Imatges de pÓgina

No women in case there be no men. Again, in the old abbeys men and women were constrained to remain against their will. Rabelais' rule gives full liberty to depart at will. The new rule reads: Do as thou wouldst. The reason for the change is that where men are free the will is prompted to good action through a sense of honor, whereas men held in slavish subjection will desire to do what is forbidden. In Rabelais' world the judgment and discretion of the individual take the place of the mechanical regularity of monastic rules. The hint is thrown out that kings themselves can build greater monuments in the hearts of the vanquished than visible arches of stone subject to storms and human envy. Finally, whereas in the old abbeys men and women took the three vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, in the Abbey of Theleme men and women may be married, they may be rich, and they may live at liberty!

Gargantua's letter to his son Pantagruel shows how far Rabelais' ethics is from the mediæval ideal of chastity. Among the gifts with which human nature is endowed-so runs the letter-is that excellent prerogative by which we are enabled to obtain a kind. of immortality through our children. Though the

stately form of man is brought to naught in death, yet there remains in the child what is lost in the parent. Hence Gargantua does not view his death as annihilation, for he will continue to live in the visible image of himself abiding in his son. Of this immortality his son's physical likeness is the lesser part; in a far greater sense will Gargantua continue in his son's mind, well trained in virtue, honesty, valor, knowledge,

and culture. Thus does the old ethnic ideal of the family, transformed by liberty, displace the mediæval ideal of chastity!

The entire monastic outlook on life is condemned by Rabelais. The black of the monk's garb is replaced by white, the symbol of joy and gladness. The heroes of Rabelais-in contradiction to mediæval fastingeat enormous quantities of food; their thirst is unquenchable: "Never yet did a man of worth dislike good wine." It were better, says Gargantua, to cry less and to laugh more! Rabelais gives a list of the plays of his heroes and it includes nearly two hundred games. Swimming, dancing, hunting, take the place of ascetic contemplation. Gargantua advises his son to study music, mathematics, literature, philosophy, science. A letter to his son is a plea for universal culture. Monkish devotion to the Latin language—the symbol and instrument of mediæval unity of thought and belief-is satirized. Each nation should cultivate its own language; this is a plea for differentiation and individuality. Rabelais' Friar John even explains his swearing as a Ciceronian adornment of speech! Rabelais is big with the future. The monk, he says, loes not work as the laborer or artificer; he does not defend his country as does the soldier; he does not cure the sick as does the physician; he does not teach as does the schoolmaster; he does not import the things necessary to the commonwealth as does the merchant. Even in religion he mumbles legends he does not understand. And while he gives out that he is interested only in contemplation and fasting, you may read his true character in the red letters on his nose and in the

enormous size of his body. What a departure from mediævalism do we see in Rabelais!

Shakespeare's Hamlet shows us with more warmth and intimacy than is possible in any technical discussion just what the new realistic spirit meant in the early part of the seventeenth century. At the opening of the play the ghost of Hamlet's father had appeared to Hamlet and made known to him that his suspicions of murder were founded on fact. To the spirit of the Middle Ages this evidence would have settled the matter beyond all possible doubt. But the realistic

spirit which Chaucer puts into the mind of Partlet, leading her to explain Chanticleer's dreams of the fox not as a message from the gods but as the result of a sluggish liver, appears in Hamlet free from figurative disguise.

HAMLET (to himself):

The spirit that I have seen

May be the devil; and the devil hath power

To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
More relative than this; .

.. I'll have these players

Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course.

The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

HAMLET (to Horatio)

When thou seest that act afoot,

Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe mine uncle; if his occulted guilt

Do not itself unkennel in one speech,

It is a damned ghost that we have seen,

And my imaginations are as foul

As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.

KING. What do you call the play?

HAMLET. The Mouse-trap, your majesty

We that have free souls, it touches us not; let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung.

KING. Give me some light!-away!

ALL. Lights, lights, lights!

HAMLET. O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?

This is the spirit of Descartes and Harvey, seen through the medium of the drama. It is a new world. Even the sacred sphere of religious ideals must be tested by scientific observation. Dreams and ideals and loyalties to the unseen must adjust themselves to the world of observed facts.



The unyielding character of the old order which showed itself most definitely in the crucifixion drove the newer conscience in on itself. A hard and fast outer world led to the development of a hard and fast inner world. This inner world reversed the values of the ancient régime. Over against the state it set the ideal of obedience to its own organization, the church; over against the organization of property and the family it set the virtues of poverty and chastity. These virtues of obedience, poverty, and chastity were the forms of moral organization which the newer régime imposed on its world, on the world over which it had control. It took half a millennium for this newer moral tradition to build an organization strong enough to rule the world; and then for a full millennium it imposed its discipline on European civilization. Its universal formal truths, its imposing ritual, steadied the will. Its music deepened and elevated and purified the feelings. The mediæval régime with its ritual gave common attitudes of mind and therefore solidarity to a society which needed a culture to save it from anarchy. The sacraments performed the function which custom and tradition had performed in

« AnteriorContinua »