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Forms of Fantasy: Psychology and Epistemology in the House of Alma, De la force de Vimagination, and Othello.

WHAT EARLY MODERN DISCUSSIONS of imagination lacked in substantive originality, they made up for in formal ingenuity. Consider Robert Basset's 1637 Curiosities: or the cabinet of nature, which offers this definition:
Q. What is fantasie or imagination?

An. Fantasie, according to Aristotle Cap. 3. Lib. 1. de Anima, is an
apparition, or imagination, (under which are also meditation and
thought comprised) by which are represented Idaea's of things, which
may fall under the exteriour senses, but also an infinity of other
things, which neither are, nor can be, and this either sleeping or
waking, as Gyants, Devils, Hydra's, castles in the Ayre, Chymaera's,
and any thing that can be imagined or thought upon joyntly, or
severally. (1)

The account is unremarkable in that it is entirely consistent with what Basset's contemporaries would have understood by the term "imagination"--also "fantasy," or "fancy"--namely, that it is an inward mental representation, produced and manipulated by the powers of the sensitive soul in the ordinary course of cognition. Fantasies are the intelligible species employed by the faculties of imagination, understanding, and memory; they indeed constitute the basis of "meditation and thought." Rightly, Basset identifies Aristotle's De anima as the origin of faculty psychology. He points out that fancies can represent "things" that may or may not exist in actuality, and that they can be utilized in isolation or in combination--"joyntly, or severally." He implies, also rightly, that the words fantasy and imagination may be used interchangeably, and that the faculties may be thought of as interior senses, analogous to the "exteriour" ones.

Things become more interesting when we examine the texture and arrangement of this definition. Next to the classical citation there is what sounds a bit like Sidney's Defence of Poesy: compare the latter's "Demigods, Cyclops, Chimeras" as examples of fancies with Basset's "Gyants, Devils, Hydra's." (2) Meanwhile, the interrogative scheme evokes the medieval quaestio: Basset's definition is drawn from a chapter dealing with the interior senses, written as a series of questions. Compare his "Wherefore are they tearmed interior?" with Thomas Aquinas's "Whether the interior senses are suitably distinguished?" in the Summa Theologiae. (3) The subtitle of Basset's work would seem to confirm this air of intellectualism: it is a miscellany of "Phylosophicall Naturall and Morall Questions." But the philosophical thinking is obscured by the playful, somewhat clotted prose, and most of the book's chapters are not very scholarly seeming, treating such topics as mad dogs, marmalade, and snow. (4) We must look to another element of Basset's title to comprehend its eclectic contents: cabinet of nature. The Curiosities styles itself as a closet of wonders, a textual display case of exotica--intended to resemble the kunstkammern that exhibited "nature in the raw" alongside "ancient works of art," mingling old things and new, from all over the world. (5) Framed in this way, imagination becomes a wonder, belonging to the newly wondrous world. The faculty's venerable intellectual history, which comprises antique and medieval thought, is here remade as a marvelous pastiche in its own right. Simply by organizing established ideas about fantasy in this layered, symbolic presentation, Basset breathes life into the timeworn precepts of faculty psychology. At the same time, the passage reveals something specific about the epistemological efficacy of the curiosity cabinet: variety and melange cause us to see things with fresh eyes, and so provoke fresh thoughts.

Basset has exploited the fact that although the tenets of faculty psychology were mostly stable at the turn of the seventeenth century, there was no one way of writing about this psychology, no singular authoritative mode of presentation. Commentators could choose among or fashion these modes as they pleased. Such choices, I want to suggest in this essay, indirectly consider the question of how discursive form and epistemic knowledge relate to one another--that is to say, how knowledge is written out in language, fashioned into legible shapes, molded by style and genre. The forms taken by these accounts of imagination are invariably connected to contemporary epistemological preoccupations: in Basset's case, the burgeoning early modern culture of collecting merges with more traditional modes of exposition. My contention is that the Curiosities is only one instance, striking but not unique, of a wider trend in the Renaissance transmission of imaginative theory, wherein authors were liberally adapting the basic Aristotelian framework so as to address the epistemic contexts of their moment.

At stake in this, partly, is the early modern contribution to the history of imagination. What happened to fancy in the long period between scholastic disquisitions on imaginatio and the transcendental imagination of the Enlightenment? One answer would be to say that sixteenth-century literary theorists--Sidney foremost among them--helped to legitimize poetic fancy, shoring up the aesthetic importance of imagination, and stripping some of its pejorative connections to falsehood and mental illness. (6) Granting as much poetic respectability to the fantastic or inventive aspect of imagination as its icastic or imitative one, the Renaissance laid the foundation for the future of literary studies. While this explanation furnishes a plausible prehistory for the poetic imagination of the Romantics, it does not articulate what, if anything, was special about the earlier periods conception of imagination as a faculty of cognition. It overlooks the broad and rich psychological discourse of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--mapped recently in Stuart Clark's Vanities of the Eye--a discourse in which poetics occupy a relatively small place. (7) Countering this oversight, I will concentrate here on the cognitive rather than aesthetic aspect: rather than consider how imagination is involved in the creation of poesy, my focus is on how poets interpreted the theory of imagination.

Whereas Clark suggests that this period witnessed an inexorable loss of faith in all things visual--including the sort of mental vision that is imagination--I wish to suggest that literary artists of this time were productively and not just critically engaged with faculty psychology, whose tenets they were able to explore and extend through the self-conscious use of literary form. Form serves as a means of rewriting Aristotle in light of the epistemological and ethical perspectives of the early modern period without unseating him entirely. Literary writing, because it is inherently interested in the possibilities of form, allowed authors to augment pre-modern philosophical thinking about cognition with contemporaneous epistemological questions, to shed light on the present condition. As an idea, imagination is furthermore unique because it had been concurrently involved in aesthetics, metaphysics, and also epistemology since antiquity: it was, unlike memory or understanding, tied both to knowledge making and representation. Representations of fantasy, therefore, can help us see what scholars such as Elizabeth Spiller and Henry S. Turner, among others, have been urging for some time, namely that we have tended to exaggerate the distinctions between art and science in the early modern era, calling by two names practices and artifacts that were not so clearly distinguished. (8)

In what follows I present readings of three well-known representations of fantasy--in Spenser's Faerie Queene, Montaigne's essay on imagination, and Shakespeare's Othello--each of which demonstrates that literary engagement with imagination was not neatly separable from medical or scientific discourse. In these texts, allegory fuses with anatomy, the essay with the case study, the dichotomy of script and performance with that of theory and praxis. All three authors take as their starting point the prevailing worry, endlessly reiterated by doctors and divines, that a strong imagination warps the world of the imaginer. In different ways, Spenser, Montaigne, and Shakespeare neutralize this worry by formally reframing it: fancy, we learn, is infinitude paradoxically contained in the finite body. Fantastical folklore requires a nuanced conception of facticity. And, in an increasingly technical age, there arises a need for the counterintuitive conception of a "practical" imagination. These works exemplify how literary form fosters the integration of early modern epistemological and protoscientiflc preoccupations with what was initially a philosophical system of psychology; the pre-modern and early modern are woven together in a manner that preserves continuity whilst supporting ongoing speculation and new thinking. Taken together, these authors manifest a pluralistic discourse that in one sense reinscribes the value of faculty psychology while, in another, deepening the complexity of fancy as a concept, making imagination less and less easy to define. Mirroring the mutable faculty that they describe, they expand rather than curb the possible forms of fancy.

In book 2 of The Faerie Queene Spenser depicts imagination as one of three sages housed in the Castle of Alma. The architectural allegory in which he arranges the mental faculties would seem at first to be conventional. Spenser's triple-chambered brain somewhat resembles the anatomical illustration in Gregor Reisch's Margarita philosophica, a popular reference work published in numerous editions at the turn of the fifteen century, in which the powers of the mind are shown to occupy distinct spaces in the brain (fig. 1). The poet evidently knew something of cerebral anatomy; he may have intuited that allegory, a literary form that relies on symbolic configurations and schemas, is not unlike an anatomical drawing. Yet we know also that Spenser was keenly interested in imagination's divine and spiritual character; as John Guillory has argued, the poet resisted the rise of the "creative" imagination, which replaced mystical inspiration with secular creativity. (9) Such a moral or metaphysical perspective is less Aristotelian than Platonic; with it often came a deep distrust of the image-making faculty. We see this distrust in the Neoplatonist humanist Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, for example, who warned that the imagination is endemically vulnerable to error and sin, having a dual affinity for both the carnal and spiritual. (10) Some of this prejudice is certainly evident in Spenser's personification of fancy in Phantastes. He is a young man "of crabbed hew" and "hollow beetle browes," "full of melancholy" and seemingly "mad or foolish." (11) His chief traits of alacrity and restlessness--"quicke preiudize," "working wit"--are dubious qualities at best (2.9.49). But whereas Pico is unconcerned with the distinctions between the faculties or with physiology--questions that had interested Aquinas and Galen--Spenser has deliberately incorporated these elements in his depiction. The materiality and corporeality of Alma's casde complicate the premise that fancy for him was more a visionary calling than an instrument of perception, more sacred than secular.

Spenser is doing more than just reminding us of imagination's complicated philosophical history, convolving multiple classical sources as Renaissance poets often did. Rather, he offers a view of imagination entirely his own, one that attempts to reconcile the transcendental and corporeal aspects of imagination, and imagine how the limitlessness of the potentially exalted mind can exist within a physically confined, corrupted body. The attitude is not of judgment: Phantastes, despite his penchant for "idle thoughts," is not morally depraved; however chaotic his cell might seem, the house of Alma does represent a healthy mind. (12) Further, Spenser flattens the power relation between the faculties, when early modern psychologists usually did the opposite. The physician Andre du Laurens, for example, calls imagination reason's handmaid; the anatomist Helkiah Crooke writes that reason occupies the middle of the brain's "mansions" because that is the "most honourable place." (13) Pierre Charron, author of De la sagesse, compares the faculties to the chambers of a juridical court, in which evidence is successively collected, sifted, and recorded. (14) Spatial conceits like these make cognition concrete, give shape to the sequence by which sense was thought to be gradually refined into thought through the interaction of the various mental powers: "imagination first gathereth the kinds and figures of things [and] afterwards it presenteth them... to the vnderstanding, which considereth of them... [and] puts them to the safe custodie of the memrie." (15) But Spenser gives no indication that there is collaboration among his sages. He awards the usually esteemed middle faculty the least number of lines, neglects even to give it a name. To erase the order of hierarchy and mute the sequentiality of thought are bold decisions on Spenser's part.

The upshot is a greater focus on the implications of structure, on what it means to possess a mind that is composed of three parts. In this the poet is again thinking like an anatomist, more interested in the contiguities of bodily parts than the temporal flow of cognition. The sages, we discover, are related by a logic of perfect complementarity: imagination rules "things to come," whereas reason knows "things present," and memory governs "things past." Between them, they "comprize" the totality of all that is, was, or will be (2.9.49). Spenser's mind is also boundless in capacity: Phantastes sees "Infinite shapes"; reason knows "All artes, all science, all Philosophy"; and Eumnestes has "infinite remembrance" (50, 53, 56). Though the incarnate soul is locked in the body's fortress, the interior is vast. Spenser has unhooked the mind from the conventional axis of transcendence and degradation on which the Neoplatonist imagination typically lay, suggesting instead that the faculties, though they are not as glorious as the soul, are wondrously unfathomable, encompassing all time and space.

A sense of inexhaustible mental plenitude is the primary feature of Phantastes's room. Predictably, the hall is populated with "Hags, Centaurs, feendes, Hippodames." Less predictably, there are natural fauna here too--"Apes, Lyons, Aegles, Owles"--as well as people--"fooles, louers, children, Dames" (50). Rather than sift the fabulous from the real, the poet gathers them together. Added to the fantastics are fantastical forms: "Deuices, dreames, opinions vnsound, / Shewes, visions, sooth-sayes, and prophesies"; "leasings, tales and lies" (51). The categories of fancy are as multitudinous as the fancies themselves, so much so that they begin to blur into a "swarmes of Bees." Imagination is the crowded breeding ground of all ideation, the jostling antechamber of knowledge. There is misprision and illusion here, for sure, but also truths that have yet to become humanly intelligible: fancies are things that "in the world were neuer yit / Ne can deuized be of mortall witt" (my emphases). Additionally, Spenser gives the faculty-based mind a creative bent that departs from notions of genius, inspiration, or furor: he suggests that each faculty has a role in the production of culture, history, and civilization. Raw thought lives in imagination's chamber, while the second room brims with "picturals" of "all that in the world was aye thought" (53), and books and scrolls fill the last. These three rooms comprise "prophecy, legality, chronicle"--a spectrum of textual tradition. (16) The shape of history is derived from the shape of the mind, Spenser says, and imagination plays a vital, initiatory role in the perpetual progress of the collective thought of humankind. As though to underscore the sweeping immensity of this, the canto ends with Guyon and Arthur poring over the chronicles of Faerieland: these culminate in the reign of Gloriana, circling back in a mise en abyme to The Faerie Queene itself, which too, of course, is among the myriad creations of the mind.

And so Phantastes invites us to think about fantasy in untraditional ways. Spenser is less interested than others in the muddled procedure of cognition; he emphasizes the structural importance of imagination in the human story, the breadth of its dominion, and the variety of its artifactual forms. His depiction of the faculties exchanges the quotidian movements of phantasms for a more holistic and impressionistic view of the soul's powers. Giving us a map of the mind, he invites us to contemplate the entire terrain rather than trace isolated routes through it. Anatomization emerges as an epistemological approach that directs attention away from teleological concerns--which of the faculties is best or highest--towards an appreciation of the equal essentiality of the souls different parts. To be sure, Spenser was hardly the first to talk about the mental faculties in a symbolic allegorized setting; nor was he the first to mix notions of the fantasy taken from different philosophical traditions. Yet, the decisive formal oudines of his romance--the concreteness of the three chambers, reified in the taut confines of the Spenserean stanza--strikingly eschew the elasticity of faculty psychology. Just as the limitless mind is implausibly housed in the body, a distinctive idea of imagination emerges from the tightly structured, seemingly orthodox figuration of fancy in The Faerie Queene.

Montaigne's essay on the power of imagination bears little resemblance to the house of Alma. De la force de l'imagination has none of the triadic symmetries we see in Spenser; it is associative and accumulative, its organization metonymic rather than metaphoric. Whereas Spenser resists narrativizing cognition, Montaigne takes narrative--the legends, folktales, and anecdotes that make up the early medical history of imaginative disease--as his point of departure. In broad terms, however, Montaigne is doing something comparable to Spenser. While examining commonly held notions about the image-making faculty, he stumbles on an unexpected consideration of the value of the case study as a form. More explicitly than Spenser, Montaigne notices the resonance between his own literary method, his distinctive form of self-portraiture, and the narrative texture of medical writing. His meditation on imagination provokes him to try to articulate the epistemological efficacy of stories.

The importance of imagination as a theme in the Essais is clear. As readers have described, this wildest and most mutable of the mental faculties appears to have emblematized for Montaigne the beguiling fluidity of experience. The unruly fantasy interested the essayist because it "undermines the consistency of the self," feeding "the endless curiosity and vanity that characterizes the human subject," Lawrence D. Kritzman writes. (17) Further, John D. Lyons argues that the fugitive subjectivity foregrounded in Montaigne's essays may be understood as an attempt to regulate the vagaries of fancy as the Stoics had encouraged. Imagination for Montaigne is the faculty that governs "our ability to know"; its epistemological unreliability, the fact that it can be muddied by the will of the perceiver, means that it has the power to reveal the perceiver, be an effective instrument not only of knowledge but of self-knowledge as well. (18) In considering Montaigne's complex sense of the imagination, however, it is important not to forget that the fantasy was an idea embedded in discourse, transmitted always through text. That ideas for Montaigne were grounded in writings we can infer from the way he continually reworked his essays, and from the fact that he wrote in the mode of the cento, lifting pieces from other texts. His idea of fancy was fundamentally bound up with his interest in discourse.

This interest in textuality is markedly on display in the essay De la force de l'imagination. Relatively short, it is awash with exemplary tales of the fantasy's powers; as critics invariably note, the essay offers up a veritable "storehouse of cases, anecdotes, and references"; the cases are so plentiful that they "threaten to overwhelm the point of the discussion." (19) The longest and most memorable of these is an anecdote involving an impotent bridegroom who is rescued on his wedding night by a talisman, handed to him by Montaigne personally, which, by the power of imaginative suggestion, happily restores his capability. Critical discussion of the essay has tended to concentrate on this episode--rightly so, for it speaks to a favorite topos of Montaigne's, namely, the secret bond between mind and body, and the uneasy alliance between cognition and the will in particular. Fewer explanations have been offered, however, as to why this essay bulges with so many extraneous tales.

There is evidence to suggest that stories and not sex are the essay's real theme. The opening anecdote sets up a pattern that will repeat throughout:
Simon Thomas was a great Physitian in his daies. I remember vpon a time
comming by chance to visit a rich olde man that dwelt in Tholouse, and
who was troubled with the cough of the lungs, who discoursing with the
said Simon Thomas of the meanes of his recoverie, he told him, that one
of the best was, to give me occasion to be delighted in his companie,
and that fixing his eyes vpon the livelines and freshnes of my face
[...] his habitude might thereby be amended, and his health recovered.
But he forgot to say, that mine might also be empaired and infected.

Elements both factual and fabulous make the account peculiar yet believable. Historical time is blurred by the formulations "In his daies" (de son temps) and "vpon a time" (vn jour). Realism comes in details like "the cough of the lungs" and the doctor's repeated name. Actually, the anecdote is redundant. Leaving aside the fact that the sympathetic properties of fantasy were well known, Montaigne has already twice stated his psychosomatic vulnerability to imagination in his opening paragraph: "The sight of others anguishes doth sensibly drive me into anguish"; "If one cough continually, he provokes my lungs and throate." Soon we are inundated with stories: pivoting from the first person to the third, Montaigne launches into a list of other sufferers. He tells of Gallus Vibius, an orator whose study of folly unseated his sanity; the mute son of Croesus, who spontaneously recovered his voice; and Lucius Cossitius, who transformed into a man on his marriage day (40). Later, after the story of Montaigne's newlywed friend and the virility amulet, comes another enumeration, this time of unnamed protagonists. A woman imagined that she swallowed a pin, suffering from an "intolerable paine in her throat" until "a skilfull man" convinced her she had vomited it up. Another man jested with his dinner guests that he had fed them a baked cat, provoking one of them to fall into a "violent ague and distemper of her stomack." Still more examples take us into the animal kingdom: we are told that tortoises and ostriches can hatch their eggs with "looks only," while hares and partridges "grow white by the snowe vpon mountains" (44-45).

It is possible to interpret this narrative effusion as yet another articulation of Montaigne's subjectivity: the stories are exempla that provoke mental scrutiny and so teach the essayist about himself; its pregnant women and canny animals may be his imaginary alter egos. (21) But part of the point, surely, is to bring us into a contemplation of the effusion itself, of the overabundance of imaginations pathological discourse. These myths were in fact a familiar fixture in early modern texts. Recorded originally by Montaigne's ancient and medieval sources--Herodotus, Pliny, Plutarch, Augustine--they were ceaselessly reproduced by Renaissance physicians. Ambroise Pare's Des monstres et prodiges, for example, recounts several instances of imagination deforming offspring in utero. (22) Some stories reappear in several places: Montaigne's regurgitated pin and the feline supper are both rehearsed in Simon Goulart's Admirable and memorable histoires, for example. (23) Du Laurens tells of a man who thought he was a jug, another who thought himself a rooster, and another who worried that Atlas might tire of shouldering the world's weight; all three show up in Pierre le Loyer's treatise on specters. (24) These apocryphal fables had plainly become a formal shorthand for imaginative delusion. They are luridly sensational and memorably pithy. Often clustered in groups of three, they hammer home rhetorically the fantasy's legendary and merciless potency.

And they have an epistemic function: they constitute, or are presented as, concrete medical case data. As Susan P. Mattern writes, storytelling features heavily in Galen's medical writings; in his records too, distinctions between history, case study, and personal experience were habitually elided. (25) Those same elisions have been deliberately thrown into sharp relief in the Essais. The prose wavers between intimate confession and commonplace wisdom--swerving from the abnormally hirsute daughter of a Bohemian emperor to the author's backyard, where a stray cat's menacing stare recently caused a terrified bird to drop into the predator's paws (45). The effect is to cast a different light on the borrowed fables: what might read as wondrous or shocking in a treatise on monsters or demons becomes, in the context of Montaigne's everyday life, almost charmingly quotidian. At the same time, figure and ground alternate; intellectual history mingles with personal history. The essay can be read both as a psychological treatise interrupted by authorial asides or as a memoir littered with scraps of folklore. Convolving himself with fantasy's storybook, Montaigne reveals that cognitive theory and subjectivity are mutually constitutive; each shapes and is shaped by the other. As we know, Montaigne added the longer autobiographical anecdotes only when he came to revise this essay--neither Simon Thomas nor the anxious bridegroom appears before the 1592 edition. This would indicate that the essayist had himself noticed the interesting tension between the discourse of imagination and his own autobiographical project, and decided to heighten that tension.

In the essay's final lines--also added in the later editions--Montaigne turns away from the psychology of imagination altogether. Instead, he reflects on the epistemological upshot of the essayistic form, on what separates stories from what we might call factual knowledge. He is, he says, averse to dissimulation and gulling, to "enchauntments," "fopperies," and "craftie and fained actions" (41-42). Yet, as a reader of imaginative lore, how can he guard against becoming one of its duped victims? Can he guarantee the truth of his sources? He cannot. Montaigne weighs the reliability of the two narrative modes between which he has been oscillating--fabulous "histories" and personal "discourses."
The histories I borrow, I referre to the consciences of those I take
them from. The discourses are mine, and holde together by the proofe of
reason, not of experiences; each man may adde his example to them. (45)

Drawn into a meditation on the distinctions between story and confession, proof and experience, Montaigne here articulates the multiple ways in which we know texts. As would a poet, he knows there is utility in fiction: "fabulous testimonies, alwaies provided they be likely and possible, may serve to the purpose, as well as the true, whether it hapned or no." As would a critic, he knows that an odd story offers more interpretive possibilities than a mundane one: "I commonly make use of that which is most rare and memorable." He is like an empiricist observer, intuiting that evidence, even if we do not yet know what exactly it is evidence of, should be kept untampered:
It is justly allowed in schooles, to suppose similitudes, when they
have none. Yet do not I so.... To the examples I here set down, of what
I have read, heard, done, or seene, I have forbid my selfe so much as
to dare to change the least, or alter the idlest circumstances.

This early modern essayist rejects the analogical "similitudes" favored by the medieval "schooles"; he would rather presume nothing, reproducing "what I have read, heard, done, or seene" without alteration. The method Montaigne advocates in these last pages has been called a kind of forensic conjecture, wherein the accuracy of the report is deliberately held separate from the authenticity of the event, and each is assumed to possess its own type of "use-value." (26) The use-value is furthermore forward- rather than backward-looking, for Montaigne would rather know "what may come to passe" than dabble in the past like a historian. In this preference for predictive knowledge, he is, finally, a scientist.

Suitably, the essay ends with a pharmacological metaphor: "It is not dangerous, as in a medicinable drug, whether an old tale or report, be it thus or thus, so or so." No one ever died from hearing a tall story, though there could be side effects. In form, this anthologizing essay consciously mimics the texts and stories that it cites; in so doing, it defamiliarizes those accounts, such that we contemplate their utility anew. The ending is wittily apt, for it has been by rehearsing the specifically medical etiology of imagination that Montaigne has come to question his epistemological assumptions. About imagination, his essay implies that not a little of fancy's perceived untrust-worthiness may stem from its unsystematic discursive dissemination in folklore and legend. At the same time, inspired by the formal similarities between essayistic and pathological writing, Montaigne has wrought a comment about the complicated way in which stories mean, proposing a critical reassessment of what uncorroborated medical discourse might be good for. Wes Williams notes that Montaigne sometimes refers to his essays using the French word fantasies. (27) Imagination was not just a recurring theme in his work, then; it was no less than the name he gave to the special, supple form in which he wrote.

My final example of how formal constructions can provoke productive revisions of ideas about imagination is Shakespeare's Othello--an acutely phantasmatic play focused, many readers agree, on the pitfalls of perception. (28) It engages some of the concerns we have seen already, and adds something more. Like Spenser, Shakespeare is interested in the relation between different faculties, especially imagination and judgment. Othello's exoticism and storytelling also evoke the fabulous literature we saw in Montaigne. As Basset will do later, the tragedy exploits the causal overdetermination of imagination, crafting a world governed by many kinds of fancy. Like the other authors, Shakespeare complicates a seemingly uncontroversial axiom of faculty psychology--in this case, that all knowledge derives from phantasms--by translating it into literary form. Yet, Othello is a little different in that it employs a trope drawn not from the theory of imagination but instead from the burgeoning philosophy of science--the dichotomy of theoretical and practical knowledge. This dichotomy enlisted the fantasy in contradictory ways: imagination was deemed essential to the application of scientific knowledge and also an impediment to scientific discovery. Othello's representation of "practice" is part of its multifaceted portrayal of imagination, a portrayal very aware of conventional psychological wisdom while at the same time looking towards emerging epistemological questions in which imagination was newly entangled. Because these questions take us beyond the realm of faculty psychology proper, and because they were still forming, I devote more space to contextualizing them below. What I argue is that Othello conveys just how important matters of practical knowledge--praxis, experience, technicity, problem-solving--were becoming at this time.

When he adapted Cinthio's tale about a jealous Moor, Shakespeare invented a few more reasons for the ensign to hate the lieutenant: Cassio has won the post that Iago believes to be rightly his; Cassio may even have cuckolded Iago, Iago thinks. Then there is the fact that Cassio is an unpracticed soldier, "a great arithmetician"
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the division of a battle knows
More than a spinster--unless the bookish theoric,
Wherein the tongued consuls can propose
As masterly as he! Mere prattle without practice
Is all his soldiership. (29)

Othello has "seen the proof" of Iago's abilities "At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on others' grounds." Yet, he has promoted a "tongued consul"--a mere "counter-caster" (29)--whose knowledge derives from "bookish theoric" and is therefore useless. (Cassio thinks Iago no great intellectual either, remarking to Desdemona: "you may relish him / More in the soldier than in the scholar" [2.1.160-61].) Outraged by this privileging of speculative knowledge over its practical equivalent, Iago vows to undermine the supposed expertise of his superiors. He will do it using the very sort of intelligence that they undervalue. He will put the Moor in a state "That judgment cannot cure," by "practising upon his peace and quiet / Even to madness" (2.3.293-94).

Writers of the period tread carefully around the tension that Iago names: praxis, the knowledge of "things done and things made," as distinguished from the theoretical interests of episteme. (30) One might intuitively suppose, writes the diplomat and soldier Bernardino de Mendoza, that it is hard to devise "a Theorique of knowledge" when it comes to war, given that it "consisteth entierly in practise." In fact, it is important to understand the "grounds" and "reason" upon which the arts of fortification and artillery are based. Without theory, says Mendoza, there could be no medicine, no architecture. (31) Practice, too, must be diligently sought. William Bourne, a mariner and mathematician, observes that long years at sea do not in themselves a shipmaster make; rather, "cunning," "sharpeness" of wit, and "iudgement" have to be forged through experience and mindful "practise." (32) Tacitly, these discussions are grappling with the relative merits of philosophical supposition versus empirically tested knowledge, a bone of contention during the so-called scientific revolution. Among the proponents of "practice" was Francis Bacon, for example, who felt that scientia had too long languished in its disdain for concrete concerns, standing "almost at a stay" while the mechanical arts were "continually growing and becoming more perfect." (33) The star-gazing philosopher is bound to fall in a puddle, he writes; if "he had looked down he might have seen the stars in the water." (34) Faculty psychology is inevitably pulled into these debates. George Puttenham's Art of English Poesy says that imagination is essential to the fields of governance, law, and technology. Without it, "no man could devise any new or rare thing"; "there could be no politic captain, nor any witty enginer or cunning artificer." (35) Among the euphantasiote--individuals who exercise the fantasy in its most excellent form--are
all good poets, notable captains stratagematic, all cunning artificers
and enginers, all legislators, politicians, and counselors of estate,
in whose exercise the inventive part is most employed and is to the
sound and true judgment of man most needful. (36)

Such men are less like Phantastes--whom Puttenham might have called [phrase omitted], (phantastikos)--and more akin to the nameless sage of Spenser's second chamber, who reasons "of policy, / Of lawes, of judgements," whose wisdom stems, significantly, from "continuall practise" (2.9.54). When applied by "artificers and enginers," says Puttenham, imagination comes closest to "sound and true judgement." Thus, it appears that the notion of applicable knowledge tests the traditional classification of cognitive functions proposed by premodern psychology. The natural philosophical and technological sophistication of the early modern period provoked a need to reconceive the relation between the mental faculties.

What can imagination accomplish that understanding or judgment cannot? The physician Juan Huarte says that fantasy grasps particulars, unlike understanding, which deals only in universals. A good doctor needs a strong faculty of understanding to master the theoretical principles of medicine; the best healers, though, are imaginative men, for they can discern the details of each case, each patient. (37) The successful war officer, too, needs an excellent sense of mental perception if he is to "discern the wiles" of the enemy, and devise the "engins and war-like instruments" with which battles and sieges are won. (38) The importance of imaginative visualization is implicitly corroborated by the engineer Agostino Ramelli's Diverse et artificiose machine, a book of illustrated designs depicting a slew of ingenious contraptions, including engines of war such as portable bridges, catapults, and crossbows (fig. 2). Crowded with pulleys, cranks, and chains, Ramelli's images are detailed to an unprecedented, almost impracticable degree; assembly instructions are not nearly as precise, as though the main aim were to stress the virtuosity of the designer's imagination. (39) As the architect Leon Battista Alberti wrote, masterful practitioners can perfect their plans in abstraction. They "project whole forms in the mind without any recourse to the material," and have "thoroughly thought out everything and determined it in the mind beforehand," prior to

the "course of construction." (40)

But there were some who objected to this idea that theory comes before practice--both in the process of making and in social esteem. For the sixteenth-century ceramicist Bernard Palissy, who wrote his Discours admirables as a dialogue between Theory and Practice, imagination is not a skill, only groundless hypothesizing. He advises the reader
not to dull your mind with sciences written in the study by an
imaginative or biased theory [vne theorique imaginatiue] or taken from
some book written from imagination [imagination] by those who have
practiced nothing, and to be wary of believing the opinions of those
who say and maintain that theory begat practice. Those who teach such a
doctrine argue wrongly, saying that the thing that one wants to do must
be imagined and pictured [imaginer et figurer] in one's mind, before
laying hand to one's task. (41)

If imaginings could be carried out so easily, then military strategists would seldom lose battles. The truth is that "All the theory in the world" cannot teach you to make a shoe, "not even the heel of a boot." No armchair cosmographer, "having studied fifty years in books," even if he possessed "maps of all regions and the chronometer, the compass and astronomical instruments," would dare to sail the world. Palissy thus answers emphatically the question that was forming in early modern scientific discourse, whose stakes were felt as keenly by mathematicians as mechanicals: are discoveries necessarily born as ideas, or can they emerge from practice and experience? Imagination was used to drive the conceptual wedge between theory and practice, and helped crystallize this crucial formal distinction in the philosophy of science.

For a summarizing illustration of the range of social and epistemological tensions in play we might turn briefly to Robert Norman's New attractiue, a treatise describing the magnetic dip of the compass needle, discovered by the author, a mariner turned instrument maker. Annexed to the 1581 edition is a short treatise on the compass by William Borough, comptroller of the Queen's navy and Norman's patron. Graciously, Borough calls Norman an "expert Artificer," praising the discovery as "a matter neuer before found." He takes the opportunity to urge other seamen to study mathematics, to master "the doctrine of Sines and Triangles," "seeke knowledge in Arithmetick & Geometric" and emulate such luminaries as Vitruvius and Durer. More sternly, Borough decries a recent map made by a university professor, corrupted, he says, with errors and "fantasticall inscriptions." (42) Norman, in his own treatise, comes across as much more fiercely ambitious and censorious of academics. Dutifully, he thanks his "right worshipfull" mentor; he also styles himself as a latter-day Archimedes. Of course, he would not "presume to compare" himself to the great mathematician of antiquity who leapt from his bath, "beying my self an vnlearned Mechanician." Still, he thinks "our cases are not vnlike," and is resolved to trumpet his eureka, careless of "mine owne nakedness." (43) When Norman writes disparagingly of "tedious conjectures or imaginations," he seems to be thinking of the same "learned or auncient writers" he claims not to disparage. His own methods involve "exacte triall, and perfect experiments," "experience, reason, and demonstration." Too often, he writes, scholars are lost "amongest their books"; they "imagine greate matters, and sette doune their farfetcht conceiptes in faire shewe." They expect lowly mechanics to "deliuer vnto them their knowledge and conceiptes, that they might florishe vpon them, and applie them at their pleasures." The truth is that there are "in this lande diuers Mechanicians" who are perfectly capable in the arts of "Geometricall demonstration, and Arithmeticall Calculation," and "can applie them to their seuerall purposes, as effectually and more redily, then those that would most condemne them." (44)

Of course, Iago's malice cannot be reduced to the career frustrations of a would-be scientist. But we ought to include among the various avatars he adopts while rationalizing his spite--jealous husband, oppressed minion, lecherous rake--that of the unsung practitioner. The power struggle between Othello and Iago is a symbolic conflict of ideologies; as Ken Jacobsen has argued, the two men embody the escalating tension between a "traditional conception of warfare" and an "emergent, highly rationalized military 'science.'" (45) If we take into account the early modern association of strategic thinking with imagination, and also the way that imagination was uncertainly pinned between theory and practice, it is possible to see how Othello's martial backdrop ties with its phantasmatic psychodrama.

These ties are suggested in the play's third scene, when, just as Iago is raising a hue and cry over Brabanzio's daughter, we find the Duke and senators weighing the military movements of the Turk. They consider the reported size of the enemy fleet bound for Rhodes, wondering if the numbers are "disproportioned." They ponder if the intelligence they have in hand is enough "to judgment"; they estimate the probable margin of "error." They speculate as to whether the Rhodesian "preparation" is an "unskillful" mistake, or else shrewd diversionary theater--"a pageant / To keep us in false gaze" (1.3.2, 9, 18-19, 27). More than once, the discussion is interrupted by incoming news, and the commanders swiftly recalibrate their estimations. It is, in short, a scene of imaginative "practice"--one that quietly primes us for the imminent false "pageant" of Desdemona's alleged infidelity. Notably, Othello is absent; never in the play do we see the famed general engaged militarily, either in combat or in policy.

It can be no accident that the scene in which Iago sows the seed of his slander is set on the "fortification" of a citadel. While Othello is "walking on the works," touring the castle's defensive architecture, his own mind is attacked (3.2.3, 5). The coy parroting that Iago does in this scene--"What dost thou think?" "Think, my lord?" (3.3.103-4)--is quite different from the rudimentary tactics he used in the first act. Then it was easy enough to roil Brabanzio with crude phantasms--the black ram "tupping" a white ewe; the Barbary horse "cover[ing]" its mate (1.1.86-87, 107). Before the Duke, however, these images are promptly dispelled by the more compelling mental representations conjured by the Moor's smooth rhetoric. To Iago's ears, Othello's "epithets of war" sound like "bragging," "prating," and "fantastical lies" (1.1.13, 2.1.214-15). (46) Still, he takes a different tack in Cyprus: rather than try to commandeer Othello's powerful phantasmatic machinery, he will get the general to maneuver it himself.
IAGO.                                  I do beseech you,
Though I perchance am vicious in my guess--
As, I confess, it is my nature's plague
To spy into abuses and of my jealousy
Shape faults that are not--that your wisdom
From one that so imperfectly conceits
Would take no notice, nor build yourself a trouble
Out of his scattering and unsure observance. (3.3.143-50)

These lines are so obscure that even Othello has trouble following: "What dost thou mean?" The obfuscation is artful. Iago speaks of seeing in ways both literal and figurative, physical and cognitive: "spy into abuses"; "Shape"; "conceits"; "observance." The special sort of perception described here, vision that is imbued with "wisdom," or, conversely, a kind of thinking that can take "notice," strongly evokes imagination--mental seeing. This is moreover a kind of imagination that is tempered by excellent cogitative judgment, the kind that a commander proud of his "speculative and ofhced instrument" might rather like to hear praised (1.3.267). The praise is ironic, being not only insincere but also misplaced, for by the play's end we learn that Othello's powers of discernment are flawed. Repeatedly described as having a free and open nature, the Moor seems not to realize, as demonologists and doctors knew, that the castle of the mind is perpetually under siege. Iago, in contrast, can articulate the pathology of imagination precisely: "Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons" (3.3.323).

The theatrical sleight of hand by which Iago furnishes Othello's ocular proof is of a piece with the play's representation of practice, and calls attention to the artisanal quality of playmaking. The supposed evidence for Desdemona's infidelity comes as Othello watches from afar as Cassio laughingly twirls a handkerchief in a ribald dumb show--a performance directed by Iago, in which Iago is also an actor. Othello confuses what he sees with what he imagines: his lieutenant bragging about bedding his wife. In this moment, we are alerted to what Erika T. Lin has called "the materiality of performance"; Othello has misinterpreted the spectacle, as though lacking the "theatrical literacy" to parse "the dynamic interplay between theatre's representational strategies and presentational effects." (47) Iago's ruse demonstrates that playacting involves a cognitive ecology of skills as complex as soldiering; it means knowing, as Evelyn B. Tribble has described, how to see the playing space in a particular way, how to manage audience attention and coordinate with a physical environment. (48) Artisans, like actors, "see reality as intimately related to material objects and the manipulation of material." (49) Shakespeare's tragedy, which depicts a slanderous idea monstrously translated into a brutal action, is itself just such a translation, being a play--a scripted conceit turned into performance.

And so Iago is able to impale Othello on Othello's own imagination, defiling the cognitive instrument that supposedly marks the general's intellective preeminence. In a further irony, Iago in doing this demonstrates no small degree of imagination in himself. What Stephen Greenblatt has characterized as improvisatory ability is also talent in fantasy--the ready responsiveness and nimble calculation seen in the adept surgeon and cunning man at arms. (50) Othello and Iago are in fact both highly fantastical. Their wives tell us as much: Desdemona leaves Othello to "your fancies," succumbing finally to the "horrible fancy" that spells her demise; Emilia speaks of Iago in comparable terms--"I nothing but to please his fantasy" (3.3.87, 297; 4.2.25). To decide whether it is the imagination of Iago or Othello that bears the greater blame in the tragedy means to think through the epistemological nuances surrounding the use of that faculty--to decide whether fantasizing comes closer to thinking or to doing, to speculative wisdom or strategic engineering, to illusion or insight.

The difficulty of making this decision is exacerbated by the repeated invocation of other, more recognizable forms of imagination. The Venetian war room is broken up by Brabanzios complaint that Othello has "practiced" on his daughter with false charms, that the Moor is a "practicer / Of arts inhibited," "practices of cunning hell" (1.3.73, 78-79, 102). Later, Othello spins a yarn about Desdemona's handkerchief laden with references to imaginations purported powers: the thing was sewn in a "prophetic fury," bequeathed by one who "could almost read / The thoughts of people" to a receiver told never to lose it lest her lover "hunt / After new fancies" (3.4.54-55, 59-60, 69). Later still, Desdemona seems to prophesy her death, singing a song about a forsaken maid. And Othello mythologizes his suicide, constructing a tale about a "turbahd Turk" and beaten "Venetian" that seems to anticipate that he, Othello, is soon to join the fabled ranks of imagination's famous casualties (5.2.340-47). (51) In its latter stages, the world of the play grows uncanny; people and objects seem to pulse with the fantasy's free-flowing potency. Weaving together different early modern notions of imagination, Shakespeare stages a drama that variously espouses the logic of a morality play, a fable, a psychopathological case study, and a lesson in war-craft. When Iago says that his foul plan is "engendered," likening inception to "monstrous" birth, he is speaking, as Pare does, of imagination's power to create and mutate (2.1.381-82). When he says that harmful fancies do not "distaste" "at the first" but rather "act on the blood" slowly, he is like Du Laurens, a doctor of imaginative disease (3.3.324-25). When Othello scans Iago's feet for the cloven hooves of a "demi-devil," we are in the realm of demonology, and imagination is possession (5.2.279-80, 294). (52)

Added to these horrors, I have been arguing, is the misplaced philosophical confidence--"It is the cause, it is the cause" (5.2.1)--with which Othello is armed when he at last visits Desdemona in their marriage bed. Wrongly, she assumes that he has been overcome by "Something... of state," "some unhatched practice" pertaining to his work (3.4.132-33). Lodovico, comparably, surmises that the Moor had "Fallen in the practice of a cursed slave" (5.2.285). Yet it is hard, especially in the play's final moments, to say what exactly is meant by "practice." The effect is mimetic: Shakespeare induces doubt in the viewer, eroding our sense of certainty just as Iago has maddened the Moor. In a larger sense, Othello's representation of practice is a clever emulsion of older and newer notions of fantasy, a skillful conjunction of superstition and technology; it brings up particular questions that were coming under scrutiny in a period increasingly invested in empiricism, experimentation, and engineering--questions to do with how knowledge is invented, by whom, and to what end. The most salient formal characteristic of modern science, we could say, is the scientific method: the process by which hypothesis is gradually hardened into fact. If so, then the idea of imagination, and practical imagination especially, is thoroughly involved with the idea of scientific form.

Where Spenser tries to square the philosophical contradictions of an embodied mind and Montaigne generates a forensics of interpretation out of imaginations mythology, Shakespeare in Othello expands the boundaries of fancy such that it transcends speculative knowledge: the gulling of the Moor reveals that not everything is specifiable in theory. Iago makes us understand imagination not in terms of mental form but rather manual formation. Stage drama, with its inherent emphasis on practical knowledge, conveys the point easily enough, for in the playhouse as much as the artisan's workshop something happens in the course of making that cannot occur in the moment of thinking. What we thus see in Othello is how faculty psychology could be brought to bear on emerging questions as well as on traditional ones. Whereas in its earlier history phantasia had been comfortably accommodated in Socratic dialogue and scholastic questioning, it had now to traverse beyond the bounds of philosophy. Imagination, ever a disruptive force, was itself becoming disrupted by a nascent epistemological paradigm that challenged the presumed value of intellection over execution. Shakespeare's achievement is to make this disruption seem imaginative in what has become our modern, artistic sense of the word.

Twisting the fantasy into distinctive shapes, Spenser, Montaigne, and Shakespeare propose interpretations and extensions of Aristotle's idea of imagination, offering up insights that appear startlingly modern while also belonging to their cultural moment, the humanistic Renaissance: they suggest that transcendence is not incommensurate with carnality, that questionable reports can yield useful truths, and that the purest knowledge may be that which is contingent on application. In these representations of the fantasy, literary art is integrated with the epistemes and epistemologies of the period: the anatomization of the mind found in psychological texts accommodates itself to allegory; the essai, like the case study, supposes that accidents of experience can be mined for universal value; and the stage play, wherein actors implement a script, is suited to the exploration of knowledge put into practice. For the very fullest understanding of Renaissance literary form, therefore, we must look to understanding scientific discourse as well, look to devices that arose out of psychology, medicine, or anatomy. The contrastive forms employed by these authors make it easy to see that the pre-Cartesian fantasy was indeed a cabinet of curiosities: taken collectively and considered in juxtaposition, they suggest the scope of the creative potential latent in sixteenth-century psychology. The formlessness of imagination gave these artists a certain freedom; their instinct was not to consolidate its prospective forms, but to multiply them.

Mount Holyoke College


The writing of this essay was aided by a fellowship granted by the Newberry Library, whose generous support I gratefully acknowledge. Many thanks to Jenny Mann, Debapriya Sarkar, my anonymous reviewers, and fellow members of the 2016 Shakespeare Association of America seminar entitled "Imagining Scientific Form."

(1) Robert Basset, Curiosities: or the cabinet of nature (London, 1637), 197-98.

(2) Philip Sidney, "The Defence of Poesy," Sir Philip Sidney: The Major Works, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (Oxford U. Press, 2002), 216.

(3) Basset, Curiosities, 196; Thomas Aquinas, On Human Nature, ed. Thomas S. Hibbs (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1999), part 1, question 78, article 4.

(4) As Katie Whitaker notes, collections of rareties were typically arranged so as to emphasize "variety and contrast." See "The Culture of Curiosity," Cultures of Natural History, ed. N. Jardine, J. A. Secord, and E. C. Spray (Cambridge U. Press, 1996), 87.

(5) Horst Bredekamp, The Lure of Antiquity and the Cult of the Machine: The Kunstkammer and the Evolution of Nature, Art and Technology, trans. Allison Brown (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1995), 20.

(6) See William Rossky, "Imagination in the English Renaissance: Psychology and Poetic," Studies in the Renaissance 5 (1958): 65-71; and, more recently, Peter Mack, 'Early Modern Ideas of Imagination: The Rhetorical Tradition," Imagination in the Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, ed. Lodi Nauta and Detlev Patzold (Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2004), 59-76.

On Sidney's essay and its absorption of continental literary theoretical debates of the time, see John Guillory, Poetic Authority: Spenser, Milton, and Literary History (Columbia U. Press, 1983), 9-11.

(7) Stuart Clark, Vanities of the Eye: Vision in Early Modern European Culture (Oxford U. Press, 2007).

(8) See Elizabeth Spiller, Science, Reading, and Renaissance Literature: The Art of Making Knowledge, 1580-1670 (Cambridge U. Press, 2004); Henry S. Turner, The English Renaissance Stage: Geometry, Poetics, and the Practical Spatial Arts, 1580-1630 (Oxford U. Press, 2006). See as well Howard Marchitello, The Machine in the Text: Science and Literature in the Age of Shakespeare and Galileo (Oxford U. Press, 2011); Mary Thomas Crane, Losing Touch with Nature: Literature and the New Science in Sixteenth-Century England (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2014).

(9) See Guillory, Poetic Authority, chap. 1,1-22

(10) Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, On the Imagination, trans, and ed. Harry Caplan (Yale U. Press, 1930), 43.

(11) Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene, ed. A. C. Hamilton, with Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki (New York: Longman, 2001), 2.9.52. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(12) Paul Stevens, Imagination and the Presence of Shakespeare in Paradise Lost (U. of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 104.

(13) Andre du Laurens, A discourse of the preservation of the sight, trans. Richard Purphet (London, 1599), 73; Helkiah Crooke, Mikrokosmographia (London, 1615), 504.

(14) Pierre Charron, Of wisdome, trans. Samson Lennard (London, 1608), 50.

(15) Charron, Of wisdome, 51.

(16) A. Bartlett Giamatti, Play of Double Senses: Spenser's "Faerie Queene" (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975), 111. See as well Judith H. Anderson, Reading the Allegorical Intertext: Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton (Fordham U. Press, 2008), 80.

(17) Lawrence D. Kritzman, The Fabulous Imagination (Columbia U. Press, 2009), 10, 39.

(18) John D. Lyons, Before Imagination: Embodied Thought from Montaigne to Rousseau (Stanford U. Press, 2005), 33, 46.

(19) Wes Williams, "Montaigne on Imagination," in The Oxford Handbook of Montaigne, ed. Philippe Desan (Oxford U. Press, 2016), 695. See also Kritzman, Fabulous Imagination, 38-39, which calls the essay "a series of tales" comprising "several case studies"; and Lyons, Before Imagination, 47, which says it "heaps up examples."

(20) Michel de Montaigne, The essayes, trans. John Florio (London, 1603), 40. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(21) See Dora E. Polachek, "Imagination, Idleness and Self-Discovery: Montaigne's Early Voyage Inward," Reconsidering the Renaissance, ed. Mario A. Di Cesare (Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1992), 269; Williams, "Montaigne on Imagination," 681.

(22) Ambroise Pare, Des monstres et prodiges (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1971; first pub. 1573). See 35 for an account of a light-skinned baby born to an Ethiopian queen, purportedly because a painting of Andromeda hung in her bedchamber.

(23) Simon Goulart, Admirable and memorable histories containing the wonders of our time, trans. Edward Grimeston (London, 1607), 299-304. The fates of Gallus Vibius, Croesus, and Lucius Cossitius were later recounted in Charron's Ofwisdome, 66-67.

(24) Du Laurens, Discourse of the perservat ion, 101. Pierre le Loyer.A treatise of specters, trans. Zachary Jones (London, 1605), 100r.

(25) Susan P. Mattern, Galen and the Rhetoric of Healing (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2008), 40. George Hoffman notes that Montaigne had likely heard lectures on Galenic medicine; see his chap. "The Investigation of Nature," in The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne, ed. Ullrich Langer (Cambridge U. Press, 2005), 166, 170.

(26) See Emily Butterworth, '"Readie Money': Conjectural History in Montaigne's 'De la Force de l'imagination,'" Forum for Modern Language Studies 42 (2006): 356-57. Butterworth also has noticed how Montaigne's interest in method deepens over the course of his revisions.

(27) Williams, "Montaigne on Imagination," 681, 684.

(28) See, for example, James Hirsh, "Othello and Perception," in Othello: New Perspectives, ed. Virginia Mason Vaughan and Kent Cartwright (Fairleigh Dickinson U. Press, 1991), 135-59; and Donald C. Freeman, "Othello and the 'Ocular Proof,'" Shakespeare International Yearbook 4 (2004): 56-71.

(29) Othello, in The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2016), 1.1.20-25. Hereafter cited parenthetically.

(30) Pamela H. Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (U. of Chicago Press, 2004), 17.

(31) Bernardino de Mendoza, Theorique and practise of warre, trans. Edward Hoby (London, 1597), A3v-A3r, 120.

(32) William Bourne, Inuentions or deuises very necessary for all generalles and captaines (London, 1590), 4r-4v.

(33) Francis Bacon, preface to "The Great Instauration," in The Works of Francis Bacon, 14 vols. ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath (London: Longman, 1860), 4:14.

(34) Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, in Works, 3:332.

(35) George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, ed. Frank Whigham and Wayne A. Rebhorn (Cornell U. Press, 2007), 109.

(36) Puttenham, Art of English Poesy, 110.

(37) Juan Huarte, The examination of mens wits, trans. Richard Carew (London, 1594), 178-79.

(38) Reason in such contexts, he adds, is about as useful "as are the eares to see." Huarte, Examination of mens wits, 204-5.

(39) Agostino Ramelli, The Various and Ingenious Machines of Agostino Ramelli, ed. Martha Teach Gnudi (New York: Dover, 1976). Gnudi finds the intricacy of the designs "redundant--sometimes self-defeating" (26).

(40) Leon Battista Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books, trans. Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor (MIT Press, 1988), 7, 33.

(41) Bernard Palissy, The Admirable Discourses of Bernard Palissy, trans. Aurele la Rocque (U. of Illinois Press, 1957), 26. Originally published as Discours admirables in 1580.

(42) William Borough, A discours of the variation of the cumpas, *2r, *2v, *3v, A1r. Appended to Robert Norman, The newe attractiue (London, 1581).

(43) Norman, Newe attractiue, A2r-A2v.

(44) Norman, Newe attractiue, B1r-B1v.

(45) Ken Jacobsen, "Iago's Art of War: The 'Machiavellian Moment' in Othello" Modern Philology 106 (2009): 502. See also James Siemon, "Making Ambition Virtue? Othello, Small Wars, and Martial Profession," in Othello: the State of Play, ed. Lena Cowen Orlin (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 177-202.

(46) Interestingly, Catherine Belsey finds Iago's "terse, prosaic, forthright" style of speaking closer to Montaigne than Othello; see Shakespeare in Theory and Practice (Edinburgh U. Press, 2008), 272.

(47) See Erika T. Lin, Shakespeare and the Materiality of Performance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 6-9.

(48) Evelyn B. Tribble, Cognition in the Globe: Attention and Memory in Shakespeare's Theatre (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 28.

(49) Smith, Body of the Artisan, 8.

(50) Stephen Greenblatt, "The Improvisation of Power," Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago U. Press, 1980), 23.

(51) Stanley Cavell points out the similarity between Othello and the Egyptian king mentioned in Montaigne's De la force de l'imagination who, finding himself unable to perform sexually with his young Greek wife, thinks he has been enchanted and threatens to kill her. "Othello and the Stake of the Other," Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge U. Press, 2003), 139.

(52) See, for example, Le Lover, Treatise of specters, 128r, on how the devil "doth abuse and deceive the phantasie of men."

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