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Five WordsCritical Semantics in the Age of Shakespeare and Cervantes$

Roland Greene

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226000633

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226000770.001.0001

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(p.107) Blood
Five Words

Roland Greene

University of Chicago Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores two works from the late sixteenth century, namely: the anonymous domestic tragedy, A Warning for Fair Women, and Miguel de Cervantes’s novella La fuerza de la sangre (The power of blood). During this period, these two works, and many others, create too many competing allegories in different degrees of revision for the word blood. This trend in literature during the period shows that there is a semantic shift under way. The chapter tracks this change in semantics and notes its relation to materialism. The change in the representations of blood from notions of nobility, divinity, and the cosmos towards more modern perceptions such as family, class, and race is noted by the author. The chapter is concerned with blood’s semantic history, and asks: How does the concept of blood get reinvented in the late sixteenth century to take fresh account of the material, the liquid itself?

Keywords:   blood, Miguel de Cervantes, semantics, materialism, semantic history, semantic shift, representations, family

A figure called Tragedy enters, carrying a bowl of blood. In a play concerning adulterous murder, where the murderer will dip his handkerchief in his victim’s blood and send it (“a kalender of bloody letters”) to the widow he would seduce, there is something oppressively obvious about such a foreshowing. With the word blood repeated insistently throughout the play, the audience hardly depends on a visual portent. And yet the bowl of blood means more—or perhaps less—than it seems. An allegorical figure offers us the blood as though handing it across from his world to ours, from allegory to literalness, a striking gesture that is allegorical and literal together. Here and throughout the play, the sheer excess of blood overruns all concepts of the substance, all attempts to read it as letters toward a text, “an ensign of despaire,” or anything else.1 In its abundance, it becomes simply, literally itself.

Or: a young boy conceived in the rape of a virtuous girl by an unknown assailant—the rapist actually the wastrel son of a noble family—is injured in an accident, and his spilt blood attracts the attention of an elderly gentleman of great authority. Once the gentleman brings him home for care, the boy’s mother and grandparents come to realize that the absent son of this Samaritan must be the rapist, even as the gentleman’s family sees in the child the face of their dissolute son. Of course the rapist and his victim are finally married and the (p.108) families joined by what the narrator calls the power of the blood that the grandfather saw spilt on the ground.2 On its face the story belongs to the convention called the cri du sang, in which members of a family who have been separated by fate are drawn together by the pull of consanguinity. But this is a peculiarly literal cri du sang, in which a pool of liquid blood stands in the middle of a story rendered otherwise in almost abstract fashion, with symmetrical episodes and motifs—the bed on which the girl is raped is the same one her son recovers in— and little moral or psychological complication. What is the power of this blood? It can be seen according to received symbolism, but it is chiefly a power derived from the unforeseeable outcomes and sheer presence of the liquid itself. In the end a blood that might have kept the girl and the rapist on distinct social planes becomes the impetus for making, however implausibly, a new family.3

These accounts of the anonymous domestic tragedy A Warning for Fair Women, which was likely performed by William Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, during the 1590s, and Miguel de Cervantes’s novella La fuerza de la sangre (The power of blood), find these works in company with many others of the later sixteenth century. Where blood appears in this era, it threatens too much meaning—too many competing allegories in different degrees of revision— or the reduction of meaning to sheer spectacle, such as a bowl of blood. The literature of this moment recognizes the semantic shift under way, as older genres such as picaresque fiction become bloodier and new genres such as revenge tragedy make the display of blood essential to their projects. Conventions such as the bloody banquet, letters written in blood, and bloody maimings and killings are absorbed into works of all sorts.4 The fate of blood in the period belongs to a concept under revision and a word that exchanges allegorical for literal meanings, even as literalness itself gains a fresh cultural authority across a range of disciplines from mathematics to natural philosophy to art.

At the turn of the sixteenth century in Europe and the colonial Americas, blood tends to be imagined allegorically, as a substance that represents ideas such as nobility, sacrifice, and heroism as well as emotions such as love and passion. It is implicated in a parcel of interlocking observations and speculations that both explains and is explained by the substance’s material reality: I call this a conceptual (p.109) envelope, the coherence of which depends on the continued validity of its complementary allegories.5 Near the end of the century, however, most of the received allegories around blood have been compromised, and the envelope is frayed. While they retain latent or partial authority, there will no longer be unquestioned power in such allegories as Galen’s doctrine of the humors, the authority of royal blood, or the sacrifice of blood in the Roman Catholic Mass.6 The intervening era witnesses these changes and compromises under many offices—including the decline of feudalism, the Reformation of Christianity, and the rise of experimental science—and the fracture of these allegories occurs unevenly and in stages. For a time near the turn of the seventeenth century, while the conceptual envelope assembled in the Middle Ages is under revision, several bloods are imaginatively available at once; words such as blood, sang, and sangre draw alike on alternative or opposed understandings, making the words for blood rich, self-refuting, and polytropic. And while the received conceptual envelope is being remade, early modern readers become intrigued at seeing, between its contiguous but distinct planes, blood as simply itself—a substance, a liquid that has a reality apart from the allegories of religion, history, and medicine. Throughout the later sixteenth century, many of the central figures in blood’s revision share this attention to the liquid: they observe its motions and speculate over its invisible life; they notice its appearances in the phases of bodily life and history; they comment on its abundance, its vividness, its symbolic complexity.7 These observers often attribute to blood a kind of eloquence that stills the long-established allegorical conventions and clamors for new ways of situating the substance in all its settings.

The generation of Shakespeare and Cervantes sees this problem acutely, and some of the seeming modernity of its plays and prose fictions can be found in the consciousness of blood as a marker under revision—the power of which draws from its materiality as well as its figurative associations. The Merchant of Venice, the Henriad, Hamlet, the Novelas ejemplares, and Don Quijote are among the products of this consciousness, bringing renewed imagination and hard questions to the discussion of the preceding century. Materialism in itself means nothing outside a system of values, and where blood is concerned, the imperative to idealize allows that a material perspective tends to (p.110) be corrective or contingent, not final.8 I think of the later sixteenth century as an interval between conceptions of blood, in which the medieval horizons of nobility, divinity, and the cosmos come to be largely replaced by the modern notions such as family, class, and race. The medieval terms are ruled by a concern for ipseity (from the Latin adjective ipse, “self”), or the nature of a person or thing in the system of nature. While the modern horizons are no less allegorical than the medieval, they seem less abstract, they accord with the new science, and they make sense to societies that find their centers in emerging populations and standpoints below the aristocracy. They are ruled not by ipseity but by identity (from the adjective idem, “same”), the modern preoccupation according to which we inquire into a person’s nature by reference not to an encompassing system but to other persons of the same nature. The reconception of blood in social rather than cosmic terms, as evidence of relations more than of a fixed reality, belongs to the replacement of ipseity by identity that gains momentum during the century. Moreover, the attraction to blood as substance, as a speaking liquid, bridges the space between one conceptual regime and the next. When new allegories connect blood to race, for instance, it will be with a renewed sense of material blood and the modern conviction that the blood of quotidian experience is continuous with that of the allegories.

My concern here is with the interval. How does the concept of blood get reinvented in the late sixteenth century to take fresh account of the material, the liquid itself? If the concept comes to include an account of the sheer bodily experience of the substance—an experience often and strangely put aside in the allegories of late medieval medicine, theology, and myth—how does it accommodate this aspect of the everyday? Many of us bear in mind a conventional account of how some aspect of the physical body comes to have figurative associations: we suppose that “language develops by metaphorical extension, in borrowing words from the realm of the corporeal, visible, tangible and applying them by analogy to the realm of the incorporeal, invisible, intangible; then in the course of time the original corporeal reference is forgotten, and only the incorporeal, metaphorical extension survives.” In time, writes one of the most searching literary critics of the past century, poets rediscover the corporeal, grounding the now intangible concept in a tangible conceit.9 Early modern blood offers a striking (p.111) revision of this account. The materiality of blood is never forgotten, of course, but during the interval between conceptual regimes, poets and others return obsessively to its corporeality and tangibility, as though finding their way home from a journey or awakening from a dream. They rediscover not “the realm of the corporeal” but blood itself—with what consequences? When the old allegories are uncertain and the new ones not yet in place, how many bloods are there? And how do mere words such as blood, sang, and sangre exhibit and contain the dynamic story of these changes?

This semantic history commences at about the turn of the sixteenth century, when blood is a largely figurative concept out of correspondence with its material reality, a heavily loaded symbolic principle that does not quite account for the physical fact.10 There is the blood of legend, of Christian sacrifice, and of Galenism, all of which are made coherent by an elaborate conceptual envelope received from the Middle Ages; and then there is another blood, of the quotidian body, known to every human being from direct experience. The transformation of this term after 1500 has to do with its gaining a material story, an account of what it does as matter—toward the end of the century this story will become the theory of circulation—to put against its symbolic power, a becoming physical or material. When we turn to the fictions of the era, then, we see them engaged in a project that can seem unexpected. Instead of taking a physical reality and making it figurative, the poets and playwrights of the European and transatlantic Renaissance often take an idealized blood and render it quotidian, or at least imagine ways that the symbolic and literal dimensions of blood can exist in a single idiom. To put it another way, over the sixteenth century blood gains a conceptual relation to the everyday that is not entirely dependent on either the theory of the humors or the other abstractions—Christian, chivalric, and heraldic among them—that drive its representation until well into this period.

What is a conceptual envelope? I use the term to mean a phenomenon of a sort that preoccupied the Renaissance, namely, a reality understood through allegory or an allegory founded on reality. The object of such an envelope—human complexions, the moon, weather—is something that early modern people saw with their own eyes, and yet necessarily saw through the eyes of allegory. The envelope is closed: (p.112) that is, it tells a coherent story about its object (for instance, blood) that agrees with received thought. In such an envelope, available knowledge is disposed according to convention, and within some degree of difference, these parcels largely make sense of one another, much as Avicenna revises but generally endorses Galen, who does the same with Hippocrates. But the envelope is also open: it must explain the physical reality we see with unlettered eyes, making received knowledge seem as fresh as unmediated experience. Conceptual envelopes should be understood alongside large-scale scientific paradigms, as comparatively small- gauge beliefs that attach to natural phenomena, particularly when one paradigm is in the process of giving way to another. While an influential historian of science calls the kind of investigation that extends and develops a paradigm “normal science,” we might suppose these beliefs to be “normal allegories,” occupying not the “preformed and relatively inflexible box” of paradigm but the looser envelope of quotidian experience.11 It is part of the nature of a conceptual envelope to seem, from within, identical to reality itself. Of course such an envelope is always provisional. Its unfinished character and its opening to empirical reality provide that it must be refashioned to accommodate new knowledge.

According to the conceptual envelope that passes from the Middle Ages into the sixteenth century, blood appeared in symbolic fashion at dynamic, climactic, and transitional (and for women, cyclical) moments, when wars were being won or lost, dynasties established or overthrown, fertility and continuance enacted. Where this multivalent concept of blood intersects history, “the father of the humors” becomes a marker of nobility and heroism. The flowing of such men’s blood marks events that are worth recording, while the blood of exceptional women evokes the birthing and healing that makes history feasible.12 Where this concept meets religion, it evokes the covenant of Genesis 9, the divine injunctions of Leviticus 17, and the statutes of Deuteronomy 12, where general blood is a metonym for life—humankind is forbidden to eat the flesh of animals in which blood flows—and where the “blood of man” is explicitly linked to the “image of God.”13 No less it includes the Christian economy of salvation, in which Christ’s sacrifice on the cross “in a bloody manner” is represented in the “unbloody” sacrifice of the Mass.14 In the middle of the fifteenth century, (p.113) the city of Toledo, making civil war against King John II of Castile, articulated the first statute of limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) that enforced distinctions among long-established and recently converted Christians according to criteria of lineage that went by the name of blood.15 Such laws, which came to be accepted by Iberian institutions of church and government, explicitly transposed blood from the domains of genealogy and religion into politics and social policy, revising “the potential meanings” of judío, converso, and cristiano— and, we should insist, of sangre as well.16 And where it intersects natural philosophy, blood stands for the correspondence between the system of the body and the larger systems, of the earth, the elements, and the cosmos, in which it is embedded.17 At this latter crossing barbers, butchers, and midwives opened veins as a way of curing or purifying or sometimes merely changing their patients, whether ritually, perhaps to mark the end of the season, or therapeutically.18 Even the mundane blood of injuries and accidents tends to be recognized as heavy with meaning. The fabric of the conceptual envelope is made of these complementary bloods out of distinct but adjacent areas of knowledge and belief, while the dynamic principle that holds them together is allegory, a conviction written across the fabric that blood always stands for something other than itself. The Christian, heroic, and humoral concepts do not coincide with but complement one another—each explains blood in one area of human experience—and all alike they are generated from the interpretive model of allegoresis.

The semantics of blood in this period are connected to the fate of an intellectual program that has been much interpellated in recent years and has delivered a bounty to literary studies, namely, Galenism. For several generations, scholars of early modernity have agreed that the period’s general theory of the constitution of the human body was established in a set of principles conceived in Hippocrates’s treatise Nature of Man and refined in several works of Galen.19 The explanatory power of Galenism, however, underwent a striking change of terms during the sixteenth century: under pressure from forces within natural philosophy such as the anatomical movement and Paracelsian thought, Galenism became less a satisfactory account of how the body works and more an allegory concerned with the mind and its passions.20 For a tantalizing moment, until a new envelope was (p.114) assembled around it, the blood of the physical body got free as a concept—became legible outside Galenism and susceptible to inductive observation. Certainly it remained possible to assimilate material blood to the system of the humors and Galen’s theory of health well into the seventeenth century.21

But where blood is concerned, the most searching investigations of the later sixteenth century were already post-Galenic in character and complexity. Starting from the translator John Jones’s version of Galens Bookes of Elements (1574), many of the treatises of this period that endorsed a Galenist ontology and physiology accounted for blood in terms that were becoming obsolete to medicine, while explainers such as Thomas Wright (The Passions of the Mind in General, 1604) and Thomas Walkington (The Optick Glasse of Humours, 1607) worked to make this system as relevant to the mind as it had once been to the body. The measure of their success was that a Galenic self survived in fiction even as the Galenic body struggled against the loss of its primacy in science.22 Meanwhile, literary works, closely responsive to the conceptual shifts of the late sixteenth century, tell us what the treatises often cannot, that an alternative physiological model for blood is already available, even as the Christian and chivalric allegories of blood are under revision by the theological, economic, and social changes that are transforming European and transatlantic societies.

While the theory of blood as a fluid that makes a circuit of the body, a liquid organ, was anticipated by several sixteenth-century anatomists, it was finally announced in Michael Servetus’s Christianismi Restitutio (Restoration of Christianity) of 1553, a treatise that censures Catholics and reformers alike in its pursuit of a return to an original Christianity23—and that, sharply revising Galen, first describes the lesser circulation through the lungs, completing the hemodynamic path through the entire body.24 A literalist in theological as well as scientific matters, the Iberian scholar Servetus might be the presiding genius of the late-century turn to blood itself. His zeal for counterposing the observation of plain fact to received knowledge led him into remaking several of the conceptual envelopes of the time. For instance, he edited Ptolemy’s Geography in 1535 and, determined to bring the classical and contemporary worlds together, took pains to identify the places mentioned there with their modern names. He (p.115) studied anatomy in Paris alongside Andreas Vesalius, who was to contradict Galen and reinvent the discipline in De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543). Servetus’s literalist reading of the Bible prompted him to preach and publish Unitarian heresies concerning infant baptism and the nature of God. Finally, with the appearance of Christianismi Restitutio and at Calvin’s instigation, he was burned at the stake in 1553. On the question of blood, Servetus revised Galen to conform to biblical passages about blood and anima (spirit) as well as his own anatomical observations.25 His turn to sheer material fact as a counterweight to outmoded allegory marks the reconception of blood in a liminal moment, as a material connected to private, individual experience, to singular as opposed to collective identity, that briefly stands apart from one parcel of received allegory before being subsumed into another. Particular to the later sixteenth century, this is an alternative cri du sang —a call for attention to blood as itself.

Perhaps this episode is suspended between the emerging literalism of the sixteenth century, according to which many disciplines are reoriented toward anatomies, observations, and collections, and the vitalism of the mid-seventeenth century, by which matter is imagined by scientists and philosophers as self-moving, self-governing, and possessed of an inherent agency, energy, and spirit. Seventeenth-century vitalism lays a foundation for the rise of liberalism, it has been argued, conceiving the material body of creation in terms of “moral choice, independent action, and free association,” much as political philosophers would envision the body politic, making vitalism a threshold in early modern thought.26 In the interval between these programs, the culture rediscovers blood itself, in the welter of its often contradictory senses in this period, perhaps as prologue to rethinking matter in general, and refashions the conceptual envelope around the term blood to accommodate new principles for science and politics together. For vitalism, for example, William Harvey is a prompting figure, especially during the era framed by his two major treatises on circulation, De motu cordis of 1628 and De circulatione sanguinis of 1649;27 but the earlier moment I am tracing concludes with De motu cordis, which provides a conceit—the principle of circulation—that reframes the discussion of blood’s ontology and agency that had been passed on from the sixteenth century.

(p.116) Of course many artists and scholars remained constitutionally attached to the doctrine of the humors during this period and after. The forty or so years spanning the later sixteenth and earlier seventeenth centuries saw a spate of treatises and poems on moral philosophy that adjusted the Galenic doctrine of humors, generally toward a more abstract account of mental states and a less prominent role for blood itself.28 Ben Jonson is the chief example of a playwright who operates within this doctrine, although without looking very far one sees in plays such as Bartholomew Fair (1614) a fraying of the conceptual envelope that held the humors intact as theory and perhaps Jonson’s contradictory desire both to rehabilitate this doctrine and to get beyond it.29

Moreover, there were any number of poets whose conception of blood was resolutely historical and climactic, perhaps because the events they wished to tell demand an unbroken atmosphere of legend. Such are the Earl of Surrey in England and Luis de Camões in Portugal. For Surrey, blood is the emblem of heroes and martyrs (as in the poems “London, hast thow accused me” and “Dyvers thy death doo dyverslye bemone”) and the index of fear or arousal (“So crewell prison! Howe could betyde, alas!”);30 the latter conceit grounds Surrey’s most famous poem (“Love that doth raine and liue within my thought”), an adaptation of Petrarch’s Canzoniere 140 that is the graft from which English Petrarchism grows.31 Camões’ Lusiads depicts several battles between the Portuguese and the Moors in which rivers of “sangue desparzido” (spilt blood) enrich the ground on which a nation and empire were established.32 Yet even here, among these conventional understandings of blood, the unfinished business of the present appears. While Canzoniere 140 accepts a conceit of blood as the ensign (Petrarch’s “insegna”) of emotion, we should ask why both Surrey and Thomas Wyatt are drawn to translating a poem that narrates the movement of blood from the breast to the face and then back to the heart.33 For Camões, blood often has the aura of a substance clinically observed as much as allegorically invoked. Even Edmund Spenser, in an allegorical episode representing the defeat of the Spanish Armada, includes a wounding of the English hero Prince Arthur ( he “opened . . . the welspring of his blood”) that has little traction with the historical event and much to do with the contemporary attention (p.117) to blood as substance.34 All of these are bloods in the process of becoming private, self-referential, modern.

The shrewdest writers see this challenge of moving between envelopes as an invitation, as Philip Sidney does in the Arcadia when he shows an exchange between the duplicitous Clinias and Basilius, the prince of Arcadia, whom Clinias opposes. Supposing him an ally, Basilius asks Clinias to account for a rebellion against his rule, and Clinias, who was injured in the battle by a sword to the face, “purposing indeed to tell him the truth of all, saving what did touch himself . . ., first dipping his hand in the blood of his wound, ‘Now by this blood,’ said he, ‘which is more dear to me, than all the rest that is in my body, since it is spent for your safety, this tongue (perchance unfortunate, but never false) shall not now begin to lie unto my prince, of me most beloved.’”35 In one sweeping gesture, Sidney here encircles most of the elements his contemporaries choose among: the blood of heroism, the everyday blood that remains “in [the] body” unavailable to interpretation, and the question of blood’s “truth.” In spite of his pretensions of heroism, Clinias lives by the opposed notion of blood—we might call it the clinical—according to which the entirely quotidian substance can be manipulated to evoke what remains of its former symbolic and metaphysical meanings. The last thing such a clinician wants is to shed real blood for a cause. Later Clinias finds himself at blows with the not very formidable herdsman Dametas and begins “with lamentable eyes to see his own blood come out in many places—and before he had lost half an ounce, . . . he yielded.”36

Across the sixteenth century, then, I am interested in those episodes in which we can see a modern relation between blood and the everyday being worked out; in which the humoral, historical, and Christian senses of blood are accommodating something that as yet has little discourse of its own; in which poets search out ways of addressing a public audience about private experience; and in which we can see the becoming material of this already figurative and ideal substance. How do poets turn the ideal into the material? Nearly all poetic theory of the period, like Sidney’s in his Apology for Poetry, is oriented toward the opposite motion, so the reconception of blood in this fashion occurs in an unacknowledged space in poetics. And instead of converting established doctrine into poetry as they do in many other instances (p.118) (such as religion and philosophy), several of the poets, playwrights, and fiction writers who reimagine blood do so by probing the limits of conventional notions. Four episodes from the interval when blood’s conceptual envelope was under revision will show literary works anticipating what the wider culture would soon confront.

One of the century’s most ambitious collections of prose fiction, Marguerite de Navarre’s L’Heptaméron des Nouvelles appeared in two editions in 1558 and 1559. The presumed author, Marguerite, was the late Queen of Navarre, sister of Francis I, and patron of Rabelais and Marot. Modern readers incline to classify the Heptaméron as a collection of short stories, but one might justly see it as something more complex, a zone of social and religious exploration in a medium, prose, in which fiction was still unconstrained by the historical and cultural pressures on poetry. Particularly in the last decades before the development of the novel, prose fictions such as Marguerite’s stories maintain a franchise to reframe, counterpose, and creatively distort the topics of the present, not glancingly as poetry often does, but with unblinking attention.

The tenth story of L’Heptaméron has come under acute discussion in recent years. It tells of a turbulent, unconsummated love affair between Amadour, a young minor nobleman, a Castilian who seems more like a Catalan, famous for his exploits in the army of the Viceroy of Catalonia, and Floride, the brilliant and lovely daughter of the Countess of Aranda. As Marguerite tells it, the tenth story is an indoor epic, elaborating the intrigues and surprises of its main characters, all of whom, except Floride, have established reputations, and even some considerable fame, in the public world. The plot goes as follows. Amadour conceives a passion for Floride and contrives to be near her, first by marrying a woman in her society whom he arranges to have join her household. Floride in turn marries someone else, and after a while Amadour confesses his love to her in the fashion of a courtly romance. Everything, it seems, points toward the fiction’s evoking a conventional model for romance that is already moribund in the mid-sixteenth century—we imagine that Amadour and Floride will conduct a doomed love affair—until Marguerite interjects some considerations that propel the story forward into a more complicated and contemporary world. For one thing, it becomes evident early on that (p.119) these characters cannot be contained within romance, even though no other convention has arisen to take its place. Amadour is entirely unscrupulous in his attempts to gratify his desires, which eventually include a near rape of Floride, while she experiences feelings too unruly to allow her to enact the role of courtly lady. The drift of the story is to show us the daily negotiations of two people who are living out a mode that no longer makes sense in the increasingly modern society of Latin Europe. We see, often in painful narrative close-up, how Amadour and Floride meet, gather themselves emotionally, resolve to handle their feelings one way or another, meet again, gather themselves again, and so on. Often years pass between these meetings, but Marguerite’s narrator gives almost no attention to the public world. The story takes place entirely within the houses, and the minds, of the unfulfilled lovers. It is a resolutely modern tale fashioned out of the workings of older, all but obsolete romance fiction in which the gaps and misprisions among the principals are vastly more important than what succeeds at bringing them together.

Among those gaps, certain refusals stand out. Marguerite virtually neutralizes two received, historical senses of blood that one might expect to find in a conventional romance: the public blood of heroism and the familial blood of lineage. On the one hand, the narrator openly declines to talk about the presumably bloody events that make Amadour famous, “for to tell all of his deeds,” she writes, “would take an entire day.”37 He is a war hero whose triumphs are imagined as if from a housebound standpoint, with the results noted but no guts or gore visible. On the other hand, blood as family currency is neutralized in that Amadour is an upstart whose good looks and manner endear him to everyone, especially Floride and her mother, the countess. He voices the fear that “you would consider it vainglory that I, an ordinary nobleman, should address myself to a place too high for my rank,” but even in saying so he is literally the only one who mentions this evidently outworn consideration.38 A strict attention to blood in either of these traditional senses would change this story profoundly. An Amadour drenched in the blood of battle would amount to something more than a smooth-talking seducer—would have a public, martial dimension that the feminine narrator of the story, Marguerite’s stand-in, Parlamente, can scarcely imagine—while (p.120) a consciousness of his bloodlines by the female characters would keep his seductions in check and render unthinkable the idea of his and Floride’s becoming lovers. Marguerite represents here a world in the act of casting off received notions of many things, including blood in its several received senses, and a narrative in the process of questioning an interlocking array of abstractions—such as blood, honor, and chastity—that do not mean much anymore.

In this setting, then, two curious episodes seem to indicate that Marguerite is displacing blood from its usual senses and relocating it in a fresh context—as private, concrete, and material. At the midpoint of the narrative, Floride, already committed to the son of the Aragonese nobleman L’Infant Fortuné and unofficially but ardently in love with Amadour (who is now a prisoner of the King of Tunis), becomes betrothed at her mother’s insistence to a third suitor, the Duke of Cardona.

Et pour la réjouir de tant de malheurs, entendit que l’Infant Fortuné était malade à la mort. Mais jamais, devant sa mère ni nul autre, n’en fit un seul semblant, et se contraignit si fort que les larmes, par force retirées en son cœur, firent sortir le sang par le nez en telle abondance que la vie fut en danger de s’en aller quand et quand. Et pour la restaurer épousa celui qu’elle eût volontiers changé à la mort.39

(To crown all her sorrows, she then heard that the son of the Infante of Fortune had fallen sick and was close to death. But never once in the presence of her mother, or of anyone else, did she show any sign of how she felt. So hard indeed did she repress her feelings that her tears, having been held back in her heart by force, caused violent bleeding from the nose which threatened her life. And all the cure she got was marriage to a man she would gladly have exchanged for death.)40

With this, and strikingly in the absence of blood in other senses, Marguerite stakes her representation of a blood that is the direct outcome of passion. Figuratively rich in other contexts, blood here indexes the state of the private mind, and means what the narrator openly says it means, its abstractions emphatically kept away. The narrator, Parlamente, suggests that the irruption of blood is caused by Floride’s (p.121) holding back her feelings, but we might say that this blood is the outcome of the fiction’s relocation as much as her repression: a blood that might have been visible or problematic at several other junctures has been displaced into a strictly private realm, as though to announce that private and public have exchanged places, that here the bloodiest battles take place between lovers and with oneself. Marguerite transposes the import of public blood—its “force,” its “danger”—into the domestic world and will put blood nowhere else. She reorients the term.

But it remains for Floride herself to reorient the term still further. Shortly after the preceding episode, Amadour is paroled from captivity and returns to Barcelona, where Floride and her family are staying. The two would-be lovers are about to commit to each other—despite Floride’s having married the duke—when Amadour’s wife dies in an accident, and in his guilt and grief he decides to take Floride sexually, by persuasion or by force. She resists him, reminding him somewhat incongruously of their supposed devotion to virtue. He departs for a three- year service to the king in war and resolves to return and take her by force in any case. He has become an embodiment of desire without scruples; she has become the personification of tortured, ambivalent resistance. When he is finally in the house and about to attack her,

[Floride] pensa que souvent Amadour l’avait louée de sa beauté, laquelle n’était point diminuée nonobstant qu’elle eût été longuement malade. Parquoi, aimant mieux faire tort à sa beauté en la diminuant que de souffrir par elle le cœur d’un si honnête homme brûler d’un si méchant feu, prit une pierre qui était en la chapelle, et s’en donna par le visage si grand coup que la bouche, le nez et les yeux étaient tout difformés. Et afin qu’on ne soupçonnât qu’elle l’eût fait, quand la comtesse l’envoya quérir, se laissa tomber en sortant de la chapelle, le visage contre terre et en criant bien haut. Arriva la comtesse qui la trouva en ce piteux état, et incontinent fut pansée et bandée par tout le visage.41

(remembering that Amadour had often praised her beauty, which in spite of long sickness had in no way diminished, [Floride] could not (p.122) bear the thought that this beauty of hers should kindle so base a fire in the heart of a man who was so worthy and so good. Rather than that she would disfigure herself, impair her beauty. She seized a stone that lay on the chapel floor, and struck herself in the face with great force, severely injuring her mouth, nose and eyes. Then, so that no one would suspect her when she was summoned, she deliberately threw herself against a [large piece of stone] as she left the chapel. She lay with her face to the ground, screaming, and was found in this appalling state by the Countess, who immediately had her wounds dressed and her face swathed in bandages.)42

We might see this episode as true to Marguerite’s exchange of public and private worlds—again, the most horrific wounds are dealt in battles of the heart, not of the sword. The climax of their passion, the episode nonetheless seals their affair as unconsummated. Amadour’s response to her disfigurement—“[I will not] be deterred because you’ve disfigured your face! I’m quite sure you did it yourself, of your own volition. No! If all I could get were your bare bones, still I should want to hold them close!”—shows his desire for what it is, a will to power regardless of its object, much as Floride’s self-mutilation reveals the vanity that has driven her participation in this affair all along. From this point to the impending conclusion of the story, the two lovers stand exposed, and their peculiar liaison cannot be rendered whole again. And yet it is hard not to notice that blood is implied but not mentioned in this scene, just as at several places in the story it is suggested but not depicted in scenes of war. (Narrating Amadour’s three years of martial adventures, Parlamente again holds out against particulars: “Amadour did so many lovely deeds that all the paper in Spain could not hold them.”43) It is as though Parlamente and Marguerite do not see blood where it must be expected and record its least probable appearances instead. At the end of a fiction of wars, accidents, and traumas, the only visible blood comes from a nosebleed—a seeming illogic that reveals something about how blood is imagined in the world of this fiction and beyond. While an account of private and material blood is largely missing in midcentury European thought, this story is arranged to allow for nothing else; and wherever the blood of private experience is about to be transformed into public signage, (p.123) as in Floride’s disfigurement, it becomes invisible. Like Surrey and other contemporaries, Marguerite seems intrigued by the involuntary display of blood as an ensign of passion. In a memorable passage, she recounts how Floride sees Amadour, maddened by lust, with his face and eyes “so changed that the most beautiful face in the world became red like fire, and a sweet and kind expression so horrible and furious that it seemed a raging fire burned in his heart and his face.”44 This showing forth of blood is recognized by many of the lyric poets of the age. As a writer of narrative fiction, however, Marguerite is obliged to throw this tableau into motion, applying it to the wider world of action besides feeling, and she does so by refusing to join in the conventional narrative values around blood. It is not idealized: her characters see blood, have blood, in connection with their deepest selves, but it cannot stand in for heroism or martyrdom. It is not volitional: blood appears not where they summon it by their deeds, but only where it is unexpected and inexplicable. Most important, it is oblique to human purposes. However Marguerite’s characters live with blood, they cannot write in it. It cannot be disposed to make reputations, consolidate power, or tell stories. In the interval between conceptual regimes, while the theory of humors is not yet replaced by the theory of circulation, sixteenth-century observers explore the matter of blood’s secret life as a substance that belongs to no system and no power but is part of quotidian life. Marguerite’s tenth story forces blood and private experience together.

Some twenty years later, George Gascoigne published the two editions of his prose fiction The Adventures of Master F. J., another courtly tale in which two lovers, F. J. and Elinor, carry out a passionate but inconclusive love affair until it dissolves in mutual recriminations. While Marguerite’s story is told from a female perspective, Gascoigne’s is emphatically male; in each story one sex is represented as natural in its inclinations, while the other is mysterious, volatile, illegible. Early on in Gascoigne’s story, when the two principal characters are newly acquainted, F. J. conveys his desire to Elinor by means of an amateurish love poem that ends with this envoy: “To you these few suffice, your wits be quick and good, / You can conject by change of hue what humours feed my blood.” While the literature of the middle sixteenth century and after is saturated with such allusions to (p.124) the humors, they often weigh little alongside the striking figures—of blush, rage, pulse—that are everywhere in this period, evoking blood as everyday matter and an index of private feeling. Having made a perfunctory gesture toward the received notion of blood as humor, Gascoigne propels The Adventures of Master F. J. into the uncertainties of its era. After an exchange of flirtatious letters and conversation, Elinor provokes one of the critical episodes in the fiction:

The Dame (whether it were by sodain chaunge, or of wonted custome) fell one day into a great bleeding at the nose. For which accident the said F. J. amongst other prety conceits, had a present remedy, wherby he tooke occasion (when they of the house had all in vayne sought many ways to stop hir bleeding) to worke his feate in this wyse: First he pleaded ignorance, as though he knewe not hir name, and therefore demaunded the same of one other Gentlewoman in the house, whose name was Mistres Frances, who when shee had to him declared that hir name was Elinor, he said these wordes or very lyke in effect: If I thought I should not offend Mystres Elynor, I would not doubt to stop hir bleeding, without eyther payne or difficulty. . . .

F. J. repayred to the chamber of his desired: and finding hir sette in a chayre, leaning on the one side over a silver bason: After his due reverence, hee layd his hand on hir temples, and privily rounding hir in hir eare, desired hir to commaund a Hazell sticke and a knyfe: the which being brought, hee delivered unto hir, saying on this wyse. Mystres I will speak certen words in secret to my selfe, and doe require no more: but when you heare me saie openly this word Amen, that you with this knyfe will make a nycke uppon this hasell stycke: and when you have made fyve nickes, commaunde mee also to cease. The Dame partly of good wil to the knight, and partly to be stenched of hir bleeding, commaunded hir mayd, and required the other gentils, somewhat to stand asyde, which done, he began his oraisons, wherein he had not long muttered before he pronounced Amen, wherewith the Lady made a nyck on the stick with hir knyfe. The said F. J. continued to an other Amen, when the Lady having made an other nyck felt hir bleeding, began to steynch: and so by the third Amen throughly steinched. F. J. then chaunging his prayers into private talk, said softly unto hir. Mystres, I am glad that I am hereby (p.125) enabled to do you some service, and as the staunching of your own bloud may some way recomfort you, so if the shedding of my bloud may any way content you, I beseech you commaund it, for it shalbe evermore readily employed in your service, and therwithal with a loud voyce pronounced Amen : wherwith the good Lady making a nyck did secretly answere thus. Good servaunt (quod shee) I must needs think my self right happy to have gained your service and good will, and be you sure, that although ther be in me no such desert as may draw you into this depth of affection, yet such as I am, I shalbe alwayes be glad to shewe my self thankfull unto you, and now, if you think your self assured, that I shall bleede no more, doe then pronounce your fifth Amen, the which pronounced, shee made also hir fifth nicke, and held up hir head, calling the company unto hir, and declaring unto them, that hir bleeding was throughly steinched.45

Continuing where Marguerite’s story left off, Gascoigne’s The Adventures of Master F. J. imagines, in Elinor’s nosebleed, a private blood that signifies passion and intimacy but nonetheless is amenable to interpretation and regulation. Where Marguerite removed blood from the public to the private world and left it as a product of Floride’s frustration, a cipher, a sign of uncertain reference, Gascoigne further circumscribes his story in a rarified world of great houses and seignorial estates, allowing his lovers to treat blood there as a vehicle of communication, of a private language or sign system. And where Marguerite erased blood from the settings of war and patrimony and showed its meanings to be equivocal where it did explicitly or otherwise appear, Gascoigne represents his lovers in seemingly perfect communication through blood; only the denouement of the story will reveal that this exchange is an illusion, that blood remains an illegible, ungovernable substance. Marguerite and Gascoigne are among the writers—including Sidney, Shakespeare, Lodge, Nashe, Deloney, Ford, Webster, and many others—who treat the epistaxis or nosebleed “on the sudden” and “by chance” as the bodily sign of the age, an index of passion that cannot be transposed into ritual or language, a reminder of blood’s irruptions into everyday bodily experience, and a souvenir of the fact that its motions and appearances are poorly explained in received thought.46 Where we find nosebleeds in the context of a multivalent (p.126) literary account of blood—as humor, as metonym for lineage or virtue, as sign of passion—we encounter a late episode in the discussion that runs across the latter half of the sixteenth century.

Twenty years after Gascoigne, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice offers an extended commentary in several voices on the problem of treating blood as a medium of private experience. For several of the issues that animate the play, such as religion, family, and social class, blood is already a metonym by custom. For others, such as commerce and justice, the play borrows blood as an arbitrary device, a boundary beyond which Shylock’s confiscation must not go. Or is it arbitrary? Nearly all of the characters subscribe to understandings of blood that accommodate their outlooks on more urgent matters; when their conflicts arrive at a crisis, the incompatibilities among these different bloods stand exposed, a semantic metric for the jagged differences that drive the play. Meanwhile, one received understanding of blood supposedly in force at this time, that of the humors, is probably the least adequate outlook—as Shylock himself demonstrates when he mocks those who would ask why he chooses flesh over ducats: “I’ll not answer that; / But say it is my humor, is it answer’d?”47 The implication here and throughout the play is that neither the established doctrine of the humors nor the debased senses of the term (as “whim”) current in the 1590s suffices to explain the feelings abroad in this world, whether Shylock’s willful distortion of the capitalist ethos, Antonio’s sadness, or Portia’s weariness. Most of the main characters live by urges and emotions that overgo the available explanations, and the theory of humors holds a particular office—indispensable as intellectual background, but inadequate to this densely textured reality. How, the play asks, can blood be limited to any single model? If it belongs to all of them and none of them, then we are invited to cast new attention on blood itself as itself— the substance not only of human life but of many worldviews. The Merchant of Venice deposits us in Shakespeare’s distinctive moment of a multivalent blood whose material reality is more intriguing than any allegory.

In the play’s contest of bloods, on the one side is the unreflective Gratiano, who counsels Antonio in the play’s first scene with exhortations and stale bromides:

  • (p.127) Let me play the fool,
  • With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come,
  • And let my liver rather heat with wine
  • Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
  • Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
  • Sit like his grandsire cut in alablaster?
  • Sleep when he wakes? and creep into the jaundies
  • By being peevish?


Here is one version of the state of the humors in Shakespeare’s time: a reference point that has ceased to move anyone or explain anything, especially Antonio’s melancholy. Likelier but still insufficient is the outward-looking materialist perspective of Salerio, who sees the origin of Antonio’s sadness in the hazards of navigation and commerce rather than in the motions of the humors—the “tossing” of one fluid instead of another. Where blood is concerned, another obsolete but vestigial notion is that familial relations determine the nature of the individual. Launcelot Gobbo’s father is the first to articulate this assumption in terms of possession (“if thou be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood”), and even his son, the least refined figure in the play, resists such an identification—he wants to cultivate the “confusions” of identity that come with not being the son—before he concedes who he is (2.2.92–93, 37). Likewise, Shylock reacts to Jessica’s flight in act 3, scene 1 with a statement of this assumption, answered by Solanio, who (pretending or not) overliteralizes what Shylock means by “flesh and blood,” until Salerio openly rejects Shylock’s correspondence of bloods:


  • My own flesh and blood to rebel!

  • Out upon it, old carrion, rebels it at these years?

  • I say, my daughter is my flesh and blood.

  • There is more difference between thy flesh and hers than between jet and ivory, more between your bloods than there is between red wine and Rhenish. But tell us, do you hear whether Antonio have had any loss at sea or no?
  • (3.1.34–43)

    (p.128) Has “flesh and blood” as consanguinity lost its meaning in this society? Or rather in the contest among marginalized groups that is Shakespeare’s Venice, has the pull of “flesh and blood” become a last refuge for groups and persons lacking any other claim on power?48 The denial of such ties to the next group down the ladder is a stock means of domination. Jessica herself, in planning her escape, seems well rehearsed in the adjustment of consanguinity, from a law of identity to a kind of social fiction that can be put aside:

    • Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
    • To be ashamed to be my father’s child!
    • But though I am a daughter to his blood,
    • I am not to his manners.


    Whatever Jessica believes, however, her flight and conversion activate a logic that will be played out two acts later in the trial scene: “for the loss of his daughter—his own flesh and blood—he will take the flesh and blood of Antonio.”49

    These speeches condition our understanding of Shylock’s soliloquy, only a few moments after his exchange with Solanio and Salerio, in which he asks: “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?” (3.1.59–64). Undercut by the construction of blood as family, religion, and destiny that Shylock and the Venetians endorse alike, this seeming appeal to common humanity sends a message that not even Shylock himself believes in. Where blood is concerned, Shylock’s preferred ideal is consanguinity or the pull of family: one astute interpretation tracks his hope and desolation through act 3, scene 1 against the problem of Jessica’s elopement, which directly threatens what blood means to him.50 He does not normally accept a view of blood as the common substance of humanity rather than family, but here he is thinking aloud, considering the several bloods that are imaginatively available to him and choosing an emergent sense that will allow him, before the (p.129) speech is over, to make a fresh case for revenge against the Christians. Readers and audiences given to Romantic notions of Shylock have often treated this speech as entirely modern, while materialist critics have seen it as a rhetorical strike against the ideological differences between himself and Christian Venice.51 The speech is better seen, I think, as an emotional exploitation of blood’s instability in this time and place, an erotesis or rhetorical questioning that avoids inquiring into how concepts such as selfhood, humanity, and blood are connected to one another. In this sense, Shylock’s speech cynically masks his own complex views of what blood allows. But it also anticipates the climactic feat by which Portia will force Shylock to accept what is really the modern view of blood in the play, as a simply material substance that cannot be exchanged and belongs entirely to each human being. For rhetorical purposes he implies he believes that view here, though it contradicts his beliefs elsewhere in the play. He will soon be obliged to take that position more seriously than he imagines.

    Yet another received notion of blood—entangled with these, yet embodied apart—is that it represents superior quality in breeding or virtue, as though better blood makes a better man. The Prince of Morocco, Portia’s first suitor, speaks to this view when he urges Portia to “let us make incision for your love, / To prove whose blood is reddest, [a rival’s] or mine” (2.1.6–7).52 The play even mentions a nosebleed, though parodically in the voice of the clown, Launcelot Gobbo, as he predicts a masque while the masquers are already filling the street (2.5.22–27). As the play unfolds, then, many of the conventional attachments of blood, measured against everyday experience, are shown to be wanting. Will Jessica’s love and faith be determined by her bloodline? Will Portia choose a husband whose blood is reddest? Even the nosebleed, which a generation or two earlier was an untidy, unexplained appearance of blood in the quotidian, has come to seem laughably portentous—but of what? The available notions of blood are both heavy with accumulated meanings and light of real significance. Perhaps the same is true of the play’s larger beliefs: the Christianity of the Venetians, for instance, weighs little alongside the more urgent imperatives of commerce and friendship that drive their everyday behaviors, while Shylock’s Judaism, likely warped by his oppression, is reactive and unreflective. Friction is the ground note (p.130) of this society—between communities, between ideals and practices, between friends and within families.53

    In this atmosphere of friction, the resolution of the comedy demands an accommodation. As the agent of that resolution, Portia knows better than anyone among the dramatis personae that principles always fall short of practice: “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree” (1.2.12–19). Blood here is the name of a quality that makes persons act in unruly, unpredictable fashion. Together with Bassanio’s self-assessments,

    • Madam, you have bereft me of all words,
    • Only my blood speaks to you in my veins,
    • And there is such confusion in my powers . . .
    • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    • When I did first impart my love to you,
    • I freely told you all the wealth I had
    • Ran in my veins: I was a gentleman;
    • And then I told you true,

    (3.2.175–77, 253–56)

    this invocation of blood casts Portia and Bassanio as the characters least encumbered by the outworn notion that virtue is ensured by family, nobility, or the past or that happiness is a property of the unseen motions of humors. Rather, for them, when blood speaks, it tells of the individual; virtue is the outcome of a struggle within a particular person; and happiness is the result of a negotiation between oneself and the world. And blood for Portia and Bassanio, scarcely a vehicle for abstractions, is emphatically material and everyday, as though they recognize one another by how they treat the concept.

    Bassanio’s framing of his statement after the arrival of word from Venice allows us to anticipate that he will say something else—that his wealth is his family name, his nobility, his valor—so that when he asserts “I [am] a gentleman,” a statement that nearly every Venetian (p.131) Christian man in the play can make, we are obliged to realize that his blood is simply his blood, a token of honor and integrity that every figure, even one born female and Jewish like Jessica, can claim. “Gentleman” is the commonest social category in Shakespeare’s plays; since gentility is defined less by blood than by property, the blood of a gentleman is a blood empty of extraordinary value but redolent merely of human worth and possibility.54 A hundred years earlier, Bassanio’s statement that the blood of a gentleman is a kind of wealth would have been virtually a catachresis, a figure of speech that seemingly goes astray because one of its elements is misapplied (the blood of a gentleman instead of a nobleman; wealth in place of common currency) but still makes sense. A hundred years after Shakespeare, when the term “gentleman” has become widely applicable, a marker of class mobility, the statement would be unremarkable. But in Shakespeare’s moment, Bassanio’s self-assertion shows the making of a new conceptual envelope for blood from the fabric of an older one. In the new order that only Portia and Bassanio fully inhabit in the play, blood is what it will be for Servetus and Harvey, the substance of life that is everywhere in the body at all times, that belongs as much to the commonplace as to crisis, and that, more present and recognizable than the other humors, lives beyond the limit of the Hippocratic and Galenic systems.

    In the climactic trial scene, then, Bassanio and Portia unknowingly echo each other a hundred lines apart, both insisting that blood must be part of the resolution between Antonio and Shylock that puts the former out of danger. When after Shylock’s refusal of six thousand ducats Bassanio insists to Antonio that “the Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones, and all, / Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood” (4.1.112–13), he unwittingly envisions an outcome in which blood figures as both a metaphysical element—signifying a bond between friends—and a material token representing only itself, with a value that cannot be measured or paid out. Adapting one recent discussion of The Merchant of Venice in economic terms, we might say that while blood stands for many things in the play, this scene demonstrates what becomes ever more evident through the sixteenth century, that the question of value around blood—we might frame it as use-value in relation to exchange- value—has reached a crisis, and accordingly blood cannot be exchanged, equated, or even quantified. It is only (p.132) itself, a “short-circuiting” of the value-relation.55 Speaking in the idealist register of friendship, Bassanio outlines a resolution in the commercial register of barter, much as the Duke of Venice anticipates another part of the resolution when he asks Shylock, “How shalt thou hope for mercy, rend’ring none?” (4.1.88). Antonio, perhaps the most commercially minded figure in the play, nonetheless operates within an older worldview where blood is concerned, and he barely hears the pledge:

    • I am a tainted wether of the flock,
    • Meetest for death; the weakest kind of fruit
    • Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me.


    It hardly occurs to him or any of the other Venetians that blood has a place in their inventory of commodities; the claim that Bassanio will preserve Antonio’s blood must be heard on the Rialto as commendable but hollow bravado implicating their friendship on the one hand and Antonio’s person on the other—but not his blood itself, because blood means so many things in The Merchant of Venice that it is unthinkable as only itself.56

    Portia, in the role of Doctor Balthazar, exploits the distance between a panoply of voices within the play who speak to waning notions of blood and the emergent perspective in (and especially out of) the play that favors a literal, mechanical understanding of it. When her injunction for mercy is refused by Shylock, she is obliged (and encouraged by him) to enforce the most literal reading of the bond:


  • Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge, To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.

  • Is it so nominated in the bond?

  • It is not so expressed, but what of that? ’Twere good you do so much for charity.

  • I cannot find it, ’tis not in the bond.
  • (4.1.257-62)
  • Here occurs unheralded the insight that gives the scene its denouement. Portia sees blood as an object with which to exert leverage over (p.133) Shylock’s literalism. The position that she and Bassanio represent, that blood is a token only of quiddity and a substance unto itself, confronts Shylock’s determination to read the bond strictly:


  • Tarry a little, there is something else. This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood; The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.” Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh, But in the cutting of it, if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods Are by the laws of Venice confiscate Unto the state of Venice.
  • (4.1.305–12)

    The power of the scene comes in Portia’s resolving not only Antonio’s mortal danger but the condition of blood as a vehicle for many of the values that the play puts into contradiction. She grafts Shylock’s literalism onto the question of blood’s nature, rendering Antonio’s “Christian blood” an object—not the carrier of virtue or power, but property—that falls under the legal terms of the bond; the abstractions that envelop blood at many points in the play are dispelled in favor of a starkly materialist position, barely attenuated by the adjective “Christian.” Interpreting the bond in this fashion, and of course severing “flesh” from “blood” in her injunction, Portia plays out in forensic terms what she and Bassanio have understood all along—the self-sufficiency of blood. Moreover, her echo of the covenant of Genesis 9, where Yahweh enjoins humankind from eating the flesh of animals in which blood flows, casts her emphatically modern understanding of blood as a restatement of the law. She reminds us that before blood was anything else to Jews and Christians, on the threshold of its allegorization through Yahweh’s connecting it to the “image of God,” blood was nothing more or less than the medium of life, apart from all abstractions.57 Shylock, his sense of blood neither the oldest nor the newest, is stranded here. Not merely denied access to blood, he is blocked from its symbolic meanings that have been accumulating in the play, and offered too much access to blood as a thing that cannot be handled, counted, or equated—and it is the irreconcilability of (p.134) these bloods that defeats him.58 It might also be said that Shylock’s inability to carry out the injunction argues for the inseparability of flesh and blood, but that inseparability is a relearned lesson that depends on attention to blood as itself, not the truism it has been for Shylock and others.

    The exhilaration of the denouement comes when the dramatic resolution coincides with a recalibration of the concept of blood. Shylock and we are obliged to notice an emergent early modern blood at the expense of the retreating senses of the term. While the motif of the bond redeemed by flesh but not blood has a long life among the play’s antecedents from the thirteenth-century Gesta Romanorum forward, Shakespeare alone sees in it the outcome of a cultural problem that has been voiced from several angles.59 Even a close antecedent such as Anthony Munday’s prose fiction Zelauto: The Fountain of Fame (1580) invokes blood only in the trial scene as a substance not to be spilled, but hardly as an object of semantic and cultural transformation throughout the fiction.60 Portia’s disguise and feat of casuistry—which also figure in the version in the Gesta Romanorum and in Zelauto —find an entirely new context in the later sixteenth century, when several of the most vivid cris du sang concern women such as Floride or Elinor, whose blood is the mute, uninflected sign of private experience. Portia as Doctor Balthazar resolves public and private matters together through blood in that she not only settles Antonio’s debt but speaks to Bassanio in a register he and she understand best. The trial scene is a kind of love letter passed between these two modern observers of Venetian society. Adrift in a new order in which blood is not always tied to lineage, heroism, religion, or the cosmos, Shylock is no less a casualty of this new concept than he was before—there is something tyrannical about calling Antonio’s thoroughly material blood “Christian” even when Shylock is denied the possibility of maintaining his own Jewish bloodline. But then neither conceptual envelope is fair to the part of Shylock that remains a proverbial Elizabethan Jew, and the final imperative of this resolution is to enforce at all costs the authority of the Christian Venetians. As one astute critic argues, in the resolution “Venetian society is able to have it both ways,” convicting Shylock not because of his Jewishness—that would flout the citystate’s well-known tolerance—but because he is “an alien” who has (p.135) sought “the life of [a] citizen” (4.1.349, 351), a crime that then calls up a punishment particularly adapted to his religion, namely, conversion.61 The contradiction of reifying blood as merely material and then invoking its “Christian” character belongs to this display of inspired hypocrisy. For that matter, Antonio, as “the only unmarried figure on stage at the end,”62 becomes an object lesson in blood’s self-sufficiency. His life is spared, but he has no further claim on the central couple, as though the feat of logic that preserved him also established that his businessman’s blood is a closed circuit with no outlet in marriage, children, or combat. Portia advances an entirely modern agenda for blood, except when she reaches back enough to provide the play with a supposedly satisfying comic ending—and herself with a marriage, since she has vowed to marry Bassanio only if Antonio is spared.63 Despite the inconsistency, and in the face of implicit tragedy, Portia—unlike the inarticulate heroines of Marguerite and Gascoigne who speak by mutilating themselves or simply bleeding—manages to make the emergent conception of blood seem fresh and necessary. The word itself becomes a metric of where one stands in the early modern world.64

    For my purposes, the last word will belong to Cervantes, for whom both the received and emergent senses of blood are open to burlesque in Don Quijote . Spanish society enters early modernity saturated with idealist meanings of blood, and Cervantes has perhaps an unusual measure of interest in proposing, like Portia, a counteridealist representation of blood that will compel attention to the substance itself. For one thing, no less than in The Merchant of Venice, blood is a metric here. It distills into one concrete emblem the obsolescent values of the protagonist, who represents “an entire social class whose reason for being has disappeared, that finds itself in a kind of limbo waiting for new institutions and new social structures to develop where there will be a place and a role for them.”65 Like L’Heptaméron, Don Quijote registers the heat of not only social tension but intellectual ferment; the energies accumulating behind blood are too much to ignore. Accordingly, Cervantes advances the project shared by Marguerite, Gascoigne, and many others to the point that anything other than a literal understanding of blood is made to seem absurd. Like Shakespeare, he recognizes blood as a concept under revision and registers (p.136) that revision for a less learned, more diverse audience than an earlier generation of writers had.

    Blood in Don Quijote appears through a single word, sangre, that opens onto several conceptual planes with starkly different relations to the world at large. One of these is the heroic blood of romance, which encompasses the idealist abstractions of Shakespeare’s Duke of Morocco. While Quijote himself sees this blood throughout the novel, the reader does not, for its power depends in part on scarcity and indirection. It is evoked in prospect and retrospect, as when Quijote sees an icon of Santiago Matamoros with a bloody sword or when he prepares for battle with the Knight of the Wood: “The knights woke [the squires] and ordered them to ready the horses, because as soon as the sun rose, the two of them would have to engage in bloody, single, and unequaled combat.”66 This sort of blood cannot be shed in the here and now of the novel, since the valor it signifies belongs to an inaccessible past and an unlikely future, but never to the present. Another part of the same conceptual envelope belongs to the clinical blood of late Renaissance science, which flows copiously from the wounds given and received by the men of this world. Frustrated on his errand to Dulcinea, Sancho Panza even pummels his own head and draws this blood from himself.67 Subject to human disposition, such blood resists abstract meanings in favor of a matter-of-fact quality. And a third element is particular to Spain and its territories, namely, the sangre that is judged for limpieza or purity by statute and custom, betokening lineage as a cristiano viejo (old Christian), converso, or morisco (Jewish or Muslim convert).

    One might ask of the novel the same question we ask of the Renaissance at large: Is this all the same blood? When a master and servant fall to blows in the confusion of a dark inn, or when a carrier thrashes Don Quijote in his bed, is the blood that gushes forth the same as the blood that signifies valor or that can be pure or impure? The contradictions of early modern blood are brought to crisis here, rendering the concept not only semantically open but—what we have not noticed elsewhere—illegible to the characters themselves, who cannot know how to connect a bloody mouth to the distinctions they maintain in principle or why a largely abstract concept should flow so freely that it makes the room a lake.68 Cervantes stages this illegibility much as (p.137) Shakespeare does, by compelling attention to the material substance of blood, as if to suggest that the reality controls all of these abstractions. But he goes further, insisting on blood’s condition as a fluid available to human agency. Where people make their own blood and control its appearances, the received abstractions will be in danger of collapse. I will look briefly at two episodes from part 1 of Don Quijote and another from part 2.

    A little more than halfway through part 1, starting in chapter 33, the main plot of the novel is interrupted by the priest’s reading aloud a tale in a manuscript, “El curioso impertinente” (The curious fool), to the other characters. The story concerns a husband, Anselmo, who decides to test the strength of his happy marriage to Camila by encouraging his best friend Lotario to seduce her; Camila and Lotario begin an affair, and complications ensue. At the tale’s climax, determined to restore her reputation with Anselmo but continue her affair with Lotario, Camila mounts a scene, witnessed by her husband, in which she pretends to attack her lover with a dagger, he fends her off, and she plunges the instrument into her body in such a way that she seems to injure herself:

    La cual tan vivamente fingía aquel estraño embuste y falsedad, que por dalle color de verdad la quiso matizar con su misma sangre; porque, viendo que no podía haber a Lotario, . . . y haciendo fuerza para soltar la mano de la daga, que Lotario la tenía asida, la sacó y, guiando su punta por parte que pudiese herir no profundamente, se la entró y escondió por más arriba de la islilla del lado izquierdo, junto al hombro, y luego se dejó caer en el suelo, como desmayada.

    Estaban Leonela [su doncella] y Lotario suspensos y atónitos de tal suceso, y todavía dudaban de la verdad de aquel hecho, viendo a Camila tendida en tierra y bañada en su sangre. Acudió Lotario con mucha presteza, despavorido y sin aliento, a sacar la daga, y en ver la pequeña herida salió del temor que hasta entonces tenía y de nuevo se admiró de la sagacidad, prudencia y mucha discreción de la hermosa Camila. . . .

    Leonela tomó, como se ha dicho, la sangre a su señora, que no era más de aquello que bastó para acreditar su embuste, y, lavando con un poco de vino la herida, se la ató lo mejor que supo, diciendo tales (p.138) razones en tanto que la curaba, que, aunque no hubieran precedido otras, bastaran a hacer creer a Anselmo que tenía en Camila un simulacro de la honestidad.69

    ([Camila] was acting out that strange deception and lie so vividly that in order to give it the appearance of truth, she tried to color it with her own blood; seeing that she could not reach Lothario, . . . and struggling to free from Lothario’s grasp the hand that held the dagger, she finally succeeded, aimed the point at a part of her body that she could wound, but not deeply, and plunged it in above her left armpit, near the shoulder; then she dropped to the floor as if she had fallen in a faint.

    Leonela [her maid] and Lothario were dumbfounded, astonished at what had just happened and still doubting its reality although Camila lay on the floor, bathed in blood. Lothario, horrified and breathless, rushed over to her to pull out the dagger, and when he saw how small the wound was, he stopped being afraid and once again marveled at the great sagacity, prudence, and intelligence of the beautiful Camila. . . .

    Leonela stanched her mistress’s blood, which was no more than what was necessary to make the lie believable, and washing the wound with a little wine, she bandaged it the best she could, and as she treated her she said words that would have been enough, even if nothing had been said before, to persuade Anselmo that he had in Camila the very image and example of virtue.)70

    While in the denouement of The Merchant of Venice blood is revealed afresh as material substance and property, in this scene Cervantes goes further by entertaining the faulty connections between its material appearance and the abstractions of virtue and heroism. We see here what we never see in Shakespeare, an Anselmo who, witnessing actual blood, sees truth where we recognize deception. Instead of Portia’s suspension of abstractions, this tale turns on Camila’s shrewdness in summoning a host of them with a few drops of real blood. But this is only one in a train of such episodes.

    Part 1, chapter 35 interrupts “The Curious Fool” with an interlude in which Quijote, asleep in the inn where the story is being read, (p.139) dreams that he is in battle against the giant who menaces the Princess Micomicona. Sancho Panza witnesses the start of this struggle and calls the priest, the barber, and the innkeeper from the reading of the tale, saying

    —Acudid, señores, presto y socorred a mi señor, que anda envuelto en la más reñida y trabada batalla que mis ojos han visto. ¡Vive Dios que ha dado una cuchillada al gigante enemigo de la señora princesa Micomicona, que le ha tajado la cabeza cercen a cercen, como si fuera un nabo!. . .

    En esto oyeron un gran ruido en el aposento y que don Quijote decía a voces:

    —¡Tente, ladrón, malandrín, follón, que aquí te tengo y no te ha de valer tu cimitarra!

    Y parecía que daba grandes cuchilladas por las paredes. Y dijo Sancho:

    —No tienen que pararse a escuchar, sino entren a despartir la pelea o a ayudar a mi amo; aunque ya no será menester, porque sin duda alguna el gigante está ya muerto y dando cuenta a Dios de su pasada y mala vida, que yo vi correr la sangre por el suelo, y la cabeza cortada y caída a un lado, que es tamaña como un gran cuero de vino.

    —Que me maten—dijo a esta sazón el ventero—si don Quijote o don diablo no ha dado alguna cuchillada en alguno de los cueros de vino tinto que a su cabecera estaban llenos, y el vino derramado debe de ser lo que le parece sangre a este buen hombre.71

    (“Come, Señores, come quickly and help my master, who’s involved in the fiercest, most awful battle my eyes have ever seen! By God, what a thrust he gave to the giant, the enemy of the Princess Micomicona, when he cut his head right off, like a turnip!. . .

    Just then they heard a loud noise in the garret and the sound of Don Quijote shouting:

    “Hold, thief, scoundrel, coward! I have you now, and your scimitar will be of little use to you!” And he seemed to be slashing at the walls with his sword. Sancho said: “Don’t stand and listen, go in and stop the fight or help my master, though that won’t be necessary because, no doubt about it, the giant must be dead by now and giving an (p.140) accounting to God of his sinful life; I saw his blood running along the floor, and his head cut off and fallen to one side, a head the size of a big wineskin.”

    “Strike me dead,” said the innkeeper, “if Don Quixote, or Don Devil, hasn’t slashed one of the skins of red wine hanging at the head of his bed; the spilled wine must be what this good man thinks is blood.”)72

    As the narrator goes on, “He had slashed the wineskins so many times with his sword, thinking he was slashing the giant, that the entire room was covered in wine.” The innkeeper, furious at the loss of the wine, begins to beat Quijote much more fiercely than anyone would beat him if the room were awash with blood. Quijote’s heroic “blood”—that which can never really be shown in the novel—is replaced by an even more prosaic and literal fluid, but one that has greater exchange-value in the quotidian order of this provincial inn. This is to parody the problem of articulating a discourse of blood as part of the everyday, because at one stroke Quijote seemingly accomplishes a virtual enactment of the early modern project around blood. But he only appears to carry blood over from legend and symbol into material reality: in fact this episode confirms that the blood of his chivalric fantasies has no place in the emergent modern world, that its parodic equivalent might be wine but that there will be no rivers of heroic or monstrous blood in this inn. While Quijote, with eyes of romance, sees all blood as heroic, even he would notice that there is too much of it here—but he is asleep throughout this episode, and after sleepwalking through the battle with the wineskins, is taken to bed without awakening.

    Finally, these episodes are answered by another, in chapter 21 of part 2, in which yet another seeming irruption of blood changes the course of the plot. The rich farmer Camacho is about to marry Quiteria, the most beautiful girl in a neighboring village. Since childhood she has loved the poor shepherd Basilio, but out of covetousness and despite Basilio’s many natural gifts, Quiteria’s father has arranged the marriage to Camacho. Quijote and Sancho attend the wedding, and at the moment that Camacho and Quiteria appear, Basilio announces his prior claim on Quiteria and then theatrically impales himself on his dagger. On the edge of death, “bathed in his own blood,” Basilio (p.141) asks Quiteria to marry him since he is about to die anyway. Camacho, he observes bitterly, will be delayed only a little in claiming her as his bride. She and Camacho agree, the marriage is carried out, and then Basilio

    con presta ligereza se levantó en pie, y con no vista desenvoltura se sacó el estoque, a quien servía de vaina su cuerpo. Quedaron todos los circunstantes admirados, y algunos dellos, más simples que curiosos, en altas voces comenzaron a decir:

    —¡Milagro, milagro!

    Pero Basilio replicó:

    —No ¡milagro, milagro, sino industria, industria!

    El cura, desatentado y atónito, acudió con ambas manos a tentar la herida, y halló que la cuchilla había pasado, no por la carne y costillas de Basilio, sino por un cañón hueco de hierro que, lleno de sangre, en aquel lugar bien acomodado tenía, preparada la sangre, según después se supo, de modo que no se helase.73

    (leaped with great agility to his feet and with remarkable ease pulled out the sword that had been sheathed in his body. All the onlookers were astonished, and some of them, more simple-minded than inquisitive, began to shout: “A miracle, a miracle!” But Basilio replied: “Not ‘a miracle, a miracle,’ but industry, industry!” The priest, confused and bewildered, hurried to touch the wound with both hands, and he discovered that the blade has passed not through the flesh and ribs of Basilio, but through a hollow metal tube filled with blood, which he had carefully placed there; as it was later learned, he had prepared the blood so it would not congeal.)74

    Having established that the blood of romance is unavailable here, Cervantes goes further than perhaps any contemporaneous writer of fiction in representing blood as what it has never been before this era, a substance whose ideality is pure illusion. Basilio’s cry “industry, industry!” is the refrain of this shift. For blood in this episode is made aggressively literal, figuring itself but remaining an inert, instrumental fluid; and in the triptych of episodes beginning with “The Curious Fool,” Cervantes shows there is no natural correspondence between (p.142) the appearance of blood and the conclusions drawn by its observers, that counterfeit blood evokes the same values as real—and that where early modern blood is concerned, there is no place for the heroic or the miraculous. The reflection on a quotidian blood, imagined since the early sixteenth century and dramatized by writers such as Marguerite and Gascoigne, is realized here at the expense of the received abstractions. The cry “industry, industry!” seals the changes that have been under way throughout the century.

    One is obliged to ask, as a concluding grace note, how a writer who has imagined the multifarious but always highly material bloods of Don Quijote could then conceive a story like La fuerza de la sangre, in which, as I noted, the cri du sang can appear to retain its force. Perhaps the convention might be understood as a superstitious tribute to a moribund system of beliefs, or a return by Cervantes to the kind of idealisms he mocks in the novel.75 Or perhaps like Pierre Menard’s Don Quijote, the cri du sang reproduced in the era of an individual, industrial blood may evoke a different set of assumptions and values through exactly the same conventions. Thus the boy’s blood spilt at the center of the tale is only itself a liquid whose appearance provokes a series of social acts that end by reestablishing consanguinity, reconstituting by coincidence something that has otherwise lost its force—but the object of the tale is blood, not consanguinity. The power of this blood is the power not of the received cri du sang nor of superstition, but of its distinctive moment, between allegories. An envelope—or so the lexicographer Thomas Blount has it in his Glossographia (1661)—involves not only the act of enclosure but the possibility that an enclosed object is encumbered, burdened, even embarrassed by its wrapping. Shakespeare and Cervantes show blood both inhabiting a received conceptual envelope and remaking that enclosure from the inside out.


    (1) . A Warning for Fair Women: A Critical Edition, ed. Charles Dale Cannon (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), 142.

    (2) . Miguel de Cervantes, Novelas Ejemplares, ed. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce, 3 vols. (Madrid: Castalia, 1982), 2:171.

    (3) . Two convincing accounts of the story are Ruth S. El Saffar, Novel to Romance: A Study of Cervantes’s Novelas ejemplares (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 128–38, and R. P. Calcraft, “Structure, Symbol and Meaning in Cervantes’s La fuerza de la sangre,” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 58 (1981): 197–204.

    (4) . M. C. Bradbrook, Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1935), 18–19, treats conventions such as the banquet. The scholarship concerning blood that speaks is endless, but for recent instances see Kenneth Gross, Shakespeare’s Noise (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 143–44, and Lowell Gallagher, “Faustus’s Blood and the (Messianic) Question of Ethics,” ELH 73 (2006): 1–29.

    (5) . Historians of science have not often considered the work of Galen and his successors as allegories, although such an understanding scarcely contradicts the picture of Galenism in, for example, Owsei Temkin, Galenism: Rise and Decline of a Medical Philosophy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973), (p.192) and Nancy G. Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine: An Introduction to Knowledge and Practice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990). But see Peter Heath, Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna (Ibn Sînâ) (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992).

    (6) . Uli Linke, Blood and Nation: The European Aesthetics of Race (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 65–96, and Bettina Bildhauer, Medieval Blood (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2006), discuss the semiotic, ritual, and social functions of blood before 1500.

    (7) . Rebecca Zorach, Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 33–81, addresses the theme of abundance in the iconography of blood through a detailed study of the Galerie François Premier in the château of Fontainebleau.

    (8) . Ibid., 19–20, reflects on this question from an art historian’s vantage. Dympna Callaghan, Shakespeare without Women: Representing Gender and Race on the Renaissance Stage (London: Routledge, 2000), 28–30, considers recent usages of “materialism.”

    (9) . Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives (1945; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 506.

    (10) . Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1980), 147–50, approaches this point differently, arguing that since the seventeenth century in the West, sexuality has replaced blood as a medium of control; power that once spoke through blood came to speak of, and to, sexuality.

    (11) . Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 24.

    (12) . Peggy McCracken, The Curse of Eve, the Wound of the Hero: Blood, Gender, and Medieval Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), treats the gendering of blood.

    (13) . Dennis J. McCarthy, “Blood,” in Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Keith Crim et al., 5 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976), suppl. 2:114–17.

    (14) . J. Pohle, “Sacrifice,” in Catholic Encyclopedia, 16 vols. (New York: Robert Appleton Co., 1912), 13:315.

    (15) . Albert A. Sicroff, Les controverses des statuts de “pureté de sang” en Espagne du XVe au XVIIe siècle (Paris: Didier, 1960); J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469–1716 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964), 212–17; and for the context of genealogical attention leading to the statutes, as well as the responses to them after 1449, David Nirenberg, “Mass Conversion and Genealogical (p.193) Mentalities: Jews and Christians in Fifteenth-Century Spain,” Past and Present 174 (2002): 3–41.

    (16) . David Nirenberg, “Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh: ‘Jews’ and ‘Judaism’ in Late-Medieval Spanish Poetry and Politics,” Speculum 81 (2006): 418. See also Teofilo F. Ruiz, Spanish Society, 1400–1600 (Harlow, UK: Longman, 2001).

    (17) . Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine, 104–6, places blood within the system of the humors. Mary Floyd-Wilson, English Ethnicity and Race in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), describes an intersection between humoral and climatic theories that she calls geohumoralism.

    (18) . Piero Camporesi, Juice of Life: The Symbolic and Magic Significance of Blood, trans. Robert R. Barr (New York: Continuum, 1995), 27–28.

    (19) . Peter Brain, Galen on Bloodletting: A Study of the Origins, Development, and Validity of His Opinions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 1–14, introduces the Galenic system; but see Luis García-Ballester, “Galen’s Medical Works in the Context of His Biography,” in his Galen and Galenism: Theory and Medical Practice from Antiquity to the European Renaissance, ed. Jon Arrizabalaga et al. (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002), esp. 3–5, on the openness of the system. Owsei Temkin, Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 241–46, describes the relations of Hippocrates and Galen. A typical application of Galen’s thought to early modern literature is Lily B. Campbell, Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes: Slaves of Passion (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1952), 51–62.

    (20) . Temkin, Galenism, reminds us that early modern Galenism is always twice removed from Galen himself, through the interventions of Byzantine and Arab scholars (98). Likewise Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine, observes the gradual decline of Galenism in the sixteenth century (193) and the growing interest in anatomy (86–97); see also Andrea Carlino, Books of the Body: Anatomical Ritual and Renaissance Learning, trans. John Tedeschi and Anne C. Tedeschi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), esp. 120–86. Marc Carnel, Le Sang Embaumé des Roses: Sang et Passion dans la Poésie Amoureuse de Pierre de Ronsard (Geneva: Droz, 2004), explores blood in lyric poetry as a “language of desire” (10).

    (21) . The leading literary scholar who sees Galenism in this era as largely intact is Gail Kern Paster, The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), (p.194) 64–112, who believes that Harvey’s “discovery of the circulation eventually broke down Galenic physiology” (73), not that Galenic physiology was already in decline in the later sixteenth century. Her chapter on blood, which contains a great deal of useful information, rightly insists that the principal humor is deeply involved in the ideological system of patriarchal culture. Her Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004) emphasizes humoral subjectivity in the affective language of English drama.

    (22) . Michael C. Schoenfeldt, Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England: Physiology and Inwardness in Spenser, Shakespeare, Herbert, and Milton, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 34 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), deftly puts aside the question of Galenism’s currency as a coherent account of the body and calls it, for example, “a remarkable blend of textual authority and a near-poetic vocabulary of felt corporeal experience” (3) and “a language of inner emotion” (8). On the exchanges between the Galenic body and a humoral self, see Paster, Humoring the Body; on the later career of the humors, Katherine Rowe, “Humoral Knowledge and Liberal Cognition in Davenant’s Macbeth,” in Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion, ed. Gail Kern Paster et al. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 169–91; and on melancholy, Douglas Trevor, The Poetics of Melancholy in Early Modern England, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 48 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

    (23) . William Osler, “Michael Servetus,” Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin 21, no. 226 (1910): 22.

    (24) . M. Servetus, Christianismi Restitutio (Frankfurt, Germany: Minerva, 1966), 168–71; a translation appears in Michael Servetus, A Translation of His Geographical, Medical and Astrological Writings, trans. Charles Donald O’Malley (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1953), 202–8. John F. Fulton, Michael Servetus, Humanist and Martyr (New York: Herbert Reichner, 1953), 41–45, and André Cournand, “Air and Blood,” in Circulation of the Blood: Men and Ideas, ed. Alfred P. Fishman and Dickinson W. Richards (Bethesda, MD: American Physiological Society, 1982), 18–25, tell the transmission of Servetus’s idea. James J. Bono, “Medical Spirits and the Medieval Language of Life,” Traditio 40 (1984): 91–130, establishes the late medieval context for similar efforts to describe “the phenomena of life and the experience of salvation within a unified conceptual framework” (99). On the late medieval (p.195) anticipation of Servetus’s discovery by Ibn al-Nafis, see George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 24–25.

    (25) . Charles Singer, The Discovery of the Circulation of the Blood (London: William Dawson and Sons, 1956), 29–36.

    (26) . John Rogers, The Matter of Revolution: Science, Poetry, and Politics in the Age of Milton (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 13.

    (27) . The discussion of Harvey’s early and late treatises by Rogers, Matter of Revolution, 16–38, is essential. Robert A. Erickson, The Language of the Heart, 1600–1750 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 61–88, treats Harvey as the figure who conceived the human heart “more literally than anyone had before” (63).

    (28) . For example, Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Mind in General, ed. William Webster Newbold, Renaissance Imagination 15 (New York: Garland, 1986).

    (29) . Gail Kern Paster, “Bartholomew Fair and the Humoral Body,” in Early Modern English Drama: A Critical Companion, ed. Garrett A. Sullivan Jr., Patrick Cheney, and Andrew Hadfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 260–71, treats the humors in this period as prevailing rather than waning doctrine, although the article contains several observations (e.g., the changing meaning of “humor” and the rise of “vapors”) that suggest a waning. Terri Clerico, “The Politics of Blood: John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore,” ELR 22 (1992): 405–34, sees the decline of Galenism but attributes it entirely to Harvey.

    (30) . Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, Poems, ed. Frederick Morgan Padelford, rev. ed. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1928), 87, 97, 85.

    (31) . Ibid., 57; Tottel’s Miscellany (1557–1587), rev. ed., ed. Hyder Edward Rollins, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 1:8, 32.

    (32) . Luis de Camões, Os Lusíadas, ed. Emanuel Paulo Ramos (Porto, Portugal: Porto Editora, [1987?] 142 (3.52).

    (33) . Compare Timothy Hampton, “Strange Alteration: Physiology and Psychology from Galen to Rabelais,” in Reading the Early Modern Passions, 286, on the “psychology” of the Renaissance lyric expressed through alteration.

    (34) . Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton (London: Longman, 1977), 586 (5.8.35).

    (35) . Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (The New Arcadia), ed. Victor Skretkowicz (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 290.

    (36) . (p.196) Ibid., 385. Leonard Tennenhouse, Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare’s Genres (New York: Methuen, 1986), 20–36, develops an account of the Arcadia as in part a response to the uneven authority of Elizabeth I’s rule through royal blood.

    (37) . Marguerite de Navarre, Heptaméron, ed. Simone de Reyff (Paris: Flammarion, 1982), 107.

    (38) . Ibid., 102.

    (39) . Ibid., 109.

    (40) . Marguerite de Navarre, The Heptameron, trans. P. A. Chilton (London: Penguin Books, 1984), 137.

    (41) . Marguerite de Navarre, Heptaméron, 117–18.

    (42) . Marguerite de Navarre, The Heptameron, 146.

    (43) . Marguerite de Navarre, Heptaméron, 117.

    (44) . Ibid., 118.

    (45) . George Gascoigne, The Adventures of Master F. J., in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, ed. G. W. Pigman III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 151–52.

    (46) . For “on the sudden,” see John Ford, Love’s Sacrifice, ed. A. T. Moore (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), 147; for “by chance,” see John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi, in Complete Works, ed. F. H. Lucas, 4 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1928), 2:61.

    (47) . William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al., 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 309 (4.1.42–43). Further citations in this chapter will appear in the main text.

    (48) . Alan Sinfield, “How to Read The Merchant of Venice without Being Heterosexist,” in Alternative Shakespeares, vol. 2, ed. Terence Hawkes (London: Routledge, 1996), 122–39, accounts for the play as a “network of enticements, obligations, and interdictions” (129).

    (49) . Marc Shell, Money, Language, and Thought: Literary and Philosophical Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 61. Shell’s discussion of blood in the context of exchange (47–83) is definitive.

    (50) . H. B. Charlton, Shakespearian Comedy (London: Methuen, 1938), 148–53.

    (51) . The Romantic position is summarized and challenged by Elmer Edgar Stoll, Shakespeare Studies: Historical and Comparative in Method (New York: Macmillan, 1927), 268, and more amply by René Girard, “‘To Entrap the Wisest’: A Reading of TheMerchant of Venice,” in Literature and Society, ed. (p.197) Edward W. Said, Selected Papers from the English Institute, n.s., 3 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 106; the materialist view is proposed by Paster, Body Embarrassed, 85.

    (52) . While I see this exhortation as a statement of Morocco’s superiority, Eric S. Mallin, “Jewish Invader and the Soul of State: The Merchant of Venice and Science Fiction Movies,” in Shakespeare and Modernity: Early Modern to Millennium, ed. Hugh Grady (London: Routledge, 2000), 162, sees it as a profession of equality.

    (53) . Frank Whigham, “Ideology and Class Conduct in The Merchant of Venice,” Renaissance Drama, n.s., 10 (1979): 93–115, examines the play in terms of class conflict and courteous conduct.

    (54) . Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone, An Open Elite: England, 1540– 1880 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 3–29, gives context to the changing senses of gentleman from the late sixteenth century.

    (55) . Richard Halpern, Shakespeare among the Moderns (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), 190. On the “use-value” of flesh and blood, see 203–7.

    (56) . Lisa Freinkel, Reading Shakespeare’s Will: The Theology of Figure from Augustine to the Sonnets (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 237–91, offers, in effect, a rigorous account of the conceptual envelope around the concept of “flesh” in this period. Unlike blood, flesh at this moment operates comfortably within a received set of ideas from Augustine to Luther, and Freinkel sensitively recovers the theological and allegorical freight of those ideas.

    (57) . Kenneth Gross, Shylock Is Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 100.

    (58) . Mallin, “Jewish Invader,” 162.

    (59) . Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), 1:446–54.

    (60) . Anthony Munday, Zelauto: The Fountaine of Fame, 1580, ed. Jack Stillinger (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963), 179.

    (61) . James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 188–89. See also Freinkel, Reading Shakespeare’s Will, 286–91; Whigham, “Ideology and Class Conduct,” 110; and W. H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand (New York: Random House, 1962), 229.

    (62) . Janet Adelman, “Male Bonding in Shakespeare’s Comedies,” in Shakespeare’s “Rough Magic”: Renaissance Essays in Honor of C. L. Barber (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1985), 80.

    (63) . (p.198) Paster, Body Embarrassed, 92.

    (64) . Shell, Money, Language, and Thought, 74, 82–83.

    (65) . Carroll B. Johnson, Cervantes and the Material World (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 3–4.

    (66) . Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, trans. Edith Grossman (New York: Ecco, 2003), 834, 541. I have altered Grossman’s translation for my purposes.

    (67) . Ibid., 209.

    (68) . Ibid., 325.

    (69) . Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha, ed. Francisco Rico, 2 vols. (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg y Círculo de Lectores, 2004), 1:450–52.

    (70) . Cervantes, Don Quixote, 303.

    (71) . Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha, 1:454–55.

    (72) . Cervantes, Don Quixote, 305–6.

    (73) . Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha, 1:879–80.

    (74) . Cervantes, Don Quixote, 595.

    (75) . Ruth Perry, “De-familiarizing the Family: Or, Writing Family History from Literary Sources,” Modern Language Quarterly 55 (1994): 420, repr. in Eighteenth-Century Literary History: An MLQ Reader, ed. Marshall Brown (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 164, asks whether the cri du sang speaks to the power of consanguinity or the waning of that power.