Jongsook Lee.  Numinous or Dead? Real Presence, Iconoclasm, and Pygmalion’s Image in Shakespeare     page(s): 49-67


Real Presence was a question at the heart of the iconoclastic debates and violence that erupted in the English Reformation and the periods following it. Those iconoclasts participating in the debates sought to prove the Roman Catholic belief in Real Presence false, and thereby to desacramentalize the relationship between matter and spirit, body and soul, presence and absence, or representation and original. I argue the terms of those debates are incorporated and explored in the poetry of love, secular and sacred, produced in the post-Reformation period. Shakespeare’s “absence” sonnets, for example, reveal a deep-seated anxiety about idolatry, particularly through the figure of the sonneteer-lover who, driven by his scopic desire, creates an absent-present ‘body’ out of the absence of the beloved, and thereby serves to expose how easily latria can slip into dulia into idololatria. Shakespeare further explores, in The Winter’s Tale, the dangers inherent in the sonneteer-lover’s scopic desire, transforming the Ovidian myth of Pygmalion into a story of Pygmalion’s image into a story of Leontes’s petrifying and idol-making desire for absolute possession and absolute presence.       
 Keywords:      The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Hamlet, Real Presence, Absent-Present, Matter vs. Spirit, Early Modern Iconoclasm, Idolatry, Sonneteer-Lover, Scopic Desire, Pygmalion’s Image, English Reformation