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The Speculative Eye: Problematic Self-Knowledge in Julius Caesar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

Terry Eagleton began his early book on Shakespeare and Society by quoting from Ulysses' effort to draw Achilles into action in act 3, scene 3 of Troilus and Cressida; at Ulysses' urging, Achilles remarked on the notion that we see ourselves only by reflection:

The beauty that is borne here in the face

The bearer knows not, but commends itself

To others' eyes . . .

For speculation turns not to itself

Till it hath travel'd and is mirror'd there

Where it may see itself

and Ulysses continued,

no man is the lord of anything,

Though in and of him there be much consisting,

Till he communicate his parts to others

(3.3.103-11, 115-17)

Eagleton read these words as saying that 'uncommunicated qualities don't have any real existence at all; a man is not simply known to others through communication, he can only know his own experience by putting it in a communicable form' and that 'a man who contracts out of public life is contracting out of reality'.

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Chapter
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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 77 - 90
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1988

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