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Chapter 2. The Process of Secularization in the Renaissance

Shakespeare and Modern Evil

p. 39-49


The analysis of the process of secularization shows that in the Renaissance it is not merely a transgression of past values but also a new language allowing for the transmission in a different mode of these past values in the modern world.

The growing awareness of a specifically modern evil (the adjective “modern” comes from the Latin modo, meaning “now” and appears some eight times in the plays) is part of a process of secularization which is at work in the Renaissance and which leads to redefine the notions of transmission and transgression at that period. Indeed, can the ancient transcendental values still be transmitted to the present times understood as a possible transgression of these values? Castiglione and Machiavelli both define a new way of dealing with the dialectics between past and present. This chapter aims at analyzing Shakespeare’s ambivalence between his continuing commitment to tradition (the maintaining of transcendental values) and his more empirical stance, and leads to an attempt at defining secularity in the context of the wars of religion with the help of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age (2007). The influence of the via moderna is paramount in Shakespeare’s conception of what could be called a secularized transcendence with the new function endowed to imagination, making Shakespeare a still readable precursor of our modern times.

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1. Secularization in “a more degenerate” age

1When Machiavelli (1469-1527) died, the peasants of San Casciano reported that no one wanted to live in the house where The Prince had been written, because the devil had lived and died there.1 In those days evil could only be named after Satan: Machiavelli was the cacodaemonis auxiliator. A strange destiny for one who so much contributed to the secularization of evil (Lefort 88). And yet in the early 16th century the very notion of evil is being secularized: to Othello’s surprise, Iago’s feet are not cloven hoofs (Othello, 5.2.287). Evil now becomes more uncontrollable than when it bore Satan’s seal. Modern evil is diagnosed as worse than the evil in the past. In this sense the present is seen as a transgression of past values and an encouragement to look back to the past for reassurance.

Castiglione (1478-1529) admits this in The Courtier (published in 1528, translated into English in 1561 by Sir Thomas Hoby): modern evil is worse now in our present times but he softens this down by adding that this is an effect of the progress of humanity which is also capable of showing more virtue and more goodness:

It cannot be denied that there are many evil and wicked men among us or that our age is far more degenerate than the times they [the old men] praise […]. They would have the world contain only good things and nothing evil, and this is impossible. For (since evil is the opposite of good and good of evil) the one must always sustain and reinforce the other, and if the one diminishes or increases, the other must do the same (Castiglione, Book II, 109).

The consequence is that evil also grows in parallel according to the notion that evil and good work together, a point made by Shakespeare in All’s Well That Ends Well when the First Lord remarks: “the web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together; our virtues would be proud if our faults whipp’d them not, and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues” (4.3.68-71). But, for Castiglione, this does not excuse a reactionary attitude: it is a sign of senility, he says, to suggest that the past was a better time to live in than the present. Novelty, new fashions, must not be condemned as such.

Behind such modernity, it is easy to see the influence of Machiavelli, Castiglione’s contemporary, who holds the same opinion in the foreword of the second book of The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (1513-20).2 Of course The Courtier ended up on the index and the apology of modernity had something to do with it since, according to the Bible, there is nothing new under the sun and, for Plato, novelty is a forgetting. Both Machiavelli and Castiglione were leading forces in the process of secularization in the Renaissance. In his monumental study of secularity, Charles Taylor sees Castiglione’s “new gentleman” as a transition from the warrior chieftains of the feudal nobility to a new society intent on “the taming of the aristocracy and the great internal pacification of society under the nascent modern state” (Taylor 2007, 216). That this pacification against the violence of past times should go along with an increase in the power of evil is a paradox that Charles Taylor does not go into explicitly.3

This new perception of the present times, considered as an improvement on the past despite the new forms of vice and decadence it entails, questions the very idea of transmission which was at the heart of the Renaissance and implied a continuity between tradition and the present. In his defence of a modern attitude, however, Castiglione was not advocating a rejection of past tradition on which he continually relies in The Courtier. It seems now that lessons of the past must be revised in the light of the present times. Are they still necessary, must they be adapted to the times or ignored altogether? The debate on the dialectics between past and present in the 19th century— illustrated by a progression in disenchantment from Carlyle and Dickens to Hardy, via George Eliot’s secularized use of religion—is a consequence of the breach in the continuity between past and present. Can Nurture ever stick on the monstrous shapes of modern evil?4

The response to secularization in the Renaissance is different to that of the 19th century which led to the stalemate of imagination in the 20th century, as Seamus Heaney describes it, “between the death-mask of nihilism and the fixed smile of a pre-booked place in paradise” and the literature of hopelessness “which conceded victory to it” (Heaney 1996, 153). This article is an attempt at studying how Shakespeare dealt with the transmission of the past and what appeared to be the transgression of the present at the time when the process of secularization was beginning to be in full swing. We shall see how Shakespeare’s definition of secularization, questioning both conservatism and rationalistic scepticism and Epicureanism, seems to match Charles Taylor’s understanding of it for our age: Taylor rejects the shallow and simplistic definition of secularity as the present getting rid of old beliefs (this is what he calls the subtraction stories of secularization) (Taylor 2007, 22) and opposes to it a secularity that “consists of new conditions of belief: it consists in a new shape to the experience which prompts to and is defined by belief; in a new context in which all search and questioning about the moral and spiritual must proceed” (Taylor 2007, 20). Secularity, for Taylor, is a complex transformation of old beliefs, not their disappearance.

How did Shakespeare journey in the paradoxical landscape of the Renaissance with its glorious newly discovered antique ruins (Cunin 2001, 100), with in their midst the strange new shapes of the nova reperta (the new inventions) catalogued by the Flemish-Italian painter Jan ven der Straet, otherwise called Stradanus (Margolin 1994, 123-42)? A little like Don Quixote with his mind full of chivalric stories of the old order and the surprises of a world open to the hazards of an uncontrollable modernity?

2. Shakespeare’s resistance to disenchantment

2In the context of the wars of religion, there were many ways of understanding the present. The present was no longer just the continuity of the past. The present meant transgression for the old religion. Could Shakespeare share with the author of the Prologue to the Cinquiesme Livre—possibly not Rabelais himself but an anonymous Protestant—the optimistic notion of a present which is wiser (being Protestant) than the folly of the Roman Catholic past? “Comment serait la folie antique abolie? Comment serait la sagesse présente instaurée?” (Rabelais 749). For along with the ruins of the past, Shakespeare was also discovering the modern ruins of the wars of religion, those of the desecrated monasteries of the dissolution in 1539. The present was also the growing danger of fanatical Puritanism. Montaigne had opted for a conservative attitude against the “nouvelletez de Luther”, i.e. “ce commencement de maladie [qui] declineroit aysément en un execrable atheisme” ( “L’apologie de Raymond Sebond,” II.xiv, 439). And elsewhere, “Je suis degousté de la nouvelleté, quelque visage qu’elle porte, et ay raison, car j’en ai veu des effets très dommageables” ( “De la coustume et de ne rien changer aisément une loy reçue,” I.xxiii, 119). For Montaigne, novelty jeopardizes the very foundation of law and its transcendence. And yet, like Castiglione, he disapproved of old men systematically finding fault with the present ( “De juger de la mort d’autruy,” II.xiii, 605).

Like Montaigne, Shakespeare’s attitude to tradition is ambivalent. His commitment to tradition sometimes seems to contradict his openness to change. Shakespeare shares with the Frenchman such conservatism when he describes, in his portrayal of lawless evil characters, how the present, when disconnected from the past, can break up the coherence of man’s moral conscience, doing away with the transcendence of the law. Titian’s (1490-1576) Allegory of Prudence sums up the process that leads to a moral act and illustrates Shakespeare’s traditional position towards an ethical response to evil. The painting is a gryll showing three heads corresponding to three ages of man, an old man with a wolf symbolizing the past (memory), the present represented by a middle aged man with a lion and a young man with a dog standing for the future. The wisdom of a prudent act consists in looking back to the past so that its consequences will not put the future in peril.5 All the great evil doers of Shakespeare’s plays yield like the lion of the present to the suddenness and violence of the evil deed and refuse to look back on the past which operates as a distance, a beyond, a transcendence. Doing so man is landlocked in the present, like Richard III who launches his serial killings with the adverb “now” (Richard III, 1.1.1) or like Macbeth, “cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d” (Macbeth 3.4.22) in the present of a time that is out of joint. The present is the time of impulses, of an autonomous will, of “deep and dark desires” (Macbeth 1.4.51) uncontrolled by the higher faculties like memory of the past, imagination of the consequences of the deed in the future, and reason.

Although Shakespeare applies traditional analyses to his conception of moral evil, he is constantly depicting examples of Machiavelli’s modern evil. This double approach to evil is also visible in the way he deals with the comic characters and their relation to evil: the clowns had a merry way of talking about the evils of society—a consequence of the medieval tradition according to which laughter is “a result of man’s middle position on the Chain of Being” (Spivack 1978, 25): it is for this reason that, in the middle of the 17th century, William Cartwright (1611-1643) qualified Shakespeare’s wit as “old fashioned”:

Shakespeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lyes
I’th’Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes;
Old-fashioned wit, which walk’t from town to town
In turn’d Hose, which our fathers call’d the Clown;
Whose wit our nice times would obsceannesse call,
And which made Bawdry passe for Comicall.
(Preface to the first folio of Beaumont and Fletcher, 1647. Quoted by Hunter 1967, 21)

For modern evil is no longer a laughing matter in “our nice times.” “Obsceannesse” is not amusing. Shakespeare’s plays record this change when comic, mischievous characters like Falstaff, Lucio or Trinculo are disapproved of in serious moral admonishments.

Another illustration of Shakespeare’s commitment to tradition is his indictment of an immanent world severed from transcendence. The present can be a desolate place if it is not put in the perspective of transcendental values which function as a kind of Brechtian V effect, of distanciation from the hazards and confusions inevitable to the present. It is not surprising to find Shakespeare’s allusion to the humanizing necessity of transcendence in Measure for Measure which deals with the question of the transgression of the law. The repetition throughout his plays of the deictic “this” applied to the “world” implies the possibility of another world: Barnardine’s “stubborn soul […] apprehends no further than this world” (5.1.477-78), an echo to Isabella’s belief “that there is another comfort than this world” (5.1.48). For “how weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world” (Hamlet, 1.2.33). Margaret Tudeau-Clayton has shown the change in meaning in the word “underworld” which had a transcendental meaning originally, pointing to the Platonic sublunar world but which ends up by connoting the alleys of vice in London (Tudeau-Clayton 2001, 59). The deictic “this” points to the immanent present of a world which is dangerously severed from what Montaigne calls the “mystic authority of the law” ( “De l’expérience,” III.xiii, 1072). In such a world, man is reduced, as the example of Barnardine shows, to a mere thing. In the “brave new world” (The Tempest, 5.1.183), without Nurture, Caliban is a “thing of darkness” (The Tempest, 5.1.274). Shakespeare shares Montaigne’s fears of a bleak world where man, like the monsters of the deep prey on man (Lear 4.2.49-50). The last words of Montaigne’s “Apologie de Raimond Sebond”: “O la vile chose que l’homme s’il ne s’élève pas au-dessus de l’humanité” (II.xii, 604) are echoed by Shakespeare throughout his plays. And Caliban ends up “seeking for grace” (The Tempest 5.1.295).

The word “modern” (which appears some eight times in Shakespeare’s work if we can trust Bartley’s concordance) and the word “new” both have negative connotations except when “new” is taken in a religious sense referring to the new Heaven and new Earth of Revelation . The word “modern” helps to qualify the world of immanence as commonplace or ordinary. In the desecrated world of Scotland under the tyrant for instance, emotion is numbed by the repetition of evil deeds, so much so that “violent sorrow is leveled down to “a modern ecstasy” (4.3.170), an ordinary commonplace alienating emotion. In the seven ages of man speech, the justice in Jacques’ satire “is full of wise saws and modern instances” (commonplace sayings) (As You Like It, 2.7.156); in Bertram’s disparaging portrait of the wife he despises, Helena has “modern grace” meaning she has no grace at all (All’s Well that Ends Well, 5.3.216).

Roughly the same remarks can be made regarding the use of the adjective “new.” In Richard II, York describes to Gaunt how the king is open to vile novelties: “daily new exactions are devised, / As blanks, benevolences where doth the world thrust forth a vanity—so it be new, there’s no respect how vile—That is not quickly buzzed into his ears” (Richard II, 2.1.25). Antonio the usurper has “new created” Prospero’s subjects (The Tempest, 1.2.21), and Caliban has a new master (2.2.189). Mercutio makes fun of Tybalt and such like him, “new tuners of accents,” who “stand so much on the new form that they cannot sit at ease on the old bench” (Romeo and Juliet, 2.3.30-36). The only positive uses of new are those that refer to the religious context of a world beyond, when Richard II yearns for “a new world’s crown” gained by a holy life (5.1. 24) or the “new heaven and new earth “(1.1.17) of Cleopatra’s love for Antony which echoes the new heaven new earth of Revelation.6

3. The “gentle truth” of secularization

3Shakespeare’s resistance to the disenchantment of the world is not a resistance to the process of secularization. This could appear as a contradiction at first but only in so far as secularization is understood merely as the brutal rejection of all forms of transcendence and the aim of this article is to prove that Shakespeare deals with the dialectics of past tradition and present novelty in a much more complex way, leading to the definition of secularization that Charles Taylor has proposed, as a transformation of old beliefs, not as their complete disappearance.

When Shakespeare indulges in the depiction of the bleak Epicurean landscapes in Lear and Timon for instance, he goes so far in the description of what the failure of transcendence does to man that we are sometimes led to find a fascination for pagan atheistic philosophies. But this must be examined more closely. Charles Taylor shows how such philosophies cannot produce a humanism which can be substituted to the old representations of transcendence:

Epicureanism just as it was couldn’t really do the trick. It could teach us to achieve ataraxia by overcoming our illusions about the gods. But it wasn’t what was needed for a humanism which could flourish in the modern context (Taylor 2007, 27).

This is precisely the lesson that Shakespeare draws from Epicureanism: it leads him to reject all forms of superstition and this is why in spite of the conservatism noted above, Shakespeare appears as a Renaissance Voltaire. But his adherence to atheistic philosophies stops there.

The expression “miracles are ceased,” which appears as the title of the first chapter of Book VIII of Reginald Scot’s The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584)—that textbook of scepticism—appears in Henry V, in the context of the so-called miracle of prince Hal’s conversion to virtue: “Miracles are ceased […] we must needs admit the means / How things are perfected” (1.1.67-8) implying that a rational explanation can be given. The second example comes from All’s Well That Ends Well (2.3.1), the scene of the miraculous healing of the French King by Helena. At first we are made to believe in the wonderful miracle of the cure as if Shakespeare were resorting to the old legend of the sick king and allowing his spectators to believe that the pure Helena has such powers. It would have been the only case when Shakespeare would have exhibited such an irrational attitude (Jones-Davies 1980, 57-71).

I have shown elsewhere that the scene is a palimpsest, that between the lines of the dialogue between Lafew and Parolles, we can read Rabelais’s cruel satire of the healing powers of the Queen Quintessence—that other “doctor She” (2.1.78) who reduced Pantagruel and Panurge to a pair of quaking admirers of her powers (Jones-Davies 1986, 65-80). The cause of the rejuvenation of the dying operated by Rabelais’ alchemical queen is in fact the sexual disease of la pelade, the peeling off of the old skin, which gave them a new skin. Lafew and Parolles do not want to believe in the end of miracles but it is suggested that the king may in fact have been cured more by a sexual miracle than by a heavenly one, so “lustique” he appears in the presence of Helena. The Rabelaisian intertext brings us safely back to earth. The only positive use of the word “modern” by Montaigne is when he alludes to those modern authors, like Boccaccio and Rabelais, that he enjoys reading ( “Des Livres,” II.x, 410).

Shakespeare perfectly illustrates the paradox of the Renaissance between a need to rely on past tradition which leads him to be wary of novelty and helplessness in the face of a new terrifying perception of evil and a modern consciousness of a change which is not necessarily for the worst. That Shakespeare drew from Castiglione’s secular approach to modernity is obvious from a study of Much Ado about Nothing where the defence of fashion goes along with a new perception of the individual as open to change. Hero’s taste for fashion (3.4.14-15) rivals that of the Duchess of Milan who was Beatrice of Este, the sister of Isabel of Este and mentioned in The Courtier as a woman of great taste (Castiglione, Book III, 240). Borachio shares with the villain Don John the same contempt for fashion seen as a thief (3.3.121), since the aim of fashion is to rob love (1.3.27). Now, love can change a man as the case of Benedick, the ideal courtier, shows, and Don John is not prepared to let love intrude in his life: “Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me” (1.3.34-35). Benedick’s “man is a giddy thing” (5.4.107) finds echoes in Montaigne’s portrait of the individual in constant mutability. His essay on experience, significantly perhaps the last essay, published in 1588, shows the danger of ignoring the present, “oultrepasser le present” ( “De l’expérience,” III.xiii, 1112). The noun “essay” means experiment and the whole venture of the Essays is an empirical perception of reality.

Shakespeare was wary of a present considered as mere immanence, free of all reference to a beyond, but an empirical approach to the present is justified when it questions the reverse attitude of an abstract idealization of reality. This subtle difference is the subject of Orlando’s conversion in the forest of Arden (Jones-Davies 2011, 21). The Petrarchan lover who makes a goddess of Rosalind must learn that she is not divine by “com [ing] everyday to [her] cot” (As You Like It, 3.3.406). Love is an everyday experience.7 Love too is secularized.

These apparent contradictions in Shakespeare’s approach to the present times clear up when we understand that both he and Montaigne8 had interiorized the great revolution of the via moderna which was far from being a tabula rasa of past tradition but simply a new way of dealing with transcendence and therefore a way of making the paradox of the Renaissance less of a paradox. For the process of secularization really started when it was possible to separate spiritual from temporal, faith from reason. Thanks to their analysis of language, the Nominalists favoured an empirical approach to reality, based on the singular, on the individual, the here and now, haecceity. Universals, on which were based the dogmas of the old world, did not share with “this world” the same relation to reality. The difference was made clear between what was to be understood figuratively and literally. But far from excluding transcendence from the world, it set it apart in a different range of reality with a double benefit: it no longer impeded an empirical approach to the world and avoided the resort to sheer materialism. The via moderna was the perfect answer to a fanatical interpretation of religion and allowed for the questioning of superstition and literal dogmatism.

What nominalism changed in the understanding of evil is that evil is not in the act but in the intention. Here again the stress is laid on the individual and his will and the drastic implication could be that moral principles cease to be narrowly normative since an act cannot be qualified as good or evil as such and that the transmission of past moral tradition would be unavailing. The danger of moral relativism was a threat to the pillars of society. But Ockham waves the objection aside, reminding his opponents that the prohibitions of the Decalogue apply to intentions as well as to acts (King 1999, 231). And so, nominalist ethics do not transgress the great moral rules of the past but they allow for an individualist approach to ethics. The terms of this discussion appear all the time in Shakespeare and they remain under discussion: Isabella’s plea for Angelo’s pardon is based on the fact that he sinned in intention not in deed, and Edmund’s intention at the end was to save Cordelia. Exton was too quick for Bolingbroke’s remorse, and the friar’s intentions to save Juliet were thwarted by ill luck. Of course we can wonder whether Shakespeare’s implied comment on these ethics of intention is ironical but one thing is sure: the problem of the individualized interiorization of a henceforth secularized evil is taken into account. Evil is no longer attributable to Satan but to the human will.

Modern evil is the result not of a faulty use of one’s reason but the deliberate decision to do evil and, since it depends on man’s will, it is infinite (Jones-Davies 1997, 77-100). The age-long debate between Plato, who considered that evil cannot be an act of will, and Augustine, the defender of free will who said it was, was acutely revived in the Renaissance in a religious context (the confrontation between Erasmus’ De libero arbitrio and Luther’s De servo arbitrio9), and of course it is not surprising that it should have its place in The Courtier (Castiglione, Book IV, 292). Shakespeare’s conservative attitude towards novelty can be explained—as we have seen—by an awareness that the immanent world devoid of reference to the beyond is Barnardine’s dark prison-house. It shows that he is not prepared to accept secularity if it is nothing but the “subtraction of old beliefs” (Taylor 2007, 22). In Hamlet and Purgatory, Stephen Greenblatt remarks that in Shakespeare “there is no linear move from credulity to disenchantment, or from mystification to irony” (199)—a proof of the subtlety of Shakespeare’s approach to secularity that had nothing to do with a radical tabula rasa attitude. When Gonzalo is the butt of Sebastian and Antonio’s irony, the old faithful man who “of his gentleness / Knowing [Prospero] loved [his] books” (1.2.164) brought them along with him on the island and who can therefore represent the transmission of past tradition, retorts “The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness, / And time to speak it in—you rub the sore / When you should bring the plaster” (2.1.135-37). Against the transgressive irony of the debunkers of Gonzalo’s irrational utopia, the old man opposes a “gentle” truth. Sebastian and Antonio illustrate the cruelty of modern evil, an evil which is no laughing matter. Gonzalo shows the way to a gentle transition in the process of secularization, and his holiness at the end of the play is not a reactionary return to an old dogmatic past for he allows himself to be shaken by uncertainties: “Whether this be, / Or be not, I’ll not swear” (5.1.122-23), like Orlando who sometimes believes, and sometimes does not (As You Like It, 5.4.3-4).

4. “Dressing old worlds new” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 76)

4The paradox of the Renaissance can be something less of a paradox in the light of the revolutionary philosophy of the via moderna. What Greenblatt calls “a toying with the boundary between credulity and skepticism” (Greenblatt 2001, 202) is in fact a commitment to the process of secularization brought about by the spectacular progress towards modernity of the nominalist philosophy of the 14th century.10 It is a “willing suspension of disbelief” (Biographia Literaria, xiv), announcing Coleridge’s conception of transcendence. It allows for a transmission of the old beliefs as long as they undergo a transformation of the kind that the Augustinian concept of time underwent, for instance, when it became the aevum which Ernst Kantorowicz qualified as “the secularization of time” (Kantorowicz 1957, 281)—a process that made possible the theory of the two bodies of the king.

Thanks to the interiorization of the ingenious dismantling of an air-tight dogmatism that nominalism brought with it, Shakespeare is not one of the old men that Castiglione frowns on in The Courtier. The process of transcendentalization is nothing more than one of the aspects of the power of language which gives reality to what is just a word: a fiction indeed, but a vital fiction which reintroduces the old realistic conception of language described by Wallace Stevens: “the poet’s words are about things that do not exist without the words” (Heaney 1996, 13),11 but they ARE things. Such is the expression of a realistic conception of language which could only be used again in a secularized, post-nominalist world. As he says in Sonnet 76, “all my best is dressing old worlds new.” In his famous essay on The Tempest, “Le machiavélisme du bien,” Richard Marienstras quotes Machiavelli’s statement on the necessity of religion in the state, however skeptical one may be towards it (Marienstras 2012, 431).

But if what could be called this secularized transcendence is denied, then man is just “a vile thing,” as Montaigne had suggested at the end of his Apologie de Raimond Sebond. Religion secularized loses nothing of its sacredness, nor does the act of imagination that it proceeds from desecrate it, if we are prepared to admit with Francis Bacon, “that in matters of faith and religion we raise our imagination above our reason” (Bacon II.xii.1, 121). This quotation revalues imagination which had formerly been considered as a dangerous power to be kept under the control of reason (Jones-Davies 2008, 257-70). Now it is a high faculty that partakes in the sacred. For imagination with Wordsworth will become a synonym of “reason in her most exalted mood” (Prelude, Book XIII, 170). Already in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare had an inkling of such a definition of imagination as access to transcendence, when he has Hippolyta retort to Theseus’s ironical speech on the illusions of imagination that “the story of the night told over […] / More witnesseth than fancy’s images / And grows to something of great constancy” (5.1.23-26). This “more” which is a “beyond,” is a necessary superfluity, whether it be the superfluity of fashion if, as Lear says, man is to be a man, more than a beast, or the superfluity of aevum if the king is to be a king, more than a private man.

In the last plays, more specially, at a time when James is hoping to bring the wars of religion to an end, Shakespeare revisits neo-Platonism so as to use it as a poetic, metaphorical discourse—an example of this transcendental imagination—which helps to express what Charles Taylor calls a “modern idea of order […] reacting to the destruction wrought by the Wars of Religion […] to find a stable basis of legitimacy beyond confessional differences” (Taylor 2007, 214) Hence the difficulty in unweaving the deliberately confusing religious significance of such scenes as the resurrection of Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, or the alchemical union of Britain and Rome in Cymbeline.

In his careful and wise approach to secularity, gentle Shakespeare, as one of the new gentlemen of the Renaissance, shows us the way as Gonzalo does, however much aware he is of the bleakness of the island, that truth must be gentle.

Notes de bas de page

1 See Lefort 1986, 87: “Le mal ne peut que se nommer Satan.”

2 A parallel drawn by Alain Pons (ed.) 1987, xviii. See Machiavel 1952, 509-11: “Tous les hommes louent le passé et blâment le present, et souvent sans raison […]. En réfléchissant sur la marche des choses humaines, j’estime que le monde demeure dans le même état où il a été tout le temps; qu’il y a toujours la même somme de bien, la même somme de mal; mais que ce mal et ce bien ne font que parcourir les divers lieux, les diverses contrées”.

3 See Wilson 2007, 17: “For the creator of Twelfth Night, the sacrificial duel, far from being the relic of the feudal past, is still a potential passage to the future.” This interpretation of the persistence of aristocratic duels offers a Foucault-inspired analysis which differently from Taylor’s, takes into account the modern violence it implies (see also chapter 6).

4 Prospero about Caliban: “A devil, a born devil, on whose nature / Nurture can never stick” (4.1.187-88).

5 See Baltrusaitis 1981, 37: “Ex praeterito, praesens prudenter agit, ni futurus actione deturpet.”

6 The italics in these quotations are mine.

7 Todorov has shown the emergence of the concept of a day to day experience of life in his book on Dutch painting.

8 See Compagnon 1980, passim.

9 See Godin 1992, 683-99.

10 See Taylor 2007, 113 and 284.

11 A quote from “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words.”

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