Tortured Calculations: Body Economies in Shakespeare's Cultures of Honor

Selected Papers of the Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference 4:68-79 (2011)
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Abstract

In this paper, I explore the ways in which human bodies, payback, and comestibility become inescapably entangled in cultures in which honor is the prevailing virtue. Shakespeare was deeply sensitive to the social and psychological processes through which these concepts become entwined when honor is at stake—to the ways in which, as a means of corrective response, men who transgress a code of honor can be rightly reduced to their bodies, similar to how those who are not allowed to be full participants in an honor culture (most particularly women) always already are. I begin by examining Shakespeare’s earliest depictions of honor cultures in Titus Andronicus and The Rape of Lucrece, and then briefly discusses how the ideas they trade in are further developed and complicated later in his career, focusing specifically on Othello.

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Brandon Polite
Knox College

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