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Chapter Six Hamlet's Ghost Fear

1. "How many unjust things custom makes one do" (Publius Terentius Afer, Heauton Timorumenos ( The Self-Tormentor ), in Terence , trans. John Sargeaunt, Loeb Classical Library [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953], 202-203 [line 839]). [BACK]

2. William Graham Sumner, Folkways: A Study of the Sociological Importance of Usages, Manners, Customs, Mores, and Morals (Boston: Ginn and Company; The Athenaeum Press, 1913), 28-29, 67. [BACK]

3. Ibid., 3. [BACK]

4. Terry Eagleton, William Shakespeare (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 73. Coriolanus rails against the customs of Rome that he must follow if he wishes to have the people's voice as their leaden Leah Marcus argues that Coriolanus displays the increasing power of the laws and customs of London ( Puzzling Shakespeare [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988], 211). Marcus reads the banishment of Coriolanus as the symbolic ouster of royal and aristocratic privilege from London: "If there is one precipitating cause behind his rejection as consul, it is his inability to act within what the aristocrats scoffingly refer to as the citizens' 'rotten Privilege and Custom'" (204). Coriolanus (who uses the word custom more than any character in Shakespeare) rejects "customs" because they represent the voice of the people (205). [BACK]

5. Stanley Carell, Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 188. [BACK]

6. Hilary Gatti, The Renaissance Drama of Knowledge: Giordano Bruno in England (London: Routledge, 1989), ix. [BACK]

7. Julia Annas, An Introduction to Plato's "Republic " (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 22. [BACK]

8. Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 9-17. Insofar as it has come to be an anthropological commonplace, Dollimore's key insight survives his telling: in Radical Tragedy , Dollimore traces two conceptions of ideology, which he calls cognitive and materialist. The cognitive conception recognizes that rulers consolidate power by conspiring to produce systems of belief that will mystify the ruled. Men like Machiavelli, Calvin, Montaigne, and Marlowe tell us such deception exists. But a materialist ideology is more important than the cognitive, because the materialist concep-

tion conditions and grounds consciousness itself. A material ideology "exists in, and as, the social practices which constitutes people's lives." For Dollimore, the materialist conception represents an important shift in Marxist thinking. While the term "materialism" recalls Marx's historical materialism (the cognitive doctrine that ideology is the way those who control a society's means of production defend their privilege), the new form of materialism contains the cognitive conception of ideology within it. It invokes an interrelationship of ideology and power. In this way, materialism and cognition together are more complex than a strictly limited cognitive conception of ideology.

These cultural conceptions were also "inextricably related" during the Elizabethan/Jacobean period, as the writings of Francis Bacon show—to Dollimore's astonishment, since it took current Marxist thought so long to recognize their overlapping nature. For example, Bacon's doctrine of idols reveals a cognitive view of ideology, leading Bacon to equate tradition with credulity. But Bacon simultaneously held a materialist conception of ideology, as when he observes that customs move men as forcibly as wheels move engines.

At this point Dollimore supplies the interpretive logic necessary to combine Bacon's awareness of the limits of cognition with Bacon's less obvious insight into historical materialism. To move men as wheels move engines is to have power over society. Traditions move men, customs move men; any social practice moves men. Therefore traditions, customs, and social practices are sources of power. Dollimore praises the sophistication of Bacon's thought for its understanding that this power to move men is the power to maintain social order. Bacon knows that the power of custom depends on the force of belief. This knowledge comes to him when he recognizes the element of raw credulity on which traditions, customs, and social practices depend. Because Bacon understands the importance of credulity and the force of belief, he therefore understands what Dollimore calls the epistemology of truth. Those who maintain a social order also control its epistemological truth. The corollary to this grasp of the very, foundation of social behavior follows, that such truth is relative to local custom.

Dollimore claims, however, that not only is epistemological truth—what we credulously believe—relative to social custom, but that ethical truth is similarly relative. He derives this ethical dimension not from his discussion of Bacon, but from other thinkers he reviews, such as Calvin and Montaigne, who recognized that institutions such as religion or the law are agencies of control. Ethics, then,

is a product of institutions in Dollimore's thinking, just as knowledge is a function of what we can know when not deceived by idols of the tribe, the marketplace, or the theater.

For several reasons Dollimore's tour of Marxist thinking takes longer than it might to reach the conclusion that ethics vary with time and place. For one thing, Dollimore fails to mention Bacon's idols of the den: each person's perceptions are distorted by their own "proper and peculiar nature," by their own smaller worlds of experience, which are subject to fortune. Second, Dollimore distorts his analysis by insistently resorting to a myth of progress. The period, he says, had a " developing awareness of ideology." Tradition, for Bacon, "becomes" the basis for a materialist conception of ideology. Once "epistemological and ethical truth was recognized to be relative to custom and social practice, then ideological considerations were inevitably foregrounded'' (my emphasis). Moreover, because Dollimore focuses on the early seventeenth century, he conflates his earlier witnesses like Erasmus and More with mid-century humanists like Elyot and Ascham and Wilson. [BACK]

9. Marshall Sahlins, Culture and Practical Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 22. [BACK]

10. Giovanni Della Casa's Galateo reproves the drinking of healths ( brindisi ) ( Galateo: Ovvero de' Costumi [Milan: Rizzoli, 1977], 132). Cf. Plato's Laws : "A native will always meet the stranger's astonishment at an unfamiliar practice with the words, There is no call for surprise; this is our established custom in the matter, though yours may perhaps be different. . . . So we must take the whole subject of convivial drinking into fuller consideration; it is a practice of grave importance, and calls for the judgment of no mean legislator" ( Laws 1.637d, trans. A. E. Taylor, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato , ed. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Bollingen Series LXXI [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978]). To decide how a drinking party ought to be conducted requires a theory of education, since the point of companionship over a bottle is to imitate the good conduct of the best men—someone should be in control (I.640b)—not to follow debased taste ("education is, in fact, the drawing and leading of children to the rule which has been pronounced right by the voice of the law, and . . . by the concordant experience of the best and oldest men," II.659). [BACK]

11. For more on the stage-business of wearing a hat in Hamlet, Love's Labor's Lost 5.1, and As You Like It 3.3, see Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage: 1574-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 1-2. [BACK]

12. Della Casa's Galateo claims more time is wasted determining the fine points of ceremony than in conducting business. Courtiers in Rome know how to do these things, but elsewhere

le cirimonie sono di grande sconcio alle faccende e di molto tedio. "Copritevi," dice il giudice impacciato, al quale manca il tempo: e colui, fatte prima alquante riverenze, con grande stropiccio di piedi, rispondendo adagio, dice: "Signor mio io sto bene così." Ma pur dice il giudice, "Copritevi"; e quegli, torcendosi due e tre volte per ciascun lato e piegandosi fino in terra, con molta gravità risponde: "Priego Vostra Signoria che me lasci fare il debito mio'': e dura questa battaglia tanto e tanto tempo si consuma che il giudice in poco più arebbe potuto sbrigarsi di ogni sua faccenda quella mattina. ( Galateo , 90)

13. "The Pope never takes off his cap for anyone whatever" ( The Complete Works of Montaigne: Essays, Travel Journal, Letters , trans. Donald Frame [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957], 925, 938). I am in debt for this reference to Edwina Vittorini, "Montaigne, Ferrara and Tasso," in The Renaissance in Ferrara and Its European Horizons , ed. June Salmons and Walter Moretti (Swansea: University of Wales Press, 1984), 145-167; see also Oeuvres Complètes de Michel de Montaigne , vol. 7, Journal de Voyage en Italie (Paris: Louis Conard, 1928), 202. [BACK]

14. "A Sermon Preached Before the King's Majesty at Whitehall on the Fifth of April, A.D. MDCXVIII, Being Easter Day," in Lancelot Andrewes, XCVI Sermons (London, 1641), 518. [BACK]

15. Sumner, Folkways , 57. [BACK]

16. Boccaccio, Il Filocolo , Book IV, question i. [BACK]

17. Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie , 196. [BACK]

18. Pocock, The Ancient Constitution , 14-15. [BACK]

19. As Annabel Patterson has shown, current practices could be tarred as usurpations of more ancient customs. Anti-enclosure tracts, for example, appealed "to the past as the source of 'ancient rights,' some of which were actually imagined as embedded in charters; but it was still to be found as a strategy from 1610 to the 1640s, when parliamentarians were developing their case against the king on the grounds of 'ancient liberties' that Stuart absolutism was said to have abrogated" ( Shakespeare and the Popular Voice [Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1989], 41). Patterson concludes that "the idea of the 'common' had much wider ideological force, and stood for customary practices and 'rights' that were clearly perceived as such at the time of, and because of, their rescinding" (44). [BACK]

20. The Atre of Rhetorique (1553), fol. 19; Mair's edition, 33. [BACK]

21. Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative , vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 5 and 231, cites Saint Augustine, The Confessions , book 11, chap. 14:17, noting that an investigation of time is really an investigation of the self. [BACK]

22. Although Wilson never escapes his own convictions, he was a good storyteller. He and other sixteenth-century writers went beyond the limits of logic or rhetoric by drawing on a long narrative tradition to explore the complexities of ethical and moral issues. Patricia Parker comments that "[Wilson's] Rule of Reason and texts like it link the control of reason, logic, logos itself, to the disciplining of the 'errour' and potentially subversive 'doubtfulness' of words, and both to the maintainance of order in language and society" ( Literary Fat Ladies , 102). [BACK]

23. "This is it, Adam, that grieves me, and the spirit of my father, which I think is within me, begins to mutiny against this servitude" ( As You Like It 1.1.21-24). [BACK]

24. Charles says, "There's no news at the court, sir, but the old news: that is, the old Duke is banished by his younger brother the new Duke" ( As You Like It 1.1.97-100). Celia's comment occurs at 1.3.71. [BACK]

25. Rosalind controls the timing of her discovery as a woman, which she has no reason to delay once within the forest except to achieve what Michel de Certeau called the tactical advantage of the less powerful to manipulate time or, in Ricoeur's terms, to tell her story. Like the dances that symbolize social harmony in Shakespeare's comedies, Rosalind uses the rhythmic chants by Silvius, Phebe, and Orlando to settle the social order of the play to her own advantage ( As You Like It 5.2.79-124). When Rosalind delivers the epilogue of the play, her role as the play's narrator culminates her control of time and displays her eloquent civility. [BACK]

26. For printed English romances reasonably available to Shakespeare, see Ronald S. Crane, The Vogue of Medieval Chivalric Romance During the English Renaissance (Menasha, Wis.: George Banta Publishing Company, 1919). [BACK]

27. See Richard II 5.4.119. The theme of French "custom" as the feminized, colonized Other is implicit in Juliet Fleming's " The French Garden: An Introduction to Women's French," ELH 56 (1989): 19-51 ("To learn French was then to show interest in a nation and a tongue readily associated with impropriety"). [BACK]

28. R. M. Frye, The Renaissance Hamlet: Issues and Responses in 1600 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 338 n. 110. [BACK]

29. The resistance to customs that Hamlet faces also gives depth to Shakespeare's Winter's Tale . The play is about what happens when the old ways no longer work. The action begins with Leontes' spectacular onset of jealousy, when he suddenly reinterprets Hermione's hospitable gestures to Polixenes as signs of adultery. His friend Polixenes suspects something is wrong when Leontes fails to respond to his "customary compliment" ( Winter's Tale 1.2.371). The dilemma of Camillo and Antigonus then shows how changing social circumstances call modes of behavior into question, creating a situation where there are no correct rules. For example, Antigonus agrees to Leontes' demand that he carry Perdita to a distant place, but he dies for his loyalty, pursued by a bear. Camillo, in contrast, temporizes before Leontes' threats. He gropes for a new code of social behavior, but ultimately remains trapped in a system of courtly allegiance. He switches masters, not values, and flees to Bohemia.

Meanwhile, after breaking down Leontes emotionally, Paulina extracts his promise never to marry without her permission. When she makes Hermione's statue descend from her pedestal of sixteen years, she creates the illusion of overcoming time and death. Hermione's statue ages because the art of Julio Romano "would beguile Nature of her custom" ( Winter's Tale 5.2.99). Like the custom that became the basis of the common law, Hermione is always ancient, yet always up to date, tam antiqua tam nova . The ambiguous quality of custom, which solved the problem of how to accommodate change without loss of authority for legal theorists, also restores the dead queen to life. [BACK]

30. Fredson Bowers, "Shakespeare's Dramatic Vagueness," in Hamlet as Minister and Scourge (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989), 80-89, 80. [BACK]

31. Maynard Mack remarks, "In the last act of the play (or so it seems to me, for I know there can be differences on this point), Hamlet accepts his world and we discover a different man" ("The Readiness is All: Hamlet, " in Everybody's Shakespeare [Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993], 107-127, 124). [BACK]

32. G. K. Hunter, "The Heroism of Hamlet," in Dramatic Identities and Cultural Tradition: Studies in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1978), 230-250, 247. [BACK]

33. Harry Levin, Shakespeare and the Revolution of the Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 48. [BACK]

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