This paper explores Shakespeare’s comedy, in particular the poet’s notorious metaphor of (off-centered) bias in desire, from the perspective of ethology and evolutionary biology. Following Dipesh Chakrabarty’s call to risk thinking collectively about humanity’s place in the era of the Anthropocene, this paper places Shakespeare’s discourse of desire, itself richly indebted to Renaissance humoral psychology and Ovidian allusion, in the eco-critical context of evolutionary “deep history,” where the genre of pastoral comedy can be seen to explore the phylogenetic patterns of human adaptation to environmental pressures. Shakespeare’s comic portrayal of “giddy man” intimates what ethologists like Brian Massumi have identified as the pliable range or “supernormal” spectrum of psychological mechanisms responding to stressful social and environmental contexts. In plays like Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It, the aesthetic wonder of the comic plot captures the evolutionary unconscious of supernormal play.
"Shakespeare and Instinct: Bias as Supernormal Play,"
Criticism: Vol. 62:
3, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol62/iss3/4