Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Bacon and Shakespeare Theory of Spirits - 8

The Bacon and Shake-Speare Theory of "spirits"

part 8 of 9 

(j)    other word parallels combined with spirits

from Shake-Speare's Measure for Measure 3.1.118-122

[In Claudio's soliloquy on death]
"To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bath in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;"

"Delighted" has always been regarded as a problem. Some editors (such as the Arden editor and the editors of William Shakespeare, A Textual Companion) favor amending to "dilated", meaning "expansive, having full scope". Other editors let "delighted" stand but offer numerous different explanations of the word's meaning in the context. They include "filled with delight", "delightful", "a spirit discharged from the body", "removed from the regions of light" and "relieved from the weight of matter". The following Bacon texts (of which editors seem unaware) are relevant to the word's interpretation:

"Joy causeth cheerfulness and vigour in the eyes, singing, leaping, dancing, and sometimes tears. All these are the effects of dilatation and coming forth of the spirits into the outward parts; which maketh them more lively and stirring".
     Natural History

"Swelling is caused, both by a dilatation of the spirits by over-heating and by a liquefaction or boiling of the humours thereupon."
     Natural History

In a letter to King James dated 20 October 1620 Bacon sought his aid in setting men to work for the collection of a natural and experimental history. He said to James that it would be:

"An excellent recreation unto you; I say, to that admirable spirit of your that delighteth in light [i.e. in intellectual light].

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

To take the third of these Bacon texts first, the King's spirit delighteth and could therefore have been described as "delighted". And I see no difficulty in supposing that Shake-Speare too regarded the human spirit/soul as an ecstatic thing. However, the first two texts, with their reference to dilatation of the spirits, may seem to support the reading "dilated". But in Bacon's terminology (which accords with normal usage) dilatation means expansion beyond the norm. Claudio is speaking of the human spirit in its normal state before it is consigned by death to harsher regions. So "delighted" is the better reading and no emendation is required. Nor would I be surprised if in his choice of word Shake-Speare, like Bacon, had in mind that the human spirit delights in intellectual light.

Another verbal parallel is as follows:

Richard III 5.3.74  "alacrity of spirit"

Bacon: "alacrity of spirit" [Spedding 9.88]

Love's Labour's Lost 4.2.64-5  "A foolish extravagant spirit"
Hamlet 1.1.159  "[of the ghost of Hamlet's father] "The extravagant and erring spirit"

Bacon: "Such extravagant and strange spirits" [Speech on Love in Conference of Pleasure, p. 11]
           "Extravagant and strange spirit" [Essay 58]

"Extravagant" in these texts is from a Latin root and means "staying beyond proper bounds". Did anyone else associate spirits with all three of the above things - "delighted", "alacrity" and "extravagant" - or even perhaps with any of them?

end of (j) and of part 8

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