“‘Tis in Ourselves That We Are Thus, or Thus”: Will, Habit, and the Discourse of <i>Res</i>

Joel B. Altman

in The Improbability of Othello

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780226016108
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226016122 | DOI:
“‘Tis in Ourselves That We Are Thus, or Thus”: Will, Habit, and the Discourse of Res

Show Summary Details


This chapter focuses on the role of will in rhetorical address. This is a distinctly Christian development, since a concept of will independent of reason was not clearly articulated in classical antiquity. The recognition of will added a crucial spiritual inflection to that interplay of dispositions Protagorean and Platonic, Academic and Stoic that we have noticed in the classical period and in the Renaissance. It fostered a new tension between the labile and fragmented self, attracted to shifting worldly phenomena, and the self's desire for inward repose and definition. Moreover, will came to be linked to vivid speech—a speech of “thingness” that drew both speaker and hearer into a potentially threatening communion with res, whose materiality might literally damage the soul. The importance of such a development for Shakespeare is apparent in this chapter, which provides the historical and theoretical context for what is best described as a theocentric linguistic psychology.

Keywords: will; rhetoric; res; speech; Shakespeare; linguistic psychology

Chapter.  14136 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.