Chapter 3 examines how King Richard II, King Lear and Coriolanus present three tragic variants of the comic motif of the biter bit: the banisher banished. The dynamic of retaliation runs through the three plays, though in different ways. Most of the time, if not always, deterritorialisation is announced by an upsurge of violence, both when the king (or authority in power) expulses the fearless speaker and when the king himself (or authority in power) is rejected, in turn. To take up Foucault’s terms, ‘the sentence takes the form of a counter-attack’, and ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ becomes ‘deterritorialisation for deterritorialisation’. This chapter focuses on the characters who speak fearlessly in the three Shakespearean plays and shows how those parrhesiastes are banished because they have, linguistically and ethically, a threatening, deterritorialising potential.
Chapter 1 contrasts the duty of allegiance with the affirmation of an individual code of ethics that goes against it. It thus examines, in King Richard II, King Lear and Coriolanus, the dialectics of loyalty and disloyalty as subjective notions. Allegiance is presented according to three modes: absolute (obedience is unconditional), contractual (obedience makes sense only if contractual reciprocity is respected) and conflicting (obedience stands in a dialectical relationship with disobedience, a situation which generally breaks down in the face of some personal code of ethics). This chapter focuses on the subordinate figure who refuses to support political excesses (justified by the doctrine of divine right, absolutism or ‘theatrocracy’) and turns into a ‘fearless speaker’, or parrhesiast, that has the courage to speak the truth, thus endangering himself, but also threatening the power of performative speech, as Michel Foucault has shown in his Lectures at the Collège de France.
Chapter 2 examines the connection between abuse of power and banishment in King Richard II, King Lear and Coriolanus. Abuses of power that take the form of banishment can be interpreted as a direct consequence of parrhesia, insofar as parrhesia has been experienced by the interlocutor as speech abuse. Abusive banishment may thus be taken as an ‘effet de retour’ of abusive speech. Naturally, this abuse is not presented as such, as ‘wrong or improper use’, but is openly justified by (mis)interpreting free-spokenness as treason (political misinterpretation) and hubris (moral misinterpretation). A third party is also called for to support or side with the abuser – pagan gods in King Lear, the council in King Richard II and the people in Coriolanus. Yet abuses of power are perceptible in the shift from institutional justice to personal revenge betrayed by the motif of the wilfully deaf ear, by arbitrary decisions, and by the ‘catapulting force’ of affect (here ‘wrath’).
This book analyses King Richard II, Coriolanus and King Lear, three Shakespearean plays that particularly deal with abusive forms of banishment. In these plays, the abuses of power are triggered by fearless speeches that question the legitimacy of power and are misinterpreted as breaches of allegiance; in these plays, both the bold speech of the fearless speaker and the performative sentence of the banisher trigger the relentless dynamic of what Deleuze and Guattari termed ‘deterritorialisation’. This book approaches the central question of the abusive denial of territory from various angles: linguistic, legal and ethical, physical and psychological. It also explores various strategies of resistance: illegal return, which takes the form of a frontal counterattack employing a ‘war machine’; ruse and the experience of internal(ised) exile; and mental escape, which nonetheless may lead to madness, exhaustion or heartbreak.
The way banishment and abuse of power are articulated participates, both upstream and downstream, in a dialectics of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation, a dynamic whose driving force remains a form of transgression. The banished person is forced to follow a trajectory entailing various types of crossing, whether domestic or political, physical or mental, and any crossing implies risk-taking and uncertainty as regards the future. Downstream, because abusive banishment generates either a dynamic of riposte, that is, a ‘boomerang’ effect, or a dynamic of deviation, in which ruse proves useful, or a dialectics of endurance and exhaustion. Upstream, because political mismanagement or individual abuse triggers questioning and challenging by fearless speakers. Their ‘irruptive truth-telling’ (Foucault) is felt by the banisher as a parrhesiastic deterritorialisation and this is why he answers with geographic exclusion, which is perceived as abusive banishment by the parrhesiast. The dialectics of territorialisation, deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation highlights the danger not only of abuses of power as such, but also, due to the spiral they initiate, of their repercussions, of their retributive effects. It ultimately invites us to consider and reflect upon the challenge that exercising power represents.