Chirologia Exercise

So, recently I brought Bulwer’s Chirologia into a discussion in class about paralinguistic signifiers on the early modern stage and I was really impressed by how much students seemed to really love it. I’ve decided that this could be a great way into an exercise for future classes. The exercise is as follows:
    • Ask students to go through certain scenes to identify moments where Bulwer’s gestures would “fit” (Or not “fit” – can you use the hands to indicate something that is contrary to the text?)
    • Find at least five gestures that could be given – Try to find at least one place where a gesture could indicate something contrary to the surface meaning of the text)
    • Perform it & the other members of the class have to guess what was being “said” with the hands
So here are the basic hand gestures. Bulwer has more, but this is a good way to start the exercise.



A: Gestus I: Supplico [I entreat]
The stretching out of the hands is a natural expression of gesture, wherein we are significantly importunate, entreat, request, sue, solicit, beseech and ask mercy…at the hands of others…

B: Gestus II: Oro [I ask for]
To raise the hand conjoined or spread out towards heaven is the habit of devotion … a form of prayer … Thus we acknowledge our offenses, ask mercy, beg relief…

C: Gestus III: Ploro [I lament]
To wring the hands is a natural expression of excessive grief, used by those who condole, bewail, and lament. … the natural equipage of sorrow, hath ever passed for a note of lamentation.

D: Gestus IV: Admiror [I admire]
To throw up the hands to heaven is an expression of admiration, amazement, and astonishment, used also by those who flatter, and wonderfully praise, and have others in high regard, or extol another’s speech or action…



E: Gestus V: Applaudo [I applaud]
To clap the raised hands one against another is an expression proper to them who applaud, congratulate, rejoice, assent, approve, and are well pleased.

F: Gestus VI: Indignor [I scorn]
To smite suddenly on the left hand with the right is a declaration of some mistake, dolour, anger, or indignation…

G: Gestus VII: Explodo [I cast out, insult]
To clap the right fist often on the left palm is a natural expression used by those who mock, chide, bewail, and insult, reproach, rebuke … commonly us’d by the vulgar in their bickerings, as being the scold’s taunting dialect.

H: Gestus VIII: Despero [I despair]
To appear with fainting and dejected hands is a posture of fear, abasement of mind, an abject and vanquished courage, and of utter despair.



I: Gestus IX: Otio indulgeo [I indulge in ease]
To fold the hands is a gesture of idleness…

K: Gestus X: Tristem animi recessum indico [I show mental anguish]
To hold the fingers inserted between each other across is their sluggish expression who are fallen into melancholy muse…

L: Gestus XI: Innocentia offendo [I protest my innocence]
To imitate the posture of washing the hand by rubbing the back of one in the hollow of the other with a kind of detersive motion is a gesture sometimes used by those who would profess their innocency and declare that they have no hand in that foul business.

M: Gestus XII: Lucri apprehensionem plaudo [I applaud the taking of money]
To rub the palms of the hands together, with a kind of applause, much after the manner as some are wont to do who take pains to heat their hands, is an itching note of greedy haste…



N: Gestus XIII: Libertatem resigno [I resign my liberty]
To hold forth the hands together is their natural expression who yield, submit, and resign up themselves with supplication into the power of another…

O: Gestus XIV: Protego [I protect]
To extend out the right hand by the arm foreright is a natural habit wherein we sometimes allure, invite, speak to, cry after, call or warn to come, bring unto, give warning, admonish, protect, pacify, rebuke, command….

P: Gestus XV: Triumpho [I celebrate]
To put out the raised hand and to shake it as it were into a shout is the natural expression of those who exalt, brag, boast, triumph, and by exultant gesture express the raptures of their joy…

Q: Gestus XVI: Silentium postulo [I ask for silence]
The becking with the raised hand hath been ever with all nations accouted a sign of craving silence…



R: Gestus XVII: Juro [I swear]
To lift up the right hand to heaven is the natural form and ceremony of an oath, used by those to call God to witness and would adjure, confirm, or assure by the obligation of an oath…

S: Gestus XVIII: Assevero [I assert]
To extend and raise up both the hands to heaven is an expression of establishment and a most strong kind of asservation, implying as it were a double oath.

T: Gestus XIX: Suffragor [I vote for]
To hold up the hand is the natural token of approbation, consent, elation, and of giving suffrage.

V: Gestus XX: Respuo [I reject]
The flirting out of the back part of the hand or put-by of the turning of the palm is their natural expression who would refuse, deny, prohibit, repudiate, impute, or to lay to one’s charge, reject or pretend to lay for an excuse, or would twit and hit one in the teeth with a thing, and signify disdain…


W: Gestus XXI: Invito [I invite]
To show forth the hand and so forthwith to call it back as it were and bring it again unto us with a waving motion is a natural gesture and a vulgar compellation, which we significantly use in calling for men whom we bid to come near and approach unto us, which alluring habit is very natural ready and commodious to explain our mind and will.

X: Gestus XXII: Dimmitto [I dismiss]
To wag and wave the hand from us is an expression … bid one be gone, keep off, forbid, dismiss, and bid farewell and adieu…

Y: Gestus XXIII: Minor [I threaten]
To show and shake the bended fist at one is their habit who are angry, threaten, would strike terror, menace, revenge …

Z: Gestus XXIV: Mendico [I beg for]
To hold out the hand hollow in manner of a dish is their habit who crave, beg, covet, and show a greedy readiness to receive…

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