So the use by both our authors of "just and honourable", "vent" and the Latin tag make a weighty composite parallel.

end of part 2

No comments:

Post a Comment