Beyond Binarism: Eros/Death and Venus/Mars in Antony and Cleopatra and The Faerie Queene
Beyond Binarism: Eros/Death and Venus/Mars in Antony and Cleopatra and The Faerie Queene
Abstract and Keywords
Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra is known to be generically mixed and even anomalous in the extent and degree to which it combines tragedy, comedy, and romance with lyric, myth, history, and allegory. Shakespeare's play is also in good part about gender; it focally concerns one infinitely various female persona. And his leading male persona is complementarily various to an extent less appreciated because of the harder to assimilate still-conventional notions of gender. Anthony and Cleopatra has a further relation to Venus and Adonis, it is attested in critical studies and ranges from specific verbal echoes and rhetorical motifs to character and theme.
Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, like his earlier Venus and Adonis, is known to be generically mixed and even anomalous in the extent and degree to which it combines tragedy, comedy, and romance with lyric, allegory, myth, and history.1 This is the first of several analogies I would draw between Shakespeare's play and Spenser's Faerie Queene, that hobgoblin's garland of epic, romance, lyric, allegory, myth, history, and more. The breaking of formal conventions beyond their generic variousness also connects these works. In Ania Loomba's view, for example, the nonteleological form of Antony and Cleopatra resists closure, and in Margot Heinemann's, this play refuses “a single historical or ethical center.”2 Together, these defining characteristics correspond to what Jonathan Goldberg, quoting Spenser, has described as the “endlesse worke” of The Faerie Queene, an endlessness more readily associated with romance and historical narrative than with classic drama.3 Thoughout Spenser's six books, refracting figures and events and reverberating words and phrases develop, modify, parody, or reverse perspectives and once stable-seeming points of reference.4
Like Spenser's poem, Shakespeare's play is also in good part about gender. It focally concerns one infinitely various female persona, a dramatized conception that can itself be seen as a variation on Spenser's multiple, refracted female figures. Shakespeare's leading male persona, again like Spenser's cast of refracting male figures, is also complementarily various to an extent less appreciated, I suspect, because harder to assimilate to still-conventional notions of gender. In my view, Antony and Cleopatra is also the pure embodiment of excess: by pure I mean “crystalline” or “distilled,” and “concentrated absolutely,” hence “conceptual.” Excess, as I use the term here, refuses limitation by the quotidian. Virtually by definition it inheres in passion and multiplicity, and, therefore, like the imagination itself, has its basis in earthly materials. Pure excess, itself oxymoronic, refuses categorization and centering, and the most relevant native antecedent of Shakespeare's (p.240) play that I see, besides the playwright's own Venus and Adonis, is Spenser's romance epic.
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First to basics: dates and details pertaining to the plausibility of significant intertextual relations between Antony and Cleopatra and The Faerie Queene. Citations of, and allusions to, Spenser's third Book in Shakespeare's Richard III, a play written approximately when his Venus and Adonis was, establish Shakespeare's close, imaginatively processed knowledge of Spenser's 1590 volume. Evidence in King Lear, written relatively near but before Antony and Cleopatra, similarly establishes Shakespeare's reading of Spenser's second three books of 1596.5
In chapter13 I have argued that Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis is “a seriocomic meditation on the landscape of desire and the kinds of figures it generates in Book III of The Faerie Queene,” and I have joined earlier critics in suggesting that Shakespeare's Venus anticipates his Cleopatra. A brief re-capitulation will prove useful. Aside from occasional overlaps in phrasing and imagery, the relationship between Venus and Adonis and The Faerie Queene mainly involves Spenser's Garden of Adonis and his strikingly the matized, recurrently refracted figure of a female bending over a recumbent male. This silhouetted pietà includes not only Acrasia in Book II, but in Book III also Venus (twice), Cymoent, Belphoebe, Argante, and Britomart (twice). Perspectivism, versionality, and gender are memorably written into the refractions of this figure: variously, lover, mother, virago, enchantress or witch, queen, and numerous aspects of Venus—virgo, armata, genetrix, vulgaris. All these topics and forms, rather than simply the focal, refractingimage of the pietà itself, bear most significantly on both Venus and Adonis and Antony and Cleopatra, although the pieta` notably occurs in the epyllion, as it does in Cleopatra's final scene with the mortally wounded Antony.
The further relation of Antony and Cleopatra to Venus and Adonis is well attested in critical studies and ranges from specific verbal echoes and rhetorical motifs to character and theme. For example, W. B. C. Watkins notes the extensive connection between the memorably striking “jennet and courser incident” in the epyllion and Cleopatra's imagining herself as the “happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony,” an equine image of passion variously recurrent in the play.6 Watkins also judges Antony's and Cleopatra's love, like Venus', an “obsessive disease” before describing it in phrases that suggest the Garden of Adonis, as well as other texts, since their love “can exist only by denying this world and creating a romantic paradise ‘where souls (p.241) do couch on flowers,’ eternally consuming each other rather than consummating something of greater importance than either” of them (35). Watkins' conclusion cites Antony's urgent, if somewhat desperate, vision—souls couching on flowers—prior to his near suicide and brief reunion with Cleopatra. It is worth note that Watkins' seemingly clinical judgment, an “obsessive disease,” is basically the same, and about as trustworthy, as Octavius Caesar's.
More extensive connections between play and epyllion can be found in essays in the 1960s by J. W. Lever and Adrien Bonjour.7 Highlights of Lever's essay include Lucretian fertility (with reference to Spenser's Temple of Venus), the striking fish imagery in Venus and Adonis (Adonis as immature fry) and in Antony and Cleopatra (angling as seduction, the salt fish on Antony's line), the pointed invocation of Venus and Mars, and the heightened antinomies, such as love and death, beauty and destruction, and creation and chaos (83–84, 87). Like other insistently thematized binaries—most obviously, Rome and Egypt, measure and measurelessness, spirit and body, eternity and time, male and female, together with the attributes conventionally associated with either—such initially seeming opposites mirror the constructs of allegorical vision, albeit not the narrative process of allegory itself, which can modify, assimilate, and exceed such binaries.8 Bonjour, invoking specific verbal and rhetorical similarities, also relates the text of Venus and Adonis persuasively to Enobarbus' celebrated description of Cleopatra'sbarge and beyond this, to the crucial conception of her “infinite variety” (73, cf. 79).
The final piece of background I need is the acknowledged relation of Antony and Cleopatra to The Faerie Queene within modern critical studies.This relation is everywhere a point of reference in Janet Adelman's impressive study The Common Liar, and implicitly in her use of the myth of Isis and Osiris in Suffocating Mothers as well.9 Adelman, an avowed admirer of Spenser's romance epic, refers often, at length, and in detail to Spenser's Books I through V, including the significant occurrence of the River Nile and the related imagery of serpents, crocodiles, and fertile flooding; the enchanting figure of the Faerie Queen herself; the sensuous, dominant, Venerean Acrasia and her enchanted, feminized lover Verdant; the emblematic figure of Concord, flanked by Love and Hate, and the hermaphroditic Venus in her eponymous Temple; Spenser's versions of Mars and Venus, of Venus armata (especially Britomart), of Isis and Osiris, and of Hercules, particularlyas feminized by Omphale (a mythic precursor of Radigund); and Spenser's treatment of the virtue of Temperance.10 Yet the characterizing appositive (p.242) Adelman uses to describe Spenser's “Palmer, that repository of common knowledge,” is indicative of her carefully restricted, rather flat approach to the relation of the two works (123).
For a reader who knows Spenser well, some of Adelman's insight into Antony and Cleopatra actually seems to derive from her reading of The Faerie Queene. Yet these two works, connected by numerous common texts andcommonplaces, in Adelman's seminal book also seem to be related merely as products of the same rich culture, as to an extent they surely are. It is finally as if even Adelman, appreciative but leery of further relation, is all too aware of critical resistance to the contamination of “poetry,” particularly but not exclusively allegorical poetry, that is felt by some articulate aficionados of stage plays even in so egregiously anomalous a tragedy as Antony and Cleopatra. Adelman's phrase in Suffocating Mothers to describe Timon of Athens, namely “an almost allegorical purity,” is revealing (165). I am not sure what Adelman means by “allegorical purity,” but I suspect an assumed identification either between allegorical and moral or, more likely, between allegorical and abstract in the phrase. As elsewhere, I question such equations and assert that allegory, in its defining form, is never unmixed or internally unchallenged.11 Abstraction, as well as morality, by itself is formally other to pure, or model, allegory, which not only has a material base but also inheres in narrative process. At this point it is useful to spotlight in my text a wise quotation from Edgar Wind, a distinguished historian of art and culture more broadly, whom I otherwise feature in endnotes: “it seems to be a lesson of history that the commonplace may be understood as a reduction of the exceptional, but that the exceptional cannot be understood by amplifying the commonplace. Both logically and causally the exceptional is crucial, because it introduces (however strange it may sound) the more comprehensive category. That this relation is irreversible should be an axiom in any study of art.”12 Wind's point effectually argues for the exemplary character of Spenserian allegory—allegory, to be sure, but also extraordinarily complex. It also attends seriously to the recognizable mutability and development that are essential to genre and to genre theory and that I have observed at appropriate moments in earlier chapters.
More recently and perhaps more notoriously than Adelman, Camille Paglia has coupled Antony and Cleopatra and The Faerie Queene in separate but adjoining chapters as expressions of Dionysian and Apollonian art, body and mind, passion and form, dissolution and definition, respectively. Paglia's broad-brushed observations deliver insight energetically, particularly regarding Cleopatra's “robustly half-masculine” persona and Shakespeare's Egypt (p.243) as Spenser's Bower of Bliss.13 “Adorne[d] with all variety,” the kinetic, syn-aesthetically sensuous depiction of Acrasia and her Garden proves remarkably, imaginatively close to Enobarbus' vision of Cleopatra at Cydnus (II.xii.59). But Paglia's Dionysian-Apollonian binarism suffers from the kind of neat opposition that Spenser's poem and Shakespeare's play alike profoundly challenge: Apollo and Dionysius can no more be kept apart in the end (and long before the end) than can Rome and Egypt, Mars and Venus, the various forms of Venus, or, indeed, even Guyon and the Bower of Bliss—again, just for starters. If early in the play, Egypt recalls the Bower, where “nature … ensude / Art, and … Art at nature did repine,” at the end it looks more like Spenser's Garden of Adonis, an earthly, mythic place “So faire … as Nature can deuize,” where art itself is at once natural and everywhere evident.14
The limitations, as well as the heightened perceptions, of Paglia's discussion can be instanced in her remark that Antony and Cleopatra is “the most thorough of Shakespeare's replies to Spenser” or in her contrast between “the frozen iconic entrance” of Spenser's Belphoebe and Enobarbus' “answering” depiction of Cleopatra in her barge, the latter “Venus in motion” (213, 223). To the first, one response might be again to question—as I have in my chapter on Venus and Adonis—the reigning assumption that the only relationship possible between writers is mocking rivalry.15 This assumption is simplistic, naively and narrowly gendered, and unhistorical, to boot. It often results from the habit of excising words, phrases, and short passages from their larger contexts to find quantifiable, “hard” evidence of “influence” and from the desire of an older criticism to base intertextual relations only on a writer's deliberate and specific linguistic allusions.
A sufficient response to Paglia's second claim would involve detailed discussion of the unfolding, fluidly perceptual description of Belphoebe, whose hair waves “like a penon wyde dispred,”
A response would also involve the relation of the description of Belphoebe to the numerous versions of Venus-Virgo to which it alludes both immediately and within the poem as a whole. Finally, it would involve enough contextualizing of the barge speech to understand its nature (both generic (p.244) and specific) and its function in the play, which, in an understatement, have been variously received.17
And whether art it were, or heedelesse hap,
As through the flouring forrest rash she fled,
In her rude heares sweet floures themselues did lap,
And flourishing fresh leaues and blossomes did enwrap.
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I turn next to a still more recent example of reception advocating that highly rhetorical poetry and embodied drama are inimical, existing in a relation of simple, radical opposition and thereby opposed to my present argument. While not treating The Faerie Queene directly, Shakespeare's Theory of Drama, by Pauline Kiernan, considers Antony and Cleopatra a direct repudiation of the golden world of Sidney's Apology for Poetry and, correlatively, an endorsement of the real, brazen world of plain speech and physical bodies.18 As a rejection of the highly rhetorical, written poetry salient in Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare's play becomes implicitly an attack on any such poemas The Faerie Queene and particularly on Spenser's poem, insofar as it is the major, conspicuously rhetorical, written poem of the English High Renaissance, one to which Sidney's theory of poetry is strikingly apposite.19 Kiernan's perception of “the difference between a poetry bred by a union with the rhetorical past which is doomed to perish, and a poetry that is self-created and uncontaminated by such rhetoric” is linguistically naive and fantastically utopian. Nonetheless, it can as readily and ironically be related to the bejeweled vines and “christall running by” of Acrasia's wicked Bower as to the “ivory in an alabaster band” that, in Kiernan's view, Shakespeare's Adonis ironically becomes within the “circuit of … ivory” of the goddess Venus' embrace.20 If Shakespeare is engaged in the parody of “written poetry's rhetorical excesses” in Venus and Adonis, he faithfully follows in Spenser's Acrasian footsteps. These steps would also have led him to the witch's creation of False Florimell in Book III, a walking parody of the sonneteer's idolized Beauty that is garnished with actual wires rather than hair and thereby a witty precursor of Shakespeare's parodic sonnet 130: “My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; … If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” (viii.6–8).21
Kiernan's argument stakes out theoretical ground that is either unspoken or spoken less provocatively in other discussions, and for this reason, I want to consider it further. Whereas Adelman discovers in Cleopatra's realization, “I am again for Cydnus,” a return “to no literal Cydnus but to the Cydnus of Enobarbus' description,” Kiernan finds rejection of the latter and a “triumph over” its insubstantial rhetoric (V.ii.227).22 What we have instead at the end is “Cleopatra's body, standing on a bare stage”; it is this that is “ ‘nature's piece,’gainst fancy, / Condemning shadows quite' “ (190). While (p.245) Kiernan's distinction between Cleopatra's “literal,” physical absence in the barge speech and her presence in voicing her last, imagined destination is certainly valid in part, a single-minded focus on Cleopatra's body—her staged, boy'd presence—discounts her words and finally leaves us with a richly costumed corpse.23 Missing from the equation of nature and body is quite simply the mind's productions and here more exactly those of the related functions of memory and imagination—the mnemonic imagination, if you will. To invoke a very different, modern context, a description of Proust that shares much with Renaissance Neoplatonism and Augustinism, “memory is active and human, at the place between fiction and desire, experience and imagination, poetry and history.”24 The functions of the mnemonic imagination are properly, if also precariously, distinguished from the delusions of mere fancy in sixteenth-century theories of poetry, whether dramatic, epic, or lyric. Variously conceived as the mind's eye, the sight of the soul, the icastic or the phantastic imagination, poetic wit, constructive invention, and so on, such insight is natural to human beings within both Aristotelian and Neoplatonic traditions of the time.25 In Cleopatra's correction of Dolabella's commonsensible assessment of her vision—if not her waking dream—of Antony, imagination is precisely the faculty she invokes in the line above Kiernan's citation: “t'imagine / An Antony were nature's piece'gainst fancy,” quite a different piece from a body on a bare stage and necessarily, by Sidney's identification of poesy with fiction, a poetic piece realized in rhetorical language (V.ii.97–98: my emphasis).
Essentially, Cleopatra's affirmation is Sidney's position in his Apology, where the creative wit of the poetic maker exceeds the limits of the merely natural world, the physical “stuff ” of nature, but where this human maker is also a piece of the nature that God has made. The fact of going beyond physical nature, whether by transcendence, excess, supplementation, sublation, recombination, distortion, or even reduction—“Heroes, Demigods, Cyclops, Chimeras, Furies and such like”—is basically what defines Sidney's view of the poetic imagination (100). At issue in Kiernan's theory of Shakespeare's drama are conceptions both of nature and of mimesis and fiction, and these bear on her radical opposition not only between written poetry and embodied action but also between heightened rhetoric and plain speech, the latter at base an opposition between figurative and literal dimensions that many of Shakespeare's writings engage deeply, variously, and as wholes. Kiernan's argument exposes issues that currently underlie any attempt intertextually to align Spenser's epic romance with Antony and Cleopatra. These include those coded “stage and page,” voice and writing, (p.246) “honest kersey noes” and “Taffata phrases,” or, indeed, the “Three-pil'd hyperboles,” that, along with paradox, Adelman sees definitively shaping form and content in Antony and Cleopatra.26
Strategically, Kiernan explains, “In the mimesis concept of art, the ideal [i.e, objective, goal] is a skilled imitation of nature that is so life-like we are deceived into thinking the imitated subject is the real thing” (8). This reductive definition of mimesis as photocopy is hardly that of an early modern Neoplatonist, let alone that of a true Aristotelian. If it is arguably Platonic, it is also already in opposition to the Platonic “ideal,” and from this perspective, self-canceling. Kiernan's mimesis is a concept Spenser's Acrasia might endorse (even while seductively, subversively contesting the definition of “nature”), but, as Kiernan knows, it also opposes the mimetic conception of dramatic art in Shakespeare's Hamlet, where the mirror—”as 'twere,” or “as if it were,” and thus already a metaphorized, counterfactual surface—that is held up to “nature” registers such perceptual, interpretive, and questionably, ambiguously substantial characteristics as “form,” “pressure,” “feature” and “image” (III.ii.22–24).27 Such characteristics are variously to be found in the mirror that Spenser offers his age and country, as well. Mirroring and techniques of mirroring, which include self-reflexive doubling, are everywhere in The Faerie Queene, conspicuous in both the Proems and the narrative.
Consider in response to Kiernan's definition, a relevant objection to the naively photographic conception of mimesis by the modern Aristotelian Paul Ricoeur, whose views have been discussed in my introduction to this volume:
Kiernan presumably offers her naive definition of mimesis in order to accommodate the primacy she claims for fiction to that she claims for staged embodiment in Shakespeare's plays: Shakespeare's embodiment is not mimetic, she would argue, in order to prove it at once embodied and fictive. But this “no brainer” signals another purpose. In conflating the fictive with embodiment, Kiernan attempts also to claim authentic, substantial, or real (p.247) fiction exclusively for voice, body, presence, and stage. Written, notably rhetorical poetry is in contrast disembodied absence. Thus Kiernan further complicates these theoretical binaries by trying, via transcoding, to equate embodied presence with the plain, worldly speech of Sidney's brazen world. All these distinctions and equations are bound for trouble, as a final example will demonstrate.
If we continue to translate mimesis by “imitation,” we have to understand something completely contrary to a copy of some preexisting reality and speak instead of a creative imitation. And if we translate mimesis by “representation” … we must not understand by this word some redoubling of presence, as we could still do for Platonic mimesis, but rather the break that opens the space for fiction. Artisans who work with words produce not things but quasi-things; they invent the as-if.28
Kiernan draws the following contrast between Sidney's Apology and Shakespearean drama and in doing so identifies fiction with untruth, precisely the puritanical position that Sidney rejects: “Sidney claims that the poet ‘nothing affirms, and therefore never lieth.’ Shakespearean drama declares itself unabashedly a liar in order to affirm one unassailable truth, which is the impossibility of determining the truth. It is for this reason that its fictitiousness is the foundation for all that it attempts to achieve” (12). Sidney, of course, refers to fiction, for which his name is poesy, when he claims that the poet does not lie, and Shakespearean drama certainly more often declares its own ambiguous fictiveness than its falsehood, the latter the province of “the common liar” in Antony and Cleopatra.29 Moreover, such a declaration, indeed such interrogation and exposure, of fiction is readily aligned in Spenser's nonstaged poetry with issues of representation and beyond this concern, even more self-consciously with its own frequent performance of representation, which any reading, necessarily temporal, recaptures. For a start, consider again the difference between the symbol of Christianity, the red-crossed armor at the very outset of the first canto of The Faerie Queene, the most obvious, trustworthy symbol imaginable, and Archimago's donning this symbolic armor early in the second canto, where the now-mock-innocent narrator's conclusive phrasing, “Full iolly knight he seemde” exactly replicates, not to say mirrors, his initial description of Redcrosse (I.i.1, ii.11). Shakespearean drama does not declare itself an un-abashed, or common, liar, but like other contemporary poetic writings, and most massively, conspicuously, and relevantly The Faerie Queene, it raises issues everywhere about truth, about representation, and about the unstable relation between them.
Kiernan's notion of Orphic poetry, which, in the words of Gerald Bruns “seeks its transcendence not in isolation but in relation to the world of natural things,” is suggestively close to Wolfgang Iser's conception of the fictive, which is not tied to “the old fiction/reality dichotomy.”30 Instead, Iser's fictive “keeps in view what has been overstepped,” while it is nonetheless “an act of boundary-crossing” that at once “disrupts and doubles the referential world.” The irony of my invoking Iser (another recurrent presence (p.248) in my endnotes throughout) in responding to Kiernan is that his theory of the fictive and imaginary specifically references, thus privileging, Sidney's pastoral Arcadia—prose fiction, yet still “poesy” in Sidney's lexicon, insofar as “it is not rhyming and versing that maketh a poet” (103). Shakespeare, I suspect, would have accepted this analogy for his plays and with it the intertextual, imaginative affinity of his work with both Sidney's and Spenser's.
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Turning more directly to the relation of Antony and Cleopatra to The Faerie Queene, I want to argue an imaginative affinity between them that theircommon cultural sources undergird—as more specifically does the combined relation of the play to Venus and Adonis and of this epyllion to Spens-er's epic romance—but that these common cultural sources fail to account for credibly and sufficiently. This affinity is overwhelmingly thematic, although its themes extend to subtler and more specific effects: for example, in Adelman's thoroughly Spenserian word-concept, the “fusion” of Antony and Cleopatra in the end extends to the exchange of characterizing words and phrases, the symbolic blending of character that is basically allegorical in conception and a defining characteristic of The Faerie Queene.31 The thematic ties that conspicuously bind these works include language and representation, as well as infinite variety, versionality, and endlessness, as I have already indicated.32 In addition, they conspicuously include hermaphroditism and analogous composites or mergings, as opposed to, undermining, and exceeding binarism. Egregious among these composites is the oxymoronic linkage of eros and death—Spenser's Verdant and Mortdant, or fertile springtime and mortality (in both senses of this word). Another, related instance of this oxymoronic coupling in Spenser occurs in Amavia and Mortdant (“lovelife” and “death giving”), a pair impinging openly on the pun that unifies sexual and deathly dying. In terms I have used elsewhere in this volume, these thematic ties extend to the organizing, symbolic referents of Spenser's third Book, the Venerean flower and the Martian boar, and recurrently and insistently as well—Watkins might say obsessively, and Angus Fletcher “allegorically”—to thematized questions regarding the source and nature of vision.33
Introducing Metaphor and Belief in “The Faerie Queene,” Rufus Wood instances Antony's definition of the crocodile as “a telling critique of the imaginative sterility of non-metaphoric language.”34 In response to Lepidus' question, “What manner o' thing is your crocodile?” we find the following:
Antony— It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth. It is just so high as it is, and moves with its own organs. It lives by that which nourisheth it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.
Lepidus— What colour is it of ?
Antony— Of it own colour too.
Lepidus—'tis a strange serpent.
Antony—'tis so, and the tears of it are wet.(II.vii.41–50)
For Wood, this comically absurd exchange is directed less at the drunken Lepidus than at the literalism of Roman values and the perceptions of “things” informed by them. For me, it could not contrast more openly with Enobarbus' description of Cleopatra in her barge only five scenes earlier or more pointedly raise the issue of representation in language, specifically questioning the values of rhetoric and literalism, not to say of imagination and thing.35 To remark that the same issue occurs relevantly in The Faerie Queene seems almost superfluous, but the significant contrast in Book II between the rhetorically heightened, sensuous Bower of Bliss and the heightened abstraction of the Castle of Medina comes quickly to mind, as do the strains “between metaphorical and material dimensions of meaning, between concept and history, and between words and things” that are thematic throughout Book V (a book that also features the myth of Isis and Osiris).36 Along with other memories of contrast between the true and artificial Florimells in Books III to V, the metamorphosis of Malbecco in Book III (x)—an alteration which subverts his humanity (specifically his manhood) and transforms him into the monstrous figure Jealousy that his own mind makes—highlights the central concern of this book with the making of metaphors. Still more to the point is the contrast between the cannibalistic literalizers of the blazon who capture Serena and the rhetorical values of Mount Acidale, both instances in Book VI that openly, problematically, and relevantly engage the inseparability of vision from desire. Additional contrast between epic and other values significantly embodied in form comes in recurrences of pastoral (and even Langlandian) moments—for example, the future Redcrosse's being found in a furrow by a plowman or the gnats that recurrently annoy the Faerie fields; these are Spenser's nods to “russet neas” and “kersey noes,” as any Elizabethan or Jacobean with a grammar-school education would have recognized, thereby avoiding confusion of such incursions of the low style with literalism. (p.250)
More tellingly, however, the focusing of the issue of representation in language explicitly and insistently on the necessity, inescapability, and creative-destructive, illusory-insightful potential of metaphor is a denominator considerably closer to what ties Shakespeare to Spenser than are the common myths, as such, that they inherit. Likewise closer is the issue of moral framing, another matter of representation and interpretation. The insufficiency of such Octavian framing may need little urging in Shakespeare's play, but it should be noted that signs of it are famously numerous in Spenser's Bower as well, including the ambivalent narrator, the Palmer's interpretive commentary and woven net, Guyon's violence, the nature of this Knight's relation to the Bower, and the nature of the Bower itself.37 The slippery, sliding relation between Acrasian beauty and Guyonic waste, as later between Busiranic form and emptiness, and the persistence of Acrasia and Busirane in what follows their apparent captures are closer to Shakespearean versions of these than any notion of “allegorical purity” would suggest.
Another specific denominator closer to what connects Shakespeare to Spenser than the rich archive of myths, the “stuff,” they inherit and distinctively employ is what I have called the theme of hermaphroditism, of which the androgyne is a cultural and figurative variation not always distinguished clearly or consistently from the sexual hermaphrodite in this period.38 No two other literary works in English in the period treat this theme more creatively, complexly, and to a more concentrated and focal extent than do the two writings in question. For Spenser, its focal treatment spans the cross-dressed Britomart's three books and then some, pertaining especially but not exclusively to her. In these books, namely III to V, it becomes evident that a binaristic conception of gender is simply inadequate; there are four terms, not two in play, or at least two in each of the major amatory players, Britomart and Artegall.
For Shakespeare, this doubling of gender involves Antony and Cleopatra equally. Consider a selection of familiar examples preceding their deaths: Antony's cross-dressing in Cleopatra's “tires and mantles,” while she wears “his sword Philippan,” one of several allusions to Venus and Mars in the play; or Cleopatra's startling desire that a message be “Ram[med]” in her ears, a desire doubly gendered by her possession and expression of its violently forceful, imagistic rhetoric (animal, gun, vagina), and her transferen-tial relish in using her bended hook to “pierce / The … slimy jaws” of fishes, each of them imagined an Antony; or her desire to “Appear there for a man” in the first sea battle, “for” hovering among the meanings “as,” (p.251) “instead of,” and “on behalf of “; or her marble-constancy, rock-hard, as death approaches.39 Further highlighting hermaphroditic symbolism early in the play, Octavius memorably charges that the reveling Antony “is not more manlike / Than Cleopatra, nor the Queen of Ptolemy / More womanly than he”; subsequently, Antony violates his “manhood, honour” and suffers the figurative loss of his sword, or manhood, in the two battles at sea; he then dissolves or loses his firm shape even before determining on death, and dying he literally loses his sword, which is presented by one of Antony's men to Caesar, a passing of the phallus if ever there was one.40
As these samples suggest, instances of double gendering and cross-gendering accumulate in Antony and Cleopatra, and they also advance thematically as the play moves into its final Acts. Here also questions about the source and nature of vision become explicit, as they do with particular relevance in Spenser's Books III and VI, the latter taken as a whole that climaxes on Mount Acidale. Spenser's third Book centrally concerns the mind's—more exactly, the imagination's—power to project its own shapes on reality. Throughout this Book, the Venerean flower and the Martian boar, which I have earlier aligned with eros and death and with fertility and mortality, symbolically frame the quest of Britomart, the focal Venus armata of the poem. In the middle of Book III rises the Garden of Adonis, an earthly site where life and death coexist eternally and spring is “Continuall” with harvest, “both meeting at one tyme” (III.vi.42).41
In the Renaissance, as treated in my chapter 14, a Garden of Adonis, from ancient times the term for a forcing bed or place of heightened fertility, became by etymological confusion of Adonis with Eden a “ioyous Paradize,” as Spenser calls it, and the seminary of all created things (III.vi.29).42 At the center of Spenser's Garden is a mons pubis, and directly beneath it the sharp-tusked boar, a traditional symbol of aggression, sexual passion, chaos, winter, and death, is imprisoned in a cave.43 The recycling babes returning through a gate of death “in that Gardin planted bee agayne; / And grow afresh, as they had neuer seene / Fleshly corruption, nor mortall payne” (III.vi.33). On the Mount itself, Venus “takes her fill” of Adonis' “sweetnesse,” and
(p.252) Both in this passage and elsewhere in the Garden sex is collocated with death—much as in the pun on dying—and generation at once accompanies and alternates with exhaustion, even as spring with harvest and life with death. Mythic time here converges with mortality. Here grows “euery sort of flowre, / To which sad louers were transformde of yore,” and Adonis, “in euerlasting ioy,” discovers the continuity of dying with the perpetuation of life (III.vi.45–47, 49).44 Here as well, the conventional gendering of the quotidian world is disrupted, if we believe the scholars who have studied this episode most closely and, indeed, our own commonsensible reading: Adonis lies passively and Venus takes her fill, and within his “subiect[ion] to mortalie,” he experiences life “in eternall blis, / Ioying his goddesse, and of her enioyd” (III.vi.47, 48).45 Understanding the Garden as an intense site of pleasure, knowledge, and power, Kenneth Gross describes it conclusively as at once “an ear[th]ly paradise,” “an apocalypse that preserves rather than destroys the natural, and a vision of supernatural sources that survives being thrown into time, into the warring cycles of erosa nd thanatos” (209, cf. 200).
There yet, some say, in secret he does ly, Lapped in flowres and pretious spycery,
By her hid from the world, and from the skill Of Stygian Gods. …
In the space remaining, I want to read the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra in ways that intersect with the Garden, as I have described this celebrated mythic place, which, it bears remembering, Shakespeare demonstrably knew.46 In the fourth Act of Antony and Cleopatra, both after Mardian's false report of Cleopatra's death, as before it, what strikes me are Antony's repeated outcries: “Eros!” Shakespearean criticism has surely noticed these—time out of mind, however. No one recently has wanted to dwell on the obvious allegorical signal—”Eros!”—or to consider it the sign of a shift in register, a radical heightening of the mythic mode, one that is all the more noticeable for the practical Enobarbus' departure and replacement by Antony's freedman of this name.47 That the name Eros exists in Plutarch, Shakespeare's major source, hardly diminishes the conspicuousness of this signal in the play, unless we want absurdly to pretend that Shakespeare copied history without imaginatively processing it.
To allude and refer to myth repeatedly in a play is one thing, but to bring it to life, embodying it in an actor on stage, is quite another. Antony's repeated outcries “Eros” are the equivalent of pointing fingers in the margin of a Tudor-Stuart book to attract and direct our attention to something important: “This grave charm … Like a false gipsy hath at fast and loose / Beguiled me to the very heart of loss. / What, Eros, Eros! … Ah, thou spell! Avaunt!”; “Eros, ho! / The shirt of Nessus is upon me. … She dies for't. Eros, ho!”; “Eros!—I come, my queen.—Eros!—Stay for me. … (p.253) Come Eros! Eros!” Raging like the Thessalian boar, Antony believes himself poisoned by a combination of love and betrayal, as was Hercules by the shirt of Nessus, but at the same time he turns in passionate desperation to Eros for some form of affirmation.48 On his realization of Cleopatra's (feigned) suicide, his need quickly turns into a desire for mutual consummation. Traditionally, Eros is a god of death as well as of life, of consummation in both these uses of the word—consummatum est. In the lines I have cited, Antony's desire coincides with death, again as the pun on die, so dear to Elizabethans and Jacobeans, expresses this juncture.49 Indeed, it is “with a wound [that Antony] … must be cured” (IV.xiv.79); with the reference to curing, one thinks both more readily of Adonis than Mars and more readily of Spenser's Adonis than Shakespeare's.
Although I am cautious, if not skeptical, of Christianizing efforts to associate Adonis with Christ in Spenser's Garden, such association certainly occurs in Christian appropriations of the classical myth, and for Antony's words it could provide another resonance that is shared by Shakespeare and Spenser.50 Antony's curing by a wound surely glances at a sacrificial context of the sort Milton will invoke in his catalogue of devils: where “smooth Adonis from his native Rock / [Runs] … purple to the Sea, suppos'd withblood / Of Thammuz yearly wounded.” Thammuz-Adonis, also identified with Osiris, was treated as a fertility cult by numerous, relatively popular commentators contemporary with Spenser and Shakespeare, and as later for Milton, as for many other early moderns, pagan belief is typically a deceptive shadow of truth, but nevertheless in a relation to it.51 Again, such words as “resonance” and “glance” are appropriate to these mythic possibilities, whereas heavy-handed impositions of mythic equivalents are not. Their possible presence is as readily available to irony, moreover, as it is to the impulse of wish-fulfillment.
Antony's desire for consummation, as I have quoted it, actually frames the lines Watkins rightly, if inexplicitly, appears to have associated with the Garden of Adonis:
(p.254) As commentators on Antony's reference to the Elysian Fields have observed, his desire notably revises Vergil on Dido and Aeneas in the netherworld, where Dido shuns her betrayer, and I would suggest he does so via a fleeting Shakespearean memory of the Garden of Adonis, which commentary has otherwise also related to Vergil's Elysium.52 In a line from the Garden earlier quoted, which Shakespeare had already remembered in Richard III, Adonis lies “Lapped in flowres and pretious spycery”; and two stanzaslater, “There now he liueth in eternall bliss, / Ioying his goddesse, and of her enioyed” (III.vi.46, 48). Like the contrasting frame of summonses to Eros and the imagined site in Shakespeare's lines, Antony is caught more discordantly than ever before between fleshly consummation and mythic desire. Of course he is caught as well between homoeroticism and heteroer-oticism and between Roman and Egyptian allegiances.53
- Eros!—I come, my queen—Eros!—Stay for me.
- Where souls do couch on flowers we'll hand in hand
- And with our sprightly port make the ghosts gaze.
- Dido and her Aeneas shall want troops,
- And all the haunt be ours. Come Eros! Eros! (IV.xiv.51–55)
Shakespeare's character Eros kills himself out of love for Antony, a kind of total realization of his name. He becomes, like a simplified figure in allegory, exactly what he does. The sacrifice of Eros for Antony also frees, not to say forces, Antony to rise above his former self, if neither smoothly nor very effectively. In a speech initially addressed to the (allegorically) self-murdering Eros and then to himself, Antony resolves to commit suicide and then attempts it:
Antony wants to embrace death as a lover, indeed a bridegroom. Once again the culturally focal pun on dying is present, and he wants, in an absolute sense, to realize it. But the bridegroom Antony's running (or less climactically falling) on his sword, in view of the conspicuously phallic, often penile, symbolism of a sword in the play to this point, is remarkably hermaphroditic. If he is the bridegroom, here he is also the wounded bride.
- O valiant Eros, what
- I should and thou couldst not! My queen and Eros Have by their brave instruction got upon me
- A nobleness in record. But I will be
- A bridegroom in my death and run into't As to a lover's bed. Come then! And, Eros, Thy master dies thy scholar. To do thus
- I learned of thee.
Not surprisingly, while Antony does not finally fail to commit suicide, he certainly bungles its accomplishment in terms either of Octavian effi-ciency or Herculean strength. More figuratively, however, he reaches awkwardly, even with dramatic absurdity, to realize the complexity of an (p.255) identity that has so far eluded him. This identity is a compound whole, a healing of systemic binaries, and of course it cannot be fully realized, as the pain of prolonged dying and the deflating falsehood of Cleopatra's feigned death cruelly bring home. As with so much in this play, however, the impossibility of such realization might be further challenged, and it is in Cleopatra's actual death. Although only Cleopatra can finish what Antony starts and close the wound he opens to view, a heightening of the mythic mode in his start is all the more emphatic precisely for its discord with physical reality, and it is also precisely what renders visible a significant, vital continuity between the two lovers' paired endings.
These endings are structurally analogous to those of King Lear. Antony's situation at the end inversely resembles the faux ending of Lear, where Edgar and Albany stand around moralizing about the justice of the gods and the wheel's coming full circle, only to have their vision shattered by that “Great thing of us forgot!”—death, in effect, cruelly real, unjust death in the fate of Cordelia, then the death of Lear himself (V.iii.237). The morality-play feint of Edgar's and Albany's reflections only heightens the tragic questions that follow it in the actual ending of the play. Where a pious vision is shattered by the end of Lear, however, mythic vision is reaffirmed and dramatically realized at the end of Antony and Cleopatra; yet with this difference: whereas Antony collocates sex and death, only to be painfully reminded of the difference, Cleopatra, making the same connection, goes beyond it to figure death effectively as (re)generation.
Antony's collocation “Eros!—I come, my queen—Eros!—Stay for me. … Come Eros! Eros!” cited out of its full context, is almost embarrassing, almost laughable, like his botched suicide. Perhaps another memory of King Lear, the notorious impulse to laughter noted at times by actors rehearsingit and by audiences in its actual performance, pertains here. Excess invites laughter and succeeds not despite but by cooperating with it, co-opting release and reality-check to vision. In this way excess can acknowledge the connection of vision with desire without simply being reduced to the latter and denying the creative value of fiction and figurative language—the as-if dimension of poesy. In effect, Antony's bungling runs interference for Cleopatra's vision by constructive contrast, both introducing a heightened mythic mode and providing a butt for realistic criticism that to an extent will deflect it from what is to come, even while paradoxically acknowledging the connection necessary to contrast, or meaningful difference.54 Seen as deflection, Antony's death actually is sacrificial. (p.256)
When the dying Antony is briefly reunited with Cleopatra, she bends in the familiar pieta` posture over his recumbent body and wishes that he might “Die when … [he has] lived” and “Quicken with kissing” (IV.xv.39–40). Apparently now ceding such myths to her, he asserts in his remaining breaths, “Not Caesar's valour hath o'erthrown Antony, / But Antony's hath triumphed on itself “ (IV.xv.15–16). His attention is again on Roman values. Or is it really? Given Antony's failure to commit suicide efficiently, his claim meets skepticism: his Roman valor has dubiously been reasserted. We might even consider his claim delusive or merely pathetic. Yet it might also be asked whether Caesar's conception of valor and Antony's are still the same (if they ever were) or even whether and how a Roman conception and Caesar's are identical at this moment. With the deaths of Enobarbus and Eros and the self-seeking betrayals of other followers of Antony, the nature and value of Roman valor are surely in question, and the redefining process of the entire play bears on Antony's present sense of them. Significantly, Shakespeare drops the word “other” from Antony's ambiguous claim in North's Plutarch that he is “a Roman by an other Romane” overcome, which could refer either to Antony himself or to Caesar, and instead has Antony assert that he is “a Roman by a Roman / Valiantly vanquished” (IV.xv.59–60). Shakespeare thus rewrites Plutarch to emphasize Antony's valor, but simultaneously turns this valor in on itself, making it more clearly self-referential, rather than necessarily an affirmation of a specifically Roman identity, which in fact it succeeds in extinguishing.55 Antony's dying claim can thus be read as an affirmation of the distinction between Caesarean valor and valor of another kind. Antony's valor is now expressed not in suicide per se but in dying, a word and reality he invokes four times in his last moments with Cleopatra. As the familiar pun, this word-concept has a long history in the play, and its double-edging not only lingers, perhaps ironically, in Antony's memorably repeated line “I am dying, Egypt, dying,” but in time it also merges with Cleopatra's own performance of death (IV.xv.19, 43).56
“Say I would die” is Cleopatra's message to Caesar once she has been captured and imprisoned in her monument, already, so to speak, a monumentalized prisoner of Roman history—unless, of course, she can find a way out of it (V.ii.69). This is the point at which she turns, as Antony did when he heard of her feigned death, to sleep and dreaming as the precursors of death and vision—on his part, a place “Where souls do couch on flowers,” and on hers, “nature's piece” beyond “the size of dreaming”: for Antony's plenitude—”his bounty,” as she imaginatively recalls it—”There was (p.257) no winter …; an autumn it was / That grew the more by reaping.”57 Once again, imagination's forms touch Spenser's Garden, where male and female, life and death, spring and autumn, eternity and mortality converge. The biting of the asp, as the comic countryman will pertinently tell Cleopatra, is “immortal,” a pun in which we will hear again both death and desire and with them the bonding of earthly and unearthly meanings (V.ii.245–46). Caesarean domination, which is necessarily hierarchical, fails to encompass potency: as Jean-Luc Nancy has tellingly observed, “The imperium is not the divine power of the pharaoh—and that is why in the end it will have divided up not so much the world as, on the contrary, the duality of world and heaven, the separation and the rivalry between two kingdoms with different forms of omnipotence.”58
“I have immortal longings in me,” Cleopatra declares emphatically at the outset of her final speeches, which are punctuated by Iras' death and Charmian's choric responses (V.ii.280). While Cleopatra does not bungle her suicide, the interlude of Iras' sudden, unexpected expiration momentarily threatens the majesty of her performance, yet Cleopatra's spontaneous rescripting only enforces the easy, comic, natural nearness of life and death: “If she first meet the curled Antony, / He'll … spend that kiss / Which is my heaven to have” (V.ii.300–302). If this Cleopatra is newly ennobled, she is also familiar, comically human, and credibly continuous with her past—her passion to possess, however grand, little different from a milk maid's (IV.xv.77–79).
Cleopatra's words in these final speeches repeatedly imply the convergence of sex and death, recalling Antony's words when he, too, was resolving on suicide: “Husband, I come!”; “The stroke of death is as a lover's pinch / Which hurts and is desired”; “As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle—/ O Antony!—Nay, I will take thee too.”59 The last two lines might even seem to gesture toward an idyllic place where lovers couch on flowers. Cleopatra's maternal image of the deadly asp likewise belongs to the matrix of generation and death—”Dost thou not see my baby at my breast / That sucks the nurse asleep?” (V.ii.308–9). The phrase “sucks the nurse asleep” can be read as “sucks to sleep” and as “sucks the nurse sleeping,” either option making death gently and naturally, but only because also figuratively and creatively, continuous with life. Yet the baby's sucking the nurse sleeping is not so far removed from Acrasia's sucking Verdant's “spright” as to cancel a momently glimpsed negative nuance, the acknowledged possibility of an insidiously deadly draining of vital forces, another realistic intonation contributing to Cleopatra's final accomplishment.
(p.258) The maternal and the phallic further combine in Cleopatra's image of the sharp-toothed serpent, itself an attribute of the Goddess Isis keyed already to myth. Dressed ceremonially as Isis, Cleopatra, Antony's “serpent of old Nile,” figures the goddess identified by Plutarch as generation and mother of the world, whose moon-like nature is “both male and female, as she is receptive and made pregnant by the Sun, … [while] she herself in turn emits and disseminates into the air generative principles” (I.v.26).60 Once again we are imaginatively and conceptually very close to the Garden of Adonis.
Cleopatra, like Antony, is “noble” in act at the end and perhaps finally truer than he to the old, “high Roman fashion.” More than he at the end, she is also “marble-constant”—a phrase gendered stiffly, monumentally male, for she has “nothing / Of woman” in her. Even here, however, the pun on “nothing” is inescapably present—simultaneously a denial of female nature as inconstancy and a reassertion of its genital sexuality—as her climactic performance crosses the limits of sex and gender, together with those of life and death and myth and mortality.61 Imaginatively, she meets not only Antony, but also the Venus and Adonis of Spenser's Garden.
(1.) Sara Munson Deats, “Shakespeare's Anamorphic Drama: A Survey of Antony and Cleopatra in Criticism,” in Deats, ed., Antony and Cleopatra: New Critical Essays (London: Routledge, 2005), 1–93,Antony and CleopatraQWERTY
(2.) Jyotsna G. Singh, “The Politics of Empathy in Antony and Cleopatra: A View from Below,” in A Companion to Shakespeare's Works: Vol. I: The Tragedies, ed. Richard Dutton and Jean E. Howard (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 411–29,New Casebooks: Antony and CleopatraAntony and Cleopatra
(3.) Jonathan Goldberg, Endlesse Worke: Spenser and the Structures of Discourse (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981)
(4.) Spenser: The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton, 2nd ed., with text edited by Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki (Harlow, U.K.: Pearson, 2001)The Faerie QueeneFQ
(5.) Further evidence exists in other plays, Midsummer Night's Dream being an obvious candidate. For discussion of the evidence in Richard III and in King Lear, see, respectively, in part 3 of this volume, chapter 13, “Venus and Adonis: Spenser, Shakespeare, and the Forms of Desire,” and chapter 12, “The Conspiracy of Realism: Impasse and Vision in The Faerie Queene and Shakespeare's King Lear.” On dating, I have followed The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 78–87; supplemented by reference to Antony Hammond, ed. King Richard III (London: Methuen, 1981), 54–61; John Roe, ed., The Poems [of William Shakespeare] (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 1, 12–15; David Bevington, ed., Antony and Cleopatra, updated ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 1–2; and John Wilders, ed., Antony and Cleopatra (London: Routledge, 1995), 69–75.
(6.) E.g., AC, I.v.22; cf. III.vii.7, x.10–15; IV. viii. 14–16: for Antony and Cleopatra, unless otherwise specified, I cite the third Arden edition, by John Wilders, as AC in this chapter. Watkins, Shakespeare and Spenser (1950; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: Walker-de-Berry, 1961), 25.
(7.) Respectively, “Venus and the Second Chance,” Shakespeare Survey, 15 (1962), 81–88; and “From Shakespeare's Venus to Cleopatra's Cupids,” Shakespeare Survey, 15 (1962), 73–80.
(8.) Interpretation: Theory and Practice, ed. Charles S. Singleton (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969), 173–209.
(9.) Respectively, Janet Adelman, The Common Liar: An Essay on “Antony and Cleopatra” (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1973); and Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare's Plays, “Hamlet” to “The Tempest” (New York: Routledge, 1992); see also Barbara J. Bono, Literary Transvaluation: From Vergilian Epic to Shakespearean Tragicomedy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 176–82. On the various mythic associations of Cleopatra and Anthony, see also Deats's survey, 20–21, 29–33.
(10.) Common LiarSuffocating MothersKatherine Eggert compares Cleopatra to Acrasia in order to differentiate them: Showing Like a Queen: Female Authority and Literary Experiment in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 144,The Faerie QueeneThe Spenser Review
(11.) Carolynn Van Dyke, The Fiction of Truth: Structures of Meaning in Narrative and Dramatic Allegory (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985), 15–46.
(12.) Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, rev. ed. (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, U.K.: Penguin, 1967), 238. Cf. Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (1998; rpt. London: Verso, 2003), 44: “A major work will either establish the genre or abolish it; and the perfect work will do both.”
(13.) Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990; rpt. New York: Random House, 1991), 213,
(14.) FQ, II. xii. 59, III. vi. 29. In the Garden, the arbor on the Mount is “not by art, / But of the trees owne inclination made” (III. vi. 44). Aside from the fact that the inclination of the trees is naturally artful, the whole Garden canto is egregiously so. It is a lyrical myth that includes the generativity of art and specifically the mythic transformations to which “sweet Poets verse hath giuen endlesse date” (45). Acrasia's art is artificial in a sense that a reader of Baudrillard might appreciate.
(15.) See also part 1, chapter 4, “Allegory, Irony, Despair: Chaucer's Pardoner's and Franklin's Tales and Spenser's Books I and III.” The issue recurs in various essays and contexts in the present volume.
(16.) The Lyotard Reader, ed. Andrew Benjamin (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), 19–55,
(17.) Belphoebe remains Harry Berger, Jr.,'s detailed analysis in The Allegorical Temper: Vision and Reality in Book II of Spenser's “Faerie Queene” (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1957), 120–49.
(18.) Pauline Kiernan, Shakespeare's Theory of Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
(19.) (p.388) Goddard's view if poetry is understood as lyric: Shakespeare, National Poet-Playwright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 275–76; Harold C. Goddard, The Meaning of Shakespeare (1951; rpt. Chicago: Chicago University Press, Phoenix ed., 1960), II, 203.
(20.) Kiernan, 47, 51, 174 (cited in the following sentence); The Faerie Queene, II.xii.54–55, 58; cf. “sparkling [or crystallizing] face,” xii.68; Venus and Adonis, 230, 363 (passages in the epyllion referenced by Kiernan). For Shakespeare's writings other than Antony and Cleopatra, I cite The Riverside Shakespeare in this chapter unless otherwise specified.
(21.) For relevant discussion of Acrasia and False Florimell in the present volume see part 3, chapter 15, “Androcentrism and Acrasian Fantasies in the Bower of Bliss.”
(22.) ParagoneAntony and CleopatraPhilippa Berry, Shakespeare's Feminine Endings: Disfiguring Death in the Tragedies (London: Routledge, 1999), 87:
(23.) A more persuasively balanced antecedent of Kiernan's argument is W. B. Worthen's essay “The Weight of Antony: Staging ‘Character’ in Antony and Cleopatra,” Studies in English Literature, 26 (1986), 295–308, esp. 301–3, 305. Referring to Cleopatra's return, as it were, to Cydnus, Worthen argues that “the play forces us to negotiate the difficulties of its own representation, the ‘restoration’ of an inaccessible, nearly unimaginable greatness—one known to us only through words, as a text—to the stage … [where] there will be no barge burnishing, no music, no Cupids and Nereides, only a barren platform and two weeping servants” (305). A successful negotiation, he adds, will accept Cleopatra's rhetoric and staged pathos as efficacious play. See also Carol Cook, “The Fatal Cleopatra,” in Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender, ed. Shirley Nelson Garner and Madelon Sprengnether (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 241–67, here 245: in V.ii, the “boy actor, speaking the lines of the male playwright, draws our attention to the absence of Cleopatra from this scene, the absence which constitutes Cleopatra, constitutes the unrepresentable woman, the unassimable other.” Cook's Irigarayan reading of the play rightly places a high value on fluidity. A more positive balance to Cook's not-thereness might be found in the thoughtful discussion of early modern “vitalism” by Berry, however, 12–20, esp. 13–14.
(24.) Mary Orr, Intertextuality: Debates and Contexts (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 2003), 57.
(25.) Imprecise or unstable terminology obscures similarities and differences, but a selection of relevant views can be found in Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry, ed. Geoffrey Shepherd (1965; rpt. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1973), 125; George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589; rpt. Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 1988), 34–35; Allan H. Gilbert, ed., Literary Criticism: (p.389) Plato to Dryden (1940; rpt. Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1962), 305–7, 312, 324 (Lodovico Castelvetro); 360–62, 367–70, 386–88 (Jacopo Mazzoni); 472, 474, 476–81, 492–94 (Torquato Tasso). On Tasso's views, see also the excellent discussion of Mindele Anne Treip, Allegorical Poetics and the Epic: The Renaissance Tradition to “Paradise Lost” (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994), 45–49 and chaps. 5–8, esp. 67, 74–79, 82–85, 91–94. While the Aristotelian Pietro Pomponazzi does not address poetics in his treatise On the Immortality of the Soul, his argument that “in all cognition, however far abstracted, we form some bodily image,” or, as Aristotle himself had put it, “ ‘knowing is either imagination, or is not without imagination,’ ” is likewise suggestive regarding the status of poetic imagery: The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, ed. Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, John Herman Randall, Jr. (1948; rpt. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1956), 257–381, here 305, 319. See also Janet Leslie Knedlick, “Fancy, Faith, and Generative Mimesis in Paradise Lost,” Modern Language Quarterly, 47 (1986), 19–47: as noted in my introduction, Knedlick argues that in the Renaissance Tasso and Mazzoni (not to mention Sidney and Milton) understood and applied “the fundamental point of Aristotle's Poetics: that in the process of structuring the artistic mimesis, the poetic maker works in a mode intrinsically valid as a way of knowing … between literal inspiration and autonomous imagination” (24–25, 27, 30).
(26.) Adelman, 121–22. Love's Labor Lost, V. ii. 406–7, 413. On stage and page, see Harry Berger, Jr. “Bodies and Texts,” in Situated Utterances: Texts, Bodies, and Cultural Representations (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 99–128; also his Imaginary Audition: Shakespeare on Stage and Page (1989; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991). Cf. Kiernan, 10–11, 15, for example.
(27.) HamletShakespeare and the Question of TheoryShakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and IdeologymimesisShakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and (p.390) Function, ed. Robert Schwarz (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univerhypokritesexegetesmimesis
(28.) Time and Narrative, I, trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 45.
(29.) Sidney,123; Shakespeare, I.i.61.
(30.) Kiernan, 13; Kiernan cites Gerald L. Bruns, Modern Poetry and the Idea of Language: A Critical and Historical Study (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1974), 1–5. Wolfgang Iser, The Fictive and the Imaginary: Charting Literary Anthropology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), xiv-xv. On the relation of Sidney's Apology to Antony and Cleopatra, see also Bono, 141, 150–51, 219.
(31.) Adelman, Suffocating Mothers, 189; Common Liar, 161. On the blending of character in Shakespeare and Spenser, see my examples in “Conspiracy of Realism” (King Lear) in part 3, chapter 12, of the present volume, and in Translating Investments: Metaphor and the Dynamic of Cultural Change in Tudor-Stuart England (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 29–30 (I and 2 Henry IV). Early instances of the merging of different speakers' statements can be found in the Despair and Contemplation episodes of Spenser's first Book of The Faerie Queene (I. ix. 41–42, x. 62) and in the replies of the Palmer and Guyon to Atin in Book II. iv. 44.
(32.) Antony and CleopatraAntony and CleopatraShakespeare's Late Tragedies: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Susanne L. Wofford (Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1996), 235–48,
(33.) : Allegory The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1964)
(34.) Rufus Wood, Metaphor and Belief in “The Faerie Queene” (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hants., U.K.: Macmillan, 1997), 2–3.
(35.) The contrast is heightened by further parallels: Enobarbus describes from land a boat-scene, while Antony, situated on a boat (tenuously tied to land), describes an amphibian. What is striking about both is their amphibiousness. Cf. Cook, 249, who reads the crocodile exchange as mockery of the Roman “logic of identity,” or sameness.
(36.) Words That Matter: Linguistic Perception in Renaissance English (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, (p.391) 1996), 168: this book is concerne
(37.) On the Palmer's spinning of yarns, see my essay “The Knight and the Palmer in The Faerie Queene, Book II,” Modern Language Quarterly, 31 (1970); and chapter 15 in part 3 of the present volume, “Androcentrism and Acrasian Fantasies in the Bower of Bliss.”
(38.) Background for my argument can be found in Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), preface and chaps 1–2, e.g., viii, 8, 11, 30–31. Another important touchstone is Valerie Traub's thoughtful, precise introduction in Desire and Anxiety: Circulation of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (London: Routledge, 1992), 1–22.
(39.) AC, II.v.12–14, 21–24; III. vii. 18, V. ii. 239. On hermaphroditism and androgyny in relation to Cleopatra, cf. Michael Payne's “Erotic Irony and Polarity in Antony and Cleopatra,” Shakespeare Quarterly, 24 (1973), 265–79, esp. 271–74.
(40.) AC, I. iv. 5–7, III.x.23, IV.xiv.10–14, 23, 113–14. Heather James treats another exchange of gender in Cleopatra's ambivalent observation that Antony is one way painted “like a Gorgon,” that is, like the female Medusa (II.v.116): “The Politics of Display and the Anamorphic Subjects of Antony and Cleopatra,” in Wofford, ed., 208–34, here 212.
(41.) On the imagination's power to project its own shapes on reality and on the symbols of flower and boar in Book III, see my Growth of a Personal Voice: “Piers Plowman” and “The Faerie Queene” (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1976), 98–113.
(42.) nnSource and Meaning in Spenser's Allegory: A Study ofThe Faerie QueeneThe Analogy ofThe Faerie QueeneGarden: Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm, and Magic (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985), 201–2.sublates19,Paradise Lost
(43.) Traditionally the Garden Mount is considered a mons veneris, and it is this, although this is not all that it is. I argue for the bisexuality of the Mount in part 3, chapter 14, “Flowers and Boars: Surmounting Sexual Binarism in Spenser's Garden of Adonis.”
(44.) On the dying Adonis, cf. Gordon Williams, “The Coming of Age in Shakespeare's Adonis,” Modern Language Review, 78 (1983), 769–76, here 770, 775. Nohrnberg, 532, aligns the combining of womb and tomb in the Garden with the (p.392) act of sex when he observes, “Although a man cannot re-enter the womb except symbolically, he can do so seminally.”
(45.) On the subordination of Adonis to Venus, see the discussion of Jon Quitslund, Spenser's Supreme Fiction: Platonic Natural Philosophy and “The Faerie Queene” (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 211–19. For a historicist's approach to such subordination in Tudor society, see Lisa Celovsky, “Early Modern Masculinities and The Faerie Queene,” English Literary Renaissance, 35 (2005), 210–47, here 212–17. Further relevant are the differing analyses of the Garden canto by Harry Berger, Jr.: “Spenser's Gardens of Adonis: Force and Form in the Renaissance Imag-ination” (1961), in his Revisionary Play: Studies in the Spenserian Dynamics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 131–53, and “Actaeon at the Hinder Gate: The Stag Party in Spenser's Gardens of Adonis,” in Desire in the Renaissance: Psycho-analysis and Literature, ed. Valeria Finucci and Regina Schwartz (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1994), 91–119.
(46.) See part 3, chapter 13, on “Venus and Adonis,” for Shakespeare's allusion to Spenser's Garden in Richard III. Shakespeare's 1 Henry VI, I. vi. 6, also refers to “Adonis' garden,” and The Riverside Shakespeare notes in this reference the possibility of yet another Spenserian allusion.
(47.) Coppeélia Kahn, for example, confines it to a local effect, “a signifier of love specifically between men”: Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women (London: Routledge, 1997), 130.Antony and CleopatraHamlet
(48.) ACRichard IIIAntony and CleopatraShakespeare and Spenser: Attractive Opposites, ed. J. B. Lethbridge (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2008)
(49.) Cf. Wind, chap. 10: “Amor as a God of Death.” John 19:30.
(50.) On the identification of Adonis with Christ, see, for example, Syrithe Pugh, Spenser and Ovid (Aldershot, Hants., U.K.: Ashgate,2005),55–57; also Gross's precariously balanced assessment in which Adonis is at once “the fallen Adam and the redemptive Christ,” and yet however much he combines them, “he sustains a crucial measure of difference from both”(197–98). Lisa Hopkins neatly sums up the many biblical associations of Antony and Cleopatra: “Cleopatra and the Myth of Scota,” in Deats, ed., 231–42, here 235. In the twentieth century, the association of Antony with Christ goes back at least to John Middleton Murry (1936), who took it seriously, and to Roy Battenhouse (1969), who thought it ironic: see Deats, 8, 28.
(51.) Paradise Lost, I.450–52, in John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (New York: Odyssey, 1957): also 222–23nn446, 458–60. Cf. as well Richard T. Neuse's discussion of “Adonis, gardens of ” in The Spenser Encyclopedia, ed. A. C. Hamilton, et al (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,1990).
(52.) Shepheards CalenderThe Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser, ed. William A. Oram, et al (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989), 198.
(53.) On homoeroticism in Spenser's Garden, see Quitslund, 208.
(54.) Related techniques occur in The Faerie Queene, for example, in the contrast, already mentioned, between the vision of sonneteering cannibals and that of Mount Acidale in Book VI. Another, analogous kind of example can be found in Spenser's basing Arthur's dream of the Faerie Queen on Chaucer's parodic Sir Thopas or the embedding of allusions to Troilus and to The Wife of Bath's Prologue in Arthur's account of this dream. Instead of destroying Arthur's vision, these allusions bring it momentarily into relation with less idealized experiences. Their point is connection, not identity-difference and similarity at once. In this volume, see part 1, chapter 3, “‘Pricking on the plaine’: Spenser's Intertextual Beginnings and Endings” and part 2, chapter 8, “Arthur and Argante: Parodying the Ideal Vision.”
(55.) Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and RomanesNarrative and Dramatic Sources of ShakespeareAntony and CleopatraAntony and Cleopatra,” Philological Quarterly (p.394) Antony and CleopatraJulia M. Walker, Medusa's Mirrors: Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and the Metamorphosis of the Female Self (Newark, N. J.: University of Delaware Press, 1998), 139–41.
(56.) Cf. Cook: Antony's loss of “ ‘visible shape’ … follows from the nature of his desire and seems requisite for its consummation. … The annihilation of sepa-rateness comes to entail the annihilation of bodies” (259, IV.xiv.14). Cook's comment pertains to Antony's desire before his attempted suicide, but it applies ironically here as well. Cf. also Lisa S. Starks, “ ‘Immortal Longings’: The Erotics of Death in Antony and Cleopatra,” in Deats, ed., 243–58: “The death of desire” becomes “the ecstatic desire of death, a longing beyond the pleasure principle, a fusion of the destructive and regenerative forces of Thanatos and Eros” (245).
(57.) AC, IV.xiv.36, 52; V. ii.85–87, 96, 98. Carol Thomas Neely (Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare's Plays [1985; rpt. Urbana: University of Illinois Press,1993],160)characterizes the “reciprocal opposites” of male and female sexuality in the complementary visions of Enobarbus (of Cleopatra) and Cleopatra (of Antony) in terms that resonate with Spenser's Garden: “infinite variety and eternal bounty, magnetic power and hyperbolic fruitfulness, stasis and motion, art and nature.”
(58.) Jean-Luc Nancy, The Ground of the Image, trans. Jeff Fort (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 133;juissance
(59.) AC, V.ii.286, 294–95, 310–11.
(60.) Plutarch, “Marcus Antonius,” 291: “she did not onely weare at that time (but at all other [public] times els … ) the apparell of the goddesse Isis.” For the quotation about Isis' double nature, see Plutarch, Moralia, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt (1936; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003), V, 105 (368.43D).
(61.) AC, IV. xv.90–91 (my emphasis), V. ii.237–39, 284. Berry (6, 17–18, 155) finds other sexual references and exquisite puns in Cleopatra's urging the asp to untie “this knot intrinsicate” (V. ii.303) and, after Cleopatra's death, in Octavius' observation that she would “catch another Antony / In her strong toil of grace”— that is, the grease of carnival pleasures, those genital in particular (ii.346–47)—and finally in other Romans' noting the “vent of blood, and something blown” and the aspic's slimy trail at the scene of Cleopatra's suicide (ii.347–52). While assenting to these, I consider them less focal than the familiar pun on “nothing.”