Hegelian Philosophy of Intersubjectivity and the Shakespeare Authorship

Sun, 23/05/2010 - 10:50 -- Heward Wilkinson

With my philosophy group yesterday, we were wrestling with Hegel’s concept of reason; we considered how his radically modern conception of intersubjectivity, in the Lordship/Vassalhood chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit, actually paradoxically derives from an understanding of Feudalism, something in which Marx’s modifications of his insight share (and arguably Heidegger’s also in Being and Time, and maybe even Freud’s in Mourning and Melancholia).

Simplifying what is a very complex argument, and an incredibly dense text, Hegel in effect argues that the oppressed understands the oppressor through internalisation, whereas the oppressor only understands the oppressed externally. Secondly, the oppressed, in the Mediaeval period, as Hegel says, developed their identity, and their self-concept, through the articulation of work, which evolved into the craft Guilds of the Middle Ages, beloved of Wagner in Die Meistersinger, closely connected with the Cathedral Schools and the Monasteries, and then the Universities, the huge development of the learned religious order class, whose pinnacle is Aquinas; and the abolition of the Monasteries in England, which coincides with the Tudor period rise of the bourgeoisie mercantile class, and which is in the bacground of Shakespeare, is relevant here (and profoundly preoccupied Marx, as I noted in a previous post

http://hewardwilkinson.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/stratfordian-nostalgia-and-marx/ )


This is the great pioneering object relations analysis, and Freud’s ‘the shadow of the object [which] falls upon the ego’, has the mighty shadow of Hegel fallen across it also!

Two versions



Findlay’s summary


I remarked that the Shakespeare authorship question was relevant to this issue, and did they want me to discuss it. For some extraordinary reason they all chorused ‘NO’!!

But here I cannot resist.

On the Hegel/Marx analysis, the economic-cultural dialectic will gradually lead to an overturning, reversal, and transformation, of the original heirarchy, and this happens in the Tudor period, leading to the rich chaos of an incredibly mixed situation and model.

Now the question I want to ask is simply this:  in the full light of the Hegelian analysis, would we expect a profounder internalised understanding from a member of the old aristocracy, who loses caste and enters the new world of both learning and the collapse of the monetary base of the old aristocracy – of which he was the willing, but unwitting, victim par excellence


and which is chronicled in Timon of Athens (though also in As You Like It) in particular – or would we expect it more from a rising and extremely successful acquisitor member of the new entrepreneurial mercantile class? This of course is yet another version of the question about congruence between the life and the works which is repudiated by James Shapiro but on which the Oxfordian argument is based.

Which of them would have been more likely to have written the speech:

‘Good my lord, enter here.


Prithee, go in thyself: seek thine own ease:
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.

To the Fool

In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,–
Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.

Fool goes in

Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.’


Which of them would have been most likely to have developed the multiplex richnesses of internalised consciousnessess which we find in the author of the plays? Who would have been most likely to embody simultaneously the combined awareness of the greatness of the Feudal heritage, and of its concurrent collapse, both externally, and internally, in the face of modernity, of which DH Lawrence writes prolixly, but so profoundly, and in such a Hegelian way, in Twilight in Italy? Which of them is the Hamlet Lawrence evokes, who has internalised, in his very Hegelian fashion, the death, and absence, and the judgement of the Father (enacted in the encounter with the Ghost, who is the true Oedipal presence here, contra Freud, not Claudius his uncle – the later Freud nearer the mark here than the early Freud)?


‘What is the reason? Hamlet goes mad in a revulsion of rage and nausea. Yet the women-murderers only represent some ultimate judgement in his own soul. At the bottom of his own soul Hamlet has decided that the Self in its supremacy, Father and King, must die. It is a suicidal decision for his involuntary soul to have arrived at. Yet it is inevitable. The great religious, philosophic tide, which has been swelling all through the Middle Ages, had brought him there.

The question, to be or not to be, which Hamlet puts himself, does not mean, to live or not to live. It is not the simple human being who puts himself the question, it is the supreme I, King and Father. To be or not to be King, Father, in the Self supreme? And the decision is, not to be.’


‘And according to this new Infinite, reached through renunciation and dissolving into the Others, the Neighbour, man must build up his actual form of life. With Savonarola and Martin Luther the living Church actually transformed itself, for the Roman Church was still pagan. Henry VIII simply said: ‘There is no Church, there is only the State.’ But with Shakespeare the transformation had reached the State also. The King, the Father, the representative of the Consummate Self, the maximum of all life, the symbol of the consummate being, the becoming Supreme, Godlike, Infinite, he must perish and pass away. This Infinite was not infinite, this consummation was not consummated, all this was fallible, false. It was rotten, corrupt. It must go. But Shakespeare was also the thing itself. Hence his horror, his frenzy, his self-loathing.

The King, the Emperor is killed in the soul of man, the old order of life is over, the old tree is dead at the root. So said Shakespeare. It was finally enacted in Cromwell. Charles I took up the old position of kingship by divine right. Like Hamlet’s father, he was blameless otherwise. But as representative of the old form of life, which mankind now hated with frenzy, he must be cut down, removed. It was a symbolic act.

The world, our world of Europe, had now really turned, swung round to a new goal, a new idea, the Infinite reached through the omission of Self. God is all that which is Not-Me. I am consummate when my Self, the resistant solid, is reduced and diffused into all that which is Not-Me: my neighbour, my enemy, the great Otherness. Then I am perfect.

And from this belief the world began gradually to form a new State, a new body politic, in which the Self should be removed. There should be no king, no lords, no aristocrats. The world continued in its religious belief, beyond the French Revolution, beyond the great movement of Shelley and Godwin. There should be no Self. That which was supreme was that which was Not-Me, the other. The governing factor in the State was the idea of the good of others; that is, the Common Good. And the vital governing idea in the State has been this idea since Cromwell.’

Walt Whitman (pre- the Oxford claim, when Bacon was still in the frame) famously writes, in November Boughs:


‘We all know how much mythus there is in the Shakspere question as it stands to-day. Beneath a few foundations of proved facts are certainly engulf’d far more dim and elusive ones, of deepest importance — tantalizing and half suspected — suggesting explanations that one dare not put in plain statement. But coming at once to the point, the English historical plays are to me not only the most eminent as dramatic performances (my maturest judgment confirming the impressions of my early years, that the distinctiveness and glory of the Poet reside not in his vaunted dramas of the passions, but those founded on the contests of English dynasties, and the French wars,) but form, as we get it all, the chief in a complexity of puzzles. Conceiv’d out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparallel’d ways the mediaeval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, with its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the “wolfish earls” so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.’


‘The summary of my suggestion would be, therefore, that while the more the rich and tangled jungle of the Shaksperean area is travers’d and studied, and the more baffled and mix’d, as so far appears, becomes the exploring student (who at last surmises everything, and remains certain of nothing,) it is possible a future age of criticism, diving deeper, mapping the land and lines freer, completer than hitherto, may discover in the plays named the scientific (Baconian?) inauguration of modern Democracy — furnishing realistic and first-class artistic portraitures of the mediéal world, the feudal personalties, institutes, in their morbid accumulations, deposits, upon politics and sociology, — may penetrate to that hard-pan, far down and back of the ostent of to-day, on which (and on which only) the progressism of the last two centuries has built this Democracy which now holds secure lodgment over the whole civilized world.

Whether such was the unconscious, or (as I think likely) the more or less conscious, purpose of him who fashion’d those marvellous architectonics, is a secondary question.’

I shall leave the question suspended there for the moment…..