DOI link for Visceral Knowledge
Visceral Knowledge book
To begin with a simple observation: Shakespeare's plays are suffused with references to human entrails. While there are of course several plays in the Shakespearean canon in which the body's internal organs are barely mentioned, there are also in this corpus quite a few works that are preoccupied with an imagination of the visceral interior of the human body. The question of why this should be so is the point of origin, and the subject, of this essay. The plays I discuss at some length below-Troilus and Cressida, Hamlet, The Winter's Tale-seem to me to be important places to begin to examine Shakespeare's understanding of corporeal inwardness. l
in terms of one's relation to entrails.2 For the skeptic, according to Stanley Cavell, the potential gap between the private, interior self and its external expression (in words, gestures, or actions) typically takes on spatial, corporeal dimensions: self and other are both sundered into an inside and an outside, with an ever-present potential for a breach between the two. 3 The sense of the hiddenness of the other to one's self is the source of what I take to be a central drive of skepticism-the drive to access the interior of the body of the other. If entrails are where the other's innermost truth is imagined to be located or guaranteed, the skeptic appears to be searching out this ulterior truth within the body, beyond the veils of its surface.4 Several of Shakespeare's characters seem to imagine that penetrating the other's body would somehow solve the riddle of knowing the other; several of Shakespeare's plays question and problematize this notion, while at the same time allocating to the body's interior a decisive place in the comprehension of subjectivity.