By Brian W. Ogilvie
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Additional resources for The Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe
Hope arises in the blank space theater asks us to fill, the sole core of benevolence in the Shakespearean universe. 2 The Promise Friar Laurence Stunned by Juliets evanescent beauty, the ghostly Father Friar Laurence speaks these words when he first sees her: Here comes the lady. O, so light a foot Will ne'er wear out the everlasting flint; A lover may bestride the gossamers That idles in the wanton summer air, And yet not fall; so light is vanity. 16-20) A haunting disclosure. The Friar beholds her, and thinks at once of her death.
Her sleeping with him can in no way transform the father into her son. But in another way, the solution is evident: father and son are effectively identical in hypostatic union, when the father is God, and the son is Christ. The curious solution to the more-curious riddle is not sexual, but theological. Because I am concerned to write about a godless Shakespeare, the reader should not think that I am recommending this solution as key to the play. Quite the opposite. Buried in the riddle is a perfect image for the kind of thing religion always does, the thing that Job comes to realize: it leaves seekers of the truth helpless to understand, because it either buries much-needed answers in riddles, or pretends that there are much-needed answers.
Strikingly, each signifier of the riddle is conspicuously transparent or matchable to a signified, except for one. We can see how the daughter feeds 'on mothers flesh' (all children do); and it is obvious how she is 'mother, wife - and yet his child/ having taken the mothers place. But when she seemingly identifies Antiochus as 'father, son, and husband mild/ the incest identification stumbles. ) In what way is the father the same as the son? the riddle compels us to ask, and in this context, the immediate, worldly answer comes: he is not.