ABSTRACT

For early modern writers, following Aristotle by way of Galen, the location of agency in relation to the body is the chief intellectual tenor of representations of the hand. The instrumentality of the hand and its capacity to grasp are the central imaginative vehicles of this figure. As a material sign, the hand is defined by its functional properties: its ability to gesture, touch, grip, and demonstrate. Handclasps, for example, stand for consent in the

marriage ceremony of the Church of England, feudal obedience to a lord, formal reconciliation after conflict, and the ratification of a compact or treaty. The raised right hand signifies political suffrage and affirms obedience to civil or royal authority, as in the English National Covenant of 1640.1 In all of these gestures, the hand represents and effects a point of contact between collective notions of person and the world of interiority, intentions and will,2 So, for instance, in both political and legal philosophy hands become a familiar topos for relations of office, deputation, and substitution-in which agent and principle exist in some negotiated dependency. John of Salisbury's allegory of the body politic offers a famous and influential example, in his discussion of the natural allegiance of officers to the state:

And so the hand of the republic is either armed or unarmed. The armed hand is of course that which is occupied with marching and the bloodletting of warfare; the unarmed hand is that which expedites justice and attends to the warfare of legal right, distanced from arms .... And so the armed hand is exercised strictly against enemies, but the unarmed is extended also against the citizen. In addition, discipline is necessary for both because both are notoriously accustomed to being wicked. The use of the hand testifies to the qualities of the head itself because, as Wisdom asserts, the iniquitous king has entirely impious ministers .... For the continence of governors is laudable when they restrain their hands and hold back the hands of others from exactions and injuries. Still, the hand of both sorts of soldiers, namely, armed and unarmed, is the hand of the prince; and unless he constrains both, he is not very continent. And surely the unarmed hand is to be curbed more closely because while the armed hand is commanded to abstain from exactions and rapine, the unarmed hand is also prohibited presents.3