Literature and Theatre

From ‘effet de retour’ to unnaturalness
Pascale Drouet

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’).

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
Pascale Drouet

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’.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
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Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
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Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
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Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory
Pascale Drouet

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.

in Shakespeare and the denial of territory