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Purgation, Exorcism, And the Civilizing Process in Macbeth

Purgation, Exorcism, And the Civilizing Process in Macbeth

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Access Provided by Virtual University of Pakistan at 06/16/11 7:35AM GMT
 
Bryan Adams Hampton327
 
SEL
51, 2 (Spring 2011): 327–347ISSN 0039-3657327
Purgation, Exorcism, and theCivilizing Process in
Macbeth 
BRYAN ADAMS HAMPTON
In
Staging Domesticity 
, Wendy Wall richly complicates our thinking about early modern domesticity, including the everyday tasks of food preparation, laundering, and pot scrubbing, as de-lineated in domestic manuals as the art and practice of effective“huswifery.” She argues that these seemingly mundane activitiesshaped evolving ideas of English nationhood, identity, gender,and the playhouse.
1
Robert Cleaver, commenting on English do-mesticity and echoing many of his contemporaries, argues that the husband yields authority to his wife over “those things that  belong unto the kitchen, and to huswiferie, and to their house-hold stuffe.”
2
Falling under the aegis of “household stuff,” Wallobserves, is “physicke,” or medical care, which was among theEnglish housewife’s most signicant duties. The Galenic body wasgoverned by humours that were constantly in ux, thus leadingprofessional doctors and housewives to treat early modern bodiesas systems needing incessant care and maintenance. Wall statesthat “the early modern body was in constant need of evacuations:enemas, laxatives, and emetics for the lower body stratum; herbs,changes in thermal conditions, and air for upper body ‘purges’(vomiting, coughing, burping); blood-letting, exercise, and orgasmfor all around purication.”
3
In his poem
 A New Anatomie 
(1605),Robert Underwood compares this open Galenic body to a “moove-able” house, whose “kitchen” is both the repository and principalsite of purgation: And rst, the
Kitchen 
seated was,as nethermost of all,
Bryan Adams Hampton is Dorothy and James D. Kennedy Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of English, and serves as the coordinator of theHumanities Program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
 
328 Civilizing Process in
 Macbeth
 Whereby it might receive such things,as from above did fall:By 
Vessels 
, tting for the samewhich long there, did not stay. The image of the kitchen thus functions simultaneously as stom-ach, bowels, and anus, which “did convay / By 
Gutters 
,
Holes 
, and
Channels 
so” to render the body and the domestic space “han-some, sweete, and cleene.”
4
Wall’s analysis of early modern domes-tic manuals reveals that purgation of the nation’s “kitchen,” theunstable early modern body, was a source of national obsession. We might protably interrogate this obsession by turning toShakespeare’s Macbeth, a king whose own unstable body—be-headed and obfuscated at the end of the play—functions as a synecdoche for the lth-ridden “kitchen” of the Scottish body politic.
5
Although the word “purge” (or variations) occurs only four times in the text (III.iv.77; V.ii.28; V.iii.54 and 57), its conceptualpresence occupies nearly every scene: from the disemboweling of the “merciless Macdonwald” and the purgation of his invading“swarm … / Of kerns and gallowglasses” (I.ii.9 and 12–3), to Mac- beth’s urging the doctor to “cast / The water of my land, nd her disease, / And purge it to a sound and pristine health” (V.iii.52–4). The play’s action, initiated with the witches eerily incanting that “[f]air is foul, and foul is fair” (I.i.11), is inscribed within a dis-eased, spiritual darkness. But what if the state of Macbeth’s foulcondition—the churning humoral body that is occluded at theend of the play—is actually fair? What if Macbeth’s ghastly “dreadexploits” (IV.i.144) actually evoke their antitheses, or simultane-ously adhere to two seemingly discrete meanings: that which issacred and that which is accursed? Jonathan Goldberg and DavidScott Kastan have troubled the various binaries that the play sets up; instead of the reestablishment of “orthodoxy” (legitimateover illegitimate rule; male power over female power; moral order over chaos), the play presents challenges to this reading througha series of “mirroring” moments, insistent doublings, or, to useGoldberg’s phrase, “spectral identication[s].”
6
But Goldbergand Kastan appear simply to reverse the interpretive paradigm,favoring the “heterodox” terms of the binary over the orthodox ones.
7
Through the trope of purgation, here considered in bothits mundane and supernatural matrices, this essay explores a “spectral” doubling that Kastan and Goldberg neglect, but that accounts for the simultaneous presence of both orthodox andheterodox terms: the sacred and the profane. These categories

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