Is love an emotion? Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Antony and Cleopatra.
The combination of historicism and a growing interest a non-Marxist concept of materialism led to the establishment of an influential study of early modern passions. Pioneered by Gall Kern Paster in its post new-Historicist formulation, its proponents argue that the picture of the passions shared by almost all Elizabethans and Jacobeans was derived from the Roman philosopher and physician, Galen. Galen had combined the Empedoclean notion of the basic constituents of the universe (earth, fire, water, air) with the Hippocratic assumption that human beings were composed of four humors--black bile (melancholia), blood (sanguis), yellow bile (choler), and phlegm (phlegma). Paster reminded scholars and critics that what we take to be a merely metaphoric account of emotion in Shakespeare's plays and the work of his contemporaries, his audience would have understood literally, as a reference to the workings of material substances in the body (2004, 14). (2) The understanding of early modern talk or expression of emotion consequently required mastery of a system of humoral theory radically different from our modern, common-sense, or scientific concepts, despite the fact that our language retains vestiges of Galenic theory (as when we speak of someone being "melancholic," "phlegmatic," or "sanguine" by nature or disposition). The emotions as they are represented by Shakespeare do not therefore speak directly to us but are rather informed by a historically strange material conception of the body and natural attractions and repulsions that extended to all things. (3)
If the turn to the Galenic conception of human emotions or passions fitted well with the general historicism that had swept the field since the 1990s, a new approach based on cognitive theory has begun to stake contrary claims. This approach provides a powerful counter to the historically inflected theories that defined themselves in opposition to "liberal humanism" by declaring that a transhistorical and transcultural "human nature" does not exist. The new approach offers a scientifically derived claim that human emotions may be explicable in terms of universal structures of the human body and brain. Cognitive psychologists are often also evolutionary psychologists, in which case they argue that emotions are not only reducible to physiological processes in the human body but have also evolved, through a process of natural selection, in order to adapt the organism primarily for action and survival. In this account, emotions are divided into those that are "basic"--happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust--and those sometimes called "social"--shame, sympathy, guilt, embarrassment, jealousy, envy, gratitude, indignation, admiration, and contempt, which are built through social training upon the more fundamental responses (Ekman 1992). In Darwin's account, for instance, emotions are physiological responses that prepare the body for action: fear and surprise cause certain chemical, cardiovascular and endocrinal changes that enable "fight or flight." We universally avoid pain and sadness and seek happiness and pleasure, and all emotions line up along on or the other of these fundamental drives.
Antonio Damasio, who has done more than anyone else to render the findings and theories of cognitive theory accessible to lay readers, draws the line somewhat differently. He reserves "emotion" for a collection of automated reactions aimed at the preservation of life and written into the organism by the genome: individual emotions are programs of physical actions or reactions that move the organism without requiring thought or deliberation: fear, with its characteristic bodily actions and expressions, is an archetypal emotion in this sense. These forms of non-conscious, evolutionary, biological intelligence include for Demasio not only joy and anger, but also what we would term "social" emotions: shame, embarrassment, pride, contempt, compassion, admiration, and guilt. "Feeling," as he uses the word, is the result of the mapping of the physiological emotions on the brain. Feeling is a product of consciousness which enables us to solve problems that are not biologically automatic in the way emotions are. It is "in essence an idea--an idea of the body and, even more particularly, an idea of ... its interior in certain circumstances. A feeling of emotion is an idea of the body when it is perturbed by the emoting process" (Damasio 2003, 88). The second-level mapping of bodily states as feeling in the end allows, in Damasio's view, for the development of a sense of self and the "large-scale integration of information critical for survival ... and well-being" (208). For Damasio, feelings both have a cognitive role and a neurological basis, arising out of the adaptive, evolutionary, and non-thinking physical responses of emotion.
However far apart the Galenic picture of the emotions is scientifically from the experimental methods of cognitive theory, they are united in their respective conceptions of the material basis of feeling or emotion. The critical issue for my argument is not necessarily whether emotions are finally based in physiology. I have no doubt that at some level they are. The issue is rather conceptual: whether either sexual desire or love can be reduced to basic bodily needs like hunger and thirst. (4) In his fascinating and generally non-reductive treatment of these issues, Damasio responds to the question, "Are hunger and thirst that different from sexual desire?" with an insouciant casualness: "Simpler, no doubt, but not really different in mechanism," which is taken even further with regard to romantic love:
Are attachment and romantic love amenable to comparable biological accounts? I do not see why not, provided the attempt to explain fundamental mechanism is not pushed to the point of explaining unnecessarily one's unique experiences and trivializing the individual. We can certainly separate sex from attachment, thanks to the investigation of how two hormones we regularly manufacture in our bodies, the peptides oxytocin and vasopressin, affect the sexual and attachment behavior of a charming species, the prairie voles. (95)
I'm not doubting the activation of these peptides in male and female prairie voles or even their human counterparts, but rather asking whether the concept of love or even desire can be made to correspond to the presence or absence of chemicals in the blood. Most important, even if emotions or feelings can be reduced to a physiological process or state, the question remains whether this would be true of love. Darwin himself acknowledges that whereas there are clear physiological effects of love, no account of the action for which such an emotion is supposed to prepare us is available (Darwin 2009, 212). Love cannot be said to lead to any specific sort of action, nor is it accompanied or signaled by any particular facial expression, as the fundamental emotions of fear, surprise, or anger are. Paul Ekman puts his finger on the problem in his commentary on Darwin:
I agree with Darwin that there is no distinctive facial expression for love. He said this because there is no action required for love, and therefore no movements from which the expression would have evolved. My explanation is different: it is because love is not an emotion. Emotions come and go in a matter of seconds or minutes. Parental love or romantic love are not so transitory, and clearly different from momentary emotions. Love is an affective commitment, in which many emotions are felt. What is distinctive is the extent of commitment and attachment to a particular person, and the strength of the emotions--not just happiness--which are felt toward that person. (2009, 211-12) (5)
I shall show in the course of nay analysis of the representation of love in two Shakespeare plays that love is not an emotion, even though it does involve emotions. Love is a form of behavior or disposition over time; it involves what Ekman calls "commitment and attachment." But even such dispositions are not given; they are navigated, negotiated, even discovered in the course of what we think of as their "expression." Some cognitive psychologists seek to find love in a particular kind of physical condition--the secretion of chemicals in the bloodstream or electrical impulses in the brain. But William Reddy points out that such attempts to determine what love "really is" are always parasitic on the common or folk concept of love. How does the scientist decide when and under what conditions to conduct a physiological test to determine the real, chemical foundation of the emotion? Well, when s/he has a subject who is in love. But how does the experimenter decide when someone is in love? One chooses people who already love each other as subjects of the experiment to determine what love actually is. But this procedure assumes what one is trying to prove. You need to assume the ordinary concept of love to determine the subjects of the experiment.
Moreover, what kinds of emotions are assumed to constitute love under such circumstances? In The Chemistry of Love, Michael Liebowitz reports the isolation of elevated levels of certain kinds of neurotransmitters and a variety of chemicals, including endorphins and serotonin, as being connected to "calm and loving feelings of attachment." But, setting aside the claim about its chemical basis, can love be reduced to calm and loving feelings of attachment? I argue that it cannot. I shall also argue, perhaps counter-intuitively, that love involves feelings generally regarded as being opposed to it--anger, resentment, embarrassment, chagrin, frustration, aggression, despair, blame, and so on--which would not have been felt under the same circumstances had the person experiencing and expressing them not loved the person involved ill the affective scene. Anyone acquainted with literary accounts of love cannot possibly equate the concept with "calm and loving feelings of affection," let alone the chemical cocktails found in the blood during the experiencing of such emotions (Nordlund 209, fn. 41). Let us grasp the historical nettle first, by examining early modern theories of the emotions, and their relevance for the representation of love in Shakespeare.
"Passions": Twelfth Night
The word "emotion" is patently anachronistic in the early modern context. The OED gives 1660 as its first--figurative--use as a "vehement or excited mental state"; 1808 as "a mental feeling or affection"; and 1822 as a "(physical) moving, stirring, agitation." Early modern writers combine these disparate senses (both cognitively and historically) under the concept of passion, which is regarded as an "agitation of the soul." Scholarship on early modern ideas of the passions reminds us that the "soul" itself combines what post-Cartesian thought splits into the mental and physical aspects of excitation or agitation in the 1808 and 1822 usages recorded by the OED.
When Duke Orsino invokes music as the food of love in his famous opening speech in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, he is more than likely invoking music as a kind of food in a more than merely figurative sense: music acts physically upon the senses, which in turn affect bodily organs via the imagination to produce an agitation in the organs via a distribution of one of the four humors that were thought, by infusing the body in different degrees and proportions, to produce affective states and, more generally, to determine an individual's (or even a nation's) temperament. Here is Orsino's speech, which traces a somewhat confusing set of relations among harmonious sounds, appetite, and desire:
If music be the food of love, Give me excess of it that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken and so die. That strain again, it had a dying fall. O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing and giving odour. Enough, no more, 'Tis not so sweet now as it was before. O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou That, notwithstanding thy capacity Receiveth as the sea, naught enters there, Of what validity and pitch so e'er, But falls into abatement and low price Even in a minute! So full of shapes is fancy That it alone is high fantastical. (Twelfth Night, 1.1.1-14)
Rather than merely languishing self-indulgently in an excess of emotion, Illyria's duke is seeking a way to assuage his famished passion. He desires a surfeit of music precisely in order to overcome his desire. "Give me excess of it that, surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken and so die." Suffering from erotic bulimia, Orsino wishes to ingest too much of this "food of love" so that, nauseated, he will purge himself of love and consequently of the burning void that Petrarch characterizes as erotic desire.
The duke in love begins with an airy call for harmonious strains to feed his passion, but this soon turns to nausea and evacuation. Given more love food, he first indulges in its melancholy plaint, calling for an interruption in its natural progression to savor the delicious agony of the "dying fall" twice over; but that offers no remedy for his condition, only disgust. He turns away, sated but not satisfied, a prime example of the logic of desire. The question is, after this volatile progression of conflicting affects, whether Orsino continues to love. If he does, in what affective state does love consist? It is clear that Orsino remains sickened by desire--the "appetite" that he wishes to kill through the surfeit of music, love's food. With its suggestive "dying fall" and Orsino's subsequent withdrawal--"enough, no more"--the passage alludes to orgasm (or perhaps even coitus interruptus), especially in its enactment of "surfeit, cloyment, and revolt" that marks the strange mixture of dissatisfaction and satiety of post-coital depression. Perhaps music is not the food of love after all. Or if it is, its relation to love is not that of hunger to normal food, and love's appetite does not follow the normal ebb and flow of want and satiety. This difference, which marks the breakdown of the analogy between desire as emotion and physical needs or wants, is acknowledged in Orsino's new invocation of the "spirit of love." This spirit is incapable of nausea: its oceanic capacity not only encompasses everything without "cloyment"--it also is able to negate everything that feeds it. Love's capacity to reduce everything to the same value in the line, "But fails into abatement and low price / Even in a minute," appears to contradict its notorious tendency to impose or project value onto the meanest objects, but Orsino's next lines celebrate precisely the creative capacity of love's projection: the fact that it bestows value on its object. (6)
In short, then, Orsino's opening speech on the relation between love, desire, appetite and the imagination does not offer a coherent philosophy of love. His musings follow the contours not only of his desire, but also of his desire for or against desire itself. Initially treating love as mere appetite, he assumes that ingesting too much of its sweet food will produce "cloyment and revolt"; but once this happens, his mood shifts from the material impulses of desire to the spirit of love, which knows no nausea, and is instead able both to encompass (and reduce) everything it encounters and also to elevate anything to quickness and freshness. Desire has caught him in the toils of material appetite, with its bulimic cycle of ravenous need, engorged feeding, and inevitable revolt and revulsion, but Olivia remains fresh in his mind's eye as the constant object of love.
The tendency of desire to embroil itself in an eternal return of craving and aversion is not only the obsessive concern of Shakespeare's sonnet 129, it is also the topic of much Renaissance philosophical debate. These arguments follow directly from the Socratic dialectic in Plato's Symposium, which forces Agathon to acknowledge both that love must be "of" something, and, furthermore, that such a thing must be lacking for one to love (or desire) it (41). Leone Ebreo's Dialogi d'Amore expresses the paradox of desire in precisely the terms of want and aversion that Orsino experiences: "when we have partaken of it so far as to be sated then no lack remains, and at the same time all desire and love of such pleasure is exhausted, to be succeeded by dislike and disgust. So that desire and love are bound up with the lack of pleasure, not with its enjoyment" (18). Ebreo is echoed by Tullia D'Aragona in the The Infinity of Love: "Those who are moved by this desire and who love in this guise, as soon as they have reached their goal and satisfied their longing, will desist from their motion and will no longer love.... As a matter of fact ... they turn their love into hate" (90). Ebreo's female interlocutor in Dialogi D'Amore affirms the horrible logic of desire and satiety that Orsino experiences with regard to his "food of love," but she insists that for this very reason love must be different from desire:
I am satisfied with your account of love and appetite in relation to pleasure. But I feel some doubt concerning your statement: that we love and desire those pleasurable things we lack, but cease to do so when we are in possession of them. For this is true about desire only, and not about love: which is born with possession of these things, not of their lack. (17)
Early modern and classical writers offer no united front on love and its relation to desire, but, like Orsino, rather a series of confusions, differences, and evasions. (7) Nicholas Coeffeteau is one of the few writers who differentiates between love and desire, insisting that love is essentially goodwill towards another for their own sake:
Desire differs from Loue, and Pleasure, for that Loue is the first motion, and the first Passion we haue of any good thing, without respect whether it be present or absent; Desire is a Passion for a good that is absent, and pleasure a contentment we have when wee haue gotten it.... Loue then is no other thing, but, To will good to some one, not for our owne priuate interest, but for the love of himselfe; procuring with all our power what we think may bee profitable for him, or may giue him content. (1621, 103-04)
Coffeteau's distinction makes sense of Orsino's confusion: we are drawn towards good things by love for them, whether we lack them or not, whether they are absent or not, whereas we can desire only something that is absent, and once we have experienced the pleasure of the absent object, we no longer (at least for a time) desire it. Edward Reynolds and Thomas Wright similarly hold that ideal love is a disinterested affection, even though they simultaneously excoriate its concupiscent form as an unstable and dangerous form of obsession. (7)
One of the most striking aspects of the most well-known tracts of humoral psychology is that their treatment of love as a passion deals very fleetingly, if at all, with Galenic explanations of the humoral nature of love. Each shares the ambivalence (or "polyvalence," to use D'Aragona's term) towards love that marks philosophical accounts from Plato to the Italian Renaissance. But they hold that love is a force that begins with God and infuses human life with coherence and meaning. Coeffeteau opens with the claim that "to banish Loue from a civil life were, and the conversations of men, were not only to depriue the year of her goodliest season, but also as it were to pull the Sunne out of the firmawent, and to fill the whole world with horror and confusion" (78). More striking still, Wright's whole register and style change abruptly when he moves from the other passions to love:
O My God, the soule, and the life of all true loue: these drie discourses of affections, without any cordiall affection, have long detained, & not a little distasted me. Now that I come towards the borders of Loue, give me leaue, O loving God, to vent out and euaporate the effects of the heart, and see if I can incense my soule to loue thee entirely ... and that all those motiues which stirre up mine affections to loue thee, may be meanes to inflame all their hearts, which read this treatise penned by me. (193) (8)
In Wright's impassioned appeal to the reciprocity of God's love, it is less something that moves the body to want to ingest anything than itself a "cordiall affection." It is an "effect of the heart" that seeks to be "vented out and evaporated" in a kind of divine madness that inflames not only the heart of the lover, but also "catches" the hearts of others in an infectious "contagion."
With this brief sketch of early modern humoral psychology and its Platonic counterpart, let us return to the professor of the humoral theory of love, and especially the distinction hinted at towards the end of his opening speech, between desire as appetite and the compendious, retentive capacity of love:
Orsino There is no woman's sides Can bide the beating of so strong a passion As love doth give my heart; no woman's heart So big, to hold so much. They lack retention. Alas, their love may be called appetite, No motion of the liver, but the palate, That suffer surfeit, cloyment, and revolt. (9) But mine is all as hungry as the sea, And can digest as much. Make no compare Between that love a woman can bear me And that I owe Olivia. (2.4.92-102)
Orsino's return to the earlier imagery of the oceanic compass of love contrasted with the volatility of mere appetite, but whereas both were embodied in the duke in the opening scene, he now allocates each as the characteristic qualities of men and women respectively. Women are the creatures of desire, slaves to mere appetite. Men, on the other hand (and Orsino is their exemplar) have the capacity to retain and withstand the violent passion of love. The superiority of his love is based on the physiological theory that, because men have naturally hot and dry complexions (in the bodily sense of the term) as opposed to the cold and moist dispositions of women, they have a greater capacity to withstand the dilations of the heart that accompany love. They have "retention": they are intrinsically and naturally able to hold the fluid (blood) that is the physical condition of love, which is seated in the liver. Women are fundamentally unretentive creatures, leaky vessels porous to the world (Paster Leaky Vessels). Their love belongs to the palate or appetite, which makes it no more than a vacillating, animal-like craving prone to the perverse fluctuations with which Orsino opens (and to which he will show himself to be prone). Neither Ebreo nor D'Aragona imputes to one gender exclusively the propensity for this kind of appetitive, non-retentive desire, nor do they seek any kind of physiological explanation for it. Their discourse is philosophical or logical. They trace desire along its Platonic contours rather than seek it in its Galenic materials.
Orsino's profession of the humoural psychology of Galenic writers bolsters his sense of himself as the exemplum of love and allows him to proscribe the very possibility of comparison between men and women on love's nature: (10)
If ever thou shalt love, In the sweet pangs of it remember me; For such as I am, all true lovers are, Unstaid and skittish in all motions else Save in the constant image of the creature That is beloved. (11) (2.4.16-8)
Orsino's injunction is, of course, poignantly ironic. Acknowledging the passionate volatility wrought by love while insisting on its singular constancy-the image, the imagination, or the fantasy of the beloved--he draws the audience's attention to the fact that Viola is in love--with him. Such love is not indulged in a narcissistic celebration of its own passion, but rather stoically worked through in quiet dedication and service. However much the duke would like to occupy center stage as the true embodiment of
erotic passion, his rhetorical efforts are countered by the satirical intervention of the fool who takes "pleasure" in his "pains," and by the figure of Viola as Cesario, who is pained by the very pleasure that she gains from her intimacy as friend and servant with her beloved "master." (12)
Viola-as-Cesario is trapped by both her staged and her "real" bodies. Desperate to counter Orsino's libel by affirming the enduring nature of women's love from her own experience, she is doubly precluded from doing so. In the figure of a boy she is conventionally as powerless and unreliable as a woman; and as a woman she would be excluded by the humoral theory professed by Orsino. (13) Viola's fictitious sister who "sat like patience on a monument, smiling at grief" combines love as embodied behaviour with the humoral affliction expected of love-sick maids. Her "concealment feed[s] on her damask cheek" and she succumbs to the anorexic "green sickness"--"green and yellow melancholy"--peculiar to unhappy virgins. (14)
Viola herself, however, embodies neither the appetitive stereotype of female desire nor the self-sacrificial, smiling melancholy of her own alter ego. "We men may say more, swear more, but indeed / Our shows are more than will; for still we prove / Much in our vows, but little in our love" (114-6), she declares, forging a common bond with Orsino under "we men," but also insisting that love is not an internal condition but a form of action or behavior. Following "Was this not love indeed?" Viola suggests that love is evidenced less by the interiority of the body than by what that body does: in deed. (15)
Embodiment of and spokesman for humoral theory, Illyria's duke is the sign of the excessive, the anachronistic, at a remove from reality. Almost every critic of the play has observed that Orsino's love is a fantasy. Humoral theory helps us to give a greater degree of precision to the endlessly repeated undergraduate cliche that Orsino is not in love, but rather in love with love itself. He is in love with himself as the paradigmatic embodiment of humoral psychology, and the dialogical nature of the play presents other characters who embody and enact a different concept of love. (16)
Twelfth Night embodies love through dedicated behavior and action, rather than the causal interiority of bodily heat or humor. Viola as Cesario calls into question the distinction between men and women on the basis of an intrinsic difference in humoral fluids and temperatures. She unmasks the misogyny that denies women the "retention" required for constant affection by embodying, as a woman, both the constant friendship that was thought from Aristotle to Montaigne to be the preserve only of men and the patient love that humoral psychology thought materially foreign to the female complexion. (17)
The romantic, comic ending of Twelfth Night leaves us with a disturbing vision of a peculiarly volatile passion if we believe that love is an emotion felt within, merely expressed, made apparent, in public word and action. Olivia shifts her affections to Viola's brother, Sebastian, without any qualms at all; and perhaps more significantly, Orsino discovers his love for Viola/Cesario through the intensity of a mixed passion that we normally think of as the opposite of the emotion love. Look at this scene, the moment of agnorisis:
Orsino Why should I not, had I the heart to do it, Like to th' Egyptian thief, at point of death Kill what I love--a savage jealousy That sometime savours nobly. But hear me this: Since you to non-regardance cast my faith, And that I partly know the instrument That screws me from my true place in your favour, Live you the marble-breasted tyrant still. But this your minion, whom I know you love, And whom, by heaven I swear, I tender dearly, Him will I tear out of that cruel eye Where he sits crowned in his master's spite. (To Viola) Come, boy, with me. My thoughts are ripe in mischief. I'll sacrifice the lamb that I do love To spite a raven's heart within a dove. Viola And I most jocund, apt, and willingly To do you rest a thousand deaths would die. Olivia Where goes Cesario? Viola After him I love More than I love these eyes, more than my life, More by all mores than e'er I shall love wife. (5.1.115-36)
Three things happen here. First, overcome with a mixture of embarrassment, chagrin, and anger at Olivia's continued and public rebuttal, Orsino directs the violent transformation of his supposed adoration of Olivia from love to hatred at Viola, who is now supposed to be the cause of Olivia's estrangement. Second, finally given the opportunity to show her suppressed love for Orsino, Viola is able to indulge in the ultimate form of self-sacrificial love that she has embodied all along. Finally, it is precisely through the redirection of his violent anger at Viola that Orsino discovers that she is the real object of his love. The question then arises as to whether he has loved her all along, or whether he begins to love her only now, at this moment of retroactive recognition. If we regard love as a state of the body, then we will need to say that he begins to love her only now. But that doesn't make sense. Orsino recognizes something that he has misrecognized all along: that Viola, not Olivia, is the person he loves and has loved. Love becomes something reconstituted retrospectively, it is nachtrfigtlich. Furthermore, whatever feelings he may have had about Olivia are now null--abandoned and recognized as, whatever they might have been before, not love now. Love cannot therefore consist in an emotional or affective or passionate state--even if it does involve such states. Moreover, the emotional states that are involved in love are volatile and often uncertain, sometimes even violently opposed to the feelings of warm affection and tenderness to which we like to reduce concept. Orsino would not have been provoked into anger and violence had he not thought he loved Olivia and discovered his suppressed love for Viola. Sometimes the emotions we feel because we love someone are precisely those of anger, exasperation, impatience, embarrassment, fear, shame, and even hatred. Under similar circumstances, we would not experience those emotions about someone we did not love. So the question is: do we experience such emotions simultaneously? Love and anger? Love and exasperation? Love and despair? Love and violent hatred? What combination of chemicals or humors would constitute such a complex dynamic?
Multiple Passions and Performatives: Antony and Cleopatra
The play in which Shakespeare represents the apparent paradox of love as a state of multiple emotions most thoroughly is his tale of two lovers of mythical proportion: Antony and Cleopatra. Criticism of the tragedy has generally been split between those who see the lovers' passion as a transcendental force which raises them--even and perhaps especially in death--above the petty demands of politics and empire, (18) and others who insist on the opposite view, that their romantic passion is no more than a case of irresponsible lust, an indulgence which addles their brains and corrupts reason and reality. (19) Between the poles of these opinions--which are expressed by characters within the play--variations are possible. One is that Cleopatra's love for Antony is nothing but a carefully staged set of theatrical performances, in whose toils he is trapped and finally dissolved as an independent identity. The strongest proponent of this view is Antony himself, and although we may not be willing to indulge his self-pity and resentment, it is easy to regard Cleopatra's theatricality as inimical to the very nature of true love. We tend to regard sincerity as the necessary requirement of love, and performance as the enemy to sincere feeling. But this view arises from a particular theory of love and emotion: of love as an emotion, moreover as a necessarily sincere emotion.
Many of Shakespeare's comedies are concerned with the gradual process whereby love is either discovered or evolves between two characters. Twelfth Night is one example that involves performance and deceit, but there are others. Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing begin by loathing each other and end up as the only married couple in whom we have any faith; Rosalind and Orlando in As You Like It engage in a long pre-marital game in which performance is an essential part of their discovery of the nature of their love for each other; and it could be argued that in Tile Taming of the Shrew, Petrucchio and Kate finally come to a loving accommodation through a sometimes violent form of theatricality, even if some may balk at the nature of that accommodation. It may be the nature of his medium that pushes him in this direction, but Shakespeare appears to be deeply interested in the performative dimensions of love.
Nor is he alone. Recent writers engaged with J. L. Austin's work on performative speech acts have begun elaborating a theory of the emotions that differs radically from both Romantic, expressivist accounts and those derived from cognitive science. In an aptly titled study, The Navigation of Feeling, William M. Reddy argues that the Western concept of romantic love requires a process of learning and developmental course of action over long stretches of time; it involves the pursuit of long-term life goals in which emotion is always shaped, navigated and discovered in the process of active interaction with another person:
A great deal of learning and personal effort is involved in being capable of love as understood in the West. Once [the high-level life] goals are embraced with reference to someone, they raise a vast array of issues for the individual. A stunning amount of procedural and declarative knowledge, of monitored inputs and adjustments, and of life goals, intentions and purposes are directly implicated in this list and will be altered both by the pursuit of these desires and by their fulfillment.... This is far more than can be handled by attention over a short time horizon.... Should the loved person come into one's presence, this complex of desires must be translated into immediate action; but there are many alternatives to be resolved, and often, a gnawing indeterminacy about the meaning of one's own and the loved one's actions.... Translating love into action ... requires coordinating many simultaneous translation tasks--involving linguistic, visual, bodily, and social codes--in a single stream of strategic expression and behavior. (2001, 92-93)
There is no better instance of what Reddy describes as a combination of the performative dimensions of love and the necessity to navigate it interactively than the opening scene of Antony and Cleopatra, where the transformation of feeling into action and the vulnerable indeterminacy of the meaning of one's own and the beloved's actions are put into play.
The scene opens with a judgment on the nature of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra by Antony's follower, Philo, who sees in his master's behavior the reduction of a great soldier to the mere instrument of "a gypsy's lust":
Philo Nay, but this dotage of our General's O'erflows the measure. Those his goodly eyes, That o'er the files and musters of the war Have glowed like plated Mars, now bend, now turn The office and devotion of their view Upon a tawny front. His captain's heart, Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper, And is become the bellows and the fan To cool a gipsy's lust. (Antony and Cleopatra, 1.1.1-10)
This establishing verdict is soon followed by Antony's contrasting claim about the nature of the relationship, even if that claim may in the eyes of some endorse Philo's disapproving certainty that Antony will prove the "common liar" by demonstrating his transformation into a "strumpet's fool" (1.1.62 & 13). The crucial point here is Philo's certainty that the quality of emotion will make itself known in action: the orlooker need only "behold and see" (13) for it to manifest itself. Nor do Antony and Cleopatra disappoint expectations of public performance. Cleopatra's opening utterance is a challenge to Antony. It invokes an age-old cliche: if you do indeed love me, tell me the measure of your love. The conditional invokes the inevitable "gnawing uncertainties" that Reddy mentions, but whatever uncertainties she may feel about Antony's commitment to her, Shakespeare's queen is well aware of both of the conventional nature of her demand and the impossibility of any satisfactory reply. Hence Antony's equally expansive and evasive platitude about the immeasurable, transcendental nature of love:
Cleop. (to Antony) If it be love indeed, tell me how much. Antony There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned. Cleo. I'll set a bourn how far to be beloved. Antony Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth. (14-17)
Such questions, invoking the ambiguity indeed/in deed discussed earlier, are in fact not asking about the measure of love (which indeed escapes the logic of quantity, if not quality), but rather about singularity. If you love me, reassure me that ! am the only one you love. And this is in fact what Cleopatra is angling after, even if she does not recognize it specifically. For Antony's insistence that the measure of his love lies beyond the confines of heaven and earth is immediately challenged by the arrival of the messengers from Rome. He tries to dismiss them, as if that would be an answer to Cleopatra's concern. But she irritatingly insists that he attend to summonses from those to whom, she implies, his real loyalty lies:
(Enter a messenger) Messgr. News, my good lord, from Rome. Antony Grates me: the sum. Cleo. Nay, hear them, Antony. Fulvia perchance is angry; or who knows If the scarce-bearded Caesar have not sent His powerful mandate to you: "Do this, or this, Take in that kingdom and enfranchise that. Perform "t, or else we damn thee." Antony How, my love? Cleo. Perchance? Nay, and most like. You must not stay here longer. Your dismission Is come from Caesar, therefore hear it, Antony. Where's Fulvia's process--Caesar's, I would say--both? Call in the messengers. As I am Egypt's queen, Thou blushest, Antony, and that blood of thine Is Caesar's homager; else so thy cheek pays shame When shrill-tongued Fulvia scolds. The messenger (17-34)
I quote the interchange at length to show both how provocatively insistent Cleopatra is in challenging and testing Antony's bonds to the competitive worlds of his wife and political partner, and the degree to which the emotional tenors of the exchange are very difficult to reduce or even to specify. Cleopatra goads Antony because she loves him and fears losing him--this is also why her accusations are sexually loaded; they imply a loss of manhood and allude to his involuntary emotional subjugation (via the blush) to both the "boy Caesar" and the scold Fulvia. He responds with exasperation and impatience because he loves her and that is why her taunts hit home. He answers words with deeds--or rather he instantiates mutual action as the epitome of love:
Antony Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space. Kingdoms are clay. Our dungy earth alike Feeds beast as man. The nobleness of life Is to do thus; when such a mutual pair And such a twain can do 't--in which I bind On pain of punishment the world to weet--We stand up peerless. (35-42)
Through his extravagant gesture, Antony responds to both aspects of Cleopatra's challenge. He states that love trumps all else, and he declares his independence from all other demands and his complete commitment to the Egyptian queen. Antony's exasperation is turned to defiant solidaritv, as he tries to navigate the passage of feeling that she has just rendered uncertain. But Cleopatra will not be satisfied with what appears to be a settled emotion, declared in word and action.
In a transformational essay on what he calls "passionate utterances," Stanley Cavell explicates Austin's notion of the perlocutionary speech act as an "invitation to improvisation in the disorders of desire," as opposed to the ordered logic of the illocutionary performative (2006, 185). Passionate utterances are dialogical; they are invitations or challenges to engage in a process of mutually discovery of the meanings of actions and desires. If illocutionary actions require no special talent or ability other than the speaking of the language, passionate utterances "make room for, and reward, imagination and virtuosity ... to persuade you may take considerable thought, to insinuate as much as to console may require tact, to seduce or to confuse you may take talent" (173). The interchange between Antony and Cleopatra in this scene is precisely a contest of "imagination and virtuosity," whereby each utterance is a challenge to the other to come up with a response that answers to or exceeds the performance to which it is responding. And it is through successive dialogical performances that the emotions and attitudes, desires and satisfactions are navigated and shaped. Cleopatra might have rested content with Antony's exuberant declaration; but she does not. Joining him momentarily in the embrace, she at once rejects it as a satisfactory answer to her challenge: how do I know that you love only me? His transformation of love into exemplary mutual action is given the lie in the light of his marriage to Fulvia:
Cleopatra Excellent falsehood! Why did he marry Fulvia and not love her? I'll seem the fool I am not. (To Antony) Antony Will be himself. (43-5)
Cleopatra takes literally (or pretends to do so) what the world knows to be a mere subterfuge: marriages, which involve vows of eternal love, are merely bonds of political or social convenience. But once the illocutionary force--the order--of the vows of love can be discarded without a thought in favor of the disorders of desire, all subsequent oaths are called into question, including those that are made to ground subsequent relationships. How can Antony vow his peerless love for Cleopatra in the wake of a previous vow to his wife? The question has a general ethical import, but as Cleopatra asks it it is one more move in the specific navigation of her affective relationship with her lover. Its skepticism carries only insofar as the queen is concerned with other goals: not being seen to be a fool in public, and securing some kind of commitment from a man beset with a multitude of competing emotional demands. Cleopatra's injunction that Antony will be "himself" is less a settled command or statement than a question and a challenge.
The whole play is concerned with this question: Who is Antony? What is his ultimate identity? Cleopatra's charge that Antony will be himself apotropaically attempts to force Antony into confronting the conception of his identity that ties it to Rome and his wife's bed. For we need to recognize that Antony's ties to Rome are no less emotionally grounded than his desire for Cleopatra. It is no mere exercise of reason that constitutes him as the exemplary warrior and imperial ruler: his subsequent impulses to abandon his "enchanting queen" and loose himself from his "Egyptian fetters" are no less emotionally grounded once he hears of Fulvia's death. Indeed, his response to that news underwrites the performative conception of desire that I take from Reddy and Cavell. After his navigation of his emotional investment in Cleopatra, the competing news of his wife's loss introduces a new, unexpected call or invitation, from the grave, to renegotiate his feelings:
There's a great spirit gone. Thus did 1 desire it. What our contempts doth often hurl from us We wish it ours again. The present pleasure, By revolution low'ring, does become The opposite of itself. She's good being gone; The hand could pluck her back that shoved her on, I must from this enchanting queen break off. Ten thousand harms more than the ills I know My idleness doth hatch. (1.2.115-23)
Fulvia's death is no less an invitation to the passionate engagement in the "disorders of desire" than Cleopatra's, and for a while it trumps that of the Egyptian queen. His wife's death forces Antony to recall and renavigate feelings that he has either forgotten, repressed, or possibly never had. Admitting that her death was what he had desired, Antony is now made uncomfortably aware of the ways in which desire works against its own order: that "what our contempts doth often hurl from us / We wish it ours again." It is one of the rules of this disorder that what we have and wish away, we desire the moment it is lost. Cleopatra recognizes precisely this when she engages in her ploys to retain her lover: "if you find him sad, / Say I am dancing; if in mirth, report / That I am sudden sick" (1.3.3-5).
The recognition or the discovery of this paradox with regard to his feelings for Fulvia leads Antony to rebuke the very thing whose veracity Cleopatra so irritatingly had called into question: the depth and commitment of his feelings for her. What had earlier been proclaimed the "nobleness of life" is now reduced to "idleness"; their peerless embrace is multiplied into "ten thousand harms"; their "mutual pair" divided by a now "enchanting queen," because another, unexpected call has forced Antony to renegotiate what he really feels. What does he really feel? Has he stopped loving Cleopatra? The simple answer would be that his love for Cleopatra is reducible to his present emotion: he feels chagrin, embarrassment, self-rebuke, resentment, and a new, heroic sense of political mission, inspired no doubt by his dead wife's "masculine" behavior. If he has stopped loving Cleopatra, because he is now in the thrall of these feelings (and no doubt, one could measure them chemically or speculate about the new humoral balance in his body), such absence of feeling or rejection of love is short-lived. Invited to engage in further passionate utterance by Cleopatra when she confronts him, Antony's emotional make-up changes yet again: "Now my dearest queen...." Are these terms of endearment empty performance? What chemical or neural activity might correspond to the word "dearest"? Cleopatra keeps pressing him on his fidelity, inducing, first, attempts to placate her and then, especially when she trumps his final trick--the news of Fulvia's death--by treating it as further evidence of his general lack of faith--"O most false love! ... Now I see, I see, / By Fulvia's death how mine received shall be" (62-65)--outright impatience: "You'll heat my blood. No more!" (80).
We recognize through the thrust and parry of these different emotions all the elements of a lovers' quarrel. Moreover, Cleopatra brings to light the performative nature of such quarrels: the degree to which emotions are strategically tried out, discarded, modified, and perhaps even finally assumed to be real, not only in her own performance but also in her teasing out the of the performative dimensions of Antony's self-consciously serious pose. Only when Antony threatens to leave--to draw a line under the engagement--does Cleopatra falter, changing key and register from the self-assured critic of a blustering performance to the instigator of a different kind of action--now uncertain, almost pleading, certainly more detached and formal:
Cleo. Courteous lord, one word. Sir, you and I must part; but that's not it. Sir, you and I have loved; but there's not it; That you know well. Something it is I would O, my oblivion is a very Antony, And I am all forgotten. Antony But that your royalty Holds idleness your subject, I should take you For idleness itself. Cleo. 'Tis sweating labour To bear such idleness so near the heart As Cleopatra this. But sir, forgive me, Since my becomings kill me when they do not Eye well to you. Your honour calls you hence, Therefore be deaf to my unpitied folly, And all the gods go with you. Upon your sword Sit laurel victory, and smooth success Be strewed before your feet. (87-102)
In effect, Cleopatra admits defeat, imposing through her surprisingly formal register a distance between herself and her lover that allows her to hide the inarticulate vulnerability that she desperately wishes to speak. "One word": what is it that Cleopatra struggles to say? That she finally admits that Antony will leave her? That they have been lovers, but that this mutual engagement is now horribly precarious? All this, she reminds Antony, he knows as well as she does. Cleopatra is beset by the "gnawing indeterminacy" of the meaning of her own actions and speech as she tries to compress her feelings into the "one word" she beseeches of Antony. We will never know exactly what she wants to convey in that "one word," but it is presumably an attempt to express something beyond an acceptance of the reality of his parting, or the fact of their having been lovers, in the past. Presumably, she tries to express something more mundane and deeply felt than her lover's grandiloquent earlier theatricality ("Let Rome in Tiber melt ..."), but she is overwhelmed by the negation of the moment-by the "oblivion" that is both Antony's forgetting of her, and her incapacity to speak her love in this moment of charged vulnerability and exposure. To Antony's sarcastic charge that she is the queen of idleness (as he busies himself with Roman affairs), she quietly reminds him of the woman's part in love-not only of the work that the "idleness" of love demands, but also of the birth pains that women suffer to bring it into the world and sustain it. She sees that he is untouched: that the invitation she extends through the ambiguity of the utterance, "O, my oblivion is a very Antony, / And I am all forgotten" will not jog his memory. Consequently, she affords him a suitably formal, acquiescent discourse through which he can take his leave under the cover of an assumed loyalty-one that speaks both relief and a formulaic self-satisfaction in an all-too-pat expression of easy reciprocity:
Our separation so abides and flies That thou residing here goes yet with me, And I hence fleeting, here remain with thee. Away. (103-06)
I have discussed the opening scenes of Antony and Cleopatra at length to show how they exemplify an idea of love that is reducible to none of its traditional conceptions: not the idea that love is an emotion; not the Renaissance conception that love resides in the material conditions of the humoral body; and not the modern conviction, derived from cognitive theory, that love can be isolated as a particular kind of set chemical components in the blood or synapses in the brain. What the unfolding of the dialogue between Antony and Cleopatra reveals is love as a disposition that unfolds over time, and moreover, that is intrinsically bound up with a performative and dialogical navigation of effects, affects, and meanings. The love decried by Philo as mere feminizing lust, alternatively proclaimed by Antony as "the nobleness of life" and rejected for being "idelness itself," and rued by Cleopatra as "sweating labour," is not any single emotion reducible to these concepts, but a complex dynamic of passionate utterance that involves a variety of emotions, some of which are usually considered antithetical to love: exasperation, anger, impatience, shame, regret, sorrow, and helplessness.
The rest of Shakespeare's tragedy traces the navigation of passionate utterance through the disorders of desire, as the lovers navigate their way through uncertainty, apparent betrayal, rage and resentment, heady optimism and despair, to their mutual deaths. What haunts their relationship from the beginning is the history of their serial relationships with others: Cleopatra as "triple-turned whore" following her affairs with Caesar and Pompey; Antony as indifferent, if not cynical, husband to Fulvia and Octavia. Many of these uncertainties concern what they know, both about themselves and the other. And much of what they know about themselves depends upon what they know about the other. So for instance, after her initial fury and despair at the news of Antony's marriage, Cleopatra soon convinces herself from reports of Octavia's character that she can be no rival for Antony's love. And perhaps the most poignant moment of mutual discovery about what they do and do not know is Antony's declaration, after his defeat at Actium, of what Cleopatra assuredly knows about him:
Cleo. O, my lord, my lord, Forgive my fearful sails! I little thought You would have followed. Antony Egypt, thou knew'st too well My heart was to thy rudder tied by th' strings, And thou shouldst tow me after. O'er my spirit Thy full supremacy thou knew'st, and that Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods Command me. Cleopatra O, my pardon! (3.11.54-62)
What does Cleopatra know about Antony? And what does Antony know about himself and his relationship with her? Antony speaks here as if his complete attachment to Cleopatra, embodied by his disastrous following her at Actium, has the status of a fact-something she knows (and, by implication, has always known). But it is actually a performative declaration which, rather than affirming something already known, brings something half-formulated and admitted, into being-the confession of his own discovery of the depth of his attachment to her. (20) The repetition "thou knew'st" is an almost rueful declaration of what he has in fact discovered about himself: that she matters more than even the bidding of the gods. The half-accusation that she should have known this is at one level disingenuous; at another it is a plea to her to forge the reciprocity sought by confirming her "knowledge." Admit that you knew I would behave in this way, and you would be allowing me to confess, in this roundabout way through your acknowledgment, that you are more important to me than the world. Shakespeare achieves two remarkable things here. The first is of love discovered or forged retrospectively, an attachment affirmed as having been the case in the past, but only through the performative speech act of the present: the present accusation--"You knew ..."--is an example of Reddy's concept of the "emotive" speech act, through which emotions are navigated and formed rather than merely felt and expressed, and Cavell's "passionate utterances," by which the "disorders of desire" are negotiated through the perlocutionary invitations and challenges that are part of the order of discourse.
The second, which transforms a wider realm of literary convention, is encompassed by Shakespeare's insistence on rendering literal what usually remains at the level of metaphor or figure. What Antony is saying, literally, to his lover, is you are all the world to me. The corollary of this declaration, I would lose the world for you, has not yet been settled, but we are inexorably moving to that position. Compare the encounter between Beatrice and Benedick, in which their commitment to each other is as much at stake as the situation here. Benedick declares: "Bid me to do anything for thee," but shrinks back in horror when his beloved takes him at his word:
Beatrice Kill Claudio. Benedick Ha! Not for the wide world. (Much Ado about Nothing, 4.1.290-1)
For Benedick, the "wide world" is no more than a cliche a conventional figure of speech; but it is the very stake for which Antony and Cleopatra are playing. It is therefore no mere manner of speaking under the pressure of intense passion. It is rather the historically real measure of their love. My heart was to your rudder tied in the midst of a battle to settle ownership of the world itself; furthermore--because love cannot do without hyperbole of some kind--you could have summoned me from the very bidding of the gods. Unlike Benedick, for whom "the whole world" is no more than the comfortable masculine dimensions of his soldierly existence, the whole world for Antony is indeed a measure of vast geographical distance and inordinate power. By tying them to the specificities of historical narrative, Shakespeare expands the dimensions of romantic love. Romeo and Juliet affirm the vastness of their love within the confines of the tomb; Lady Macbeth and her husband, in contrast, reduce the possibilities of personal attachment in the expansions of political ambition; and Othello mistakes the particularities of jealousy for the infinity of love. Only Antony and Cleopatra manages to give us a sense of what it might mean to transform love for a single person into the equivalent of a whole world, or--if we wish to take a more cynical view reduce the world to the attachment to one person.
The greatness of Antony and Cleopatra lies in Shakespeare's refusal to accept easy accommodations to this hyperbole. Once the lovers are once more reconciled they decide together to accommodate a world well lost through a mixture of defiance and gay repression; but that is not the end of the matter:
Cleo. It is my birthday. I had thought to've held it poor, but since my lord Is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra. Antony We will yet do well. Cleo. Call all his noble captains to my lord! Antony Do so. We'll speak to them, and tonight I'll force The wine peep through their scars. Come on, my queen, There's sap in 't yet. The next time I do fight I'll make death love me, for I will contend Even with his pestilent scythe. (Exeunt all but Enobarbus) (187-96)
It is a truism in commentary of this play that it fundamentally concerns the notion of identity: who or what is Antony? Under what conditions, in what forms of behavior, is Antony "himself"? For Antony's follower, Philo, and indeed, for many Romans, Antony is least himself when he is in the thrall of Cleopatra. And yet Rome (if I may be so sweeping) betrays a vicarious fascination with the very forms of indulgence that it likes to denigrate for being effeminate and other.
The question of Cleopatra's identity is much more vexed, since much of her delight and mystery lies in the sense of her contradictoriness and changeability--her denial of the very notion of identity. Enobarbus notes her paradoxical transcendence of definition when he speaks of her "infinite variety. Other women cloy / The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry / Where most she satisfies. For vilest things / Become themselves in her" (2.2.242-5). She is, like the young man of the sonnets of whom the poet writes "you alone are you," and the "serpent of old Nile" (1.5.15), simply herself: "shaped ... like [her]self, and ... as broad as / [she] hath breadth ... just so high as [she] is, and moves / with [her] own organs ... lives by that which nourisheth [her], and the elements once out of [her], [she] transmigrates" (2.7.4144). The curious thing about Cleopatra is her general capacity for fascination, even in those who ostensibly denigrate her both as an object of sexual fantasy and as a ruler. She encapsulates in a general way the particular ways in which "love sees not with the eyes but with the mind": what Freud calls the overvaluation of the beloved, the tendency to project or bestow value upon a person who from other perspectives would seem ordinary or even "vile." From a Lacanian perspective, she is a universalized incarnation of the object of desire: ineffable, in continuous motion, ultimately unobtainable, she makes hungry where she most satisfies. And when she finds herself without the object of her love, she behaves and speaks in the manner of the Duke of Illyria: "Give me some music--music, moody food / Of us that trade in love ... Let it alone. Let's to billiards" (2.5.1-3).
From love's perspective, she presents a more intractable problem, for that very mutability and contradictoriness appear to render impossible the relative constancy of identity that the concept requires. I have argued elsewhere that the logic of the oath or promise as speech act requires an identity stable enough to bear the responsibility--the projection into the future--that is the essence of such utterances (Schalkwyk 2010). Desire needs no such continuity; indeed, it is inimical to constancy, both in its Classical and Renaissance forms and in its later, Lacanian sense. Love requires both attachment and commitment, even if the emotions that inform it may vary, and it is something not achieved as a settled emotional state but rather navigated, dialogically and performatively, through emotives or passionate utterances. In the scene discussed above, both Antony and Cleopatra believe that they have recovered themselves: since Antony is himself again, Cleopatra declares that she will be herself. But what does that mean? Antony's sense of himself as a constant identity fluctuates between the "Roman thought" of himself as heroic soldier--imperial figure of unquestionable authority--and transcendental lover of Cleopatra. His recovery of himself in this scene unites these two senses: he can entertain the image of himself as "treble-sinewed, -hearted, -breathed, / And fight maliciously" (3, 13, 180-81) only by again becoming Cleopatra's "brave lord" (179), a mutually supporting sense of self aptly conveyed in the image of his return from the battle-field: "The next time I do fight / I'll make death love me, for I will contend / Even with his pestilent scythe" (194-96). The destruction of one side of this sense of self brings about the collapse of the other. So, after the next disastrous defeat, Antony is obsessed with Cleopatra's treachery--as if the only thing that could have caused the termination of his self as soldier and ruler is the willful betrayal of the woman he loves and upon whom he depends.
The scene is the most intense and fraught of the invitations and navigations in which Antony and Cleopatra engage in the "disorders or desire"--it marks the final drawing of the line under the dialogue--sometimes the duel--of passionate utterances that have been woven between the two of them, in a variety of sometimes contradictory emotional registers, from the beginning. It helps to recall Cavell's reminder that if the 'T' of the first person, singular lies at tile heart of the illocutionary utterance, the perlocutionary nature of passionate utterances opens the speaker up to the "you" of the other, which, because it is always prone to mislocation or misdirection, mislocution or rejection, impinges upon the sense of identity of the speaking "I': "[F]ailure to have singled you out appropriately...puts the future of our relationship, as part of my sense of my identity, or of my existence...radically at stake .... The 'you' singled out comes into play in relation to the declaration of the T who thereby takes upon itself a definition of itself, in, as it may prove, a causal or fateful form" (Cavell 184-85).
It is possible to give a Freudian reading of the intensity of Antony's rage after the second battle, when he blames Cleopatra not merely for the military loss but also for the loss of himself. Desire turned to hatred, Antony expresses the fundamental antagonism of the self against even the other whom it loves in a process of secondary narcissism:
This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me. ... Triple-turned whore! 'Tis thou Hast sold me to this novice, and my heart Makes only wars on thee. Bid them all fly; For when 1 am revenged upon my charm, I have done all. Bid them all fly. Be gone. (4.13.10-17)
Antony's speech addresses the "you" that is central to the passionate utterance, even when the addressee is herself absent. The accusation calls out for a response, which in the end comes only by indirection, in the lie that Cleopatra has taken her life. Addressing him as it were from the grave, the "thou" that bears the brunt of Antony's rage and shame finally provokes the ultimate emptying of his identity:
Here I am Antony, Yet cannot hold this visible shape, my knave. I made these wars for Egypt, and the Queen--Whose heart I thought I had, for she had mine, Which whilst it was mine had annexed unto't A million more, now lost--(4.15.13-18)
It is significant that at this point of utter defeat, Antony confesses to a personal servant (called Eros) that the cause of his defeat is wholly due to his mastery by the god Eros. The dissolution of his "visible shape" derives wholly from his gift of his heart to Cleopatra and her supposed betrayal. But what is most remarkable about Antony's emotional state is how quickly the anger, resentment, and desire to kill his partner once she appears to be the cause of his loss of "occupation," turns to the resigned sadness of acceptance when he learns of her "death":
Unarm, Eros. Tile long day's task is done, And we must sleep. Off, pluck off. (Eros helps Antony to unarm) The seven-fold shield of Ajax cannot keep The battery from my heart. O, cleave, my sides! Heart, once be stronger than thy continent; Crack thy frail case. Apace, Eros, apace. No more a soldier. (4.15.35-42)
This is an exact echo of Philo's disapproving commentary in the opening scene: "His captain's heart, / Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst / The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper" (1.1.6-8). No more a soldier because the decisive role of Eros has turned his captain's heart against himself.
The loss of Cleopatra means the final collapse of Antony's sense of identity and will to live. This is conventional enough; but more remarkable is Antony's response to the news that Cleopatra is not dead after all: that her staged death is a subterfuge, an example of the very unreliability, the performative nature, of her subjectivity. After the intensity of his emotional responses to her flight from Actium, his defeat in the subsequent battle, and his excessive rage at the sight of Thidias kissing Cleopatra's hand, one would expect Antony to respond to the news that Cleopatra lied about her death with an even greater sense of betrayal, fury, and desire for revenge. But he does not. He merely asks to be taken to her-in his pathetic, wounded state, the embarrassing, incompetent victim of his lover's lie. Nothing else matters now.
Shakespeare represents the final achievement of rest for Antony in his letting go--in the absence of histrionic emotion in his acceptance of Cleopatra's staged death-as a strange acquiescence in an identity that, he now sees in a kind of backward glance, is, and always has been, completely bound up with Cleopatra. We should take care to note that this is no celebration of transcendental love in the manner of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. The pathos of Antony's dying is tempered with comedy and mundane necessity. The demands, danger, and bathos of the world still intrude, in the shape of Cleopatra's fear of being captured, her wry joke about all of the women now bearing the weight of her lover as they raise him, and Antony's obsessive focus on the need to advise her about her future negotiations with Caesar before it is too late. All these are different, even conflicting, emotions and attitudes, but they are experienced and expressed precisely because Antony and Cleopatra love each other- and, perhaps for the first time, they face that love squarely in this final confrontation.
It is extremely important that Cleopatra be left with a choice: she has to decide after his death what course of action to take. That she finds a way to commit suicide in a manner suiting her erotic character is less significant than the curious scene with Dorabella, where she confesses, for no apparent reason, her "dream" of Antony, the extravagance of which unsettles and disturbs the Roman envoy. Against Dolabella's growing discomfort and embarrassment, Cleopatra pits first her wistful longing and loss ("O, such another sleep, that I might see / But such another man!" (76-77)), followed by the enormity of her imagination and admiration ("In his livery / Walked crowns and crownets. Reahns and islands were / As plates dropped from his pockets" (89-91), and finally her angry insistence, when Dolebella demurs about the possible existence of such a man, on the singular truth of her vision:
You lie, up to the hearing of the gods. But if there be, or ever were one such, It's past the size of dreaming. Nature wants stuff To vie strange forms with fancy; yet t' imagine An Antony were nature's piece 'gainst fancy, Condemning shadows quite. (94-99)
Again, we are presented with a variety of emotional states, which together constitute the affirmation of love.
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream offers his most schematic study of the relation between love and dreams. "Love sees not with the eyes but with the mind": the lover is compact with the madman and the poet because the lover's heated imagination can "see Helen's beauty in the brow of Egypt" (5.1.11) when this is apparent to no-one else. It is hell to choose love by another's eyes, but it is also bewildering to see with the eyes of the lover. We need to read Dolabella's skepticism and Cleopatra's acclamation in the context of a play which makes Helen's beauty residing in the brow of Egypt not only possible but also apparent to more than just the eye of Antony, and in which Antony's demi-godlike stature forms part of the discourse of friend and foe alike. Caesar is reminded of Antony's mere mortality when he finds that his competitor has died with no metaphysical flourish--"The breaking of so great a thing should make / A greater crack .... The death of Antony / Is not a single doom; in that name lay / A moiety of the world" (5.1.115-19) but he nevertheless approaches the tenor of Cleopatra's dream rather than Dolabella's level-levelheadedness in his evaluation of the man. The point is that in Cleopatra's dream of Antony we are presented not merely with a clash between the incorrigibly real and vacuous fantasy-we encounter rather the imaginative transformation of the real by the projective vision of love. This is something that no-one but the lover can perceive, but Shakespeare comes as close as ever to suggesting it imaginatively in this play. Cleopatra's vision is a dream, but at the same time she affirms the essentially performative vision of all love: the bestowal of value by lovers upon each other in a form of projection that by definition lies beyond the imaginative capacity of anyone else, and therefore lies beyond the limits of the Freudian notion of "overvaluation" or a Thesean dismissal of "idle" imagination. Antony and Cleopatra exemplify, precisely because the battle is fought over the world itself that overwhelming value of the specific person-what Todorov calls the "finality of the you" (Todorov 2002, 32).
Enough has been written about the fact and the manner of Cleopatra's suicide for me to pass over it here. I do want to turn, in conclusion, to another example of love which comes to recognize itself only through the tortuous navigation of often contrary-seeming feelings or emotions. I am thinking of Enobarbus, Antony's servant and friend who, unlike Cleopatra, decides that the most prudent course of action is to leave his master, not like the others, because Antony is losing, but rather because Antony's infatuation with Cleopatra, as he thinks, has led to a "diminution in our captain's brain" (3.13.200). There is poignant irony in Enobarbus' gross failure of judgment in his decision to abandon his friend on the grounds of Antony's loss of judgment. We are not merely confronted here with the conventional opposition between head and heart, or the platitude that "The heart has reasons that reason cannot know" (Pascal XIX). Rather, Enobarbus' discursive rehearsal of his emotional responses to Antony's speech and actions-from their opening disagreement about the significance of Fulvia's death and Antony's determination to leave Cleopatra, through his contretemps with Antony at the summit with Caesar ("Go to, your considerate stone") and his increasing dismay at his friend's intemperate behavior, to his response to Antony's generosity-constitute, over many different individual emotions, his discovery of the depth of his love and need for his friend. He dies, literally, of a broken heart: "this blows my heart" (4.6.34). The word "blows" evokes a range of uses, especially with regard to Antony, regarding the heart: the heart that earlier "in the scuffles of great fights hath burst / The buckles of his breast" (1.1.7-8) and especially Antony's reference to the "battery" of Cleopatra's death upon his heart. Enobarbus' heart both suffers the blows of grief and cracks its case in anticipation of his master's emotional burden, and expresses in a more compressed way the retroactive discovery and valuation of love.
In this respect, Michael Neill's emphasis on the nostalgic quality of the play is apposite. Neill speaks throughout of the erotic relationship between Antony and Cleopatra as "desire," thereby following Dollimore's less than admiring analysis of the complicity of sexual relations and the operations of power. (21) I have argued that the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra is not mere sexual infatuation or desire, but rather love. That is not to say that love is either an achieved, single emotional state or a transcendental condition. It is negotiated and navigated through a series of dialogical performative speech acts that are always imbedded in the quotidian world of unequal power and difference. If, to adopt Lacanian terminology, desire is always metonymic, that is to say, constituted along a chain of partial contiguities that never stops or is satisfied, love is metaphorical: it fixes an identity between two differences, but only by passing along the defiles of desire. A metaphor is an utterance or speech act, a use of words that depends on the metonymic syntax of language. The identity fixed through metaphor as it is lived between two people, like all language, requires conthauous repetition: it is forged through iteration, and it is always therefore continually open to disruption, change, or difference. To return to Lacan's formulation, love involves giving what one doesn't have; and what one doesn't have is one's future act. Love is a promissory note on the future, always inscribed and reinscribed in the engagement of passionate utterances between the parties. But Antony and Cleopatra also demonstrates the degree to which love is constituted nostalgically, as something discovered only afterwards, in a backward glance. Antony takes this glance the moment he hears of Cleopatra's death; Cleopatra declares herself Antony's "husband" performatively, but also retrospectively; and Enobarbus discovers the nature of his own love for Antony only after he has betrayed him. We saw, equally, that Orsino discovers his love for Viola as a kind of nostalgia, retroactively.
Unlike the lovers in Romeo and Juliet, whose consummation is implied in the moments before eager anticipation and sorrowful departure, enjoyment is always represented as an event recalled from the past or looked forward to in the future. It is nonetheless crucial that, like the young lovers, the adults should, impossibly, outlive each other. It is only finally through Cleopatra's "death" that Antony becomes fully expressive of his love for her, and that it is expressed not in the desire for one more gaudy night but rather as a (fortuitously mistaken) care for her future as a victim of Caesar's machinations. He leaves what she does-her acts in the future-open to her. He survives her and she survives him. Shakespeare re-iterates what Jacques Derrida calls the "impossible...theatre of double survival" by which each lives on in the other as part of their pledge of love: "if you die before me, I will keep you; if I die before you, you will carry me in yourself, one will keep the other, will already have kept the other from the first declaration." Derrida reminds us that this projected, double mourning, which attests both to the fact that the time of the other cannot be my time, and that I will nonetheless keep your time with me, cannot be found either in "monadic interiority or in 'objective' time and space" (Derrida 2004, 422). It is quintessentially dialogical and theatrical. Shakespeare's double survivals thus allow for the experience, or perhaps even the discovery, of love, backwards into the past, in the time of mourning that is afforded to each of the lovers. Love is a promissory note on the future-I give what ! do not have, my future, and l recognize that gift, nostalgically, only as something already given, in the past.
FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY
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Babb, Lawrence. "The Physiological Conception of Love in the Elizabethan and Early Stuart Drama." PMLA 6.1 (December 1941): 1020-35.
Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge UP, 1930.
Cavell, Stanley. Philosophy the Day after Tomorrow. Boston, MA: Belknap P of Harvard U, 2006.
Coeffeteau, Cf. Nicholas. A Table of the Passions. Trans. Edward Grimerton. London, 1621.
Damasio, Antonio. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003.
D'Aragona, Tullia. Dialogue on the Infinity of Love. Trans. Rinalda Russell and Bruce Merry. Chicago and London: Chicago UP, 1997.
Darwin, Charles, and Paul Ekman, ed. The Expression of Emotions in Animals and Man. New York: Oxford UP, 2009.
Derrida, Jacques, and Derek Attridge, ed. Acts of Literature. London: Routledge, 1991.
Dollimore, Jonathan. Radical Tragedy. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2004.
Ebreo, Leo. The Philosophy of Love (Dialogi D'Amore). Trans. F. Friedeberg-Seeley and Jean H. Barnes. London: Soncino P, 1937.
Ekman, Paul. "An Argument for Basic Emotions." Cognition and Emotion 6.3-4 (1992): 169-200.
Jardine, Lisa. Reading Shakespeare Historically. London: Routledge, 1996.
Knight, G. Wilson. The hnperial Theme. London: Metheun, 1961.
Lacan, Jacques. Ecrits: a selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Routledge, 1989.
--. Le sdminaire, Livre VIII: Le transfert, 1960-1961. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991.
Liebowitz, Michael R. The Chemistry of Love: Literature, Culture, Evolution. Northwestern UP, 2007.
Nordland, Marcus. Shakespeare and the Nature of Love: Literature, Culture, Evolution. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2007.
Pascal, Blaise. The Thoughts, Letters, and Opuscules of Blaise Pascal. Trans. O.W. White. Nabu P, 2010.
Paster, Gail Kern. Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage. London and Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004.
Plato. Symposium. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Tedington, Middlesex: Echo Books, 2006.
Reddy, William N. The Navigation of Feeling: A Franzework for the History of Enzotions. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge UP, 2001.
Reynolds, Edward. A Treatise of the Passions and Faculties of the Soule of Man. London, 1640.
Schalkwyk, David. Shakespeare, Love and Service. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge UP, 2008.
--"Shakespeare's Speech." The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 40.2 (2010): 373-400.
Shakespeare, William. "Anthony and Cleopatra." The Oxford Shakespeare. Ed. Michael Neill. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994.
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--. "Much Ado about Nothing." The Complete Works. Eds. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1988b.
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(1) It could be argued that the return to humoral psychology in the nineties is in fact a revival of an old historicist interest in such matters stemming from the work of critics like Lily B. Campbell, who in the early 1930s were accounting for Shakespeare's tragic heroes ill terms of early modern faculty psychology. See Campbell (1930).
(2) "[P]sychology and physiology are one: the bodily humors and the emotion that they sustain and move the body to express an action can be lexically distinguished but not functionally separated. For the early moderns, emotions flood the body not metaphorically but literally" (Paster 2004, 14).
"Emotion, according to scientific writers of the Renaissance, is a physiological phenomenon. A passion produces muscular activity in the heart and movements of humors to or from the heart. It is accompanied, moreover, by intensification of two of the four primary physical qualities: heat, cold, moisture and dryness.... The physiological conception of love which I have outlined appears frequently and clearly in the thought and expression of Elizabethan and Early Stuart dramatists. Their phraseology, in fact, is often intelligible only when one knows something of the physiological lore, which ... had influenced their thinking on the subject" (Babb 1941, 1020, 1026).
(3) See Aquinas, who holds that even inanimate things possess desire: "Now it is a property of all being to seek its own perfection and the preservation of its own existence. Every being does this in its own way: intelligent beings, by their will: animals, by their sensitive appetite: unconscious nature, by a certain physical nisus. It makes a difference however whether the thing craved for is possessed or not. Where it is not possessed, the nisus of desire proper to each several kind goes out to seek what is wanting: where the thing is possessed, it is rested in and clung to" (1905). See also Wright (1604, 21).
(4) See, for example, Lacan's fundamental distinction between need, like hunger or thirst, and desire. The first can at least temporarily be satisfied, whereas the latter, which is fundamentally symbolic, is caused by a fundamental lack that is in essence unsatisfiable (1989, 323-60).
(5) See also 83 and 84.
(6) See A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. / Nor hath love's mind of any judgement taste; / Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste" (234-37).
(7) See Reynolds: "There is not only a Love of Delight in the fruition, but Love likewise of Desire, in the privation of a Good; which the more it wanteth, the more it fixeth itself upon it" (1640, 96); and Wright: "Hee that loveth virtuously, esteemeth the beloved worthy of honour, because he reputeth him vertuous, and therefore in affection yieldeth him condigne honour due to Vertue: he serveth him in regard of his great goodnesse, which in his conceit meroteth all servitude and obsequious compliments. Who would not love a virtuous Lover, who consecraeth himselfe, and all hee hath unto the person beloved?" (1604, 213) and "O ... how potent is this bait of pleasure.... It is beastly ... in appearance as it promiseth rest and quietnesse, but in effect dispoileth the soule of all rest and quietnesse ... men affected with pleasure are changed and metamorphosed from themselves, vntroubled with such an inordinat passion. It is exceeding dangerous" (201).
(8) These documents are personal interventions, expressions of particular political, religious, and cultural situations, in addition to being attempts to distil and summarize a wide range of competing philosophical and pseudo-scientific thought.
(9) "[The like may be sayd of Loue, and that the aboundance of bloud doth not make men more inclined to the Pasions of loue, for that the Concupiscible power resides in the liver, which is the place where the blood takes his forme; but for they that are of a sanguine complexion, haue a hot and moist temperature, which is proper to that passion" (Coeffeteau 1621, 25-26).
(10) For the notion that God's love is as boundless as the sea, see Wright (1604, 193).
(11) "[T]he soules of such as loue, are perpetually attentiue to contemplate the image of that they loue, and haue no other thought nor greater pleasure ... but this poore soule thus agitated, hath no certaine consistence ... she goes, she comes, without any stay or rest ..." (Coeffeteau 1621, 166, 172).
(12) For a discussion of the status of Viola as friend and servant to Orsino, see Schalkwyk (2008, chapter 4).
(13) For the similarity between boys and women, see Jardine (1996, chapter 4).
(14) See Paster (2004, chapter 2).
(15) Orsino's constant references to his love in terms of the sea recalls Coeffeteau's description of the person who, under the sway of uncontrollable passion, "plungeth himselfe in superfluities as into a gulph, whereas hee findes neither bottom nor banke, and afflicts himselfe with a thousand torments in the pursuite of his vaine desires" (221-22).
(16) Paster (2004) begins her study on Galenic theory in Shakespeare with a character who is at a fictional remove from the word of Hamlet itself. By offering the player's description of Phyrrus' passion as a sign of the "governing psychological materialism of the play" (45), she seems to me to be missing its theatrical dimensions as a play. Needing to create a gap between character in the world of the play and the representation of fictional character and passion that differs from the "real" characters within the play, Shakespeare seems to me to be resorting to an available psychological materialism as a kind of fictionalising intensifier. Phyrrus is in other words distanced from the "real" world, shown to be fictional, precisely by the fact that he embodies humoural psychology in his larger-than-life, fictional world. Instead of imbuing the whole play with its encompassing, ethically charged materialism, humoural theory is a sign of the fictional, the overdone, the excessive.
(17) It is telling that in their discussions of love as such Reynolds (1640) and Coeffeteau (1621) confine themselves almost exclusively to male friendship, invoking females only in instances of inconstant or violent passion.
(18) There is no better exemplum of this position than G. Wilson Knight, who writes of the "high metaphysic of love which melts life and death into a final oneness" (1961, 262).
(19) This is the reading that humoural psychology would tend to support: that unchecked sexual passion overwhelms the faculty of reason, allowing the will free and ultimately disastrous reign over body and mind. For a humoral reading that sees this overwhelming of passion in general of reason as the core of Shakespearean tragedy, see Campbell (1930). A more recent denigration of tile passion of the protagonists from a Marxist perspective is to be found in Dollimore (2004).
(20) In his excellent edition of the play, Michael Neill glosses the words "will" and "affection" in Enobarbus' speech at the opening of Act 3 Scene 13 as "desire" (notes on In. 3 and 7). He is correct that this is how Enobarbus means them, but the broader context suggests that it is mere desire that leads Antony to abandon the battle and follow Cleopatra. This action attests to an attachment, reckless and thoughtless as it may be, that is more than mere desire. Enobarbus" subsequent death shows the narrowness of his conception at this point.
(21) "If Antony and Cleopatra celebrates anything it is not the love which transcends power but the sexual infatuation which foregrounds it" (Dollimore 2004, 217).
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2010|
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