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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
The outward habit by the inward man
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0443  Tuesday, 17 February 2004

From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Saturday, 14 Feb 2004 15:08:14 -0500
Subject: 15.0352 The outward habit by the inward man
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0352 The outward habit by the inward man

 >Opinion's but a fool, that makes us scan
 >The outward habit by the inward man.
 >     SIMONIDES
 >     Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Act 2, scene 3
 >-isn't the meaning best expressed by changing the "by" in the second
 >line with "for," meaning "for clues about"?   Doesn't this quote mean
 >that we are fools to get our opinions merely from a superficial look-as
 >in don't (be so fast to) judge a book from its cover)? Otherwise, I
 >can't see that these lines mean anything, unless the "inward man" is
 >doing the scanning, in which case what could THAT mean.
 >
 >Clueless in Pentapolis
 >David Cohen

I think the meaning is more complex than would be suggested by reversing
the terms. It is not synonymous to saying that opinion makes us
misinterpret the inward man by the opinions he outwardly states (i.e.
the inward man by the outward habit, although this is probably the
meaning that comes across on stage), but "fool" should be understood in
its premodern sense eg. Lear's fool who says outwardly what everyone
else would have to keep silent, which makes those around him scan
outward appearances by what he suggests are inward identities. In
Freudian terms, the fool enacts the id by which the ego can be more
truly discerned. But the fool only suggests what the id may be, not what
it is, which he can not know for certain. He then makes us consider more
carefully people's outward ego personalities relative to his performance
of their *possible* inward psyches. In the same way, Simonides suggests
that opinion only enacts what the truth may be, not what it is, making
us scan appearances more carefully in pursuit of truth itself. It should
remind us also that the dramatist puts only opinions in the mouths of
his characters.

"I" less in New York

Clifford Stetner
CUNY

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