"Set in portraiture": George Gascoigne, Queen Elizabeth, and Adapting the Royal Image. Stephen Hamrick, Minnesota State University, Moorhead.
"The Cittie is in an uproare": Staging London in The Booke of Sir Thomas More. Tracey Hill, Bath Spa University College.
The late sixteenth-century manuscript play The Booke of Sir Thomas More is famous largely on two counts: censorship and authorship. This essay, in contrast, seeks to restore to critical attention another important context: the way in which the play represents the figures, places and events from early sixteenth-century London, mediated through the concerns immediate to the play's moment of production in the turbulent London of the 1590s. Although few have focused on this issue, the play's 'London-ness' is not incidental but rather essential to its significance.
The play is set in London and is replete with topographical references; it was written, in the main, by London-born playwrights and it features real figures from London's recent past, from Thomas More himself to the notorious Evil May Day rioters, who were members of the London citizenry. My argument is that the revisions the play received foregrounded the place of the City and also worked to heighten the contemporaneity of the play to its putative Southwark audience.
The essay explores the ways in which the geography and the complex social hierarchy of London are presented via the conflicts between the civic oligarchy and officials, the citizenry and apprentices, and the 'aliens' against whom unrest took place both in 1517 and the early 1590s.
"I Live With Bread Like You": Forms of Inclusion in Richard II. Aaron Landau, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
In this paper I examine the subtle, complex, and roundabout ways in which popular voices and perspectives inform the construction of English history in Richard II (1595). On the face of it, this play is concerned almost entirely with dynastic struggles within the aristocracy and leaves very little room for actual representations of non-aristocratic characters and ideologies. And yet, when examined in relation to various manifestations of social unrest in the 1590s, the play discloses manifold connections also with middle- and lower-class sensibilities in the period. By showing that even this mid-decade history play, which is ostensibly among the most exclusive and elitist by Shakespeare, is substantially more inclusive and popular than it might at first appear, I should like to counter a common critical tendency to regard Shakespeare’s historical imagination as in principle -- and increasingly so over the decade of the 1590s -- elitist, exclusive, and orthodox. Rather than representing yet another stage of exclusion in an increasingly gentrified project of forging English nationhood, this play should be viewed as offering different, intricate forms of including lower-class and radical viewpoints within its ken.
Elephants, Englishmen and India: Early Modern Travel Writing and the Pre-Colonial Moment. M. G. Aune, North Dakota State University.
Describing and analyzing the dynamics of the initial English encounter with the Mogul Empire has attracted greater and greater scholarly attention in recent years. No longer are early modern English relations with the Mogul court seen as an originary point for an inevitable British domination of the subcontinent. Instead, awareness of the power and sophistication of the Mogul Empire, the relative weakness of the English, and the English attempt to compensate for this inequality have begun to dominate the discussion of the early relations and especially of English depictions of those relations. Rather than proto-colonial or proto-imperial discourses, recently scholars have referred to a pre-colonial imaginary that while not necessarily functioning as a teleological point of origin, can be seen as contributing to a later colonial discourse of India.
While previous studies have used travel writing, drama, and East India Company documents to examine the social, political, and economic constructions of India, I intend to extend these studies by using these sources to describe how the English constructed a pre-colonial imaginary of India that drew on depictions of Indian fauna and linked them to Mogul culture through the figuration of the Emperor Jahangir. Centuries of stories about the natural wonders of India had prepared the English to see fantastic creatures such as elephants and unicorns and to regard the land as a space of opportunity and profit. At the same time, the difficulties of accessing these riches via trading relations exacerbated a sense of English anxiety about economic weakness. In managing these anxieties, English travellers like Thomas Coryate and ambassadors like Sir Thomas Roe generated depictions of the Moguls and their Emperor which relied on a cultural understanding of fantastic animals like elephants and a recognition of tropes of the civilization and barbarism in distant, non-Christian cultures.
I begin with a discussion of the recent scholarly work on the early modern English encounter with India and the construction of the pre-colonial imaginary. I then turn to documents of the English encounter itself, focusing on Roe's depiction of his frustrations and in particular his portrayal of Jahangir's wealth. The aspect of these portrayals on which I focus, the Emperor's elephants, is then contextualized in terms of European traditions, myths, and expectations of such creatures. I conclude by demonstrating how the English representations of Moguls as barbarous and civilized can be found not only in depictions of economic, religious, and social behaviour, but also in depictions of the exotic fauna of India.
Intimacy and the Body in Seventeenth-Century Religious Devotion. James M. Bromley, Loyola University, Chicago.
This paper outlines a debate over the role of the body in intimacy with God as it is represented in seventeenth-century English religious literature. In the work of Joseph Hall, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw, the body was a critical problematic within articulations of intimacy with God. Hall, in the tract entitled The Remedy of Prophanenesse, is the first to refer to the human-divine relationship as intimate. The tract, however, develops a disembodied intimacy with God based in Protestant modes of devotion. While Hall and Herbert, both Protestant, similarly write the body out of human-divine intimacy for reasons both theological and historical, Herbert expresses anxiety about the qualitative effect that the disavowal of the body has on the human-divine relationship. In contrast, the Catholic poet, Crashaw, with theological support in the doctrine of transubstantiation, celebrates the role of the body in stabilizing and enhancing human-divine relationality.
Aesthetic, national, and theological concerns have since marginalized Crashaw's model of intimacy. This marginalization has been reproduced in critical work on Crashaw that has judged his embodied intimacy with the divine to be indecorous. However, the existence of these three models of human-divine intimacy point to a moment in the history of relationality when it was possible to articulate multiple, and even contested models of intimate life. This paper, then, suggests that the field of early modern relationality, at least in religious discourse, was more complicated than has been formerly understood.
Mourning Eve, Mourning Milton in Paradise Lost. Elizabeth M. A. Hodgson, University of British Columbia.
Female Spectacle as Liberation in Margaret Cavendish's Plays. Joyce Devlin Mosher.
In Cavendish's life and in her plays, lavish confections and transsexual costumes turn woman's status as fetish to fresh advantage. In The Convent of Pleasure, The Bridals, Bell in Campo, and Loves Adventures, the power of dress symbolizes the moment of transformation in the lives of female characters. Transgendered dressing and the gaze of the crowd accompany the female spectacle, spotlighting the central moment of the female self in process of change. The plays identify the borders of female identity and postulate ways to transcend them. Cavendish demonstrates the potential of feminine writing to circumvent and reformulate existing structures through the inclusion of other experience. Her use of cross-dressing indicates transgendered behavior that, like the female masquerade, serves the causes of freedom and self fulfillment. Her sexually hybrid characters call into question traditional gender categorizations as the first step in redressing power imbalances between the sexes. In the four plays under discussion, Cavendish seeks to masculinize the female and feminize the male in order to overcome the chasm between the sexes created by the distorting gaze of social ideologies Overdressing, cross-dressing, and assuming military garb, then, are ways that variously attract and repulse the male gaze, which allows Cavendish's characters moments outside of time. Cavendish manipulates gender signifiers - attire, discourse, and body expressions - to replace the notion of woman as object with woman as spectacle. The force of the plays resides in their repetition of brief but insistent visions of female authority and accomplishment.
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2005-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).