The Divine Face in Four Writers: Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, and C. S. Lewis 9781501311024, 9781501311055, 9781501311048

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The Divine Face in Four Writers: Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, and C. S. Lewis
 9781501311024, 9781501311055, 9781501311048

Table of contents :
Cover
Half-title
Title
Copyright
Dediaction
Contents
List of Figures
Acknowledgments
Preface
Part 1: The Judeo-Christian Strain
1. The Divine Face and the Face-to-Face Encounter in the Bible
2. Christ-Like and Compassionate Faces in Shakespeare’s Plays
3. Christ’s Face and its Adversaries in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot
Part 2: The Classical Strain
4. Divine Faces and the Face-to-Face Encounter in Apuleius’s Tale of Cupid and Psyche
5. Syncretistic Faces in Hermann Hesse’s Demian
6. Ancient and Christian Faces in C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces
7. Conclusion
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

The Divine Face in Four Writers

The Divine Face in Four Writers Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, and C. S. Lewis Maurice Hunt

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2016 Paperback edition first published 2017 © Maurice Hunt, 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Hunt, Maurice, 1942The divine face in four writers : Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, and C. S. Lewis / Maurice Hunt. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-5013-1102-4 (hardback) 1. Face of God in literature. 2. European fiction--History and criticism. 3. English drama-History and criticism. 4. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616--Criticism and interpretation. 5. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881--Criticism and interpretation. 6. Hesse, Hermann, 1877-1962--Criticism and interpretation. 7. Lewis, C. S. (Clive Staples), 1898-1963--Criticism and interpretation. I. Title. PN3352.G64H86 2015 809.3’938211--dc23 2015013067 ISBN: HB: 978-1-5013-1102-4 PB: 978-1-5013-3396-5 ePub: 978-1-5013-1103-1 ePDF: 978-1-5013-1104-8 Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 8NN

To the Reverend Brandon Frenzel

Contents List of Figures Acknowledgments Preface

viii ix x

Part 1  The Judeo-Christian Strain 1 The Divine Face and the Face-to-Face Encounter in the Bible

3

2 Christ-Like and Compassionate Faces in Shakespeare’s Plays

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3 Christ’s Face and its Adversaries in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot

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Part 2  The Classical Strain 4 Divine Faces and the Face-to-Face Encounter in Apuleius’s Tale of Cupid and Psyche

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5 Syncretistic Faces in Hermann Hesse’s Demian

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6 Ancient and Christian Faces in C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces

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7 Conclusion

147

Bibliography Index

161 171

List of Figures Figure 1 Hans Fries, detail from “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist,” 1514

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Figure 2 Hans Holbein the Younger, detail from “Madonna des Buergermeisters Meyer,” 1526

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Figure 3 Joos van Cleve, Jesus Christ, detail from “The Last Supper,” c. 1530–40

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Figure 4 Hans Holbein the Younger, detail from “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb,” c. 1520–2

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Figure 5 Peter Paul Rubens, “Psyche and Amor,” c. 1636

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Figure 6 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Beata Beatrix,” c. 1864–70

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Acknowledgments I am grateful to Eileen M. Bentsen, Associate Librarian, Reference and Instruction, in Moody Library at Baylor University for assistance in identifying the paintings whose images appear in this book, as well as to Dr. Heidi Hornik and Sondra Brady of the Baylor Department of Art, the former for advice and help in obtaining photographs of the paintings suitable for use by Bloomsbury Publishing and the latter for cropping three of the images. I am very grateful to my son-in-law, the Reverend Brandon Frenzel, to whom I dedicate this book, for his careful reading of my chapter on faces in the Bible and his suggestions for readings of them which would never have occurred to me. Any mistakes I make in this chapter are mine. I also want to thank my colleague Professor Richard Rankin Russell of the Baylor English Department for his abiding friendship, which has served me well in so many uncountable ways. Furthermore, I am grateful to Baylor English graduate student Andy Rasmussen for his computer help in preparing my manuscript for Bloomsbury Publishing. Finally I have owed much over the years to Lois Avey, Office Manager of my Department. I finally want to thank her here. Grateful acknowledgment is also due to the publishers below, for their kind permissions to reprint sections of the following works: Excerpts from Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. Copyright © C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1956. Extract reprinted by permission. Excerpts from Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 1957, 1955 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed 1965, 1984 by Arther Owen Barfield. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Numerous brief quotations from Demian by Hermann Hesse. Copyright 1925 by S. Fischer Verlag; English language translation copyright © 1965 by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Copyright renewed 1993. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Excerpts from Demian by Hermann Hesse (tr. W. J. Strachan), Peter Owen Ltd, London. Excerpts from Shakespeare’s Speculative Art by Maurice Hunt, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011, are reproduced here with the permission of Palgrave Macmillan.

Preface Any book about the subject of faces depicted in Western literature needs to be clear and restrictive about the criteria of selection. Practically every author at one time or another focuses at length on accounts of his or her characters’ faces, usually those of more than a few of them. Moreover, the works chosen for analysis ideally ought to be meaningful not only in themselves as regards such matters as the epistemology of the human face but also in terms of an archetypal source providing prototypes for representation. I have chosen to write about the presence and absence of divine faces and the portrayal of human faces reacting to them and to each other in seminal Judeo-Christian and Classical texts: the Old and New Testaments and Apuleius’s tale of Cupid and Psyche, part of his Metamorphoses. In what follows, I concentrate on analyzing the plays or prose fiction of four writers: William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Hermann Hesse, and C. S. Lewis. The first two illustrate in one way or another the divinity of the face in a context informed by the Bible. The English Renaissance playwright’s Richard II, King Lear, and Julius Caesar and the Russian novelist’s The Idiot receive lengthy explication. Both Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky are indirectly indebted to Saint Augustine’s argument set forth in On the Trinity that certain passages in the New Testament imply that the figure of Jesus Christ, including his face, constitutes the basis for a Christian’s way of knowing—his or her epistemology. Also relevant for my argument is the absence of biblical writers’ rendition of God’s and Christ’s features, and the many artistic images of the latter’s face that filled a mortal need to see Jesus’s countenance that developed in a relative void from the earliest Christian times through the Middle Ages and beyond. The image on the Veronica and the Shroud of Turin as well as those on nineteenth- and twentieth-century calendars of Christ’s often sentimentalized face are examples of what Christians supposed Jesus’s face to look like, when they had no detailed word picture of it in the New Testament. I treat this cultural phenomenon in the latter half of Chapter 1, because it is relevant to Dostoyevsky’s art and, to a lesser degree, to Shakespeare’s. The Christian virtues of patient suffering, pity, and forgiveness inform the expressions and determine the features of the described faces of Shakespeare’s Richard II, Cordelia, and

Preface

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Gonzalo, and on one anachronistic occasion those of Cassius and Brutus. Characters onstage say they see these qualities in the named characters’ faces. The narrator of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot often describes Prince Myshkin’s face as charged with these values, as well as with a Christ-like humility and sensitivity to the vicissitudes of his world. In the absence of a painstaking contemporary written description of Christ’s face, Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky, like so many other artists and writers, have approximated Jesus’s face by projecting his teachings onto a blank. Time and again, not just in this part of this volume, but in its second section too, face-to-face encounters of many kinds occur that bear upon the main characters’ fortunes and their eventual joy or tragedy. Faces antagonistic to a face infused with divine virtues, both strictly and—more often—loosely defined, receive special treatment. The face-to-face encounter in these writers’ works usually concerns their opposition to one another—their polarity—in a competition whose stakes are generally those of good and evil. This contrariety of faces, in Dostoyevsky and Hesse especially, sometimes extends into a contest between objectified parts of a personality. A face in these writers is occasionally not simply a signifier but also often the cause of a bifurcation of self. The softer, civilizing virtues reflected in faces include various shades of love, including love of the highest kind as depicted in Ancient mythology and art. This last truth becomes obvious in the latter part of this study. It begins with a chapter on Apuleius’s myth of Cupid and Psyche, and with the implications of the god Eros hiding his face from his beloved Psyche, his command that she never try to see it during their nights of love making, the dire consequences of her ultimately viewing it, and the symbolic meaning of their concluding marriage. The second part of this chapter consists of an account of the value of Eros and Psyche and their tale for Karl Jung but mainly for the practitioners of his psychoanalytic method, namely Erich Neumann and Marie-Louise Von Franz. These analysts supplement each other in explaining the relevance of Jung’s methodology for the psychic development of men as well as women. These explanations are crucial for understanding the androgynous resonance of faces in Hermann Hesse’s early twentieth-century novella Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth. In his retelling of the Cupid and Psyche tale, Hesse makes it much more than Apuleius did about the face-to-face encounter, notably about how not just one but two supernatural faces determine the fate of Emil Sinclair. While his primary indebtedness for the meanings found in the faces of his novel is to Apuleius, Hesse owes much in this respect to the writers

xii Preface

of the New Testament and to the disciples of Jung. His approach to characterization can thus be called syncretistic. The same cannot be said for C. S. Lewis’s dense, richly ambiguous version of the Cupid–Psyche tale titled Till We Have Faces. Admittedly, Lewis intermittently reveals a Christian dimension opening out of and beyond his characters’ words and deeds. His belief that Christianity is a myth resembling Apuleius’s tale, albeit the true myth, makes this novel suggestive of his final thoughts about the worth of religion in his life. While one cannot argue that the Christian dimension in Till We Have Faces is an equal thread in a tapestry woven from my two main strands, Lewis’s last piece of fiction is a fitting culmination to the literary analysis of this volume. The conclusion mainly describes Emmanuel Levinas’s ethical philosophy based on the naked vulnerability of the human face and the instinctive response of its viewer to not hurt it, but to protect it compassionately. Levinas evolved his ethical thought out of his reading of non-Jews’ life-risking rescue of Jews during World War II, which occurred in narratives of their responses to the expressions on the faces of Jews suddenly at an open door or seen hidden in a barn. Levinas’s ethical code depends upon the face-to-face meeting, and so it provides an apt summary context for all my analyses of face-to-face encounters in the fiction of Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, and Lewis. Levinas’s system of ethics involves a central tenet of C. S. Lewis, that the values perceived in a face can be the catalyst for a reunified self and revived spirit. Orual, Lewis’s major addition to the figures in Apuleius’s tale and a version of his own younger, religiously questing self, makes that much clear. Finally, in order to stress both the strengths and limits of Levinas’s ethics of the face, I have placed it in the context of the facial dynamics of Martin Buber’s I-Thou paradigm and that of Marilyn McCord Adams involving horrendous evil and the beatific face-to-face encounter with God.

Part One

The Judeo-Christian Strain

1

The Divine Face and the Face-to-Face Encounter in the Bible

One unforgettable passage in Western literature about God’s face appears in a play by one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, reputed to be an atheist who supposedly said that Moses was a “juggler” and that Christ and the Beloved Disciple, John, were bedfellows. Early in Christopher Marlowe’s popular Elizabethan tragedy The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, a version of the legend of the scholar who sold his soul to the devil for twenty-four years of power and pleasure, the demon Mephistopheles tells Faustus that “God threw him from the face of heaven” (1.3.70).1 He tells him that he is “forever damned with Lucifer” (1.3.74). “Where are you damned?” the atheist black magician asks. “In hell,” Mephistopheles replies. “How comes it then that thou art out of hell?” puzzled Faustus rejoins. “Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it,” the devil rejoins: Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God And tasted the eternal joys of heaven, Am not tormented with ten thousand hells, In being deprived of everlasting bliss? O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands, Which strike a terror to my fainting soul. (1.3.75-84)

Heaven for those angels left in heaven, and presumably for all of them before Lucifer’s great temptation, consists of the contemplation of the face of God. At least Marlowe implies so. Matthew in his Gospel supports Mephistopheles’ claim when he says “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones”— one of the children—“for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always 1

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (1604 Text), The Complete Plays, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett, (London: Dent, 1999), 340–89, esp. 352. All quotations from the tragedy are taken from this edition.

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behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (18.10).2 This Disciple records this Beatitude of Christ: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (5.8). With this pronouncement, Matthew sets a difficult criterion for Christians yearning to have this vision. Augustine in his Confessions pleads to God “Do not hide your face from me … Lest I die, let me die so I may see it … To be far from your face is to be in the darkness of passion.”3 Paul, however, says after his conversion on the road to Damascus, “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen [the risen] Jesus Christ our lord?” (1 Corinthians 9.1, 15.8). The actual accounts of this experience involve a blinding light from heaven and the voice of Jesus speaking only to Saul [Paul] (Acts 9.3-9; 22.6-11, 26.12-18). Saul does say in Acts 22.17-18 that immediately after his regaining his sight, when he had come to Jerusalem and prayed in the Temple, “I was in a trance; and saw [Jesus] saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem.” And in Acts 26.16, Saul has Jesus saying “I have appeared unto thee … to make thee a minister.” But neither Paul nor anyone else in the New Testament—including the Disciples, who see the risen Christ—tells readers what Jesus’s face looks like. The details are scanty. St. John the Divine promises that God’s and the Lamb’s servants “shall see [Jesus’s] face and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Revelation 22.4). Isaiah had prophesized that “there [would be] no form nor comeliness” in the Messiah and that “when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53.2). But no one in the New Testament says that this prophecy is fulfilled. Seeing God’s or Christ’s face can only be a post-Apocalyptic event for believers. Matthew may say “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5.8), but they shall do so in the afterlife because they are pure in this life. This absent presence might seem to be a rather large problem for someone presumptuous enough to write a book on the subject that includes an account of the face of God and that of Jesus. And yet it is a rich subject, and major motif, in Western literature. Still, how could God’s features be described? The features of the human—and animal—face are designed to make empirical knowledge and physical nourishment possible. Empirical knowledge consists of the information generated by sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. The ear has spiral-like swirls All biblical quotations and references are taken from the Authorized King James Version of the Bible: Oxford World Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). 3 Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick, Oxford World Classics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 5, 20, 159, 253, 258. 2



The Divine Face and the Face-to-Face Encounter in the Bible

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to help focus entering sound; the nostrils of the nose need to protrude to gather oxygen; the eyes are situated at a distance apart below the forehead to register a panorama; teeth are necessary for tearing vegetables and meat necessary for life. It is perhaps surprising that something so basically designed for physical—one might even say animal—survival should be judged beautiful. The face’s beauty of course has nothing to do with its features’ survival functions, but with the aesthetic appreciation of proportions and the delicate, often curved, lines that the composite, when viewed, provokes in men and women. These proportions in the case of eyes and ears, even teeth, compose a symmetry that prompts the judgment of beauty. Whether the feeling of beauty that a certain face gives to men and women is learned or intuitive is debatable. Some people see beauty in only a few faces. The Judeo-Christian God made humankind in his own image. A Christian assumes, then, that the human face to some unknown degree reflects, or resembles, the face of God. “As for me,” the Psalmist says, “I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalms 17.15). This Jew is saying he beholds the face of God in the face of a righteous man or woman. A Christian would believe this correspondence especially true for those who saw Jesus’s face because, after all, He was the Son of God. As a man born of a woman’s womb, Jesus had to have had the features necessary for survival as a man. But this fact, of course, does not preclude the belief that God’s face must look different from Jesus’s, adapted as it is to his mortality as a man. After all, neither Jew nor Christian assumes that an omniscient, eternal God who made everything needs the features of a face designed for acquiring physical data and nourishment. “Hide not thy face from me when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me,” the Psalmist prays (102.2). This ear, however, can only be anthropomorphic. How else can we imagine an absent presence? The writer of Deuteronomy asserts that “there arose not a prophet … in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34.10). Prior to Moses receiving the tablet of commandments on Mount Sinai, he speaks to God and sees his face. Prior to the Jews’ departure from Egypt for the promised land, “the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33.11). Shortly after this utterance, God says I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock [Sinai]:

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The Divine Face in Four Writers And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (Exodus 33.19-23, my italics)

Later, when Moses comes down from Sinai with the tablets, “the skin of his face shone; and [the children of Israel] were afraid to come nigh him.” The glowing orb of God’s indistinguishable face engulfs Moses’s. After the Jews approach Moses, until he had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again until he went in to speak with him. (Exodus 34.30, 33-35)

The veil adopted by Moses to accommodate his speaking to the Jews doubles for God’s shining cover of his face. The New Testament complementary episode is the Transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17.1-13; Mark 9.2-9; Luke 9.28-36). The fact that the vision of Moses’s glowing face produces a fearful rather than joyous reaction among the Jews suggests that Jesus’s bright face may prompt a similar reaction from the Disciples. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John the brother of James on to a high mountain. His “face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17.2). Mark omits any description of Jesus’s face. In Luke, Jesus’s “countenance was altered” (9.29). How so, Luke does not say.4 Only Matthew’s version begs comparison of Jesus’s face with that of Moses’s blazing countenance as he descends another mountain. All three Gospels assert that Peter, James, and John are not frightened as the Jews were but that they have a vision of Jesus talking with Elias (Elijah) and Moses. Matthew’s Gospel is suggestive; the Disciples’ vision of Jesus’s shining face seems to not just coincide with but also to prompt their supernatural vision of the primary Prophet and the Bringer of the Law. In Matthew, Peter exclaims, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles: one for thee; one for Moses, and one for Elias” (18.4). This wish appears in the other two Gospels. These tabernacles would be In Simon Peter’s recollection of the Transfiguration, he never mentions Christ’s glowing face or clothing (2 Peter 1.16-18).

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respectively for the Messiah, for the Law, and for Prophecy. But Peter does not understand from seeing Jesus’s shining face in relation to those of Moses and Elias that he is greater than the Law and Prophecy (that he fulfills them), that he is God’s Son, and that he should dwell in man’s heart rather than in a tabernacle. While they speak with Christ, a bright cloud overshadows the Disciples, and they hear God speaking from the cloud, saying that Jesus is his “beloved Son” (Matthew 17.5). God has corrected Peter, as well as Matthew’s reader. Now the Disciples are frightened and fall on their face; when Jesus rouses them, he instructs them to “[t]ell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead” (Matthew 17.9). Moses goes into and out of the tabernacle to speak with God and convey what he has said to the Jews, who remain thus separated from God himself. Christ familiarly touches the frightened prostrate Disciples, lifting them from the ground and speaking calmly to them. Considered in this context, the Preacher’s assertion that “a man’s wisdom maketh the face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed” (Ecclesiastes 8.1) revalues in The Old Testament the forbidding luster of Moses’s face. Similarly, it is as though the Disciples’ vision of Jesus’s shining face prompts their vision of the truth of Christ’s status and his dwelling place. Matthew recalls Christ’s bright face in the Transfiguration when Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James see an angel, whose “countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (28.3), descend from heaven and roll back the stone from Christ’s tomb so that they can see it is empty. Through the parallelism of light imagery, Matthew informs his reader that God is fulfilling his prediction, made to Peter, James, and John at the end of the Transfiguration, that his Son will rise from the dead. And yet none of Christ’s followers who see him after his resurrection at first recognizes him, so fully has his physical being, including his face, been spiritually transformed. Mary Magdalene thinks he is the gardener; Christ has to tell those he appears to who he is. In biblical narratives, seeing the face of God causes a viewer to see God’s face in another person and consequently value him or her more. Jacob wrestles with a mysterious stranger until daybreak (Genesis 32.24-30). The figure touches Jacob’s thigh so that he forever after limps. Jacob tells the wrestler that he will not let him go until he blesses him, an act which the dark stranger performs, “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32.30). Seeing God’s face directly can be transformative rather than fatal. When he meets Jacob’s brother, Esau, the latter

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embraces him and weeps, saying that he has enough and that Jacob should keep the livestock he has offered him. “Nay, I pray thee,” Jacob says, “if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me” (Genesis 33.10). Seeing the face of God causes Jacob to see its image in Esau’s face so as to manifest its humane potential. The story of Joseph and his brethren also illustrates the humane effect generated by viewing a God-favored face (Genesis 37.1-50.26). Joseph’s brothers sell him to Ishmaelites, who in turn sell him to an Egyptian, Potiphar. Because God favors him, Joseph rises steadily in Egyptian society through his correct interpretations of Egyptians’ enigmatic dreams. When the famine occurs that Joseph told the dreaming Pharaoh would happen and corn from the fat years has been providentially stored, Joseph’s brothers come to buy some, not recognizing him, although he knows them right away. When their father Jacob tells them to go a second time to buy corn, Judah tells him that “[t]he man”—Joseph—“did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face except your brother be with you” (Genesis 43.3). The brother to whom Joseph refers is Benjamin. When the brothers bring Benjamin to Joseph, he weeps when he sees his youngest brother; then he tells them to keep the money he had secretly mixed with the corn he gave during their first visit, and fills their bags again with corn, even Benjamin’s (which includes a silver cup). When Joseph orders his steward to pursue his brothers, and tell them that one of them has stolen his silver cup and that this brother shall be Joseph’s servant, they return and Judah twice reminds Joseph that he said that the brothers shall not see his face unless they bring their youngest brother to him (Genesis 44.23, 26). The narrator of Genesis thus stresses the importance of Joseph’s showing of his face—of his telling his brothers that this is Joseph’s face—for his remarkable forgiveness of them and their reunion and that of his father with his sons. The brothers are troubled at first when Joseph becomes known to them, for they fear he will punish them. But he tells them to “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45.5). The narrator has devised his story to cause the reader to infer a turning of Joseph’s face to his brothers, and to make that synonymous with the expression of the most humane values. Presumably Joseph’s brothers saw the same divinity reflected in his face that Jacob saw in Esau’s face. When Jacob, who had thought his son dead, sees him and holds Joseph weeping upon



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his neck, he says, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art alive” (Genesis 46.30). This sequence involving faces and the progressively positive charge carried by them appears in the relationship of King David and son Absalom in 2 Samuel. Angry with him over his killing of his incestuous brother Amnon, David tells Joab, “Let [Absalom] turn to his own house, and let him not see my face” (14.24). “So Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king’s face” (14.28). Eventually, Absalom tells Joab to go to David and say on his behalf, “[L]et me see the king’s face” (14.32). He also tells Joab to inform David, once his father has done so, that David can kill Absalom for his iniquity. “So Joab came to the king, and told him: and when [David] had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face before the king, and the king kissed Absalom” (14.33). David shows Absalom his face, which causes Absalom out of guilt to hide his face on the ground. But David, forgiving his son, raises him and kisses him on his face. Such encounters illustrate this proverb of Solomon’s: “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” (Proverbs 27.19).5 These repeated references to the face culminating in its being an empathetic signifier gives worth to other, more numerous, seemingly ordinary references to the face in the Bible, but especially in the earlier books of the Old Testament. At the end of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers “went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants” (50.18). One might expect the narrator to say, “fell down before him,” but by having them fall before his “face” this writer indirectly reminds the reader of the importance of the human face, made in God’s image, for forgiveness, empathy, and the finer virtues. An earlier verse in the story of Joseph, one after the sequence of passages that charge faces with compassion, makes the same point. Reunited with Jacob, “Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him” (Genesis 50.1). As is true for other religious groups, face-to-face encounters are important to the Jews. “Come let us see one another in the face” (2 Chronicles 25.17), Amaziah, King of Judah, communicates to Joash, King of Israel—“So Joash … went up; and they saw one another in the face” (2 Chronicles 25.21). Registering the sensitivity of the human face in the Old Testament accords with benign renderings of or allusions to God’s face. God may tell Moses he will The context of this Proverb suggests that “face answereth to face” sinfully as well as virtuously. The Proverb immediately before this one concerns faithful service—“Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured” (Proverbs 27.18)—whereas the following one reads “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied” (27.20).

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never directly see his face again, but many references of Israelites seeing God’s face occur in subsequent books of the Old Testament. God instructs Moses to tell Aaron to say to the Israelites, “The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee” (Numbers 6.25). Moses tells God that the Egyptians “have heard that thou Lord art among his people, that thou Lord art seen face to face” (Numbers 14.14). “Give alms of thy substance; and when thou givest alms, let not thine eye be envious, neither turn thy face from any poor, and the face of God shall not be turned away from thee” (Tobit 4.7). More often than not, however, God’s or angels’ faces frighten the Jews or vanish when they are needed. When the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, who has asked for a sign from God, and with his staff touches Gideon’s goat meat and cakes so that they burn away, Gideon exclaims, “Alas, O Lord God! [this happens] for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face” (Judges 6.22). John Calvin asserted that through the ministry of angels they “as in a looking glasse … partly represent unto vs the god head.”6 For biblical Jews, they wholly represented godhead. Gideon imagines the angelic face-to-face encounter will be fatal, but God tells him “Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” (Judges 6.23). Job complains that God hides his face from him (Job 13.24), and he implies that, if he could see him, his existential questions would be answered. Nevertheless, Job believes that “though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me” (19.26-27). Eventually, God answers Job, but his answer consists of questions (38–41). Not surprisingly, Job still would like to be the questioner: “Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me” (42.4). But then he says “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth” (42.5). God has said of Leviathan, “Who can open the doors of his face?” (41.14). Apparently, Job opens the doors of God’s face, or God gratuitously shows it to him. Whatever the case, Job never says what God’s face looks like. Whatever he sees, his face does not glow ominously as a result of his vision. Time and again in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, the synecdoche for God is his face. Consistent with Job’s vision is God’s promise to Solomon: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Thomas Norton (1566; London: Thomas Vautrollier, 1578), Sec. 5, 55.

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and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7.14). “When thou saidist, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek,” the suppliant says (Psalms 27.8).7 The Psalmist searches because he believes that “he hath not despised nor abhorred the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried to him, he heard” (Psalms 22.24). “Seek the Lord,” the suppliant admonishes the reader, “and his strength; seek his face evermore” (Psalms 105.4). The suppliant derives this confidence from his belief that the wicked “hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it” (Psalms 10.11). “The wicked, through the pride of his own countenance”—his own face—“will not seek after God” (Psalms 10.4). “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (Psalms 34.16). Nevertheless, the suppliant vehemently complains that God has hid his face from him (Psalms 13.1, 27.9, 30.7, 69.17, 88.14, 143.7).8 One of these complaints alludes to God’s Creation in order to suggest a basic unfairness. “Thou hidest thy face [from Your creatures], they are troubled; and takest away their breath, they die, and they return to dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalms 104.29-30). Before Creation, “darkness was upon the face of the deep. And [then] the Spirit moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1.2). And then God seeded the face of the earth and made it beautiful. The suppliant complains that God annually renews a natural face when he hides his face from him; he has strived for humility, but has not seen God. Nor has God shone upon him, and so he ends his complaints—as Noah did. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness [in the face of the righteous]: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalms 17.15). But this vision, the suppliant implies, occurs in a dream—not in reality. And yet there are times when the Christian, at least the English Christian, wants God to hide his face from him. Between 1612 and 1618, a 1599 set of annotations was added to The Book of Common Prayer. “The plea in Morning Prayer—‘Turn thy face away from our sins, O Lord’—is rephrased in a marginal note: ‘Hide thy face from my sins.’”9 “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant,” the suppliant exclaims (Psalms 31.16), a plea repeated in Psalms 67.1, 80.3, 7, 19, and 119.135. 8 Also see Isaiah 8.17, 54.18, 59.2, 64.7; Jeremiah 33.5; Ezekiel 7.22; Micah 3.4; 2 Esdras 30–31; Tobit 3; Ecclesiasticus 18.24.The writer of Tobit does say “neither turn thy face from the poor, and the face of God shall not be turned away from thee” (4.7), and that “[i]f ye turn to him with your whole heart, and with your whole mind, and deal uprightly before him, then will he turn to you, and will not hide his face from you” (13.6). 9 Daniel Swift, Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 44. 7

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What is one to conclude finally about the nature of the face-to-face encounters in the New Testament? Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles, when a Greek council “look[ed] steadfastly on [Stephen],” who was “full of faith and power,” and had done “great wonders and miracles among the people,” asserts that they “saw his face as it had been the face of an angel” (6.8, 15). Nevertheless, few highly charged direct supernatural face-to-face encounters occur in the New Testament. (One thinks of Christ showing Himself to Mary Magdalen between the time of his death and His Ascension.) In fact, Paul implies that the spiritual face-to-face encounters appearing in the Old Testament will not happen in this world, but only in heaven. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I am known in part; but then I shall know even as I am known” (1 Corinthians 13.12). Usually the phrase “face-to-face” in the New Testament occurs mundanely in relation to human beings; rather than writing to the faithful, John wishes he could speak to them in “face-to-face” encounters (2 John 12; 3 John 14). Not surprisingly, Paul’s is the memorable assertion in the New Testament concerning the face of Jesus Christ. In contrast to Moses’s veil over his face, symbolic for Paul of a veil over the text of the Old Testament that entails mistaken readings (2 Corinthians 3.12-15), this Apostle claims that we all, with open face beholding in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord … For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 3.18, 4.6)

Interpreting these passages, especially given Paul’s belief that here we see through a glass darkly, is not easy. Surely the glass in which we see the glory of the Lord cannot be the obscure glass through which we view this fallen world. And so where do we see the face of Christ? Paul’s provocative, seemingly gratuitous, phrase “with open face” vaguely suggests that we will have either a literal or figurative face-to-face encounter with Christ. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that, for believers, Christ has risen, no longer appearing in this world miraculously as he did to doubting Thomas and other Apostles. St. Augustine and certain medieval theologians understood the glass in which we see the glory of the Lord to be within us, and that we perceive with the mind’s eye. Since Paul says that God has shined his light into our hearts, this figurative glass was thought to be within the breast. It is in that glass that



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we see the face of Jesus Christ and have our knowledge of him, for this face radiates the ultimate glory of God. In medieval Catholic theology, devout, confessional Christians are born with a divine inner glass to whose reflected image they can compare their erring behavior, and—one assumes—their own fallen faces. This innate image seen as though in a glass also contrasts with James’s comparison of a “hearer of the [holy] word, and not a doer” to “a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (James 1.23-24). The Augustinian inner glass of Christ’s face will be documented more fully at the beginning of Chapter 2. So what are the claimants to a true likeness of Christ, if none appear in the Bible? Until 1988, the Shroud of Turin, located in that city’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, had the best claim. This fourteen-foot length of linen purportedly was wrapped around the crucified Christ’s body, leaving stains outlining a bearded, long-haired, long-nosed face in both its natural appearance and in a “negative” image along with a body imprint with stains where the wounds would have been. But in October 1988, three simultaneous, independent radiocarbon tests in Tucson, Oxford, and Zurich of a corner of the linen indicated that the Shroud was woven sometime between 1260 and 1390.10 Nevertheless, the source of the stains remains a mystery, because they do not appear to have been painted or made by any known chemical or organic method, and because physiologists have testified that the stains appear exactly where the Crucifixion wounds would have been, in defiance of the absence of medieval knowledge of how blood stains cloth. After the now-discredited Shroud, the next most authoritative claim to the authentic face of Christ is that on the Veil of Veronica.11 According to non-canonical legend, Veronica was a Jerusalem housewife who was called outside by the shouts and cries accompanying Christ carrying his cross to Calvary. When he stumbled, she bent down and, with her veil, compassionately wiped his sweating, bloody face. Miraculously, this veil, often consequently called a sweatcloth (sudarium), kept his exact likeness of that moment. An apparently earlier version of the legend exists; it was described in 1199 by Gerald of Wales, who says he saw the Veronica:

Ian Wilson, Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus’ True Likeness (London: Corgi, 1992), 21–33. The information in my next several paragraphs comes from Wilson’s study. 11 Ibid., 49, 57. 10

14

The Divine Face in Four Writers But there is another image preserved at Rome which is called Veronica, from a woman named Veronica, who had so long prayed to see the Lord that at last she was granted her request. For once when she was going of the Temple she met Our Lord, who said to her, “Veronica, look now on the one you so wanted to see.” And as she looked at him, he took her cloak, put it to his face, and left on it the impression of his features. This image is also held in such veneration that no one sees it except through the curtains which hang in front of it. It is kept at St Peter’s. We read that it was this same woman who touched the hem of Jesus’s garment, and was healed of an issue of blood [Matthew 9.20-22; Mark 5.25-34; Luke 8.43-48].12

Even when provided with a view of the face of Christ, mortals, in a sense, see it through a glass darkly; Gerald of Wales wrote that the veil had to be seen through curtains placed before it. Mention of the Veronica appears in the tenth century as enshrined in Old Saint Peter’s in Rome. It was shown periodically to crowds of pilgrims, especially in the Jubilee Years of 1300, 1350, and 1450. Dante traveled to Rome in the Holy Year 1300, and he saw the cloth.13 Late in the Paradiso, Dante creates this simile: Quale è colui, che forse di Croazia   venie a veder la Veronica nostra,   che per l’ antica fama non si sazia,   ma dice nel pensier, fin che si mostra:   “Signor mio Gesù Cristo, Dio verace,   or fu sì fatta la sembianaz vostra?” [As is he who perchance from Croatia cometh   to look on our Veronica, and because of   ancient fame is sated not, but saith in thought, so long as it be shown:   “My Lord Jesus Christ, true God, and was   this, then, the fashion of thy semblance?”]14 (Canto XXXI.103–8)

It is perhaps no accident that Dante began writing The Divine Comedy in the same year that he saw what he believed was the face of Jesus. Ibid., 69–70. Ibid., 86–7. 14 Dante Alighieri, The Paradiso of Dante Alighieri, The Temple Classics (London: Dent, 1962), 380–81. In his final vision of God at the end of Paradiso, Dante sees the face of God: “mi parve pinta della nostra effige” (“It seemed to me to be painted with our effigy”) (Canto XXXIII.131 [406]). God’s face, for Dante, is a reflection of his own face, made in its image. 12 13



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The crowds trying to get a glimpse of the Veronica grew so great in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that people were sometimes trampled to death as they attempted to see the face of their Lord. The Flemish painters Rogier van der Weyden and Hans Memling saw it, and incorporated its likeness into their paintings. It was possibly destroyed during the 1527 Sack of Rome, although it, or a copy, appears to have been shown as late as 1606. Michel de Montaigne, a Catholic despite his philosophical skepticism, witnessed a showing of the Veronica on Holy Thursday 1580.15 But the advent of the Reformation, with its loathing of relics and icons, radically decreased the northern European importance of the Veronica. (Shakespeare never alludes to it.) If the original exists today, it almost certainly is in a secret chamber within one of the four wide great piers of Saint Peter’s. Only two laypersons claim to have seen it in the last century or so, and both of them have said that it simply shows a brownish stain in which no features are discernible.16 They are barely discernible in the purported Veronicas that popped up from time to time in Europe. Ian Wilson believes that the Veronica was in Old Saint Peter’s possibly as early as the reign of Pope John VII in the early eighth century but more certainly by the mid-ninth century; before then, its lineage disappears. But strong evidence exists that it came from Constantinople and a likeness of Christ deriving from one of two legends unconnected with Veronica—that Jesus imprinted his face on a cloth given to the woman he cured of her issue of blood, or that a first-century Eastern king called Abgar, toparch of the principality of Edessa, acquired it. According to legend, Abgar was suffering from an incurable disease, and sent a messenger to Jerusalem to ask Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus was either unable or unwilling to go to Edessa himself, but instead arranged for the sending after his death of a disciple called Thaddaeus, or Addai, who brought to Abgar a cloth imprinted with Jesus’s likeness. When Abgar saw this he was cured of his disease, and immediately asked to be instructed in the Christian faith.17

This cloth with Jesus’s face upon it was kept in Edessa, but eventually taken to Constantinople. Wilson and others have speculated that its likeness in the tenth century became that of the Veronica, and that the holy face preserved in the Church of Saint Bartholomew of the Armenians in Genoa derives from Wilson, Holy Faces, Secret Places, 114. Ibid., 62–3. 17 Ibid., 179. 15 16

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the Edessa cloth. Unfortunately, this face shows no expression of pain, sorrow, or—actually—any emotion. Darkened by the smoke of candles burned before it, this face simply stares wide-eyed at its beholder. Radiocarbon testing of a bit of the material of this Genoa face, or retesting the Shroud of Turin by radiocarbon methods improved since 1988, is tempting. However, Christ resisted the temptation in the desert to prove his divinity by throwing himself from a high parapet, and the writer of Deuteronomy pronounces “Ye shall not tempt [test] the Lord your God” (6.16). One group of Christians, in Constantinople, believed that artistically representing Christ’s face was blasphemous and should be forbidden. Marie-José Baudinet has shown that Roman Emperors supported this viewpoint of the Eastern Church because they did not wish any competition in the stamping of their faces on coins, masonry, and so on.18 This group, which had adherents in the Western Church, asserted that “the endless openness of the Word” could not be restricted to finite features in Christ’s rendered face, and that in fact God’s plenitude could not at all be depicted in a drawn or painted face of Christ.19 When artistic portrayal was allowed, many early Christians believed that artists should use simple lines and unrealistic (iconic) features for Christ’s face to convey humbly God’s economy in incarnating himself in his son. Not only that—but that Christ’s kenosis, his emptying himself as the humble servant of humankind, could be suggested by only the most iconic, expressionless of faces. Thus a certain irony attaches itself to the starkest outline of Christ’s face on the Shroud of Turin and—possibly—on the Veronica, for their failure to give an adequate idea of what Christ’s face looked like could be taken as proof that it was the image God ordained. Jay Parini, in Jesus: The Human Face of God, notes that a rabbi once “asked why nobody sees the face of God anymore, as they did in ancient times. The rabbi says ruefully that it’s because nobody can stoop so low”—that is to say, that no one can become so humble.20 Only the devout who empty themselves in serving can see the Christ who similarly empties Himself. Marie-José Baudinet, “The Face of Christ, the Form of the Church,” in Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Part One, ed. Michel Feher with Ramona Naddoff and Nadia Tazi (New York: Zone, 1989), 149–55, esp. 149. 19 Ibid., 149–51. 20 Jay Parini, Jesus: The Human Face of God (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), 56–7. Parini concludes that when a Christian becomes pure in heart, he or she sees God’s face—“that, as St. Augustine once suggested, we discover [it] in the human visage of Jesus” (p. 59). For Parini, however, “Jesus comes into view as an exemplary life, the human face of God, a mythic figure who lived in real time, transcending time” (p. 151). 18



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When artists began painting a more realistic face of Christ they had to exercise fully their imagination, for—as analysis of the Bible indicates—nowhere in it appears detailed expressions of faces, whether human or divine. The Bible’s faces are inflamed, or weeping, or angry, often generally so. Accounts of how the eyes and other features of faces convey sorrow or shame or haughtiness, or even smiles, are absent. This of course presented a problem to artists and writers desiring to portray the faces of Jesus and the Bible’s saints and sinners; it was compounded by the bearers’ often unqualified purity or evil. None of the famous late Medieval or Renaissance painters of Christ’s face studiously attempted to copy it from the many Veronicas represented in the triptychs and diptychs of churches. Did a painter risk blasphemy, even perhaps a curse, by imagining its features inevitably in some kind of expression? And what was one to make of Isaiah’s previously mentioned prophecy that the Messiah would have no comeliness or beauty? Such a face appears in Hans Holbein’s rendering of the dead Christ, with a view of the corpse laid out on a slab with only the right side of his face represented, contorted, blue, in agony—a painting of a Christ so disturbing that it haunted Dostoyevsky so that he incorporated it into his novel The Idiot to counterpoint his depictions of the face of the Christ-like Prince Myshkin. Leonardo da Vinci perhaps felt a dilemma concerning Christ’s features when he kept postponing the painting of His face in “The Last Supper.” Giorgio Vasari, in The Lives of the Artists (1568), says concerning this painting that Leonardo “was unwilling to seek a model on earth and unable to presume that his imagination could conceive of the beauty and celestial grace required of divinity incarnate.”21 According to Ros King, Leonardo’s “ideal of physical beauty was a young man, an adolescent or even a prepubescent boy, with curly hair and femininity.”22 Leonardo makes the face of the Disciple “whom Jesus loved”—John—andro­ gynous with a bias toward the feminine in “The Last Supper,” as he leans almost on the bosom of Peter—so much so that Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code could assert that this was Mary Magdalene’s face. In Leonardo’s painting, a long-haired, beardless Christ wears a sorrowful, mildly pained expression as he casts his eyes downward, evidently just after he has stunned the Disciples by saying that one of them will betray him. Knowing how much of a “numinous resplendence” this face originally possessed remains difficult, even with the brilliant recent Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, trans. Julia Conway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella, Oxford World Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 290. 22 Ros King, Leonardo and the Last Supper (New York: Walker, 2012), 193. 21

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restoration of the painting.23 Christ looks down to his left, while Judas reaches for the same piece of bread toward which Christ’s right hand stretches. On the page in his notebook of models headed “Christ,” Leonardo, contrary to Vasari’s claim that he sought no earthly model, wrote “Cardinal of Motar[a].” Beneath this name, Leonardo has written “giova cote.” King notes that [t]his phrase might refer to a Giovanni Conte, to a Count Giovanni, or else to il giovane conte (the young count). One candidate credibly put forward by an Italian scholar is a military man named Giovanni Conte, a captain of the militia who later entered the service of Cesare Borgia.24

King cannot resist remarking on the irony—if the face is this man’s—of a soldier serving eventually under brutal Cesare Borgia being Leonardo’s model for the Prince of Peace. Vasari concludes that Leonardo’s face “of Christ remained, as was said, unfinished.”25 Leonardo compounds the potential religious sacrilege involved in painting Christ’s face by, first, using what may have been the features of a rough soldier, and, second, by having Christ’s face turned to his left, away from Judas. To the left was a sinestra, toward the sinister, the opposite of the traditional direction of Jesus’s face in paintings of the Crucifixion. Raphael’s painting of the Transfiguration of Christ for Giulio de’ Medici depicts Christ’s face so sublimely that, according to Vasari, the artist “brought together … all his skill to demonstrate the power and worth of his art.” This painting and the recognizable face, Vasari, says “was the last thing [Raphael] undertook … he never touched another brush and was overtaken by death.”26 This Florentine chronicler of Italian art implies that this painter’s death may have been a punishment for blasphemous presumption. Vasari, describing Michelangelo’s statue of Moses, says that the sculptor’s chisel appears to have become a brush: [B]esides the beauty of the face, which wears the expression typical of a true saint and a most formidable prince, it seems that while you gaze at the same, you feel the desire to ask for a veil to cover his face, so splendid and radiant does it appear to onlookers. And in the marble, Michelangelo has perfectly depicted the divinity God has endowed on his most holy face.27 The quoted phrase is King’s (ibid., 147). Ibid., 127–8. 25 Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, 291. 26 Ibid., 330. 27 Ibid., 434. 23 24



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So great is Michelangelo’s divine talent that viewers think they are looking on God’s face when they see Moses’s “holy face.” But why would they feel compelled to cover something so “splendid and radiant”? This biblical motif touches upon the enigma, which we shall encounter several times in this book, that the artistically rendered face cannot be absolutely sublime, that a limit to its beauty or power exists that begs several questions about the human capacity for tolerating the extremely beautiful face, notably the extremely lovely divine face. The unviewable status of God’s face implied by the episode of Moses having to wear a veil because he saw the indescribable takes many forms in modern art. The human face was for the French Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne as for Proust, “like the face of [the] God of some oriental theogony, a whole cluster of faces juxtaposed on different planes so that one does not see them all at once.” Cézanne never saw [his wife] Hortense all at once. She was every time a different woman, and always Hortense. [Nevertheless] she is always recognizable. Through the gusts of sensation and the myriad disguises, one part of her held constant: the upper lip. The soul of Madame Cézanne is encoded in the upper lip.28

Alex Danchev, Cézanne’s biographer, is ironic here. If Cézanne’s wife is only recognizable by a small part of a small feature of her face, then she really is not recognizable, just as one would have to say that recognizing one effect of God’s face, such as its dazzling luminosity, does not equal a comprehension of that face. In quoting from Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, Danchev does not note that Proust’s next sentence after the one he quotes of God’s “cluster of faces” reads But to a great extent our astonishment springs from the fact that the person presents to us also a face that is the same as before. It would require so immense an effort to reconstruct everything that has been imparted to us by things other than ourselves … that no sooner is the impression received that we begin imperceptibly to descend the slope of memory and, without realising it in a very short time we have come a long way from what we originally felt … But as long as we can still see, as soon as the forgotten feature [of the face] appears we recognize it, we are obliged to correct the straying line, and thus [we feel a] perpetual and fruitful surprise.29

Alex Danchev, Cézanne: A Life (New York: Pantheon, 2012), 179. Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (New York: Vintage, 1982), vol. 1, 978.

28 29

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But if we have never fully seen the face of God, and we believe we have seen a small feature of it, we cannot remember or reconstruct the face that it is part of simply because we have never before seen it in its totality. A contemporary popular solution to this problem appears in utterances such as Jean Valjean’s last words in Les Miserables—at least, it does so in the recent movie version of Victor Hugo’s novel starring Hugh Jackman. He says “When we love, we see the face of God” as he goes off to Heaven under ghostly Fontine’s tutelage. The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky would revise this idea: “When we are loved, we see the face of God.” For someone born in the Ancient world, however, of Greece and Rome, the utterance might be “When we love, we see the face of Love,” of Amor, Eros, the god of Love. The fable of Psyche and Cupid that constitutes the point of departure for this book’s second part makes that much clear. But first, understanding how Shakespeare builds upon JudeoChristian prototypes for representing faces is necessary, in order to appreciate how Dostoyevsky could utter the pronouncement attributed to him—that when we are loved, we see the face of God.

2

Christ-Like and Compassionate Faces in Shakespeare’s Plays

Saint Augustine provides the transition from early Christianity’s paintings of Christ and spiritualized Medieval and Renaissance literary images of him resonant with his virtues of kindness and compassion to later European literature, including the works of Shakespeare. A few paragraphs are thus in order before addressing Shakespeare’s plays. Saint Augustine believed that the mind was made in the image of the Holy Trinity. For Augustine, “[in] the act of seeing itself through itself, the understanding actualized [the] image [of the Trinity] and contemplated its divine archetype as it remembered, understood, and loved itself.”1 For my purposes, understanding is the most important member of the triad of memory, understanding, and love. “[T]he image of the Creator that has been implanted immortally in its own immortality,” Augustine wrote, “must be found in the human soul, that is, in the rational or intellectual soul.”2 For this early Christian, influenced by Aristotle, the mind was often synonymous with the rational or intellectual soul. Augustine concluded that “the image [of the Trinity] which is being renewed day by day in the spirit of the mind and in the knowledge of God, not outwardly but inwardly, will be perfected by … vision itself which will then be after the [J]udgment face to face, but [the mind] is making progress towards it now through a mirror in an obscure manner.”3 Augustine alludes by the phrase “an obscure manner” to a distorted, or opaque, glass of the mind through which, because of the Fall, we see darkly, i.e. dimly, with imperfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13.12). Karl Morrison, “I Am You”: The Hermeneutics of Empathy in Western Literature, Theology, and Art (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 178. Also see Frederick Golden, “The De Trinitate of St. Augustine and the Lyric Mirror,” in his The Mirror of Narcissus and the Courtly Love Lyric (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967), 207–58, esp. 209, 220, 226, 228. 2 Saint Augustine, On The Trinity, Books 8–15, ed. Gareth B. Matthews, trans. Stephen McKenna, Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 136–66, esp. 142. 3 Ibid., 165. 1

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Augustine’s citing of the phrase “face to face” suggests that the face is important in his epistemology. In 2 Corinthians 3.17-18, 4.6, Paul asserts that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord … For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Augustine’s epistemology expressed in On the Trinity depends upon a mirror in the mind. Richard Rorty has argued that the primary paradigm for the mind in Western philosophy, at least until the later twentieth century, is the mindas-mirror.4 Sir John Davies’ poetic account in Nosce Teipsum (1599) of how the mind processes empirical data into ideas illustrates Rorty’s claim: The Wit, the pupil of the Soule’s cleare eye,   And in man’s world, the onely shining starre;   Lookes in the mirror of the Fantasie,   Where all the gatherings of the Sences are. From thence this power [the Wit] the shapes of things abstracts,   And them within her passiue part receiues;   Which are enlightened by that part which acts,   And so the forms of single things perceiues. But after, by discoursing to and fro,   Anticipating, and comparing things;   She doth all vniversall natures know,   And all effects into their causes brings. When she rates things and moues from ground to ground,   The name of Reason she obtaines by this,   But when by Reason she the truth hath found,  She standeth fixt, she understanding is. And as from Senses, Reason’s worke doth spring,   So many reasons, understanding gaine;   And many understandings, knowledge bring;   And by much knowledge, wisdom we obtaine.5 Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 12. 5 Sir John Davies, Nosce Teipsum, Philosophy in Poetry: A Study of Sir John Davies’s Poem Nosce Teipsum (1903; rpt. New York: Greenwood Press, 1969), 280, 281. 4



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For Davies, and for generations through Western centuries, the faculties of the mind amounted to several mirrors that through a process of successive reflections transform sensuous impressions into understanding and, eventually, wisdom. Universal ideas were understood to become known through repeated comparisons of the images of single things seen by the mind’s eye, so to say, in a mirror. This faculty psychology depended ultimately upon Augustine for its metaphors. And it is here that the face becomes significant for later imaginative literature. For Augustine, the most crucial indwelling image in Christians is the Word— the incarnate Christ that makes possible the noblest, most gracious speculation within an individual, i.e., the development of intellectual thought by means of so many specula (Latin for “mirrors”). The spiritual refinement of human nature consists, for the Bishop of Hippo, of one’s sustained inner, silent comparison of the Word in the mind, which is contemplated as though in a glass with his or her sinful thoughts and deeds. The aim is to diminish or eliminate them. The Word here is Christ; it includes the face of Christ, as Paul has described it in 2 Corinthians, as seen in a mirror of the mind damaged to some degree by Adam’s Curse. It is this face that a Christian sees darkly in the mind’s eye, a face that he or she shall after Doomsday blessedly see in the fullness of the face to face like that of the God and the angels before the Rebellion of Lucifer. This is “the image of the Creator that … [will] be found in the human soul, that is, in the rational or intellectual soul.” The value of the divine face in the Augustinian paradigm described in the preceding paragraphs informed the epistemology of Shakespeare’s age, providing a context for the analysis of the faces of certain characters in Richard II, King Lear, and The Tempest. It does so even in a play with a pre-Christian setting: Julius Caesar. One might begin by identifying Shakespearean characters who attempt to approximate the life of Christ. Such an approach eventually yields fruit. The first, King Henry VI, who gives his name to three of the four chronicle plays in Shakespeare’s first tetralogy—1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, and Richard III—and figures in the action of the last three, tries to emulate the non-violent virtues of Christ in a fifteenth-century England wracked by the Wars of the Roses, when only a Machiavellian monarch has a chance of surviving. Richard Crookback, the evil future King Richard III, has Henry VI murdered in the Tower, where he has been an easily captured prisoner. (Henry, Earl of Richmond, Queen Elizabeth I’s grandfather, slays Richard during the Battle of Bosworth Field [1485].) Shakespeare never has a character in a play of

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this tetralogy, including Henry himself, describe this king’s face. Nor does the king delineate another’s countenance. The case is different with the playwright’s King Richard II, who ruled ineffectually from 1377 to 1399. Impractical Richard gives way to realpolitik, that practiced by Henry Bolingbroke, the future King Henry IV whose rule (along with that of his celebrated son) Shakespeare dissected in the last three plays of his second tetralogy: Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V. Bolingbroke had Richard murdered in the Tower after he abdicated the throne to him because he wanted to emulate the life of Christ, including His martyrdom—at least, this is how Shakespeare dramatizes his character in this Elizabethan history play (c. 1595–6). Shakespeare perhaps took his cue from the fact that the historical Richard died when he was 33 years of age, which was— and is—understood to be Christ’s age when he was crucified.6 Shakespeare has Richard, inviting his subjects’ pity, painstakingly build a context in which he so intensely likens himself to Christ that, in his massive egotism, he seems to himself to be Christ. Hearing of Bushy’s, Bagot’s, and Green’s defections to Bolingbroke, Richard exclaims that they are “[t]hree Judases, each one thrice worse-than Judas!” (3.2.128). Concerning the suit of Commons that Richard be tried and the causes for his deposition made public, the king later rhetorically asks, … Were they not mine? Did they sometime cry “All hail” to me? So Judas did to Christ. But He, in twelve Found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none.7 (4.1.158-62)

Blasphemously, Richard suggests that as a Christ-figure his tragedy is greater than Christ’s. Soon self-deposed to create the opportunity for becoming the image of ultimate pathos, Richard tells the courtiers gathered about him, Nay, all of you that stand and look upon Whilst that my wretchedness doth bait myself, Though some of you, with Pilate, wash your hands, Showing an outward pity, yet you Pilates Have here delivered me to my sour cross, And water cannot wash away your sin. (4.1.227-32) Luke 3.23 asserts that Jesus was about 30 years of age when he began his ministry, and John describes his ministry as extending through four Passovers, that is to say, over the course of three years. 7 Quotations of Shakespeare’s plays are taken from the texts in The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al., 2nd edn (New York: Norton, 2008), here that of Richard II, 973–1043, esp. 1027. 6



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Many commentators on the play find Richard’s allusions to the Passion of Christ meaningful and appropriate in taking account of Bolingbroke’s ruthless victimization of him. Their opinion gains strength from the final allusion to Christ’s Passion in Richard’s ordeal. In this case, Richard himself does not articulate a major feature of Christ’s Passion. The Duke of York, a character who Shakespeare showed unmoved by one of Richard’s earlier evocations of Christ’s suffering, does so, and in this shows compassion for Richard, despite the former king’s self-centeredness, inviting not just auditors on stage but also playgoers to feel pity for him. York reports that, upon proud Bolingbroke’s and his captive Richard’s entry into London, “rude misgoverned hands from windows’ tops / Threw dust and rubbish on King Richard’s head” (5.2.5-6). The image of the patient Christ buffeted by the crowd’s abuse as he bears his cross to Calvary materializes in York’s resumed narrative: … No man cried “God save him!” No joyful tongue gave him his welcome home; But dust was thrown upon his sacred head, Which with such gentle sorrow he shook off, His face still combating with tears and smiles, The badges of his grief and patience, That had not God for some strong purpose steeled The hearts of men, they must perforce have melted, And barbarism itself have pitied him. (5.2.28-36)

Shakespeare invites the theater audience to sympathize with Richard’s imitation of Christ’s Passion. Significantly, no character onstage mocks York’s sensitive portrayal. The historical Richard II’s assumption of the Redeemer Christ’s role in the pageantry of several civic triumphs of the 1390s incidentally adds weight to York’s allusions.8 After he divests himself of all the trappings and symbols of royalty, Richard calls for a mirror, “[t]hat it may show me what a face I have, / Since it is bankrupt of his [its] majesty” (4.1.256-57). When a looking-glass is brought, Richard expects to see the face of the King of Sorrows, Christ. The evocation of the face of Christ seen in a mirror has a counterpart in an Augustinian epistemology Gordon Kipling, “Richard II’s ‘Sumptuous Pageants’ and the Idea of the Civic Triumph,” Pageantry in the Shakespearean Theater, ed. David M. Bergeron (Athens, OH: University of Georgia Press, 1985), 83–103.

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of self-knowledge (dependent on 2 Corinthians 3.17-18, 4.6). Staring into the mirror, Richard exclaims: No deeper wrinkles yet? Hath sorrow struck So many blows upon this face of mine And made no deeper wounds? O flatt’ring glass, Like to my followers in prosperity, Thou dost beguile me! Was this face the face That every day under his household roof Did keep ten thousand men? Was this the face That every day did make beholders wink? Is this the face which faced so many follies And yet was at last outfaced by Bolingbroke? A brittle glory shineth in this face As brittle as the glory of this face … (4.1.266-78)

Richard’s repetition of the word “face,” his punning upon it, makes his visage the focus of this sorrowful meditation. That focus intensifies for those auditors hearing Shakespeare’s imitation of the content and rhythm of Christopher Marlowe’s most famous verses in The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus. When Faustus sees the matchless beauty of conjured Helen of Troy’s face—actually that of a demonic spirit—he exclaims, “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium” (5.1.90-91).9 In his capturing Marlowe’s cadence, Shakespeare’s phrase “ten thousand men” echoes Marlowe’s “a thousand ships.” Richard’s vain self-dramatization reaches a climax when he realizes that this face is not—cannot be—Christ’s because it does not show the agony the King of Sorrows endured when he was crucified. Instead, his face is unlined, as though he has only acted his suffering, not felt it deeply. To his disappointment, his face “shineth,” and its sorrow is too gentle for Richard’s taste. Some playgoers might think that this countenance could be the gentle, patient face of Christ later rendered in Renaissance art and even more widely by nineteenth- and twentieth-century painters and illustrators. But it really cannot be that, because it must register Richard’s impatient temperament. And so in frustration Richard throws his glass to the floor, shattering it, telling Bolingbroke, “Mark, silent king … [h]ow soon my sorrow hath destroyed my face” (4.1.280-81). Astute playgoers realize that Richard’s glass has not been Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (1604 Text), The Complete Plays, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett (London: Dent, 1999), 340–89, esp. 384.

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an Augustinian glass conferring self-knowledge with divine overtones, but a Renaissance Mirror of Vanity—an instrument ultimately satisfying his immense egotism by drawing attention once again to himself. Unlike the dynamics of Augustinian self-knowledge, wherein a repeated comparison of oneself to an innate image of Christ’s figure can spiritualize a Christian, Richard’s comparison of Christ’s imagined face to his own reflected in a glass prompts disappointment rather than virtuous betterment. And yet Shakespeare in this popular chronicle history provoked playgoers to imagine the face of Christ, not only the countenance of what would become stereotyped as the face of Christ during later centuries, but also the face associated with Christ in his own King Lear (c. 1605–6). In act 4, scene 3 of this massive tragedy, Cordelia, as a multitude of critics have noted, is associated with Christ when, having “invaded” England with her husband the King of France’s troops to rescue their father from her sisters’ cruelties, she says in an aside, “O dear father, / It is thy business that I go about” (4.4.24-25). In a note, the editors of The Norton Shakespeare explain that “the line echoes Christ’s explanation of his mission in Luke 2.49: ‘I must go about my father’s business.’”10 A number of interpreters have remarked that when mad Lear enters at play’s end with dead Cordelia limp in his arms, the two form a tableau recollecting the Pietà, the image of Mary cradling the dead Christ. A Gentleman reports the effect that reading Kent’s letters of Lear’s great suffering has had on his daughter Cordelia: …. Patience and sorrow strove Who should express her goodliest. You have seen Sunshine and rain at once: her smiles and tears Were like a better way. Those happy smilets, That played upon her ripe lip, seemed not to know What guests were in her eyes, which parted thence, As pearls from diamonds dropped. (4.3.15-21)

Theater audiences never actually see this face, but so singular and nuanced are the Gentleman’s representation of its features that they imaginatively visualize it as Cordelia’s. They retrospectively do so because they witness a few scenes later her overflowing pity for her father as well as her Christ-like ability to forgive unconditionally the man who has so cruelly wronged her, cast her off with

King Lear (Conflated Text), The Norton Shakespeare, 2493–567, esp. 2547.

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nothing. Her empathy as she imagines Lear’s pain draws tears that are pearls. Unconditional forgiveness, absolute pity, unqualified love—these are Christ’s virtues. The only time in the Gospels when Christ is reported to weep is when he sees Mary weeping for her dead brother Lazarus. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have you laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! (John 11.32-36)

Jesus’s weeping here stresses the presence of his face in the New Testament. In our mind’s eye, we see him weep. Playgoers relatively close to the stage can see Cordelia’s weeping face, however, and it evokes an admittedly anachronistic Christian countenance in this play set in an ancient world. The first two quatrains of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 94 provide a context for clarifying the expressive power of Cordelia’s face by defining what it is not: They that have the power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show, Who moving others are themselves as stone, Unmoved, cold, and to temptation to slow— They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces, And husband nature’s riches from expense; They are the lords and owners of their faces, Others but stewards of their excellence. (94.1-8)

The sonnet at first seems to praise its subject, for its reader assumes that having the power to hurt and not exerting it amounts to a virtue as does being slow to temptation. But being a steward and spending one’s talents, one’s “excellence,” is also a Shakespearean virtue; Viola in Twelfth Night and Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure testify to this fact. But those who are the poem’s subject hoard their excellence, problematically “cold.” Commentators on this sonnet thus generally remark that its tone is facetious, ironic. Unpleasant characters such as Angelo in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure or Octavius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra illustrate the traits of the sonnet’s subject. Mastering— controlling—one’s facial expressions so that a viewer can never know the bearer’s purposes or feelings becomes a negative quality. Cordelia’s smiles seemed not to know what tears were in her eyes; she could not master her



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expression. Patience, kindness, pity simultaneously radiated from her face as she wanted to spend all her talents to recover her father. She hoards nothing of her excellence. Cordelia is the pearl of great price, for Lear—once transformed by her forgiveness—worth the whole world. Considered in this context, the “better way” traced by her tears and smile is the better way to spiritual life that a witness might emulate through active patience—patiens, faithful “enduring”—and absolute pity. But Cordelia’s face is not Christ’s face in King Lear, because its bearer exists many centuries before the birth of Christ. It can only be remarkably Christ-like. Lear swears by dragons, and both he and others invoke the pagan gods. Her virtue amounts to a mind-wrenching reminder of the salvation unavailable to the denizens of this tragedy. John’s account of a weeping Christ incidentally invites comparison with Shakespeare’s portrayal of Cordelia’s weeping face. Both accounts involve a return from the dead, that of Lazarus and figuratively that of Lear from a hellish grave. “You do me wrong to take me out o’the grave,” Lear, his wits not yet fully recovered, tells Cordelia when he awakens, Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears Do scald like molten lead. (4.7.45-48)

Under the spiritual influence of Cordelia’s “divine” face, however, sanity, love, and tenderness soon flow into Lear and, for a while at least, revitalize him. But the image of Christ’s face was historically available for Shakespeare’s Medieval Richard II to emulate. The face that Shakespeare would later associate with Christ’s face in King Lear is Richard’s face as reported by the Duke of York (in a passage already quoted): But dust was thrown upon his sacred head, Which with gentle sorrow he shook off, His face still combating with tears and smiles, The badges of his grief and patience.

Ironically, Richard most likely does not consciously adopt this spiritual expression, as he earlier did several of the features of Christ’s life in his conscious project to be like the Messiah. Could Richard have seen this face in the glass he has called for, he might have recognized the Christ-values in it, the face reflective of the salient virtues of his teachings. But he does not see that face as he looks for the image of the King of Sorrows, and he dies having

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disintegrated into a medley of selves who endlessly displace one another (5.5.1-41). Interestingly, two of the three Shakespeare plays in which allusions, one admittedly faint, make the face of Christ an important touchstone for interpretation are plays set in ancient times. In the fourth play—The Tempest (1611)—the allusion actually makes possible its resolution. To understand fully how it does so, a brief explication of a passage in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is helpful. In this dark comedy, Isabella, rebuking the hard-hearted deputy Angelo, exclaims, Merciful heaven, Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarlèd oak Than the soft myrtle. But man, proud man, Dressed in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assured, His glassy essence, like an angry ape Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As makes the angels weep. (2.2.117-25)

Sometimes editors gloss the phrase “glassy essence” as meaning humankind’s “brittle” or “fragile” essence, “highly susceptible of damage.” But generally they cite a variation of a reading of “glassy essence” best articulated by J. V. Cunningham. “[Isabella’s] phrase represents a scholastic notion in a scholastic context: man’s essence is his intellectual soul, which is an image of God, and hence is glassy for it mirrors God.”11 The earlier part of this chapter has demonstrated that Cunningham could have substituted the word “Augustinian” for “scholastic.” Isabella is obscurely saying that a person ignorant of his or her essence—the divine image reflected in the intellect—is likely to abuse power, for—were he or she aware of it—he or she would feel its radiating virtues and treat fellow men and women kindly, forgivingly. In a passage in the last act of The Tempest, the details of Isabella’s language will reform into a scenario that characters enact. Central to the future scenario is a mirror in which the viewer sees a face prompting the virtues that came to be associated, in Shakespeare’s plays and elsewhere, with the face of Christ. The face in the glass will function intellectually within Prospero to cause him eventually to feel the Christian virtue of compassion for a man he has pained J. V. Cunningham, “‘Essence’ and The Phoenix and Turtle,” ELH 19 (1952): 265–76, esp. 266.

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and the lasting, strong desire to forgive of his enemies. Shakespeare takes pains to suggest that this glass is angelic. The scenario based on Isabella’s metaphoric language will be articulated at the end of the following short analysis. Imagery involving an angel appears first in act 3 of The Tempest when Prospero presents his enemy King Alonso with a glass reflecting his latent wish to forgive his former enemies, shipwrecked on his island, and his keen desire to revenge himself upon them for wresting rule of Milan from him and placing himself and his infant daughter on a rotten hulk of a ship, leaving them to drift in the Mediterranean Sea to likely death. He, probably unintentionally, projects these two desires wrestling within him in the transformation of his magical spirit Ariel into a mythological monster composed of a giant bird’s body with a woman’s head. In his late dramatic romance Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Shakespeare’s King Cleon has told his wife Dionyza “Thou art like the harpy, / Which to betray, dost, with thine angel face, / Seize with thine eagle talons” (scene 17, 47–9). The Shakespearean harpy in The Tempest condenses a potential impasse in Prospero’s mind and heart between angelic forgiveness and talionic revenge (where “talionic” refers to the eagle’s “talon,” its claw). This potential impasse figured in Shakespeare’s harpy is biblical, in that it alludes to both the Old Testament and its law of an eye for an eye and the New Testament whose angel of forgiveness becomes that Christian virtue, often involving the most radical enemy and the turning to him of the other cheek. At least it did so in Christian stereotyping of the Old Testament and its relation to a central tenet of the New Testament. Ariel-as-Harpy amounts to a glass in which Alonso, and playgoers, could see—if they are astute—the image of this potential impasse. But at the moment they probably do not, for in this scene Prospero’s urge to destroy his enemies is stronger than his wish to forgive them. Ariel-as-Harpy goes on to tell Alonso, in a voice heard by him as thunder, that his son Ferdinand has drowned in the shipwreck and so been taken as just recompense for Prospero’s and Miranda’s deaths, but that the king can be saved if he feels “heart’s sorrow” and leads a subsequent “clear” life (3.3.60-82, esp. 81, 82). But this is a false glass and false message, because Prospero and Miranda are not dead and because Prospero has saved Ferdinand’s life. Considered in this context, the bizarre glass and its rough message are warped. They do not represent justice as much as they do Prospero’s inability to master his passionate feeling of being wronged so that his persisting desire to practice kindness can be realized in a previously thought-out magical plan. For

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distraught Alonso, believing his son has died because of his sin, rushes guiltily from the stage to drown himself rather than seek atonement for his sin. He is fortuitously saved, not by Prospero, who has left the stage before Alonso resolves to kill himself, but by the old courtier Gonzalo, who has heard his king’s fateful words. The Tempest is noteworthy for the number of literal and figurative mirrors in the play, including Miranda’s glass and Caliban’s face. Miranda tells her beloved Ferdinand, “I do not know / One of my sex, no woman’s face remember / Save from my glass my own” (3.1.48-50). W. H. Auden picked up on this glass’s effect of intensifying not just Miranda’s sense of ignorance but also that of her isolation on Prospero’s island. In his “The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest,” Miranda pledges her love to Ferdinand in a poem whose melancholy refrain is “My Dear One is mine as mirrors are lonely.”12 On the contrary, Prospero’s face at play’s end will amount to a glass in which he can see and accept the never-to-be-fully-civilized dark impulses that humankind must labor to control.13 “This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine” (5.1.278-79), Prospero says then, looking on Caliban. Prospero can acknowledge the Caliban within himself because he has acknowledged humanity within himself. The central mirror of the play makes possible the greater acknowledgment. At the beginning of act 5, angelic Ariel, acting autonomously, by means of a mirror resolves the threat reflected by the monstrous figure of Ariel-as-Harpy. In the first major speech of the last act, Ariel tells Prospero that his magic has made Alonso and his courtiers “[b]rimful of sorrow and dismay,” … but chiefly Him that you termed, sir, the good old lord Gonzalo: His tears run down his beard like winter’s drops From eaves of reeds. Your charm so strongly works ’em That if you now beheld them your affections Would become tender. (5.1.14-19)

W. H. Auden, “The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest,” W. H. Auden: Collected Poems, ed. Edward Mendelson (New York: Vintage, 1991), 401–44, esp. 421–2. See John Fuller, W. H. Auden: A Commentary (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 363. 13 Fuller in his commentary on “The Sea and the Mirror” quotes Oscar Wilde’s “paradoxical aphorism” appearing in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray: “The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. / The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass” (W. H. Auden, 366). 12



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“Dost thou think so, spirit?” Prospero asks. “Mine would, sir, were I human” (5.1.19-20), Ariel replies. “And mine shall,” Prospero resolves: Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling Of their afflictions, and shall not myself, One of their kind, that relish all as sharply Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art? Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th’quick, Yet with my nobler reason ’gainst my fury Do I take part. The rarer action is In virtue than in vengeance. (5.1.20-28)

Prospero has often called Ariel “Spirit.” Ariel has been the magical spirit bound to do the magician Prospero’s will. But here the Spirit strangely acts autonomously, teaching Prospero about a virtue—pity—rarely associated with magic. Besides alluding to one of the four elements, air, Ariel’s name is also biblical.14 The harpy Ariel did associate—in Shakespeare’s terms in the prior play Pericles—what Reformation Protestants thought of as a New Testament virtue (piteous forgiveness of enemies) with an angel’s face. Moreover, the spirits that white (benign) magicians were thought to invoke from their place in different spheres of the Ptolemaic universe were sometimes called angels during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.15 The “fantastic tricks” that angry Prospero has played on innocent Gonzalo— to use the phrasing of Isabella’s speech in Measure for Measure—do not make “the angels weep.” Instead, in keeping with the meaning of her phrase “glassy essence,” angelic Ariel presents the weeping face of Gonzalo in a glass—the empathetic word picture of the distressed “honest old Councellor.”16 That is to say that Ariel’s poetry moves Prospero to imagine the face of Gonzalo, to see it—to view it, as it were—as in a glass. The imagined suffering face in this glass provokes a human essence—the capacity to feel and extend pity to another. Ariel is one of the emissaries of Ezra (8.16), one of the two Moabites killed by Benaiah. More importantly, the name signifies the altar of the city of Jerusalem. In editions of the Geneva Bible used during Shakespeare’s lifetime, the note alongside Isaiah 29 reads “The Ebrewe worde Ariel signifieth the lyon of God, and signifieth the altar, because the altar seemed to deuoure the sacrifice that was offred to God” (The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition [Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969], 292b). Shakespeare may have been aware of this note, for Prospero says that the “grace” of the frightening Ariel-as-Harpy was in the performance “devouring” (3.3.84), a word not simply complimentary but ominous when considered in the context of the harpy’s message. 15 For the origin of this idea, see C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1964; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 56. 16 This is Gonzalo’s description in the “Names of the Actors” following the text of The Tempest in the 1623 Folio volume. 14

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This admittedly allusive glass depends upon the rich theological history that I have traced in this chapter, a history that extends back through Neo-Platonized Christianity of the Middle Ages to Augustine himself and to the image of “the face of Jesus Christ” shining, according to the apostle Paul, in the heart and mind (2 Corinthians 3.17-18, 4.6). Empathy for humankind’s pain, including that of one’s enemies, and forgiveness of them are, for Shakespeare’s Christian playgoers, the virtues that extend from the expression of Cordelia’s face in King Lear to an angel’s image of Gonzalo’s face in its effect upon Prospero in The Tempest. Ariel admits that his affections would have become tender at the sight of old Gonzalo’s pain, were he human. Ariel, despite this disclaimer, is a grace-giving Spirit, sharing a tenderness with Prospero so as to soften his heart. Providentially, it is from the Spirit’s piteous image—a postulate—that Prospero deduces the great pity for Gonzalo that he should—and does—feel. “Deduces” is the right word here, for Prospero forges a syllogism: All men are things which should be bound together by the awareness of passion’s pain (major premise); Prospero is a man (minor premise); therefore, Prospero should be bound to another man—Gonzalo—by the awareness of passion’s pain (conclusion).17 Bound to Gonzalo, Prospero feels the other man’s pain as his own, and so wants to alleviate the feeling in himself and in the other to whom he is bound. This impulse becomes a generalization, that the rarer action [always, for everyone] is in virtue rather than in vengeance. Considered in this context, Prospero’s conclusion would have reminded religious Jacobean playgoers of a repeated message of the Bible. Shakespeare had anticipated the effect of Gonzalo’s imagined face on Prospero in the similar effect that Cassius’s and Brutus’s faces have upon one another in their meeting late in Julius Caesar before the battle at Philippi. It is here that we find the seed of the Augustinian epistemology dependent upon faces that prompts anachronistic allusions of Christian forgiveness and brother­hood in the Ancient world. In this 1599 tragedy, Shakespeare anticipated the mirror dynamics of knowing that his character Ulysses would articulate in Troilus and Cressida. “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?” Cassius asks. “No, Shakespeare in The Tempest reveals the integration of reason and theology associated with Thomas Aquinas and principal sixteenth-century Christian Humanists such as Erasmus. In the centrality of human deductive reasoning operating on the postulate of angelic grace, Shakespeare in this late play stands with Erasmus and over against Luther, Bacon, and all those Reformation Protestants who reverse the importance of Thomistic rationalism to the creation of human worth (Herschel Baker, The Dignity of Man: Studies in the Persistence of an Idea [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947], 266–9).

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Cassius, Brutus replies, “for the eye sees not itself / But by reflection, by some other things.” “’Tis just,” Cassius concludes, [a]nd it is very much lamented, Brutus, That you have no such mirrors as will turn Your hidden worthiness into your eye, That you might see your shadow [your reflection] … Therefore, good Brutus, be prepared to hear. And since you know you cannot see yourself So well as by reflection, I, your glass, Will modestly discover to yourself That of yourself which you yet know not of. (1.2.53-60, 8–72)

By the word “modestly,” Cassius suggests that he will be a reflecting glass that will make Brutus known to himself “without exaggeration,” in an image as precise as Nature might form. Cassius goes on to establish an ethical character for himself that assures Brutus that, as a self-reflecting mirror, he is a clear, a non-warping glass— honest, in short. But Cassius hates Caesar, and he is trying to find out if Brutus hates him too. When Brutus exclaims “I do fear the people / Choose Caesar for their king” (1.2.80-81), Cassius knows what it is he should tell Brutus he sees reflected in the face and words of the “glass” standing before him. What Cassius “reflects” to Brutus are several word pictures of Caesar, images of a man so frail and fault-ridden that he does not deserve the “god-like” status of kingship (1.2.100-133). What Cassius “reflects” to Brutus—the something that Brutus supposedly knows about Caesar but did not know he knew—is the conviction that this man is dangerous, that if he becomes emperor, he will compensate for his inherent weaknesses by tyrannizing over Romans. Few playgoers and readers imagine that Cassius’s face, like a mirror, has reflected Brutus’s undiscovered ideas to himself. Cassius, envious of Caesar, appears to have told naïve Brutus what he should think of Caesar. The case seems to be a matter of projection, or of filling a vessel. Brutus evidently learns what he should think about Caesar by having verbal poison poured into his ears, to use a metaphor from Hamlet. One searches Julius Caesar to find a scene in which one or more characters appear to discover ideas or qualities they have in themselves by seeing them reflected in a face of another.18 In particular, one William O. Scott, “The Speculative Eye: Problematic Self-Knowledge in Julius Caesar,” Shakespeare Survey 40 (1987): 77–87, esp. 77–82.

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looks to see if virtues can be known in this way. In fact, as though to discourage this notion, Shakespeare depicts some of the scenes in which the conspiracy against Caesar develops as occurring at night, when men cannot see each other’s face, or at times when conspirators have their faces muffled to prevent recognition (e.g. 1.3.41-42, 131–36; 2.1.73-76). Ironically, the Roman who claims that men might know themselves from their reflection in another’s face, Cassius, dies covering his face (5.3.43) when after the defeat at Philippi he tells his bondman Pindarus to take his master’s sword and run him through. Nevertheless, Brutus and Cassius have a final face-to-face encounter redolent with spiritual value. In it, they learn what true brotherhood means by seeing in a Christian rather than pagan tradition—a tradition involving seeing the soul reflected in the face of another. The scene is unique in Shakespearean drama. Many commentators have identified numerous Christian allusions and overtones in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.19 They cluster in the character of Rome’s would-be-emperor, who shares the same initials as Jesus Christ. Shakespeare for example changes the number of wounds Caesar’s assassins inflict from Plutarch’s twenty-three to thirty-three, Christ’s supposed age when he was crucified.20 Christian overtones also appear in other characterizations and scenes, where they sometimes deepen personal tragedies by alluding to redemption made potentially possible by Christ but missing completely in the Rome close to the time of His birth. This is notably true in Cassius’s and Brutus’s final face-to-face dialogue, which is enriched for readers aware of the epistemology of Augustine involving the image of the divine face in the intellect. Before the decisive battle at Philippi with Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar’s troops, Brutus accuses Cassius of greed in selling offices and in excusing bribetaking as well as betrayal in withholding monies from Brutus when he asked for them to pay his soldiers (4.2.53-68, 124–37). When Cassius, hearing these charges, physically threatens Brutus, the latter character commands “Away, slight man” and asks “Must I give way and room to your rash choler? / Shall I be frighted when a madman stares?” (4.3.90, 93–4). Stung by Brutus’s words, Cassius exclaims “Brutus hath rived my heart. / A friend should bear a friend’s The Christian allusions and overtones are most comprehensively described in Steve Sohmer, Shakespeare’s Mystery Play (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999); and in William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, ed. David Daniell, The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series (Walton-onThames, UK: Thomas Nelson, 1998). Also see David Kaula, “‘Let Us Be Sacrificers’: Religious Motifs in Julius Caesar,” Shakespeare Studies 14 (1981): 197–214; and Marshall Bradley, “Caska: Stoic, Cynic, ‘Christian,’” Literature and Theology 8.2 (1994): 140–56. 20 Sohmer, Shakespeare’s Mystery Play, 170–1; Maurice Hunt, “Cobbling Souls in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,” Cahiers Élisabéthains 64 (Autumn 2003): 19–28, esp. 19. 19



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infirmities” (4.2.139-40). This, however, was what Cassius was unwilling to do in his relationship with Julius Caesar. When Cassius pronounces “You love me not” and Brutus coldly replies “I do not like your faults” (4.3.143), the despondent Cassius utters his most emotionally authentic speech in the play: Come, Antony, and young Octavius, come, Revenge yourselves alone on Cassius; For Cassius is aweary of the world, Hated by one he loves, braved by his brother, Checked like a bondman; all his faults observed, Set in a notebook, learned and conned by rote, To cast into my teeth. O, I could weep My spirit from mine eyes! There is my dagger, And here is my naked breast; within, a heart Dearer than Pluto’s mine, richer than gold. If that thou beest a Roman, take it forth. I that denied thee gold will give my heart. Strike as thou didst at Caesar; for I know When thou didst hate him worst, thou loved’st him better Than ever thou loved’st Cassius. (4.2.147-61)

In eight of the twenty-one times that Shakespeare uses the word “spirit” in Julius Caesar it refers to the ancient physiological concept of vital or animal spirits.21 It does so here when Cassius says he could weep forth not his soul, but his spirit. (On five other occasions the word refers to the related idea of the inner essence of a person.)22 In the quoted dialogue, Cassius reveals signs of a late revolution of character, of a desire for friendship free of selfish calculation. Suffering adversity has thrust upon Cassius a heartfelt need to practice friendship genuinely. Cassius wants to love Brutus as a friend. Brutus’s anger dissolves and he responds to Cassius’s plea “Give me your hand” affectionately, grasping his and saying that his own hand gives “my heart too” (4.2.171-72). Brutus’s eyes and face suddenly—in terms of the way of knowing disingenuously voiced earlier in the play by Cassius—authentically reflect to Cassius the image of the loving friend that Cassius is struggling to know. Cassius, suddenly understanding, seizes the opportunity to emulate Brutus’s friendship. His exclamation “O Brutus!” (4.2.172) suggests that Brutus’s giving his heart in his hand 1.2.31; 2.1.121, 133, 167, 226; 3.2.219; 4.2.154; 5.1.90. 1.2.207; 1.3.82, 95; 2.1.168; 4.1.33.

21 22

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prompts Cassius to embrace him. The image of a loving friend reflected back to Brutus in the image of an overcome Cassius intensifies Brutus’s understanding of his friend within himself working to become known. In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare proves through a figurative looking glass the contemporary adage “The best mirror is an old friend.”23 Shakespeare shifts his focus in this remarkable episode from friendship to a communion of brothers bound not by their spirits but by their souls. Admittedly, the Greek and Roman words psyche and animus can be translated into English as “soul” as well as “spirit.” But, considered within the context of Shakespeare’s repeated use of the word “spirit” in this play, Cassius’s use of the word “soul” in their ensuing dialogue acquires ironic Christian overtones. It does so especially in conjunction with the drinking of wine from a common vessel and the play’s extensive Christian allusions. Calling for a bowl of wine, Brutus says “In this I bury all unkindness, Cassius” (4.2.211). “My heart is thirsty for that noble pledge,” Cassius replies; “Fill, Lucius, till the wine o’erswell the cup; / I cannot drink too much of Brutus’ love” (4.2.212-13). As Brutus and Cassius drink in turn, contemporary playgoers saw an image reflected on stage of the communion of brotherhood involving the soul that they knew in its Christian form. But for these ancient famous conspirators who die tragically, this communion realizes a radical brotherhood of love wasted by their impending deaths. The key word in one of Cassius’s last speeches in this scene indicates that in this case playgoers’ and readers’ hypothesized response is not inappropriately anachronistic. Before he departs, Cassius exclaims, … O my dear brother! This was ill beginning of the night! Never come such division ‘tween our souls. Let it not, Brutus.24 (4.2.285-88)

Until this episode, Cassius has been the most spiritually skeptical Roman, but here his and Brutus’s forging of a brotherly bond becomes for him a union of souls rather than spirits or selves. The utterance “O, my dear brother” invests F. P. Wilson, The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 3rd rev. edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 534. 24 The word “soul” only appears two other times in the play, both in the context of Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar. “Poor soul” (3.2.112), Second Plebeian says as Antony weeps while he speaks; “Kind souls” (3.2.189), Antony says, as he addresses the auditors he would make weep. This context lacks the immediate Christian overtones that Shakespeare gives Cassius’s and Brutus’s dialogue. 23



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Brutus’s and Cassius’s soul-bond with brotherly love, commemorated in the drinking of wine. Nothing in the spoken or physical behavior of either Roman during the remainder of their short lives, both on stage and in history, questions the profundity of their melding of souls. Shakespeare thus realizes the Augustinian knowledge of one’s better self through finding it reflected in the face of another, in the theatrical moving staging of it in a dialogue conducted face to face. Analysis of Julius Caesar causes us, returning to Cordelia’s and Lear’s compassionate reunion in act 4 of King Lear, to realize that their encounter is a face-to-face approximation of Brutus’s and Cassius’s dialogue, and that a third play of Shakespeare’s with a pagan setting includes ironic Christian overtones when such an encounter occurs. Cordelia’s face, as was previously noted, was reported to be a composite of tender smiles and tears, whose lips were ripe and whose eyes dropped pearls of great price (4.3.17-21). The hopeful compassion conveyed by this face is Cordelia’s when she reunites with her father, who finally achieves a rarefied recognition of it as that of his wronged daughter. Her heart melts with pity as she remembers that he has had to “hovel with swine, and rogues forlorn / In short and musty straw” (4.7.39-40). When he says, “I think this lady / To be my child, Cordelia,” she replies, “And so I am, I am” (4.7.70-71). And when he says that her sisters have “done me wrong” and that “[y]ou have some cause, they have not,” she replies, “No cause, no cause” (4.7.75-76). In this reply is the most absolute forgiveness of unmerited abuse. Her reply, “I am, I am,” echoes in some wrought playgoers’ minds God’s declaration of identity “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3.14), such that they forget the tragedy’s time period and imagine a Judeo-Christian context for the moving face-to-face staging of absolute forgiveness, absolution, and loving reunion. The larger contemporary context in which the value of Shakespearean faces occurs is explained in a section of Sarah Beckwith’s Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness titled “The Mind’s Retreat From the Face.”25 She argues that Reformation Protestantism replaced the relatively public assurance by a Catholic priest of a sinner’s confession, repentance, absolution, and forgiveness with the usually private Reformation Protestant process of only two steps: confession and penance. No one could assure a sinner that a Calvinist God had absolved and forgiven his or her sin. A Catholic priest had formerly more assuredly done Sarah Beckwith, Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011), esp. 15–33.

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so. Consequently, Beckwith asserts, sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Protestants often remained uncertain of what their minds told them religiously about themselves. Beckwith asserts that this relative assurance could only be sought for in that of a forgiving face. This Protestant anxiety was compounded in England by the state enforcement of religious obedience to the Queen as the head of a single Protestant church through a sworn public oath, a promise which the government admitted the swearer might disclaim in his or her heart—but not by any subsequent words or deeds. Some verses from Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta reflect the complicated potential self-loathing that could ensue. The titular figure Barabas articulates an opinion probably held by his author: As good dissemble that thou mean’st As first mean truth, and then dissemble it; A counterfeit profession is better Than unseen hypocrisy.26 (1.2.291-95)

Beckwith registers the untrustworthiness of not only words but also the human face vis-à-vis its expressions and offered comfort in a new religious climate in a memorable utterance of King Duncan’s: “There’s no art / To find the mind’s construction in the face” (Macbeth, 1.4.12-13). In her words, the face and the mind are adrift … [and] the effort to join them daunting and uncharted . . . . The picture of an inaccessible mind trapped in a body whose expressions cannot [or do not] express the mind or soul is a picture of the human in exile from his own body and expression, and hence from all means of knowledge of the self and others.27

Beckwith could have supplemented her quotation of King Duncan by noting that Desdemona does not see Othello’s mind in his face. “I saw Othello’s visage in his mind” (1.3.251), she says instead. But she never saw how black his imagined “white” mind could become, as black as the face that broadly stereotypes Othello’s identity for other characters as that of “the Moor.” Beckwith could have claimed that a new early modern epistemological uncertainty can be traced back to the absence, or obscurity, of the divine face in the Old and New Testaments. Her quoted assertion about the face and the mind being adrift in Shakespeare’s age may be a bit too extreme, but it does capture an uncertainty about faces in a new religious climate. The Jew of Malta, in Marlowe, The Complete Plays, 458–535, esp. 476. Beckwith, Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness, 9.

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One might object that there are moments in Shakespeare’s plays when characters insightfully read another character’s interiority in his or her face. Springing to mind is Viola’s reading goodness in the “fair” face of the Captain in Twelfth Night who has rescued her after shipwreck: There is a fair behavior in thee, captain, And though that nature with a beauteous wall Doth oft close in pollution, yet of thee I will believe thou hast a mind that suits With this thy fair and outward character. (1.2.43-47)

However, one could argue that Viola is actually constructing the goodness of the captain rather than reading it; cleverly, she may be giving him an ideal composite to live up to, so that a man possibly not all that good becomes better by wanting to live up to another’s assumption that his character is as fine as his face is said to be. The point is that she cannot really know his mind from his face. The Captain may or may not be quite as good as Viola’s characterization of him, but he certainly does act in conformity with her word portrait. Mariana’s veiled face near the end of Measure for Measure underscores how unimportant her face really is for Angelo, for during sexual intercourse with her in the dark he imagines that he is making love to Isabella. The same might be said for the other man in Shakespearean comedy who enacts the convention of the bed trick: Bertram of All’s Well That Ends Well. He believes in the dark that his wife Helena is the virgin Diana Capilet. Helena’s face, its beauty and its expressions of love and knowledge, means little to him. The bed trick of Renaissance drama derives from Genesis 29.15-30.14. Jacob has won Laban’s younger daughter Rachel as a wife by serving her father for seven years. However, on the wedding night, Laban sends in to Jacob his elder daughter Leah instead of Rachel. In absolute darkness, Jacob has sexual intercourse with one woman, thinking she is another. This prototype of the bed trick is providential, in that Leah’s conceptions of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah are as necessary as those of the sons begotten by Jacob with Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah to the fulfillment of the divine promise of twelve sons and twelve tribes.28 The benign effect of the hidden face here replicates the divine effects of the often hidden face of the Judaic God of the Old Testament. Even brief analysis shows that Shakespeare echoes one strain of the JudeoChristian face, mainly its absence. This strain, however, cannot qualify the Maurice Hunt, Shakespeare’s Religious Allusiveness: Its Play and Tolerance (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 61.

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profound effect of the reported face of Gonzalo on Prospero. It catalyzes Prospero’s Christian-like preference of virtue over vengeance. Still—as Beckwith nicely shows—his forgiveness of Alonzo and especially his brother Antonio is declarative, one-sided, never acknowledged, not absolute, and so clipped and more intellectual than wholly heart-felt.29 The mind’s retreat from the face, in its profound contemporary effect on religious belief and on self-knowledge, does not, however, qualify in Shakespeare’s King Lear and Julius Caesar the Christian-like effects of Cordelia’s and Lear’s and Brutus’s and Cassius’s face-toface encounters and their mutual forgiveness of each other.

Beckwith, Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness, 147–72.

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Christ’s Face and its Adversaries in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot

An illustrious literary work in which the author imagines the face of Christ is Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. The Augustinian epistemology involving the figure, notably the face, of Christ did not directly influence Dostoyevsky in the writing of this novel but nevertheless authorizes his account of the face’s values and their manifold effects. The Idiot repeatedly focuses the spiritual content of faces in various face-to-face encounters, including those of a character who comes closest to being an incarnation of Christ. Dostoyevsky in a letter to his niece Sonya Ivanova in spring 1866 wrote that he wanted, in a novel dedicated to her, to portray “a ‘positively beautiful’ and Christlike man.”1 Liza Knapp stresses that “it is important to remember that Dostoyevsky envisioned this ‘positively beautiful man’ to be like Christ.”2 Yet Joseph Frank notes what many Dostoyevsky interpreters have remarked—that in his April 1867 notebook for The Idiot Dostoyevsky three times wrote “Prince Christ” or (“Prince is Christ”).3 Standing alone, these charged phrases suggest that at times this character’s spiritual capacities appear other-worldly, if not supernatural. Still, it is true that Dostoyevsky, in an especially dark mood wrought by several repeated tragic losses, finally wanted to show how the corruption of human nature and his Russian society could not tolerate or admit the existence of such a man. Twenty-six-year-old Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin is a remarkably goodhearted man who, like Christ, is drawn to children, sees their innocence and expression of pure love, and is persecuted for his kindness to them. He possesses Liza Knapp, “Where, When, and How The Idiot Was Written,” Dostoevsky’s The Idiot: A Critical Companion, ed. Liza Knapp (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1990), 3–26, esp. 10; Knapp, “Myshkin Through a Murky Glass, Guessingly,” in ibid., 191–215, esp. 191. 2 Knapp, “Myshkin Through a Murky Glass, Guessingly,” 191. 3 Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years 1865–1871 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), 228; Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notebooks for The Idiot, ed. Edward Wasiolek (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 198, 201, 205. 1

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intense sympathy for the suffering of others, even condemned murderers. Myshkin brings out the goodness in others as they instinctively respond to his inclination to think the best of them. His face rarely, perhaps never, expresses aggression or hostility. And yet Prince Myshkin possesses human faults, at least flaws judged human: he suffers from epileptic seizures (as did Dostoyevsky), which have made him seem simple-minded, impaired, an idiot (but these are mainly in his past); he appears socially foolish, dangerously naïve at times. John Givens notes that Myshkin “is laughed at and referred to as an idiot some dozen times” throughout the novel.4 Unlike Christ, he responds passionately to the attraction of a morbidly passionate woman (Nastasya Filippovna Barashkova). Still, his final effect on certain suffering characters of this novel is, at least for the reader, redemptive in a manner which brings Christ to mind. In this respect, he galvanizes the character of the Russian holy fool. “You really are a holy fool,” his antagonist says in the first chapter, “and such men as you God loveth!”5 In 1 Corinthians 4.10, Paul says “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.” The Russian holy fool was sometimes “despised” because he or she was mentally impaired, as epileptic Smerdyakov’s mother, “Stinking Lizaveta,” is in The Brothers Karamazov. Myshkin’s epilepsy, in combination with the qualities listed below, qualifies him for the role of Paul’s fool. The Russian “holy fool is associated with saintliness, a lack of worldliness (or otherworldliness), marginality to society,” and seemingly unintentional emulation of the life and teachings of Jesus. Myshkin’s holiness galvanizes strife and rejection among selfish and passion-driven characters, practically the whole cast of The Idiot, because he reminds them subconsciously of their spiritual deficiency. The Russian holy fool is associated with death, notably a condemnation to death.6 In this last respect, Myshkin is unable to deter Rogozhin from murdering Nastasya. Dostoyevsky wanted in this novel to show how inconsequential Jesus would be were he to appear in late nineteenth-century Russia. This chapter evolves to show how Dostoyevsky’s faith, which required his unbelief for what strength it had, prevented him from fully realizing this intention. John Givens, “A Narrow Escape into Faith? Dostoevsky’s Idiot and the Christology of Comedy,” The Russian Review 70 (January 2011): 95–117, esp. 101. 5 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot, trans. David McDuff; intro. William Mills Todd III, Penguin Classics (London: Penguin, 2004), 17. All quotations of the novel, as well as parenthetical page references, come from this edition. 6 Knapp, “Where, When, and How The Idiot Was Written,” 14; Harriet Murav, Holy Foolishness: Dostoevsky’s Novels and the Poetics of Cultural Critique (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992), 71–98. 4



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At times in The Idiot those around Myshkin see in Myshkin’s face the blank or simple-minded expression of the impaired holy fool whose disability obscures, or explains away, his piety. This face competes in the novel’s opening chapter with another Dostoyevsky paradigm involving the face. More so than in any other novel of Dostoyevsky, the face and its profound effects on others is central to The Idiot.7 Dostoyevsky, like other nineteenth-century European writers such as Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson, was prone to represent the doppelgänger, a character who has an alter ego that can at times be considered a composite single being. (Dostoyevsky in fact wrote a novella titled The Double.) At the beginning of The Idiot, he describes two faces in conjunction with each other that appear to set up this prototypic character. Two men sit across from each other in a compartment of a train hurtling from Warsaw to St. Petersburg. Parfion Semyonovich Rogozhin was rather short, about twenty-seven, with almost black curly hair, and small, grey, but fiery eyes. His nose was broad and flat, and he had high cheek-bones; his thin lips were constantly creased in a kind of brazen mocking and even cruel smile; but his brow was high and well-formed and did much to compensate for the ignobly developed lower part of his face. Especially striking in that face was its deathly pallor, which gave the whole of the young man’s physiognomy an emaciated look, in spite of his rather sturdy build, at the same time imparting to it something passionate, to the point of suffering, that was out of harmony with his coarse and insolent smile and his harsh, self-satisfied gaze. (pp. 5–6).

Details of Dostoyevsky’s faces often conform to the taxonomy of phrenology, a theory created by Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828) and still in vogue in the nineteenth century in which a person’s character could be judged from the structures of the face and skull in their measurable size and shape and their proximity to one another.8 “One may conclude much from a man’s physiognomy” (p. 524), the lawyer Lebedev says in The Idiot. The lower part of Rogozhin’s face is “ignobly developed.” The broad, flat nose, suggestive of Only two articles have explicitly addressed the phenomenon of faces and the face-to-face encounter in The Idiot: Leslie A. Johnson, “The Face of the Other in The Idiot,” Slavic Review 50.4 (Winter 1991): 867–78; and Val Vinokurov, “The End of Consciousness and the Ends of Consciousness: A Reading of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot,” The Russian Review 59 (January 2000): 21–37, esp. 22–9. Also see Robert Louis Jackson, Dostoevsky’s Quest for Form: A Study of His Philosophy of Art, 2nd edn (Bloomington, IN: Physsardt, 1978), 58–9. My analysis of faces in The Idiot differs substantially from those of these literary critics. 8 For an account of phrenology, see Jason Y. Hall, “Gall’s Phrenology: A Romantic Psychology,” Studies in Romanticism 16 (Summer 1977): 305–17; and John Davies, Phrenology: Fad and Science (Yale Historical Publications 62; (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1955). 7

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sensuality and primitive feeling, participates in the composite effect of this part, as do the thin lips in its smile expressive of cruelty and sarcasm; the high brow, however, implies intelligence, the capacity for higher forms of thought and culture.9 (Low ape-like brows suggested stupidity and criminal tendencies.) A third part of Rogozhin’s face consists of his deathly pale skin, suggestive in the Galenic scheme of the four bodily humours (fluids) of strong negative passion, especially romantic passion. Taken as whole, this face conveys the impression that its ominous aspects may eclipse the better nature expressed by it. Myshkin’s Christ-like face takes shape by contrast to Rogozhin’s phrenological countenance. Across from Rogozhin in the train compartment sits a young man … of slightly above-average height, with very thick, fair hair, sunken cheeks and a light, pointed, almost completely white little beard. His eyes were large, blue, and fixed; in their gaze there was something quiet but heavy, and they were filled with that strange expression by which some can detect epilepsy on first glance at a person. The young man’s face was, however, pleasant, delicate and lean, though colourless, and now so cold that it was positively blue. (p. 6)10

Portraits of Christ made during the nineteenth century often depicted him with long hair and a pointed beard. Prince Myshkin’s colors are white and blue— white for purity and innocence and blue for hope and the potential for peace. Admittedly, at the beginning of the novel, a reader, certainly one unaware of Dostoyevsky’s jottings in his Notebooks, would not likely see Myshkin’s features as Christ-like. It is only on re-reading The Idiot, after the many overtones of Christ that Myshkin accumulates, that one perceives a resemblance between this face and reproductions of the Savior. Interestingly, Dostoyevsky avoids describing phrenological features in this “delicate and lean” face. The character in this novel who says that physiognomies tell us much about a man— Lebedev—prefaces his remark that they do so by saying that it is important to “see what kind of physiognomy [a man] adopts” (p. 524)—as though faces may sometimes be put on and not essential. Lebedev is a bit of a rogue and a frequent liar. Dostoyevsky characterizes some characters—actually a minority of those Davies, Phrenology, 121. The exactitude of Dostoyevsky’s compliance with phrenological principles can be seen in his claim that Lizaveta’s “forehead was high, but narrow” (61). She is someone, in other words, who is intelligent, but not so intelligent a person as Rogozhin, who has a wide, high forehead. 10 For a slightly different account of Myshkin’s features, see Linda Ivanits, Dostoevsky and the Russian People (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 185. 9



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with described faces—according to phrenological principles while portraying others in terms of no identifiable classification or system. Considered in this context, the absence of phrenological stereotypes increases the reader’s positive impression of The Idiot’s Christ-like character. Rogozhin’s and Myshkin’s faces come together again at the end of the novel, after a terrible crime has been committed; Rogozhin takes Myshkin by the hand and makes him lie down on sofa cushions, facing his face as he reclines beside him on his right side (p. 711). Their conversation will be reported later in this chapter. For now, it is enough to notice that, when Rogozhin shouts and laughs, the Prince “would reach out his trembling hand to him and quietly touch his head, his hair, stroke them and stroke his cheeks … more than that there was nothing he could do!” (p. 713). Myshkin does this after he has risen from the cushions. But then “tormented … with infinite anguish” he lies down again, “as though now wholly in the grip of helplessness and despair, and pressed his face against Rogozhin’s pale and motionless face; tears streamed from his eyes on to Rogozhin’s cheeks, but it is possible that by then he no longer felt his own tears and knew nothing of them …” (p. 714). Two faces thus seem to merge into one, in which Myshkin is absorbed within Rogozhin’s terrible passion. But, while this image may be bleak, it is those tears of sorrow and possibly forgiveness that the reader remembers as the legacy of this most Christ-like of mortal men. What propels the reader from this novel’s beginning to its end are the series of faces represented by photographs and paintings in the chapters, and by Myshkin’s uncanny ability to read and interpret the faces of those around him, especially those he deeply loves. Myshkin does not object to Adelaida’s assumption that he is “an expert on faces” (p. 79). Dostoyevsky’s Florence apartment was at the end of a square nearest the Arno across from the Pitti Palace, in whose art collection he purportedly saw—and became fascinated by—the face of a man providing the details of Myshkin’s countenance. (The portrait has not been identified.) Possibly this provenance partly accounts for the prevalence of facial composites in The Idiot. Prince Myshkin is travelling from Switzerland, having been released from treatment by his doctor who can no longer afford to be his benefactor, even though Myshkin is not completely cured of his epilepsy. Virtually penniless, but possibly related through his ancient noble title to Lizaveta Prokofievna Yepanchina, Myshkin is seeking her and her three daughters—Adelaida, Aglaya, and Alexandra—and her husband, Ivan Fedorovich, living in St. Petersburg for advice concerning a letter he has received. Rogozhin, on the contrary, has just inherited over a million rubles

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from a father who mercilessly beat him, mainly over his passion for the beautiful Nastasya Barashkova, who has the reputation of a “fallen” woman because of a sexual affair, into which her 55-year-old rich guardian–benefactor, Afanasy Totsky, compelled her at a young age. Impressed by Myshkin’s desire not to inconvenience anyone, Lizaveta’s husband, General Yepanchin, decides to employ the Prince for his marvelous skill in calligraphy. Shortly after his arrival in the Yepanchin’s house, Myshkin encounters the General’s Secretary, Gavrila Ardalion Ivolgin, who has just received a large portrait photograph from Nastasya that impresses the Prince immensely. The reader soon learns that Ganya has agreed with Totsky to marry Nastasya so that Totsky can be freed from his former mistress—who terrifies him with her morbid rage—so that he can marry Alexandra, the General and Lizaveta’s oldest daughter. He has agreed to this wedding because he knows that Totsky has just given Nastasya 75,000 rubles, purportedly as a “prepayment” of what he has left her in his will. Nastasya is aware that she has been “bought” by Ganya in this demeaning “bargain,” and her behavior toward her suitor is cold. Ganya has agreed to this arrangement to free his mother, father, and brother from relative poverty (for he knows that through marriage Nastasya’s money will be his). He is in fact in love with Aglaya, the youngest, supremely beautiful daughter, who now treats him coldly because she is aware of his engagement to Nastasya. Ganya thinks that Nastasya sarcastically has sent him her photograph so that he will have something to give her at her birthday party that evening, among whose guests will be Rogozhin, who has already given her extremely expensive diamond earrings over which his father has beaten him. Nastasya’s face in the photograph portrait transfixes Prince Myshkin, who on three different occasions in Part One of the novel studies its features (pp. 36, 43, 94–5). He sees that “her eyes were dark and deep, her forehead pensive; her expression of her face was passionate and slightly haughty. She was somewhat thin in the face, perhaps, and pale” (p. 36). Nastasya’s face has something in common with Rogozhin’s: the tyranny of passion and compulsion of pride, both handsome, beautiful, in some strange way. “An astonishing face,” Myshkin tells the General. “Her face is cheerful, but she has suffered dreadfully, don’t you think? Her eyes betray it, those two little bones here, two points under her eyes where her cheeks begin. It’s a proud face, a dreadfully proud one, and I simply can’t tell if she is good or not. Oh, if only she were good! It would redeem everything!” (p. 43). According to Adelaida, the Prince may be an “expert in faces,” but he believes he cannot



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read this singular, haunting image. This face the Prince without thinking—and to his own horror—tells Ganya is one a man might marry and whose throat he might cut the next day. Despite his opinion about her inscrutability, the Prince sensitively reads the bone structure of Nastasya’s face as no phrenologist ever could, exquisitely according to an intuition not described in textbooks of phrenology. His final survey of the face in the photograph is the fullest and most revealing: It was as if he were trying to decipher something that was hidden in this face and had struck him earlier … This face, unusual in its beauty and also for some other quality, struck him even more powerfully now. There was in this face something that resembled an immense pride and contempt, hatred, almost, and at the same time something trusting, something extremely artless; as one beheld these features, the two contrasts even seemed to arouse a kind of compassion. This dazzling beauty was positively unendurable, the beauty of the pale face, the almost hollow cheeks and the burning eyes; a strange beauty! (p. 94)

Rogozhin’s Double in The Idiot is not Myshkin but Nastasya, who has two contrasting ideal and negative parts to her face even as Rogozhin does. Dostoyevsky believed that God could forgive even the most egregious sinners and that such sinners were in fact “holy sinners.” Nastasya, Totsky’s—and eventually Rogozhin’s—“kept” woman, is a sinner worthy of this estimate in her own, Rogozhin’s, and Russian society’s opinion. “The prince looked for about a minute, then suddenly recollected himself, glanced about him, and hurriedly brought the portrait to his lips, and kissed it. When, a minute later, he entered the drawing room, his face was completely calm” (p. 94). Compounded in Myshkin’s response to Nastasya’s face is a complex blend of feelings—Christ-like compassion for the suffering of the bearer of the face, for the burden of containing two conflicting natures; love, suddenly bursting, for the singular beauty of this face. Myshkin’s kiss is not that of passionate love. Richard Peace has asserted that “[t]he black dress, the simplicity; the pale thin face with its dark, deep eyes, and pensive forehead—all point toward the type of beauty associated with an icon.”11 Myshkin thinks that he has seen Nastasya’s face before. Peace claims that an icon of Mary Magdalene Richard Peace, Dostoevsky: An Examination of the Major Novels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 82. Cf. Victor Terras, who, in The Idiot: An Interpretation, Twayne Masterwork Studies 57 (Boston: Twayne, 1990), remarks that the Orthodox Christian believed that the human face retained the features of God’s face, and that Myshkin kisses Nastasya’s photograph because he sees them in her countenance (81).

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is the source of the Prince’s feeling.12 That is very likely true in the scope of the novel, but it may not be true on this occasion. Russians usually kiss an icon of Mary, often that of Mary Dolorosa. In Russian Christianity, Christ’s mother’s iconic portrait can be a portal to the spiritual world; kissing it causes one to be able to cross into that realm.13 In that sense, the icon functions like those early economically rendered faces of Christ that amounted to a liminal threshold into the “endless openness of God.” Myshkin’s kissing of Nastaya’s photograph signals his yearning to reach into her spiritual suffering to alleviate it. At this moment, the face he sees is not that of Mary Magdalene, but the Mary seen everywhere in Russian churches. No one in this magnificent novel can read faces so profoundly as Prince Myshkin can. His morality and sensitivity to suffering and his desire to alleviate it in all those around him surface in his story of the execution—the guillotining—he witnessed in France of a prisoner named Legros (pp. 75–8). In response to Adelaida’s request for a subject for her to paint, the Prince identifies “the face of a condemned man a minute before the guillotine falls, while he’s still standing on the scaffold and before he lies down on that plank” (p. 75). Myshkin says that he had seen this face when the criminal Legros looked directly at him at precisely the moment he has described. “I looked at his face and understood everything” (p. 75), he exclaims. By the word “everything,” Dostoyevsky’s reader gathers that Myshkin saw the compression of the soul just before its flight. This vision was not incompatible with the medley of expressions of a whole lifetime condensed in the fear, expectation, and the value of every moment and its entailed objects and thoughts and persons that the Prince saw in Legros’s face. All of this is inexpressible in words but visible in a face. Dostoyevsky glimpsed something like Myshkin’s memory of Legros’s face in the Basel City Art Museum in John the Baptist’s face in Hans Fries’ 1514 “Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” (Fig. 1). Dostoyevsky perhaps thought that the singular expression on this artistically rendered face resembled that of his own as he re-imagined what he must have looked like on the raw dawn of December 22, 1849, when he thought he was about to be executed by a firing squad for his role in the so-called Petrashevsky conspiracy to free the serfs through violence. In the last seconds before shots were fired, a messenger from the Tsar commuted his sentence to penal labor in Siberia. Just Peace, Dostoevsky, 83. Also see Elizabeth Dalton, Unconscious Structure in The Idiot: A Study in Literature and Psychoanalysis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 70, 168. 13 Ivanits, Dostoevsky and the Russian People, 100. 12



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Figure 1  Hans Fries, detail from “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist,” 1514. Kunstmuseum. Photo Credit: SEF / Art Resource, NY.

before he arrived, Dostoyevsky turned to his fellow prisoner, the nihilist Nikolay Speshev, and burst out, “‘Nous serons avec le Christ’ [We shall be with Christ].” “‘Un peu de poussiere’ [A bit of dust]—[Speshev] answered Dostoyevsky with a twisted smile.”14 “We shall on the contrary see only dust.” Dostoyevsky, however, thought he would see his Savior face to face. He thought that cold morning in Saint Petersburg that he would soon see what Dante and those who trampled others yearned to see in its faint image on the Veronica. He thought he would be in the presence of Christ’s face. But that was not to be, to the relief of all those hundreds of thousands who have been mesmerized by his novels. Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850–1859 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 58.

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The primacy of faces, and the value given them, in The Idiot suggest that Dostoyevsky’s postulated yearning for Christ’s face persisted throughout his life. Myshkin’s susceptibility to faces began, he explains to the Yepanchin sisters, when in Switzerland he met the consumptive Marie, who, after having been seduced and abducted by a French commis, was regarded as a whore by her mother and her village and persecuted when the Frenchman returned her. Her face, Myshkin confides, was the first he kissed, not out of amorous love but out of compassion for her great sorrow and unappreciated goodness (p. 83), for Marie, who sleeps on the ground and wears rags, washes the legs and feet of the mother who beats her when she herself can hardly walk or breathe. Myshkin’s kindness toward Marie prompted the children to love her such that some parents eventually responded in kind to this unfortunate soul, who soon died. Simple-minded Marie is a kind of Russian holy fool, unknowingly modeling Christ’s teaching. She in fact was a catalyst for Myshkin’s Christ-like experience. Like Christ, Myshkin is persecuted by the villagers for moving the children to care tenderly for the wretched and outcast. The Prince tells the sisters that, as he sat on the train about to leave the village, he thought “Now I’m going out among people; it may be that I don’t know anything, but a new life has begun” (p. 88). A passage in the Gospel of John provides a context for appreciating Myshkin’s words. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9.4). The Prince concludes his story by saying that, as the train slowly pulled out, he looked carefully at the children’s faces. He tells the sisters: “You know, when I came in here just now and beheld your nice faces—I study faces closely now— and heard your first words, I felt a weight lift from my soul for the first time since then” (p. 89). After he had told his anecdote about Legros the criminal, Lizaveta said to him that she knows from her daughters’ faces that they like Myshkin. “I know by their faces too” (p. 78), he said then. “What do you know about our faces?” Adelaida and Alexandra had asked. Now, after telling his tale of Marie, he is ready to tell them. You, Adelaida Ivanovna, have a happy face, the most sympathetic face of the three. In addition to the fact that you are very pretty, when one looks at you, one says: “She has the face of a kind sister.” Your approach is simple and cheerful, but you are quickly able to understand someone’s heart. That’s my impression of your face. Your face, Alexandra Ivanovna, is also beautiful and very nice, but perhaps you have some secret sadness; your soul is without doubt most kind, but you are not cheerful. You have a certain nuance in your face; it resembles



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that of the Hans Holbein Madonna in Dresden. Well, that’s what I think of your face; am I not a good diviner? (p. 90)

The last of Holbein’s great religious paintings, the “Madonna des Buergemeisters Meyer” (1526), is a Schultzmantelbild (a “Virgin of Pity” painting—see Fig. 2). Pity mixed with sadness is this Madonna’s expression, pity mixed with sadness for the family of Jacob Meyer kneeling before her. Meyer’s face reflects an earnest intensity, a beseeching for divine protection for the wives and children kneeling with him. One of these wives and two of the three children had already died. Myshkin responded to this Dresden Madonna because sadness over humankind’s pain and loss regularly blends into the pity he feels for people whose suffering is exhibited on their faces; for an instant, he views what his face must look like on these occasions in a “certain nuance”

Figure 2  Hans Holbein the Younger, detail from “Madonna des Buergermeisters Meyer,” 1526. Hessisches Landesmuseum. Photo Credit: Foto Marburg / Art Resource, NY.

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in Alexandra’s face. Nevertheless Myshkin’s account of these sisters’ faces is a bit stereotypic, bland even, without the discrimination of features that appears in his response to Nastasya’s face. Dostoyevsky accentuates the singularity of Myshkin’s, Rogozhin’s, and especially Nastasya’s faces by contrast with the Prince’s reading of the sisters’ countenances. Myshkin concludes his taxonomy of Yepanchin faces by telling the mother Lizaveta “Of your face I don’t merely think, I am quite certain that you are a perfect child, in everything, everything, in all that is good and all that is bad, in spite of the fact that you are the age you are” (p. 90). Lizaveta agrees that she is a child, that her childlikeness shows her relationship to Myshkin. But she points out that he has said nothing about Aglaya’s face. Myshkin replies that he can say nothing now, that she is so pretty one is afraid to look at her, and that such great beauty is a riddle difficult to interpret. Dostoyevsky thus singles out Aglaya for a special relationship to Myshkin that will prove problematic for his attraction to Nastasya. The Prince admits that Aglaya is “[a]lmost like Nastasya Filippovna, though her face is quite different …” (p. 91). Since Myshkin has refrained from describing Aglaya’s features, Dostoyevsky keeps the reader in suspense about the difference between the women’s faces. But he has associated the two within his protagonist. General Yepanchin has arranged lodging for Myshkin in the cramped apartments of the relatively impoverished Ivolgin family. Ganya has been described as “slender and fair-haired, with a small Napoleonic beard, and a clever and attractive face. Only his smile, for all its good nature, was slightly too refined; his teeth were somehow too pearly and evenly spaced; his gaze, in spite of all its cheerfulness and apparent sincerity, was a little too fixed and probing” (p. 28). It is Ganya’s Napoleonic beard that signifies his extreme egotism, for Napoleon represented for Dostoyevsky the godless self-centeredness of the Übermensch (the Nietzschean Overman). (Napoleon is Raskolnikov’s model in Crime and Punishment for criminal behavior blameless in the superior man.) The Prince evaluates Ganya’s facial composite but does not judge it. When Myshkin answers the Ivolgin door bell and, astonished, finds Nastasya calling on the family, he acts so clumsily that she thinks he is a servant, thus embarrassing Ganya when he discovers her in the hallway. He is mortified by Myshkin and embarrassed by the apartment’s seediness. “What sort of look is that on your face? Oh my God, what a face you’ve got at this moment!” she exclaims. “[A]nd indeed, Ganya’s face really was very distorted; his rigid stupor, his comical, timorous embarrassment, suddenly left him; but he turned



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dreadfully pale; his lips began to twist convulsively; silently, fixedly and with an evil gaze, not moving away, he looked into the face of his visitor, who continued to laugh” (p. 122). Nastasya’s face produces this awful effect upon Ganya’s face. “Take a drink of water,” Myshkin whispers to him, “[a]nd don’t look that way …” (p. 122). Nastasya’s face creates a contrary, positive impression upon the Prince. When she asks him how he knows her identity, he tells her he has seen her photograph. “I’ve seen your eyes somewhere before … but it isn’t possible I’m just making it up …Perhaps in a dream …” (p. 122). Myshkin’s sense of déjà vu—that he had seen Nastasya’s eyes and face somewhere before he saw her portrait—provokes the reader’s curiosity. Is Nastasya’s face an archetypal face? Is her face recollective of a man’s mother, as the face of the Madonna in a painting of Raphael’s may have been for Dostoyevsky?15 In his application of the ethical thought of the modern/postmodern French–Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas to Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, Val Vinokurov remarks that Myshkin, seeing the pained faces of Ganya, Nastasya, and others about him, responds ethically to his instinctive human perception of the nakedness, destitution, and vulnerability seen in the face of the other, wanting to protect it and relieve the pain it condenses.16 Levinas argues that this ethical response precedes any system of morality. This book’s final chapter applies Levinas’s facial ethics to the authors and works explicated, in contexts and with emphases different from those of Vinokurov’s analysis. But Levinas is briefly invoked here because, as Vinokurov remarks, Myshkin on several occasions intercedes to abort the physical abuse of another’s face by characters blind to what Levinas would much later term the innate pathos of the naked, vulnerable face and its appeal “Do not kill me.”17 This intercession first appears in The Idiot when Ganya’s sister Varvara insults the “loose” woman Nastasya. Ganya berates her, and she spits in his face. When Ganya is about to strike a blow to her face, Myshkin—Christ-like—steps between them and takes the slap on his face instead, a self-sacrificial act. Blind to the pathetic appeal of the pained, naked face of the other, each is also unaware of the appeal of the pain in his or her own face registered by the effort their In the St. Petersburg apartment into which Dostoyevsky in 1878 moved his family, he mounted a photograph copy of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna [and Child] above the couch upon which he slept. Sofia Tolstoya had given it to him after he had told her that he held this painting higher in his regard than any other. His wife Anna often found him standing in front of it. (N. Ashimbaeva, The Dostoevsky Museum in Saint-Petersburg, trans. Jennifer J. Day [Saint Petersburg: Silver Age, 2006], 101.) 16 Vinokurov, “The End of Consciousness,” 24. 17 Ibid., 23–5. 15

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cruelty requires. Myshkin’s merciful intercession causes a temporary peace to reign in the household. The Prince covers his face with his hands, rushes to a corner, and stands “with his face to the wall.” “Oh, how ashamed you will be for what you have done!” (p. 137), he tells Ganya. Nastasya’s “usually pale and reflective face, which had all the time been out of harmony with her earlier apparently affected laughter, was now evidently agitated by a new emotion; and yet she none the less seemed unwilling to display it, and it was as if the mocking smile were struggling to remain on her features” (p. 138). “It’s true, I have seen his face somewhere before! she says suddenly in an earnest voice …” (p. 138). Nastasya is speaking of Myshkin’s now hidden face. Even as he thinks he has seen her face before, she now thinks she recognizes his from an earlier time. Whose face does she see in her mind’s eye? Christ’s? Has he appeared, for instance, in a painting by Joos van Cleve, bearded with a compassionate, pure expression (Fig. 3)? It is more likely that Myshkin’s face is the face of the “kind, honest, good, and a bit stupid” man she says she dreamed of as rescuing her from the sexual prison of the house on Totsky’s estate (p. 200). Whatever the case, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” Myshkin suddenly says, turning his face toward Nastasya and addressing her. “‘You’re not like that, not like the person you pretended to be just now, are you? Is it really possible?’ the Prince suddenly exclaimed with a deep, heartfelt reproach” (p. 138). Myshkin is reproaching Nastasya for her mocking smile. Only he sees the two parts of her face; only he recognizes the goodness expressed by her eyes and the upper part of her face. “‘Indeed I am not like that, he has guessed,’ she whispered quickly, suddenly flaring and blushing all over, and turning away” (p. 138). Nastasya hurriedly leaves, realizing presumably that only Myshkin has perceived her complex nature and her potential for goodness. At this moment she begins to respect him, even to love him. But this is a feeling that she, in her self-contempt arising from her supposed weakness in giving in to Totsky’s predatory deeds, fights to suppress. Ganya and Myshkin reconcile later by kissing each other’s cheek (p. 141). Occasionally in The Idiot characters’ view of the features and expressions on Myshkin’s face causes them to form benign faces that mollify others in a chain reaction. The effect resembles the redemptive effect of God’s face on Jacob and consequently of his detection of it in Esau’s face as well as that of Joseph’s face on his brothers (Genesis 32.24-30, 37.1-50.26). That evening the Prince invites himself to Nastasya’s birthday gathering. Myshkin, apparently without any forethought, blurts out that he loves Nastasya and wants to marry her. Like Christ with Mary Magdalene, Myshkin believes



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Figure 3  Joos van Cleve, Jesus Christ, detail from “The Last Supper,” c. 1530–40. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo Credit: Gianni Dagli Orti / The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY.

a woman who others think a whore is capable of purity. Like Christ, Myshkin feels no carnal desire; the Prince’s marital wish is simply to care for Nastasya by lightening her sorrow. “You need much looking after, Nastasya Filippovna,” Myshkin tells the woman he wants to be his wife. “I will look after you, I saw your portrait earlier, and it was as if I recognized a familiar face. It seemed to

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me that you were already calling me … I … will respect you all my life” (p. 197). “Let’s be off, Rogozhin!” she shouts, however. Only a man as base as Rogozhin, she exclaims as she leaves, deserves a woman as corrupt as herself. Time passes and people, including Myshkin, hear that Nastasya has fled the altar repeatedly from Rogozhin only to become his possession again. The Prince leaves St. Petersburg for Moscow and then returns, seeking any news he can of Nastasya’s whereabouts. When he detrains at the Yepanchins’ dacha in Pavlovsk, he “fancied he saw the strange, hot gaze of someone’s eyes” (p. 213). These of course can only be jealous Rogozhin’s eyes, shadowing the Prince. The amateur lawyer Lebedev tells Myshkin that Nastasya, who says she is more afraid of the Prince than of Rogozhin, may possibly be at his wife’s sister’s dacha. In seeking the house, Myshkin walks through a part of St. Petersburg where he knows Rogozhin lives. It is at this point that a face unforgettably focuses a powerful religious question whose answer bears heavily on what the reader makes of Myshkin’s Christ-like character. Rogozhin’s family house’s face resembles Rogozhin’s dark visage. “This house was large, gloomy, three stories high, without any architectural merit” (p. 239). Built at the end of the eighteenth century, this house was “built solidly, with thick walls and exceedingly few windows; on the ground floor the windows sometimes have bars. Usually the ground floor is taken up by a moneychanger’s shop. The skopets who sits in the shop rents the floor above. [The scopsy was a Russian religious sect whose members castrated themselves]. Both outside and inside the place feels inhospitable and arid, everything appears to be screening and concealing itself, but why it seems this way purely from the house’s physiognomy would be hard to explain” (p. 239). The word “physiognomy” makes these architectural details signify the house’s face—its facial features. Like Rogozhin’s face, that of the house is gloomy, ominous, threatening; like Rogozhin, it is arid, associated with money and castration. Rogozhin has bargained with money for Nastasya, and she, in initially rejecting him, did so destructively (castrating him figuratively by choosing a less virile man). This is the face that Myshkin seeks to penetrate by entering it and climbing dark, cold stairs to the Rogozhins’ second floor rooms occupied by Rogozhin, his mother, and brother. Rogozhin answers the Prince’s ring, and turns to stone when he sees him. Led into the study, Myshkin sees a dark, soot-begrimed portrait of Rogozhin’s father: a man about fifty, in a frock coat of German cut, showing “a very sparse and short greyish beard, a yellow, wrinkled face, and a suspicious, reserved and sorrowful gaze” (p. 242). His son tells Myshkin that



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his father thought highly of the money-lending skoptsy who have always lived on the ground floor. Zinaida Malenko and James J. Gebhard have argued that this portrait’s features capture the greed of the Rogozhin family, an avarice consistent with the suspicious, reserved front of the house.18 The first portrait’s face in Rogozhin’s house suggests the family greed to which he could fall prey;19 the second portrait’s face strengthens Rogozhin’s religious disbelief. During their conversation, which mainly concerns Nastasya’s odd behavior, Rogozhin’s face alternates between expressions of hatred and brotherly feeling as he explains that she loves Myshkin and would only marry himself out of spite, chiefly not to ruin the Prince. A small hunting knife on the table between them, which Rogozhin claims he bought to cut book pages, makes the Prince uneasy. Rogozhin repeatedly grabs it out of Myshkin’s hand when he nervously picks it up. As Rogozhin conducts his rival toward the staircase, the Prince notices a painting of the dead Christ who has been taken down from the cross and entombed, his still bluish face frozen in an unforgettable expression of pain. The painting is a copy of Hans Holbein the Younger’s “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb” (1521), which Dostoyevsky and his wife Anna Grigorievna had seen in August 1867 in the Basel Museum. In it, the artist depicts Christ’s thin cadaver in profile from the side; the rectangular painting is remarkable for its horizontal length and the shortness of its height (Fig. 4). Dostoyevsky was deeply impressed by this painting, excitedly pronouncing Holbein an artist of the first rank. But Anna was horrified. Her description of the painting in her diary does justice to what Myshkin sees and the challenge to faith that he talks about with Rogozhin: As a rule, one sees Jesus Christ painted after His death with His face all tortured and suffering, but His body with no marks on it at all of pain and suffering … though of course they must have been there. But here the whole form is emaciated, the ribs and bones plain to see, hands and feet riddled with wounds, all blue and swollen, like a corpse on the point of decomposition. The face too is fearfully agonized, the eyes half open still, but with no expression in them, and giving no idea of seeing. Nose, mouth and chin are all blue; the whole thing bears Zinaida Malenko and James J. Gebhard, “The Artistic Use of Portraits in Dostoevsky’s Idiot,” The Slavic and East European Journal 5.3 (1961): 243–54, esp. 248. 19 Rogozhin tells Myshkin that Nastasya, when she visited his house and saw his father’s portrait, said that, if he had not become obsessed by her, he would have lived his father’s life: “you’d have started to pile up money, and, like your father, you’d have settled down in this house with its skoptsy; you might even have gone over to their faith in the end, and you’d have loved your money so much that you’d have piled up not two but ten millions …” (p. 250). 18

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Figure 4  Hans Holbein the Younger, detail from “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb,” c. 1520–2. Kunstmuseum. Photo Credit: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY. such as strong resemblance to a real body that I should not like to be left with it in a room … Feodor, nonetheless, was completely carried away by it, and in his desire to look at it closer got on to a chair …20

“I saw this painting when I was abroad,” Myshkin says, “and can’t forget it” (p. 255). Dostoyevsky had seen it too, and he could never forget it. In her Reminiscences, Anna gives a more negative account of her husband’s reaction to this painting. The painting had a crushing impact on Feodor Mikhailovich. He stood before it stunned … When I came back after fifteen or twenty minutes, I found him riveted to the same spot in front of the painting. His agitated face had a kind of dread in it, something like I had noticed more than once during the first moments of an epileptic seizure.21

Anna remembered that she led Dostoyevsky to another room and sat him down, expecting the attack that did not occur. Christ’s tortured face becomes Dostoyevsky’s “agitated face.” Joseph Frank judges that “[n]o greater challenge could be offered to Dostoyevsky’s own faith in Christ the God Man than Frank, The Miraculous Years, 221–2 (my italics). Ibid., 221.

20 21



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[Holbein’s] vision of a tortured and decaying human being, whose face bore not a trace of the ‘extraordinary beauty’ with which, as [Dostoyevsky] was to write in [The Idiot], Christ is usually painted.”22 Dostoyevsky later said that Holbein’s painting could smash a man’s faith.23 “That painting! … That painting! Some people might lose their faith looking at that painting!” (p. 255), the Prince exclaims. Many interpreters of The Idiot, including Sarah Young, believe that Myshkin lumps himself with this group, and that this painting negatively affects him for the rest of the novel.24 Some people viewing the painting lose their faith, the Prince implies; some do not. For a greater group of interpreters of this riveting scene, including Robin Feuer Miller, the Prince’s word might indicate that he does not lose his faith in Christ.25 After all, Myshkin’s comatose bouts of idiocy, not exactly coincidental with his epileptic seizures, have been so death-like that his viewing the dead Christ need not preclude his belief in the Resurrection. Myshkin has come back to life many times after a “death.” Later in the novel, Dostoyevsky introduces a young man named Ippolit Terentyev, a nihilist dying of consumption. After calling upon Rogozhin and leaving his rooms, he says he saw a painting that “had no artistic merit” but one which “produced in me a strange sense of unease” (p. 475). This of course is Holbein’s Dead Christ. Ippolit—not Rogozhin or Myshkin— paraphrases Anna’s reaction recorded in her diary. [H]ere there is only nature, and this is truly what the corpse of a man … must look like after such torments … In the painting, the face has been horribly lacerated by blows, swollen, with terrible, swollen and bloody bruises, the eyes open, the pupils narrow; the large, open whites of the eyes gleam with a deathly, glassy sheen. (p. 476)

In his re-imagination of the profound impression Holbein’s dead Christ’s face had on Dostoyevsky and Anna, the Russian novelist Leonid Tsypkin in Summer Ibid. George A. Panichas, Dostoevsky’s Spiritual Art: The Burden of Vision (1981; New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2005), 49. 24 Sarah J. Young, Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and the Ethical Foundations of Narrative: Reading, Narrating, Scripting (London: Anthem Press, 2004), 126. 25 Robin Feuer Miller, Dostoevsky’s The Idiot: Author, Narrator, and Reader (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 212. Rowan Williams, in Dostoevsky: Language, Faith, and Fiction (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2011), asserts that the dead Christ’s face in Holbein’s painting is an anti-icon: a face seen “only in profile, turned at an angle to any possible encounter” (201). Such faces, understood in terms of Russian iconology, are demonic (pp. 200–1). W. J. Leatherbarrow, in A Devil’s Vaudeville: The Demonic in Dostoevsky’s Major Fiction (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2005), associates Myshkin’s lapse into idiocy at the end of the novel with Holbein’s painting of a Christ “emptied of divine content” (p. 108), a Christ the diabolical opposite of him capable of kenosis. 22 23

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in Baden-Baden (1981) has Anna suddenly recollect this face as she tries to cradle her similarly “blue-faced” husband during a seizure he had shortly after the Basel viewing.26 Here, one face saturates another face with death, depression. Ippolit says that he then wondered how all Christ’s Disciples, and the Apostles who followed him, and the women who followed them—all who stood by the cross—could ever believe that this man rose again and could worship him for that reason.27 Through Ippolit, Dostoyevsky introduces Nature into Anna’s account of the painting and its terrific effect. Ippolit exclaims that in the painting the Nature reflected by Christ’s corpse is some enormous, implacable and speechless animal or, more nearly, far more nearly, though strangely … as some enormous machine of the most modern devising, which has senselessly seized, smashed to pieces and devoured, dully and without feeling, a great and priceless being—a being which alone was worth the whole of nature and all laws, the whole earth. (p. 476)

If Dostoyevsky’s reaction to Holbein’s painting at all resembled what Anna described in Reminiscences, it must have in whole, or in part, resembled Terentyev’s. Holbein may have sorely tested Dostoyevsky’s faith, and it may have wavered, but it did not crumble. Queen Gertrude’s pronouncement in Shakespeare’s Hamlet might express Dostoyevsky’s belief that, rather than being a great beast conclusively devouring Christ and humankind, they—like Hamlet’s father—are “[passing] through nature to eternity” (1.2.73).28 Looking at the painting provokes Rogozhin to ask Myshkin, “[D]o you believe in God or not?” It is as though the painting has either caused or reinforced Rogozhin’s disbelief, which a reader senses would be in character. Myshkin, however, unequivocally reveals that the painting has not displaced his faith.29 His revelation is through a unique potential of the human face. Leonid Tsypkin, Summer in Baden-Baden, trans. Roger and Angela Keyes (New York: New Directions, 2001), 14. 27 See Julia Kristeva, “Holbein’s Dead Christ,” Fragments for a History of the Human Body, Part One, ed. Michel Feher with Ramona Nadoff and Nadia Tazi (New York: Zone, 1980), 238–69. Kristeva’s detailed, excellent reading of this work sets it in the context of contemporary paintings of the dead Christ by Matthias Grünewald and Andrea Mantegna as well as depictions of Death in woodcuts and other graphic arts. 28 William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, The Arden Shakespeare, 3rd series (London: Methuen, 2006), 171. 29 One option open to Dostoyevsky consistent with “second-day theology” would have been to have Myshkin express the opinion that Holbein had provided several subtle suggestions that Christ is just beginning to stir to life. The corpse’s face includes the half-open eye that is not so much death-glazed as beginning to see: the strange light green color behind the body in the tomb is a 26



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Myshkin stops one step down the stairs and turns to answer Rogozhin’s question by saying that he has had four encounters in the last two days concerning the issue of faith in God’s existence. The first involved his impression that atheists never really talk about their lack of faith when they talk about atheism; the second concerned a peasant who crossed himself and prayed to God to forgive him as he cut the throat of a friend to steal his watch. The third involved a soldier who sold Myshkin a cheap metal Russian cross almost certainly to buy drink; and the fourth—and most important—concerned his sudden sight of the face of a six-week-old baby in a peasant girl’s arms who radiantly smiles at his mother, likely for the first time (pp. 256–8). Seeing the smile, she crossed herself. When Myshkin asked why she did so, she beautifully explained, “Well … just as a mother rejoices when she notices the first smile from her baby, so God rejoices every time he looks down from heaven and sees a sinner kneeling before him and praying with all his heart” (p. 258). Myshkin tells Rogozhin that, in her answer, he heard “a profound, such a subtle and truly religious thought, a thought in which the whole essence of Christianity was instantly expressed; the whole concept of God as our father and of God’s rejoicing in man, like the rejoicing of a father in his child—the principal idea of Christ” (p. 258).30 Humankind smiles because God smiles. In this respect, the mother’s and baby’s faces confirm the assumption that God made humankind’s face to reflect the image of His own visage. “When we are loved, we see the face of God.” Myshkin’s story suggests that this could have been the utterance of Dostoyevsky hypothesized in the last paragraph of Chapter 1. Here is evidence for a belief that can displace the terrible doubt produced by Holbein’s vision of the tortured face and body of the man Christ. Now a reader understands better why Dostoyevsky could not have given to Myshkin Anna’s account of her terror-struck reaction to the face of Holbein’s Christ. “[T]he essence of religious feeling has nothing to do with any reasoning, or misdemeanours, or crimes, or atheism,” the Prince asserts: supernatural nimbus; neck muscles tense as though to lift the head, and so on. For a thorough presentation of the vague evidence that Holbein’s Christ is beginning to come to life and the reading that faithful Myshkin perceives that stirring, see Tatiana Kasatkina, “After Seeing the Original: Hans Holbein the Younger’s Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb in the Structure of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot,” Russian Studies in Literature 47.3 (Summer 2011): 73–97. Kasatkina notes that the description under Holbein’s painting, which did not appear in the Basel Museum, was To Christ Savior (p. 85). Even if he was the “distant, aloof, accomplished ironist” who Kristeva portrays (p. 256), Holbein, converting from being a Catholic to being a Protestant, gave no evidence of abandoning his faith. 30 Michael Eigen, in “On the Significance of the Face,” The Psychoanalytic Review 67.4 (Winter 1980–1): 427–41, explains that the baby’s spontaneous radiant smile as he looks into his mother’s eyes is a promise of later spiritual and mental health.

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The Prince speculates that the peasant girl could have been the wife of the soldier in the third encounter; not every man who sees a baby’s smile, even when it is his child, can come to Myshkin’s faithful conclusion. Even though he has a Russian heart, the soldier who sold a cheap cross lacks the soul to read truly an innocent smiling face. So it is a smile on the face of a baby that condenses the reason to believe in God. “May God be with you!” (p. 258), Myshkin shouts back as he descends the stairs. But Rogozhin calls him back, and asks him if he is wearing the cross the soldier gave him. Hearing an affirmative reply, he proposes a Russian act of Christian communion, the exchanging of crosses worn from the neck. Rogozhin receives a tin cross in exchange for a golden one he gives the Prince. The mocking smile on Rogozhin’s face begs comparison with the innocent baby’s wholly loving smile. It suggests that his tin cross will never transform itself into a golden one, symbolic of Christian spiritual gold. And that is doubly sad, for that cross has been extended to him by the nearest approximation of Christ among the men and women of Dostoyevsky’s world. Ironically, Rogozhin’s golden cross befits the Prince. During the rest of the day, Myshkin wanders about St. Petersburg, gradually sensing the symptoms of a seizure’s onset. He feels Rogozhin’s eyes on him several times, and he dumbly, without knowing why, returns several times to a store window that displays a knife for sale. He calls at the house of Lebedev’s female relative where Nastasya might be staying, and not surprisingly finds her absent, in Pavlovsk. Compulsively, fearful of what he may find, Myshkin begins climbing the dark stairs toward his hotel room. In a niche halfway up, he sees the shape of a man hiding there. “The two eyes of earlier that day, the same ones, suddenly met his gaze … Suddenly, the prince seized him by the shoulder … he wanted to see the face more clearly” (pp. 273–4). The face of course is Rogozhin’s. His “eyes had begun to glitter, and a rabid smile distorted his face” (p. 274). This is Death’s face; the face antithetical to Myshkin’s—even as Myshkin’s had been to Rogozhin’s as they first sat across from each other on the St. Petersburg train. The smile on this face is the smile of faithlessness, of broken brotherhood; it is another antithesis to a baby’s first smile for his mother,



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of a father for his children, of God rejoicing in the humankind He has made. The light flashing on the blade of a lifted knife galvanizes the lightning flash in Myshkin’s mind of the onset of epileptic seizure. He howls, falls backward— saving himself from Rogozhin’s thrust—and rolls injured down the stairs. Myshkin recovers and returns to the dacha he rents in Pavlovsk, near that of the Yepanchins. Aglaya begins mysteriously speaking of no one being better than “the poor knight.” Kolya Ivolgin, Ganya’s good-hearted younger brother, reveals that Aglaya first made this odd assertion when she was looking through Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Readers remember that she inserted in this book the note of admiration that Myshkin had sent her. Aglaya has asked Adelaida to paint the portrait of a poor knight. All Adelaida has to go on is a fragment of a Pushkin poem about a poor knight. Two verses read “From his face he never raised / To anyone his visor’s steel” (p. 289). “But how could I have painted it?” (p. 289), Adelaida protests. Of what value is a portrait of a faceless knight? No one associates Myshkin’s face with that of a “poor knight.” But when Aglaya speaks of the respect this knight deserves for having an ideal he believes in with his whole life, an “image of pure beauty,” and that he has a rosary around his neck (p. 291), one gathers that this is Myshkin rather than some unknown romantic ideal, and that she is in love with him. The rosary, after all, identifies the religious dimension of his character. Aglaya claims that chivalrous Platonic love reaches a wonderful extreme of asceticism in the knight. There is an ascetic quality in Myshkin’s love for Nastasya, and to his blooming love for Aglaya, a quality consistent with the asceticism of Christ’s relationship to women. So why is Aglaya’s fantasy of her ideal poor knight faceless? A reader attuned to the insults and rejection the Russian holy fool draws might suppose Aglaya is ashamed of Myshkin’s face, especially since it can appear to Russians as that of a certifiable idiot. But that does not seem to be her reason. She recites all the stanzas of Pushkin’s incomplete poem, one of which identifies the poor knight’s love: Filled with a love for ever pure, Faithful to his dream’s sweet note, F. N. B. at last in his own blood Upon his shield he wrote. (p. 294)

Myshkin, an auditor in the group, realizes that Aglaya has substituted these initials for Pushkin’s “A. N. D.” Neither he nor any other auditor realizes that

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they stand coded for Nastasya Filippovna Barashkov. Aglaya, while beginning to love Myshkin, signals that she believes he loves another woman. And so his facelessness may represent her belief that she may never have him; that he is meant for another. Or it might suggest that Myshkin’s Christ-like face can never be the face a woman dreams of as that of her romantic prince. And yet Nastasya has seen Myshkin’s face in this context in her dreams. Whatever the case, covering Christ-like Myshkin’s face complements its non-appearance in New Testament narratives. Its absence agrees with the ascetic nature of Aglaya’s love. Prince Myshkin recovers at his dacha near that of the Yepanchins, and is visited while still comatose several times by an apparently contrite Rogozhin. One summer evening, as the Prince accompanies the Yepanchins to the Pavlovsk pleasure gardens to hear band music, as everyone laughs at something he has said, he becomes aware that “not far from the place where he was sitting, somewhere at the side—he could not have pointed to the exact spot—a face, a pale face, with dark, curly hair, a familiar, very familiar smile and gaze—fleeted into view and disappeared” (p. 405). Almost immediately, Rogozhin’s Double Nastasya appears to the Prince, for the first time in more than three months, with an intoxicated, strange crowd. Having seen a glimpse of Rogozhin’s face, he recalls that he has thought of Nastasya’s. Several times [during the last six months] he had remembered the initial sensation this woman’s face had caused in him, when he had seen it only in her portrait, but even in that impression, he recalled, there had been too much that was painful … In the very face of this woman there was always something tormenting for him: the prince, as he talked to Rogozhin, had ascribed this sensation to one of infinite compassion … even in the portrait, this face had called forth from his heart the whole suffering of pity … Now, at this moment, he sensed [a horror he had previously felt] fully; he was certain, he was convinced … that this woman was insane. (pp. 407–8)

William Mills Todd has remarked that Prince Myshkin “can read the faces of children and of characters, such as Rogozhin and Nastasya Filippovna, who are marginal to society, but he cannot read the faces of those who are trained to dissemble.”31 On the contrary, Myshkin can read children’s faces and secondary characters’ faces, but he has trouble reading Rogozhin’s and especially Nastasya’s as his involvement with them complicates the three principal figures’ relationship to one another. Myshkin may correctly judge Nastasya insane from William Mills Todd III, “Introduction,” The Idiot, xi–xxxiii, esp. xxxiii.

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a new twisted feature of her face, but his confidence in reading the composite weakens a bit. The novel’s conclusion will suggest that Myshkin most likely reads the face of Lebedev’s humane daughter, Vera, most clearly of any. And, if so, that is a function apparently of an unalloyed love for her. The insanity previously seen in homicidal Rogozhin’s face transfers itself to the face of his Double Nastasya. Both faces now torment the Prince; it would be hard to see which one does so more. Nevertheless Myshkin intercedes to prevent the physical abuse of a face that he yearns to protect, just as he did in the Ivolgin apartments when Varvara spit in Ganya’s face and he attempted to slap hers (striking intervening Myshkin instead). In the present episode, Nastasya cannot resist tormenting Aglaya’s suitor Prince Yevgeny Radomsky by telling him that she believes he guessed that his uncle would shoot himself, and so retired opportunely to be able to inherit his riches when the old man did in fact do so. A young officer, overhearing her callous remark, tells Radomsky, “You need to use the whip, otherwise you’ll get nowhere with that creature!” (p. 409). Outraged, Nastasya grabs the “plaited riding crop out of [the officer’s] hands, and lashed her insulter across the face with it” (p. 409). Singularly sensitive to any naked, vulnerable human face’s appeal for protection from violence, Myshkin prevents the officer from striking Nastasya by grabbing his arms, just long enough for Keller the boxer and other followers to step between her and the officer. Dostoyevsky cannot resist focusing the potentially deadly effect that Hans Holbein’s portrait of the dead Christ’s face could have on someone. That someone is the consumptive Ippolit Terentyev, who saw the painting along Rogozhin’s staircase. Ippolit’s belief in a Godless universe prepares him to exercise an idea recurrent in other Dostoyevsky novels—that in a completely materialist world a special man can exert his freedom by choosing to kill himself in an act that trumps the dumb beast Nature’s agents of atrophy and disease. Ippolit’s horror over the brutal humanness of Christ’s face in Holbein’s painting has condensed fearfully his belief that God and Christ care nothing about him. The awful effect of Holbein’s face, acting in concert with a terminal disease, obscures Terentyev’s awareness that he once chose to enact a biblical truth. This Gospel passage prefaces The Karamazov Brothers (1879–80): “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12.24).”32 Self-sacrificial and charitable deeds, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Karamazov Brothers, trans. Ignat Ivsey, Oxford World Classics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3.

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especially certain ones of Aloysha Karamazov, are figurative seeds in this later novel which sprout and grow within others and—presumably—within sensitive readers. The nihilist Terentyev applies John’s teaching not to himself but to an old General famous for his acts of charity to hardened criminals. “In sowing your seed, sowing your ‘charity,’ your good deeds in whatever form, you give away a part of your personality and absorb part of another” (p. 472), he pronounces. But Ippolit cannot act upon his insight, and he bitterly imagines that the short time he has left permits him only one abrupt “good deed.” Egotistically, he thinks that his “free” suicide will be his good deed that blossoms for others when they realize they live in a universe ruled by blind and deaf Nature—not God—and consequently follow this “disciple’s” lethal example. The dead Christ’s face in Holbein’s painting seals Terentyev’s credo. Ominously reinforcing the fatal effect of Holbein’s Christ’s face on Ippolit is Rogozhin’s pale, spectral face, as the consumptive recounts it appearing to him when he saw—or imagines he saw—Rogozhin creep into his bedroom shortly after he saw the dead Christ’s face. It silently looks at him for a while before Rogozhin crept away (pp. 477–9). Later, Ippolit thinks this might be a ghost, partly because Rogozhin wears a tailcoat, a white waistcoat, and a white tie. In The Karamazov Brothers, the materialist Ivan cannot tell whether a devil who has appeared is real or an apparition of his own making. Vaguely, but ominously, Rogozhin’s “tail” coat associates him with the tailed, stereotypical devil.33 Through this late episode Dostoyevsky deepens the impact of Holbein’s Christ’s face upon Ippolit by having it come to life—so to say—and haunt him as Rogozhin’s face. Another haunting face of Christ is the countenance Nastasya devises for a painting she would do. Myshkin reads about this face in one of the three letters that Nastasya has sent to Aglaya (and that she has given the Prince to torment him). “Artists always paint Christ according to the Gospel legends,” Nastasya writes. I would paint him differently: I would depict him alone—after all, his disciples did leave him alone sometimes. I would leave him with only one small child. The child is playing beside him; perhaps telling him some story in his childish language. Christ is listening to him, but now falls into reflection; his hand remains unconsciously, forgetfully, on the child’s radiant little head. He is In The Karamazov Brothers, the spiteful priest Father Therapon is the character who has visions of devils with horns and a tail.

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looking into the distance, at the horizon; a thought enormous as the whole world rests in his gaze; his face is sad. The child has fallen silent, rests his elbows on his knees, and, propping his cheek in his hand raises his head and reflectively, as children sometime reflect, looks at him with an intent gaze. The sun is setting … That is my painting! (p. 530)

Christ’s sad face could just as easily be Myshkin’s sad face. Similar contexts suggest so. Myshkin’s love for the children of Marie’s Swiss village and his belief in their innocence resemble Christ’s attitude toward them, and the Prince’s exclamation then that any harm done to them is harm done to Christ echoes Christ’s words. Shortly before he reads Nastasya’s letters, Myshkin remembers when in Switzerland he hiked into the mountains and how [b]efore him was the brilliant sky and blue, below him the lake, all around a radiant unending horizon, which had no termination and no limit. For a long time he gazed, and was racked by torment. Now he remembered how he had stretched out his arms into that radiant, unending blue and wept. What tortured him was that he was completely alien to all this (p. 494).

Like Myshkin, Christ in Nastasya’s imagined painting looks toward the horizon and is sad. Perhaps he imagines the awful abuse that children have suffered, and will suffer, in this fallen world. Perhaps he foresees near where sky and land merge his crucifixion, or something perhaps similar to Holbein’s representation of the torment he will undergo as a man. He, too, could be thinking of himself as an alien, someone out of place in his world.34 But Nastasya’s Christ probably is not Myshkin’s. Pressed for a further comment, Nastasya might likely say that Christ forgets the child, whose imagined posture and gaze expresses need and dependency. Nastasya’s hypothesized utterance would reveal her sense of spiritual abandonment but yet a persistent, unspoken need for Christ. Her Christ has turned away His face, but it is still alive, potentially so to her in Myshkin’s present countenance. But compassionately ministering to her sorrow is proving difficult for the Prince. Her face in Myshkin’s mind starts to resemble the ghastly, frightening apparitional face of Rogozhin in Ippolit’s mind. She and Rogozhin, after all, are Doubles, especially for the Prince. “In [her] face there was so much remorse and horror that it Panichas, in Dostoevsky’s Spiritual Art, has a contrary interpretation of the symbolic meaning of the horizon toward which Myshkin and the Christ of an imagined painting gaze: it represents “that ultimate point where everything has its end and its beginning in God, that ultimate point which is comparable only with birth and death” (p. 57).

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seemed she was a terrible criminal who had just committed a dreadful crime. A tear trembled on her pale cheek; she beckoned to him [in his imagination] with her hand and put a finger to her lips” (p. 495). Dreaming, he sees this face a second time, just before he begins to read her letters. Dostoyevsky had resolved to show in The Idiot that the most Christ-like man could not work the Savior’s ministry in the author’s world. Myshkin’s fearful perception of Nastasya’s countenance contributes to his proposal of marriage to Aglaya, who, after taunting him with being an idiot difficult to present in society, accepts it. Her hysterical jealousy for Nastaya, who she believes still venerates the Prince, prompts her decision. But Myshkin explodes during the Yepanchins’ gathering to introduce him as their daughter’s fiancé when, waving his arms in response to the claim that his benefactor/guardian was a Catholic, he accidentally breaks a precious Chinese vase Aglaya has warned him to stay away from because she fears his clumsiness. He asserts that his guardian was a Christian and that Russian nationalists are most truly Christians. The Prince mentions Christ explicitly for the only time in the novel when he asserts that Catholicism, because it survives through its bloody, secular power, teaches a distorted Christ 635).35 In the ensuing turmoil, Myshkin succumbs to an epileptic fit. Just before the rapture of his fit begins, Myshkin tells the Russian upper class that their “faces,” like his, “are ridiculous” (p. 644), and that they all need to love the trees and the grass and one another as children love the world. But Myshkin’s outrageous behavior and opinions cause everyone to forget his message. Consistent with his loss of influence, Myshkin’s ensuing encounters with Nastasya and Aglaya entail a struggle with their basilisk-like faces which sap his spiritual power. Aglaya expects the dumbfounded Prince to accompany her to Darya Alexeyevna’s dacha where Rogozhin and Nastasya await. Aglaya says that she wants to reply to Nastasya’s letters, and so she tells Nastasya that her pride and vanity prevent her from truly loving the Prince. “[W]ith a poisonous gaze,” she watches her words’ “effect on Nastasya Filippovna’s face, which contorted with turmoil” (p. 662). Aglaya wants to know by what right Nastasya interfered with her love for Myshkin. As the venomous debate over Myshkin escalates, Aglaya taunts Nastasya with the fact that she remained with her seducer Totsky, and Nastasya baits Aglaya with the claim that her rival has wanted the present Myshkin’s anti-Catholic arguments accurately reflect Dostoyevsky’s opinions, as the implied anti-Catholicism of the Grand Inquisitor episode of The Karamazov Brothers also does. Some commentators on The Idiot believe that Dostoyevsky undercuts this prejudice by giving it to a character occasionally prone to ridiculous behavior and statements.

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meeting vainly, jealously, to ascertain whether Myshkin loves her more than he can this “fallen” woman (which Nastasya exclaims that he does). In a rage, Nastasha shouts at the Prince to come to her now; if he cannot, and if he remains by Aglaya, she nastily tells Aglaya to take him as her “leaving.” Both women stare at Msyhkin in breathless expectation. “All that he saw before him was a desperate reckless face which, as he had once let slip to Aglaya, had pierced his heart forever” (p. 666). Nastasya’s face had pierced his heart forever the instant he saw her photograph-portrait the night he met the Yepanchins. Her face now triumphs over Aglaya’s countenance. And so Myshkin says to Aglaya, “How can you do this? I mean, she is … so unhappy!” (p. 666). Myshkin’s singular compassion, which he cannot repress, tragically severs him forever from insulted Aglaya and commits him to a woman whom he has feared, who is perhaps insane. Aglaya, hating both of them, “cover[s] her face” (p. 667). Nastasya’s “desolate, contorted face stared at [Myshkin] point-blank,” and she faints into the Prince’s arms, crying “Mine! Mine!” when she awakens (p. 667). And so Myshkin is to marry the disreputable Nastasya, to the amazement of St. Petersburg society. That one of the novel’s climactic scenes is a contest between faces is suggested by Yevgeny Radomsky’s claim that Myshkin should have looked more intently at Aglaya’s face at the crucial moment rather than at Nastasya’s because it, Radomsky believes, must have reflected more suffering than the other’s countenance and so should have deserved preference (p. 678). That the Prince is under the influence of the women’s faces becomes apparent when he, in response to Radomsky’s accusation, remembers how Aglaya’s face looked and now compassionately grieves for it and exclaims that the two of them should run to help Aglaya. But then Myshkin hesitates, recalling the two rivals “standing facing each other” and as well as that he “couldn’t bear to look at Nastasya Filippovna’s face” (p. 679). He confesses that for some time he has not been able “to bear [her] face” (p. 679). He wonders if Aglaya has “the same face now as she had when she ran out of the room” (p. 680). This dialogue ends with Radomsky—like Dostoyevsky’s reader—wondering “what was the meaning of this face he feared and loved so much” (p. 681). As the day of Myshkin’s marriage in a Pavlovsk church approaches, a distraught Nastasya tells the Prince that she thinks Rogozhin has been hiding in Darya’s garden and that he is going to kill her (pp. 689–90). On the day of the wedding, Nastasya in her gown emerges from Darya’s dacha before a large, noisy crowd to get into a carriage; then she shouts that she wants to be taken away, rushes into the crowd and Rogozhin’s arms, and is whisked away in the commandeered

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carriage to the St. Petersburg train station. The next morning the Prince knocks on the door of Rogozhin’s gloomy house. Told repeatedly that Rogozhin is not there, Myshkin keeps returning, meeting a progressively colder attitude from servants and finally a locked, shuttered house. At last, in the street, a strange Rogozhin touches the Prince on the shoulder, calls him “brother,” and tells him to come with him because he’s needed (p. 704). Taking him into his house and his rooms, Rogozhin, in reply to fevered Myshkin’s questions about Nastasya’s whereabouts, says that she is sleeping on the bed behind a drawn curtain. “The sleeper was covered from the head downward with a white sheet, but the limbs somehow shown through indistinctly … not the slightest rustle was audible, not the slightest breath” (p. 708). His heart beating violently, Myshkin had said that he could not bear to look at Nastasya’s face. Now he does not have to look at it; it is covered with a sheet, white—a blank. He will never see her face again. Dostoyevsky spares the reader from having to see it in the mind’s eye. No word picture materializes. The reader never has to see a faint reflection of the tortured face of Holbein’s dead Christ. No one in the novel or outside it, reading it, ever knows what the meaning of Nastasya’s face finally is. The name “Anastasia”—Nastasya—means “resurrection” and “Barashkova” means “sacrificial lamb.”36 But the fly that awakens to buzz about the corpse causes the Prince to shudder, and so interjects into the scene the reminder that corpses decay. Rogozhin proposes that he make a bed for the two of them together for the night, so that they might lie next to Nastasya. The nearly fainting, stammering Myshkin agrees to Rogozhin’s proposal that they guard her from others. Lying close together, facing each other, Rogozhin, lying on the left cushion, confesses that he stabbed Nastasya under the left breast. Christians generally understand that the spear-wound which the Roman centurion gave Christ on the Cross was under His left breast. Given the sacrificial-lamb meaning of one of Nastasya’s names, readers might be excused for believing her death has redemptive overtones suggesting the self-sacrificial aura of this scene (which mostly involves Myshkin). But ancient Greek and Roman soothsayers who saw bird flights and other natural phenomena prophesized that if they occurred on the left, the subject at hand would be fatal or unlucky. Thus “sinister”—a sinestra, on the left—came to mean ominous, ill-fated. Dostoyevsky’s introducing the fly buzzing over Nastasya’s corpse now appears a definitive touch as regards her character. Ivanits, Dostoevsky and the Russian People, 103; Terras, The Idiot: An Interpretation, 85.

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Myshkin rises after Rogozhin falls into a muttering stupor and sits with pounding heart in an arm chair, hearing the sounds of delirium. Gradually, he feels the compassion that always wells within him for the suffering of another, in this case a terrible criminal. He gets up and begins to touch his former adversary’s hair and face, stoking his cheeks with a trembling hand. Then—as noted at the beginning of this chapter—the Prince “pressed his face against Rogozhin’s pale and motionless face; tears streamed from his eyes onto Rogozhin’s cheeks” (p. 714). These are the tears of a Christ-like sorrow for this man, who has killed what he has loved and hated. Dostoyevsky tells his reader that, when Myshkin lies down this second time, he was “in the grip of helplessness and despair” (p. 714). That may be so, but a reader also understands that in the midst of it wells up the compassion of “a ‘positively beautiful’ and Christlike man”—but one all too mortal. For Myshkin has lapsed from this trauma into an idiocy from which he will never recover. Still, those who break open the room’s door find a Myshkin still stroking Rogozhin’s hair and cheeks, caressing and calming him. But he neither recognizes them nor understands the questions that they ask him. He looked, the narrator concludes, like he did when Dr. Schneider first saw him in his Swiss clinic and exclaimed “An idiot!” (p. 714). John Givens has claimed that commentators on The Idiot routinely argue that this novel “offers a tragic Christology, one of failure and unbelief,” citing eight well-received studies as evidence of a large mass beyond them.37 Dostoyevsky has shown how simple, socially mistake-prone, and vulnerable a man would have to be in order to be like Christ, and how corrupt the world and especially European society is not to permit such a holy man to live graciously, sanely, a fulfilled life in them. Between them, Rogozhin and Nastasya, part of the fallen world, help to destroy Myshkin. Dostoyevsky was travelling in Europe and had settled in Florence to avoid arrest by his Russian creditors when he composed The Idiot between September 1867 and January 1869. In April and June 1864, his first wife Marya Dmitriyevna and his beloved brother Mikhail died. In 1865, Mikhail’s journal Epokha ceased publication for lack of funds, and Appolinaria Suslova, with whom he had begun a liaison, rejected his marriage proposal. Compulsively gambling, Dostoyevsky often lost what little he won. His epileptic seizures began to occur only three weeks apart. In February 1867, Dostoyevsky married his twenty-two-year-old stenographer Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, but in May 1868 their three-month-old daughter, Sofia, died, many months before Givens, “A Narrow Escape into Faith?,” 97.

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the completion of The Idiot. These and other events depressed Dostoyevsky into believing that the genetic family was inherently dysfunctional, a temporary conviction realized in his depiction of the strife within the Yepanchin and Ivolgin households.38 The God of the world of The Idiot seems to hide his face, to persecute those he ought to love most. The Christ-like face, with its humane expressions, remains unrecognized or radically under-appreciated by these Russian characters. The angry, often ghastly faces of Rogozhin and Nastasya frighten the novel’s Christ-like man. But a reader should not conclude that the face that Schneider saw when Myshkin returned to Switzerland has a wholly negative meaning. Throughout the novel, characters who want to despise or reject Myshkin not surprisingly see only an idiot’s face—that of a simpleton. But they could see what the “empty” Christ-like face that John Givens and R. P. Blackmur say readers should see when Myshkin experiences kenosis, Christ’s evacuation of the self in absolute humble servitude (Philippians 2.6-8), looks like.39 Henry Chadwick’s translation of Saint Augustine’s rendering of this passage in Philippians reads: “[the Son] took on himself the form of a servant and emptied himself, was made in the likeness of men and found to behave as a man, and humbled himself being made obedient to death.”40 Myshkin’s seizures, like Dostoyevsky’s, consist of two stages: an initial flooding of light “into a higher calm, full of a serene, harmonious joy and hope, full of reason and the final cause” followed by “stupefaction, mental darkness, idiocy” (pp. 264, 265). An astute reader of The Idiot might judge that some traces of the kenotic emptying of being appears in the face of Myshkin trying to comfort Rogozhin amidst his reversion to the affliction for which he was treated in Switzerland. An epileptic fit does not possess Myshkin at novel’s end; thus he never experiences the epileptic fullness followed by vacuity. Myshkin indeed does lapse into certifiable idiocy, but the instant he does so is difficult to detect. When he begins to stroke Ragozhin’s face and kiss his cheeks, shedding his tears on them, the Prince does essentially what he did when Nastasya collapsed after she shouted In the late 1860s Dostoyevsky thought that the “accidental family,” a grouping of individuals such as that made up of the Lebedevs and the invalid Ippolit Terentyev, bound together by love rather than by blood and biology, was preferable to the basically loveless Ivolgin “genetic” family. Ippolit is, after all, more the recipient of love with the Lebedevs than he was with his own mother, a widow who has become General Ivolgin’s mistress (Knapp, “Myshkin Through a Murky Glass, Guessingly,” 204). 39 Givens, “A Narrow Escape into Faith?,” 111–13; Terras, The Idiot: An Interpretation, 76. 40 Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick, Oxford World Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 121–2. 38



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that he was “Mine, Mine.” Then he stroked her head and “tenderly pass[ed] his hands across her cheeks, comforting her” (p. 667). No one then, certainly not the reader, thought he was mad. Rather than constituting a wholly depressing image, Myshkin’s face-to-face encounter with Rogozhin constitutes the Prince’s imitatio Christi, his kenosis of loving compassion. The conclusion of the novel supports this positive reading, partly by featuring an easily overlooked face—that of Vera Lebedev, the woman that Myshkin perhaps most purely loves. Myshkin has noted “what a sympathetic, what a charming face Lebedev’s elder daughter has, the one who stood with the baby, what an innocent, what an almost childlike expression … It was strange that he had almost forgotten that face and only now remembered it” (p. 267). Vera compassionately nurses Ippolit Terentyev during his last days, despite his insults. Hers is the only woman’s face Myshkin kisses in the novel. Vera—“Faith,” in Russian—marries “Reason”—Yevgeny Radomsky, who corresponds with Myshkin after his relapse. He and Vera periodically visit the patient Myshkin, forming a loving “accidental family.” The sister’s baby that Vera has nurtured is named Lyubov (“Love”). Faithful Myshkin lost his reason, but his illness has been lightened, at least a bit, by Vera and Yevgeny.41 And that would never have happened had not Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin once been especially appreciative of the image of a young woman’s almost forgotten, but yet recovered, face.

The interpretations set forth in this concluding paragraph derive from Peace, Dostoevsky, 97–100 and Givens, “A Narrow Escape into Faith?,” 115–17. Peace’s and Givens’ readings counter the fairly widespread belief, represented by Sarah Young, that Vera Lebedev’s and Yevgeny Radomsky’s behavior described in the novel’s conclusion is basically inconsequential (Young, Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, 134).

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The Classical Strain

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Divine Faces and the Face-to-Face Encounter in Apuleius’s Taleof Cupid and Psyche

A late Ancient myth, the tale of Psyche and Cupid first appeared in the second century ce when it was memorably created by a Platonist from Alexandria, Apuleius, as the twenty-second chapter of the Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass.1 William Adlington translated this Latin text into Elizabethan English in 1566 as The Golden Ass of Apuleius.2 Among Greek and Roman myths, this tale includes one of the most significant representations of a divine face for European writers from the Middle Ages to the present. Ironically, as is true for the Bible, it too initially is an absent presence. The nearest biblical approximation is Jacob’s account of a divine stranger with whom he wrestles in the dark, and who physically impairs him—a stranger whose face he asserts is God’s. Without a word picture of His features, the reader can only take Jacob’s words on faith. Psyche too will physically interact in the dark with a god, Eros (Cupid), and she also will be impaired: physically wounded by a god—in this case scourged by Venus’s rods and whips as a consequence of her contact with Eros. Unlike Jacob, she will clearly see this god’s face. Unlike the author of Genesis, Apuleius provides his reader with a rich picture of Eros’s features. This difference will matter greatly in Hermann Hesse’s and C. S. Lewis’s retelling of Apuleius’s story. A paraphrase of Apuleius’s narrative with commentary becomes necessary for grasping the complexity of and differences between later literary adaptations of it. A certain king and queen had three daughters, of whom the youngest, Psyche, is by far the most beautiful. So lovely is she that viewers believe she is For Apuleius’s sources, see Edmund P. Cueva, “The Art and Myth of Cupid and Psyche,” Veritatis Amicitiaeque Causa: Essays in Honor of Anna Lydia Motto and John R. Clark, ed. Shannon N. Byrne and Edmund P. Cueva (Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1999), 53–69. 2 Lucius Apuleius, The Golden Ass of Apuleius, trans. William Adlington (1566; London: David Nutt, 1893), 88–129. The title of Chapter 22 is “The Most Pleasant and Delectable Tale of the Marriage of Cupid and Psyches.” Quotations of the tale are taken from this volume; they are indicated by the page number(s) in parentheses. In keeping with the English Renaissance authors I cite in this chapter, I have used Adlington’s famous translation, which for my purposes is sufficiently accurate. 1

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a new Venus risen from the sea. Onlookers’ worship of this virgin so incenses Venus, whose rites and temples have been neglected, that she vengefully sends her winged son Cupid to punish Psyche’s worshippers by so inflaming husbands with desires for other women that social chaos erupts. Venus also instructs Cupid to make Psyche fall in love “with the most miserablest creature living, the most poore, the most crooked, and the most vile” (p. 100). Psyche has hated her wondrous beauty because it has isolated her as an idol. Her father, suspecting that the gods envy his daughter, seeks a husband for her by praying to Apollo. The god’s oracle directs him:            

Let Psyches corps be clad in mourning weed, And set on rocke of yonder hill aloft: Her husband is no wight of humane seed, But Serpent dire and fierce as might be thought. Who flies with wings above the starry skies, And doth subdue each thing with firie flight. (p. 101)

Sadly, her father prepares his weeping daughter for a funereal marriage. Correctly believing that Venus has made them miserable, Psyche tells her parents to place her on the rock, saying “I greatly desire to end my marriage, I greatly covet to see my husband” (p. 102). Zephyrus, the west wind, gently lifts her off the rock, carries her along, and deposits her in a deep valley upon a bed of sweet flowers. She seems to be in a paradise surrounding a “princely Edifice, wrought and builded not by the art and hand of man, but by the mighty power of God” (p. 102). Rich gold and art adorn this mansion, whose pavement and walls are studded with precious jewels that seem “to be the worke of some Demy god, or God himself ” (p. 102). Adlington’s repeated use of the word “God” in his translation of the myth would reinforce later evidence supporting the inclination of a Renaissance reader to interpret Apuleius’s pagan tale as an allegory of Neo-Platonized Christian Love infusing—impregnating—the Soul (Psyche).3 Voices tell Psyche to feed of the dishes set on a table and rest in the bed provided. No servants but winds and voices luxuriously satisfy all her needs. E. J. Kenney, Apuleius: Cupid and Psyche (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 20. However, cf. John L. Penwill, “Reflections on a ‘Happy Ending’: The Case of Cupid and Psyche,” Ramus: Critical Studies in Greek and Roman Literature 27.2 (1998): 160–82. “The gods who dominate in the world of ‘Cupid and Psyche’ are … themselves slaves to the pleasure principle; they ensure that the human soul will be forever in the same state. The pleasure that is born from the union of Cupid and Psyche is the pleasure of appetite gratification” (p. 161).

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That night an unknown husband comes and lies by her to consummate the foretold marriage. The following night her husband lets her feel his hands, eyes, and ears, but warns her not to respond to her sisters’ cries of lamentation for her apparent death. On the next night, this husband, aware of her weeping, says that she can give her sisters gold and jewels, but she should beware of wanting “to see the shape of [his] person, lest by your curiosity you deprive your selfe of so great and worthy estate” (p. 105). Essentially, the husband says that Psyche should not desire to see his face. Given Venus’s curse, readers imagine that this face must be the most miserable and hideous imaginable. Zephyrus brings Psyche’s sisters to her, and she shows them about the marvelous palace. Jealous of Psyche and the handsome husband she has fabricated for them, the sisters jealously plot to destroy Psyche. Her mysterious husband then warns her that her sisters, to ensnare her, will attempt to “perswade thee to behold my face, which if thou once fortune to see, as I have often told, thou shalt see no more” (p. 108). She learns that, if she conceals his secrets, the child now in her womb will one day be an immortal god, “otherwise a mortal creature” (p. 108). Psyche pleads that “where you have charged me not to behold your venerable face, yet I may comfort my selfe with the sight of my sisters” (p. 109).4 Admitting them into her presence, however, will prove disastrous for her. Boldly, Psyche tells her shadowy husband that, by eventually seeing the face of the child in her belly, she will perceive his father’s “shape and face” (p. 109). “I little esteeme to see your visage and figure,” she tells him; “little doe I regard the night and darknesse thereof, for you are my only light” (p. 109). In Christian doctrine, the Virgin Mary learns that she carries a divine child in her womb, even though she never sees the father’s face. This analogue begs the question of whether the features of God’s face can be deduced from those of his Son. Believing that God made humankind to reflect His image, a Christian reader of the myth of Cupid and Psyche might likely think Psyche could accurately imagine her husband’s divine features from those of his child. Made suspicious by Psyche’s account of her husband as an aging merchant rather than a handsome young man, the sisters correctly suspect that she lies with a god. But they remind her of Apollo’s oracle that a great serpent, “full of deadly poison, Costas Panayotakis, in “Vision and Light in Apuleius’ Tale of Pysche and Her Mysterious Husband,” The Classical Quarterly n.s. 51.2 (2001): 576–83, notes that Psyche “even begs her spouse to allow her to see her sisters’ faces instead of his face (5.13.2)” (p. 579). Panayotakis’s paraphrase of Apuleius’s Latin focuses my topic whereas Adlington’s translation does not.

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with a ravenous and gaping throat” (p. 111), lies with her every night; they say that in fact local inhabitants have sighted it swimming in a neighboring river. Ultimately, they tell terrified Psyche that this monster will devour both her child and herself. They advise her to hide a lamp and a razor in her bedchamber, and to cut off the serpent’s head once she can see it. When faithless Psyche enacts the spiteful sisters’ plan, shining her light on her sleeping husband’s head, she sees Cupid, “at whose sight the very lampe encreased his light for joy, and the razor turned his edge” (p. 113). Apuleius recounts that when she saw and beheld the beauty of the divine visage shee was well recreated in mind, she saw his haires of gold, that yeelded out a sweet savor, his neck more white than milk, his purple cheeks, his haire hanging comely behinde and before, the brightnesse whereof did darken the light of the lamp, his tender plume feathers, dispersed upon his sholders like shining flours, and trembling hither and thither. (p. 113)

Psyche sees the forbidden face of Love (Fig. 5). The word vultus—“visage,” “face”—in Apuleius’s phrase “divini vultus … pulchritudinem” admits a range of meaning for the expressive face, including that of admirable sternness. When Adlington translates the Latin phrase “recreatur animi” as “recreated in mind,” he permits the later Christian allegorical reading that Love recreates, or reanimates, the Mind (or Soul) in its image, so that it is more loving or spiritual.5 A drop of burning oil awakens Cupid, and he sees Psyche’s stunned face and attempts to fly away. “But Psyches fortuned to catch him as hee was rising, by the right thigh, and held him fast as hee flew above in the aire, untill such time as constrained by wearinesse shee let him goe and fell downe upon the ground” (p. 113). A medieval or Renaissance reader, trained in the Augustinian method of allegorically reading the Old Testament and pagan mythology in the light cast by Christian doctrine, may well have thought here of Jacob’s holding on to hairy Esau’s heel as his twin delivered himself first out of Rebekah’s womb (Genesis 25.24-26), and of Jacob’s later wrestling with the angel whose face he never sees and of the angel touching the hollow of Jacob’s thigh to lame him ever afterward (Genesis 34.24-32). The coincidence of thighs in this allegorical parallelism may have convinced some Bible readers that God had indirectly inspired the pagan But this Platonic accomplishment occurs only at the end of Apuleius’s tale. In Panayotakis’s explication of the Platonic imagery of light in this myth, Psyche’s “inability to grasp the real essence of her husband’s nature is due to her poorly focused vision,” an ignorance akin in this commentator’s reading to that of the soul in Plato’s Republic “when it comes out of its cave to face a luminous world” (pp. 577, 578).

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Figure 5  Peter Paul Rubens, “Psyche and Amor,” c. 1636. Musee Bonnat. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

author of the myth of Cupid and Psyche to provoke later Christian readers to think further about a deity who sets limits upon his devotee’s curiosity to know him wholly, or to know his secrets. This parallelism also may have strengthened their conviction that their God had shot through creation before his Son was born the truth that Love impregnates and makes more spiritual the mind and soul. Like Psyche, Jacob says that in his wrestling he at last saw his God’s face (Genesis 33.10). Cupid, free from Psyche’s grasp, flies to a cypress tree, looks down, and tells her that, rather than make her love an ugly, wretched man as his mother

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had ordered, he wounded himself with his own arrow—so beautiful is she— to love her so as to make her his spouse. A reader assumes that Cupid had forbidden Psyche to see his face because he fears that, if she did so, she might be the witting, or unwitting, means by which his mother finds out that he has disobeyed her. The rest of the tale can quickly be summarized. Cupid takes revenge on the sisters, who learn from Psyche that Cupid was her husband, by having them cast upon rocks when they seek to come to his valley to take her place as his wife. When Venus learns that Cupid has not enacted the terms of her revenge, she bitterly rebukes him, resolving to prevent Psyche from becoming a mother to Cupid’s son. Psyche beseeches Ceres and Juno to help her find her husband Cupid and for the latter goddess in her capacity as Lucina to help her safely deliver her child. But they both cast her off. Finally Venus learns of her son’s “marriage”; outraged, the goddess apprehends Psyche. She has Sorrow and Sadness scourge Psyche with rods and whips. Venus considers her a whore and her child in the womb a bastard. The goddess imposes several punitive labors upon Psyche, commanding her to separate a pile of different grains into their separate kinds (ants help Psyche to do so),6 seize the golden fleece from the sun’s rams, and catch the roiling water of life in an urn. Psyche’s last labor involves going to Proserpina, the Queen of the Underworld, for a box containing some of Ceres’ daughter’s beauty to repair Venus’s face. Concerning Proserpina’s box, it tells her not to open it—to be “not too curious about the treasure of divine beauty” (p. 127). Psyche, while she resists the other damning elements in her labors, vainly cannot resist opening the box to take some of the beauty inside to make her face more pleasing to Cupid. Not beauty but an “infernall and deadly sleepe” rushes forth from the box, invading all of Psyche’s members (p. 127). Cupid, meanwhile sick with love for Psyche, imprisoned by his mother, at last escapes and flies to where Psyche sleeps and “wipe[s] away the sleepe from her face, and put it againe into the boxe, and awaked her with the tip of one of his arrows” (pp. 127–8). A reader might have assumed that Cupid would have wiped the sleep from her eyes, for this is a persistent Classical idiom expressing the ocular feature of the face altered by sleep. But by having Cupid wipe the sleep from her face, Adlington accurately translates Apuleius’s Latin to James R. G. Wright, in “Folk-Tale and Literary Technique in Cupid and Psyche,” The Classical Quarterly, n.s. 21.1 (1971): 273–84, asserts that the ants, like other agents assisting Psyche in her tasks, remind the reader “of the universal power of love Cupid/Eros at all levels of life” (p. 278). (Cupid himself is bound by Venus during the time Psyche labors with Venus’s punitive tasks.) Also see Kenney, Apuleius, 182.

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maintain the tale’s emphasis upon the face. Although Apuleius does not say so explicitly, the reader assumes that Psyche sees the face of Eros, whose sight had been forbidden. Psyche and Cupid at last have a loving face-to-face encounter, one rarely occurring between deity and mortals in the Bible (but then when it does it is never depicted unambiguously). Cupid then flies to Jupiter and argues that the gods should acknowledge his marriage to Psyche. Jupiter agrees, commanding Mercury to bring Psyche up to his heaven, where by drinking of the “pot of immortality” (p. 129) she becomes never-dying so that Cupid can be her eternal husband. “[A]nd thus Psyches [sic] was married to Cupid, and after she was delivered of a child whom we call Pleasure” (p. 129). The early nineteenth-century compiler of ancient mythologies, Thomas Bulfinch, concluded his condensed retelling of Apuleius’s tale by noting that “[t]he Greek name for a butterfly” is Psyche, and that “the same word means the soul.” Stressing the allegorical dimension of the Cupid and Psyche myth, he remarks, [t]here is no illustration of the immortality of the soul so striking and beautiful as the butterfly, bursting on brilliant wings from the tomb in which it has lain, after a dull, groveling, caterpillar existence, to flutter in the blaze of day and feed on the most fragrant and delicate productions of the spring.7

Edmund Spenser in his 1590 poem “Muiopotmos: or The Fate of the Butterflie” was the first English author to use Apuleius’s myth. Spenser allusively depends upon this allegorical significance of the Cupid and Psyche story to ground the tragic portrayal of the butterfly and a paradise lost.8 In this respect, he ignores Apuleius’s account of Psyche’s penitential labors, Cupid’s enduring love, and Psyche’s apotheosis. Christians in the third century had appropriated the Cupid and Psyche tale, for it is represented on Christian sarcophagi.9 This context Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, Legends of Charlemagne (1834; New York: Thomas Crowell, 1970), 89–90. 8 Edmund Spenser, “Muiopotmos,” in The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser, ed. William A. Oram, Einar Bjorvand, et al. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), 413–30, esp. 418–19, alludes to the Cupid and Psyche tale when Venus seeks revenge against the nymph Astery (“Star-queen”) for her vain claim that Cupid has secretly aided her in gathering more flowers than any other of Venus’s nymphs by metamorphosing her into a butterfly so that Astery is always painfully reminded of her fault by the flower-like color of her wings. Spenser compounds the tragic potential of Apuleius’s myth by having Minerva, in her contest for best artist with Arachne, weave a butterfly so beautiful that it guarantees her triumph. But this victory so poisons Arachne with hatred that she metamorphoses into a toxic spider, spitefully spinning webs to catch butterflies such as proud Clarion, the garden spoiler of this mock-heroic poem (pp. 424–30). 9 Kathryn Walls, “The ‘Cupid and Psyche’ Fable of Apuleius and Guyon’s Underworld Adventure in The Faerie Queene II.vii.3–viii.8,” Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual 26 (2011): 43–73, esp. 48. 7

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suggests an almost immediate allegorizing of Apuleius’s myth into a parable about Death and Resurrection. The first surviving textual evidence for the Christian allegorizing of the tale is “a sermon found in the Expositio Sermonum Antiquorum of the fifth-century Fylgentius, while Boccaccio’s is a later Christian explication in his Genealogia Deorum Gentilium.”10 Gerald Sandy has shown how Italian Renaissance humanists such as Filippo Beroaldo read Apuleius’s Golden Ass, whose centerpiece is the tale of Cupid and Psyche, as a mirror of the human condition.11 “Verily under the wrap of this transformation is taxed the life of mortall men, when as we suffer our minds so to bee drowned in the sensuall lusts of the flesh … that wee lose wholly the use of reason and virtue,” William Adlington wrote “[t]o the [r]eader” (p. 8). The transformation Adlington refers to is that of the novel’s protagonist Lucius into an ass, but his judgment applies equally well to Psyche. Stephen Harrison notes that “Psyche’s similarity to Lucius as an imperiled wanderer who eventually finds a divine haven has long been clear.”12 Nevertheless, for medieval and Renaissance Christian allegorizing readers, Apuleius’s tale melded Old Testament and New Testament events. It incorporated Eve’s sin of curiosity, adapted to involve the desire to see the hidden face of deity (as that motif recurs throughout The Old Testament), into a fable of redemption and the soul’s transformation into one of eternal salvation. By being figured as a marriage between a transformed mortal and a god, the myth represented in later centuries an ancient type of the Christian soul’s marriage to the bridegroom Christ. Adlington’s translation suggests this reading. Cupid, distraught that Psyche should try to murder him, exclaims: “O simple Psyches, consider with thy selfe how I, little regarding the commandement of my mother … did come my selfe from heaven to love thee, and wounded myne owne body with my proper weapons, to have thee to my Spowse” (p. 114). Spenser drew upon the Cupid and Psyche myth not only in “Muiopotmos” but also in the 1596 edition of his allegorical epic, The Faerie Queene. Spenser in Book 3 places Cupid in his mother Venus’s Garden of Adonis. There Cupid’s

Ibid., 67 n.6. Gerald Sandy, “Two Renaissance Readers of Apuleius: Filippo Beroaldo and Henri de Mesmes,” Authors, Authority, and Interpreters in the Ancient Novel: Essays in Honor of Gareth L. Schmeling, ed. Shannon N. Byrne, Edmund P. Cueva, Jean Alvares (Groningen: Barkhuis, 2006), 239–73, esp. 247–51. 12 Stephen Harrison, “Divine Authority in ‘Cupid and Psyche’: Apuleius, Metamorphoses 6, 23–24,” in Authors, Authority, and Interpreters in the Ancient Novel, ed Byrne et al., 172–85, esp. 184. 10 11



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  … true loue faire Psyche with him playes,  Faire Psyche to him lately reconciled,   After long troubles and vnmeet vpbrayes,   With which his mother Venus her reuyld,   And eke himself her cruelly exyld:   But now in stedfast loue and happy state   She with him liues, and hath him borne a child,  Pleasure, that doth both gods and men aggrate, Pleasure, the daughter of Cupid and Psyche late.13 (3.6.50.1-9)

Since the metaphysics of death and rebirth in Spenser’s Garden of Adonis is not Christian, the retention of Pleasure as Psyche’s child is appropriate.14 Moreover, Kathryn Walls has persuasively shown that, without directly alluding to it, Spenser had open before him Adlington’s translation of the Cupid and Psyche tale when he composed Sir Guyon’s descent into the Underworld of Mammon’s cave (Faerie Queene 2.7.3-8.8), for he draws upon its language and Cupid’s and Psyche’s characterization and behavior, notably Psyche’s curiosity about seeing what a god would have hidden (his face)—lest she assume that, judged by its features, he is a mortal man (note 9). Guyon’s temptation also involves his curiosity about the face that a supernatural being—in this case Mammon—would keep hidden:   Thereat with staring eyes fixed askance,   In great disdaine, [Mammon] answerd, Hardy Elfe,   That darest vew my direful countenance,   I read thee rash, and heedlesse of thy selfe, To trouble my still seate, and heapes of perilous pelfe. God of the world and worldings I me call,  Great Mammon, greatest god below the sky … (2.7.7.5-8.2)

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton; text eds. Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki, Longman Annotated Poets (Harlow: Longman, 2001), 350. Quotations of Spenser’s epic poem are taken from this text. 14 At the end of his early masque titled Comus (1634), the seventeenth-century English poet John Milton similarly places “Celestial Cupid” in the heavenly Gardens of Hesperus. There, he “[h]olds his dear Psyche sweet intranc’t / After her wandring labours long, / Till free consent the gods among / Make her his eternal Bride, /And from her fair unspotted side / Two blissful twins are to be born, / Youth and Joy, so Jove has sworn” (John Milton, A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle [Comus], The Riverside Milton, ed. Roy Flannagan [New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998], 109–71, esp. 170.) By personifying these twins as Youth and Joy, Milton displaces Pleasure as Psyche’s child with qualities more fitting to Christian theology. 13

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Considered in this context, Mammon’s mention of his face as something a mortal should never view confirms Spenser’s focus on Adlington’s translation of Apuleius’s tale. Just as Cupid wants to keep his face hidden from curious Psyche, so Mammon wants to keep hidden from view his face. Mammon’s motivation, however, differs radically from Cupid’s. Mammon’s face certainly does not resemble that of a god that he wants worldlings to believe in and worship. Spenser has described this face as that of “an vncouth, saluage, and vnciuile wight.” Mammon’s “face with smoke was tand and eies were bleard,” “[o]f grisly hew, and fowle ill fauour’d sight” (2.7.3.4-6). In its ugliness, it corresponds to the imagined face of the great serpent of Apollo’s oracle. Benjamin Lockerd has remarked that in The Faerie Queene the “sole stanza [devoted to the myth of Cupid and Psyche] is at the very center of the description of the Garden of Adonis,” a fact that befits the myth’s informing all the love stories of this massive poem.15 For A. C. Hamilton the centrality of the myth in Spenser’s poem depends upon the brief vision of the beloved’s face and the quest to see that face again: “From that day forth I lou’d that face diuine,” Prince Arthur tells Una and the Redcrosse Knight about the beautiful maiden who in a dream lay down beside him.16 “From that day forth I cast in carefull mind, / To seeke her out with labour, and long tyne, / And neuer vow to rest, till her I find” (1.9.15.58).17 Lockerd notes that Amoret is “the very image of loving woman in the poem, who is given over by Venus to Psyche to be ‘trained vp in true feminitee’ ”; as a result of this training, Psyche becomes the model of genuine femininity in the poem.18 In this respect, Hamilton has shown resemblances between Psyche and Una, Belphoebe, Amoret, Florimell, and Britomart.19 Lockerd and others have shown that these allegorical resemblances in books 3 and 4 of The Faerie Queene anticipate a major twentieth-century use of the myth of Cupid and Psyche to explain love and the mind/soul’s mutual interaction so as to synthesize the feminine and masculine within the individual, to develop the individual’s sense of self and worth in marriage, and, finally, to free that enriched self for an even greater state of being in harmony with Nature or an archetypal spiritual world.20 Benjamin G. Lockerd, Jr., The Sacred Marriage: Psychic Integration in The Faerie Queene (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1987), 73. 16 A. C. Hamilton, The Structure of Allegory in The Faerie Queene (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), 140. 17 Similarly, the female knight Britomart, smitten by the vision of Artegall’s beautiful face in Venus’s looking glass (F.Q. 3.2.24), is driven by love to begin a long search for its owner. 18 Lockerd, The Sacred Marriage, 73. 19 Hamilton, The Structure of Allegory, 139–52. 20 Lockerd, The Sacred Marriage, 73–8, 115, 137, 174. 15



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Erich Neumann, a twentieth-century Jungian psychoanalyst, developed a revolutionary reading of Apuleius’s myth in his Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine, an interpretation that helps explain Hermann Hesse’s novelistic use of Karl Jung’s psychological theory in the next chapter. For Hesse in Demian provides a Jungian reading of the development of the Masculine that complements Neumann’s on that of the Feminine.21 Neumann further subtitles his book A Commentary on the Tale of Apuleius. In a Forenote Neumann explains that he will always call Love Eros rather than Amor or Cupid because he wants the connotation of the “mighty primordial god” rather than the “cunning little cherub.”22 Regarding the marriage of Psyche to the wingedserpent, Neumann perceives in it “[t]he ancient, primordial motif of the bride, dedicated to death, of ‘death and the maiden,’” and he imagines Psyche veiled, her face hidden, “just as any bride’s is concealed as she approaches an altar” (p. 62). Neumann thus views Psyche’s marriage to the dragon as a single prototype. Seen from the standpoint of the matriarchal world, every marriage is a rape of Kore, the virginal bloom, by Hades, the ravishing, earthly aspect of the hostile male. From this point of view every marriage is an exposure on the mountain’s summit in mortal loneliness, and a waiting for the male monster, to whom the bride is surrendered. The veiling of the bride is always the veiling of the mystery, and marriage as the marriage of death is a central archetype of the feminine mysteries. (p. 62)

And so Neumann imagines that Psyche first has the hidden face. The death motif continues when Psyche’s rapture with unknown Eros is “an ecstasy of darkness. It is a state of not-knowing and not-seeing … but Psyche is satisfied, or so it seems, and lives in paradisiacal bliss” (p. 70). But her satisfaction wanes; she wants to see her lover, especially his face, because she wants human companionship with a husband, and not with a mysterious primordial force—Eros. According to Neumann, “Psyche’s existence is a non-existence, a being-in-the-dark, a rapture of sexual sensuality which may fittingly be characterized as being devoured by a demon, by a monster” (p. 74). When Psyche approaches the “beast” who has captivated her in a dark sensuality in order to For an alternative Jungian analysis of the Cupid and Psyche myth from the standpoint of a male narrator, see Marie-Louise von Franz, A Psychological Interpretation of The Golden Ass of Apuleius (Zurich: Spring, 1970), 61–109. 22 Erich Neumann, Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine, trans. Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series LIV (New York: Pantheon, 1956), 56. Neumann’s book was first published in German in 1952 (Zurich: Rascher Verlag). Quotations from and references to the text are from the former edition and documented by page numbers in parentheses. 21

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kill him and she sees Eros’s face, the vision humanizes her, displacing her fatal drive. She loves. And so “she departs from the childlike, unconscious aspect of her reality and the matriarchal, man-hating aspect as well” (p. 78). According to Neumann, a married woman at this stage of psychic growth sees the face of a god who combines the upper and the lower deities—Jupiter and Pluto—into a single being: a complementary amalgam. This face makes her no longer a ravished victim but an actively loving woman. But now her later development becomes one of suffering and struggle to overcome unity and achieve a new separation, one necessary to the growth of a psyche into an adult, intellectual mind that can achieve a new, different wholeness with Love. Neumann is describing nothing less than the ultimate creation of mind made possible in traditional theology by the sudden apprehension of the divinity latent in the face. The possibility exists for the husband, as well. In the sense that primordial love is male—the male phallic thrust—a man, a husband, must be separated as Eros is from his great mother. “Eros, as we have seen in the beginning, was a boy, a youth, the son-lover of his great mother [Aphrodite]” (p. 85). In Neumann’s reading of Jungian theory, a woman’s detection of her husband’s humanity in his face deprives him of the primordial, initial advantage that lust gives him over her; she sees from his face that he is vulnerable and flawed like her, not god-like. And so they are equals, and he must now also struggle in a new separation entailing pain and loneliness, qualities essential for the growth of mind, until he might possibly join her in a new, more meaningful wholeness of married life. He can do so only to the degree that he gives up Cupid-like boyishness by which his great mother has linked him to her. Aphrodite (Venus) had commanded Cupid to punish Psyche, but he did not do so because he found that he desired her. Fearing his mother, he has had to quench his desire secretly, in the dark. But finding himself Psyche’s equal and beginning to grow by loving her, Neumann’s Eros begins to free himself from the Mother Goddess; like Psyche, he discovers meaningful consciousness: Hitherto [Eros] had experienced love only in the darkness, as a wanton game, as an onslaught of sensual desire in the willing service of Aphrodite, but through Psyche’s act [of self-sacrificial love] he experiences it as a travail of personality, leading through suffering to transformation and illumination. (p. 138)

This is the path that husband and wife must follow for wedded fulfillment. In visual art, Psyche was sometimes shown as a moth (this is the precise meaning of the word “psyche”), but more often as a butterfly: the beautiful



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metamorphosis of a grub-like insect. This technicolor change for Neumann signifies the inward beauty of a spiritual/intellectual achievement made possible by an initial perception of the face. Feminist critics of Neumann’s theory have detected a masculinist bias in it. Rachel Blau DuPlessis says that Psyche fails at the end of her fourth labor because she must be rescued by Cupid, an act which preserves his love for her and her femininity. “Her developed consciousness and achieved journey are given up for love. And then Neumann says that this is the truth of the myth,” a “truth” that asserts patriarchal control and dominance.23 According to DuPlessis, Neumann asserts that Psyche’s four labors are about coming to terms with the masculine, tasks that lead to her submission to marriage and childbearing.24 Married women can ultimately perceive a divine countenance in their husbands, but they however cannot reliably see this quality in their own face, DuPlessis notes in her critique of Neumann. The same evidence that causes DuPlessis to conclude that Psyche is a victim of patriarchal stereotyping causes Lee Edwards to conclude that Apuleius intended his reader to think of Psyche as a hero, admirable because she bravely on two occasions subverts the commands of restricting gods: Cupid’s to never uncover his true identity and Venus’s when she takes for herself a prize intended for this goddess.25 Edwards compares her strength and courage during the performance of her labors to those of the masculine hero Hercules during his twelve Labors.26 Edwards argues that Psyche sheds all traces of entrapment in a patriarchal web when she gives her husband a daughter, Pleasure, rather than the son of patriarchal myth who can glorify his father through traditional heroic deeds. Looking on Cupid’s face in Edward’s argument becomes the opposite of DuPlessis’ transgressive act that starts a chain of events leading to failure: it amounts to rebellion starting a process shattering stereotypes and ending in a mother–daughter bond. Neumann claims that Eros’s flames burn stronger in men than in women, as though that were to their credit. They burn stronger, however, because women’s Rachel Blau DuPlessis, “Psyche, or Wholeness,” The Massachusetts Review 20.1 (1979): 77–96, esp. 82. This critic notes that Neumann wrote “Psyche fails, she must fail, because she is a feminine psyche” (p. 89). 24 Ibid., 84–9. 25 Lee R. Edwards, Psyche as Hero: Female Heroism and Fictional Form (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1984), 10. 26 Ibid., 12. For Edwards’ account of Psyche as an exemplary Classical hero, see 10–14, 19, 22, 28. “Once lit in the novel, Psyche’s lamp reveals the stark harshness of the system that has so long confined her” (p. 143); “Work”—her labors—“redeems Psyche because it liberates her soul” (p. 146). 23

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beauty is both the spark and fuel of this blaze and so the cause of some men’s eventual self-immolation. This process becomes apparent in Neumann’s account of the effect Helen has on men in the story of Paris’s choice, the rape of Helen, and the Trojan War. This Western archetype showcases women’s faces and the power of those faces’ beauty. Arguing about whom among them is the greatest, the goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena appealed to Priam’s son Paris for a decision. Only a man, he selected Aphrodite, who rewarded him with the most beautiful woman in the world: Menelaus’s wife, Helen of Sparta. “Helen was still Aphrodite’s true handmaiden,” Neumann asserts, for she aroused desire and fomented war, the fateful movement of human heroism which Aphrodite loved in Mars. For the phallic power of Mars is connected with blood lust, which had always been closely related to sexual lust. Helen, like Aphrodite, never ceased to renew the calamitous mixtures of rapture, magic, and destruction that make up the fascination of the Great Mother, who is also a mother of fate and death. (pp. 88–9)

If the greater burning of male love is a superiority for Neumann, it is scarcely a beneficial quality. My focus has been on the importance of faces in Erich Neumann’s psychoanalytic narration of the evolution of love and mind in the Jungian individual. At this point Neumann or one of his Disciples could have alluded to Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus for an illuminating psychoanalytic interpretation of the erotic power of the female face. When the black magician/scholar Faustus, who has sold his soul to Lucifer for twenty-four years of pleasure and power exceeding the grasp of mortals, despairs over his consignment to Hell, he craves the embrace of the woman once reputed the most beautiful in the world. Awestruck when he thinks he sees her—brought to him by Mephistopheles—in the flesh, he exclaims, “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships, / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” (5.1.89-90).27 Patrick Cheney has argued that Marlowe’s Faustus substitutes the worship of aesthetic beauty for that of the severe Reformation Protestant God of Predestination.28 When Faustus first conjures Mephistopheles, he says that he is “too ugly to attend on [him]” (1.3.25), and that he should return in the shape of an old Franciscan friar. Some twentieth-century film and stage performances of Dr. Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (1604 Text), The Complete Plays, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett (London: Dent, 1999), 340–89, esp. 384. 28 Patrick Cheney, Marlowe’s Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter-Nationhood (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 190–220. 27



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Faustus have Mephistopheles’ face hidden by the large friar’s hood throughout the play. Besides anti-Catholic satire and Faustus’s preoccupation with aesthetic beauty,29 this staging reinforces the hidden face of divinity in the Old Testament, juxtaposing it with the angry face of God that terrified Faustus only sees in the moments before devils drag him down into Hell (5.2.79-85).30 Marlowe memorably condenses in a lyrical image the destructive effect that the supremely beautiful female face can arouse in male beholders. It is the power of this view that Eros in Neumann’s account of the late Classical myth of Amor and Psyche resists and overcomes through love rather than lust and through the development of consciousness into mind. Marlowe again accidentally illuminates my subject by juxtaposing the value of Helen’s face and its negative effect on Faustus—he believes the devil who sucks forth his soul when he embraces it is really Helen of Troy—with that of the face of God alluded to by Mephistopheles who defines Hell as the deprivation of His presence. Faustus is a magician, and it is Neumann who says that “Helen, like Aphrodite, never ceased to renew the calamitous mixtures of rapture, magic, and destruction” (p. 89). Eventually, Psyche is conducted by Hermes on to Olympus, where she is deified. In this role, Hermes, who will ever afterward be the guide of souls to the other world, receives his name that reflects his most illustrious original inductee: psychopompos (my italics). Neumann’s interpretation of this aspect of Apuleius’s myth becomes central to his psychoanalytic allegory. When Psyche is received into Olympus as the wife of Eros, an epoch-making development of the feminine and of all humanity is manifested in the myth. Seen from the feminine standpoint, this signifies that the soul’s individual ability to live is divine, and that transformation by love is a mystery that deifies. This experience of the feminine psyche takes on special importance against the background of the ancient world with its collective feminine existence, subordinated to the rule of the fertility principle. (pp. 136–7)

Erich Neumann’s reading of Apuleius’s myth of Cupid and Psyche allows playgoers and readers familiar with it to detect the faint trace of the myth in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Near the end of my earlier chapter about faces in Shakespeare’s plays, I mentioned Mariana’s veiled face in this play in the Ibid., 210. When the devout Old Man realizes that Faustus, whom he has tried to get to repent, will not save himself and devils begin to menace him, he says, “[S]ee how the heavens smiles / At [Satan’s] repulse and laughs [his] state to scorn” (5.1.115-16). The Old Man in a grace-given vision sees the smiling face of God, the countenance that once Mephistopheles saw as Blessedness before he, sinning, was deprived of its sight and memory made everywhere else in the universe Hell (1.3.78-84).

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context of Shakespeare’s staging of a Renaissance drama convention called the bed trick, wherein a morally imperfect man has sexual intercourse in a dark room so black that he does not realize someone has substituted another woman for the one he sexually desires.31 In the two Shakespeare plays in which this convention appears, the agent of substitution is the heroine—the nun Isabella in Measure for Measure and Helen in All’s Well That Ends Well. Veiled Mariana resembles Psyche veiled, not during the funereal marriage to the supposed dragon, but figuratively as Neumann describes the psychically ignorant bride of the primordial god–husband. But in Shakespeare this is a frail, corrupt man— respectively Angelo and Bertram—who only wants carnal knowledge, never real knowledge, of the woman stripped of individuality by the blackest darkness. The first part of a previously quoted sentence of Neumann’s captures Bertram’s irresponsible sense of the bed trick as “sport,” amusement, in All’s Well that Ends Well. “Hitherto [Eros] had experienced love only in the darkness, as a wanton game, as an onslaught of sensual desire in the willing service of Aphrodite” (p. 138). But when Bertram learns that he has made love not to the virgin Diana Capilet, as he imagined, but to his wife Helen—whose wedding had not been normally consummated—he re-experiences that intercourse, to quote the rest of Neumann’s sentence, “as a travail of personality, leading through suffering to transformation and illumination.” Publicly shamed, Bertram revalues Helen, promising to be her husband. Neumann’s account of this process, which is triggered and enabled by the perception of faces first darkened and then seen, provided a fresh analogue in the myth of Cupid and Psyche to the importance of the Renaissance dramatic convention of the bed trick and the impact that revealed faces and identities can have on the development of a more refined married love in which partners retain some individuality while forging one flesh. While one has some confidence in Bertram’s resolve to achieve this end, he or she doesn’t in the case of Angelo in Measure for Measure, who remains silent when Isabella urges him to love the woman—Mariana—that he has betrothed, rejected, but known carnally in the dark. Whatever the case, Shakespeare remains only one of a number of Western writers and psychologists, elements of whose art and theories can be traced back to the interpretive power of the tale of Cupid and Psyche. See William R. Bowden, “The Bed Trick: 1603–1642: Its Mechanics, Ethics, and Effects,” Shakespeare Studies 5 (1969): 112–23; and Peggy Muñoz Simonds, “Overlooked Sources of the Bed Trick,” Shakespeare Quarterly 34 (1989): 433–4.

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Syncretistic Faces in Hermann Hesse’s Demian

Hermann Hesse wrote his novella Demian during a few months in 1917, in the midst of World War I, following his father’s death, his younger son’s serious illness, and his wife’s mental breakdown. He himself had just begun psycho­ analysis according to Jungian depth psychology in Lucerne, Switzerland. Dr. Joseph Lang scheduled seventy-two sessions with the novelist. Emil Sinclair’s evolution of a healthy Self through experiencing a series of Jungian Archetypes constitutes most of the fable of this Bildungsroman.1 Never mentioning Jung, Hesse claimed that Plato, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and especially Nietzsche influenced his composition. He could have also included Apuleius in this list, for his tale of Cupid and Psyche provides a template for understanding the importance and at times the meaning of several key faces described in the text. The search for the identity of a mysterious divine face is the motive force of much of Demian, just as it is for Psyche in Apuleius’s tale. Only in Hesse’s novel this face does not appear in a single epiphany, but gradually clarifies itself for Emil after seeing its shadow presence in an earlier countenance. The boy Emil Sinclair struggles early to come to terms with an enigmatic face whose bearer threatens to destroy him. But the character Max Demian, who teaches Emil to free himself from one face, bears a face much less troubling, but still ominous. Only when he sees it in Max’s mother’s face does Sinclair truly recognize the significance of this latter face for his life. Hesse’s Archetypes occasionally admit the possibility of conceiving Sinclair as a Psyche vis-à-vis Eros and Venus. Hesse sets his extreme variation of the Cupid and Psyche myth within an initial Christian context which Jungian psychology eventually translates into its own idiom. The Christian context, described in the first part of this chapter, provides a key term, or symbol, persisting into the latter part of the The best general account of this Jungian evolution of Self remains Bettina L. Knapp, “Abraxas: Light and Dark Sides of Divinity in Hermann Hesse’s Demian,” Symposium: A Quarterly Journal of Modern Literatures 38.1 (1984): 28–42.

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chapter, the greater section, based on the tale of Cupid and Psyche. C. S. Lewis in his novel Till We Have Faces—analyzed in the next chapter—will do the opposite, teasing out Christian meaning after a primary retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth. In an italicized preface to the 1919 edition of Demian, Hesse invites readers to adopt a Christian frame of reference for interpreting his novella when Emil Sinclair asserts that “within each [man] a redeemer is nailed to the cross” (p. 2).2 Hesse then places this Christian allusion in what might be called a nineteenthcentury evolutionary context. Sinclair concludes his introduction to his story by asserting that [e]ach man carries the vestiges of his birth—the slime and eggshells of his primeval past—with him to the end of his days. Some never become human above the waist, remaining frog, lizard, ant. Some are human above the waist, fish below. Each represents a gamble on the part of nature in creation of the human. We all share the same origin, our mothers; all of us come in at the same door. But each of us— experiments of the depths—strives toward his own destiny. We can understand one another; but each of us is able to interpret himself to himself alone. (p. 2)

This kind of eclecticism—here the melding of Christ with Darwinian Nature— is typical of the early Hesse. Emil begins his autobiography by describing how when he was a child the order and cleanliness of his parents’ house was a realm of light contrasting with phantoms he sensed all about him in servants’ lives and their frightening tales of “robberies, murders, and suicides,” and in the dark streets into which he did not venture but which he often imagined as containing “slaughterhouses and prisons, drunkards … [and] calving cows, horses stinking to death” (p. 4). The two syllables of Sinclair’s surname are puns upon this divided world of light and darkness.3 After he was a little more than ten, Emil comes under the oppressive influence of a strong, burly boy, Franz Kromer. Almost man-like, Kromer bullies Emil and the other boys, making them his Disciples. To win the approval of the malevolent Kromer, Emil fabricates a story of the dark world, of his stealing a sack of remarkable apples from a special tree. By the apples and tree, Hesse alludes to the Judeo-Christian Fall, which Emil imagines re-enacting. The All novella quotations refer to Hermann Hesse, Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth, trans. Michael Roloff and Michael Lebeff (1925; New York: Harper Perennial, 1999). Parenthetical citations within the text are to page numbers in this edition. 3 Eugene L. Stelzig, Hermann Hesse’s Fictions of the Self (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 144. 2



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vaguer overtone of Augustine’s account in his Confessions of robbing a pear tree strengthens this allusion.4 Dismissing the other boys, Kromer walks Emil to his home, slips in the front door when he opens it, and painfully grips Emil’s arm. Releasing his vise-like hold, “Franz,” in Emil’s account, “had [then] put his arm around me and now he drew me so close I was forced to look into his face inches away. His eyes were evil, he smiled maliciously; his face was filled with cruelty and a sense of power” (p. 9). Emil’s full view of an evil face makes him this boy/man’s slave. Kromer responds to Emil’s lie with his subordinating lie, that the owner of the orchard where Emil had said he stole the apples had said that “he’d give two marks to anyone who’d tell him who swiped them” (p. 9). This devilish lie gives Kromer absolute power over Emil, who fears that this being from the other, dark world might tell his father and the police that he was a thief. Emil tries to give Kromer his grandmother’s silver watch, but his “friend” demands two marks instead. Feeling that he has left forever the world of light to enter that of darkness, Emil believes that he has a secret sin he must expiate. Strangely, this sin makes him feel superior to his father, such that he loathes him for not knowing the other world. For the first time in my life I tasted death [the apple again], and death tasted bitter, for death is birth, is fear and dread of some terrible renewal … [S]omething broke inside me and I was rejected forever from the intimate circle [of my praying family]. God’s grace was with all of them, but was no longer with me. (pp. 14–15)

When he closes his eyes that night, Emil sees Kromer’s face: “I could see him clearly, one eye screwed up, his mouth twisted into a brutal smile, and while I eyed him, becoming more and more convinced of the inevitable, he grew bigger and bigger and evil eye lit up with fiendish glint” (p. 15). Emil dreams of his parents, his sisters, and himself drifting peacefully in a boat in the sun. In the middle of the night, he awakens: “I could still see my sisters’ white summer dresses shimmer in the sun as I fell out of paradise back into reality, again face to face with the enemy, with his evil eye” (p. 15). This face-to-face encounter for Hesse becomes Emil’s persistent obsession, an image that, when not present literally, floods his mind. Emil takes all the coins—sixty-five pfennings (less than two marks)—from the piggy bank his Barry Stephenson, Veneration and Revolt: Hermann Hesse and Swabian Pietism (Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009), 94; Stelzig, Hermann Hesse’s Fictions, 143.

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mother has made him keep, breaking the lock on it such that, even though the coins are his, he feels like a thief—as though his fabricated theft has become a first, real theft. But Kromer, who cannot be avoided, does not want these pennies, but demands two marks instead. He commands Emil to bring him on the next day one mark, thirty-five pfennings. Because Emil cannot steal enough coins from Lisa, the maid, or find the exact amount around the house, Kromer makes Emil work for him, running errands, or nonsensically hopping on one leg for ten minutes, or pinning a scrap of paper on a passer-by’s coat. Thus Emil’s life becomes miserable, haunted by nightmares. At this point, Hesse’s reader might reasonably suppose, given the early Judeo-Christian allusions of Demian, that Kromer has a Satanic face. And indeed this seems to be the case.5 Like the father of lies, he forces Emil to lie, and he capitalizes on this falsehood dreadfully, causing him to steal—to sin. Hesse never does describe Kromer’s features. In this respect, Hesse resembles Robert Louis Stevenson in the most famous European doppelgänger novella, his Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). A reader of Demian familiar with Stevenson might be excused for thinking of this work. For Stevenson focuses repeatedly on Hyde’s face; nevertheless, he too never describes it.6 Like Kromer’s, presumably, Hyde’s face is said to be like Satan’s (pp. 10, 18, 56); on meeting the lawyer Gabriel Utterson, who has been seeking a view of this face, Hyde, snake-like “shr[i]nk[s] back with a hissing intake of the breath” (p. 17). By contrast, Dr. Jekyll is “a well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a stylish cast … but every mark of capacity and kindness” (p. 21). This is the only mention of Jekyll’s face in Stevenson’s novella. His face of course becomes Hyde’s face through a Frankenstein-like alchemical transformation. Those readers of Demian aware that Hesse was interested in depicting the melding of two selves into a Jungian whole might suspect that Kromer and Emil are the doppelgängers who will merge in some psychological/spiritual way. Hesse never does describe Emil’s face, and yet Kromer is enough of an opposite to Sinclair that readers might imagine his countenance to be pleasant, regular. Stevenson’s point in having Utterson and Jekyll’s servant Poole stare into the cheval glass, the mirror in Jekyll’s laboratory in which he witnessed Mark Boulby, Hermann Hesse: His Mind and Art (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1967), 96; Joseph Mileck, Hermann Hesse: Life and Art (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1978), 94. 6 Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, ed. Richard Dury (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), e.g. 15–16, 17. Parenthetical page citations of this novella refer to this edition. 5



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his facial metamorphosis, to see only “their own pale and fearful countenances stooping to look in” involves getting the reader to realize that the potential for evil within him- or herself, if realized, might make his or her face resemble Hyde’s (p. 49). But Hesse’s frame of reference in the Kromer episode is Freudian rather than Jungian, Oedipal rather than Archetypal. “I have always had respect for Jung, but his works did not make such strong impressions on me as did those of Freud,” Hesse later said.7 “Hesse had the greatest respect for Freud, whom he held to be a genius.”8 Emil’s need to feel superior to his father, even if it means through sinning; his deepening hatred of him; his murderous dream in which Kromer offers him a knife to kill his father (p. 27)—this is the evidence that Emil may have to resolve the Oedipal Complex before he can respond to Jungian Archetypes.9 Whether the darkness represented by Kromer’s face will be absorbed within Emil’s or eclipsed remains to be known. Rather than Satan’s face, another archetypal Judeo-Christian face soon engrosses Emil’s attention. Interestingly, Hesse mentions Cain and his mark, but never describes Cain’s face. Instead, a word picture materializes of Cain’s advocate. A new boy enrolls in his school—Max Demian. Demian “seemed strange and mature, like a man, or rather like a gentleman” (p. 21). Soon, an additional class is assigned to Emil’s room; it includes Demian. This class has to write an essay based on the Cain and Abel story. I kept glancing toward Demian whose face held a peculiar fascination for me, and I observed the intelligent, light, unusually resolute face bent attentively and diligently at work; he didn’t at all look like a student doing an assignment, but rather like a scientist investigating a problem of his own. (pp. 21–2)

Surprisingly, this face does not make a favorable impression upon Emil. I had something against him: he seemed too superior and confident, and his eyes gave him an adult expression—which children never like—faintly sad, with flashes of sarcasm. Yet I could not help looking at him, no matter whether I liked or detested him, but if he happened to glance my way I averted my eyes in panic. (p. 22) Stelzig, Hermann Hesse’s Fictions, 135. Boulby, Hermann Hesse, 86. 9 Mileck, Hermann Hesse, 96. For more on Emil’s Oedipal Complex and his father’s oppressive “patriarchal law,” see Patrick J. Gignac, “Homosexual Identity (Misin)Formation in Hesse’s Demian,” The German Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society, ed. Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 295–300, esp. 296. 7 8

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Readers soon sense that the “light,” “adult,” “superior” face of Demian dredges up the world of Emil’s pious father and the Oedipal feelings that go along with it. One thus cannot say that Demian’s is a good, blessed face in a binary with Kromer’s evil countenance. Demian’s name could refer to either “demon” or “daimōn,” the latter specifically Socrates’ inner divine voice of advice and warning, and more generally an Ancient tutelary spirit.10 As they walk to Emil’s house, Demian suddenly, unexpectedly brings up “[t]he story of Cain who has the mark on his forehead” and asks his friend, “Do you like it?” (p. 23). Cain’s face thus becomes associated with Demian’s face, even though it does not look like what readers would imagine as Cain’s. Emil does not know how to respond to this strange question, so Demian explains that the story of Cain is far more remarkable than the common understanding of it. Demian asserts that it is strange for cowardice and murder to be “rewarded” with a facial mark that protects the murderer and puts the fear of God into its beholders. “The first element of the story, its actual beginning, was the mark,” Demian states. Here was a man with something in his face that frightened the others. They didn’t dare lay hands on him; he impressed them, he and his children. We can guess—no, we can be quite certain—that it was not a mark on his forehead like a postmark—life is hardly ever as clear and straightforward as that. It is more likely that he struck people as faintly sinister, perhaps a little more intellect and boldness in his look than people were used to. (pp. 23–4)

Hesse has characterized Demian positively in his relationship to his teachers and his classmates; he makes the intellect, boldness, and attitude of superiority that Emil has seen in his face Cain-like. Compounding this ambiguity is the fact that Emil, when listening to Max speak of Cain, has seen nothing “faintly sinister” in Demian’s face. Demian concludes by saying that Cain’s mark is one of distinction rather than its opposite. The great majority of commentators on Demian identify Max Demian’s Cain figure with the Overman—the Übermenschen—of the late nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as he described him in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (publ. 1883–92), a treatise that strongly impressed young Hesse.11 The Overman ignores the Johanna Neuer, “Jungian Archetypes in Hermann Hesse’s Demian,” Germanic Review 57.1 (Winter 1982): 9–15, esp. 10; Theodore Ziolkowski, The Novels of Hermann Hesse: A Study in Theme and Structure (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965), 141. 11 Representative commentators include Robert P. Newton, “‘Destiny’ and Hesse’s Demian,” The German Quarterly 58.4 (Autumn 1985): 519–39, esp. 524–5; Helmut W. Ziefle, “God and Man in 10



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conventional morality of the Herdenmensch, the man of the “herd” mentality, considering himself beyond good and evil.12 With a strength and will of character, he forges his ethos, which would unintentionally benefit members of the herd, if they had the courage to recognize it and adopt it. Caesar, Napoleon— these were Overmen according to Nietzsche. It was Nietzsche who gave Hesse the idea, expressed in Sinclair’s preface to the novel, that humankind was still undergoing a process of natural evolution, wherein some were still part-animal, part-human, toward the “perfect” man—who will be the Overman.13 “What is the ape to a human?” Nietzsche wrote. “A laughing stock or a painful embarrassment. And that is precisely what the human shall be to the overman: a laughing stock or a painful embarrassment.”14 When Emil began his story’s preface by asserting that “within each [man] a redeemer is nailed to the cross,” the redeemer paradoxically appears to be Cain, an Overman, rather than Christ. That much becomes clear after his story is over, after he has developed a Jungian Self, which allows him to reflect back upon his progress. When Demian says that the story of Cain and Abel probably was not properly recorded by the writer of Genesis, Emil asks him if he believes that Cain did not kill his brother. Demian’s reply is chilling: Oh, that’s certainly true. The strong man slew a weaker one. It’s doubtful whether it was really his brother. But it isn’t important. Ultimately all men are brothers. So, a strong man slew a weaker one: perhaps it was a truly valiant act, perhaps it wasn’t. At any rate, all the weaker ones were afraid of him from then on. (pp. 24–5)

“People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest” (p. 24), he concludes. Clearly, Demian works hard at being beyond conventional good and evil. His pronouncement that “[u]ltimately all men are brothers” seems to reflect a humane goodness. Yet his insistence that Emil admire the strong rather than the weak seems Darwinian—in the sense of “Nature red in tooth and claw”—and so Hermann Hesse’s Demian,” Kosmas: Journal of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences 2.1 (Summer 1983): 43–58, esp. 48; Stefan Gullatz, “Demian and the Lacanian Gaze,” Hermann Hesse Today / Hermann Hesse Heute, ed. Ingo Cornils and Osman Durrani (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005), 173–85, esp. 178–9; Boulby, Hermann Hesse, 103–4; Gignac, “Homosexual Identity,” 299; Mileck, Hermann Hesse, 93. 12 Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ed. Adrian Del Caro and Robert Pippin, trans. Adrian Del Caro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), esp. 5–9. 13 Ziolkowski, The Novels of Hermann Hesse, 103–4. 14 Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 6.

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somehow inhumane. Emil, only beginning his journey toward a Self, concludes that Demian’s reading of the Cain and Abel story is evil, blasphemous. He exclaims that, according to Demian, “every murderer could claim he was God’s darling!” (p. 25). Emil, having at this moment not freed himself from Kromer, finds himself under the influence of two faces—Kromer’s and Demian’s—that he wanted to oppose, but which now tend to merge because Demian’s in his mind has gained by association with Cain’s a sinister cast. Nevertheless, Emil suddenly feels pleasantly that he has the mark of Cain upon his face when he recollects the feeling of superiority he had when he saw through his father’s bourgeois family rules and customs. He nevertheless continues to spend more time with Kromer than he does with Demian. When he does see Demian, he feels “a terrible shock” (p. 30). “He looked down at me and never had his look been more adult, more superior, the look of someone who could see through me” (p. 30). Demian, his face suddenly kind, tells Emil he can train him to be able to read people’s thoughts, such that he need not be afraid of them. Demian tells him that Kromer’s “face tells [him] he’s a firstrate bastard” (p. 32). A reader suspects that Emil cannot reliably read faces. When Kromer runs into Emil a few days later, “he flinched, his face twitched, and he turned away so as to avoid meeting me” (p. 35). Demian simply tells dumbfounded Emil that he has spoken to Kromer and has told him to leave Emil alone. Emil claims that this liberation at age ten was the greatest event of his life. Strangely, he abandons his liberator once he is free. Although Hesse does not say so, it is as though Emil has absorbed Demian within himself. At least, he seems to do so for a time. But Emil soon flees back to “the light, untroubled world of mother and father, my sisters, the smell of cleanliness, and the piety of Abel” (p. 36). He confesses his theft and his general sense of his parents’ oppression and they absolve him of these burdens. He later realizes he should have made this confession to Demian. I had returned to my former, my Edenic world. This was not Demian’s world, and he would never have been able to fit into it. He too—though differently from Kromer—was a tempter; he, too, was a link to the second, the evil world with which I no longer wanted to have anything to do. I did not want to sacrifice Abel to glorify Cain, not just now when I had once more become Abel. (p. 27)

As a link to this second, evil world, Demian would fulfill the name of “daemon” not so much as a tutelary spirit or an inner divine voice but as a devil,



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a demon conductor to a blasphemous realm. Soon Emil feels the eruption of sexuality and desires of a chthonic nature. Because it is opposed to symbolic light (rather than blent with it), this darkness feels dirty, demeaning, sinful. Emil’s childhood becomes hollow and collapses. “What Franz Kromer had once been was now part of my myself ” (p. 41). One day soon after feeling the Kromer within himself, Emil sees Demian sketching the old stone coat of arms containing a bird above the doorway of his own home. “I was deeply astonished by this perceptive, cool, light-skinned face that was turned toward the coat of arms, the face of a man, of a scientist or artist, superior and purposeful, strangely lucid and calm, and with knowing eyes” (p. 43). It was a few weeks later that Emil sees reflected in Demian’s face a being more complex than the Overman. Demian’s face at this point directly transports the myth of Cupid and Psyche into Demian. It does so in terms of a Jungian androgynous Self derived from Apuleius’s myth that can essentially be described by psychologists such as Erich Neumann and Marie-Louise von Franz. The introduction of the Cupid–Psyche fable occurs one-third of the way into the novella when Emil narrates a lifechanging epiphany: All of us on our way home from school were standing about a fallen horse. It lay in front of a farmer’s cart still harnessed to the shaft, snorting pitifully with dilated nostrils and bleeding from a hidden wound so the white dust on one side of the street was stained. As I turned away nauseous I beheld Demian’s face. He had not thrust himself forward but was standing farthest back, at ease and as elegantly dressed as usual. His eyes seemed fixed on the horse’s head and again showed that deep, quiet, almost fanatical yet dispassionate absorption. I could not help looking at him for a time and it was then that I felt a very remote and peculiar sensation. I saw Demian’s face and I not only noticed that it was not a boy’s face but a man’s; I also felt or saw that it was not entirely the face of a man either, but had something feminine about it, too. Yet the face struck me at that moment as neither masculine nor childlike, neither old nor young, but somehow a thousand years old, somehow timeless, bearing the scars of an entirely different history than we knew; animals could look like that, or trees, or planets—none of this did I know consciously, I did not feel precisely what I say about it now as an adult, only something of the kind. Perhaps he was handsome, perhaps I liked him, perhaps I also found him repulsive. I could not be sure of that either. All I saw was that he was different from us, he was like an animal or like a spirit or like a picture, he was different, unimaginably different from the rest of us. (p. 43)

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Virtually every interpreter of Hesse’s novella claims that, while Max Demian is an actual character, he really functions as a part of Emil. When his scripture teacher includes the mark of Cain in one of his lectures, Emil instinctively looks toward Demian and sees his gleaming eye on his own face, as though he saw Cain’s mark there. At this moment, Emil becomes aware of a spiritual affinity between the two of them wherein they can practically divine each other’s thoughts. Such a passage gives readers the impression that Emil and Max are a single being. Different interpreters have argued that Demian is Emil’s Freudian id, his Jungian essential Self, his ideal friend, his homosexual desire, his “wise old man,” his Jungian “puer aeternus,” and so on.15 The most common reading involves claiming that Demian is Emil’s Jungian anima, the feminine side of himself repressed by society. Advocates of this view cite Emil’s assertion that Demian’s countenance “was not entirely the face of a man either, but had something feminine about it, too.” Patrick Gignac has remarked that Sinclair possesses the stereotypic feminine qualities of passivity, deference to men, extreme sensitivity before the strongly masculine character Kromer; nevertheless, Mark Boulby notes that Demian’s language includes not so much feminine diction as “masculine” words and phrases such as “‘cool,’ ‘masterful,’ ‘bright,’ ‘distant,’ ‘lonely,’ and even ‘age-old’ and ‘stony.’”16 Moreover, Ritchie Robinson asserts that Hesse in characterizing Sinclair may have adopted Nietzsche’s opinion that modern European man had become feminized, and that the Overman (associated with Demian) recovered genuine masculinity.17 Despite what Emil says about seeing the feminine in Max’s face (it may be a projection of excessive femininity), Demian at this point in Emil’s life acts as a catalyst for Emil’s discovery of masculine sexuality. This sexuality soon will be a counterweight to Emil’s feminine side, but eventually it will be a companion blending with it. When he speaks at length about the mysterious instincts of a butterfly—a night moth—Demian evokes the name Psyche (pp. 46–7). Hesse thus suggests that Emil stands in the place of female Psyche, looking dangerously on a face Critics adopting one of these interpretations include Miguel Serrano, C. G. Jung and Hermann Hesse, trans. Frank MacShane (New York: Schocken, 1968), 4; Ritchie Robertson, “Gender Anxiety and the Shaping of the Self in Some Modernist Writers: Musil, Hesse, Hofmannsthal, Jahnn,” The Cambridge Companion to the Modern German Novel, ed. Graham Bartram (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 46–61, esp. 48–9, 54; Kurt J. Fickert, “The Friendship Theme in Hesse’s Novels,” The University of Dayton Review 10.2 (1973): 47–56, esp. 50; Neuer, “Jungian Archetypes,” 10; Mileck, Hermann Hesse, 90. 16 Gignac, “Homosexual Identity,” 296; Boulby, Hermann Hesse, 100. 17 Robertson, “Gender Anxiety,” 49, 53–4. 15



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which is the equivalent of Eros’s. At this point not so much Apuleius’s Eros, as the Eros of earlier Antiquity—of Empedocles and Lucretius. This is a darker, timeless god who infuses Love through the creation, ordering it, binding it together. He is a life force, and his love is often animal desire. Hatched from a world-egg, Eros is chthonic, represented and worshipped as a single phallic stone.18 Discussing religion with Demian, Emil sees once again “in his gaze … that strange animal-like look, expressing timelessness and unimaginable age” (p. 53). It is associated with “a drive that is stronger than any other and which is considered ‘forbidden’” (p. 54). Demian goes on to say that the Greeks celebrated this drive, made it divine, and devoted feasting to it. The drive is “forbidden” mainly from a Judeo-Christian view, because this desire sometimes cannot restrict itself to adult heterosexuality. It must be synthesized in the Jungian Self so as not to paralyze one stuck in the “light”/“dark” religion with guilt. One day Emil sees Demian’s face as a cold stone mask. Stunned, he thinks that “[t]he real Demian … looked like this, as primeval, animal, marble, beautiful and cold, dead yet secretly filled with fabulous life. And around him this quiet emptiness, this ether, interstellar space, this lonely death!” (p. 56). Emil/Psyche sees a face resembling the primitive Eros, but he does not recognize it, and is certainly not ready to love it. Evidence for this claim comes from the world of drunkenness into which Alfon Becks, a classmate, inducts Emil. Tempted by prostitutes, Emil nevertheless remains a virgin. He feels, however, that he had done something wrong, so lascivious are his thoughts, because he is still ruled by the categorical “light” of his original way of thinking. Emil then meets a young woman named Beatrice—not the Beatrice of Dante but the Beatrice of the nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In his painting “Beata Beatrix” (1877, Fig. 6), Rossetti sublimates the beauty of his reddish–golden-haired mistress, Elizabeth Siddal. Commentators on this episode sometimes explain it in terms of Emil’s regression to the world of light, in which he worships Beatrice as an idol.19 But any regression is more than compensated for by the andro­gynous being Emil sees in Beatrice.20 Emil is attracted to a “tall and Robert Graves, The Greek Myths (1955; London: Penguin, 2012), 34; Marie-Louise von Franz, An Interpretation of Apuleius’s Golden Ass (Irving, TX: Spring, 1980), 70. 19 Stelzig, Hermann Hesse’s Fictions, 146; Knapp, “Abraxas,” 37. 20 George Wallis Field, Hermann Hesse, Twayne’s World Authors Series (Boston: Twayne, 1970), 45; Donald Nelson, “Hermann Hesse’s Demian and the Resolution of the Mother-Complex,” The Germanic Review 59.2 (Spring 1984): 57–62, esp. 58–9; Neuer, “Jungian Archetypes,” 12; Knapp, “Abraxas,” 37. 18

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slender, elegantly dressed” young woman who has “an intelligent and boyish face” (p. 67). Above all, he likes the boyishness of her face (p. 68). Emil begins to paint, first copying the Pre-Raphaelite painting he admires, but with the modification of his lady’s features. But that proves difficult, and he finally composes a dream face: It looked more like a boy’s face than a girl’s, the hair was not flaxen like that of my pretty girl, but dark brown with a reddish hue. The chin was strong and determined, the mouth like a red flower. As a whole it was somewhat stiff and masklike, but it was impressive and full of a secret life of its own. (p. 70)

For Emil, this face resembles “a kind of image of God or a holy mask, half female, ageless, as purposeful as it was dreamy, as rigid as it was secretly alive” (pp. 70–1). Emil has made progress toward the coniuncto of anima and animus, of male and female, in the Jungian Self, and his discovered artistic ability shows it. Unknowingly, Emil has painted a chthonic face approximated by the primitive Eros—in other words, that of a bisexual, fertile, vital force. When he looks at the painting a bit later, he sees the shadow of Demian’s face. Then he thinks he has painted himself—not actually, but the face of “what determined my life … my inner self, my fate or my ‘daemon’ ” (p. 72). Emil’s fear of Demian has gradually dissolved, and he discovers his strong affectionate feelings for him, dating from a sudden yearning sweeping through him at a moment during his “debauched” phase. Emil believes that this is what a friend would look like if he ever truly found him. He is advancing toward the integrated Jungian Self through further synthesis of a face that stands in place of Eros’s face in the Cupid–Psyche story. Apuleius’s Psyche sees it in a single vision, but Hesse’s Emil sees it slowly emerge from several visions, later ones subsuming the elements of earlier sights. Before going on to the most expansive vision of this face, a reader needs to come to terms with Hesse’s account of Jung’s Collective Unconscious. More and more, Emil longs for Demian. One night Emil dreams of Demian and the stone heraldic coat of arms featuring a bird above his family home’s door. In his dream, Demian forces him to eat the coat of arms; to his horror, Emil feels the bird coming to life within him. It then devours him from the inside. In the morning, Emil compulsively begins painting a new picture of this heraldic bird with a sparrow-hawk’s head, half its body in a globe out of which it is struggling to free itself as though from an egg (p. 76). Emil has no idea why he has painted this picture; he does not yet understand that his newly found artistic surge



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Figure 6  Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Beata Beatrix,” c. 1864–70. Photo Credit: Tate, London / Art Resource, NY.

buoys him to a Self. Emil sends Demian his painting, with no commentary, no note identifying himself. A little later, he finds an unsigned letter in one of his textbooks, telling him that he has painted the symbolism of the god Abraxas’s birth; Abraxas flies to God after he destroys the world from which he has been born. Incredibly, Emil soon hears one of his teachers, Dr. Follens, lecturing on

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the god Abraxas, whose task, he explains, “is the uniting of godly and devilish elements” (p. 80). But Emil has no idea how, or why, this god could be relevant to his life. Emil meets an ex-theologian named Pistorius, who has become an organist with an antiquarian interest in ancient gods. Pistorius represents Hesse’s Jungian therapist, Joseph Lang. Sinclair learns from Pistorius that Abraxas was a Gnostic god rejected by the creators of Christian doctrine, and that his teacher was right in saying so. “[Abraxas] is God and Satan and he combines within him both luminosity and darkness. All exists within Abraxas.”21 Emil first sensed this mixing of good and evil in the amoral sound of Pistorius’s organ performance of Bach that drew him to him.22 Through several conversations with Pistorius Emil will learn in this Bildungsroman of Abraxas’s importance for his early education. He will perform the function for Emil that Dr. Lang did for Hesse. But to do that, he needs a dream with which to work. Emil has had a dream, the most significant of his life, he says, in which he is incestuously embraced by his mother under the bright sign of the hawk. He dreams that his mother comes toward him “in a form [he] had never set eyes upon before, tall and strong, resembling Max Demian and the picture I had painted” (p. 81). This masculine mother-form’s embrace makes Emil feel both horror and ecstasy. Emil often dreams of wanting to embrace his mother, “hold[ing] instead the great, half-male, half-maternal woman in [his] arms” (p. 95). Emil eventually paints this figure, to which he figuratively makes love, to which he prays. He calls its face that of “mother … whore and slut … Abraxas” (p. 102). “The painted face in the lamplight changed with each exhortation—became light and luminous, dark and brooding, closed pale eyebrows over dead eyes, opened them again and flashed lightning glances. It was woman man, girl, a little animal” (p. 102). Commentators generally claim that Pistorius becomes the midwife delivering Emil’s Collective Unconscious, which contains every Archetype, mainly by helping Emil understand that the god Abraxas would sanction such a disturbing dream.23 According to Joseph Mileck, “[t]he dream-figure embracing Sinclair is not just a mother or lover, prostitute or angel, man or woman, devil or god, but both and all; the embrace is not just horror or delight, sin or worship … animalistic or spiritual … but both and everything; it also suggests homosexuality and Knapp, “Abraxas,” 38. Ibid., 39. 23 Boulby, Hermann Hesse, 114; Stelzig, Hermann Hesse’s Fictions, 146. 21 22



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heterosexuality.”24 Emil learns from Pistorius that the features of the face he painted contain traces of all these possibilities, which exist within himself as a Collective Unconscious and which is ready to be freed in the form of the bird.25 Emil, with Pistorius’s help, grasps the truth that he is breaking the shell of his Christian–bourgeois light/dark home into a better Self that embraces good and evil. Pistorius teaches him mystically that his soul contains all the essences, both devilish and godly, of the world. The organist tells Emil to trust his dreams especially when the conventional categories of good and evil do not apply to them. But this trust proves very difficult for Emil. Mileck, Boulby, and Stelzig are probably correct in equating Emil’s dream with the elements of his Collective Unconscious. Yet one of these is dominant, the figure of an Erotic Mother, tempting Emil to forbidden love. Mileck notes, almost as an afterthought to his catalog of Archetypes in the Unconscious, that the dream figure “also suggests homosexuality and heterosexuality.” Actually, it suggests maternal incest. In fact, that is Emil’s most troubling feeling when he dreams this dream. Obviously, the association of Abraxas with Emil’s most meaningful dream and the painting it stimulates involves Emil’s coming to believe that his love for the Mother is not sinful but liberating. That, however, does not occur during his therapeutic talks with Pistorius. Emil finally walks away from Pistorius, because he remains an antiquarian, unwilling to experience Abraxas, content merely to talk to him in a rather sterile, academic manner. He realizes that he needs to live out his dream, if he can, safely, in order to know it genuinely.26 The face of Eros that was Psyche’s goal expands spectacularly into an ur-face that dazzles Emil. Sometimes he hears the Old Testament writer’s words about Jacob’s wrestling with the angel of God and his “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” (p. 102). Jacob in daily experience never encountered the face of the angel, of God; and Emil has never seen the face he has painted— the face of the being whose blessing he wants (p. 105).27 He may have grown beyond Psyche’s quest, but a definitive, explanatory face remains Emil’s goal. Emil has now internalized the face of the half-male, half-female dream image of Mileck, Hermann Hesse, 98. In this context, Ziolkowski notes that in his story’s preface, Sinclair asserts that “each one bears within himself remnants of his birth, the slime and egg-shells [italics mine] of a primeval world, to the very end” (The Novels of Hermann Hesse, 115). 26 Lewis W. Tusken, “A Mixing of Metaphors: Masculine–Feminine Interplay in the Novels of Hermann Hesse,” The Modern Language Review 87.3 (July 1992): 626–35, esp. 628. 27 Jung’s explanation of the importance of Jacob’s wresting with the angel for his psychoanalytic method appears in Field, Hermann Hesse, 54. 24 25

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his daemon, and he can conjure it for contemplation by his mind’s eye whenever he wishes. When he turns on his older friend Pistorius and rejects him, even though without him he would never have arrived at his present level of understanding, he wanders alone through the town deeply feeling for the first time the mark of Cain on his forehead (p. 110). Emil has only one thought: “And within me I saw the image of the master, who resembled Demian, and in whose eyes my fate stood written” (p. 113). During his vacation as a university student, Emil visits the house where Demian had lived with his mother. They no longer live there, but an old woman strolling in the garden takes him into the house and shows him a small photograph of the mother. Emil’s heart stands still as he sees the face of his dream, of “daemon and mother, fate and beloved” (p. 114). Here is the face of his destiny. And so he begins searching for this woman. Unable to find her, Emil enrolls in a new university and attends dull, predictable classes in philosophy. Alone with a few volumes of Nietzsche, Emil lives with the German philosopher, feeling his loneliness and the fate that has driven him on relentlessly. Late one night, he encounters Demian in a dark lane near the student taverns. Demian says he distinctly sees the sign of Cain on Emil’s forehead, which before had been very faint. Demian tells Emil he can see everywhere the collapse of rotten European society, the absence of love and freedom, and the approach of a great apocalypse (which would be the 1914–18 Great War). This immense conflict, Demian asserts, will not improve the world: Whether the workers kill the manufacturers or whether Germany makes war on Russia will merely mean a change of ownership. But it won’t be entirely in vain. It will reveal the bankruptcy of present-day ideals, there will be a sweeping away of Stone Age gods. The world, as it is now, wants to die, wants to perish—and it will. (p. 119)

Demian goes on to say that what Nature wants has stood written not in any society or race but in an individual like himself, or Emil, or Jesus, or Nietzsche. Those, in other works, who have evolved a superior vision like Emil’s at this point: a vision of a face not within the intellectual capacity of ordinary men and women. The next morning everything shines with a beauty Emil has not seen since he was a child looking about on Christmas morning as he approaches the house where Demian lives with his mother. As he waits for her alone in the entry hall,



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he sees high up on the wall a painting of “the golden–yellow sparrow hawk’s head, clambering out of the terrestrial shell” (p. 121). This symbolism suggests that Emil is about to be reborn at the moment he sees the face of Demian’s mother. Images taken from different years in Emil’s life flash at tremendous speed before his mind’s eye. And then, underneath the painting, he sees her face. It is “timeless, ageless, and full of inner strength” (p. 122) as she draws him to her in a homecoming. Her eyes are black, unfathomable; her lips ripe; her brow clear and regal. On it, Emil sees the mark of Cain. This woman seems too young to have a son as old as Demian, so sweet was her face, “so taut and smooth her golden skin, so fresh her mouth” (p. 122). Surprisingly, this is not the impersonal, animal face of a god of good and evil, of Abraxas; in this face can be perceived traces of a maternal Aphrodite, of the goddess of love who might be Emil’s lover and his mother. The sensuous overtones of the ripe lips, golden skin, and fresh mouth suggest a composite visible in an Archetypal countenance. “At times I was dissatisfied with myself and tortured by desire,” Emil later writes, “I believed I could no longer bear to have her near me without taking her in my arms” (p. 129), “There were other moments when I sat beside her and burned with sensual desire and kissed the objects she had touched” (p. 131). In Apuleius’s tale of Cupid and Psyche, Psyche is a Venus-on-earth who stimulates desire in the men of her native town. Marie-Louise von Franz, in her Jungian explication of the Cupid–Psyche tale, argues that “Venus resents that she, the omnipotent Goddess of the Beyond, has now a rival on earth [Psyche], a kind of incarnate form.”28 Hesse’s evocation of Jungian mother–son incest ultimately derives from Apuleius’s myth as it had been interpreted by later nineteenth- and early twentieth-century psychologists. In this myth, Cupid’s stipulation that Psyche never see his face registers the incestuous nature of his love for Psyche. Cupid is after all for Apuleius’s interpreter a boy who has been absorbed in his love for his mother and hers for him. His command that Psyche never try to see his face preserves the anonymity that allows him to love the mother figure.29 Von Franz interprets the drop of oil falling from Psyche’s lamp that painfully wakes Cupid to discover that Psyche sees his face as the light of consciousness whereby a man knows that he is desiring someone forbidden, his mother Venus incarnate.30 Von Franz, An Interpretation of Apuleius’s Golden Ass, 82. Ibid., 78–9. 30 Ibid., 85. 28 29

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Demian’s mother’s face, as portrayed by Hesse, possesses a somewhat stereotypical rich matron’s countenance—a bit of a paradox since the mark of Cain is a singular badge. Demian’s mother strokes Emil’s hair and says that being reborn is difficult but necessary for someone like himself. She asks to be called Frau Eva—Eve, the First Mother (p. 124). When Emil finds Demian, he tells him that his mother’s name fits her perfectly, for “[s]he is like a universal mother” (p. 125).31 Eva and Max Demian initiate Emil into the secret of those who wear the sign of Cain on their faces. They recognize a kindred spirit who rises above the herd mentality of the Abels to seek a new humanity “whose image no one knew and whose laws were nowhere written down” (p. 126). Essentially for Hesse these Cains are not only adherents of Nietzsche’s philosophy but also Jungians who search the Ancient books of the world for psychological and divine symbols and Archetypes to direct their courses (p. 127). A key myth—perhaps the key myth—is the tale of Cupid and Psyche, identified syncretistically by a Judeo-Christian mark. This group, according to Sinclair, includes disciples of Count Leo Tolstoy, cabalists, astrologers, and devotees of Indian mysticism and vegetarianism. They all are “marked—as Cain was—to arouse fear and hatred and drive men out of a confining idyll into more dangerous reaches” (p. 128). This idyll is synonymous with the complacent, constrictive herd mentality that has killed the world soul and is about to bring on the Great War collapsing Europe upon itself. “I dreamed that the whole world was in turmoil,” Emil explains, “and that myself, or with Demian, I was tensely awaiting for the great moment. The face of fate remained obscure but somehow bore the features of Frau Eva; to be chosen or spurned by her, that was fate” (p. 129). Emil burns with a both a sensual and a spiritual love for Eva, which leads him deeper into himself. “My love for Frau Eva seemed to fill my whole life” (p. 131). But one morning, coming into Demian’s room, he is shocked to see his friend’s unexpressive dead face and eyes, only resembling an animal mask that he saw a few times long ago. Eva is upset, tearful. He rushes from their house, out of the town toward the mountains, above which he sees a tremendous thunderstorm forming and then raging with deafening cracks. Just before it begins, he sees the wind shape a gigantic bird out of a yellowish blue–grey mass of clouds, which Neuer, “Jungian Archetypes,” 15. Commentators who claim that Frau Eva is a composite woman made up of all the women whose faces Emil has seen in his dreams include Neuer, “Jungian Archetypes,” 13 and George W. Field, “Hermann Hesse: Polarities and Symbols of Synthesis,” The Queen’s Quarterly 81 (1974): 87–101, esp. 90.

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flew off in a great beating of wings (p. 134). Tremendous thunder and lightning surround this vision. Demian later, having collected himself, tells Emil that he and his mother have also had this epiphany. Its darkness explains the dark expression on Demian’s face. The flight of the sparrow hawk predicts a reborn world whose birth, however, will be more frightening than anything they could have imagined (p. 136). The carnage of the Great War will be stupendous. One day Demian enters the house distracted to tell Eva and Emil that the Great War, in which hundreds of thousands of men will take delight in killing each other endlessly, has begun. Emil senses that he will soon have to leave Frau Eva and his passion strains to draw her to him. “She must come, she must long for my embrace, my kiss must tremble insatiably on her ripe lips” (p. 138), he concludes. Not surprisingly, given the motif of faces in this remarkable novella, a reader approaches its conclusion via Emil’s and Demian’s faces. And a subtle allusion to the Psyche–Cupid story tells the reader whose prototypes stand behind their faces, and that there will be a strange beauty to the world’s rebirth. Anticipating his immanent involvement in the conflagration, Emil clings “to each beautiful day as the butterfly clings to the honeyed flower” (p. 138). The butterfly, Psyche—Psyche transformed to a new, strangely beautiful life by Eros. Max becomes a lieutenant in the German army, and Emil is drafted into it. The mixture of sacred and profane love for the Great Mother Eve burns within both of them as the young men embrace so tightly that their bodies almost seem to become one. Emil has seen traces of Demian’s face in Eva’s. His desire for Demian has never lapsed. Apuleius’s triad of Psyche, Eros, and Venus implicitly involves Psyche loving the reflection of the mother in the son and that of the son, once seen, in the mother. Apuleius’s myth is the prototype of this triad in psychology, and so in art and literature. Emil and Demian’s mutual love constitutes the final bonding of this novel. In the winter, Emil is sent to the front. As he fights alongside many men, Emil sees within some soldiers a new humanity struggling to be born out of the rage and fighting of close combat (p. 142). One night in the sky Emil sees [a] huge city … in the clouds out of which millions of people streamed in a host over vast landscapes. Into their midst stepped a mighty, godlike figure, as huge as a mountain range, with sparkling stars in her hair, bearing the features [the face] of Frau Eva. The ranks of the city’s people were swallowed up into her as into a giant cave and vanished from sight. The goddess cowered on the ground, the mark luminous on her forehead. A dream seemed to hold sway over her: she closed her eyes and her countenance became twisted with pain.

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Suddenly she cried out and from her forehead sprang stars, many thousands of shining stars that leaped in marvelous arches and semicircles across the black sky. (p. 143)

At the very end of Demian an apocalyptic figure the equivalent of Revelation’s Daughter of Zion displaces the Venereal Archetype—the Magna Mater— informing Frau Eva.32 In other words, she represents a chosen people struck by a cataclysm. But are the chosen people the disciples of Cain or the German people? The remaining paragraphs of Hesse’s novella indicate that the people are Cain’s Übermenschen and that Frau Eva’s cry is the painful realization, mindbursting, of personal loss. One of the stars bursting from Eva’s forehead streaks straight for Emil, exploding above him with a roar. Emil is flung up and down, seriously wounded by a shell. He finds himself later lying bedded on the floor of a long hall. Someone bends over him, who has the sign of Cain on his forehead. It is Demian. The light from a bulb plays over his face. Smiling, his face draws near Emil’s, almost touching it. Despite the sign of Cain—or perhaps one should say because of it—this is the face of Love, of Eros. Emil’s and Max’s faces almost blend, and Max whispers to Emil that he—his Demian—must go away. But he murmurs also that, if ever afterwards he needs him to help with a bully or a fiend, he will find him within himself. Hesse’s reader gathers that Demian has died, killed in battle. He or she realizes that the painful cry of the goddess Emil saw in the clouds was over her son’s death. And yet Eros lives still. Max’s daemon becomes one with Emil harmoniously, empowering him. Demian kisses Emil gently, and Emil feels not only his lips, but Eva’s too. The figure hovering over Emil says, “Frau Eva said that if ever you were in a bad way I was to give you a kiss from her that she sends by me … Close your eyes, Sinclair!” (pp. 144–5). Psyche is at peace with Venus. Ironically, Emil—Psyche—no longer sees Max’s—Eros’s—face. He is once again in the dark. But he does not need to see it. Emil concludes: “Dressing the wound hurt. Everything that has happened to me since has hurt. But sometimes when I find the key and climb deep into myself where the images of fate lie aslumber in the dark mirror, I need only bend over that dark mirror to behold my own image, now completely resembling him, my brother, my master” (p. 145). Psyche is at peace not only with Venus but with her son too. Ziolkowski asserts that Frau Eva “is a mixture of the Daughter of Zion, Magna Mater, and the Jungian anima” (The Novels of Hermann Hesse, 138). Mileck agrees that she is “Revelation’s Daughter of Zion” (Hermann Hesse, 94).

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Hesse throughout his life avidly read Dostoyevsky’s novels, composing a series of essays on them in 1919 and publishing them under the title A Glance at Chaos (1920). In “Thoughts on The Idiot,” Hesse characterizes Prince Myshkin as the embodiment of a “magical thinking” beyond good and evil that is rooted in the unconscious. In Hesse’s interpretation, “The Idiot, thought to its logical conclusion, leads to a matriarchy of the unconscious and annihilates culture,” for [the idiot] Myshkin’s thinking is nothing less than “the acceptance of chaos” and a return to the incoherent, to the unconscious, to the formless, to the animal and far beyond the animal to the beginning of all things.33

Myshkin’s thinking, far from being negative, represents for Hesse Jung’s Collective Unconscious with such potential that he could be a nascent Nietzschean Übermenschen, beyond good and evil. The ending of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot appears to have left its impression on the ending of Demian. Like Myshkin lying face-to-face with Rogozhin, Max Demian brings his face close to Emil’s. Even as Myshkin kisses Rogozhin’s face, Max kisses Emil’s. I suggested in my earlier chapter on The Idiot that Myshkin’s kiss could be regarded as lovingly redemptive. What of the value of Demian’s kiss? Is it the kiss of betrayal, of Judas? Is it the kiss of Cain, or of Nietzsche? Is it the kiss of the Antichrist? Is it Narcissus’s? Each of these readings has been proposed.34 If it were a Judas-kiss, it would be on the cheek. If a kiss of Cain, or of Nietzsche, it would presumably be on the forehead. Demian kisses Emil on the lips. Mark Boulby and Patrick Gignac respectively think this kiss is one of homosexual or hermaphroditic love.35 But that may not be so, since the kiss originally is Frau Eva’s; for she as a Venereal Mother has always sparked an electric sexual charge for Emil. Still, her kiss is of comfort and assurance, a kiss of love in its most expansive sense—sent by the Mother of Love through her loving son. And even if Demian kisses Max’s forehead, a Nietzschean kiss, it could be a kiss of love. Eighteen times in Thus Spoke Zarathustra the Overman gives different expressions of his love for his brothers and sisters. Most memorably, he states, “I love the one whose soul squanders itself, who wants no thanks and gives none back: for he always Stelzig, Hermann Hesse’s Fictions of the Self, 152–3. Also see Boulby, Hermann Hesse, 116. See respectively Stephenson, Veneration and Revolt, 110; Ralph Freedman, Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis (New York: Pantheon, 1978), 191; Ziefle, “God and Man in Hermann Hesse’s Demian,” 57; Stelzig, Hermann Hesse’s Fictions of the Self, 149. 35 Boulby, Hermann Hesse, 119, Gignac, “Homosexual Identity,” 297. 33 34

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gives and does not want to preserve himself.”36 This, too, captures the sense of Eva’s and Demain’s love for Emil Sinclair. The next morning Emil finds a stranger lying next to him. It is not the great Mother goddess Eve who redeems Emil Sinclair. It is Max Demian who does so in his spiritual incarnation within Emil. “In each individual the spirit has become flesh, in each man the creation suffers, within each one a redeemer is nailed to the cross,” Sinclair wrote in his retrospective preface to his story, his conclusion drawn from feeling Demian within himself. An allusion to Christ need not conflict with the Nietzschean mark of Cain worn by this redeemer, the sign that makes him an individual in the special sense. It need not once a reader realizes how love informs the relations of Nietzsche’s Übermenschen with their brothers. The point is moot, however, even if one objects that only Nietzsche’s fellow Overmen are his brothers. Demian’s face is that of Eros, and the love reflected by it is not, strictly speaking, Christian. Amid all of the faces of a redeemer painted by those under the influence of a Shroud of Turin or of a Veronica, one might paint the Archetypal face of an existential Jungian Modernist, such as the countenance that emerges in Hermann Hesse’s Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth.

Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 7–9, esp. 8. The quoted pronouncement alludes to Luke 17.33.

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Ancient and Christian Faces in C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces Obviously the new humanity and world order based on love and brotherhood that Hesse predicted in Demian never occurred. Instead, the rise of Nazism in Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s in its cruel movement toward holocaust obliterated Hesse’s special symbolism of the mark of Cain and reinforced its original Judeo-Christian meaning of Archetypal criminality and outcast status among humanity. Bareface was Lewis’s original title for his novel Till We Have Faces (1956).1 His revised title suggests that some characters may have failed or false faces at first and that they may, or may not, acquire authentic countenances later. Lewis had been interested in Apuleius’s myth of Cupid and Psyche since the 1920s, when he rewrote the story,2 but he soon abandoned its revision. Joy Davidman, his companion whom he would marry in 1960, became a midwife in helping him deliver his novel in the mid-1950s. In Till We Have Faces, Lewis takes many liberties with Apuleius’s narrative, introducing a half-sister to Psyche, Orual, who amounts to the book’s major character. The novel is not an allegory but a myth, as Lewis understood myth. Lewis believed that Christianity was a true myth, indeed the true myth, and he had no trouble saying so. “Lewis saw pagan myths as dim foreshadowings (i.e., unclear but still powerful parables), with Hebrew myths as somewhat clearer foreshadowings. What both foreshadowed was the salvation brought by the historical event of the dying and rising God, Jesus of Nazareth.”3 Alister McGrath, C. S. Lewis: A Life (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013), 219. Ibid., 328. 3 Peter W. Macky, “Appeasing the Gods in C. S. Lewis’s Till We have Faces,” Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review 7 (1986): 77–89, esp. 77. For more about Lewis on myth, see Clyde S. Kilby, “Till We Have Faces: An Interpretation,” in The Longing for a Form: Essays on the Fiction of C. S. Lewis, ed. Peter Schakel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 171–81, esp. 179; and Curtis Gruenler, “C. S. Lewis and René Girard on Desire, Conversion, and Myth: The Case of Till We Have Faces,” Christianity and Literature 60.2 (Winter 2011): 247–65, esp. 248, 249. Dean Loganbill, “Myth, Reality, and Till We Have Faces,” in Man’s “Natural Powers”: Essays For and About C. S. Lewis, ed. Raymond P. Tripp, Jr. (Church Stretton: The Society for New Language Study, 1975), 55–8, esp. 55, notes that Lewis believed that a myth is “a real though unfocussed gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination.” 1 2

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Lewis claimed that Apuleius did not understand the importance of selfsacrifice in his narrative of Psyche’s ordeal. He would make the motif explicit in his novel’s fable,4 giving it a “numinous” quality characteristic of myth that Apuleius failed to register.5 Psyche desires to be this human sacrifice so that she might marry a divine god. This is something she yearns for, longs for. Lewis calls such yearning for a divine vision and experience “Senshucht”; once achieved, it conferred unspeakable Joy.6 Like Christ’s body, Psyche’s sacrificed body disappears only to be seen alive by Orual in a heavenly surrounding, on the other side of a great river. Despite a glimpse of the divine, spiritual doubt and disbelief in the gods’ goodness returns to Orual. She is—initially, at least—a pagan with a knowledge of classical Greek mythology, such as Lewis was originally grounded in, who struggles to transcend it in a progress toward approximating the basis of Christian belief (as Lewis did in the 1930s).7 Like Lewis, she will also experience, although to a lesser degree, a liberating self-sacrifice that leads to a numinous vision of the divine. In realizing his close-to-the-truth but still-imperfect myth, Lewis plays complex variations upon Apuleius’s motif of a hidden and revealed face, most often in complex contexts of Orual’s disbelief and then her yearning to believe in the gods, represented centrally for her by the Ancient goddess Ungit. And yet other faces, including Psyche’s, permeate Lewis’s novel, realizing its values. Lewis’s conclusion leads to a final face-to-face encounter, when mortals shall no longer see through a glass darkly. It also provides an explanation of why the Judeo-Christian God’s face is rarely, if ever, seen in the Bible, as well as of the responsibility that Christians have for courageously baring theirs to both provoke and express compassion and forgiveness. The other major revision Lewis always claimed he made of Apuleius’s tale was making the vision of Cupid’s palace invisible to normal mortal eyes and Orual’s reluctance to admit its reality after catching a glimpse of it. See Seve J. Van Der Weele, “From Mt. Olympus to Glome: C. S. Lewis’s ‘Cupid and Psyche’ in Till We Have Faces,” in Schakel, The Longing for a Form, 182–92, esp. 188. 5 Peter J. Schakel, Reason and Imagination in C. S. Lewis: A Study of Till We Have Faces (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 5. 6 See Alison Searle, “Narrative, Metaphor and Myth in C. S. Lewis’s Testimonial Novel Till We Have Faces,” Oral and Written Narratives and Cultural Identity: Interdisciplinary Approaches, ed. Francisco Cota Fagundes and Irene Maria F. Blayer (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 225–44, esp. 232–3, 236, 238–9, 240; and Karen Rowe, “Till We Have Faces: A Study of the Soul and the Self,” C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, and Legacy, Volume 2: Fantasist, Mythmaker and Poet, ed. Bruce L. Edwards (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007), pp. 135–56, esp. 136, 143; and Schakel, Reason and Imagination, 31, 32–3. 7 Martha Sammons, in “The God Within: Reason and its Riddle in C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces,” Christian Scholars’ Review 6 (1976): 127–39, asserts that “[t]he book presents these three world views: sacrificial primitive religion and superstition, as practiced by the House of Ungit and Bardia; the ‘pale enlightenment’ of Greek rationalism taught by the Fox and practiced [initially] by Orual; and the ‘vision’ or faith in an unseen god shown by Psyche” (p. 128). 4



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Orual is eldest daughter of Trom, King of Glome, an ancient city, set somewhere north of Pericles’ Greece, whose inhabitants have Norse-sounding rather than Persian-sounding names. The city’s powerful goddess Ungit appears in her temple as “a black stone without head or hands or face” (p. 4).8 Lewis makes Apuleius’s ancient setting even more pagan, especially when considered from a Christian perspective, by repeatedly mentioning brutal human blood sacrifice to the goddess Ungit and by making Orual’s and her sister Redival’s father wrathful and homicidal, killing slaves and on one occasion a boy during his fits of anger. Orual claims the smell of blood is always in her nostrils. Glome does not seem as civilized as pagan Greece, represented in the novel by the slave simply called the Fox, whom King Trom acquired as a captive of war and who grows to have an influence over him. It is the Fox who begins to make the story of Psyche and Cupid the prototype for events in Glome when he tells the sisters, who he tutors in Greek, that Ungit is called Aphrodite in Greece.9 Nevertheless, the Fox is a Stoic, for he tells Orual that sometimes a man faced with fatal odds has good reason to kill himself (p. 17).10 He also tells her that, by dying, people are “resolved into the elements” (p. 17). One of his few absolute beliefs is friendship; he shocks Trom when he asks him “Are not all men one blood?” (p. 9). Orual grows to love him, calling him “Grandfather.” The Fox represents a type of rationalism as the criterion for judging metaphysical questions, a stage in Lewis’s post-World War I evolution of thought. Like a younger Lewis, the Fox will ultimately admit his inability to apply reason to the supernatural dimension of life. King Trom remarries a Princess of a nearby kingdom whom the sisters call simply Stepmother. Veiled during her wedding (during which the sisters are also veiled), the little queen soon dies in giving birth to a girl, Ister. Trom, without a male heir, angrily exclaims to those around him, “Faces, faces, faces! What are you all gaping at?” (p. 16), and banishes everyone from his Quotations and page references are taken from C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces (1956; Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 1984). 9 For Ungit as Aphrodite/Venus, see Schakel, Reason and Imagination, 20; and W. E. Norwood, Jr., “C. S. Lewis’s Portrait of Aphrodite,” The Southern Quarterly 8 (1970): 237–72, esp. 255, 256, 257, 258. “Ungit as eros is blackened and distorted,” Norwood claims, made “hideous” by the relative barbarity of Glome compared to classical Greece (p. 258). For Ungit as a fertility-mother goddess, see Bonnie Jane Feeser, “‘The Mirror in the Invisible Palace Contains the Cathedral We Made’: Reflections of Cupid and Psyche in C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces,” The Image of Europe in Literature, Media, and Society, ed. Will Wright and Steven Kaplan (Pueblo, CO: The Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery, 2001), 101–6, esp. 102. 10 Doris T. Myers, Bareface: A Guide to C. S. Lewis’s Last Novel (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2004), 17, 20, 70. The general barrenness of Ungit’s statue and her temple belie such an equation. 8

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sight. Bitterly disappointed, he begins to not want to see a female face. When the Fox asks Orual what the child would be called in Greek, she answers “‘Psyche’” (p. 20), showing that she is adept at the foreign language he has taught her. Psyche’s half-sister Orual quickly saw that the Stepmother had a beautiful face, and she sees that the baby, growing into a girl, has an even more ravishing face: a countenance that the Fox says must be equal to or better than Helen of Troy’s (p. 21). Orual knows she is ugly; Trom calls her “curd-face” (p. 18).11 Lewis never describes the features of the faces of the Stepmother or Psyche that make them beautiful, even as the goddess Ungit– Aphrodite remains faceless. Nor does he describe the features of Orual that make her ugly. But he says so in each case, and thus makes his novel very much about faces. The Fox claims that Psyche is prettier than Aphrodite herself, and her halfsister Redival soon becomes spitefully jealous of her and would like to harm her at any opportunity. One day a woman asks Psyche to kiss her baby, so that the child might become beautiful via the presumably miraculous physical contact of lips and faces. This indeed occurs, and Psyche gains the reputation of being a wonder-worker, able to cure diseases and bring good fortune. A great plague ensues, and Psyche seems to cure the feverous, including the Fox, bringing them back from Death’s threshold. The people begin to idolize her, saying she is Ungit–Aphrodite. Lewis introduces at length into the Classical myth he is revising the suggestion that Psyche can miraculously cure the lame and the afflicted merely through her touch. But Glome becomes more barren, and the plague persists. Orual, who loves Psyche, worries that Ungit–Aphrodite will punish her look-alike. Gradually, when people touched by Psyche do not recover, the crowd turns on her. Psyche foreshadows Christ the miraculous healer in the true myth, by her failure to prevent her society from becoming her adversaries. In this respect, her story begins to point toward that of the Gospels. Pursuing her, the citizens of Glome call her “the Accursed” (p. 38). Lewis’s Psyche admits to believing that she does have the healing touch, and has sought the sick to cure them. Orual tells her that she is wrong to think so. When Psyche asks Orual what she has done to the people, Orual, in her defense, exclaims, “You healed them, and blessed them, and took their filthy disease upon yourself. And these are their thanks. Oh, I Concerning Orual’s ugliness, see Carla A. Arnell, “On Beauty, Justice, and the Sublime in C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces,” Christianity and Literature 52.1 (Autumn 2002): 23–33, esp. 25.

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could tear them in pieces!” (p. 39). Like Christ, Psyche has taken upon herself evil that she has eradicated, and yet is persecuted, cursed. The plague, like Original Sin, seems to never end; some whom Psyche touches die. No one in the primitive city realizes that a miracle has intermittently appeared. Given the city’s decimation, the High Priest of Ungit–Aphrodite calls upon King Trom to do something. The Priest is very old, blind, led by two temple girls with “their faces painted till they looked like wooden masks” (p. 42). He himself has habitually worn a bird-like mask with a beak. Coming to a halt, they stand at each side of the Priest’s chair, “their meaningless eyes looking always straight ahead out of the mask of their painting” (p. 43). Facelessness continues to be associated with faceless Ungit–Aphrodite—her statue is simply a stone plinth—and her religion (condensed in a blind man who cannot see faces) is similarly without human features. The Priest, however, “look[s] like a vulture” to Orual (p. 45). He asserts that the black Shadowbrute, equivalent to Apuleius’s dragon, has been active again and that the Great Offering, a human blood sacrifice, must once again be made to appease deity and revive a sinning wasteland, now invaded by prodigies such as lions. Anticipating the naming of Psyche as the Accursed who must be sacrificed, the Fox attempts to explain the apparition of the monster as a natural phenomenon misperceived by ignorant, frightened people. But he fails. At this point, a reader might conclude that veiling, masking, and avoiding looking at faces make inhumane judgments and behavior possible for certain characters, and that unveiling or directly looking at faces might cause beholders to act more compassionately, or make doing the opposite more difficult. The Priest claims that the victim must be bound upon a tree upon Grey Mountain, to be offered up to the monster, and that—ironically, like Christ—the Accursed must also be perfect. If a man, he will be Ungit–Aphrodite’s husband; if a woman, she will be the bride of the goddess’s son: the Shadowbrute (p. 49). Either way, the sacrophant will be called Brute’s Supper, for he or she will be devoured during the consummation of their marriage.12 Given the awareness of Lewis’s reputation as a Christian apologist, and given the overtones of Christ in Psyche’s character briefly entertained, a reader may be excused for thinking that this devouring might be a foreshadowing of the It is difficult to think of the Shadowbrute as Thomas Ramey Watson does, in “Enlarging Augustinian Systems: C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce and Till We Have Faces,” Renascence 46/3 (Spring 1994): 163–74, esp. 170, “in a brighter light as the one the Greeks will call Eros—the one that Lewis’s Christian readers are meant to recognize as Christ.” The primitiveness of this part of Lewis’s myth seems more distant from the true myth of Christianity.

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Eucharist and the soul’s espousing the Bridegroom Christ after death.13 But such thoughts can only be provisional. Again the Fox tries to avert the naming of Psyche as the victim by catching out the Priest in logical contradictions, such as his claim that the sacrifice needs to be both accursed and perfect. Here the Fox, who had manipulated King Trom at times when he asked his advice, and who is now trying to outwit the Priest, lives up to the wily reputation of his namesake. Lewis makes this much explicit (p. 50). But he shows that the human need for a supernatural human sacrifice surpasses any appeals to reason. While the Priest counters the Fox, his bird-like mask lies on his knees (p. 51). Finally, he names Psyche, and the angry king threatens him with a dagger pricking his ribs, but he does not kill the devotee who shows no fear. Orual throws herself at her father’s feet, beseeching him to save Psyche. But he kicks her, bruising her already ugly face (p. 55). Blaming many of his troubles upon Orual, King Trom exclaims, “There’s vixen in your face this minute” (p. 55). This is the first look, so to say, that the reader has into Orual’s face; what he or she sees is only a wily expression that links her with the Fox. At his moment, one might recall that Christ’s face, to say nothing of God’s face, is never explicitly described in the New Testament. The most one usually has are expressions. And here it is only an expression of Orual’s that the reader has, unsatisfactory for giving us the comprehension of ugliness. Again the enlightened Greek, the Fox, attempts to tell the king that terrible things happened to the Greek king—Agamemnon—best known for sacrificing his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease an angry deity (p. 58). He suggests ruses to Trom by which an immediate sacrifice on Grey Mountain can be averted and some days or weeks bought during which Psyche’s life might be saved. Suddenly, Orual offers her life to save the people and lift the curse of the plague. But her father takes her by her wrist and leads her before his great mirror, a magical glass in which one could see his or her “perfect image” (p. 61). Orual has never looked at herself in this mirror. “Ungit asked me,” he says, “for the best in the land as her son’s bride … And you’d give her that” (p. 62). By the word “that,” the king obviously refers to Orual’s ugly face, which perhaps the mirror unfortunately has made perfect in its ugliness. This vision is compounded by the view of Orual’s recent bruise, which father and daughter see; for Trom cruelly says, “Get the beefsteak for your face” (p. 62). The relevance of the Bridegroom Christ for Psyche is explained by Gwenyth Hood, “Heroic Urual and the Tasks of Psyche,” Mythlore 27.3/4 (Spring/Summer 2009): 43–82, esp. 58–9.

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Lewis retells the Psyche–Cupid story with the third sister, the owner of a notably homely face which, along with Trom’s physical abuse of her, provokes the reader’s compassion. He has thus created a face contrasting with beautiful Psyche’s not at all suggested by Apuleius. And yet at this point sympathy prevents this face from having negative overtones. Isaiah had said that “there [would be] no form nor comeliness” in the Messiah and that “when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53.2). Homely Orual has offered to substitute herself for the scapegoat Psyche. She thus offers to sacrifice herself for the sacrificial offering meant to save the people of Glome. Orual’s pain in her left side resulting from her collision with the floor reinforces her association with Christ (p. 64), for, according to St. John, a Roman soldier pierced the side of Christ’s corpse with his lance (John 19.31-37). Medieval and Renaissance painting often showed this happening as Christ was dying, and the wound was usually depicted in his left side. Somewhat problematically, Lewis has now given Christ-like overtones to two of his characters.14 But Psyche almost immediately re-appropriates her linkage with the Savior when she, forgivingly, tells Orual, who has told her to curse Redival, “No, no. She also does what she doesn’t know” (p. 69). It was Christ who prayed “Forgive them, Father for; they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34). Psyche has a premonition that the being whom she will wed on Grey Mountain will be a god, a god she yearns to marry.15 Provisionally establishing a Christian context for interpreting a version of Apuleius’s ancient myth, Lewis alludes to the Eucharist when Psyche anticipates being “devour[ed]” as an “offering,” becoming the “ransom” saving all the people of Glome (p. 72). The devout Christians’ eating the Body of Christ so as to be eventually married to Him informs Psyche’s belief that “[t]o be eaten and to be married to the god might not be so different” (p. 72). She begins to suspect that there may be some truth to the Fox’s admission that there are other Greek masters than those he follows who teach that “‘death opens a door out a little, dark room … into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet” (p. 73). Battered Orual, one eye swollen shut, sees Psyche carried in a litter toward the mountain; she is wigged, painted, and gilded like a temple girl, “Her eyes,” Orual notes, “peering out of the heavy lifeless mask which they had made of This double identification need not be confusing, since—despite Orual’s extreme selfishness and needy love—Lewis will show later the sense in which the play’s god’s pronouncement—that Orual is Psyche—comes true. 15 See Macky, “Appeasing the Gods,” 78. 14

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her face, were utterly strange” (p. 80). “Ungit had taken the most beautiful thing that was ever born and made it into an ugly doll” (p. 80). Psyche’s “face” now resembles Orual’s in its ugliness. By depriving Psyche of the innately piteous appeal of the naked, vulnerable (here also beautiful) face, the people of Glome inoculate themselves from guilt for savage behavior. Orual goes to the tree on the mountain where Psyche was left as the offering to Brute to recover and burn or bury her bones (she assumes the flesh has been eaten). An informed reader recalls that in one of Lewis’s areas of literary specialization—the English Middle Ages—the cross upon which Christ was crucified was regularly called a tree: the Tree of Life that rectifies the curse of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The soldier Bardia has befriended Orual and instructed her in the use of a sword and shield, in case she needs them on the mountain. Because of her father’s violence, her healed face is evidently more repulsive than it normally is, for she overhears Bardia telling another soldier that “it’s a pity about her face … If a man were blind and she weren’t the King’s daughter, she’d make him a good wife” (p. 92). When Orual sets off for the mountain with Bardia alongside, her face is veiled. Referring to Psyche, Bardia points to the woods and says, “That’s the Holy Road … That’s the way they took the Blessed” (p. 95). Seeing the unmatchable beauty of the sunrise on the natural setting below them, Orual suddenly feels such joy that she does not believe in her ugliness, in fact that something desirable lies “within [her] hideous face” (p. 96). But as they climb higher, the desolation pierces them as they see “a cursed black valley” in which death seems to lurk (p. 97). But as they approach the tree from the Valley of Death, they find the body gone and no bones, nothing except the chain that bound Psyche rattling in the wind. The body has miraculously disappeared, a deity having appropriated it. Only a ruby from one of her sandal straps is found. Given Psyche’s new identity as the Blessed, at the end of Holy Road the barren tree foreshadows Christ’s empty tomb. Lewis has conclusively shifted the association of Christ to Psyche. Climbing higher, the sun suddenly emerges and they see a lush green unknown valley, glowing like a gem. Descending into it, they perceive Psyche standing on the other side of a brilliant river. “She was so brightfaced, as we say in Greek” (p. 100), Orual recalls.16 Orual does not know that this shining comes Sharon Jebb, in “‘I Lived and Knew Myself ’: Self-Knowledge in Till We Have Faces,” Renascence 63.2 (Winter 2011): 111–29, asserts that the bright face of Psyche reveals the Joy that Lewis believed comes from the fulfillment of yearning—Senshucht—for the divine. It proclaims that Psyche has “found that which she has always consciously longed for” (p. 125).

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from being made the bride of a god. Only Orual can cross the river, and she does so in the strong current only because Psyche has extended her hand to her. On the other side of the river, Orual appears to enter a new reality.17 A reader might ask how Christian foreshadowing in this tale could go further in tracing the true myth. In her bright, dazzling face, Psyche appears to have acquired the absolute Judeo-Christian face. Moses’s face glowed intensely as he came down to the Jews from his dialogue with God. (It is as though his face has caught the divine radiance of God’s face.) And Christ’s face blazes as part of his Transfiguration. But a reader has progressed scarcely one-third of the way through Lewis’s fable. So this cannot be a conclusion. And it is not, for Orual is his main character, and the rest of the novel will mainly concern events that plunge her into profound religious doubt, such that she disbelieves a benign deity cherishes Psyche, or humankind. Psyche proceeds to tell her sister that she had been given a drugged drink to make her presumed death less painful. It, by her account, made her dreamy. “And the painting on my face helped my dreaminess too. It made my face stiff till it didn’t seem to be my own face” (p. 106). In the sense that the face stamps a reader physically with his or her sense of her identity, Lewis tells him or her that Psyche is ignorant of her new identity. Zephyrus, the ancient god of the west wind, lifted Psyche out of her chains and wafted her to an unknown god’s house. Feasted, bathed by invisible spirits, Psyche is placed in a splendid bed to await her divine bridegroom. As she tells Orual this part of her story, Psyche’s face, turning white, appears to her like that of a stranger to a child who has thought she was her mother. Suddenly Orual knows that she cannot see the palace Psyche has described, nor did she drink the wine or see the cup that Psyche insists that she gave her. Orual claims that she drank water from Psyche’s cupped hands. To her horror, Psyche realizes that Orual cannot see the palace she stands before. Lewis presumably wants his reader to feel to a much lesser degree this sorrow. For he or she cannot see it—imagine it—either, even though Psyche has described some of its otherworldly features. All this is somewhat at odds with what Lewis wrote in a letter dated February 10, 1957 to Clyde Kilby. In it, Lewis states that Psyche “is an instance of the anima naturaliter christiana … in some ways like Christ because every good man or woman is like Christ.” Quoted by Jebb, “‘I Lived and Knew Myself,’” 112. This may be true occasionally in Till We Have Faces, especially in the novel’s second half. But Psyche’s ability to work miracles, her serving as a scapegoat for society, and her appearance “brightface” after marriage to a god hardly make an ordinary good Christian. Even Kilby, despite Lewis’s letter, continued to believe that Psyche was a Christ figure (Clyde S. Kilby, The Christian World of C. S. Lewis [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman, 1964], 57–8.) Norwood notes that in this study, Kilby cites nine correspondences—some of which I note above—between Psyche’s experience and Christ’s (p. 251).

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This blindness suggests that Orual is not capable of the religious experience Psyche has undergone. Orual begins to feel a cold jealousy that she cannot see—has not seen—the mysterious “he” that Psyche continually names. Envy deepens when she hears about the passion and love that he has inspired in Psyche. It lessens a bit when Psyche confides that she has never seen him either, only felt him; he has commanded her, Psyche confesses, never in the “holy” darkness of love-making to try to see his face, nor to bring a light into their bedchamber (p. 123). Hurt because Psyche no longer needs her love, her sister tries to tell her that something so dark as this divine husband can only be associated with something evil, either with Brute or blood-requiring Ungit–Aphrodite. In the course of Till We Have Faces, Lewis emphasizes that, retrospectively considered, Orual’s desire to substitute herself for Psyche as the offering does not arise from a selfless love, a love resembling agape, but from a selfish, jealous, eventually self-destructive love that Lewis in The Four Loves (1960) calls “NeedLove.” In this work, Lewis terms affection “Storge,” made up of “Need-Love” and “Gift-Love,” which is selfless devotion resembling agape.18 Lewis distinguishes eros and philia (friendship) from these loves.19 In her self-loathing, Orual has desired to possess beautiful Psyche completely for herself. Considered retrospectively, Orual’s earlier desire to substitute herself for condemned Psyche reflects a terrible desperation, a belief that life is empty and not worth living, without possessing Psyche. Orual does not understand or feel eros;20 because her face is ugly, no man has loved her. Thus she is jealous of Psyche’s love for the god she marries; he has taken Psyche from her. Thomas R. Watson notes that when he first began to write this novel, Lewis thought he could quickly move from the lesser “Need-love” to “Gift-love,” which is God’s. But he found the task more difficult than he had imagined from the old and oversimplified scheme that he had assumed [in revising Apuleius’s tale]. As he states, the different kinds of love intertwine, and the highroad signed by St. John’s “For God is Love” is not so plainly or separately found.21

Nancy Enright, “C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces and the Transformation of Love,” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 14.4 (Fall 2011): 92–115, esp. 93, 98. Also see Ian Storey, “Classical Allusion in C. S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces,” The Chronicle of the Oxford University C. S. Lewis Society 4.2 (May 2007): 5–20, esp. 5. 19 Enright, “C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces,” 97. Shakel, in Reason and Imagination, more fully defines Lewis’s idea of philia (p. 54). 20 Enright, “C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces,” 106. 21 Watson, “Enlarging Augustinian Systems,” 169. 18



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Orual, after painful struggles, will eventual achieve a modicum of Gift-Love, but it will not come easily or without backslidings.22 Thus at the moment, Orual feels hatred for Psyche, and the two sisters begin a “thick, tangled sort of wrestling” (p. 127), leaving marks on each other’s skin. Lewis provokes recollection of the biblical Jacob wrestling with the angel whose face he—like Psyche—initially does not see. Shaken by what they have done, Psyche and Orual return to the now-icy river; Psyche helps her sister over to the other side, so that she might go back now via the dark valley. Orual cries to her to return to the life she knew, but Psyche replies that she cannot because she has been espoused to the divine bridegroom. Orual finds Bardia waiting and, since light starts to fade, they build a fire and lie back-to-back to ward off the cold. But Orual, as twilight lasts, gets up and walks to the river; through the mist, to her amazement, she sees for a few moments the divine residence: “[t]here stood the palace, grey as all things were grey in that hour—but solid and motionless, wall within wall, pillar and arch and architrave, acres of it, a labyrinthine beauty” (p. 132). “This is a medieval castle seen by a pre-Christian,” C. N. Manlove argues23—an anachronism, meant to symbolize the Christian Middle Ages. Doris Myers asserts that the palace is “a Gothic cathedral … come from the Age of Faith.”24 But the labyrinthine building dissipates almost at the same instant that Orual sees it, and she is left wondering whether it was real or a hallucination. Lewis’s decision to have Orual, Psyche’s half-sister, rather than Psyche narrate Psyche’s story—as Apuleius does— involves his desire to make his fable about the difficulty of someone like himself who found it first impossible to believe in a blessed afterlife, but then started to believe in the supernatural through a half-perceived visionary experience. Orual disbelieves in the reality of a divine dimension when her vision is so brief that she cannot be sure she even had one. Such fitfulness in Orual, who has a predisposition to want to believe in a god’s goodness, produces a spiritual depression greater than the melancholy caused by absence of any visionary experience. Her main obstacle is the conviction that any god who to some degree determines mortal affairs must somewhat resemble Orual’s goddess bloody Ungit–Aphrodite, mainly because life is so painful. Compounding Orual/Lewis’s difficulty is that, unlike Jacob, Joseph, and others among the C. N. Manlove, in C. S. Lewis: His Literary Achievement (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), lists nine commentators on Till We Have Faces who focus exclusively on Orual’s culpability in their analyses of her character (pp. 202, 232–3n). 23 Ibid., 206–7. 24 Myers, Bareface, 68–9. 22

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blessed in The Old and New Testaments who truly believe but never see the face of God, only feeling instead some aspect of his persuasive presence in the act of loving them, she needs a sustained or longer visionary experience in order to have faith. She continues to think that any god who exists is not just indifferent to humankind but actively malicious and fatal. Thus Orual remains convinced that the “god [who loves Psyche] and the devouring Shadowbrute [are] all one” (p. 137). When Orual, omitting mention of her transitory vision of the Palace, tells the Fox what Psyche has told her about her husband and her happiness, “the light die[s] out of his face” (p. 141). He believes that one of the men who are reported to live on the mountain has come in the dark to make love to Psyche, and that she is delusional in seeing the palace. The Fox is as humanely enlightened as Ancient philosophy can make a man, but he has a different idea of soul (psyche) from what Orual has intuitively apprehended.25 Lewis thus underscores the point that a comprehensive knowledge of Greek and Roman philosophy, such as that which he encountered in studying for his distinguished Oxford Bachelor of Arts degree, ultimately offers little help for someone struggling with a latent desire to believe in a redemptive, everlasting reality. Planning to go back to Psyche to free her from some kind of predator, Orual imagines her as “brightface[d]” (p. 152), and when she again on a second visit sees her coming down to the river to greet her, she is “so young, so brightface[d], joy in her eye and limb” (p. 157). When Orual puts off the veil she has worn, Psyche exclaims, “[W]hat a storm-cloud is in your face!” (p. 158). When Orual asks her, ”What sort of god would he be who dares not show his face?” (p. 159), Lewis again activates the Old Testament God who hides his face, a fact which makes worship of him challenging. In this respect, the concealment of the god Eros’s face from the Blessed—Psyche—prompts those readers aware of the novel’s Judeo-Christian overtones to think of Yahweh’s similar practice and of the difficulty this obscurity poses for faith. For an unbeliever such as Orual, hiding a supposedly divine countenance signifies cowardice or malice rather than authority or a determination that no one make a visual icon of deity (Exodus 20.3-5; Deuteronomy 5.8-9; Leviticus 26.1). Still, Yahweh often hides his face because he is angry with Jews, even, at times, because he knows the When the Fox tells Orual that she “darkens our counsels—and your own soul—with these passions” (p. 146), he refers to the Classical “psyche,” equivalent to Aristotle’s rational spirit (soul) that dissolves at death along with its main residence, the mind. The passions can cloud this soul. Later, Orual reveals that the Fox has taught her “how the soul arises from the blood” (p. 184).

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effect of its rare revelation will frighten them into obedience. He shows it just often enough to dispel latent disbelief in his existence. Orual believes as she does mainly because of her possessive, self-centered love for Psyche, which prompts the anger and jealousy that makes her think dark thoughts about the gods. “Nothing that’s beautiful hides its face” (p. 160), she exclaims. Given her ugliness, one can understand why she would make this judgment. Orual wounds her arm with her dagger, foregrounding a Stoic belief, to prove the strength of her resolve that Psyche shall take the lamp she has brought to see the hidden face of a consort.26 Her selfish desire to repossess Psyche prompts her to say that she will kill herself if Psyche does not do as she says. Terrorizing Psyche into obedience by promising to use the lamp to see something her god has forbidden is a loveless act, reflective of no concern for her safety or welfare. Psyche by oath to her half-sister turns her face away from her as she leaves her, having said that she will follow her command (p. 166). This capitulation and aversion signifies a new estrangement. In Apuleius’s myth, the god’s mother— Venus—has commanded him to punish rather than love Psyche. Cupid hides his face because he fears his mother’s greater power. But in Lewis’s revision of Apuleius’s tale the god first freely chooses to show his face uncertainly in a flash to Orual, as though to test her faith. Back on the other side of the river, Orual sees a light glow across it and immediately hears a roaring voice, “golden” in its sternness, and then the sound of weeping (p. 171). Repeated bolts of lightning flash, and the imagined pillars of Psyche’s house collapse. A great light burns over Orual. “In the center of the light was something like a man,” Orual recounts. “It is strange that I cannot tell you its size. Its face was far above me, yet memory does not show the shape as a giant’s” (p. 172). Orual catches just a glimpse of this face, and she is subdued by the brilliant “beauty this face wore” (p. 173).27 She is stunned by “the passionless and measureless rejection In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus’s wife Portia, trying to learn a secret that has isolated him from her affections, reminds him of her Stoic constancy (to keep a secret) when she tells him she once mutilated her thigh to prove she has this Roman virtue. William Shakespeare, The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al., 2nd edn (New York: Norton, 2008). 1576 (2.1.298-301). For Stoic Orual, see Hood, “Heroic Urual and the Tasks of Psyche,” 55 and Gruenler, “C. S. Lewis and René Girard,” 256. 27 The beauty of the god’s face denies Doris Meyer’s claim, made in “Browsing the Glome Library,” Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review 19 (2002): 63–76, esp. 64, that the god—Love—“is Dante’s ‘lord of terrible aspect’ (La Vita Nuova).” Kilby asserts that the beauty, not the terror, of the god’s face masters Orual (“Till We Have Faces,” 175). But Norwood notes that, despite the subduing beauty of the face, Orual feels his look conveys a “passionless and measureless rejection” (“C. S. Lewis’s Portrait of Aphrodite,” 244). 26

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with which it looked upon me … his eyes seemed to send me from him to an endless distance. He rejected, denied, answered, and (worst of all) he knew, all I had thought, done, or been” (p. 173). This god, Eros—Cupid—possesses an absolute omniscience, including all the thoughts of a man or woman, more characteristic of the Judeo-Christian God than a Greek or Roman god. Like the Judeo-Christian God, Cupid in disdain and anger exiles those who violate his command to not broach a limit and gain forbidden knowledge. Unlike the speculated countenance of stern Yahweh, however, the face of this god possesses a remarkable beauty, one similar to the stereotypic artistic representation of Christ’s face. The initial anger in this god’s voice does not appear in his glimpsed face. Soon the god’s voice is sweet, bird-like, as he tells Orual, “Now Psyche goes out in exile. Now she must hunger and thirst and tread hard roads. Those against whom I cannot fight must do their will upon her. You, woman, shall know yourself and your work. You also shall be Psyche” (pp. 173–4). This enigmatic pronouncement sends Orual into a profound depression, partly because she feels guilt for coercing Psyche into lonely exile and awful suffering (from agreeing to see Eros’s face). The blasting effect on the world of violating this god’s commandment resembles the Judeo-Christian God’s cursing of Nature for Adam and Eve’s transgression of a command about limits. “I could see what the god’s anger had done to the valley,” Orual explains. “It was all bare rock, raw earth, and foul water; trees, bushes, sheep, and here and there a deer, floated in it” (pp. 174–5). In its latter part, this description evokes recollection of the Deluge by which the Judeo-Christian God punished humankind a second time. In what sense, the reader wonders, are Psyche and Orual conflated? Has Psyche’s face, because of her immanent great trespass, already become ugly? Or is she still beautifully “brightfaced,” an apparent sign and attribute of heavenly blessedness? Orual thinks the god’s pronouncement means only that she will share Psyche’s exile (p. 176). Once back in Glome, Orual decides to wear permanently the veil that she twice wore to Grey Mountain; she thinks that the veil will confirm, and keep, her wish to remain secret about what actually has happened to Psyche and herself. In this sense, it may express her shame and guilt over coercing Psyche.28 Bonnie Jane Feeser asks, however, “[I]s it not—wearing a veil—to hide her angry envy for what she wants to love and needs to control?”29 Schakel remarks that a veil symbolizes these feelings repeatedly in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fiction, notably “The Minister’s Black Veil” (Reason and Imagination, 56). 29 Feeser, “The Mirror in the Invisible Palace,” 103. 28



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For Gwenyth Hood, the veil symbolizes Orual’s “inner exile.”30 Karen Rowe argues that Orual’s assumption of the veil is the physical manifestation of her unwillingness to face the truth [of the god’s reality].”31 Lewis’s reader imagines that her motives may be all these—and more. Significantly, Orual realizes that seeing her father’s taunting face when he cannot see hers gives her a kind of power over him. He cannot perceive her reaction to his words and deeds, and so proceeding to manipulate her becomes difficult. Orual, once King Trom dies and she becomes Queen of Glome, realizes that a great political strength derives from her veil.32 Because her face is hidden, her subjects imagine all kinds of beauty in her, including that of her voice (p. 191). No one believes that under the veil is anything so common as ugliness. They believe so because few think that no ruler who has engineered so many fruitful civic changes as Orual has could be ugly. Some think she has no face at all. Others believe her beauty is so great that it would dazzle the eye if beheld directly. Still others claim that she is so great a rival of Ungit that the goddess has said she would blast her face were she barefaced (pp. 228–9). Her veil thus makes Orual “mysterious and awful,” a source of fear.33 The reality of Orual’s political power causes her subjects to speculate about her face to her advantage. Orual concludes that her veil serves her authority better than either a beautiful or bold countenance would do (p. 187). A mysterious stranger appears, Trunia of Phars, at war with his father and brother Argan for rule of their kingdom. He seeks temporary refuge in Glome; Orual says she can offer it only if she makes him a prisoner and trusts her to free him when it is safe for him and her to do so. Orual cannot afford to wage war against Phars. She tells him to pull his hood over his face so that no one recognizes him (p. 193). Lewis thus emphasizes the powerful advantage over others that the hidden face can give one, whether a man or woman or a god. What it also does, however, and what Orual does not realize, is that obscuring the face isolates its bearer from humankind. Lewis will make the full view of human faces the condition for the giving and receiving of love, for the prompting of moral responsibility for the welfare of others, and for the best realization of one’s humanity. But Orual Hood, “Heroic Urual and the Tasks of Psyche,” 61. Rowe, “Till We Have Faces,” 144. 32 Myers argues that the life and speech of Queen Elizabeth I provided Lewis with the model for Orual’s characterization as Queen of Glome (Bareface, 84–5, 89, 94, 101). 33 Andrew Howard, in “Till We Have Faces and its Mythological and Literary Precursors,” Mythlore 3 (1977): 32–3, remarks that “Nathaniel Hawthorne made some apropos comments about the efficacy of a veil in commanding fear and respect in ‘The Minister’s Black Veil’” (p. 32). 30 31

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is far away from this understanding. She is enmeshed in the at times bloody politics power entails. Full of confidence, she proposes a risky scheme: that of challenging Argan to single combat with a challenger representing Trunia. If Trunia’s challenger lives, Argan forfeits his life; if he wins, he gets Trunia’s head. To encourage Argan to accept this proposal, Orual suggests making Trunia’s champion appear contemptible. Either way, Glome survives, for if Argan wins, he will assume the rule of Phars, leaving Glome alone. Secretly Orual thinks of her people foremost rather than Trunia’s or her own welfare. Orual, who has become proficient with the sword under Bardia’s tutelage, intends the challenger to be herself disguised. She believes that neither she nor Trunia will die. Lewis in this part of Till We Have Faces shows the influence of his reading of chivalric romances, specifically of Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1590). Lewis had carefully re-read this most popular piece of English Renaissance prose fiction when he wrote his magisterial Oxford History of Sixteenth Century English Literature Excluding Drama (1954). His analysis of Sidney’s poetry and prose in this volume amounts to almost fifty pages.34 In The Arcadia, there is nothing so ugly as Parthenia’s face, “disfigured” by a poison rubbed upon it by the rival of her beloved suitor, the noble knight Argalus. Sir Philip’s mother, Mary Sidney, had tended Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen of England, when she was ill with smallpox. Whereas Elizabeth’s face was relatively unblemished by the scars of the disease, Mary’s countenance, however, after she had contracted the illness, was so disfigured that she wore a veil during the remainder of her life. Parthenia is Sidney’s stand-in for his mother. He pays his mother’s virtue a tribute when the noble knight Argalus continues to love Parthenia’s inner beauty even though others report Parthenia’s face as “ugly” as a “leper’s.”35 Parthenia flees Argalus because she cannot believe anyone could love her for long. She finds refuge in Helen of Corinth’s kingdom, where her physician administers a lotion that restores her beauty.36 Parthenia later becomes a disguised knight, whose helmet and visor fully conceal her, challenging the knight Amphialus who has killed her beloved husband in a duel between two armed camps in which she, who has sought death to be with Argalus, dies. When Argalus died at Amphialus’s hand, Parthenia, who had C. S. Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954), 324–47. 35 Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, ed. Maurice Evans (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 87–93, esp. 90. 36 Ibid., 104–6. 34



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tried to stop the fight, “tare her beautiful face.” When her helmet is removed, onlookers are stunned to see the face of a woman.37 Clearly, these details from Sidney’s Arcadia figure into Orual’s characterization and a central episode of Till We Have Faces. Just before she adopts a veil permanently (as regards men), Orual says she went “bareface” on her two journeys to the river (p. 180). Now she tells us that the Fox’s Greek misogyny judges a woman dueling as barbarous and scandalous as their custom of going “bareface” in Glome (p. 197). As was previously noted, Bareface was Lewis’s original title for his novel. The reader gathers that Orual no longer going occasionally barefaced but veiled has a large significance in the narrative. The day of the chivalric duel arrives, and Orual has not been able to keep hidden the secret of her gender: everyone who crowds the field of combat, including Argan, knows that a woman—Orual—fights him. Jailed Trunia, however, remains ignorant of this fact. Orual, in accordance with her vow, refuses to fight barefaced (p. 215). At her command, her servant Poobi stitches up an impenetrable hood or mask of cloth, with two eye-holes. This mask covers her whole helmet, making her, in her opinion, “look very dreadful, as a ghost might look” (p. 216). Recalling the ominous mask Psyche had worn on the day she was offered to the Brute, Orual wonders if this is what the god meant when he said that she shall be Psyche. A sense exists that Orual in being a liberating champion is somehow atoning for Psyche’s fault in violating Cupid’s command. On her way to the combat Orual, showing her new ability to read the lines of people’s faces, realizes that the crowd looking upon her is thinking neither of her nor of Glome (p. 217). They are struck by the oddity of a woman fighting a man. Orual’s new self-confidence and political influence stems partly from her sudden ability to read faces intuitively. She knew from Bardia’s face alone that he would obey her in her transvestite scheme of personal combat (p. 199). When she looks at her dying father one last time, his face tells her who he has been—and is. It was a “terrified, idiotic, almost an animal’s face” (p. 202). As Orual and Argan fight, she reads amazement then fear in his face, and she knows that he believes he is looking on the face of Death (p. 219). Once again, a hidden face possesses destructive power. Soon Orual gives him a fatal wound along the inner side of one of his legs. Her conflation with Psyche seems real when the Fox runs to her, shouting “Blessed! Blessed!” (p. 220). But if Orual is Blessed, she is so in a sense far different from that of Psyche’s Blessedness. Ibid., 501–9, esp. 508, 526–30, esp. 528.

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Psyche’s Blessedness on the other side of the river involved the glory of a heavenly and a spiritually refined soul; Orual’s blessedness concerns bloody violence that saves a man and a city-state, with all its inhabitants. One is spiritual; the other political. Freed, handsome Trunia courts the strangely veiled woman who has saved his life and whom he believes must be beautiful. But Orual, despite her love for him, cannot bring herself to uncover her face. Consequently, she misses out on love. Redival marries Prince Trunia. At night alone in her bed, thinking that the great lapse of time without any report concerning Psyche implies her death, Orual imagines that she hears her sister weeping. Until now, the shapeless stone in Ungit’s temple that represents the goddess has lacked a face. One of her subjects proposes they replace this stone with a Greek, woman-shaped statue of Ungit. Such a proposal represents, as we saw in Chapter 1 on the postApostolic craving to see an image of Christ’s face, the universal human desire to worship a god with a human face. Knowing how much power she gets from being faceless, Orual agrees, believing that even a beautiful carved face of the goddess will deprive her of some of the power she has had over Glome and her subjects (p. 234–5). When this statue is placed in the temple, the old lumpy stone effigy remains next to it. Later, on the annual night during which Ungit is thought to deliver her priest in bloody childbirth, and Orual sits locked with him and many virgins in the goddess’s temple, she sees in the shapeless goddess a face, created by blotches of running sacrificial blood poured over it, clotting, sometimes in chains. The face appears “such as you might see in a loaf, swollen, brooding, infinitely female” (p. 270). These images encapsulate the savage world and the goddess of it that contrast with certain Christian, redemptive overtones in Till We Have Faces. Orual intuits that, if Ungit were to have a face, it ought to be a bloody, devouring face—not a placid Hellenic divine countenance.38 A woman locked in with Orual tells her that only nobles and learned men pray to the Greek statue of Ungit with a face, and that the people prefer praying to the faceless, amorphous stone (p. 272), for then it can take the form each chooses. But the importance Lewis later places in his novel on the showing Agreeing with Orual in this respect is Myers: “Perhaps Lewis is reminding the reader that the ancient Jews used to mock such statues [with faces], ‘gods’ that had to be shaped and painted and dressed, who had eyes but could not see and ears but could not hear. Despite the crudity of Glome’s religion, the old Ungit sitting in darkness is closer to the profound spirituality of the Hebrew Ark of the Covenant, which sat empty in total darkness” (Bareface, p. 111). I would argue, on the other hand, that the Jews’ desire to see Yahweh’s face supersedes such a reading.

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of the naked face to others for the taking of moral responsibility for behavior implies that they are wrong to do so.39 The face-to-face encounter between deity and worshipper is crucial to Christianity, in which the blessed shall finally see their God not through a glass darkly but clearly, radiantly, face to face. Her city strong and safe, Orual decides to travel in other lands. In Essur, she comes upon a little stone chapel, in which she finds a wooden statue of a goddess, unpainted and without gilding. A black scarf tied around its head obscures its face. The priest startles Orual by telling her that the goddess’s name is Istra. He narrates the goddess’s story when she was a mortal; stunned, Orual realizes it corresponds to the events of Psyche’s life, only with different names for the major figures in it. Part of it is wrong, however. In this tale, both of Psyche’s sisters visit her in the god’s palace, and—to Orual’s astonishment—they both clearly see all its magnificent features. The gods must be the originators of this incredible story, Orual thinks—gods who torment humankind by a brief heavenly glimpse and by asking men and women to believe what contradicts their senses (p. 244). Moreover, the priest tells trembling Orual that Psyche’s sisters brought the lamp to Istra to destroy her because they had seen the palace, because her house and husband were finer than anything they could ever have. Orual now believes that the gods have spread a story that falsifies her actions. They “originally gave her only a faint hint of the palace in which [Psyche] lived and forced her to guess, and guess wrongly about Psyche’s life on the mountain.”40 In doing so, they have made her and Redival completely to blame for Psyche’s tragedy. At this moment, enraged, she decides to write the book indicting them that the reader presently reads. The priest concludes, because the mother of her god–husband who forbade Psyche to see his face torments her, she has set her hard labors as difficult as Hercules’. When Istra completes these tasks and is reunited with her divine husband, the priest will permanently take the black scarf off Istra’s face so On the contrary, Albert F. Reddy, in “Till We Have Faces: ‘An Epistle to the Greeks,’” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 13.3/4 (1980): 153–64, argues that the people are right to want a faceless Ungit. A peasant woman says “‘That other, the Greek Ungit, she wouldn’t understand my speech. She’s only for nobles and learned men’ … That is the point: the new Ungit pleases the eyes and appeals to the reason but does not reach the heart. The old goddess inspires awe and instills fear and gives comfort. The people cannot be fooled: they do not seek beauty, but power; they do not want art, but life. They know the true goddess is mysterious” (p. 157). Reddy’s argument ignores the importance of the bared face at the novel’s conclusion; moreover, his opinion that a faceless Ungit “gives comfort” is indefensible. 40 Manlove, C. S. Lewis, 206. 39

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that it can be seen year-round. Then she will have a face, presumably because she is loved and happy. Considered in this context, the goddess Istra vaguely corresponds in Classical mythology to the goddess of the fertile seasons, Ceres, weeping every winter, roaming the earth, in search of her daughter, Persephone, who has been abducted by Pluto, god of the Underworld. The priest explains that during spring and summer, Istra is a goddess. But when harvest comes, they bring a lamp into the temple and the god flies away. The priest veils the statue’s face (perhaps signifying her mortality), but he shows her face again with spring and Istra is immortal. Still, this myth has a Christian strain pointing toward its true form; in her mortal form, Istra wanders the earth weeping like Eve, cast out of paradise, lamenting for her great sin against a divine being’s prohibition (pp. 242–6). Orual burns with hatred against the gods. She partly resembles Psyche as Istra as she weeps beneath the covering over her face. Orual seethes against the gods who she believes torture humankind by playing hide-and-seek with them, never letting them unambiguously believe in glimpses of the supernatural. Thinking she has finished her book, Orual begins revising it, adding to it. She considers it her labor, corresponding perhaps to one of Psyche–Istra’s labors to appease her husband’s divine mother. At this point, she thinks that the last line of her book will be “[the gods] have no answer” (pp. 250, 257). But in revising her narrative, she remembers that Tarin, one of her sister Redival’s former lovers, caused her to feel pity for Redival whom she grew to hate because of her golden hair and suitors; and she also realizes that she should have gone to the faithful captain of her guard, Bardia, before he died and told him that she loved him. She becomes aware that she should have showed her hideous face long ago to Ansit, Bardia’s wife, so that she could have eased the pain caused by her jealousy over Orual, who had deprived her of her husband’s company by demanding so much of him as her servant (p. 262). Believing she had broken Bardia, Orual now feels compassion for Ansit. She had showed her face to her recently, during a visit that prompted a glimmer of tender feeling. Orual seems unaware that she is discovering that she has had finer feelings, in the past as well as now.41 Still, even though she realizes she killed Bardia with overwork, she turns on Ansit and the women argue. She overworked him, she knows, because she loved him, but now that love makes her nauseous. But these Gruenler explains fully how the recollection of Tarin’s words and her pity for Ansit and Bardia begin the process of Orual’s change of heart (“C. S. Lewis and René Girard,” 254–5).

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more sensitive feelings of Orual appear only momentarily in a woman who can fight like a man, who has had to harden herself to endure as queen among political intrigue and jars. Orual has become a kind of Spartan, or Amazon, who can shed blood without remorse, partly because she believes the gods treat humankind maliciously. And so it is not surprising that she recounts one of her dreams in which her father appears and, after threatening to engulf her in his grave, makes her look into the magic mirror in his former bedchamber. “Who is Ungit,” he asks her (p. 276). Forced to look in the mirror, she sees not her reflection, but the face of Ungit—if it can be called that—as it had appeared to her in blobs and chains of blood that ran and congealed on a top lump of the shapeless stone. Asking her again in her dream, “Who is Ungit?,” Orual replies “I am Ungit” (p. 276). Waking, she realizes that her ugly face is Ungit’s primeval “face” because she has “gorged” herself with “men’s stolen lives” (p. 275).42 She believes she has become an “all-devouring womblike, yet barren, thing” (p. 276). This insight hammers home “a truth about herself—about the possessiveness of her love.”43 Orual decides that she can dispense with her veil, that she can show her ugly face. Going bareface signifies the importance of an inner personal truth she has just learned about herself by unveiling and showing her true face.44 But these claims are undercut by Orual’s utterance, “But my disguise now would be to go bareface” (p. 278). She suggests that, given her unresolved hatred of the gods and her self-loathing, bareface would be simply another mask. Orual will wear her veil again; she is not spiritually ready to trust the ethical power of the naked human face. Thus Orual’s uncovering her face appears tainted by persisting selfishness. For if her face is Ungit’s, and if the people worship this face, she may believe that showing her face unveiled may cause the people to worship her. Moreover, her belief persists that the gods are either indifferent or malicious toward humankind. Before anyone sees her face, she in the darkness goes down to the river to throw herself into it. But suddenly a voice of a god from the other side of the river commands, “Do not do it” (p. 279). “Lord, who are you?” (p. 279) Orual cries out. Lewis’s introduction of the word “Lord” for the first time in this novel is significant, for the Christian reader thinks of Christ—not Sally A. Bartlett, “Humanistic Psychology in C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces,” Studies in the Literary Imagination 22.2 (Fall 1989): 185–8, esp. 195–6; Rowe, “Till We Have Faces,” 247. 43 Schakel, Reason and Imagination, 75. 44 Ibid., 75. 42

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Eros or another ancient deity. Still, this voice says that she cannot escape Ungit by going to the Deadlands because Ungit is there too. And when Orual exclaims “I am Ungit” (p. 279), she hears no answer. She believes the voice heard is that of the god who thundered to her on the day Psyche disappeared. Lewis does not say whether Orual remains veiled or walks bareface among the citizens of Glome. He does not say what the effect her homely face, if shown, has on viewers. Instead, he depicts Orual despairing of ever being anyone other than Ungit. One day, she comes to believe that loving Psyche truly is her only comfort left, and that reading that part of her book about how she once cared for young Psyche is her only consolation. Opening it at midday in her garden, she has a vision, in which she is not Ungit, but Ungit’s slave or prisoner, filling a bowl with water from the river that flows through the Deadlands and carrying it over burning sand without spilling a drop to give it to Ungit. This is one of many tasks she must do, she comes to understand from her vision, to free herself from Ungit. In this respect, she resembles Psyche as the goddess Istra in her mortal aspect struggling with a goddess’s tasks. In her vision, Orual walks for a hundred years into mountains full of serpents and scorpions, until she sees a black speck in the distance that becomes an eagle as it approaches, a bird with the old priest’s head and face, who asks her about the wrapped object she carries. Telling him it is a bowl, she looks down and sees that it is her rolled book, her complaint against the gods. The eagle takes her into a court deep in a mountain to be judged whether her complaint has merit. In the darkness, she sees tens of thousands of faces watching her. Covered in “sweepy black” is her single judge, “[m]ale or female, who could say? Its face was veiled” (p. 289). Lewis had already in his use of Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia shown evidence of his comprehensive reading of English Renaissance literature preparatory to writing the Oxford History of English Literature volume on this subject. This book was published only two years before Till We Have Faces. Now he turns to Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596), which was the subject of his first academic book, Allegory of Love (1936). In the fragment of Book 7 of this allegorical epic poem, Spenser focuses a debate among the Classical gods about whether the Titanness Mutability is all-powerful. She refers her case to a veiled judge whose gender cannot be determined (who may very well be both male and female). Spenser had alluded to the Roman statue of a Hermaphrodite in the last stanzas of the 1590 Faerie Queene. These apparently are the traits of Nature, Mutability’s judge near the end of the unfinished 1596 Faerie Queene.



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He/She is likely a Hermaphrodite.45 Hands behind Orual tear off her veil, and her Ungit-face appears before everyone. When the judge tells her to make her complaint and she tries to unroll her book to read it, she sees that it has become a tiny, shriveled thing written in an unknown, crabbed script, a scrawl that metamorphoses into the visual equivalent of the destructive face on the Ungit stone. Frustrated, she tells everyone how cruel the gods are to give her only a doubtful glimpse of paradise and to take away her beloved Psyche—and Psyche’s love of her—from her (p. 290). The judge silences Orual; she suddenly realizes in the prolonged silence that the very complaint she has read is in fact the “silent” answer of her complaint. How could the gods answer a tract fueled by a poisonous hatred, a passion so bilious that, if one could truly see it, a shriveled, unintelligible container would register— reflect—its contents. This insight represents a major step forward in Orual’s freeing herself spiritually from the paralyzing effects of self-centeredness. Soon she will resolve to rewrite her book to reflect the transformation that she is beginning to experience. At the end of this experience, “she will conclude: ‘I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words.’”46 In this present silence, Orual, her face bared, becomes aware that the gods will not—cannot—show their faces to humankind until men and women have faces. Lewis’s reader has sensed that the face Orual has projected onto the shapeless stone of Ungit is not the goddess’s face, if she has one. Orual has covered her face for most of her life; the inhabitants of Glome, Ungit’s priests, have often covered their faces with paint over various masks. It is not enough for the redemption of a people that one of them, Psyche, has a beautiful face, but that hers is actually theirs (only more refined). But the deeper implication of Orual’s insight is that none of Glome’s citizens—nor none of Lewis’s readers—go “bareface”: showing the true naked face reflective of human fears of doubt about the reality of the divine, or of faith in its goodness—and of the fear of showing fear itself over one’s vulnerability to the force and subtlety of others, including the gods. And so Lewis implies that humankind makes false expressions and faces that men and women believe hide their anxieties and secret desperation. Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton; text. eds. Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki, Longman Annotated English Poets (London: Longman, 2001) 7.7.5 (p. 702). 46 Van Der Weele, “From Mt. Olympus to Glome,” 190. 45

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How can Jews and Christians and their God and their Messiah show their faces when followers won’t show their faces to them? This is a question upon which the twentieth-century philosopher Emmanuel Levinas built a system of ethics, which is one of the subjects of the concluding chapter of this volume. In Book 7 of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Nature takes off her veil so that all creatures can see her face clearly. (Spenser never says what it is they see.) She does so because she is going to give judgment. She refutes Mutability’s claim that, because all the pagan gods themselves change their affections and aspects (i.e. Cynthia, the moon goddess), she rules them. “All things are not changed from their first estate,” Nature explains,   But by their change their being doe dilate:   And turning to themselues at length againe,   Doe worke their owne perfection so by fate:   Then ouer them Change doth not rule and rainge; But they raigne ouer Change, and doe their states maintaine.47

Most of Spenser’s contemporaries believed that God’s universe corresponds, at least in its non-heavenly part, to the Egyptian astrologer Ptolemy’s earthcentered model, in which perfection prevailed in the spheres above the moon’s. Everything below was subject to the mutability wrought by the Fall of humankind. Lewis’s judge does not remove his/her veil; he/she tells Orual that a greater judge and more excellent court must try her case. Lewis turns away from Spenser in this episode. In Orual’s dream-vision, the Fox, who had died, comes forward and takes her away to a cool chamber, filled with pale green, summery light; through the open pillars of one side she sees a sublime pastoral scene of shimmering water and grass. On the walls of the chamber exquisitely colored paintings of Psyche appear successively as she approaches a river, ties her ankles together, then laboriously sorts seeds into the proper heaps in a cavern where she is fettered and dressed in rags. But Orual sees no anguish in Psyche’s face. Then she sees a woman creeping to gather golden wool caught in a hedgerow trampled by stampeding rams, but then arising, laughing and gathering the wool. In these pictures, Psyche appears joyous and at ease. The Fox tells Orual that Psyche is happy because someone else “bore nearly all the anguish” of her labors (p. 300). He tells her that she—Orual—in her suffering endured the pain entailed in Spenser, The Faerie Queene, 7.7.58.4-9 (p. 711).

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each of these tasks, e.g., that of the rams’ trampling, and that Psyche effortlessly completed the task.48 On another wall, Orual sees Psyche’s last labor. She must go down into the Deadlands to obtain beauty in a casket from the Queen of the Deadlands, from Death itself, and bring it back to Ungit so that she will be beautiful. In other words, Ungit wants a beautiful face. Everyone, including Psyche, is born into the house of Ungit, and all must get free of her. If Psyche on her journey to the underworld speaks to anyone for favor or pity, she can never come back to the sunlit lands. This constitutes Lewis’s—actually Apuleius’s—variation of the Orpheus–Eurydice myth. Orual’s bearing of Psyche’s anguish is figured in this brought-to-life picture when she sees herself and Psyche toiling in the burning sands, Psyche with her bowl, she with her poisonous book. Their faces are red and their lips cracked. But Psyche “was merry and in good heart” (p. 300). Orual vanishes, but now the eagle appears, takes Psyche’s bowl, and brings it back to her “brim-full of the water of death” (p. 300), implicitly allaying her thirst so that she does not need to beg water of anyone and so violate the taboo. By completing these tasks, Psyche wins back Eros’s love. Lewis has suggested that Orual taking Psyche’s pain upon herself in each of Psyche’s tasks is a key to Psyche’s survival to complete her last labor.49 In this sense, she is Psyche, fulfilling the god’s earlier enigmatic pronouncement. The suffering Orual has undergone in doubting the gods’ goodness, even their reality, has been a long, enduring trial. In other words, self-sacrificial suffering can be redemptive for a beloved other person in Till We Have Faces. This is not a metaphysical principle in Apuleius’s tale; nor is it a dynamic generally in Ancient mythology. Lewis subscribed to a Christian Exchange (or Substitution) Doctrine, whereby he or she tries so intensely to imitate Christ’s life by empathetically imagining another’s suffering so that he or she seems to feel it and thereby miraculously to have assumed it.50 “In his love for Joy [Davidman], Lewis experienced his friend Charles Williams’ idea of substitutionary suffering

Hood argues that Orual’s painful labor symbolized by Psyche’s sorting of seeds is the painful task of sorting her motives and narrative threads in the writing and especially the rewriting of her book (“Heroic Urual and the Tasks of Psyche,” 63). She is like an ant, lifting each grain one by one. Hood interprets Orual’s trampling by rams as her inability to appreciate and gather the beauty—the golden wool—of both this and another world (as Psyche can) (p. 66). 49 Gruenler, “C. S. Lewis and René Girard,” 257–8. 50 For this Doctrine in Lewis’s life and in Till We Have Faces, see ibid., 258; Sammons, “The God Within,” 138; Norwood, “C. S. Lewis’s Portrait of Aphrodite,” 253–4, 271, 272; and Kilby, “Till We Have Faces,” 178, 180. 48

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as he believed he lost bone mass to osteoporosis while Joy gained bone mass in her leg” and claimed some relief from the pain of cancer.51 Jean Marie Chard argues that Orual bearing Psyche’s burden “is a form of purgation, and [that] from it she begins to rebuild her life.”52 Crucial is Orual’s ceasing to tempt Psyche. On the fantastic wall, Orual sees Psyche in the picturein-motion being enticed by the people of Glome to stay with them as the goddess Istra; then by the Fox himself, paler than usual as a shade, tempting her to believe that this task is a lie of priests and poets and that rationality is the only god, who lies within herself; then finally by a woman rising, with an unknown face, who fills Orual with pity, who holds out her hands to Psyche and calls her child and her love. She says she is Maia. Maia is a Greek word meaning “mother.”53 The Fox had taught Psyche to use a baby’s name for her eldest sister.54 Thomas Howard argues that the irony here involves Orual having been mother only of herself: “the thing she is big with, namely herelf.”55 Orual’s motherlove for Psyche has thus been a devouring affection, in which she has tried to absorb Psyche within herself. All of the appeals depicted on the wall amount to temptations because they make Psyche into someone other than herself and thus deprive her of her beloved husband. For he in Lewis’s novel, like Eros at this point in Apuleius’s myth, loves her as she is. Orual realizes that she has been complicit in all these temptations, and that in her own and others’ jealousy of Psyche’s desire to leave them for her lover, they have been her enemies. The Fox explains that he, Orual, and Glome’s people loved Psyche for her beauty, notably that of her face, and that, if deity were to show them a beautiful face, they will love that beauty in a beautiful human face even more than they do Psyche’s, and so be more envious of deity and more determined to keep the Blessed from becoming the spouse of the divine bridegroom. Some might say that Lewis has just given a complex answer as to why God hides a beautiful face so often in the Old Testament, never showing it when it blazes to Moses, and to why a beautiful face of Jesus never explicitly appears in the narratives of the New Testament. But they would be wrong, for this is the opinion of the Fox, who believes that Divine Nature is the ultimate deity. Rowe, “Till We Have Faces,” 137. Jean Marie Chard, “Some Elements of Myth and Mysticism in C. S. Lewis’s novel Till We Have Faces,” Mythlore 5.2 (August 1978): 15–18, esp. 16. 53 Myers, “Browsing the Glome Library,” 68; Hood, “Heroic Urual and the Tasks of Psyche,” 50. 54 Storey, “Classical Allusion,” 15. This commentator notes that this name “carries the irony that Orual will herself never be a mother” (p. 16). 55 Thomas Howard, The Achievement of C. S. Lewis (San Francisco: H. Shaw Publishers, 1980), 172–3. 51 52



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Nevertheless, the Fox leads Orual out through the dream-vision’s pillars into the ravishing pastoral landscape, with a pool in its center. Psyche appears, having brought up the casket of beauty from the Queen of the Shadows. Orual falls before her, kissing her feet. She pledges that she will never again try to possess her, but that all of her is Psyche’s. Lewis has conflated Orual with Ungit, and now Psyche calls her Maia and offers the casket (as though she were Ungit). But here Orual realizes through her growth to the capacity for self-sacrifice another etymology of Maia, that of “from the root mag, signifying growth or increase.”56 Orual feels the most complete joy that mortals can bear. And she hears voices proclaiming that the god is coming to judge Orual. All creation exists for this god, Orual feels intuitively. When she looks into the pool, she sees two shimmering figures in profile; both are Psyche’s. Orual has become Psyche. She has become Blessedness. She is no longer Ungit, or Maia. She has a face, a beautiful face—Psyche’s face of Blessedness. Psyche means “butterfly” in Greek. Orual metamorphoses into the beautiful butterfly, into Psyche. Beautiful blessedness is her true face: the reader’s true face. And this is God’s face, for men and women are made in the image of God. It can be acquired by them through a purifying ordeal of intense suffering prompted by a self-sacrificial love for another. That Lewis considered this a Christian process goes without saying. Karen Rowe best explains in what sense this beautiful face, in the case of human beings rather than God, can be a figurative instead of a literal reality. Orual’s face is beautiful because she is “finally capable of facing the truth about herself and the reality of the gods and their dealings with her.”57 “The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming,” Orual says in rapture. “The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is, was coming” (p. 307). But Orual never sees him, nor even what rapturous Dante sees at the end of the Paradiso: God as “painted with our effigy” (XXXIII.131). That will happen only if a Christian in another life no longer sees through a glass darkly but beautifully face-todivinely beautiful-face. Thomas Watson asserts that this face to face will be “free from the binding and fragmenting obscurities of Old Testament legalisms that darkly mirror truths that are eternal,” obscurities for which Moses’s veiled face is symbolic.58 These obscurities are figured in terms of a veil. For Paul had written Ibid., 172. Rowe, “Till We Have Faces,” 149. 58 Watson, “Enlarging Augustinian Systems,” 172. 56 57

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that Moses’s veil blinded not just the Jews’ eyes, but that “their minds were [also] blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ … [When] the vail shall be taken away … we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, [shall be] changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Then we will be given “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3.14, 16, 18; 4.6). Lewis was a scholar of Medieval literature, and, like the dreamer of the dream visions of this literature, such as narrator of the English poem Pearl, Orual wakens lying on the grass of this world, not that of the vision. The beatific vision of 2 Corinthians occurs not in this life, whether that of a virtuous pagan or a devout Christian. According to Lewis, “We have to spend our lives here like Orual,” C. N. Manlove concludes, “in a world of hints and riddles.”59 Orual begins the last paragraph of her revised book by writing “I ended my first book with the words no answer. I now know, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer” (p. 308). The capitalized word “Lord” of course causes Lewis’s Christian reader to think of Christ, and not Eros, Cupid. But in one way they are both the same. They are Love. “Before your face [the Lord’s] questions die away,” Orual concludes. “What other answer would suffice?” (p. 308). The Lord’s face must be loving; It must look like Love. In The Four Loves, Lewis would write: “When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.”60 Lewis in Till We Have Faces implies this much. He thought—as was previously stated—that there were strains of Christian truth in the mythologies of different world religions that made them worth careful study.61 Lewis has given his reader a reason why we cannot see God’s and Christ’s face: because it is so beautiful that, were we to see it fully in this life, we would be compelled to believe in their goodness and worship them. Thus the dignity and worth derived from Manlove, C. S. Lewis, 201. C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960), 190–1. 61 In a Note that amounts to an appendix to his novel, in which he recounts the myth of Psyche and Cupid and describes his deviations from it, Lewis admits, “I felt quite free to go behind Apuleius, whom I suppose had been [the myth’s] transmitter, not its inventor. Nothing was further from my aim than to recapture the peculiar quality of the Metamorphoses—that strange compound of picaresque novel, horror comic, mystagogue’s tract, pornography, and stylistic experiment … [H]e is a ‘source,’ not an ‘influence’ nor a ‘model’” (p. 313). 59 60



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one’s choosing to believe in them would be lost in automaton-like devotion. Actually, of course, Lewis could not really have described the divine face in any common words, neologisms, or imaginative imagery. That is why that when he comes closest—the “brightface” of Pysche—he fails, for that uniformly radiating face could be Moses’s as much as God’s. Still, Lewis does not end his novel here. His recasting of Apuleius’s tale has introduced into it a narrative alter-ego in Orual, who resembles the author’s earlier pre-conversion experience of fitful glimpses of the Christian truth of heaven and the afterlife. Orual’s heavenly vision of brightfaced Psyche and her glimpse of a heavenly visage was a double radiation in an earlier life of agnostic disbelief. Both Psyche and Orual acquired Christian overtones early in Till We Have Faces, but they, with few exceptions, disappeared as their lives unfolded. They return, however, near the novel’s end, when Orual’s suffering gains sacrificial value as it protected Psyche and made possible the completion of her final liberating task. Orual never does finish the last sentence of her book. She dies in mid-sentence after having written the word “might.” Concerning her “Lord,” Orual wrote: “Long did I hate you, long did I fear you. I might—” (p. 309). I might what? Continued to have hated you; to have feared you? I might have loved you? If I had? Had what? If you had given me a stronger capacity for faith in your goodness? Carla Arnell believes that Orual, had she lived to finish her sentence, would have written that she would have loved her god if he had given her a more sublime transcendent experience.62 Manlove argues that Orual’s death in mid-sentence essentially entails Orual’s conclusion to her first manuscript; like the earlier manuscript, the second, revised manuscript’s final sentence provides no answer because it is aborted.63 And yet this commentator claims that the revised book is finished because “[r]eality is not to be caught by definitions and definite statements.”64 However one interprets the incompletion of her final sentence, its existence suggests that Orual dies without appearing to have completely resolved her conflicted attitude toward the divine. Lewis’s novel is a difficult test of a Christian reader’s faith. For the reader for whom the Christian overtones remain too ambiguous, or not enough, Till We Have Faces represents an anxiety-provoking story wherein redemption is only a dream. For a reader especially responsive to these overtones, Orual’s final Arnell, “On Beauty, Justice, and the Sublime,” 31. Manlove, C. S. Lewis, 209. 64 Ibid. 62 63

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pastoral vision is beatific in a Dantean sense, as she imagines an equivalent of the unfolding rose seen by Dante’s pilgrim in Paradise. This is what Lewis tells his Christian reader is possible for the unbeliever who has suffered and offered himself as a Christ-like sacrifice: one who has courageously gained a true face by which he or she can meet—and possible convert—the myriad faces met in this troubled world. For this reader, Orual meant to write “I might have loved you then as much as I love you now.”65

This chapter represents an alternative reading of faces in Till We Have Faces to the only analysis of this subject in the novel, that of Dominic Manganiello, “Till We Have Faces: From Idolatry to Revelation,” Mythlore 23.1 (2000): 31–46. Among the many differences between my essay and Manganiello’s is the complete absence in his of any reference to Apuleius’s myth of Cupid and Psyche, to the importance of faces in it, and to the correlation between them and faces in Lewis’s novel. Manganiello is also not interested in the relevance of Orual’s and Psyche’s story for the true myth of Christianity.

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David Ruiter, in an essay titled “Harry’s (In)Human Face,” appearing in a collection titled Spiritual Shakespeares, applies the post-modern French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics involving the human face to an analysis of the countenance of Shakespeare’s Prince Hal, later King Henry V, to show that he never sustains a spiritual identity that he attains momentarily only once or twice in his life.1 Levinas had argued that the Other is known as either a “character” or a “face.”2 A “character” for this philosopher is one’s normal identity, his or her profession, manner of dressing, the data on a passport, etc. A “face” expresses one’s human essence in its nakedness, its vulnerability, its shame and self-doubt and love—what historically has been known as the soul. For Levinas, “the face is understood not simply as something present,” a unique composite singularly colored made up of forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, and cheeks, but as the other’s corporeal self-presence, performed by the gaze or appeal, we are exposed to. What we call “face” is culturally over-determined, marked by certain aesthetic, moral and sacred features. We are living in the face of the other or fleeing it, running the risk of losing our own face.3

The face is “a figure that communicates both the precariousness of life and the interdiction on violence.”4 In Ethics and Infinity, Levinas states that “[t]he first word of the face is ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ It is an order.”5 The face is uncontainable David Ruiter, “Harry’s (In)Human Face,” Spiritual Shakespeares, ed. Ewan Fernie, Accents on Shakespeare (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), 50–72, esp. 68–71. 2 Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Philippe Nemo, trans. Richard A. Cohen (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1985), 86–7. 3 Bernhard Waldenfels, “Levinas and the Face of the Other,” The Cambridge Companion to Levinas, ed. Simon Critchley and Robert Bernasconi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 63–81, esp. 65. 4 Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London & New York: Verso, 2004), xviii. 5 Levinas, Ethics and Infinity, 89. 1

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in the sense that it does not appear as a sign to be read or a symbol to be interpreted; in Seán Hand’s words, “[w]hat matters [for Levinas] about the face is not its material form, nor even its anatomical function, but that it faces us”—and so leads to the beyond. Levinas’s face is “the concrete appearance of the idea of infinity that exists within [us].”6 The relatively abstract nature of definitions and explanations of the face according to Levinas ought not to eclipse the simple fact that the powerful appeal of the other’s face comes from its naked, vulnerable, myriad-emotion physical presence, notably when we are face to face. It comes from what Levinas in Totality and Infinity called its “essential poverty.”7 “Face” manifests itself often in the mutuality of dialogue, giving and receiving. During this process, the mutuality of taking responsibility for the welfare of the other seen essentially in his or her face occurs. Levinas regularly argued that human beings’ instinctive responsiveness to the face constitutes an ethics that is a prelude to any moral system or codification.8 Face-to-face encounters are thus potentially charged events for the ultimate realization of ethical conduct in both the other and oneself. Seán Lawrence has said that the face, in Levinas’s thought, is “a challenge to the solipsism of the self.”9 Levinas’s ideas about the face to face described in this Conclusion is consistently represented by his earlier writing, notably Totality and Infinity (1961), before he began in Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence (1981) to reconstrue the physical face as a “trace” of infinity and its ethical effect in a larger composite termed “proximity.”10 Ruiter nicely shows that Shakespeare’s Prince Hal’s desire to dilate his own “character,” his own royal identity, proceeds at the expense of ignoring others’ faces, both his own needy countenance and that of those companions Seán Hand, Emmanuel Levinas, Routledge Critical Thinkers (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 42. 7 Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1961), 213. 8 Emmanel Levinas, “Diachrony and Representation,” “Time and the Other” and Additional Essays, trans. Richard A. Cohen (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1987), 97–120, esp. 105–6. 9 Sean Lawrence, “The Two Faces of Othello,” 40th Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting, April 6, 2012, Boston, MA. 10 Waldenfels, “Levinas and the Face of the Other,” 72–6. The later Levinas often posited a great distance between faces (p. 74), such that Waldenfels claims that in the later Levinas “the term ‘proximity’ reminds us of the Biblical neighbor who has more to do with the stranger’s rather than the friend’s face” (p. 75). This Levinas presents “the face not as something we can grasp, but as a mere way or mode, i.e., as the other’s proximity … [A] terminal delay [now] separates the other’s demand from our response” (p. 76). Waldenfels concludes that, for Levinas, this delay denies phenomenonality to the face. The face is “‘the very collapse of phenomenonality,’ not because of some strength or brutality, but because of its ‘feebleness,’ because of its being ‘less’ than a phenomenon. The ‘feebleness’ of the ethical resistance shrinks into a sort of fading, a withdrawal” (p. 76). 6

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proclaiming the bearers’ right to compassionate treatment. Harry, both as Prince of Wales and King Henry V, habitually uses others as means to his own political ends without caring much for them as spiritual beings. He never wants, nor achieves, an authentic relationship with another, whether his father, Falstaff, soldiers such as Bates and Williams, or his future wife, Catherine of France. At the end of The Life of King Henry the Fifth, he has “lost his own face and become a mere ‘character.’”11 He never achieves the authentic spiritual relationship in Julius Caesar that Shakespeare’s Brutus and Cassius attain near the end of their lives, a loving communion condensed in their face-to-face forgiveness and absolution. Or that Lear and Cordelia do in their absolutely unqualified litany of mutual confession, forgiveness, and absolution, prompted and completed by Cordelia’s Christ-like face confronting the self-truthful, sane face of her father— an achievement of face which they hope to perpetuate repeatedly in the close mutuality of their prison cell. (But, tragically one never enacted there.) Nor does King Henry V achieve Prospero’s freedom in The Tempest from a hateful self, his admittedly qualified spiritual victory, through his taking responsibility for the face of another—weeping Gonzalo’s—even though it is reported to him rather than directly seen. I have argued in this book that the spiritual dimensions of what Levinas might call the ethical triumph of face are distinctly Judeo-Christian, as evidenced by Shakespeare’s awareness of an Augustinian epistemology. Judith Butler has asserted that Levinas’s “theological view conjures a scene between two humans each of which bears a face that delivers an ethical demand from a seemingly divine source.”12 This source was sometimes transmitted through Jesus’s face, as readers of the New Testament imagined it weeping, for example, when Christ learned from Martha and Mary of beloved Lazarus’s death. Chapter 1 of this study reveals that Christian readers needed—both long ago as well as today— to fire and augment their imaginations with actual artistic representations of Jesus’s face so as to feel His signature compassion. Jesus’s face in certain works of art could express naked vulnerability and an appeal for caring and protection. These qualities are notably apparent in portrayals of his crucified face, as Hans Holbein disturbingly revealed it. The catalyst for ethical behavior in Levinas’s face-to-face encounter is also felt in the Old Testament, in for example the effect of Joseph’s face upon his father and brothers. Ruiter, “Harry’s (In)Human Face,” 70. Judith Butler, Precarious Life, xviii.

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The Old Testament, in fact, is an especially relevant context here. A Jew horrified by the Holocaust, Levinas developed his conviction of an innate human capacity for an ethical response to the human face from narratives of desperate Jews who suddenly appeared before Europeans at their doors or on their farms in Nazi-occupied countries. Even before the Jews spoke, these narratives suggested that their imploring, frightened faces in their absolute dependency upon the perceiver for their bearers’ survival paradoxically gave them an authority over the Europeans who could easily have handed them over to Germans.13 The face of the Other often had a “hierarchical priority” over its respondent, whose responsibility for hiding the Jews—at the risk of their own lives—was chosen and not compelled.14 Levinas always maintained that these World War II Europeans’ reaction was humanity’s instinctive response. When critics asserted that the Nazis who tortured and executed Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other minorities, and the countless number of people who had committed similar atrocities throughout history, belied the basic premises of Levinas’s ethical philosophy, he claimed that the Germans’ instinctive human response of responsibility for the naked face before them had been blocked by a wall of learned stereotypes, prejudices, and cultural classifications and categories. This process in this case, and in a great multitude of similar situations, makes the Other’s face invisible. Levinas believed that re-education in humane values and systems of thought similar to his own could dissolve figurative cataracts and recover the pristine seeing from which he derived hope for the face-to-face encounter and its ethical promise for humankind.15 Always making the Other’s face visible, rather than invisible, needs to become, Levinas asserted, a great goal of the individual and of every civilized society. People must stop guarding themselves from the gaze of the Other. They must also resist the habit, so apparent in Nazi persecutors, of classifying and categorizing the Other into groups where they lose their humanity, seen most obviously in the physical face. Levinas’s disciples concluded that the Christian faith and life in smaller institutions—the village with a central church—and their equivalents worldwide would make more likely the taking of ethical responsibility for preserving the Other’s face—and so his or her life. Corey Beals, Levinas and the Wisdom of the Other: The Question of Invisibility (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007), 88–9. 14 Ibid., 89. 15 Ibid., 98–113. 13

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The previous paragraphs provide a perspective from which to re-examine how the characters of Dostoyevsky’s St. Petersburg and Moscow misinterpret the face of Prince Myshkin by superimposing upon it their assumptions about what an idiot’s countenance should look like and how he should act. Nastasya’s madness contorts her face such that Rogozhin does not perceive its “thou shalt not kill” utterance. For Levinas, the word “mask” becomes a signifier for many of the forms that occlude the naked face of the Other and its authority. Figurative masks in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and Hesse’s Demian obscure faces and complicate the lives of characters, causing suffering and even ruin. But no mask ever precludes Myshkin, who is innocently adept at intuitively reading faces, from seeing Rogozhin’s and compassionately ministering to it, even when criminal behavior has distorted its features. The Christ-like behavior of Myshkin throughout the novel causes readers to sense that this is what Christ would do, were he at the scene of Nastasya’s murder. Such ministering to a face is also what Emil Sinclair does for dying Max Demian at the conclusion of Hesse’s novella. Levinas’s ethical system bears upon Apuleius’s myth of Cupid and Psyche and Hesse’s and Lewis’s valuation of the face derived from it. Levinas’s claim that perception of the Other’s face can involve the “luminosity of enjoyment,” a pleasure sometimes associated with the feminine and fecundity, causes him to “characterize [this particular] face to face as Eros.”16 When this happens, there is not a reciprocity, or mutuality between faces, but a taking of responsibility by the perceiver and a dependency by the Other in the Levinas face-to-face meeting. While this non-mutuality is the seedbed of Levinas’s ground for ethics, it makes its attainment a challenge. Eros’s face, in Apuleius’s narrative and its later narrative versions, is, after all, hidden, with dire consequences for Emil Sinclair and Orual. The face to face is “without intermediary and is furnished for us in the eros where, in the other’s proximity, distance is integrally maintained.”17 When this proximity is absent or intermittent as in Apuleius’s tale and the narrative strain devolving from it, achieving and sustaining erotic love can be difficult. For Levinas’s facial ethics to operate, proximity can never vanish in a merger of persons, as the essential similarity of the philosopher’s account of Levinas, “Time and the Other,” The Levinas Reader, ed. Seán Hand (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), 37–58, esp. 37. 17 Ibid., 54. For more on Levinas’s ideas of eros and fecundity in the face to face, see Alphonso Lingis, “Phenomenology of the Face and Carnal Intimacy,” Libido: The French Existential Theories (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 58–73; and Luce Irigaray, Face to Face with Levinas, ed. Richard A. Cohen (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), 231–56. 16

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the pathos of love and the pathos of voluptuousness makes clear. “The pathos of love,” Levinas argues, consists in an insurmountable duality of beings. It is a relationship with what always [wants to] slip away. The relationship does not ipso facto neutralize alterity but preserves it. The pathos of voluptuousness lies in the fact of being two [not one]. The other as other is not here an object that becomes ours or becomes us; to the contrary, it withdraws into its mystery.18

This disparity in love is simply another version of the difference that causes the perceiver to want instinctively to not harm but care for the vulnerable, imploring naked face of the Other in the virtually infinite encounters of our lives. Taking responsibility for a dependent Other whom one sexually loves is basically no different from that of the European non-Jews who risked their lives for preserving the lives of the Jews who suddenly appeared before them during the Holocaust. But sexual love, as the reader of Hesse’s and Lewis’s books learns, compounds the challenge of seeing without the distortions caused by libidinous needs projected upon the beloved’s pristine face. Sexual jealousy delays Orual seeing the divinity in Psyche’s beautiful face, even as homoerotic affection does the same for Emil looking upon Max’s face. Levinas believed that legality that is administered without taking account of a face is rarely, if ever, just. Its “‘justice’ has no face; it also ignores the face of the one it judges.”19 The latter is what the corrupt Angelo does in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. He never sees the faces of Isabella or of his rejected betrothed Mariana when seeing them matters. Isabella, an aspiring nun, wears a veil when she without success eloquently implores him to commute her brother Claudio’s death sentence, and he consummates his betrothal with Mariana by having sexual intercourse with her in the dark when he supposes she is Isabella. When he sees the face of each woman later, he, ignoring them, continues to be unjust and must be forced to marry Mariana. The stone replica of the goddess Ungit in Glome lacks a face, and Orual for a long time believes that the goddess’s involvement in mortal life is unjust. Orual holds the same opinion about the mysterious god that Psyche loves, until a glimpse of his face starts a long process of her attaining a spiritual face that meets and values humanely the faces that she meets. “I do not struggle with a faceless god,” Levinas wrote in one of his most blatantly theological passages, underlining the importance of the divine face for Levinas, “Time and the Other,” 49. Beals, Levinas and the Wisdom of the Other, 22.

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immanence, “but I respond to his expression, to his revelation.”20 Samuel Moyn explains that “Levinas owed the concept of the face … to [Franz] Rosenzweig,” a German–Jewish philosopher (1886–1929), “who had described God’s loving gaze as ‘not the basic form of his countenance, fixed and immutable. It is not the rigid mask that the sculptor lifts from off the face of the dead. Rather it is the fleeting, indefatigable alteration of mien, the ever youthful radiance that plays on the eternal features.’ ”21 In other words, God’s face is not Michelangelo’s in the Sistine Chapel, but the face of Eros in Apuleius’s tale of Cupid and Psyche and of C. S. Lewis’s god in Till We Have Faces. This could be the face that Christopher Marlowe’s Lucifer and Mephistopheles saw before they fell, that Christians imagine as the face of Christ as he weeps with Martha and Mary. If God’s face is not Rosenzweig’s or Levinas’s or Lewis’s, it could be his face seen after the Judgement. “God loves everything, only not yet,”22 Rosenzweig pronounced not too long before the Holocaust began. Martin Buber’s religious philosophy expressed in I and Thou (1923, 1937) antedates Levinas’s facial ethics, undoubtedly influencing it. Identifying ideas that the two writers share as well as their differences widens the appreciation of faces in the works of the four writers covered in this book, especially those in Hesse’s and Lewis’s fiction. “If I face a human being as my Thou, and say the primary word I-Thou to him, he is not a thing among things, and does not consist of things,” Buber asserts.23 The antithesis of this encounter is I-It, where It is anything, including another person (I-He, I-She), that I experiences as a means rather than an absolute end—a means wherein I categorizes, dissects, stereotypes, or otherwise uses a human being for an I-centered end (pp. 17, 38). “Love is responsibility of an I for a Thou,” Buber asserts; “The Thou meets me through Grace” (pp. 11, 15). This love lies in “the likeness … of all who love, from the smallest to the greatest and from the blessedly protected man, whose life is rounded in that of a loved being, to him who is all his life nailed to the cross of the world, and who ventures to bring himself to the dreadful point—to love all men” (p. 15). God’s Presence infuses the direct mutuality of I and Thou. “No system of ideas, no foreknowledge, and no fancy intervene between I and Thou” (p. 11). He and Samuel Moyn, Origin of the Other: Emmanuel Levinas Between Revelation and Ethics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 253. 21 Ibid., 253. 22 Ibid., 147. 23 Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith, 2nd. edn (New York: Scriber’s, 1958), 3. Quotations of this treatise are taken from this edition, with page references appearing in parentheses at the end of them. 20

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She never actually experience one another—for that would involve using—but are fulfilled into I and Thou through a Presence involving Love (p. 17). The ultimate Thou is God, who speaks to men and women “out of the darkness,” “a deeper mystery” (p. 42). Life is to be “lived in the spirit of face to face with the Thou” (p. 42). Buber’s precedent for the moral value of the face-to-face encounter is not a holocaust, such as World War II (Levinas’s catalyst), but certain reformulated or alluded to passages in the Bible. “[T]he presence of the Thou moves like the spirit upon the face of the waters” (p. 48). Buber’s mention of faces and the face-to-face encounter grows as his argument unfolds. He “who rids himself of property and raiment and naked approaches the Face … is a free man” (p. 53). “But sacrifice and prayer are set ‘before the Face,’ in the consummation of the holy primary word [I-Thou]” (p. 83). “He who approaches the Face has indeed surpassed duty and obligation … The world, lit by eternity, becomes fully present to him who approaches the Face, and to the Being of beings he can in a single response say Thou” (p. 108). Buber finally confirms that “the Face” is “the Face of God” (pp. 108–9). “The man who turns to [God] … need not turn away from any other I-Thou relation; but he properly brings them to him, and lets them be fulfilled ‘in the face of God’” (p. 136). Buber never makes clear whether this phrase means “before the face of God” or “in the expression of God’s face.”24 Buber’s philosophy gives point to Dostoyevsky’s assumption, “When we are loved, we see the face of God”; it also provides an alternate account to the relationship between love and a god’s face in Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. Buber never describes the features of the divine face, or of the human faces of I and Thou—what they look like before, during, or after blessed Being in Love. “O lonely Face like a star in the night,” Buber exclaims; “o living Finger laid on an unheeding brow” (pp. 42–3). This metaphor evokes the memory of Michelangelo’s painting of the Creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, in which the index finger of God, who looks fully on Adam’s face, is about to touch his outstretched hand. For Buber, the mutual Being achieved by I and Thou does not occur through gazing upon a face, but through a speech act (pp. 14, 16, 39, 83, 102, 136–7).25 “Thou primary word I-Thou can only be spoken with the whole being” (p. 3). In his essay titled “Franz Rosenweig,” Buber describes his admiration for this philosopher’s courageous spiritual “life ‘in the Face’” (Martin Buber, Point the Way: Collected Essays, trans. Maurice Friedman [Amherst, NY: Humanity, 1998], 87–92, esp. 92). 25 Nevertheless, Buber states that we see in the eyes of animals and their glances the dawn of the I-Thou relationship between men and women. “He who loves a woman … is able to look in the Thou of her eyes into a beam of the eternal Thou” (ibid., 106). 24

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Buber claims that the I-Thou never becomes an absolute melding, or wholeness, but that it is a temporary blessed mutuality known fitfully in life (pp. 15, 75–95). He never implies anything similar to the Christian assumption that the devout will eventually see God face to face in an everlasting oneness. Buber insists that the faintest duality, or tension, exists within the I-Thou flooded by Presence. But no one would be wrong to argue that, while Buber posits a likeness of being, including faces and their expressions, for his paradigm’s efficacy, Levinas requires a sense of difference, notably between faces, for his system of ethics. Like Demian in Hesse’s novella, Buber in I and Thou imagines himself preaching a new theology. Not only God but Buber himself is a “lonely star” in the spiritual darkness of the aftermath of World War I Europe. Like Nietzsche, an influence on Hesse and Dostoyevsky, Buber is one of the “solitary spirits” who “spasmodically break through” the hardened world of It. This world amounts to the shell out of which Love emerges, the Love that fuses I and Thou and Max Demian and Emil Sinclair. Like the accomplishments of Nietzsche’s Übermenschen, relevant for understanding Hesse’s main characters, Buber’s presumed achievement of the I-Thou relationship depends upon a “grand will”—a singular willpower—to leave the bonds of I-It—the fetters of the Herdenmensch—to enter the blessed I-Thou (in Nietzsche’s case a rare brotherhood). Like Nietzsche again, Buber names actual individuals—Socrates, Goethe, and Jesus—who found freedom by achieving the mutuality of I-Thou (p. 66). In Socrates’ case, it was pointedly achieved through speech acts, the give and take of enlightening dialogue. Whereas Napoleon was for Nietzsche an instance of the Übermensch, for Buber the Corsican amounted to the antithesis of I-Thou (p. 67). Considered in this context, Dostoyevsky’s Prince Myshkin, in the sense that he loves the faces of others and foregoes using them as a means to selfish ends, loosely approximates the I-Thou paradigm. All this is to say that Buber’s religious philosophy, like Hesse’s, is a product of their times. With traditional religion discredited by the unimaginable bloodbath of World War I, their works are syncretistic blends of various philosophies, mythologies, psychologies, and religions. One could speculate that C. S. Lewis’s experiences in the Great War’s trenches, wherein he was seriously sounded, were gruesome to the degree that he never spoke of them and was depressed to the degree that becoming a Christian was very difficult, impossible in fact only if Christianity was a myth, the true one toward which all myths moved. It is in this cultural context that a reader can better

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appreciate the attraction of an ethics, or morality, based upon the directness of face-to-face encounters, especially of a divine face with a mortal countenance. The former, at least, were relatively simple, something close and not far away in a darkness. Levinas’s great accomplishment was the extraction of an ethical goodness out of evil—the Holocaust. Buber in I and Thou, despite a single allusion to a man nailed to a cross, somewhat like Saint Augustine before him, never satisfactorily accounts for the problem of evil in his face-to-face, life-affirming encounters. The contemporary philosopher Marilyn McCord Adams brings Levinas’s thought into the present by explaining how horrendous evil, defined as that which drains life of any positive value,26 can be understood as a phenomenon that involves the ultimate face-to-face encounter with God desired by men and women throughout history.27 Adams cites Job’s experience, wherein he finally “sees God’s goodness face to face” as the prototypic religious life, exhibit[ing] the logical compossibility of … divine goodness [and] horrendous suffering … [I]t is not necessary to find logically possible reasons why God might permit [suffering]. It is enough to show how God can be good enough to created persons despite their participation in horrors—by defeating them within the context of the individual’s life and by giving that individual a life that is a great good to him/her on the whole.28

Job’s life, for Adams, provides ground for not just a Jew’s but a Christian’s hope for salvation. “From a Christian’s point of view, God is a being a greater than which cannot be conceived, a good incommensurate with both created goods and temporal evils. Likewise the good of beatific, face-to-face intimacy with God is simply incommensurate with any non-transcendent goods or ills a person might experience.”29 But obviously considering evil within the context of the good within a life could not have easily consoled Jews gassed at Auschwitz, the great mass not saved by the ethical appeal of a fragile, naked face at a door. How can a person Marilyn McCord Adams, “Horrendous Evil and the Goodness of God,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams, Oxford Readings in Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 209–21, esp. 210; Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 34. 27 In addition to the works cited in the preceding note, see Marilyn McCord Adams, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999). 28 Ibid., 217. 29 Ibid., 218. 26

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live a life full of positive value, believing in God’s goodness, knowing that countless millions have experienced horrendous evil and that history shows that one can at any moment have his or her life cut short by terrible evil? Adams invites the reader to believe, as the Medieval mystic Julian of Norwich did, that a flood of joy will engulf the sufferer when, after death, God’s welcome expresses his gratitude—his thank you—for the pain he or she has endured.30 More persuasive is Adams’ rationale proceeding from “God in Christ participat[ing] in horrendous evil through [h]is passion and death.” In this case, “human experience of horrors can be a means of identifying with Christ, either through sympathetic identification (in which each person suffers his/her own pains, but their similarity enables each to know what it is like for the other) or through mystical identification (in which the created person is supposed literally to experience a share of Christ’s pain).”31 In this instance, experiencing the pain of horrendous suffering is a participation in divinity, the Christian’s consoling knowledge that he or she is living the life of Christ, an existence that includes resurrection. If that is true, then the sufferer will beatifically have the face-toface encounter with God. Adams encourages the belief that God’s face will reflect the deepest suffering as well as the highest joy—a vision of the inner life of God. While not horrendous in Adams’ sense of the word, Rogozhin’s murder of Nastasya is horrific in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. Christ-like Myshkin, lying faceto-face with mad Rogozhin, appears to identify so closely with the murderer that he seems to take his pain upon himself. One could say that Myshkin absorbs it and then empties it in the profound loving-kindness of his stroking Rogozhin’s face. Imagining this scene in his or her mind’s eye, Dostoyevsky’s Christian reader has the opportunity to participate in a sympathetic identification with a Christ-like man who mystically takes pain upon himself. So great is the Russian’s art that this appears possible. Orual in Till We Have Faces explicitly illustrates Adams’ idea of mystically taking the pain of another upon oneself as an antidote to evil when she experiences the suffering of Psyche herself, leaving her free to perform easily, joyously, the tasks imposed upon her by the jealous goddess Ungit. Orual thereby, as noted, enacts Lewis’s Doctrine of Exchange; he did claim that the onset of osteoporosis caused him to take some of Joy Davidman’s pain of cancer away Ibid., 219. Ibid., 218–19.

30 31

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from her, to her relief. Interestingly, Orual stands in a place analogous to that of crucified Christ, in her rescue of another, at the same time as she finds a kind of blessed life, even as Adams’ Christian might by realizing that Christ takes his or her pain on himself. Neither Dostoyevsky nor Lewis offers anything like the beatific face-to-face encounter with God that serves as capstone to Adams’ philosophy. The closest Dostoyevsky comes is through the message of Myshkin’s anecdote of the babe and his mother told to Rogozhin in response to Holbein’s disturbing painting of the dead Christ—that when we are loved, we see the face of God. And the closest Lewis comes in his less than absolutely true myth are the faces of Blessedness that Orual sees in the two figures of Psyche and herself reflected in the shimmering pool of her dream-vision. Adams never does extend Levinas’s philosophy into the present age. No one—not Buber, Adams, or Levinas—offers a philosophy that is completely satisfying in the role that faces play in it. “The way to God passes through the face of the other.”32 This conclusion of Bernhard Waldenfels about where Levinas’s philosophy locates the divine face reflects a circular definition, which contains a contradiction. The Judeo-Christian God’s face must be indestructible; vulnerability, wrenching nakedness cannot be its properties. But especially in the philosophy of Levinas the face of the Other is precious because it is destructible. Moreover, readers of Levinas’s, Buber’s, and Adams’ philosophy are left with the absent presence of the face of God and Christ that one apprehends in the Old and New Testaments, with the felt reality of a face one cannot physically see. Finally, the face-to-face encounter in the Bible in the early Levinas and in the Western literature selected for analysis in this book reflects a Cartesian duality, a polarity of the imperfect flesh and the soul, or of God and man, that many, perhaps most, postmodern thinkers and writers have either dismissed or dissolved. Levinas’s reformulation of the face in his later philosophy—that it is a “trace” of infinity, known through “proximity”—amounts to a rather nebulous postmodern paradigm. One might suppose, as involves the divine face, that I end no closer to it than when I began my analysis. And yet the manifold aspects of the human face, as it reveals itself in writings by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dostoyevsky, Hesse, and C. S. Lewis, resister for its bearer and perceivers in these authors’ works, and for readers who imaginatively respond to their characters in their entanglements, Waldenfels, “Levinas and the Face of the Other,” 67.

32

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their joys and sorrows, and their last ends, rich opportunities for better understanding the sacred and profane meanings of their own faces in the mirror as well as those of both beloved family and friends as well as of strangers.

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Index The letter f after an entry indicates a figure. Abgar of Edessa (king) 15 Abraxas 107–8 Absalom 9 Adams, Marilyn McCord 156–8 aesthetics 5 see also beauty Alighieri, Dante 14 Allegory of Love (Lewis) 138 All’s Well That Ends Well (Shakespeare) 41, 94 “Amor and Psyche” (Rubens) 83f Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine (Neumann) 89–91 angels 10, 33 Apuleius: Metamorphoses 79 see also Cupid and Psyche, Tale of Ariel 33 artists 17 Auden, W. H.: “Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, The” 32 Augustine, Saint x, 21–2 “Beata Beatrix” (Rossetti) 105–6, 107f beauty 5, 92–3, 120, 142–3 limitations and 19 Beckwith, Sarah: Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness 39–40 bed trick, the 41, 94 “Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” (Fries) 50, 51f Bible, the 3–13 “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb” (Holbein) 59–63, 66, 68 Buber, Martin: I and Thou 153–6 Bulfinch, Thomas 85 Cain 100, 112 mark of 99–100, 110–12, 114–16, 117 Cézanne, Paul 19

Cleve, Joos van: Jesus Christ 57f Collective Unconscious, the 106, 108–9, 115 concealment 11, 41, 139–40 see also masks; veils Till We Have Faces and 121, 128, 130–1, 133–9 Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, The (Sidney) 132–3 Cupid and Psyche, Tale of 79–85, 93, 113, 129 allegory and 85–6 Christianity and 82–3, 85–6, 123 Demian and 103 desire and 90, 111 DuPlessis, Rachel Blau and 91 Edwards, Lee and 91 feminist theory and 91 heroism and 91 incest and 111 Lewis, C. S. and 117–18 see also Till We Have Faces love in 88–92 marriage and 89–91 Neumann, Erich and 89–94 Spenser, Edmund and 85, 86–8 David (King) 9 Demian (Hesse, Hermann) 89, 95–8 “Beata Beatrix” and 105–6 Cain and 99–100, 101–2, 112 Christianity and 95–6, 151 Collective Unconscious, and the 106–9 Cupid and Psyche, and Tale of 103 desire and 103–5, 111 doppelgängers and 98 feminine, and the 104 incest and 109–11 kisses in 115 love in 112, 113, 115–16

172 Index masks and 151 mothers and 108–15 Oedipal Complex, and the 99–100 sexuality and 108–9, 115 desire Cupid and Psyche, Tale of 90, 111 Demian and 103–5, 111 Till We Have Faces and 126 see also bed trick Dostoyevsky, Anna 59–61 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor 45, 47, 49, 73–4 “Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” and 50 “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb” and 59–61, 62 Idiot, The see Idiot, The Jungian theory and 115 Karamazov Brothers, The 67–8 Napoleon and 54 Petrashevsky conspiracy and 50–1 Sistine Madonna [and Child] and 55 DuPlessis, Rachel Blau and 91 Edwards, Lee and 91 Eros 105, 114, 121 n.12, 153 see also love Cupid and Psyche, and Tale of 79 Levinas, Emmanuel and 151 Neumann, Erich and 89–91, 94 Till We Have Faces and 126, 130 evil 156–7 evolution 101 face-to-face encounters xi–xii, 12, 135, 156, 158 Adams, Marilyn McCord and 156–8 Augustine, Saint and 21–2 Buber, Martin and 154 Cupid and Psyche, and Tale of 85 Demian and 97 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor and 51, 158 Gideon and 9–10 Jacob and 7–8 Jews and 9 Job and 156 Julius Caesar and 36, 39, 149 King Lear and 39 Levinas, Emmanuel and 148, 149–51, 156

Lewis, C. S. and 158 Moses and 5, 10 Till We Have Faces and 118 Watson, Thomas and 143 Faerie Queene, The (Spenser) 86–8, 138–9, 140 features 4–5 forgiveness 31 Four Loves, The (Lewis) 126 Fries, Hans: “Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” 50, 51f fright 10 Glance at Chaos, A (Hesse, Hermann) 115 glass, the 12–13 see also mirrors God, face of 5–6, 153 Buber, Martin and 154 concealment and 11 fright and 10 heaven and 3–4 Jacob and 7–8 Job and 10 Moses and 5–6, 9–10 “Harry’s (In)Human Face” (Ruiter) 147 heaven 3–4 Helen of Troy 92 Hesse, Hermann 95 Demian see Demian Dostoyevsky, Fyodor and 115 Glance at Chaos, A 115 Jungian Theory 106, 111–12 Holbein, Hans 17 “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb” 60f, 66, 68 “Madonna des Buergemeisters Meyer” 53f Hugo, Victor: Miserables, Les 20 human face, the 19 I and Thou (Buber, Martin) 153–6 icons 49–50 Idiot, The (Dostoyevsky, Fyodor) 43–50, 52–74 “Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb” and 59–61, 62–3, 66, 68 Catholicism and 70 Christianity and 63–4, 72–4, 151, 157

Index I-Thou paradigm and 155 icons and 49–50 kenosis and 74–5 Levinas, Emmanuel and 55 love in 56, 65–6, 70–1 “Madonna des Buergemeisters Meyer” and 53 masks and 151 paintings in 58–9, 68–9 phrenology and 45–7 Russian holy fools and 44–5, 151 suffering and 157 incest 110–11 Jacob 7–8, 41, 82–3 Jesus Christ (Cleef) 57f Jesus Christ, face of 4, 5, 12 artists and 17–19 beliefs about depicting 16 representations of 149 Shroud of Turin, and the 13 Transfiguration and 6, 7 Veil of Veronica, and the 13–16 Jews 150, 152, 156 Job 9–10, 156 Joseph 8–9 Julius Caesar (Shakespeare) 34–9, 42, 149 Jungian Theory 106, 111–12, 115 Karamazov Brothers, The (Dostoyevsky) 67–8 King, Ros 17–18 King Lear (Shakespeare) 27–9, 39, 42, 149 “Last Supper, The” (da Vinci) 17–18 left, the (a sinestra) 72 Leonardo da Vinci “Last Supper, The” 17–18 Levinas, Emmanuel xii character and 147 evil and 156 faces and 147–51, 152–3, 158 Idiot, The and 55 love and 152 proximity and 148 Lewis, C. S. Allegory of Love 138 chivalric romances and 132

173

Christianity and 117, 144–5, 155 Cupid and Psyche, and Tale of 117–18 Doctrine of Exchange and 157–8 Four Loves, The 126 love and 126–7, 136, 141–2, 144, 146 myth and 117 Oxford History of Sixteenth Century English Literature Excluding Drama 132, 138 philosophy and 128 self-sacrificial suffering and 141–2, 157–8 Till We Have Faces see Till We Have Faces visionary experiences and 127 Lives of the Artists, The (Vasari) 17–18 love 20, 88–92, 115–16, 126–7, 144 see also Eros Buber, Martin and 153–5 Demian and 112, 113, 115–16 Idiot, The and 56, 65–6, 70–1 Levinas, Emmanuel and 152 Lewis, C. S. and 126–7, 136, 141–2, 144, 146 “Madonna des Buergemeisters Meyer” (Holbein) 53f Marlowe, Christopher: Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, The 3, 26, 92–3 marriage 88–90, 94 masks 106, 121, 133, 139, 151 see also concealment; veils Measure for Measure (Shakespeare) 30, 41, 93–4, 152 Metamorphoses (Apuleius) 79 Michelangelo 18–19 mind, the 21–2 mirror and 22–3, 27 see also glass, the mirrors 25–7, 30–5, 38 mind, and the 22–3, 27 Miserables, Les (Hugo) 20 Moses 5–6, 7, 9–10 “Muiopotmos: or The Fate of the Butterflie” (Spenser) 85 Napoleon 155 Nazis 150

174 Index Neumann, Erich Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine 89–91 Cupid and Psyche, and Tale of 89–94 DuPlessis, Rachel Blau and 91 Helen of Troy and 92 love and 88–92 New Testament, the 12 Nietzshe, Friedrich: Thus Spoke Zarathustra 100–1 Old Testament, the 9–11 Other, the 147–8, 150–2 Overman, the 100–1 Oxford History of Sixteenth Century English Literature Excluding Drama (Lewis) 132, 138 phrenology 45–7 Prince Hal 147–9 Prospero 31–4 Protestantism 39–40 Proust, Marcel 19 Raphael 18 Reformation, the 39 revenge 31 Richard II (Shakespeare) 24–7, 29–30 Rossetti, Dante Gabriel “Beata Beatrix” 105 Ruiter, David “Harry’s (In)Human Face” 147 Prince Hal and 147–9 Russian holy fools 44–5 “Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, The” (Auden) 32 self-sacrificial suffering 141–2 Shakespeare, William All’s Well That Ends Well 41, 94 Brutus 34–9 Cassius 34–9 Cordelia 27–9, 39, 149 Julius Caesar 34–9, 42, 149 King Lear 27–9, 39, 42, 149 Measure for Measure 30, 41, 93–4, 152

Prince Hal 147–9 Prospero 31–4 Richard II 24–7, 29–30 Sonnet 94 28 Tempest, The 30–4, 42, 149 Twelfth Night 41 Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness (Beckwith) 39–40 Shakespearean characters 23–4, 28, 147–8 Shroud of Turin, The 13 Sidney, Philip: Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, The 132–3 sin 39–40 Socrates 155 Sonnet 94 (Shakespeare) 28 Spenser, Edmund Faerie Queene, The 86–8, 138–9, 140 “Muiopotmos: or The Fate of the Butterflie” 85 Stevenson, Robert Louis: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 98–9 Stoicism 129 Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson) 98–9 suffering 50, 59, 141, 143, 156–7 Summer in Baden–Baden (Tsypkin) 61–2 Tempest, The (Shakespeare) 30–4, 42, 149 Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Nietzshe) 100–1 Till We Have Faces 117–44 beauty and 120, 142–3 chivalric romances and 132–3 Christianity and 123–5, 128, 130, 142–6 concealment and 121, 128, 130–1, 133–9 Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, The and 132–3 Cupid and Psyche, and Tale of 117 desire and 126 facelessness 121, 134–6 Faerie Queene, The and 138–9, 140 love and 126–7, 136–7, 144 self-sacrificial suffering and 141–2 suffering and 141, 143, 157–8 temptations and 142 veils and 130–1, 133–4, 137–9

Index

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visionary experiences and 127–8, 135, 138–41 Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, The (Marlowe) 3, 26, 92–3 Transfiguration of Christ 6 Tsypkin, Leonid: Summer in Baden– Baden 61–2 Twelfth Night (Shakespeare) 41

Veil of Veronica, the 13–16 veils 130–1, 133–4, 137–9, 143–4 see also masks Von Franz, Marie-Louis and 98, 111

Vasari, Giorgio: Lives of the Artists, The 17–18

Yahweh 128–9

weeping 28, 29 Word, the 23 World War II 150