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Roasted in Wrath and Fire

Roasted in Wrath and Fire

The Ecology of the Passions in Hamlet and Othello

(p.25) Chapter One Roasted in Wrath and Fire
Humoring the Body
Gail Kern Paster
University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines a few locutions of affect in William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Othello in order to determine how such locutions, if properly contextualized in terms of early modern phenomenology, may point to key epistemic changes in subject-object relations. In order to appreciate early modern emotions historically, the chapter considers the characters' relations to their immediate material environments as constitutive of early psychophysiological truth about self and emotion. It describes this relation—between psychophysiology and the physical constitution of the ensouled premodern world—as the ecology of the passions. The two locutions on which the chapter explores in Hamlet and Othello (Aeneas's description of Pyrrhus as “roasted in wrath and fire” and Desdemona's expression of concern that something “hath puddled” Othello's “clear spirit”) form a convenient pair in precisely inverting what they propose as affectivity's relation with the physical environment: the phrase from Hamlet representing wrath as a quality of matter dispersed into the natural order, and the phrase from Othello introducing natural substances into the deep physical recesses of the embodied self.

Keywords:   locutions, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Othello, emotions, psychophysiology, wrath, natural substances, embodied self, physical environment

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