Shakespeare's Henry V and the Effects of Botox

In yesterday's New York Times, the science section included a review of Eric Finzi's Face of Emotion: How Botox Affects Our Mood and Relationships. According to Finzi, injecting botulinum toxin into someone's face can cure her depression by preventing her from frowning. If someone can't frown, she's happier.

Facial expressions don't merely express emotions—they create them. Finzi cites recent research and thinkers like Darwin and William James to describe this as a physical, neurological effect.

Shakespeare's Henry V uses this effect at the siege of Harfleur when he tells his soldiers to "[d]isguise fair nature with hard-favored rage." They should make their faces resemble weapons and violent seascapes:

            lend the eye a terrible aspect,
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon, let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a gall├Ęd rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean.

If he can get them to do this, and to "set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide," then their spirits will rise to their "full height," and they will be ready to charge "[o]nce more unto the breach."


Liz Curtis said…
Expressions surely create emotions. Henry tells his men to have fierce expressions to intimidate their enemies. Many tribes used face painting to create these permanent expressions for the same reason. The botox element I find very interesting. This reminds me of the old saying smile and the world smiles back at you. I see this as: if you try to be happy, the world may even provide happiness to you. If botox can keep you from frowning...therefore smiling I guess, maybe it can make you happier.
Anonymous said…
I found this idea that facial expressions can affect emotions to be very interesting. I think that when Shakespeare made Henry V tell his men to "disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage," it not only scared their enemies, it also created anger inside of them. By doing these faces that portrayed anger, the men actually began to feel that emotion.
nattyq said…
I definitely think that if you wear an emotion on your face all day, you then actually begin to feel that emotion. Try smiling all day, you just feel lighter and may actually feel happy rather than little things get to you. Therefore, it isn't surprising that the men in the play actually began to feel the emotions they portrayed.
Mary Larson said…
I have never really thought about this idea before, but I think it is a very valid point. It completely makes sense that facial expressions can affect emotions. I have always thought that expressions are a result of an emotion, but it can also work in the opposite way. I think that Henry V tells his men to have certain expressions to intimidate their enemies and also create more of a feelings of anger inside themselves.
Walter said…
I found this to be very true. I especially like how the article relates to the scene in Henry V before the battle. Relating to the botox, I don't see how it will make anyone "happier" but if science concluded that then I cant argue it. I feel that if someone were to get botox then they have worse problems then initially expected.
Anonymous said…
I don't agree with the idea that facial expressions create emotions. I think that even if someone had botox injected in their face, they would still very much be able to feel sad even though they can't make a frown with their mouth/face. Although I don't think facial expression can create emotion, I believe that actors in Shakespeare plays begin to feel emotions that their character has because of how long they had to play the sad/distressed/angry character. Wouldn't it prevent the person from smiling and therefor only allow them to feel "blank face" emotion?