Astronomy, Alchemy, and Archetypes: An Integrated View of Shakespeare's
by Katherine Bartol Perrault
C. Kerenyi, in his "Prolegomena" to Essays on a Science of Mythology: The Myth of the Divine Child and The Mysteries of Eleusis asks the question "What is mythology?" (Jung & Kerenyi, 2). The word myth means, "to put together," Kerenyi states, and is "the movement of [. . .] tales already well known but not unamenable to further reshaping [. . .] something solid, and yet mobile, substantial and yet not static, capable of transformation" (2). The images of myth are not merely linguistic, but primarily pictorial, stemming from man's unconscious. Both Jung and Kerenyi assert that myths are primordial images of primitive human phenomena, revealing the nature of man's soul. They arise through the poetry of mythology, and do not only possess meaning but also assign meaning through the function of an archetype, which is a "'representation of a motif' [that] 'constellates' a dream or mythical symbol" (Doty 151). Most myths contain recurring archetypes of gods, supernatural beings who represent projections of psychic phenomena, and primordial timeeternal time in which the archetypal image transcends time as well as place.
We have seen through the astronomy of Midsummer and its numeric configurations how the play is intrinsically unified through a complex symbol system whose myths manifest archetypes. Jung states that "All the mythologized processes of nature, such as summer and winter, the phases of the moon, the rainy seasons, and so forth, are in no sense allegories of these objective occurrences; rather they are symbolic expressions of the inner, unconscious drama of the psyche" (Archetypes 6). We have seen how the natural processes of astronomy, the progression of time, and the seasons are an elemental part of the structure of Midsummer. As expressions of the unconscious, these natural archetypes are numinous, and mystical, and should be regarded symbolically, inherent with multiple meanings, rather than literally.
Archetypes revealed in the artist's poetry give us insight into the psychology of the human condition. While archetypes appear in a given individual or community, in a given culture, at a given moment in time, they also transcend that particular time or culture by virtue of their trans-historical resonance as symbol within the psyche. The significance in analyzing the mythic images or archetypes in poetic literature is expressed by James P. Driscoll in Identity in Shakespearean Drama, as he comments on Jung's conceptions about how archetypes motivate the artist/poet to shape characters. He states:
The essential artist, [Jung] insists, is an unwitting mouthpiece for the psychic secrets of his time, and often remains as unconscious as a sleepwalker. Since he lives closer to both the archetypal realm and the zeitgeist than do ordinary men who, circumscribed by their social functions, are confined to life's surface, the artist can directly apprehend the true nature of the cultural and psychic forces he encounters and translate his vision into art form. Thus the poetical character makes archetypal visions accessible to all men. [. . .] Because the artist can speak the language of dreams directly through image and symbol, he enjoys a peculiar power to create myths and identities that possess an archetypal import and fascination that philosophical reasoning cannot equal.(10, 11)
Archetypes, often described as universals, bridge time and culture as they continually resurface in the collective unconscious, which, according to Jung,
has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in other words, identical in all men, and thus constitutes a common psychic substrate of a supra-personal nature which is present in every one of us. (Archetypes 4)
Through the collective unconscious, "the repository of man's experience" (Analytical Psychology, 93), the archetypes constellate similar meanings for everyone. Harold Bloom asserts that Shakespeare's "universal canon" transcends time and cultures in just this way, showing Elizabethans as well as postmodernists what it means to be human (Human, Bloom 17). Sitansu Maitra contends that through the analysis of archetypes as symbol in poetry, Jung has provided a way for us to understand Shakespeare's creative genius beyond "the [Freudian] sterility of personal complexes of the creative artist into the wide open of the collective unconscious where the human race meets" (64, 73).
From Jung's perspective, contrary to general post-modern thought, the artist is connected by her/his very nature to the psychic pulse of humanity, and functions as mythmaker and storyteller within a culture through her/his work. Through the collective unconscious, the artist is able to access common ideas and iconswhat Shakespeare might refer to as the "airy nothing[s]" (V.i.16)of imagination, and gives them a "local habitation and a name" (V.i.17) in the form of the artwork.
For Jung, the visionary poet is a
mythological 'fundamentalist' who, by immersion in the self, dives down to his own foundations, founds his world. He builds it up for himself on a foundation where everything is an out-flowing, a sprouting and springing up'original' in the fullest sense of the word ["origin" comes from the Latin, origi, "to rise"], and consequently divine. (Kerenyi, Mythology 9)
In Midsummer, Shakespeare's blending of pagan mythos and Christian rites formulates an original tale or myth that is circumscribed in the marriage ritual. According to Kerenyi, "Ceremonial is the translation of a mythological value into an act" (10). The mythological drama, as such, constitutes a symbolic journey from psychic origins to wholeness via ritual, mediated through the symbolic functioning of the archetypes.
When mythic archetypes appear in a ritual application (as in the rites of passage in Midsummer), they function to compensate for "deficient and distorted conscious attitudes in the traditions and dogmas that compose a 'cultural canon,'[heralding] momentous shifts in [the] culture's consciousness" (Lewisberg 11). The work of the archetypes in this way results in some form of cultural transformation. For example, Keith Sagar asserts in "A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Marriage of Heaven and Hell," that Midsummer constituted Shakespeare's attack on the Puritans' anathema to the "wholeness of nature" (42), which signaled the dis-integration of the Neo-Platonic, Ptolemaic worldview. As such, Sagar contends that Shakespeare appropriates archetypes that perform sacred functions, restoring harmony, not necessarily according to religious law, but according to natural law.
The compensatory function of the Midsummer's mythic archetypes in this instance results in the alchemical reconciliation of opposites (the coniunctio), in which what is considered base in nature and human relations is transformed through the restoration of nature to an equitable balance. This occurs not in spite of the oppositions present in the play, but because of them. In accord with McAlindon's ideas concerning "the discordant concord of a natural order whose governing forces are Love and Strife, Mars and Venus" (10), Jung states, "Submission to the fundamental contrariety of human nature amounts to an acceptance of the fact that the psyche is at cross purposes with itself" (Transference 143). The paradox of discordant concord is also seen at work in the archetypal symbolism of alchemy. The opus of esoteric alchemy is not only derived from nature, but is also a work of nature. Through symbol, the opus magnum embodies the essence of reconnecting one's psyche with the world, and ultimately, with the birth of the self, "the container and organizer of all opposites" (Jung, Transference 157).
Jung contends that the alchemical image of the coniunctio is archetypal, an "a priori image that occupies a prominent place in the history of man's mental development," and has its sources in both pagan and Christian alchemy (Transference 5).
An examination of the mythological archetypes of Midsummer will reveal Shakespeare's poetic use of medieval alchemy. This examination will also unveil alchemy's bridge to the present day through Jung's appropriation of alchemical archetypes in the analysis of the personality, in which "we are confronted with
pre-conscious processes which, in the form of more or less well-formed fantasies, gradually pass over into the conscious mind, or become conscious as dreams, or, lastly, are made conscious through the method of active imagination" (Jung & Kerenyi, Mythology 78).
The setting of Midsummer is in itself mythic: in legendary Athens, Greece. Yet, because the play's archetypes display typologically cultural themes, theoretically Athens itself could be any city, and the wood could be any wood. Through a mythological reading of Midsummer, we establish a formal unity of time, place, and action; time which could be 'dream time'or no time, a place which could be anyplace, and actionwhich functions transformatively, as primordial time, in relationship to the play's archetypes.
Some of the primary archetypes in Midsummer are revealed in the elemental dualisms of the play, seen in the following pairings:
According to Peter Dronke, because Shakespeare, like the medieval poets, saw the world as an integrated whole, he could metaphorically make such "hidden comparisons (collationes occultae), [and] like the prophet, realise something that was 'both within and without'"(x). If we view the Athenian court as a symbol of reason and consciousness, and the fairy wood as a representative of imagination and the unconscious, we see a paradigm of the archetypal structure of the psyche begin to appear: the animus (the masculine principle: Theseus-Oberon) and anima (the feminine principle: Hippolyta-Titania) in opposition; and the unconscious (the chaos of the wood/the fairies) rupturing through to consciousness (the Athenian court:the royals), signaling the dis-integration of the personality (the world of the play).
Sagar contends that Shakespeare's fairies were not to be construed literally, but figuratively, as portents of inner psychic darkness (37). Yet, in Shakespeare's day, fairy lore was very popular, and many came to see Midsummer just for the fairies (Losey 197). In 17th and 18th Century reconstructions of the play, it was even called The Fairies (Rolfe 14). The Elizabethan fairies are obviously mythological characters, yet Shakespeare cross-fertilized them with the legends of ancient Greece, in the story of Theseus and Hippolyta. When the play was performed in Elizabethan times, however, the ancient Greek court took on the trappings of the Elizabethan court, so the use of popular fairies made sense, and most likely made them more accessible to Shakespeare's audience.
As functioning archetypes, however, Shakespeare's fairies may be read as equivalents of the Olympian figures and gods. As one of the sources of Shakespeare's inspiration for his fairy play, McAlindon cites Chaucer's appropriation of the Mars-Venus medieval myth, rooted in antiquity, and equates Shakespeare's fairies to "Chaucer's planetary gods" (50). While Oberon, Titania, and Puck may be equated with the gods of Olympus, the fairies themselves can be seen as nymphs, dryads, and satyrs. Upon viewing the characters within the same mythological sphere, archetypes are made manifest, and their relationships become clearer.
Shakespeare appropriates the Greek rulers, Theseus and Hippolyta, from the Greek legends via Chaucer's Knight's Tale. In the majority of the productions of Midsummer, the characters of Theseus/Oberon, and Titania/Hippolyta (as well as many of the minor characters) have been double-cast, meaning that one person played both roles. Psychologically, this practice offers the thought that Theseus/Oberon and Titania/Hippolyta are different sides of the same coin. In their first encounter in the play, this may be seen as Titania accuses Oberon of being Hippolyta's lover, and Oberon accuses Titania of loving Theseus, immediately fostering a connection between the fairy King and Queen with the Athenian royals:
Titania: Why art thou here,
Come from the farthest step of India
But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,
Your buskin'd mistress and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded, and you come
To give their bed joy and prosperity?
Oberon: How canst thou thus, for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?
(II.i.68-76; emphasis added)
Shakespeare's play structurally facilitates double casting, which also seems to suggest dual aspects of each character.
In Midsummer, Theseus is a lighthearted skeptic, who has put aside his warrior's sword to woo Hippolyta, and who operates best by the light and reason of day. In legendary Greece, Theseus was a hero of Athens prior to the Trojan War. Theseus's father, Aegeus, was childless, and he consulted the oracle at Delphi who advised him to keep his "wine skin sealed until he reached Athens" lest he die of grief there (Stapleton, 12). However, on his return to Athens, Aegeus visited his friend King Pittheus. Aegeus revealed to Pittheus the oracle's message. Pittheus, knowing that a son of Aegeus would be great, got Aegeus drunk and had his daughter Aethra share her bed with him. Aethra consequently became pregnant with Theseus. Aegeus left Aethra in Troezen and told her to raise the child quietly, with Pittheus as his guardian. Theseus, however, was told that Poseidon was his father, and he named Poseidon as his protector. Theseus was known as a strong and accomplished wrestler, and also as the killer of the Minotaur and conqueror of its labyrinth. Theseus eventually returned to Athens to claim his birthright, and after many other adventures, became King of Athens. In due time, he conquered the Amazons who attacked Athens, taking their queen, Hippolyta (one of his many legendary female conquests), as his wife.
Figure 3.1: The masculine plane~mythic constellations. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House.
Figure 3.2: Constellation, Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer (emphasis added). © 1999, Astronomy.
In relationship to the masculine plane in the play's star chart (Figures 2.20, 3.1-2), Theseus as a wrestler may be connected with Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, who appears to be constraining the serpent. While Ophiuchus is not one of the twelve zodiacal signs, he nevertheless was quite significant in Shakespeare's metaphoric view of the cosmos. Ophiuchus lies along the ecliptic, or the path of the sun. In medieval astronomy, while Ophiuchus was not regarded as a proper zodiacal constellation for purposes of astrological readings, Serpens, the serpent, which Ophiuchus bears, was quite important. The constellation Serpens consists of two segments, the head of the serpent, or dragon (Serpens caput), and the tail of the serpent (Serpens cauda). They were well known in Chaucer's day, and recorded in the tables and calendars whch noted the moon's cycles (North 95-6).
Figure 3.3: Serpens cauda/caput in relationship to solar/lunar conjunctions (Roob 78). M. Maier, Septimana philosophica, Frankfurt. 1616.
Figure 3.4: Serpens cauda caput and Ophiuchus along the ecliptic (emphasis added). © 1999, Astronomy.
Twice a month, the moon on its own path passes through these two pointsintersecting the ecliptic: once at the "moon's north node," or Serpens caput; the second time, through the "moon's south node," or Serpens cauda (Liungman 36). Eclipses take place when the "appropriate conjunctions or oppositions occur at points sufficiently near to one or other of the nodes of the Moon's orbit, the head or tail of the Dragon [Serpens cauda/caput]" (North 97; Figures 3.3-4). Thus, when the paths of the sun (Sol) and moon (Luna) intersect, a conjunction (coniunctio) occurs. This is the celestial conjunction of opposites and macrocosmically represents the primary transforming theme of Midsummer. North also cites Shakespeare's association of the "Dragon's tail with lechery" (King Lear I.ii.35), and the human libido (450), elements of both which raise their heads (or tails) in Midsummer: in the calumnies of Oberon and Titania (II.i.61-76), and in the lovers' libidinal romp in the forest.
The importance of calculating these intersections was due to the fact that medievalists believed that conjunctions and oppositions of the sun and moon "are determinants of the weather, and even of certain events in human history" (North 100). This influence is obviously represented by Shakespeare in Midsummer in the unseasonal rains and the celebration of the royal marriage. According to North, blindness in one eye was "a debility of the moon," and blindness in two eyes was possible when the sun and moon were in conjunction or opposition (450). In Midsummer, Shakespeare, through Helena, speaks poetically of the blindness of love:
Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity:
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind;
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste:
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguil'd.
As waggish boys, in game, themselves forswear,
So the boy Love is perjured everywhere. (I.ii.231-241)
This blindness results in multitudinous animist, or bestial, allusions throughout the play:
Jung asserts, "The more anthropomorphic and theriomorphic the terms become, the more obvious is the part played by creative fantasy and thus by the unconscious," as they give rise to archetypes (Transference 3). In Midsummer, these bestial references suggest the primitive nature of the conflicts they embody, which occur primarily in the woods, or the realm of the unconscious.
As in the case of many of the ancient constellations, Ophiuchus also has an earthly counterpart: Asclepius, the mythic founder of medicine, the doctor of the Argonauts. Legend has it that a serpent, entwined around a staff, bit and killed a man. However, another serpent appeared, bearing herbs, which Asclepius used to restore the man's life. Because of this, the serpent became sacred to medicine as a symbol of regeneration. Asclepius was said to have brought many people back to life, including the son of King Minos of Crete. When Asclepius attempted to revive Orion who had been bitten by the scorpion, Pluto complained to Zeus that Asclepius would rob Pluto of the entire population of Hades. Zeus agreed: afraid of Asclepius' healing power, he ended Asclepius's life with a thunderbolt, and set him in the heavens with a new name, Ophiuchus, where he bears the serpent to this day (Dixon-Kennedy 228-9). According to Meadows, in Milton's time, the constellation Asclepius/Ophiuchus was referred to as Serpentarius (57). This legend connects Ophiuchus not only to the chemical nature of alchemy, but also to the serpentine symbol of Hermes/Mercuriusthe agent and vessel of the opus magnum. In the microcosm of Midsummer, Oberon's hermetic agent is Puck. In the heavens, Ophiuchus's serpent (Serpens cauda/caput) represents Hermes's/Mercurius's role in the alchemical symbolism in the play's macrocosm.
Figure 3.5: Summer Triangle/Lyra Mythic constellations. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House.
Figure 3.6: Summer Triangle/Lyra (emphasis added). © 1999, Astronomy.
In Figures 3.5-6, above the constellation Ophiuchus in the masculine plane is the constellation of the Summer Triangle, used by mariners for guidance. Using the astronomy of the play as an archetypal schema, the most obvious deific counterpart to Oberon, connected to Theseus, seems to be Poseidon, son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, and brother of Zeus and Demeter. Long before Poseidon was god of the sea, he was called the "earth-shaker," the god who held the earth and could produce earth tremors (Stapleton 182). He was also associated with the earth's fertility, the waters, rain and rivers, which kept the earth alive. Thus, he was also worshiped as the god of fresh water. In Midsummer, the ability of the fairy king and queen to upset the course of nature is shown in the unseasonable, torrential floods resulting from their quarrel (II.i.81-117). In Act III.ii.388-395, Oberon states that he has "dallied with the love of the morning herself," as the sun (which also alchemically suggests the masculine principle) rose over the sea. Again we see the connection of Oberon/Poseidon with water, fertility rites, and the ocean in particular. In Midsummer, fertility rites are evident in the rites of May. As Poseidon-Hippios (Lord of Horses), Poseidon also brought with him the ancient association with fertility as the god of the herdsmen and horse-keepers of a migrating race. When Demeter at one time changed herself into a mare and slipped in among the herds of Arcadia, Poseidon spotted the transformation, and turned himself into a horse as well, joined the herd, and mounted Demeter, which resulted in the birth of the steed Arion, the steed of Adrastus, King of Argos (Stapleton 66). If Oberon is thus equated with Poseidon-Hippios, might not Demeter also be equated with Titania? Is it any wonder, then, that Puck, being the agent of Poseidon-Hippios, turned Titania's lover, Bottom, into an ass, parodying Titania's archetypal relationship with Oberon?
The constellation Virgo dominates the feminine plane of the star chart (Figures 3.7-8). As such, Virgo, the maiden represents the chaste Amazon, Hippolyta. Hippolyta was a warrior maiden, who fought on horseback and was a huntress. Here we see a dual connection with the constellation of the Hunting Dogs, to Hippolyta, the huntress, and to the hunting grounds, the woods, which Titania rules. The Amazons' origin was probably derived from the priestesses of the Moon Goddess (Artemis/Diana) who bore arms.
Figure 3.7: Feminine plane~mythic constellations. © 1988 Stephen Marchesi, Random House.
Figure 3.8: Constellations Virgo and Hunting Dogs (emphasis added). © 1999, Astronomy.
Titania's name means "descended from the Titans," Cronus and Rhea, whose progeny were the Olympian gods (Herbert 41). Titania has been loosely linked in Elizabethan mythology with Artemistwin sister to Apollo, the Greek counterpart of Diana, whose throne was a silver crescent moon (Brueton 61; Figure 3.9).
Figure 3.9: Figure of the feminine archetype, Luna, represented in the shape of the crescent. Codex Urbanus Latinus 899. 15th century. (Jung, Psychology and Alchemy 405)
The association of the feminine principle with the moon is ancient, and incorporates figures from Egyptian mythology (Isis), as well as to Demeter (the ancient earth mother), Diana/Artemis, and the Virgin Mary.
Both chastity and fertility are attributes associated with the moon as feminine archetypes, especially in relation to the control of fluids, such as the tides, menstruation, and semen (Breuton 53,153-4). Water is primarily a symbol of the mother, of the womb, and also of the unconscious. Jung states that the unconscious "can be regarded as the mother or matrix of consciousness" (Transformation 218-19). The floods that occur unseasonably in Midsummer have dual significance: that of indicating the psychic disturbance in the unbalanced anima of Titania in relationship to the changeling boy, and that of serving as the watery womb of transformation for the lovers in the forest.
The nature of the moon also suggests transformation: birth, growth, death, and rebirth, by virtue of its monthly cycles. The changing lunar phases represent the three aspects of the feminine: the virgin/maiden (waxing moon), the mother (full moon), and the crone (waning moon). The primary form of the anima is that of the mother, although at different times of life it may assume the form of the maiden or crone (hence the tripartite aspect of the goddess seen in the phases of the moon).
However, Artemis/Diana has no power over the seasons, as Titania seems to have. Therefore, I propose that Titania's Greek counterpart is Demeter, sister of Zeus and Poseidon. Demeter presided over the earth and its fertility as the ancient goddess of the fruitful earth and the Eleusinian mysteries (Stapleton 65-6). The myth of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone (also known as Kore), also embodies the triple aspect of the feminine archetype: Kore, the maiden; Demeter, the mother; and Hecate, the croneassociated with the darkness of the moon before rising, and its death before setting (Brueton 89). The cyclical change of seasons is represented in the story of Demeter and Kore, in which Kore was stolen by Hades and transported to the underworld for four months of the year. During those four months, the earth was barren, and only with the return of Kore was fruitfulness restored. The tripartite goddessKore/Demeter/Hecatebecame, like the moon, a symbol of regeneration. The multiple associations of ancient goddesses with the moon are shown in Figure 3.10.
Figure 3.10: Illustration of "the pagan goddesses as emanations of the lunar powers" (Roob 64). A. Kircher. Obeliscus Pamphilius, Rome. 1650.
In Midsummer, the moon's influence is directly connected to Titania and the supernatural realm of the woodsto which Hermia and Lysander "steal away," which acts as both tomb and womb for the lovers, under the influence of Hecatequeen of the underworld. Interestingly enough, one of Hecate's primary symbols was the snake (Aronson 227), and the snake or serpent also played an important role in initiation ceremoniesmany of which occurred at the stage of the new moon, which was a symbol of new beginnings (Brueton 37, 123). In Midsummer, Hermia awakens from a dream calling for help from Lysander:
Help me, Lysander, help me! Do thy best
To pluck this crawling serpent from my breast!
Ay, me, for pity! What a dream was here!
Lysander, look how I do quake with fear.
Methought a serpent ate my heart away. (II.ii.144-148).
Puck refers to the moon goddesses, reigned in by Hecate, as he tells us of "we fairies that do run by the triple Hecate's team, from the presence of the sun, following darkness like a dream" (V.i.369-372). The latent dangers of darkness, found in the chaos of the wood, are also aspects of Hecate's negative but regenerative influence. In Midsummer, Hermia and Helena, as virginal maidens, represent Kore. Demeter, the mother, is represented in Titania's connection with the changeling boy, as well as with the fairies' procreative blessing of the bridal beds.
Hippolyta, however, is connected to the self-sufficient aspect of the moon goddess, Diana/Artemis. June Singer asserts that the Amazon, who identified with Artemis, signifies an imbalance in Hippolyta's ability to integrate the animus with her anima. Neither is Titania very far removed from Hippolyta in this aspect, for in her reluctance to give up the changeling boy, she embodies the "classic conflict between a matriarchal society, which seeks control of the male children, and a patriarchal society, which seeks control of the females" (Singer 48).
Because of the significant role the changeling boy plays in the balance of anima/animus in the psychic world of Midsummer, we will now turn our attention to the archetype represented by the changeling boythat of the primordial child.
In Midsummer, the changeling boy is silent as well as nameless. As a character, he lacks a voice, and his role, while retained in the narrative of the play, is often visibly cut in many productions. However, his role is central to the poet's artistic purposes in the play: the changeling child is the cause of the central conflict of the interior fairy play, and until this conflict in the play is resolved, no other conflict can be reconciled, in either wood or city. The changeling boy, as written by Shakespeare, is imagistic in nature, and as an image his character can immediately be perceived as symbolmythically, archetypally, and alchemically.
Mythologically, the changeling boy in Elizabethan times represents a healthy human child who has been stolen by fairies from a family and replaced with a wizened fairy substitute; thus, the child has been "exchanged," and is a "changeling" (Matthews 318). The child can thus be regarded as stolen, then adopted, by supra-natural beings, and translated into the world of the divine. In Midsummer, the changeling boy is situated imagistically as a surrogate son to the fairy queen, Titania. In the fairy kingdom, the child's primary caregiver has obviously been Titania, as mother.
Puck (perhaps as the fairy thief) gives an account of the changeling child's history: he was "stol'n from an Indian king" (II.i.23). Titania recounts, "His mother was a votress of my order" (II.i.123). Interesting that this child was stolen from a mother who was dedicated to Titania, perhaps a member of her cult. Though her child was exchanged, the changeling's natural mother still served Titania faithfully, and Titania reciprocates her faithfulness by raising the boy:
In the spiced Indian air, by night
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side;
And sat with me on Neptune's yellow sands,
Marking th'embarked traders on the flood:
When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;
Which she, with pretty and wit swimming gait
Following (her womb then rich with my young squire),
Would imitate, and sail upon the land
To fetch me trifles, and return again
As from a voyage rich with merchandise.
But she, being mortal, of that boy did die;
And for her sake do I rear up her boy;
And for her sake I will not part with him. (II.i.124-138)
Titania also refers to the child as her "young squire," in contrast to Oberon's referral to the boy as "henchman" (II.i.121). She desires the child to remain in her service, and does not to transfer him to Oberon's. Titania and Oberon never refer to the child as an infant (the age such children are usually stolen), but call him "child" and "boy." They do not specify the boy's age, but according to Puck, he must be at the age of male initiation (the onset of puberty, when one apprentices as a page to a knight), as "jealous Oberon would have the child Knight of his train to trace the forests wild" (II.i.24-4), to be his "henchman" or page. The libidinal tones here, for both Titania and Oberon, are latent, but the primary idea seems to be that the boy is the crux of the power struggle between the king and queen, which revolves around the initiation of the boy, either into the masculine or feminine realmto be "henchman" for Oberon, or to be "squire" for Titania.
Titania's connection with Hippolyta/Diana/Artemis and the constellation Virgo is evident. In the conflict surrounding the changeling boy we see Titania renounce, like the Amazon, "the purely feminine nature of woman as exemplified by Demeter," and adopt "a masculine component as [the] dominating element in her way of being" (Singer 46), which is characterized by the Amazon devotion to the huntress/virgin goddess Diana/Artemis. As she identifies with the power of the masculine (seeking control over the masculine in her desire to control the changeling boy), Titania "negates the capacity to relate lovingly" and becomes, literally, like the Amazon, "one-sided, and consequently she is the victim of the very attribute she had tried to overwhelm" (47). Titania also renounces her fecund/fertile nature, inhibiting not only her matrimonial intimacy with Oberonshe has "forsworn his bed and company" (II.i.62)but also perhaps her feminine capacity to bless the procreative issue of the married lovers:
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate. (V.i.389-392).
Similar to the changeling child of Midsummer, Kerenyi states that the primordial child god is "usually an abandoned foundling," the victim of some supernatural discord or trickery (Jung & Kerenyi, Mythology 27). The parents of the child are often absent, or unknown to the child. In Midsummer, the changeling child has been stolen from his natural father, and his natural mother is dead. The child, who lives in the immortal, primeval world as a grown youth, not an infant, is essentially an orphan while still a "cherished son of the gods" (28). The changeling boy lives in the supernatural world of the fairies, as the fairy queen's favored "squire."
The Greek equivalent to the changeling boy as divine surrogate child is seen directly in the young Theseus, who is told that Poseidon is his father, connecting him to the ocean realm. Kerenyi contends, "Like the womb of the mother, boundless water is an organic part of the image of the Primordial Child" (49). Water, and the ocean in particular, is considered the primal womb or uterus. The ship is also an image of the womb. In Midsummer, Titania and the changeling boy's mother are connected to the ocean: they communed by the sea on "Neptune's yellow sands, marking th' embarked traders on the flood" (II.i.126-7). Titania describes the changeling boy's pregnant mother as a ship, whose "sails conceive and grow big-bellied with the wanton wind," and with "swimming gait [. . .] would imitate, and sail upon the land" (II.i.128-9; 31).
The mythologem, or mythic image, of the divine child, however, is even more ancient, primordial, and has its roots in Apollo and Hermes. Apollo also had an affinity with the sea, being born on Delos, a floating island; he is also named Apollo Delphiniosafter the dolphin, whose Greek name means "uterus" (46-50). Delphi, the seat of Apollo's oracular shrine, also means "womb" and was considered the center, or "navel" of the earth (Stapleton 64). Interestingly enough, the constellation Delphinus (the Dolphin) also appears in the masculine plane of the constellations, left of the Summer Triangle (see Figure 2.18).
In Midsummer, the essence of fertility and procreation is inherently bound up in the relationship between Oberon (as Poseidon-Hippios and lord of waters), Titania (as Demeter, with control over the seasons, and influence over the tides as an aspect of the moon goddess), and the changeling boy, as divine primordial child, issue of the world's watery womb. The issue of fertility represented in Midsummer becomes a primary issue in the balance of power in the guise of the changeling child. In several early Greek tales, the primordial child is often seen riding upon a dolphin. In Midsummer, Oberon refers to a "mermaid on a dolphin's back," as he recounts the story of the origin of the flower, "love-in-idleness" to Puck:
My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememb'rest
Since once I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid's music? (II.i.148-154)
The image of the changeling boy has been substituted, exchanged in this primordial image for a siren, who carries sexual power. Her erotic, feminine song mesmerizes the rude, masculine sea, with deadly implications: to yield to the "dulcet, harmonious" siren's song portends death, as seen in the stars that hurtle recklessly, "madly from their spheres" to hear the siren's enchanting music. As a death omen, the siren is also related to Hecate, as mortals who yield to her song are carried to the underworld. This delphic image also serves as a warning: the siren is mounted upon the dolphin, showing power over the uterus, over procreation.
In Midsummer, Oberon confirms this idea as he relates Cupid's vain attempts to pierce the heart of the "fair vestal," the "imperial votress," whose love-shaft misses its mark, "quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon" (the power of the virgin moon goddess Diana/Artemis is dominant), and protected by the "sea-maid's music," the virgin passes on, unscathed by Cupid's love-prick:
That very time I saw (but thou couldst not),
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm'd: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal, throned by the west,
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts.
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon;
And the imperial votress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free. (II.i.155-164)
Oberon views the missed target as unnatural: such a shot should have pierced "a hundred thousand hearts." So also does Oberon view Titania's hold on the changeling boy as unnatural. As his arrows continue to glance off Titania's defenses, Oberon devises to use the juice of the flower transformed by Cupid's love-shaft to mesmerize his queen, and effect the ultimate exchange of the changeling child, before restoring her to her natural state, in conjugal amity:
Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound;
And maidens call it 'love-in-idleness.'
Fetch me that flower; the herb I show'd thee once.
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees. [. . .]
And ere I take this charm from off her sight
(As I can take it with another herb)
I'll make her render up her page to me. (II.i.165-172; 183-5)
The work of Cupid in this passage, while passive in the narrative, is yet bound up in the figure of Hermes, another primordial child. Hermes was born in a cave (another symbol for the womb), and his symbol is an upright "wood or stone, the 'herm,'" a naked phallus (Kerenyi, Mythology 52-3). Associated with Hermes is another primordial child, Eros (of whom Cupid is his Roman descendent). Eros is the god of love, thievery, and affairs. The role of Eros in Midsummer is evident not only in the underlying theme of fertility, but in affections stolen (Lysander's 'theft' of Hermia's love), and affairs (Oberon and Titania's). Eros is connected to Hermes through Aphrodite. Kerenyi states:
Aphrodite and Eros go together as essentially concomitant forces or principles. Eros, the divine child, is Aphrodite's natural companion and consort. But if the masculine and feminine aspects of the nature common to both Aphrodite and Eros be comprised in one figure, this figure immediately becomes Hermes and Aphrodite rolled into one: Hermaphroditos. This bisexual being has its genealogical place in the Olympian hierarchy as the child of Aphrodite and Hermes. [. . .] the hermaphrodite is a primitive type of divine image. (54)
As has been discussed earlier, the hermaphrodite, or androgyne, as archetype "exists as a potential of being for every human being who undertakes the quest of bringing it [balance between the masculine and feminine] into realization" (Singer 236; brackets, mine).
While the changeling boy is a fertile representation of the power struggle between the masculine and feminine elements in Midsummer, the potentiality for individuation represented by the archetype of the primordial child signifies the potentiality for change within the psyche. This constitutes nothing less than a portent of an epiphany (Kerenyi 52). The fact that the primordial child is also associated with oracular Apollo and Hermes also embodies the changeling boy as a signifier of a potential future, of enlightenment. The primordial child
signifies as a rule an anticipation of future developments, even though at first sight it may seem like a retrospective configuration. In the individuation process, it anticipates the figure that comes from the synthesis of conscious and unconscious elements in the personality. It is therefore a symbol which unites the opposites; a mediator, bringer of healing, that is, one who makes whole. (Jung & Kerenyi, Mythology 83)
The child represents the source of the conflict within the ego, and also represents the potential fruit of the synthesis of masculine (animus) and feminine (anima), the self. The personality is integrated when the animus and anima have been harmoniously assimilated into the other as one. In Midsummer, the power struggle over the changeling boy represents the conflict between the animus (Theseus) and his anima (Titania). Until this primal conflict is resolved, there can be no harmony in either fairy wood or Athenian court. In the process of individuation, where the reconciliation of animus and anima occurs, the archetype of the trickster appears as the agent of transformation.
In the mythical Greek setting of the play, it would be fitting for Puck, as Oberon's mischievous sprite and agent of love's follies, to personify the character of one of the satyrs: the bestial tutors of Dionysus who were both lewd and wise, the brothers of nymphs, and identified with male sexuality. Indeed, woodcuttings from the Elizabethan era show Puck rendered in the satyric image (Figure 3.11).
Figure 3.11: Satyric Puck. (Rolfe 116). Woodcut from The Mad Pranks and Merry Jests of Robin Goodfellow, London. 1628.
Reginald Scot, in The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), gives a sampling of the fairy lore of the Elizabethans:
Our mothers' maids have so terrified us with an ugly devil having horns on his head, fire in his mouth, and a tail in his breech, eyes like a basin, fangs like a dog, claws like a bear, a skin like a Niger, and a voice roaring like a lion. [. . .] and they have so fraied us with bull beggars, spirits, witches, urchins, elves, hags, fairies, satyrs, Pans, fauns, sylens, Kit-with-the-Canstick, Tritons, centaurs, dwarfs, giants, imps, clacars, conjurors, nymphs, changelings, Incubus, Robin Goodfellow, the spoorne, the Mare, the Man in the Oak, the Hell wain, the Firedrake, the Puckle, Tom Thumb, Hobgoblin, Tom Tumbler, Boneless, and such other bugs, that we are afraid of our own shadows. (86)
Puck also operates with a dual character: that of mischievously malicious Puck, Oberon's agent, and the other of the more harmless jokester, Robin Goodfellow. René Girard states that "the goblin belongs to a type of minor deities that anthropologists call 'tricksters,' [they are] simultaneously bad and good. The good trickster always makes up for the damage that he has done in his capacity as a bad trickster" (237). Jung concurs, that psychologically the role Puck plays is undoubtedly that of the trickster:
A curious combination of typical trickster motifs can be found in the alchemical figure of Mercurius; for instance, his fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shape-shifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his exposure to all kinds of tortures, and last but not leasthis approximation to the figure of a saviour. These qualities make Mercurius seem like a daemonic being resurrected from primitive times, older even than the Greek Hermes. (Archetypes 255)
The bestial image that Robin/Puck as trickster manifests stems from ancient superstitions, and was indicative of the animist frame of mind (towards the occurrence and reading of supra-natural phenomenon) in Elizabethan folklore (Herbert 65-81). In Midsummer, the chaos in the woods manifests the animist view of the world in which a "bush [may be] supposed a bear" (V.i.23). However, Puck's dual, mutable nature also suggests that he is more than man or beast: he operates as a counterpart to the Greek god Hermes and the Roman god Mercurius who were messenger of the gods, as Puck is the messenger of Oberon, or Philostrate the messenger of Theseus. In some productions, the character of Puck, Oberon's minister, has been double-cast with that of Philostrate, Theseus's minister.
It may be plausible to associate Puck with Hermes/Mercurius because of his supernatural powers: his ability to shape-shift
Through bog, through bush, through brake, through briar,
Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound,
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;
And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,
Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn. (III.i.102-6)
to travel at light speed. . .
I'll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes! (II.i.175)
to manipulate the air into mist. . .
Hie therefore, Robin, overcast the night;
The starry welkin cover thou anon
With drooping fog, as black as Acheron (III.ii.355-7)
and to transform mortals. . .
That shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort [. . .]
An ass's nole I fixed on his head. (III.ii.13,17)
Hermes as an infant made the first lyre out of a tortoise shell, which he gave to Apollo. In the constellation of the Summer Triangle is the first-magnitude star Vega, which is in the constellation of Lyra, which further connects Puck to Hermes (Figure 3.12), messenger of the gods (in Midsummer, the messenger/agent of Oberon), in the masculine plane of the play's macrocosm.
Figure 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" (Jung, Psychology and Alchemy 326). Cartari, L'imagini de i dei, 1585.
In alchemy, the Mercurius figure is often represented by the symbol of the serpent or dragon. In alchemical symbolism, Mercurius's serpentine caduceus (seen in Figure 3.11) connects him to the constellation Serpens and the figure of Asclepius/Ophiuchus in the masculine constellations. By virtue of the serpentine symbolism, Puck is also connected in the macrocosm to the constellation Draco, which, as discussed earlier, intersects the masculine and feminine planes and is the site of the coniunctio between Bottom and TitaniaTitania's bower, in this floorplan, a cave (remember, Hermes was born in a cave; see Figures 2.20-22). According to Jung, the cave can be seen as another symbol for the unconscious, and the entry into the cave (or, in Midsummer, into Titania's bower) symbolizes the involvement in an "unconscious process of transformation. By penetrating into the unconscious, [one] makes a connection with [one's] unconscious contents. This may result in a momentous change of personality" (Archetypes 135-6). In the Dionysian rite, the cave was the site of the mystic initiation rites in which, "having experienced the terrors of death through his/her submergence in the cave, the initiand would emerge to light again in the newly assumed persona of a bakchos or bakche" (Lada-Richards 78-9). Puck's connection with Hermes, the cave, and the constellation Draco at the intersection of the masculine and feminine planes further typifies Puck's dual nature as trickster and catalyst of transformation.
According to Jung, the trickster archetype is renowned for "getting into one ridiculous scrape after another. Although he is not really evil, he does the most atrocious things from sheer unconsciousness and unrelatedness" (Jung, Four Archetypes 144). As trickster, Puck is both alarming and charming. Paradoxically, through his faux pas, Puck's "transformation of the meaningless into the meaningful [. . .] reveals the trickster's compensatory relation to the 'saint'" (Jung, Four Archetypes 136). Thus, in Midsummer, Puck's random and mischievous transformation of Bottom into an ass affects the symbolic coniunctio necessary for the reconciliation between Titania and Oberon.
Another role, psychologically, that Puck as trickster embodies is that of the shadow, which, according to Jung, "appears either in projection on suitable persons, or personified as such in dreams," and "personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself" (Jung, Archetypes 284). These conscious defects are projected onto the unconscious figure of the trickster. In Midsummer, the most prominent of these is Theseus's restrained libido projected upon Puck, whose trickster energy absorbs it and further transmutes itthrough the figure of Bottominto the atrocious jest of Oberon's revenge upon Titania. Even Oberon does not consciously devise the means for his revenge, hence his projected shadow upon Puck, who has mediated Oberon's revenge much "better than [Oberon] could devise" (III.ii.35).
The trickster's malicious energy does not rampage unfettered, but winds down, once the unconscious disturbance which instigated it becomes conscious and is integrated, restored to balance within the psyche. In Midsummer, once Oberon and Titania are reconciled, Puck's malicious energy also winds down, true to the trickster cycle, as Jung describes:
instead of acting in a brutal, savage, stupid, and senseless fashion, the trickster's behaviour towards the end of the cycle becomes quite useful and sensible. [. . .] The darkness and the evil have not gone up in smoke, they have merely withdrawn into the unconscious owing to loss of energy, where they remain unconscious so long as all is well with the conscious. (Archetypes 266)
The play itself ends with Puck's monologue, conciliatory for the moment, but vested with warning lest future disturbances require his remedy:
If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear;
and this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend, if you pardon, we will mend.
and, as I am an honest Puck, if we have unearned luck
now to scape the serpent's tongue we will make amends ere long,
else the Puck a liar call. So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
and Robin shall restore amends. (V.i.409-424; emphasis added)
In the alchemical work, "Mercurius, called Hermes, is not only the receptacle of the prima materia and the symbol for it, he is also the agent of transformation" (Singer 100).
In alchemy, Jung proposes that the prima materia refers to the "unknown substance that carries the projection of the autonomous psychic content" (Psychology and Alchemy 317), which is as yet undifferentiated, but through the alchemical process will be broken down and distilled into the philosopher's gold, the goal of the work. Mercurius acts as a symbol for the alchemical transformation by virtue of his dual nature, as the prima materia embodies all the opposites together, yet in chaos (Figure 3.13).
Figure 3.13: "The unfettered opposites in chaos. 'Chaos is one of the names for the prima materia'" (Jung, Psychology and Alchemy 318). Marolles, Tableaux du temple des muses. 1655.
In Midsummer, while Puck is literally Oberon's agent of transformation by virtue of his role in finding and dispensing the curative juice of the flower, love-in-idleness, there is another character who also could be viewed as a trickster type who fits the alchemical role of receptacle of the prima materia as well as the catalyst role of the trickster: "sweet, bully Bottom" (IV.ii.19). The adjectives used to describe Bottom, "sweet" and "bully," also refer us back to a kinder, gentler Theseus and the bullish Minotaur.
Bottom, though physically transformed into an ass, never substantially changes inwardly, nor purposefully, throughout the play. In fact, Mark Stavig comments regarding Bottom, that
When he becomes an ass, he becomes most fully himself, [. . . ] and we begin to understand that he is willing to take risks only with the protection of art's fantasy. When the situation seems real, he retreats to his own nature. He could play the potent ass but seems uninterested; he could have sensual delights but settles for peas and hay; he could be treated like a lord but remains a friendly would-be gentleman; he could rise above his mortal state but becomes even more earthly. He finds it difficult to understand or participate in love: he will never achieve the elevated wisdom of the Athenian (or Christian neo-platonic) philosophy of love either through reason or inspiration, and he remains a "true Athenian." (245)
Puck refers to Bottom as "my mimic" (III.ii.19), and as an actor, Bottom is himself a shape-shifter like Puck, who wishes to play every role availablePyramus, a lover, a tyrant, 'Ercles, Thisby, the lion (I.ii)and is as naturally disposed to play them as to play an ass (III.i.115). Even his Bottom-less dream shall be re-presented as a ballad in performance before the Duke (IV.i.210-217).
In his rendezvous with Titania, Bottom as an ass may be seen to be a libidinal projection of Cupid/Eros in the play, which parodies the previous amity of Oberon (as Poseidon-Hippios, lord of horses) mating with Titania (Demeter as mare). As we have seen, Hermes was also connected with human fertility, with his sacred monuments represented as a phallus. Puck's transformation of Bottom into an ass is especially significant because an ass was thought during medieval times to have the largest, hardest phallus; this perhaps provokes erotic suggestion in his meeting/mating with Titania, at least in Titania's love-struck eyes: she encourages her fairies to feed Bottom with "apricocks," to lead "my love to bed, and to arise" (III.i. 60; 164), to "fetch thee new nuts" (IV.i.35). Titania also speaks of entwining Bottom in her arms,
So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle gently entwist;
the female ivy so enrings the barky fingers of the elm.
Oh how I love thee! (IV.i.40-44)
through courtly love's graphic, flowery language. Midsummer, as a play that celebrates the rite of passage from singleness to marriage via the libidinous rites of May in the woods and the more formal blessing of the beds in Act V, is nothing if not a celebration of human fertility and procreation.
In Titania's bower, Bottom acts as the medium or vessel of transformationthe mercurial catalystdissolving Titania's inappropriate identification with the animus (her hold over the changeling boy) in the lesser coniunctio that occurs between them. In the alchemical opus, Edinger distinguishes between a "lesser" and a "greater" coniunctio:
In attempting to understand the rich and complex symbolism of the coniunctio it is advisable to distinguish two phases: a lesser coniunctio and a greater. The lesser coniunctio is a union or fusion of substances that are not yet thoroughly separated or discriminated. It is always followed by death or mortificatio. The greater coniunctio, on the other hand, is the goal of the opus, the supreme accomplishment. (Edinger, Psyche on Stage 45)
This lesser coupling is ultimately symbolic: spiritual rather than erotic, restoring Titania's anima to its proper balance. While Bottom, as vessel or medium, is not affected by this symbolic act, it does affect Titania's reconciliation with Oberon: she is so enamored with Bottom, she gladly gives the changeling boy over to him (IV.i.58-60). The changeling boy is then permitted to return to his proper sphere, to be initiated/integrated into the masculine plane as Oberon's proper page. Only when the unconscious opposites of the projected animus and anima (represented in Oberon and Titania) have been reconciled, can the coniunctio (represented in the marriage ritual) of Theseus and Hippolyta in the conscious sphere of the play occur.
According to Jung, the coniunctio is "a union of two figures, one representing the daytime principle, i.e., lucid consciousness, the other a nocturnal light, the unconscious" (Transference 98). In Midsummer, we may perceive that the fairy king and queen (Oberon and Titania), who operate by the shadows of night, are indeed the subconscious animus/anima counterparts of the Athenian royals (Hippolyta and Theseus), who operate in the play by light of day.
Archetypally, the animus and anima, according to Jung, are historically encountered in the "male-female pairs of deities [. . .] where the cosmogenic pair of concepts are designated yang (masculine) and yin (feminine) (Archetypes 59). When the yin and yang are balanced, the personality is integrated. In the personal unconscious, the undifferentiated or unassimilated opposites of personality are projected: a man's anima, or hidden feminine aspect, will be represented in the unconscious by feminine anima images; vice versa, a woman's animus, or hidden masculine aspect, will be represented in the unconscious by masculine images. Using this schema, the psychological dualities of personality in Midsummer may be represented in this way:
|Theseusanimus||. . . . . . . . . . .||TitaniaTheseus' projected anima|
|Hippolytaanima||. . . . . . . . . . .||OberonHippolyta's projected animus|
If one views the archetypes of the play as a paradigm for the personality, at the beginning of the play, the personality is not integrated: Theseus has not assimilated his anima, as seen in the one-sidedness of his conscious anima's nature (Hippolyta). This one-sidedness is represented in the unconscious by Titania, who as Theseus's projected anima, clings to the changeling boyan animus archetypein her power struggle with Oberon. Her decision to identify with the power of the masculine rather than integrate it negates any reconciliation of the anima with the animus.
Likewise, Hippolyta has misappropriated her animus (Theseus), as seen in Theseus' conquering aspect. However, it is Theseus who makes the conscious choice to conquer, or "wed [Hippolyta] in another key" (I.i.18-19) another aspect, and so becomes the alchemical adept, minister, or guide of the mystical, alchemical marriage. Jung asserts, the supreme aim of the opus psychologicum is "conscious realization," and the first step is to make oneself conscious of contents that have hitherto been projected" in the personal unconscious (Transference 103). In Midsummer, Shakespeare represents Theseus contrary to his stereotypical legend of loving and leaving women. Instead, Theseus determines to take a different course with Hippolyta, to achieve a higher level of self-knowledge, and therefore he facilitates his union with Hippolyta in a higher sphere, resulting in a harmony more tuneable. This is not the Theseus of Greek legend, but of Chaucer's Knight's Tale, in which, as McAlindon asserts,
Chivalry finds its perfect embodiment in Theseus, the 'noble conquerour' and 'gentil duc'. In all he does, his intention is to establish limits and maintain distinctions, to moderate, to mediate, and unite. At the beginning, he marries his defeated enemy, the Queen of the Amazons, and in doing so restores to the 'faire, hardy queene' her true identity, binding her in a relationship which is a union rather than a confusion of opposites." (30)
Shakespeare's intent seems to be the affirmation of the marriage state, not as colonization, but as partnership. The integrating action of the symbolic coniunctio begins with Theseus's directive to Philostrate,
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments;
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth;
Turn melancholy forth to funerals;
The pale companion is not for our pomp. (I.i.12-15)
As the adept, the guide of the alchemical action of the play, Theseus again may be seen in relationship to his macrocosmic counterpart, Asclepius/Ophiuchus, the healer. He states to Hippolyta,
Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling. (I.i.16-19)
Theseus is aware of the injury, the wound he has inflicted upon Hippolyta. However, he does not wish to force the marriage, but desires to heal the wound. In order to heal Hippolyta, he must also heal himself, and so the descent into self-discoveryindividuation/integrationbegins.
The influence of Asclepius/Ophiuchus as represented in the constellations is clear in the transformation process. The connection between the healing arts and alchemy is an ancient association. Aronson contends that the archetype of Asclepius as healer consists of two aspects: the techne or skill of healing, and the miracle and mystery of healing (284). The latter is seen in Asclepius's ability to restore life to the dead.
For the alchemist/healer, this mysterious aspect often took the guise of magic, as the alchemists often worked outside the accepted norms of society and closely guarded their secrets, in large part to assure "their political survival" (Singer 98). Although the alchemists' esoteric practice of the opus magnum worked towards the spiritual perfection or wholeness of manin concert with nature and under God's guidancealchemists were still eschewed, and often persecuted, by the Church. As the Church sought the place of dominance in nearly every area of the community during the Middle Ages, the alchemists' work towards spiritual perfection infringed upon the domain and control of the Church's priests and agents. According to Singer, the alchemists' teachings "involved liberating the individual from false concepts and preprogrammed ideas," and as such, threatened the authority of the Church as it encouraged the concept not only of an individual's participation in one's personal opus, but also the individual's manipulation of natural elements and forces in the process, "initiating their own process of creation" (Singer 98-99; emphasis added). At this point the Church viewed alchemy as something of a natural magic, even if its goal was healing, as in the case of Paracelsus (15th 16th Centuries); he was a medical doctor/alchemist who was regarded as the "first modern medical scientist" (Jacobi xlvii). In his medical practice, Paracelsus used a combination of chemical science with spirituality, resulting in a holistic approach towards healing both body and soul. He wrote of his medical experiences using alchemical symbolism. Paracelsus's healing methods seem paradoxical in our age when science and religion are separated by a gaping chasm. But such was not the case in the Middle Ages, when "philosophy [i.e., Neo-Platonism] conceived as a natural science, and astronomy conceived as the science of interaction between man and the cosmos, [were] the indispensable prerequisites" for hermetic alchemy (Jacobi xlvi).
On such precarious footing with the Church, the alchemists veiled their true purposes with multiple layers of symbolism, obfuscating their real goals, which ultimately resulted in their general dismissal by the publicas seen in Ben Jonson's satirical play The Alchemist. However, according to Singer, this attitude occurred
not so much because people feared the consequence of a radical alteration in the physical and psychic structures of their world, but because they perceived the process as a literal one rather than as a symbolic one, and saw it as much effort being expended after what was an impossibly vain and foolish hope. Behind their smokescreen, the work of the alchemists flourished. While a misled public pointed to the fact that no gold was emerging from the laborium where the work was being performed, the alchemists shared with each other the precept, "our gold is not the common gold,' meaning that their work was directed toward achieving the 'philosopher's gold,' which was not the perfection of matter, but of the spirit. Matter provided both the metaphor and the vehicle for the transformative process. (Singer 98-9)
With the rise of Puritanism in Elizabethan England, alchemy's influence waned as the gulf widened between nature and religion, yet it persisted in the work of scientists such as Kepler, mathematicians such as Dee, and scientists/mystics such as Fludd. Alchemy continued to wane until medical science through the work of Carl Jung again embraced its symbolism as a significant language of psychic phenomenon.
It speaks much of Shakespeare's view of the world that, in the face of the rising restrictions of Puritanism, he combines sacred and profane imagery in Midsummer in the wedding metaphor of the coniunctio to unify the microcosm and macrocosm of man. This is a healing view of the world, one that works towards the wholeness of the human condition. In Shakespeare's writings, according to Aronson, healing is founded on "wonder," which might be said to approximate magic (283). Psychologically, Shakespeare's healing principle is symbolized by integration rather than by medical practice. According to Aronson, this occurs as "the repressed impulses come to the surface and thereby become part of the process of individuation, [and] the healing process impels the patient to come to terms with what, till then, has been an unacknowledged aspect of his personality" (283). In Midsummer, Theseus, as both healer and diseased, must look beneath the masculine exterior of the Amazon and face himself, in the guise of his projected anima in Titania. This is a form of Theseus's submission to the ego and signals a movement from pride to humility, from conqueror to surrender, in order to achieve the integration of his anima and coniunctio with Hippolyta, or, his true self.
Jung expresses the mythologem of the coniunctio in this way:
The union of the conscious mind or ego-personality with the unconscious personified anima produces a new personality compounded of both . . . Since it transcends consciousness it can no longer be called 'ego' but must be given the name of 'self.' [. . .] The self too is both ego and non-ego, subjective and objective, individual and collective. It is the "uniting symbol" which epitomizes the total union of opposites. As such and in accordance with its paradoxical nature, it can only be expressed by means of symbols. (Transference 103)
In the symbolic world of Midsummer, medicine does play a part, through the seemingly magical, but also mystical pharmakios: the juice of the flower, love-in-idleness, supernaturally transformed when struck by Cupid's arrow. The drug operates by inciting temporary insanity in the guise of the irrational love-madness of love at first sight. This madness reduces everything to primordial chaosseen as both the turbulent waters of the womb and the darkness of the tomb, from which the new personality arises, newborn.
Titania, as carrier of Theseus's projected anima, must undergo the rite of passage inherent in this process. In Midsummer, the rite is one of fertility, and is symbolized in her coniunctio with Bottom. But this is not the ultimate moment of conjunction. That occurs after Oberon revives her with the juice or drug of "another herb" (II.i.184). She is then restored to her former, natural relationship with the fairy king, which is consolidated in her ceremonial, cosmic dance with Oberon:
Come my queen, take hands with me,
And rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.
Now thou and I are new in amity. (IV.i.84-6)
Interestingly enough, Hippolyta also shares the role as carrier of wholeness in the coniunctio. This becomes most evident in the hunting scene.
Towards the end of Midsummer, one of the most psychologically significant scenes, yet most overlooked (and oftentimes cut from production), is that of the hunting party of Theseus and Hippolyta into the woods. It follows on the heels of the awakening (both literal and psychic) of the fairy queen Titania and her restored amity with Oberon. This awakening signals the return to the conscious world of the play. The consciously shared activity of the hunt by Theseus and Hippolyta also signals the integration of the unconscious anima (Titania) by the conscious animus (Theseus), and Hippolyta's reconciliation with the unconscious animus (Oberon). This consolidating action paves the way for the consummation of all the lovers in the ensuing rites of marriage.
Figure 3.14: Mythic Hunting Dogs. © 1988, Stephen Marchesi, Random House.
Figure 3.15: Constellation: Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs (emphasis added). © 1999, Astronomy.
Immediately apparent in this scene is that Hippolyta and Theseus are hunting with their hounds together. This situates them, macrocosmically, in the realm of the Hunting Dogs, which is located in the feminine plane of the play's cosmos (Figures 3.14-3.15). This signifies, or constellates, if you will, the psychic movement of Theseus into Hippolyta's realm: he is meeting her on her own turf, on her terms. The masculine principle is acceding to the feminine principle, and integration is occurring. The occasion is the courtly "Maying," or excursion into the wood: a hunt not only for game, but also for one's mate. This is a festive, joyous, shared activity, signaling a different musical key from that of the play's funereal beginning: the horns and hounds are baying in musical conjunction, as if to announce the newfound harmony of their masters. The sounding of their trumpets awakens the lovers from their dark dream.
Thus, we have seen how the mythology of Midsummer has birthed archetypes embodied throughout the microcosm and macrocosm of the play, working towards a reconciliation of the opposites of masculine and feminine in the process of the integration of the personality. Shakespeare has adeptly used the outer cosmos to define the inner cosmos, which shall be further magnified in the stages of the play's alchemical process.
Chapter 4: Alchemy And Individuation: The Transforming Process Of The Play