In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.
It wearies me; you say it wearies you.
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me
That I have much ado to know myself.1
Wherever one places the origins of modernity, there is little doubt that it was already in full swing in the time of Shakespeare, whose play, The Merchant of Venice, can provide insights into the inception and trajectory of the paradoxical obsession with and flight from the flesh through technology that we are witnessing today. The play opens with Antonio’s sadness, which his friends attribute to what would worry them most: the fate of his ships and their goods. Antonio denies this and scoffs at the subsequent suggestion that it is some unrequited love that casts him down. Nor does he respond to provocations that his mood is simple willfulness.
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1. William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, act 1, scene 1, lines 1–7.