Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shakespeare's Imagery - Spurgeon 7 of 10

Dr. Spurgeon’s flawed research on Shakespeare and Bacon images – cont. (7)

(7) We will consider Dr. Spurgeon's comparisons of Bacon's and Shakespeare's sea images together. She tells us (a) they differ in that Shakespeare's are general, Bacon's concrete and particular; (b) Shakespeare's most constant images are those 1) of a tide rushing through a breach, 2) a ship being dashed on the rocks and 3) the infinite size, depth and capacity of the Ocean. These three, Dr. Spurgeon says, she never finds in Bacon. We cannot think she can have looked: we know that she has not looked far. She adds that Shakespeare's is the landsman's view of the sea; Bacon's that of a man in a ship or boat and Shakespeare, she says, never once uses the word "ballast". She will find, if she looks again, that he does, in the Comedy of Errors, Act III, 2. “…who sent whole armadoes of caracks to be ballast at her nose”.

An example of Bacon's "general" sea images is furnished by Apothegm, "A sea of multitude". In this image Bacon refers to the large army with which Charles VIII invaded Italy, against which it would be perfectly correct to say, if such were the fact, the Italians, like Hamlet, thought of "taking arms". A very curious identity of metaphor or image is to be found in The Advancement of Learning, Book II, and Timon of Athens, Act IV, 2. Both Bacon and Shakespeare write of a "Sea of air". Other Baconian images are "Vast seas of time"; "a sea of quicksilver"; "a sea of baser metal", while Shakespeare has seas of joys, cares, tears, glory, blood and tears.

If Dr. Spurgeon will compare the orders given by the Boatswain in The Tempest, Act I, 1, with Bacon's History of the Winds, she will find that the latter writes, when a ship is on a sea shore, and, to avoid disaster, must put to sea again, she can lie within six points of the wind, provided she set her courses. Those were the exact orders given by the Boatswain in the play "lest we run ourselves aground”.

Both Bacon's and Shakespeare's view was "that of a man in a ship or boat". Shakespeare refers (Henry VIII, I, 2, 79) to a curious piece of sea lore:

As ravenous fishes do a vessel follow
That is new trimm'd, but benefit no further
Than vainly longing.  

How many landsmen knew or know what was meant by "trimming" a ship? Shakespeare's knowledge of seafaring, like Bacon's, was technical, but he thought, of course, in terms of the ships of his time. In Richard III, I, 4, we have "the giddy footing of the hatches". Hatches were then movable planks laid on the ship's beams, taking the place of the modern upper deck: they afforded a very insecure foothold indeed. In Pericles, Act III, 1, a sailor cries "Slack the bolins", and besides this Shake-speare used a great number of clearly nautical expressions, for example,"clapp'd under hatches", "fetch about" and anchor "coming home"; "bear up and board 'em", "the wind sits in the shoulder of your sail" and "to hull here". No landsman ever wrote like that: Shakespeare had been to sea.

So much then, for Shakespeare as a landsman. Now we will look at three sea images Dr. Spurgeon finds in Shakespeare, but never in Bacon. She will find "the great deluge of danger" in Bacon’s The Felicities of Queen Elizabeth; she will find "peremptory tides and currents which, if not taken in due time, are seldom recovered", in his Advancement of Learning, II, as well as in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, IV, 3; she will moreover discover that Bacon and Shakespeare use the word "tide" in exactly the same metaphorical sense - the tide of opportunity, the tide of affairs, the tide of business, the tide of error, the tide of blood. Again the size, depth and capacity of the ocean is, pace Dr. Spurgeon, as common an image with Bacon as she writes it is with Shakespeare; she will find in Bacon’s  Experimental History, the Ocean of Philosophy and in the Great Instauration the "Ocean of History". In their attempt to express great quantity and extent, both Bacon and Shakespeare refer to the ocean as a symbol; we have already referred to their identical sea-images. They cannot be said to be in one case "general" and in the other "concrete"; they do not differ in quality at all.

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