This book analyses three Shakespearean plays that mainly deal with abusive forms of banishment: King Richard II, Coriolanus and King Lear. These plays present with particular clarity the mechanism of the banishment proclamation and its consequences, that is, the dynamic of exclusion and its repercussions. Those repercussions may entail breaking the ban to come back illegally and seek revenge; devising strategies of deviation, such as disguise and change of identity; or resorting to mental subterfuges as a means of refuge. They may also lead to entropy – exhaustion, letting go or heartbreak. Each in its own way, they invite us to reflect upon the complex articulation between banishment and abuse of power, upon the strategies of resistance and displacement employed to shun or endure the painful experience of ‘deterritorialisation’; they put into play the dialectics of allegiance and disobedience, of fearlessly speaking and silencing, of endurance and exhaustion; they question both the legitimacy of power and the limits of human resistance. This study draws on French scholars in Shakespearean studies, and also on contemporary French historians, theorists, anthropologists, psychoanalysts, essayists and philosophers, who can help us read Shakespeare’s plays in our time. It thus takes into account some of the works of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Gaston Bachelard, Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, Boris Cyrulnik and Emmanuel Housset. The hope is that their respective intellectual approaches will shed specific kinds of light on Shakespeare’s plays and initiate a fruitful dialogue with Anglo-Saxon criticism.
Chapter 12 examines on the polarity triggered by the fear of destruction, the imminence of disappearance and the face-to-face encounter with death (all resulting from abuse of power, exclusion or retribution): one either belongs to a country or is deeply attached to a person, this because political commitment and national duty prove incompatible with personal feelings (as is the case for Coriolanus), because the future of the country or the reality of the place where one dwells becomes derisory compared with deep love (as for Kent and Lear), because, conversely, one can be denied or even crushed, and the priority given to the country out of allegiance to the king (John of Gaunt) or out of an identification with a particular idea of it (Volumnia). This chapter pays particular attention to certain banished characters (Queen Isabel in Richard II, Lear, and Suffolk in King Henry VI, Part 2) who choose to focus on beloved beings and regard them as an emotional map onto which they can project a reterritorialisation no matter what their geographical situation, regardless of their exile. What appears as irreplaceable is not the homeland but these beloved beings who become the banished figures’ landmark, their home base, their entire cartography.
This chapter presents Deleuze’s and Guattari’s theories (from A Thousand Plateaus) and explores several oppositions, such as ‘smooth space’ versus ‘striated space’, ‘game of Go’ versus ‘chess’, which are related to the main opposition, ‘war machine’ versus ‘State apparatus’, before turning to Coriolanus and King Richard II to see how relevant they can be to analyse Coriolanus’ and Bolingbroke’s respective illegal returns. This chapter focuses on the strength of the ‘war machine’: unpredictability and dazzling speed. Such dazzling speed favours an uncommon striking power, which cannot be found on traditional battlefields where enemy armies face one another, one advancing, the other withdrawing, and vice versa, until the issue is decided. The ‘war machine’ is like a weapon of mass destruction for Coriolanus, whereas, for Bolingbroke, it is a deterrent weapon that will ultimately lead to the king’s deposition and his own coronation. Yet the starting point is the same in both plays: so as to maximise its efficiency, the ‘war machine’ must be set in motion at the right time, so as to take advantage of the weakness of the ‘State apparatus’.
This chapter addresses the notions of limits, duration and torment. How do we know that the limits of endurance have reached a point of no return? What are the physical and psychic symptoms of exhaustion? Why do ‘tutors of resilience’, as Boris Cyrulnik calls them (such as Cordelia and Edgar in King Lear), fail to intuit these limits? This chapter shows how endurance is closely associated with the experience of duration. When time is experienced as interminable, the one who endures comes to evoke either a dead man before his time or a victim of torture, or even a miraculous survivor. This chapter suggests that, in King Lear, Edgar and Cordelia, and Kent to a lesser extent, serve as ‘tutors of resilience’ for Gloucester and Lear, even if they fail in the end. It suggests that the dynamic of ‘deterritorialisation’ entails a reflection upon the failure of understanding or, at least, the failure to take into account the vulnerability of the human condition.
Chapter 6 is concerned with possible alternatives to the ‘war machine’. The first alternative it focuses on is to serve another ‘State apparatus’ or ‘structure, for example, to become God’s soldier, which is Mowbray’s choice in King Richard II. Mowbray reterritorialises himself within a politico-religious structure whose ideals transcend any Christian territory’s specific nationalism. The second alternative is to engage in single combat with ‘nomadic’ advantages, that is, following the codes of chivalry but in a Deleuzian ‘smooth’ space, which is Edgar’s decision in King Lear. Single combat is to Edgar what the ‘war machine’ is to Coriolanus: the opportunity to recover his lost name or to forge himself a new one. The third alternative makes a detour via the island of The Tempest with Prospero’s option: Deleuzian ‘magic capture’. Magic may offer a different alternative to the ‘war machine’ – unless it happens to be a ‘war machine’ in disguise.
Chapter 10 focuses on mental spaces that require the resources of the intellect, the creativity of imagination, the emergence of intimate territories, and that depend on the vitality of our inner world. It shows how, having to suffer the hardship of ‘deterritorialisation’, the individual escapes to and finds refuge in their mental sphere: there they have the possibility of creating a mental cartography of their own, a new territory that they can privately and safely inhabit. They become their own compass and map their inner space. Resorting to Emmanuel Housset’s distinction between two types of interiority, a closed one and an open one, which he terms, respectively, ‘insular interiority’ and ‘exile interiority’, this chapter analyses the types of interiority that can be associated with Shakespeare’s Richard II and Lear. In King Richard II and King Lear, mental spaces often betray an ‘insular interiority’ and are ambivalent: endurance turns into a denial of both exteriority and otherness, which leads either to subjective interpretation and radical reconstruction, or to escape into an inner world removed from reality and reason.
Not feeling at home any longer, having the impression that the here is nothing but elsewhere and otherness, losing one’s microcosmic and macrocosmic landmarks and wandering in a Deleuzian ‘smooth space’: such an experience depends on time as it is lived and on temporal perspective (as in King Richard II); it can follow from some disastrous scenario (as in Coriolanus); it can also be closely related to a sort of no man’s land that appears to be a ‘haptic space’, in which one can ‘feel’ but not ‘see’, as opposed to an ‘optic space’ (as in King Lear). What is intuited (home as a foreign elsewhere) in the prophetic mode by Gaunt in King Richard II or with a subjective projection by Coriolanus in the Roman play becomes reality in King Lear. This chapter examines how Gaunt’s critical perception of his homeland as a now debased and unnatural kingdom is echoed by Coriolanus, who comes to see his city, Rome, as deprived of its Romanitas. It shows how, in King Lear, the heath is experienced as a ‘smooth’ space and a ‘haptic’ space in which an aptitude for empathy can be discovered.
Chapter 7 concentrates on an indirect strategy of resistance that is the product of ruse, of ‘cunning intelligence’, or metis in Greek. The dynamic of frontal riposte gives way to the dynamic of deviation (the choice of Kent and Edgar in King Lear). This chapter examines how deviation paradoxically means staying here, in the homeland, instead of going away, elsewhere, and how this entails dissembling: changing one’s physical appearance, one’s behaviour and one’s voice, creating an unexpected persona to produce an effect of trompe l’oeil, temporarily renouncing one’s identity to assume the semblance of otherness, so that one’s former self can go unnoticed, as if imperceptible. In King Lear, Kent turns to service, and Edgar to Bedlam begging. Their becoming imperceptible paradoxically entails showing up in the most risky places, right before one’s banisher’s nose, for instance, or publicly undressing to exhibit a nearly naked body that can be scrutinised like a map. It is as if imposing one’s ostentatious persona were the best way to hide one’s genuine identity, and this is why this chapter also focuses on the dialectics of ostentation and dissimulation.
Chapter 8 studies how one experiences otherness (a displacement of social identity) in one’s own country (inner exile), facing a fall in status and humiliation (eating what is not edible, suffering from infamy and lack of charity) and, at times, facing ‘uncanny’ situations. This chapter shows how the dynamic of deviation is soon transformed into a dynamic of humiliation and degradation, and how one tumbles down the social ladder. Making a detour via a debasing form of otherness while staying in one’s homeland amounts to experiencing not what is elsewhere but what lies at the bottom, to hitting rock bottom at home. The horizontal dynamic of (external) exile gives way to the vertical dynamic of (internal) degradation, also raising the question of whether one can recover from it. Fall in status, humiliating punishment, refusal of hospitality, denial of charity and dietary degradation posing a threat to sanity are generally experienced when the exile finds himself in a hostile foreign territory. Yet the internal exile suffers from the same dynamic of debasement in his homeland, and there may be certain similarities with facing the sudden appearance of the ‘uncanny’.
Chapter 4 turns to the Shakespearean characters who, being unjustly banished, will not passively endure (Bolingbroke in King Richard II, Coriolanus). Once abroad, they initiate a dynamic of frontal counterattack and illegally return with a Deleuzian ‘war machine’. In King Richard II, Bolingbroke’s intentions remain ambiguous, since he first claims that he comes but for his own, but he then deposes the king to take his place (re-appropriation, reprisal and self-territorialisation). As for Coriolanus, his aim is to destroy Rome so that it is reduced to a tabula rasa (retaliation, deterritorialisation and eradication). This chapter examines how, in Coriolanus and King Richard II, the protagonists’ illegal return is a means to regain one’s name, claim one’s title or forge oneself a new name. It is also the result of a choice that privileges action over words, refuses the soothing quality of words, the refuge of imagination and mental spaces, the benefit of the doctrine of consolatio.