Sunday, April 3, 2011

Parallels on Infinite and Compounded

First Shake-Speare:

"The brain of this foolish-compounded clay, man, is not able to invent
any thing that intends to laughter more than I invent, or is invented on me;"
  2 Henry IV 1.2.5-6

"What a piece of work is infinite in faculties...the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals"
  Hamlet 2.2.303-7

  "Nor custom stale
Her infinite variety"
  Anthony and Cleopatra  2.2.235-6

Now Bacon:
"Infinite variety of behaviour and manners of men"
  Letter to Earl of Rutland

"Of all substances which nature hath produced, man's body is the most extremely compounded...[7 lines later]
Man in his mansion, sleep, exercise, passions, hath infinite variations; and it cannot be denied but that the body of man of all other things is the most compounded mass. The soul on the other side is the simplest of substances."
  The Advancement of Learning

"In the mass and composition of which man was made, particles taken from the different animals were infused and mixed up with the clay; for it is most true that of all things in the universe man is the most  composite."
  The Wisdom of the Ancients 

"The souls of the living are the delight of the world."
   The Wisdom of the Ancients

Comment: "Our two authors' descriptions are strikingly similar. Compare "infinite variety" / "infinite variety" & "infinite variations"; "beauty of the world" / "delight of the world"; and "compounded" / "compounded". Why does Falstaff say "This foolish-compounded clay, man"?. He could have said simply "This foolish clay, man". Bible passages describe Man as clay, but not as compounded. But Shake-Speare probably introduced "compounded" to vent Bacon's view that of all substances Man's body is the most compounded. (As Bacon in the Advancement of Learning uses "compounded mass" of Man, so Shake-Speare in Hamlet 3.4.49 uses "compounded mass" of Earth.)

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