Heaven give thee moving graces!
Measure for Measure, II. ii
In the midst of the seventeenth century Thomas Hobbes published Leviathan beginning his discussion “Of Man” with “Of Sense,” and his discussion of sense with motion. Using the term “pressing” for the external action of an object upon the senses, he gives a picture of “man” worked upon by outward weights: “Neither in us that are pressed, are they anything else, but divers motions; (for motion, produceth nothing but motion)” (1996:10). In his second chapter, “Of Imagination,” Hobbes contrasts stillness with motion, “that when a thing lies still, unless somewhat els stirre it, it will lye still for ever, is a truth no man doubts of …when a thing is in motion, it will eternally be in motion” (10-11). For Hobbes, as for thinkers before and after him, motion, experienced as pressure, awakened the senses to ideas engendered by the objects around the moved body. Interpreting the consequences of the effects of motion required an accounting of the sensual reception and perception of both motion and stillness, a pair never far from each other in early modern philosophical investigations about the world of ideas, aural, written, and performed. 1
According to Hobbes, motion cannot be separated from the senses, and it is here that the investigation of the uses of stillness and motion on the early modern stage begins. In studies of performance, theorists have drafted and redrafted models of kinesthetic history, kinesthetic reception and production, acknowledging in their efforts the need for a theory that can evoke motion vividly enough to give us the ability to comprehend the performed world in motion. Anyone who looks to the world of performance in the seventeenth century must acknowledge with the pressed-upon Hobbes that one is studying a culture whose theories and practices assume the perceived world to be created kinetically, in a balance between the moving and the still. Our task then may be one of apprehension rather than comprehension, which will not surprise my readers.