A Midsummer Night's Dream : Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes


Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes:

An Integrated View of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

by Katherine Bartol Perrault

Texas Tech University
The Graduate School
Lubbock, Texas

Dissertation
for the Degree of
Doctor Of Philosophy

Major: Fine Arts (Theatre)
Date of Graduation: August, 11, 2001

Abstract

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a complex blend of metaphors: multitudinous references to the moon, mythological figures ancient and Elizabethan, and alchemical symbolism. An understanding of Shakespeare's cosmology leads to an analysis of the play's astronomy, revealing mythological archetypes that correspond to the play's characters. The archetypal struggle which ensues among the characters is the process of the opus magnum of alchemy—the coniunctio—a physical as well as psychic process which embodies the transforming theme of the play's characters from singleness to marriage. Emerging from the collective unconscious, the alchemical symbolism of the coniunctio correlates directly to Jung's process of individuation and reveals not only an integrated view of the play, but also an equivalent, contemporary reading.

While the moon operates significantly within the play as metaphor, the astronomy of the play manifests the actual stage of the moon during which the coniunctio occurs. The constellations of the late spring/early summer sky also reveal archetypes in the play which are grounded in medieval concepts of cosmic numerology and alchemical number symbolism, the microcosm/macrocosm, and the seasons that operate as cycles of transformation. The rites of courtly love correspond to the Dionysian rites of passage in the May Day festivities, and also operate as metaphors of metamorphosis within the play. Through these rites, the play's archetypes interact in the alchemical stages of the nigredo, putrefactio, albedo and renovatio that culminate in the reconciliation of opposites, or the coniunctio.

An alchemical, Jungian reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream offers innovative ways to interpret the play that may facilitate equivalent contemporary readings and performances of Shakespeare's Elizabethan work. As such, this work confirms Shakespeare's collaborative genius and poetic vision, in Ben Jonson's words, as "not of an age, but for all time."

Acknowledgements

This project has been the result of years of work and inquiry inspired, guided, and supported by many people. I am indebted first of all to my mother, Odile Bartol and particularly my father, Robert George Bartol, who gave me an unquenchable curiosity of the cosmos through his work in the Apollo space program. The Rev. Gene Powell Baker's insight into alchemy and the work of Carl Jung initiated my inquiry into these subjects. Dr. Jim Hatfield relentlessly nudged me towards the completion of this opus in encouraging me to pursue the Ph.D. in Fine Arts. Dr. Dan Russ and Kathy Russ and Susan and Ed Youngblood have been constant sources of friendship, guidance and encouragement. Dr. David Alan Galloway and the wonderfully generous folks of Christ Church in Tyler, TX, continuously lent me tremendous support in pursuit of this academic achievement, as have the Revs. Jo and Clifton Mann of St. Stephen's in Lubbock, TX. My sons Jake and Bart and Alicia and Jeff Thomas have been ceaseless in their patience and encouragement, as have Diane Patterson, Sharon Atkinson, Gloria and Gary Duke, my colleagues Beth Wintour, Collin Smith, Jim Bush, Lisa Rosenstein, and Miranda Ni who sustained me through some of the most difficult portions of this process.

I give my deepest thanks to Dr. Jonathan Marks and Tova Marks for their unflagging support, as well as their inspiration. Dr. Dean Wilcox, Dr. Seth Baumrin, Dr. Terry Lewis, Dr. Elizabeth Homan, and Dr. Ed Check have been more than responsible for helping me to find my own voice. Dr. Michael Stoune, Dr. Phoebe Lloyd, and Dr. John Stinespring have been instrumental in expanding my perspectives beyond my own discipline. Dr. David Williams has worked tirelessly to help me focus my vision for this project, and along with Diana Moore, Polly Boersig and Dr. Elizabeth Homan and Dr. Louise Stinespring, has been a steady guide and sounding board throughout the writing process. Mary Cervantes has been patient and helpful in every way throughout my tenure at Texas Tech University.

Many thanks to my muse Clarke Simmons for the gift of his joyful as well as sensible inspiration in the midst of many tribulations, along with his tireless support.

It is my hope that this work will contribute to the continued integration of both reason and imagination in the arts and the resulting collaboration between disciplines, as well as a deeper understanding and fuller realization of what it means to be human.

This work is dedicated, in memoriam, to my father, Robert George Bartol, whose love of the stars has been my inspiration, to my colleague Jia-Hua Chin, whose love for theatre will live forever, and to my friend and example, Teresa Sawyer, who has completed the opus magnum.

D.O.M.

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgments .......... ii
  2. Abstract .......... vii
  3. List Of Figures .......... ix
  4. Chapters
    1. I. Introduction .......... 1
      1. Background .......... 1
      2. Statement of the Problem .......... 4
      3. Thesis Statement .......... 8
      4. Justification .......... 9
      5. Methodology .......... 12
      6. Literature Review .......... 14
      7. Summary of A Midsummer Night's Dream .......... 20
      8. Notes .......... 23
    2. II. Shakespeare's Astronomy .......... 24
      1. Overview of the Cosmology of Shakespeare's Era .......... 24
      2. Cosmic Numerology .......... 28
      3. Alchemical Number Symbolism .......... 34
      4. Microcosm/Macrocosm .......... 38
      5. The Seasons: Cycles of Transformation .......... 41
      6. Sol et Luna .......... 47
      7. The Astronomy of A Midsummer Night's Dream .......... 50
      8. The Constellations of the Early Summer Sky .......... 59
      9. Notes .......... 65
    3. III. The Mythology Of The Play: Archetypes Revealed .......... 67
      1. Myth: The Fundamental Essence of the Archetype .......... 67
      2. The Archetypal Mythology of the Play .......... 71
      3. Theseus/Ophiuchus: Oberon/Poseidon .......... 74
      4. Hippolyta/Virgo: Titania/Demeter .......... 80
      5. The Changeling Boy: The Primordial Child .......... 85
      6. Trickster: Puck/Hermes/Mercurius .......... 92
      7. Bottom/Mercurius .......... 97
      8. Animus/Anima .......... 101
      9. The Role of Asclepius/Ophiuchus .......... 103
      10. The Hunting Scene .......... 107
    4. IV. Alchemy And Individuation: The Transforming Process Of The Play .......... 110
      1. Philosophical Alchemy .......... 110
      2. The Coniunctio: The Alchemical Symbolism of Individuation .......... 113
      3. Individuation through the Alchemy of the Play .......... 115
      4. Nigredo: Courtly Love/Dionysian Rites of Passage .......... 118
      5. Putrefactio .......... 129
      6. Albedo .......... 131
      7. Renovatio .......... 139
      8. Notes .......... 144
    5. V. Conclusions .......... 145
  5. Bibliography .......... 155
  6. Appendix: Permissions To Copy .......... 171

List of Figures

2.1 A depiction of the Ptolemaic system, prior to Copernicus, with the earth at the center. A. Cellarius, Harmonica Macrocosmica, Amsterdam. 1660. .......... 25

2.2 The Copernican system, with the sun at the center and the planets orbiting about it. A. Cellarius, Harmonica Macrocosmica, Amsterdam. 1660. .......... 25

2.3 The music of the spheres: a diagram of the Ptolemaic cosmos giving "the intervals meant to correspond to the distances between the heavenly bodies and their various speeds." From an astronomical manuscript anthology, Salzburg. circa AD 820. .......... 30

2.4 According to Jung, "the 'squaring the circle' represents the 'archetype of wholeness.'" Jamsthaler, Viatorium spagyricum. 1625. .......... 35

2.5 "The Mandala Fountain": the sun and moon are in opposition, and the dragon at the top, center of the figure represents the dualistic figure of Mercurius. Rosarium philosophorum. 1550. .......... 36

2.6 The alchemical quaternity: "Through the circumlatory transformation of the elements and humors, the opposites are united." L. Thurneisser, Quinta Essentia. 1574. .......... 38

2.7 Anatomical Man. Plate 14. Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry. Jean Longnon and Raymond Cazelles. Musée Condée, Chantilly, France. 1413-16. .......... 39

2.8 Homage to Apollinaire. Marc Chagall, 1911-12. © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. .......... 41

2.9 May knight with flowers, versus a weapon, in hand. Frescoe from Notre Dame de Pritz, Laval, France. 11th-13th centuries. .......... 44

2.10 May knight, with falcon, and Gemini lovers. Bedford Book of Hours. 1425. .......... 44

2.11 Gemini lovers. Plate 14. Les Très Riches Heures. 1413-16. .......... 44

2.12 May: the scene for May depicts the court making its way into the forest with hunting dogs, to engage in the rites of May. Plate 6. Les Très Riches Heures. 1413-16. .......... 45

2.13 August: the August scene shows the couples emerging from the forest with their dogs. Plate 9. Les Très Riches Heures. 1413-16. .......... 45

2.14 The alchemical couple: note the bulls in the lower left hand corner, at the entrance of the labyrinth, or the work. G. van Vreeswyk, De Goude Leeuw, Amsterdam. 1676. .......... 46

2.15 The alchemical marriage: Sol and Luna. Rosarium philosophorum. 1550. .......... 48

2.16 "The Sun and its Shadow Complete the Work." M. Maier, Atalanta fugiens, Oppenheim. 1618. .......... 49

2.17 The monthly phases of the moon, showing the moon's invisibility at the stage of the new moon. Reproduced by permission. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 51

2.18 Early summer constellations. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 58

2.19 The mythic constellations: Draco; the Hunting Dogs; Virgo; Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer (with Serpens cauda and Serpens caput); and the Summer Triangle. From the Glow-in-the-Dark Night Sky Book by Clinton Hatchett, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi. Illustrations copyright © 1988 by Stephen Marchesi. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc. .......... 60

2.20 Floor plan of A Midsummer Night's Dream constellations. © 1996, Katherine Perrault. .......... 61

2.21 Draco~mythic constellation. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House. .......... 62

2.22 Constellation Draco. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 62

3.1 The masculine plane~mythic constellations. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House. .......... 75

3.2 Constellation, Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 75

3.3 Serpens cauda/caput in relationship to solar/lunar conjunctions. M. Maier, Septimana Philosophica Frankfurt. 1616. .......... 76

3.4 Serpens cauda/caput and Ophiuchus along the ecliptic. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 76

3.5 Summer Triangle/Lyra. Mythic constellations. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House. .......... 79

3.6 Summer Triangle/Lyra. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 79

3.7 Feminine plane~mythic constellations. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House. .......... 81

3.8 Constellations Virgo and Hunting Dogs. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 81

3.9 Figure of the feminine archetype, Luna, represented in the shape of the crescent. Codex Urbanus Latinus 899. 15th century. .......... 81

3.10 Illustration of the pagan goddesses as emanations of the lunar powers. A. Kircher. Obeliscus Pamphilius, Rome. 1650. .......... 83

3.11 Satyric Puck. Woodcut from The Mad Pranks and Merry Jests of Robin Goodfellow,London. 1628. .......... 92

3.12 Winged Hermes as Mercurius: he is represented by Asclepius's, (Ophiuchus's) serpent staff (caduceus) and horns of plenty, which "symbolize the richness of his gifts." Cartari, L'imagini de i dei. 1585. .......... 95

3.13 "The unfettered opposites in chaos. 'Chaos' is one of the names for the prima materia." Marolles, Tableaux du temple des muses. 1655. .......... 98

3.14 Mythic Hunting Dogs. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House. .......... 108

3.15 Constellation: Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs. © 1999, Astronomy. .......... 108

4.1 Relationship of adept and soror to projected animus and anima, applied to the relationships in Midsummer. .......... 116

4.2 Courtly love: the hunt. Frescoe of the months—dei mesi; Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, Italy. 15th century. Su concessione del Castello del Buonconsiglio. Monumenti e collezioni provinciali. Trento. .......... 121

4.3 Called the "flower of wisdom," the philosophical fruits are represented by the white lunar rose (left), the red solar rose (right) and the mysterious blue rose (center). H. Reussner, Pandora, Basle. 1582. .......... 124

4.4 Lovers with a Half-Moon. While the title suggests the moon is half-full, it is obviously a crescent, or new moon, under which the lovers frolic. Marc Chagall, 1926-7. © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. .......... 125

4.5 The Dream. Chagall's painting of the symbolic coniunctio between Bottom and Titania. Marc Chagall, 1927. © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris. .......... 127

4.6 Dedicated to My Fiancée. Marc Chagall, 1911. © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. .......... 127

4.7 "The Primeval Duality." The opposition of Dionysus to Apollo in the alchemical opus. Robert Fludd, Philosophia Moysaica, Gouda. 1638. .......... 130

4.8 The return to Sol, consciousness, represented by the sun god, Apollo, and the lion. De Sphaera, Italian Manuscript. 15th century. .......... 132

4.9 The Liberation. In the context of the cosmic mandala, or influence of the macrocosm on the microcosm, the lovers return from the wood, to the city to wed. Marc Chagall, 1947-52. © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. .......... 136

4.10 The alchemical king and queen, Sol et Luna. Rosarium philosophorum. 1550. .......... 140

4.11 The mercurial serpent stirring up the "hermaphroditic matter," or prima materia of "Sunne and Moone." Ripley Scroll. 1588. .......... 141

4.12 The union of opposites. Rosarium philosophorum. 1550. .......... 141

5.1 Midsummer Night's Dream. Acccording to Werner Haftmann, Chagall was "very fond of it [A Midsummer Night's Dream] and read it again and again" .......... 147

5.2 Male aspect of the prima materia. "Miscellanea d'alchimia," Codex Ashburnham. 14th century. .......... 150

5.3 Female aspect of the prima materia."Miscellanea d'alchimia," Codex Ashburnham.14th century. .......... 150

5.4 The Wedding Candles. Chagall's painting is a wonderful illustration of the alchemical themes in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Marc Chagall, 1945, © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. .......... 154

Go to Chapter I: Introduction