By William Shakespeare
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Extra info for Antony and Cleopatra (The Pelican Shakespeare)
42 There is a crucial difference, however, between Phrygius’s skeptical position and the one that Donne recommends. The relationship between two major elements in ancient Pyrrhonism has puzzled commentators. For Sextus Empiricus ataraxia is the Skeptic’s goal, and his means to that end is epocheˆ, the suspension of all opinions. Yet Sextus also presents the Skeptic as continuing to investigate both sides of any issue on the grounds that future resolution is theoretically possible. ” The Pyrrhonist must in some sense be satisﬁed that no answers are forthcoming in order for his inquiring thoughts to come to a state of rest.
After satirizing the ﬁrst two ﬁgures as extremes, however, Donne pointedly refuses to treat the third as the mean. Mirrheus chooses Catholicism, Crants his Calvinism on the basis of opposing “humors” (l. 53) or irrational preferences for various contraries (old versus young, ornamented versus plain, courtly versus rustic). Their respective attachments to the “ragges” of a “thousand yeares agoe” (ll. 46–47) and to a “yong” (l. ”21 Yet by comparing Mirrheus’s fondness for Roman “ragges” with Englishmen’s fawning at a monarch’s “statecloth” (ll.
51 Donne adapts this skeptical method to argue that the individual must not relinquish true religion by accepting either of the extreme “contraries” espoused by opposing pseudo- DONNE AND THE PERSONAL MEAN 35 authorities: “Is not this excuse for mere contraries, / Equally strong? ” (ll. 52 Donne denies that men “stand / In so’ill case here” (ll. 89–90) that temporal rulers can dictate the religious choices of their subjects. There is no legitimate authority besides God in spiritual matters, he argues; rulers deserve obedience only in secular affairs.