Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Bacon and Shakespeare Theory of Spirits - 2

The Bacon and Shake-Speare Theory of "spirits"

Part 2 of 9

(a) the emphasis on the motions of the spirits; and that joy is caused by the spirits coming into the outward parts.

First, Shake-Speare:

"Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,"
    Hamlet 3.4.119

   "Fie, fie upon her!
There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip -
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motive of her body."

    Troilus and Cressida 4.5.56-7

The idea of the spirits peeping out from the eyes or other parts of the body seems a quaint one. But Bacon's theory explains it. In his Natural History he writes:

"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. We know it hath been seen that excessive sudden joy hath caused present death, while the spirits did spread so much as they could not retire again".

See also his History of Life and Death:

"The vital spirit has a special abhorrence of leaving the body...it may perhaps rush to the extremities of the body to meet something that it loves".

And his De Augmentis:

"For every passion of the more vehement kind produces motions in the eyes and indeed in the whole countenance and gesture, which are uncomely, unsettled, skipping and deformed".

So in the first of these Bacon passages we have express reference to the spirits coming forth into the outward parts. He is speaking of this as the cause of the outward manifestations of joy, but presumably he would have given the same explanation of outward passions generally - the De Augmentis passage implies this. And note that both authors speak of spirits coming "forth". Bacon also couples spirits and "forth" in other passages, as in his Natural History "It has been noted also that it is most dangerous when an envious eye is cast upon persons in glory and triumph and joy, the reason whereof is for that at such times the spirits come forth most into the outward parts ..."; and in Spedding 5.224 "if moreover it [the spirit] be not much excited by the external air to come forth"; and "do not excite them [the spirits] too much to go forth".

Did other writers make this verbal collocation? Compare too "motive" with "motions", though this time Bacon uses the latter word of the body's motions, not of the spirits responsible for them.

Death due to sudden joy was a commonplace, but features in Shake-Speare in Pericles 5.1.191-4:

"Give me a gash, put me to present pain
Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me
O'erbear the shores of my mortality
And drown me with their sweetness".

end of (a) - part 2 of 9

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