chapter  10
Community and Shakespearean metonymy: Antony and Cleopatra
Pages 17

I Introduction Metonymy is the figure of community, in both its aspects: it affords the mind the wherewithal to grasp both the contiguity, the next-to-ness, of community members and the boundary lines that divide one community space from another. Dividing lines can be benign (as Robert Frost wrote, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’); they can be neutral or antagonistic, as in nation-state boundary struggles.1 Metonymy has of course traditionally been opposed to metaphor, which is the figure of similarity, most notably in recent times by Roman Jakobson, working broadly in the field of Saussurean linguistics, who termed metaphor and metonymy the two ‘axes of language’.2 A long time ago now, an earlier joint project of ours was a book called Shakespeare, Meaning and Metaphor, in which we applied recent studies of metaphor from the fields of linguistics, psychology, anthropology and philosophy to Shakespearean texts.3 Now, we are attempting to see if an exploration of the other great figure, metonymy, can help us to understand more about Shakespeare’s language and habits of thought.4 Metonymy is a much more difficult figure (or set of figures) to grasp than metaphor. We shall, in what follows, group together as metonymic a range of relationships which are distinguishable from one another, notably contiguity or next-to-ness in space, physical

part-whole relationships (including synecdoche), and conceptual part-whole relationships (species and genus, for example). We feel that the nature of Shakespeare’s dramaturgy, at both the micro level and the macro level, calls for this, as indeed does his lived relationship to his own time and his own various and overlapping communities.5