The Psychology of Shakespeare/Chapter 6
Constance is delineated with Greek simplicity. The grandeur of one great passion is weakened by no subordinate parts of character on which the mind can rest and feel relief. All is simple and clear, like the one thrilling note of a trumpet, rising higher or falling lower, but never altering its tone. The wondrous eloquence in which the passion clothes itself does but display its force. Its unity and direction of purpose remain unchanging and unchangeable. Passion is not seen except when transformed into action. Like a great wind, it would be voiceless except for opposition; it would be viewless except for its effects. There may be a few tossed leaves, or a whirling cloud-rack, or the crash of forests. The invisible force remains the same, measured most imperfectly by the casualties of resistance.
But this passion itself, single in its onward force, is not altogether so in its nature and origin. It wears the garb of maternal affection, of the strong love a widowed mother bears to her only child; but as in Queen Margaret, the fury of ambition is added: ambition for herself, as much as for her son, which Elinor perceives, and with wounding truth expresses:
"Out insolent thy bastard shall be king,
That thou may'st be a queen and check the world."
This fierce desire of power and place, which is but coldly expressed in the word ambition, is as undeniable in Constance as her mother's love.
Had she no child she would
be ambitious for herself. Having one, she is more vehe mently ambitious for him, and indirectly for herself. The tenderness of love alone would have led her to shun conten
tion and to withdraw her child from danger; as Andromache sought to withhold her husband from the field of honour with unalloyed womanly apprehension. But love influenced by ambition, and ambition stimulated by love, produced that compound passion which incurred all risks, braved all dangers.
Combined passions are weak or strong, according to their perfection of union, and singleness of purpose. If con current desires are but half of one mind, they pull diverse ways, and give rise to the weakness of inconsistency; but if they are thoroughly of one accord, chemically combined as it were, the product acquires new and irresistible strength. This force of compound emotion is finely developed in Con stance, in contrast with the other female characters of the
drama. Ambitious without love, she would have possessed the hard vigour of Elinor; loving without ambition, she would have been tenderly devoted like Blanch. Under the lash of the combined passion she is a fury, whom her bound less love and her deep woe barely suffice to redeem from our horror.
The first words of Constance are those of prudent advice, the suggestion of a strong vehement nature against the first move in the dread game of war. They contrast well with the ready boasts of coward Austria and feeble France : “Stay for an answer to your embassy, Lest unadvis'd you stain your swords with blood.” It is the only tranquil speech which the poor woman is permitted to utter. The scolding match into which she immediately precipitates herself with Queen Elinor develops the irritability and vehemence of her temper. To Elinor's taunt of unchastity she replies with acrid tu quoque invective. She fairly overwhelms the queen-mother with vituperation, and does her best to merit the contemptuous entreaty of John, “Bedlam, have done " and at length the expostula
tions of her own friend. “Eli. Thou unadvised scold, I can produce A will, that bars the title of thy son.
Comst. Ay, who doubts that? a will a wicked will A woman's will a canker'd grandame's will K. Phi. Peace, lady; pause, or be more temperate: It ill beseems this presence, to cry aim To these ill-tuned repetitions.”
She has already incurred the remonstrance of her gentle son. “Arth. Good my mother, peace I would that I were low laid in my grave ;
I am not worth this coil that's made for me.”
Her very tenderness to her child is fierce, like that of some
she-beast of prey. Had there been no motive in the mother's heart but that of love, this appeal might well have checked not only the unbridled use of speech, but the dangerous course of action into which Constance throws herself.
this period, ambition is stronger than love, and it would be hard to say to what extent ambition for herself was not mixed up with that for her son. The scene affords clear insight into the natural character of Constance, as a proud ambitious woman, of irritable and ungoverned temper. The flight of her imagination, like that of her passion, is yet comparatively low. She well scolds her opponents indeed, but not until later is her unrivaled power of invective fully developed. In nothing is Shakespeare's master-hand more evident than in the manner in which he lays a true and consistent foun dation for his characters.
To have built such an one as that
of Constance, on the basis of the common female virtues, would have been monstrous. Constance, in whom fierce
passion is not the result, but the cause of madness, could only have been from the beginning, what she is plainly
º shewn to have been, a haughty, irascible woman, whose tongue and temper were dreaded by friend and foe. Although accurate history has little to do with dramatic representation of character, it is worthy of remark, that the imperious claim of Constance to the crown of England for her son, was not founded upon that indefeasible right which would have been recognized at a later period. Mr. Foster in his Historical Essays remarks that, “In England, while some might have thought Arthur's hereditary claim superior to his uncle's, there was hardly a man of influence, who at this period would have drawn the sword for him, on any such principle as that the crown of England was heritable property.
The genius of the country
had been repugnant to any such notion. The Anglo-Saxon Sovereignty was elective, that people never sanctioning a custom by which the then personal and most arduous duties of sovereignty, both in peace and war, might pass of right to an infant or imbecile prince; and to the strength of this feeling in the country of their conquest, the Normans here tofore had been obliged to defer.”
When the alliance between John and Philip has been determined, the latter enquires for her, and the Dauphin replies, “She is sad and passionate in your highness' tent.” Philip thinks the peace “will give her sadness very little cure,” and in real apprehension asks his brother of England, “how we may content this widow lady ?” John proposes to give up Bretagne and other dignities and powers to Arthur, and trusts in this manner to appease if not to satisfy her ambition, and avert her vituperation : “I trust we shall, If not fill up the measure of her will, Yet in some measure satisfy her so, That we shall stop her exclamation.”
John, however, had reckoned without his host; the lady's will was not to be so readily satisfied, nor her passionate exclamation so easily stopped. When Salisbury bears to her the message of the kings, and the information of their new com pact, her rage knows no bounds, and the expression of it is as vehemently eloquent as that of her passionate grief when she has really lost all. Those, who in deference to the sacred virtues of womanhood attribute all the language and conduct of Constance to the all-sanctifying motive of maternal love, will do well to remark that this passionate scene takes place while her son is with her and free from danger, except that which her own ambition prepares for him. Her rage arises from the thought that Blanch shall have those provinces instead of her son :
“Const. Gone to be married 1 gone to swear a peace False blood to false blood join'd / Gone to be friends ! Shall Lewis have Blanch 7 and Blanch those provinces ! It is not so ; thou hast misspoke, misheard ;
Be well advis'd, tell o'er thy tale again : It cannot be ; thou dost but say, 't is so : I trust I may not trust thee; for thy word Is but the vain breath of a common man.
Believe me, I do not believe thee, man;
I have a king's oath to the contrary. Thou shalt be punish'd for thus frighting me, For I am sick, and capable of fears;
Oppress'd with wrongs, and therefore full of fears; A widow, husbandless, subject to fears; A woman, naturally born to fears;
And though thou now confess thou didst but jest, With my vex'd spirits I cannot take a truce, But they will quake and tremble all this day.” “O, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow, Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die ; And let belief and life encounter so, As doth the fury of two desperate men,
Which in the very meeting fall, and die.— Lewis marry Blanch O, boy, then where art thou ? France friend with England ' What becomes of me — Fellow, be gone : I cannot brook thy sight;
This news hath made thee a most ugly man.” In this violent language the spirit of disappointed ambition is paramount: ambition not only for Arthur but for herself, “What becomes of me?” The attack on Salisbury, the innocent messenger, so unworthy of a lady and a princess, can only be excused on the supposition that she is beside herself with fruitless rage, and vents it on any one within reach. It wants but little that she should turn her tongue or her hands even upon Arthur. When, alarmed by her fury, he interposes, “I do beseech you, madam, be content.” She replies with a strange sophistry, which a true mother's heart would never employ, that if he were “grim, ugly, and slan d’rous to his mother's womb,” &c. : “I would not care, I then would be content ; For then I should not love thee; no, nor thou
Become thy great birth, and deserve a crown.” When was true mother's love ever measured by the beauty of her child. When did it not rather increase with the child's imperfections? Sacred miracle of nature, a mother's love hangs not on such casual gifts as form and beauty. The crétin idiot, hideous and half human, claims and receives more than its share.
Even moral deformities
cannot exhaust this unselfish all-enduring fount of love ; as the reprobate son, the outcast of the family, knows full well, feeling that there is a bond holding him to one pure heart which can never loosen. But the love of Constance is alloyed with pride, and ambition, and selfishness. Not simply because Arthur is her son is he dear to her, but also because he is
rightful heir to a crown, and because his beauty flatters her pride : “Of nature's gifts thou may'st with lilies boast, And with the half-blown rose.”
With the true selfishness of intense pride, she attributes the sufferance of all Arthur's injuries to herself. She alone feels and must under-bear the woes of disappointed ambition. She calls upon the peer whom she has so insolently and cause lessly abused, to assist in her vituperations: “Tell me, thou fellow, is not France foresworn ?
Envenom him with words; or get thee gone, And leave those woes alone, which I alone Am bound to under-bear.”
She will not go with Salisbury to the Kings. Did they know her truly they would never send for her. She is in an ecstasy of passion, which she miscalls grief and sorrow. The idea that she will make the huge firm earth the throne of this great emotion carries one beyond the earth in its grandeur. The intensity of her passion is almost Satanic. Her humanity is alone vindicated by her subjection to its powers. Such passion in a questionable cause, moving a strong nature, would excite only fear and abhorrence; endured by a weak one it excites our extremest pity. Insanity alone redeems such passion to the kindred of womanhood, and is already foreshadowed in that culminating point where the extremes of pride and grief meet in the dust. “I will instruct my sorrows to be proud : For grief is proud, and makes his owner stoop.
To me, and to the state of my great grief, Let kings assemble ; for my grief's so great That no supporter but the huge firm earth Can hold it up : here I and sorrows sit ; Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.” There is one word in the above quotations which must not pass without comment. Constance avows herself in ill health. “For I am sick.” This point of physical disturbance is rarely omitted by Shakspeare, in the development of in sanity. It may be referred to in this instance in the most casual and careless manner, for the drama can take little
cognizance of the physical imperfections of our nature. Still,
however skilfully and imperceptible, the point is made. In a sick frame, passion like that of Constance would have fuller sway.
The irritable nerves would act and re-act on
the irritated mind. Emotion would obtain more complete and disastrous empire.
When Constance, unobserved before, rises from the ground amidst the congratulating court, with the dignified and solemn denunciation of kingly treachery, one of the finest possible dramatic effects is produced with the simplest means. Her eloquence throughout this scene is magnificent. The interests
even of kingdoms seem below its lofty aim.
The truth of
kings, and, as a minor term, the truth of all other men, is counterfeit. The invocation to the Heavens, that they should arm for her, and be husband to her, and set discord betwixt
these perjured kings, is the climax of eloquence. To Aus tria's entreaty, “Lady Constance, peace;” she replies in utter forgetfulness of all miseries except her own : “War : War : War: peace is to me a war.” No idea of the Pythoness, or of any woman inspired by good
or evil influences, ever represented a more extatic state of eloquent emotion. The poet's own representation insanity, Cassandra in Troilus and Cressida, is indistinct, in comparison. “Cry Trojans, cry Lend me ten thousand And I will fill them with prophetic tears,”
of inspired tame and eyes &c.
Constance descends from this exalted strain, to wither Austria
with her unmatched powers of vituperation, in which she does not even disdain a ridiculous image: “Thou wear a lion's hide
doff it, for shame,
And hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs.” The war she invokes is near at hand in the “holy errand” of
the Legate. When this clerical despot pours the vials of the church's wrath on the head of John, who “blasphemes” in terms of English patriotism and protestantism, Constance must vie with the curses of authority, for which there’s “law and warrant.”
“Comst. O, lawful let it be, That I have room with Rome to curse a while !
Good father cardinal, cry thou, amen,
To my keen curses: for, without my wrong, There is no tongue hath power to curse him right.” Afterwards she only contributes short sentences to the dialogue, so pregnant with mighty interest; but they are artfully conceived to incline the wavering mind of King Philip and Lewis to the warlike decision she so ardently desires, and they are expressed with fierce unity of purpose. As
she has imprecated from heaven the bloody arbitrament of battle, she invokes hell itself, to alarm the timid soul of
Philip: “Look to that devil lest that France repent, And by disjoining hands, hell lose a soul.” Lewis she taunts with his unfledged bride, and the coyness of his honour. Her passion stimulates her lofty intellect, and enables her to suggest in the strongest possible manner to each person, the motive likely to weigh most. She gains her purpose, and the issue of war is to decide her rights. Blanch, with true woman's heart, laments for the sake of those she loves simply and for themselves. To her,
“The sun's o'ercast with blood.”
But Constance, to whom peace is war, war is of all things most welcome, as the means to the end of her ambition, her
fiendish ambition. May those who seek for war ever bear its heaviest penalties. May the general murderer feel the truth of Pandulph's assertion of the particular one : “For he that steeps his safety in true blood, Shall find but bloody safety and untrue.” So it is with Constance.
She loses her cause and her son,
and the passion of ambitious love now appears in the form of grief, perhaps of remorse. When all purpose of ambition is at an end, and even the chief object of it lost, its instigations are no longer predominent in the poor woman's heart; in the prostrating grief she now endures there is no thought of the lost kingdom ; one monster grief, like Aaron's rod, devours all smaller ones; there is from
henceforth only one thought, one feeling, one mental object, one fixed idea, that her son is for ever lost. King Philip recognizes in her one already dead to the world : “Look who comes here a grave unto a soul Holding the eternal spirit gainst her will, In the vile prison of afflicted breath.” Constance taunts him with his and her own calamities as the
result of his peace, whereas they were in reality the issue of her war. This is the only point on which her quick intellect ever trips. She shews no signs of bending, though her spirit is wounded unto death. Her invincible pride rejects all comfort, all solace.
The charnel-house ideas of her invo
cation to death is poetic delirium, the frenzy of imagi nation. Juliet's imagination, embracing the same ideas, is feeble and prosaic compared with this horror. “No, I defy all counsel, all redress, But that which ends all counsel, true redress. Death, death, O amiable lovely death ! Thou odoriferous stench
Arise forth from the couch of lasting night,
Thou hate and terror to prosperity, And I will kiss thy detestable bones; And put my eyeballs in thy vaulty brows ; And ring these fingers with thy household worms; And stop this gap of breath with fulsome dust, And be a carrion monster like thyself: Come, grin on me; and I will think thou smil'st, And buss thee as thy wife! Misery's love, O, come to me!”
In her fierce, unconquerable pride, she would make death itself obey her as a vassal, and would shake the world even in leaving it. “O, that my tongue were in the thunder's mouth ! Then with a passion would I shake the world; And rouse from sleep that fell anatomy.” Pandulph tells her plainly that she is mad, and rouses that eloquent defence of her reason, in which she repeats the test of madness which Lear applies to himself, the recognition of personal identity, and in which she expresses the same idea of madness as a refuge from sorrow, which Gloster does.
“Pand. Lady, you utter madness, and not sorrow. Comst. Thou art not holy to belie me so ; I am not mad: this hair I tear, is mine;
My name is Constance; I was Geffrey's wife; Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost : I am not mad:—I would to heaven, I were !
For then, 'tis like, I should forget myself: O, if I could, what grief should I forget — Preach some philosophy to make me mad, And thou shalt be canoniz'd, cardinal;
For, being not mad, but sensible of grief, My reasonable part produces reason, How I may be deliver'd of these woes,
And teaches me to kill or hang myself: If I were mad, I should forget my son; Or madly think, a babe of clouts were he I am not mad: too well, too well I feel
The different plague of each calamity.” This supposed test of sanity, the preservation of the sense of personal identity, is used in the same manner by Sebastian in Twelfth Night, to assure himself that in the strange en joyment of Olivia's favours, he is neither dreaming nor doting.
“Seb. This is the air; that is the glorious sun : This pearl she gave me, I do feel 't, and see 't : And though 'tis wonder that enwraps me thus, Yet ’t is not madness.
Where 's Antonio then 2
I could not find him at the Elephant: Yet there he was ; and there I found this credit, That he did range the town to seek me out. His counsel now might do me golden service : For though my soul disputes well with my sense, That this may be some error, but no madness, Yet doth this accident and flood of fortune
So far exceed all instance, all discourse,
That I am ready to distrust mine eyes, And wrangle with my reason, that persuades me To any other trust, but that I am mad, Or else the lady's mad ; and yet, if 't were so, She could not sway her house, command her followers, Take and give back affairs, and their despatch, With such a smooth, discreet, and stable bearing, As, I perceive, she does : there 's something in 't That is deceivable.” It is however no better a test of madness than
applied by Cassio, to prove his state of sobriety. “Do not think, gentlemen, I am drunk : this is my Ancient ; This is my right hand, and this is my left.” Angrily as Constance rejects the idea of madness, yet she is mad ; the very type of acute reasoning mania. In real life the intellect would scarcely be so consistent and consecutive in its operations; but in real life neither sane nor insane people talk blank verse, and express even their deepest emotions in the magnificent imagery which great poets use. The raving of maniacal frenzy, in which the emotions are exclusively involved, would be represented by short and broken sentences, in which every link in the idea-chain would not be expressed, and which would therefore represent, more or less the features of incoherence. The poet fills up these chasms in the sense, and clothes the whole in the glowing language of excited intellectual power; and thus we have in Constance the representation of a frenzied woman, speaking with more arrangement of ideas, than frenzy really permits. King Philip bids her bind up her tresses, which she has
been madly tearing with her own hands to prove herself not mad.
These tresses, “Where but by chance a silver drop hath fallen,” she will bind up as she is bid ; she will even do this in fanciful reference to the one subject of all thought, her son's imprisonment. “I tore them from their bonds; and cried aloud,
O that these hands could so redeem my son, As they have given these hairs their liberty But now I envy at their liberty,
And will again commit them to their bonds, Because my poor child is a prisoner.” The despairing cry of overwhelming misery, which can ap prehend no hope even in heaven, expresses itself in the fancy that she can never again see her son even beyond the grave, for canker sorrow will change him. “And so he'll die; and, rising so again, When I shall meet him in the court of heaven
I shall not know him : therefore never, never
Must I behold my pretty Arthur more.” Her last words indicate a state of hallucination.
represents her son's voice and figure to her senses. Or if this be not taken literally, it at least represents one manner in which hallucination is produced. An absorbing emotion constantly directs the attention to one idea—image. This creation of the mind at length becomes accepted by the sense, and the hallucination of insanity exists. This differs in its origin, and its significance, from hallucination arising from some abnormal state of the nerves of sense merely,
which may exist, as it did in Ben Jonson and Nicolai, without any deviation from a sound state of mental health.
If the lively representation of Arthur's presence be not intended to convey the idea of actual hallucination, it at
least expresses the complete dominion which an absorbing emotion attains over the attention and mental conception.
“K. Phi. You are as fond of grief as of your child. Q Const. Grief fills the room up of my absent child, Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me ,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stufts out his vacant garments with his form; Then, have I reason to be fond of grief.
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I, I could give better comfort than you do.— I will not keep this form upon my head, When there is such disorder in my wit.
[Tearing off her head dress. O lord
my boy, my Arthur, my fair son
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world ! My widow-comfort, and my sorrow's cure : K. Phi. I fear some outrage, and I’ll follow her.” The frightful spectacle, of acute mania pursuing its course to a fatal end, was no attractive subject for dramatic represen tation. Shakespeare exhibited the growing horror to the extreme limit which decent regard to human weakness permitted, and then mercifully drew the veil. The spectacle of sleepless nights and restless days, of fierce raving and desperate outrage until exhausted nature sinks, this he could not and would not exhibit to the public gaze. In one short line alone he tells the end,
“The Lady Constance in a frenzy died.” This concealment of the horrors of furious mania, although their existence is indicated, has its parallel in the treatment of the death of the Queen in Cymbeline. The strong mind of this bad woman, one who “bears down all with her brain,” is
lost in maniacal frenzy, brought on by the disappointment of her schemes. She lies “upon a desperate bed,” with “A fever from the absence of her son ;
Madness of which her life's in danger.”
The horror of the desperate bed is withheld. Its termination only is recorded with the frenzied confession of her wickedness. In the flush of victory, the King is accosted by Cornelius, the good and discreet physician, who had baffled the Queen's intended poisonings. “Hail great king !
To sour your happiness I must report The Queen is dead.
Cymbeline. Whom worse than a physician Would this report become But I consider, By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death . Will seize the doctor too.
How ended she
Cor. With horror, madly dying like herself, Who being cruel to the world, concluded Most cruel to herself.” The death of the noble minded wife of Brutus is a distant
terror like that of Constance. Impatience at the absence of her husband, and grief at the growing power of his enemies,
induce the frenzy of despair and suicide. “With this she fell distract, And her attendants absent, swallowed fire.”
In all the deaths of all the plays, a long bill of mortality indeed, there is only one instance in which all the horrors of a bad end are laid bare, namely, in that of the Cardinal Beau fort. In King John's death, physical anguish alone is ex pressed, and this with such beauty and force of language as to veil the foul reality of death by a corrosive poison. Constance even more than Lear establishes the fact that
Shakespeare held the origin and nature of insanity to be emotional.
Until the last there is no delusion, scarcely a
deviation from reason, and yet she is conducted through a tempest of emotional disturbance into the very midst of maniacal excitement. All the causes of disease are purely emotional. The predisposing cause is her fiercely passionate disposition. The exciting cause is grief. The symptoms are the same as the causes, transformed into abnormal conditions
of degree. Disorder in the wit is felt, but scarcely exhibited. Loss of control over the operation of the intellect is mani Q’ fested in the last speech only, or perhaps also in the discon nected expression preceding, “To England if you will.” Nature is above art, as Lear says, and a truth now appreciated by science needs not the support of opinion even from so great an
artist as Shakespeare. But perfect art is founded upon science, the science of exact observation at least, and to such a test there can be little doubt that this character was submitted in the
crucible of the poet's great brain, before it was moulded into that form of fierce power and beauty, in which it excites our admiration and awe. The wondrous eloquence of Constance is second to that of no other character except Lear. It would seem that Shakespeare revels in the free swing of fancy, in the repudiation of all mental restraint which half madness justifies. He uses these characters as the motley favourites of old courts were often used, to speak bitter truth without
fear or favour, without hesitation or retention, without pru dential subtraction or self-seeking after thought. The mad men of Shakespeare are his broadest exponents of humanity. In the development of the insanity of Constance, the power of passion finds a potent ally in that of imagination. Imagi nation, that creative faculty which paints in the mind's eye those images which in health may be dismissed at will, but which in disease haunt the oppressed brain with their impor tunate presence. The faculty of forming sensational ideas without the intervention of the external senses, is one which, if
not kept in subjection to a sober judgment, is more perilous to mental health than ought else except unbridled passion. In actual insanity this function runs riot, and the world of reality is supplanted by that of fancy. This idea is most beautifully expressed in Midsummer Night's Dream : Yº. “'Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of The. More strange than true. I never may believe These antique fables, nor these fairy toys. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends. The lunatick, the lover, and the poet, Are of imagination all compact ; One sees more devils than vast hell can hold ; That is, the madman : the lover, all as frantick,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt: The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven ;
And, as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation, and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination ; That, if it would but apprehend some joy, It comprehends some bringer of that joy; Or, in the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a bush suppos'd a bear !" The best commentary on this is again to be found in the pages of that acute and original thinker, the author of the “Characteristics,” who directly traces the origin of insanity to this very excess of the imaginative faculty uncorrected by the judgment.
“This, indeed, is but too certain ; that as long as we enjoy a mind, as long as we have appetites and sense, the fancy's of all kinds will be hard at work; and whether we are in company or alone, they must range still, and be active. They
must have their field. The question is, whether they shall have it wholly to themselves ; or whether they shall ac knowledge some controuler or manager. If none, ’tis this I fear which leads to madness. 'Tis this, and nothing else which can be call'd madness, or loss of reason. For if fancy
be left judge of anything, she must be judge of all. Everything is right, if anything be so, because I fancy it. ‘The house turns round. The prospect turns. No, but my head turns indeed, ‘I have a giddiness; that's all. Fancy would persuade me thus and thus, but I know better.'
'Tis by means there
fore of a controuler and corrector of fancy, that I am saved from being mad. Otherwise, ’tis the house turns, when I am giddy. 'Tis things which change (for so I must suppose) when my passion merely or temper changes. But I was out of order.
Who tells me this?
Who besides the
correctrice, by whose means I am in my wits, and without whom I am no longer myself?” This distinction between the mind directed by fancy, under the sway of the senses, and the appeal from thence to reason is directly asserted in the Winter's Tale. “Camillo.
I am, and by my fancy : if my reason
Will thereto be obedient, I have reason.
If not, my senses, better pleased with madness, Do bid it welcome.”
What is this corrector or controller of fancy? It is some
what begging the question to reply, that it is the reason; for reason is often held to include all the intellectual operations, and among them the one to be controlled. The real umpire appears to be the faculty of comparison, by which the un realities of imagination, or the misrepresentations of perverted sensation are contrasted with the knowledge derived from experience. Shakespeare somewhere remarks, that after one has looked fixedly at the sun, all things appear green. If this appearance continued, the mental preservative against belief in the reality would be, the comparison of present impressions with the memory of the past, the testimony of others, and a grounded belief in the unchangeability of nature. In the greater number of delusive appearances, one sense corrects another; but when all the senses and all the circum
stances of time and place continue to affirm the reality of some transaction, it is difficult to see from whence the cor
rective would come. If the sensations of dreaming were as clear and consistent as those of the waking state, how would men be able to distinguish the memory of their dreams from those of their real actions ?
There is a curious passage
bearing on this point in Troilus and Cressida. The young lover has just witnessed the falsehood of his mistress. He cannot at first believe the evidence of his senses, and argues
i against his misery, by combating the testimony of his eyes and ears with that of his affections.
"Ulyss. All's done, my lord.
Tro. It is.
Ulyss.Why stay we then?
Tro. To make a recordation to my soul
Of every syllable that here was spoke.
But, if I tell how these two did co-act,
Shall I not lie in publishing the truth?
Sith, yet there is a credence in my heart,
An esperance so obstinately strong,
That doth avert the attest of eyes and ears,
As if those organs had deceptious functions,
Created only to calumniate.
Was Cressid here?
Ulyss. I cannot conjure, Trojan.
Tro. She was not, sure.
Ulyss. Most sure she was.
Tro. Why, my negation hath no taste of madness.
Ther. Will he swagger himself out on's own eyes?
Tro. This is not she, O madness of discourse,
That cause sets up with and against thyself!
Bi-fold authority where reason can revolt
Without perdition, and loss assume all reason
Without revolt: this is, and is not, Cressid!
Within my soul there doth conduce a fight
Of this strange nature, that a thing inseparate
Divides more wider than the sky and earth;
And yet the spacious breadth of this division
Admits no orifice for a point, as subtle
As Ariachne's broken woof, to enter."
The arguments of Macbeth against the unreal mockeries of the phantom rest upon a like foundation; but somehow or other, and despite of all the philosophy of Bishop Berkeley, there is a vast difference between appearance and reality. Hamlet, and Brutus, and Macbeth may have seen ghosts, and believed in them more or less, but a hungry man never disbelieves in the pudding he is eating; unless, indeed, he is absolutely insane, and then no limit can be set to the absurdities of belief or disbelief.