Saturday, March 12, 2011

Parallels - Troilus and Cressida 3 of 4

Troilus and Cressida (a subgroup of four parallels)     (Part 3 of 4)


"Paris and Troilus, you have both said well,
And on the cause and question now in hand
Have gloz'd, but superficially - not much
young men, whom Aristotle thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy.

The reasons you allege do more conduce
To the hot passion of distemper'd blood
Than to make up a free determination
'Twixt right and wrong."
  Troilus And Cressida  2.2.164-72

"Is not the opinion of Aristotle worthy to be regarded wherein he saith that young men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy, because they are not settled from the boiling heat of their affections [passions], nor attempered with time and experience."
   The Advancement of Learning

Comment: Actually, Aristotle said "political philosophy", not "moral philosophy", but the latter was the Elizabethan synonym for "political philosophy". Aristotle's opinion was probably quite well known, but it is surprising that Shake-Speare made Hector quote Aristotle by name. It is almost as though Bacon, writing the Shake-Speare lines, had forgotten for a moment that he was writing a play, not an Essay. However, the principal significance of this parallel lies in three similarities of wording:

(a) Bacon and Shake-Speare both use metaphors of heat - "the boiling heat of
their affections" and "the hot passion of distemper'd blood". Aristotle uses
no metaphor,
saying simply that a young man is "swayed by his feelings".

(b) Only three pages earlier in The Advancement of Learning Bacon had used the
word "distempers", saying:

"Another article of this knowledge is the inquiry touching the affections [human passions] medicining of the mind, after knowledge of the divers characters of men's natures, it followeth, in order, to know the diseases and infirmities of the mind, which are no other than the perturbations and distempers of the affections...[8 lines later] And here again I find it strange, as before, that Aristotle should have written divers volumes of ethics, and never handled the affections, which is the principal subject thereof."

Comment cont. "The perturbations and distempers of the affections" echoes Shake-Speare's "the hot passions of distemper'd blood", "distempers" being used (like "distemper'd") in connection with human passions and with Aristotle.

(c) Shake-Speare's rather odd and prosaic expression "not much unlike" is used by
Bacon 19 pages earlier in the Advancement of Learning, and again in relation to Aristotle.
Speaking of "controversies wherein Moral Philosophy is conversant", he says that
one is whether the contemplative life is to be preferred, and adds that the
arguments for the contemplative life are "not much unlike" a certain argument which
Pythagoras advanced. Bacon uses "not much unlike" in at least 4 other of his
writings according to one of his biographers (Spedding). The expression is not
used elsewhere in Shake-Speare. Does it appear in other Elizabethan literature?
(Note: "not unlike" was a common expression and is not to be confused with "not much unlike").
Cockburn adds: "The conjunction of all these similarities cannot be accidental. Yet Shake-Speare cannot have borrowed from Bacon's The Advancement of Learning  which was not published until 1605, about three years after the play was written. And Bacon cannot have borrowed from the published play which did not come out till 1609."

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