Shame in Shakespeare (Accents on Shakespeare)
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One of the most intense and painful of our human passions, shame is typically seen in contemporary culture as a disability or a disease to be cured. Shakespeare's ultimately positive portrayal of the emotion challenges this view. Drawing on philosophers and theorists of shame, Shame in Shakespeare analyses the shame and humiliation suffered by the tragic hero, providing not only a new approach to Shakespeare but a committed and provocative argument for reclaiming shame.
The volume provides:
· an account of previous traditions of shame and of the Renaissance context
· a thematic map of the rich manifestations of both masculine and feminine shame in Shakespeare
· detailed readings of Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear
· an analysis of the limitations of Roman shame in Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus
· a polemical discussion of the fortunes of shame in modern literature after Shakespeare.
The book presents a Shakespearean vision of shame as the way to the world outside the self. It establishes the continued vitality and relevance of Shakespeare and offers a fresh and exciting way of seeing his tragedies.
Raphael smiles a smile ‘that glow’d / Celestial rosy red’ (Paradise Lost, 8.618–9) and Adam – famously – leads Eve to their nuptial bower ‘blushing like the Morn’ (8.511): both indicators of a beauteous modesty. 19 See Schneider 1992: xiii. 4 Shame in Shakespeare 1 See, for instance, Kaplan 1997. 2 See Pater 1898: 193. 3 See Ure’s introduction to his Arden Richard II (Shakespeare 1974). 4 M. William Shak-speare: his True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his
succeed him want to give their lives ‘a clear fixed shape’, to leave an ‘enduring mark in the world’. The great fear, in Barabas’s words, is ‘That I may vanish o’er the earth in air, / And leave no memory that e’er I was’. (Greenblatt 1980: 197) By defying the shame of transgressing conventional standards and supposedly eternal verities, they gain the sense, and the sensation, of individual being. Marlowe is interested in the social origins of shamelessness. By making Barabas a Jew in a
Claudio puts it, ‘Our natures do pursue, / Like rats that ravin down their proper bane, / A thirsty evil, and when we drink, we die’ (1.2.120–2). In his celebrated speech to Claudio, Vincentio as Friar Lodowick presents human life in terms of manifold non-being: Thou art not noble; For all th’accomodations that thou bear’st Are nurs’d by baseness. Thou’rt by no means valiant … Thou art not thyself, For thou exists on many a thousand grains That issue out of dust. Happy thou art not; For
represent the ‘shadow side’ of Nietzsche’s ‘impassioned self-affirmation’ (Schneider 1992: 16), and Zarathustra rejects them as a temptation; but Schneider argues that Nietzsche reinstates this conception of shame as self-loss and of the sense of shame as a mode of self-protection in Beyond Good and Evil (ibid.: 16–17). I shall return later to the fact that shame in this passage, the speaker’s loss of faith in himself, is also a loss of faith in all humankind. Shame (as the brief examples above
and thou simular of virtue That art incestuous; caitiff, to pieces shake, That under covert and convenient seeming Has practised on man’s life; close pent-up guilts, Rive your concealing continents and cry These dreadful summoners grace. (3.2.49–59) This vision of guilty sinners invokes the last judgement, which we have also seen invoked in Richard II, Measure for Measure, Hamlet and Othello. The sense of trembling before the judgement seat, and of the man in hiding whom Zak perceived,