'When dead ones are revived': The Aesthetics of Spectacle in Robert Greene's James IV (c. 1590)
Jesus College, University of Oxford
Sager, Jenny. "'When dead ones are revived': The Aesthetics of Spectacle in Robert Greene's James IV (c. 1590)". EMLS 16.2 (2012): 2. URL: http://purl.org/emls/16-2/sagejame.htm
Music playing within. Enter OBERON, King of the Fairies, an antic, who dance about a tomb, placed conveniently on the stage, out of which, suddenly starts up as they dance, BOHAN, a Scot, attired like a Redesdale man, from whom the antic flies. (JIV. I.i) Before any words are spoken or any actors appear, the audience is confronted with the ominous spectacle of a 'tomb placed conveniently on the stage' (JIV. I.i). But if the audience were expecting a sombre funeral, Greene disappoints them. Without warning, a group of actors surge onto the stage. They dance wildly; music plays. Suddenly, the tomb bursts open and Bohan, one of the play's presenters, leaps out. The atmosphere of the play has transformed from ominous melancholy to delight and elation. Dressed 'like a Redesdale man' with a 'wild and ferocious appearance', Bohan's apparent resurrection provides more than mere aesthetic delight. Like the corpse-crowded Pulp Fiction, Greene's play depicts a veritable pageant of fatalities. Offering an antidote to the scenes of slaughter, which emphasise the transient nature of life and the finality of death, this comic resurrection expresses a fervent desire for human transcendence and the need for the dead to return in order to redeem the present.
One cannot separate body and mind nor the senses from the intellect, particularly in a field where the unendingly repeated jading of our organs calls for sudden shocks to revive our understanding.The opening sequence of James IV provides revivification, both literarily and metaphorically; the shock it provokes not only wakes Bohan from his slumber, it also grabs the audience's attention. Bohan's resurrection provokes a visceral reaction, encouraging the audience to reflect on the metaphorical significance of this spectacle. The ability of spectacle to appeal both to the audience's emotions and to their intellect is evident in the constant interplay between the aesthetic of shock and the aesthetic of recognition, which runs throughout the play.
'Tis Ida is the mistress of your heart,Ateukin predicts that Ida will be overwhelmed by the 'impression of affects'; her mind 'will yield to fancy' because she has not experienced such flattery before. She has no experience, no memories of similar situations, on which to model her behaviour. To Ateukin's dismay, however, Ida turns out to be far from impressionable. Just as the audience are encouraged to seek moral instruction from the dumb shows which recall past tragedies, Ida has a wide collective memory on which to draw. From the Bible to the allegorical embroidery she is creating, to her mother's commonplace sayings, Ida is surrounded by images and words, which carry didactic messages, imbuing her with the wisdom to reject James's advances. Through a process of memory and recognition, she is able to rationalise and interpret her experiences. Indeed Ida appears to demonstrate a self-referential awareness; it is as if she realises that in order to survive the play she must conform to the Patient Griselda archetype, like her literary predecessors.
Whose youth must take impression of affects,
For tender twigs will bowe and minds
Will yield to fancy be they followed well. (JIV. I.i.212-5)
How would it have joyed brave Talbot [...] to think that after he had laid two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators [...] who in the tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.In his recent book on the Elizabethan history play, Brian Walsh demonstrates that '[h]istory is defined by its inalienable absence' and argues that 'performance alone supplies a pretence of sensual contact with the vanished past through the bodies that move and speak on stage'. The corporal presence of the actor on stage has a visceral effect on the emotions of the audience; history is experienced on both a sensory and intellectual level. Despite the 'succeeding ages', the story of Talbot is still relevant now, the past and the present have a point of contact. Nashe's description envisages a moment of recursive temporality; although Talbot is dead, his fame 'triumph[s]' over death through a dramatic re-enactment of his life.
while we do admireHere Tranio puns on the words 'stocks' and 'stoic'; he implies that stoics behave like blocks of wood because they are untouched by the passions. This sequence prepares the audience for the rest of the play, which will be preoccupied with the Ovidian subject matter of love, rather than with imparting stoic wisdom. Making a similar juxtaposition between the stoical desire for 'virtue' and 'moral discipline' and the need for comic entertainment, Greene's two presenters offer two different visions for the outcome of the play; the stoical Bohan envisages the play as moral tale, which preaches virtue of emotional restraint, while the antic Oberon envisages a jovial romantic romp, with a few comic interludes thrown in for good measure.
This virtue and this moral discipline,
Let's be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray,
Or so devote to Aristotle's checks
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured. (TS. I.i.29-3).
 Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994). For further discussion of this scene, see Peter and Will Brooker, 'Pulp Modernism: Tarantino's Affirmative Action', Postmodern After Images, eds. Peter and Will Brooker (New York, 1997), pp. 23-35; Dana Polan, Pulp Fiction (London: BFI), pp. 22-3.
 Glynne White, 'Quentin Tarantino', in Fifty Contemporary Film Directors, ed. Yvonne Tasker (New York: Routledge, 2011), p. 396; David Kufoff, Vault Guide to Screenwriting Careers (New York: Vault, 2005), p. 62. For more criticism of Tarantino's aesthetics and apparent lack of morality, see Chris Willman, 'Celluloid Heroes (1995)', Quentin Tarantino: Interviews, ed. Gerald Peary (Jackson: Mississippi, 1998), p. 147.
 In the interest of readability, I have modernised the spelling and punctuation of all early modern texts, with the exception of the titles of primary texts listed in the endnotes.
 J. A. Lavin, ed. James the Fourth (London: The New Mermaids, 1967), p. 5. The emendation of 'Ridstall man' was suggested by W. L. Renwick, 'Greene's Ridstall Man', Modern Language Review 29 (1934), p. 434; H. G. Wright, 'Greene's Ridstall Man', Modern Language Review 30 (1935), p. 437, and J. C. Maxwell, 'Greene's Ridstall Man', Modern Language Review 44 (1949), pp. 88-9, who quotes from Thomas Wilson's The Arte of Rhetorique [...] (London, 1553), p. 51: 'his soil also (where he was borne) giveth him to be an evil man: considering he was bred and brought up among a den of thieves, among the men of Tyndale and Riddesdale, where pillage is good purchase, and murdering is counted manhood'.
 Writing Robert Greene, ed. Kirk Melnikoff and Edward Gieskes (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008).
 Thomas Dickson, ed., Robert Greene (London: Fisher Unwin, 1911), pp. lix-Ixi.
 Kenneth Muir, Robert Greene as Dramatist, in Essays on Shakespeare and Elizabethan Drama, in Honor of Hardin Craig, ed. Richard Hosley (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963), p. 48.
 Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 175.
 Alexander Leggatt, 'Bohan and Oberon: Internal Debate of Greene's James IV', The Elizabethan Theatre XI (1990), p. 98. On the question of the play's genre and on the relationship between Bohan and Oberon, see J. Clinton Crumley, 'Anachronism and Historical Romance in Renaissance Drama: James IV', Explorations in Renaissance Culture 24 (1998), pp. 75-90; Edward Gieskes, Staging Professionalism in Greene's James IV, in Writing Robert Greene: Essays on England's First Notorious Professional Writer, eds., Kirk Melnikoff and Edward Gieskes (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), pp. 53-72; A. R. Braunmuller, 'The Serious Comedy of Greene's James IV', English Literary Renaissance 3 (1973), pp. 335-350; Dermot Cavanagh, Language and Politics in the Sixteenth-Century History Play (New York, 2003), pp. 58-79; Catherine Lekhal, 'The Historical Background of Robert Greene's James IV', Cahiers Elisabethains 35 (1989), pp. 27-46; Benjamin Griffin, Playing the Past: Approaches to English Historical Drama, 1385-1600 (Suffolk, 2001), p. 20.
 Verna A. Foster, The Name and Nature of Tragicomedy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), p. 43.
 J. A. Lavin, ed., James the Fourth (London: New Mermaids, 1967), p. 2.
 Antonin Artaud, Artaud on Theatre, ed. Claude Schumacher (London: Methuen, 1989), p. 122.
 For further discussion of funeral pageantry on the early modern stage, see Michael Neill, “Exeunt with a Dead March', Funeral Pageantry on the Shakespeare Stage', in Pageantry in the Shakespeare Theater, ed. David M. Bergeron (Athens, 1985), pp. 153-193.
 Tiffany Stern, Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2009), p. 108.
 B. A. P. Van Dam, 'R. Greene's James IV', English Studies XIV (1932), pp. 118-9.
 Norman Sanders, ed., The Scottish History of James the Fourth (London: Methuen, 1970), pp. 128-32.
 For further discussion of significance of dumb shows in early modern drama, see B. R. Pearn, 'Dumb-Show in Elizabethan Drama', The Review of English Studies 11 (1935), pp. 385-405; Dieter Mehl, The Elizabethan Dumb Show: The History of a Dramatic Convention (London, 1965).
 Richard Sheppard, Modernism-Dada-Postmodernism (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2000), p. 201.
 Philip Fisher, Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences (London: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 18.
 Michael Neill, Issues of Death (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 309; Karen Sawyer Marsalek, 'Awake your faith': English Resurrection Drama and The Winter's Tale', in 'Bring furth the pagants': Essays in Early Drama Presented to Alexandra F. Johnson (London: University of Toronto Press, 2007), pp. 271-291; Sarah Beckwith, 'Shakespeare's Resurrections', in Shakespeare and the Middle Ages, eds. Curtis Perry and John Watkins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 45-67; Elizabeth Williamson, The Materiality of Religion in Early Modern English Drama (Farnham: Surrey, 2009), pp. 33-70.
 Peter Stallybrass, Worn Worlds: Clothes and Identity on the Renaissance Stage, in Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture, eds. Margreta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan and Peter Stallybrass (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 308.
 Andrew Sofer, The Stage Life of Props (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2003), p. viii.
 Lina Perkins Wilder, Shakespeare's Memory Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 1.
 Hattaway, Elizabethan Popular Theatre, p. 111.
 All quotations are derived from Richard Hosley's edition: A Critical Edition of Anthony Munday's Fedele and Fortunio (New York: Galand Publishing, 1981).
 Robert Armin, The valiant vvelshman (London, 1615), sig. A3-B1.
 All quotations are taken from W. Reavley Gair's edition of Antonio and Mellida (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004).
 All quotations are taken from R. B. Parker's edition of A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (London: Methuen and Co, 1969).
 Anthony Munday, 'Chruso-thriambos', in Pageants and Entertainments of Anthony Munday, ed. David M. Bergeron (New York: Garland Pub, 1985), p. 56.
 Daryl W. Palmer, 'Metropolitan Resurrection in Anthony Munday's Lord Mayor Shows', Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 46 (2008), p. 377.
 For other examples of stage resurrections, see Francis Beaumont, The knight of the burning pestle (London, 1613), Thomas Heywood, A pleasant conceited comedie, wherein is shewed, how a man may chuse a good wife [...] (London, 1602), John Day, Lavv-trickes [...] (pr. 1608); John Fletcher, Nathan Field and Philip Massinger's The knight of malta, in Comedies and tragedies (London, 1647) Vol. VI, pp. 160-231, John Mason, The Turke [...] (London, 1610); John Ford, Loues Sacrifice (London, 1633).
 Thomas Nashe, Pierce Penilesse [...] (London, 1592), sig. F3.
 Brian Walsh, Shakespeare, the Queen's Men, and the Elizabethan Performance of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 1.
 P. A. Daniel, 'Greene and Cinthio', Athenaeum 8th October 1881, p. 465.
 Darryll Grantley, 'The Winter's Tale and Early Religious Drama', Comparative Drama 20 (1986), pp. 17-37; Christopher J. Cobb, The Staging of Romance in Late Shakespeare: Text and Theatrical Technique (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2007), pp. 117-155.
 Charles Altieri, The Particulars of Rapture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), pp. 39-42.
 Kenneth Muir, 'Robert Greene as Dramatist', in Essays on Shakespeare and Elizabethan Drama, in Honor of Hardin Craig, ed. Richard Hosley (London: Routledge, 1963), p. 50.
 Steven C. Young, The Frame Structure in Tudor and Stuart Drama (Salzburg: University of Salzburg Press, 1974), p. 27.
 Diane Purkiss, Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories (London: Allen Lane, 2000), p. 175.
 Foakes, ed., Henslowe's Diary, p. 20.
 Matthew Woodcock, Fairy in the Faerie Queene: Renaissance Elf-Fashioning and Elizabethan Myth-Making (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), p. 37.
 Greenes, groats-vvorth of Witte [...] (London, 1592), p. 45.
 Greene, Menaphon (London, 1589), sig. A2ˇ.
 Neill, Issues of Death (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 63.
 Gilles D. Monsarrat, Light from the Porch: Stoicism and English Renaissance Literature (Paris: Didier-Erudition, 1984); Amelia Zurcher, 'Untimely Monuments: Stoicism, History, and the Problem of Utility in The Winter's Tale and Pericles', English Literary History 70.4 (2003), pp. 903-928.
 Loiola scena est Amsterodami (London, 1648), pp. 161-248.
 All quotations are taken from W. Reavley Gair's edition, see John Marston, Antonio's Revenge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978), p. 88.
 All quotations are taken from Philip Massinger, Believe as You List (London: Malone Society, 1927).
 Horace, Epistles, in Satires, Epistles, Ars Poetica, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough (London: William Heinemann, 1961), VI, 1, pp. 286-7.
 Fisher, Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences, pp. 58-9.
 Gail Kern Paster, Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2004), p. 1.
 Keir Elam, 'In What Chapter Of His Bosom?': Reading Shakespeare's Bodies', in Alternative Shakespeares, Vol. 2, ed. Terence Hawkes (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 154.
 Ibid, p. 153.
 Ibid, p. 163.
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