Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Bacon and Shakespeare Theory of Spirits - 7

The Bacon and Shake-Speare Theory of "spirits"

part 7 of 9 

(h)  indulgence in sex causes expense of spirit

First, Shake-Speare:

Sonnet 129:

     Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
     Is lust in action, and till action, lust
     Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody full of blame,
     Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
     Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight,
     Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
     Past reason hated as a swallowed bait,
     On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
     Mad in pursuit and in possession so,
     Had, having, and in quest, to have extreme,
     A bliss in proof and proved, a very woe,
     Before a joy proposed behind a dream.
       All this the world well knows yet none knows well,
       To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

On lines 1-2, compare Bacon's Natural History:

"It hath been observed by the ancients that much use of Venus [sex] doth dim the sight. The cause...is...the expense of spirits".

J.M. Robertson in his The Baconian Heresy (p. 457) gives two other instances of "spend spirits", namely:

"A scholar doth disdain to spend his spirits
Upon such base employment as a hard labour"
   Patient Grisil (1599) by Thomas Dekker

"Foolish enamorates who spend their ages, their spirits, nay themselves in the servile and ridiculous employments of their mistresses".
   Apology for Actors by Thomas Heywood

The first of these passages is not about lust, and the second is not solely about lust and does not use the exact expression "expense of spirit [or spirits]".

Now on lines 4-7 of the sonnet, compare Bacon's Wisdom of the Ancients where in the chapter on Dionysus or Desire he says of desire of all kinds (in Spedding's translation of the Latin):

"[Desire] never rests satisfied with what it has, but goes on and on, with infinite insatiable appetite, panting after new triumphs. Tigers also are kept in its stalls and yoked to its chariot, for as soon as it ceases to go on foot and comes to ride in its chariot, as in celebration of its victory and triumph over reason, then it is cruel, savage and pitiless.

Surely one hears some echo here of Shake-Speare's cruel, savage, past reason.  How likely is it that two authors writing a few lines independently on this subject would both collocate the words italicised?

end of (h)


(i)    blood and spirit are quite separate things

From Shake-Speare's Julius Caesar 2.1.166-70

"Let's be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar,
And in the spirit of men there is no blood.             [Line 168]
O, that we then could come by Caesar's spirit,
And not dismember Caesar!"

The odd-seeming line 168 is another application of the technical doctrine of spirits. On the theory of Bacon and others the blood and the spirit were quite separate things. We have seen under (b) above that the vital spirits but not the blood were considered to flow through the body's arteries. Bacon's conception of the vital spirits was that they were like "a breath compounded of flame and air", quoted earlier in (e). In a letter to King James of 1621 Bacon distinguished between spirit and blood, referring to Henry VII "whose spirit, as well as his blood, is doubled upon your Majesty".

end of (i) and of part 7

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