When scholars turn to the work of George Gascoigne, they praise his The
Pleasant Fable of Ferdinando Jeronimi and Leonora de Valasco as an Elizabethan
prose romance that influenced later writers, including Shakespeare. They also
discuss his wide-ranging writing skills and his contemporary reputation as
a craftsman of the English language that paved the way for later Elizabethans,
such as Sidney and Spenser, and, more recently, for a film adaptation of Queen
Elizabeth’s early life (1). While scholars have also noted
that Gascoigne, the “chief poet of the young Elizabeth’s court,” participated
in summer entertainments for the Queen and that he inaugurated the fashion
of making her into a goddess, they have not adequately analyzed his complicated
relations to her cult (2).
Son of Catholic Sir John Gascoigne of Cardington, Bedfordshire, schooled
at Trinity College, Cambridge, member of Gray’s Inn, and participant in Queen
Elizabeth’s coronation, Gascoigne lived a complex and eventful life as a (struggling)
gentleman (3). After the experience of courtly and financial
failure, in which he was denied an elected seat in parliament and imprisoned
for not paying his debts, Gascoigne reformed his image in a flurry of publishing
and a period of increased public exposure. In 1573, Gascoigne anonymously
published his wide-ranging collection of verse, drama, and prose fiction,
A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres. In that year, he also fought in the Netherlands
against the French and Spanish (later as a captain) under the Prince of Orange.
In 1575, he republished his poems as The Posies of George Gascoigne, Esquire,
ostensibly fashioning himself as a reformed poet who rejects his earlier,
scandalous representations of courtly love affairs and his own youthful prodigality
(4). In 1575, Gascoigne also published an influential book
of sport, The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting, in which he depicts
his and Elizabeth’s hunting together across the English landscape, stating
that “I have here set in portraiture” (94) images of the Queen in order to
exemplify the hunt (5). Entering the cult of Elizabeth in
this fashion, Gascoigne then gained service with Robert Dudley, the Earl of
Leicester, writing and acting in entertainments for Elizabeth. At the Queen’s
Kenilworth entertainment, given by Leicester in the summer of 1575, and once
more that summer at Woodstock, Gascoigne performed directly for Elizabeth
and subsequently received a royal commission in 1576 to work as her agent
or spy in France and the Low Countries. While such a position distinctly advanced
his fortunes, Gascoigne died in 1577, enjoying his new post for a relatively
short time (6).
As Gascoigne presents images of himself with the Queen in hopes of receiving
employment, his texts embody the means by which courtiers and poets writing
in the early days of the reign of Elizabeth negotiated complex relationships
with her. In this essay, I analyze the visual and verbal images of Gascoigne
and Queen Elizabeth presented in The Noble Arte of Venerie and The
Tale of Hemetes the Heremyte (1576). In four visual images and their accompanying
poetic texts, Gascoigne uses the political allegories of hunting and kneeling
before the Queen to position himself advantageously within the symbolic world
of the cult (7). Serving yet subtly containing Elizabeth’s
power, Gascoigne’s manipulation of a political petrarchan discourse that underwrites
the cult of Elizabeth communicates a complicated sense of both dependence
and control (8). While scholars have noted the multivocal
and multidirectional or contested nature of the cult of Elizabeth, they have
not applied such a nuanced understanding to Gascoigne’s visual texts.
Scholars continue to complicate the traditional image of the cult of Elizabeth
in which creative devotees happily generated unquestioned support for the
Protestant monarchy through their cultural work (9). John
King writes that “differentiation among the different ‘cults’ of the Virgin
Queen demonstrates how the royal image was fashioned dynamically by Elizabeth
and her government from above, and by her apologists and suppliants from below”
(10). Reconsidering the “Elizabethan World Picture” from
such a multivocal position, recent criticism demonstrates the many ways that
Elizabethan writers and artists negotiated support for the cult. Creating
discursive space for themselves and resisting a unified image of Elizabeth
and her court, however, artists also worked to maintain creative freedom in
the face of official images of the Queen and plans of the Tudor administration
to suppress unwanted images (11).
Representational practices surrounding the image of Elizabeth existed,
in fact, along a continuum of participation and distance from those ostensibly
normative or “official” images of the Queen (12). Rather
than simply a means of controlling the populace or seeking the Queen’s approval,
the cult embodied a contested discourse of power negotiations. As Louis Montrose
writes, “Elizabethan royal images were employed in a wide range of cultural
work, which included enhancing and subverting the charisma of the Queen; legitimating
and resisting the authority of her regime; seeking to influence royal sympathies
and policies in matters religious, civic, and military; and pursuing personal
advantage by means of royal courtship and celebration” (13).
As Gascoigne demonstrates through his own manipulation of Elizabeth’s image,
by placing herself actively within public discourse, the Queen’s image becomes
subject to others working within that discourse. As Susan Frye demonstrates,
the image of Elizabeth was thus “a locus for the competing interests of merchants,
policymakers, courtiers, and other writers.” Not simply tools used by the
Elizabethan regime, allegorical, poetic, and other images of the Queen became
the “center of represented power,” and many artists in Britain and Europe
attempted to use that center to their own ends (14).
Even with the widespread and dynamic abilities of many artists, the cult
could deploy few unassailable models to justify the subordination of men by
a woman in such a staunchly patriarchal culture. While Elizabeth and others
manipulated the familial images of mother and sister, these images did not
command unquestioned power in England’s patriarchal culture (15).
The model of men serving female saints and biblical matriarchs and the model
of the lover serving the petrarchan beloved, however, provided discursive
analogs for the awkward political, religious, and social relations created
by Elizabeth’s gender. After the Protestant Reformation had largely removed
the cult of saints from public worship, Elizabeth and her supporters transformed
the highly popular cult of the Virgin Mary into a civic glorification of the
monarch and also manipulated the biblical models of female rulers and heroines
to her advantage (16).
The culturally widespread discourse of petrarchan worship engaged by the
cult also helped Elizabeth to subordinate the political nation of men to a
chaste, desirable, and sacred beloved by using a language both familiar and
comfortable to them (17). Gascoigne, in fact, read Elizabeth
and his own creative efforts precisely within the political context of petrarchan
discourse, writing in the epilogue to Hemetes the Heremyte that “If
god wolde deigne to make, a Petrarks heire of me / The coomlyest Queene
that ever was, my Lawra nedes must be” (18). As a
petrarchan mistress, Elizabeth tacitly engages with artists, like Gascoigne,
who see her possessively as “my Lawra.” In his own extended search
for place and power in The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting and Hemetes
the Heremyte, Gascoigne directly engages and manipulates multiple (petrarchan)
images of himself with Elizabeth (19). Much more than “imaginary
representations of Gascoigne in favour with the Queen,” Hunting offers
a site at which the poet, artist, and would-be courtier fashions a powerful
and naratively developed self in the face of intense social pressures to celebrate
the Queen solely and magnify her power (20).
A variety of scholars have demonstrated that at the Tudor courts of both
Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, courtiers translated the petrarchan discourse
of love, service, and dissatisfaction for a beloved into an allegorical language
of royal compliment, political courtship, and veiled complaint. As one component
in this political petrarchan discourse, allegories of hunting played a central
role in a wide variety of texts and genres. In the Tudor period, as Wyatt’s
“Whoso List to Hunt” reminds us, artists might use “venery” or hunting as
a central allegory of petrarchan love; the lover as hunter pursued the beloved
who ran chastely away as a “hynde” or female deer (21).
Within political discourse, the figure of the hunter could also serve as an
allegorical representation of the courtier or servant seeking preferment or
bemoaning his fate or both. In Hunting, Gascoigne extends this petrarchan
allegory to construct an ideal sense of his own political and cultural identity
as well as to encode the troubled state of Elizabethan court politics.
A long, beautifully illustrated handbook, The Noble Arte of Venerie
or Hunting, influenced a broad range of readers in early modern England.
Gascoigne’s complex text teaches readers the art of hunting and focuses on
all aspects of the sport from choosing and training hunting dogs to particular
methods of tracking, chasing, killing, and cleaning a variety of hunted animals.
Hunting manuals like Gascoigne’s were highly popular in the period. The medieval
hunting manual The Boke of St. Albans, for example, was republished
fifteen times in the sixteenth century. A relatively influential text itself,
in fact “the most cited of the Elizabethan hunting treatises,” Gascoigne’s
Hunting deserves a more complete contextualization within the cult
of Elizabeth than has been previously provided (22). As
translator, interpolator, and author, Gascoigne not only channels the work
of others but also adds his own unique contributions to Hunting. Gascoigne
or an artist directed by him renders three images of his and Elizabeth’s hunting
across the English landscape that together create a symbolic narrative of
courtly desire, assertion, and fulfillment.
Gascoigne connects the first two visual images of Queen Elizabeth in Hunting
with a strange story that projects an initially utopian but finally sarcastic
sense of the court. In the section titled “of the place where and howe an
assembly should be made, in the presence of a Prince, or some honorable person,”
Gascoigne first describes the proper place to set up such an “assembly” or
the sumptuous feast that often took place before a hunt. The feast must take
place, as he instructs readers, in a beautiful “gladsome greene” “or Paradise.”
Further evoking an edenic retreat, Gascoigne constructs this environment,
Under shade of stately trees, where little sunne is seene:
And neare some fountaine springe, whose chrystall running streames,
May help to coole the parching heate, ycaught by Phoebus beames.
Altogether, the perfect place to entertain a prince enjoying the hunt is “where
pleasure dwels at large, / Which Princes seeke in Pallaces, with payne and
costly charge” (91). While the “shade of stately trees” might protect the
monarch and her favorites from the harmful rays of the “sunne,” Gascoigne’s
glance at the “costly charge” of princely excess potentially frustrates hopes
for a comprehensive peace offered in this putatively edenic space.
Facing the verse description of this pastoral landscape, Gascoigne’s text
presents a woodblock print of Queen Elizabeth in a pastoral glade, where she
observes courtiers, ladies-in-waiting, and frolicking children (see fig. 1).
Dressed in beautiful clothing, these courtiers and children eat a bountiful
feast and drink from beautifully crafted goblets. Elizabeth sits on an unseen
stool or chair with her back to a shade tree as one of two flanked courtiers
holds open a covered container, offering her a drink. The Queen, however,
looks directly at the would-be courtier Gascoigne, who kneels before her on
one knee as she motions with her right hand for him to come closer. In removing
from the picnic image any sign of workers or dog trainers, Gascoigne’s visual
text reinforces his poetic construction of an edenic, pastoral landscape (23).
Where plainly dressed dog-handlers and trackers populate the many images of
woodland glades in the rest of his text, here they remain conspicuously absent.
Gascoigne dresses all members of the picnic assembly in costly, fashionable
attire, graphically removing all signs of the lower classes and their labor.
Effacing the social differences and hierarchies that materially constituted
the complex ritual practices of hunting, Gascoigne’s visual text initially
constructs a utopian and Italianate pastoral setting that buries class and
courtly conflict, as well as the intensive labor required for the feast and
the hunt, in favor of an apolitical, classless community in which everyone
enjoys leisure and relative equality (24).
Figure 1: George Gascoigne, The Noble Art of
Venerie or Hunting (1575)
Used by permission of The Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery.
The would-be courtier, however, almost immediately troubles the pastoral
“paradise” represented in the picture, providing readers with an alternative
understanding of such a hunting scene. In the midst of his verse description
of the picnic, Gascoigne introduces a unique vignette in which a butler (or
“doctor”) and a cook fight a battle in which meat, drink, and hunger become
allegorical weapons in a battle to see who can “winne his Princes thanke”
(92). As Gascoigne’s descriptive poem continues, a group of huntsmen interrupt
the comic battle of dueling waiters.
Herewith to stint all stryfe, the huntsmen come in hast,
They licence crave of King or Queene, to see their battell plast.
Which graunted and obtaynde, they set on such as lyve,
And fiercely fight, till both be forst, all armour up to give. (93)
Through this humorous catering allegory, Gascoigne asserts that life at the
Elizabethan court—whether hunting, on progress, or in “Pallaces”—consists
of a social battle in which competing servants fight to “winne his Princes
thanke.” Through such a battle, Gascoigne’s poetic allegory recreates a courtly
environment in which social conflict abounds. When we recognize with Roger
Manning that hunting represented both a symbolic substitute and preparation
for war in the sixteenth century, Gascoigne’s transformation of the rituals
of hunting into symbols of courtly infighting seems quite apt, recalling,
moreover, Gascoigne’s unhappy youthful experience manipulated by rapacious
courtiers (25). Using this absurd battle of provender to
parody the courtly battle for preference and position within the court, the
poetry and visual image together construct the Queen in an emblematic tableau,
overseeing the elite assembly and tacitly giving “licence” to the battle for
Alone, the printed image of Elizabeth smiling upon the picnicking Gascoigne
contains or hides such subversive elements by depicting an Elysian field where
bounty and pleasure obtain. However, in providing an ironic distance between
the visual text and the comic poetry, which reconstructs this scene as courtly
combat, Gascoigne provides readers with an interpretive dissonance or reading
strategy that asks them to look beyond the obvious—beyond what Edward Berry
sees as the “dominant tone” of celebration in the text—to latent or covert
meanings, perhaps pictorially and textually utilizing what one critic refers
to as the “doubly reflective language” Gascoigne uses elsewhere (26).
As the combination of text and image offers here in Hunting, Gascoigne’s
doubly reflective language points in two directions at once. To readers paging
through the text and casually observing the woodblock image of Elizabeth and
her court, Gascoigne appears to celebrate the beauty and opulence of the cult.
However, to readers simultaneously engaged critically with the written text,
Gascoigne markedly qualifies that idealistic pictorial celebration and invites
them to look for alternative, less ideal meanings.
The image of the Queen beckoning the hunter Gascoigne forward thus sets
in motion a figurative and narrative process of Elizabethan service, reward,
and critique that continues to provide dual registers of observation and interpretation.
As a pastoral landscape in which kneeling suitors serve the Queen in a ritualized
hunt, this complex textual and visual image of the picnicking Elizabeth offers
a petrarchan reading—as Gascoigne’s wider ownership of the Queen as “my Lawra”
indicates. In fact, kneeling before Queen Elizabeth in this fashion embodies
the petrarchan practice of metaphorically and literally kneeling before one’s
beloved, as well as the customary ritual subservience to one’s monarch or
liege. In this case, Gascoigne kneels before the national beloved Elizabeth,
an identification the Queen, her courtiers, and others actively cultivated
(27). In this Hunting image, the text positions the
would-be courtier Gascoigne not outside of court politics but as yet another
courtier proactively seeking grace from the Queen. Addressing Elizabeth, the
hunter Gascoigne suggests,
Perchance the fight, which sodenly you saw,
Erstwhyles betweene, these overbragging bluddes
Amasde your mynde, and for a whyle did draw
Your noble eyes, to settle on such suddes.
But peerlesse Prince, the moisture of such muddes,
Is much too grosse and homely for your grace,
Behold them not, their pleasures be but base. (93)
Here Gascoigne aggressively competes for the attention of the monarch and
represents her as susceptible to manipulation and captivation through her
“noble eyes.” Gascoigne wishes for those royal eyes to “settle” upon him and
reject what he actively constructs as the low culture or “base,” muddy spectacle
that “amasde” her mind. In this sense of queenly amazement, Gascoigne imaginatively
subjects Elizabeth to the power of spectacle and discursively prevents her
from acting solely as a purveyor of her own powerful image. He asserts that
Elizabeth’s “mynde” would be “amasde” by the strange battle perhaps because
he wishes to assert that she remains receptive to his spectacular images,
that his woodblock or poetic images or both will “draw” or command and direct
her “noble eyes” and mind. Without any guarantee that readers will accept
such a claim, Gascoigne nevertheless provides a hermeneutic that submits the
(royal) viewer to a gaze defined and directed by Gascoigne the poet and alternately
by the images he engages in Hunting.
Rather than allowing her to gaze only upon what he defines as those worthless
“suddes” or “dregs” and “leavings” (OED 1), the poet compels the Queen to
“behold them not” but “behold us here, your true and trustie men, / Your huntes,
your hyndes, your swaynes at all assayes” (93-94). With this set of appellations,
Gascoigne equates the printed image of courtiers with idealized hunters, i.e.,
“true and trustie men,” thereby evoking the “trusty” military bravado of aggressive
masculinity as well as the sense of fidelity that lovers and servants regularly
claimed. As we recall from Wyatt, the term “hyndes” refers both to female
deer and the sought-after beloved (28). From these dual
registers of courting and hunting, then, Gascoigne combines military service
for Elizabeth, as “swaynes,” with a hunting allegory that simultaneously transforms
her courtiers into “hyndes” or deer. Gascoigne’s poetic appellations suggest
that, as allegorical deer, courtiers become potentially subject to Queen Elizabeth
in her role as consummate hunter. While set within a practical manual of hunting,
Gascoigne’s combination of poetry and picture evokes multiple frames of reference
to convey a number of contemporary contexts in which these images create meaning
beyond sport. The construction of a pastoral forest, the story of battling
cooks, and the depiction of attention-seeking “swains” or “hyndes” multiply
evoke a less-than-ideal petrarchan discourse and depict Gascoigne as a courtier
working for “grace” or the right to serve the Queen, if he can avoid becoming
the hunted “hynde” or out-of-favor courtier.
While Gascoigne elsewhere admits to embodying this characteristically courtly
combination of power and weakness, scholars have primarily focused on the
representations of his weakness or dependence, thereby underestimating the
complexity of both Gascoigne’s art and Elizabethan discourse. However, as
he writes specifically for courtiers and the Queen, Gascoigne offers a flexible
discursive strategy that asserts the power of spectacular images over all
readers, including Elizabeth (29). In asserting the power
of his own images as well as the Queen’s susceptibility to them, Gascoigne
places himself actively within the tradition of offering both advice and complaint
to the monarch.
Even after the narrator Gascoigne draws attention away from the fighting
servants as part of his courtly complaint and pursuit, the competition for
what he has dubbed Elizabeth’s “grace” continues. Within the narrative of
the hunt, the Queen must now choose which hunter to follow. In this hunting
context, Gascoigne presents a description of how each hunter reports to the
“Prince or master of the game in field” (94) what quality of deer he has tracked,
as well as the great effort and skill used in doing so. Reading the butler’s
battle text takes readers from the image of Elizabeth’s picnic assembly to
an image of Elizabeth at the edge of a wood. Surrounded by courtiers and ladies-in-waiting,
Elizabeth waits on a raised wooden platform or “standing,” receiving a report
from Gascoigne (see fig. 2). She motions with her finger for the courtier
Gascoigne to come forward as she holds what appears to be an olive branch
in her hand, which may fashion this scene as an allegorical tableau (30).
Gascoigne seizes upon this part of the hunt and records, “for the better declaration
and lively expressing of all these things, I have here set in portraiture
as well an assembly, as also the present of a report made by a huntsman to
a Prince upon sight of Slot, view, entrie, portes, abatures, fewmishings,
and such other tokens” used by hunters to analyze game (94) (31).
With his hunting dog tethered to his side, Gascoigne kneels upon one knee
and offers Elizabeth the physical evidence of his successful deer tracking.
Upon receiving the report, Elizabeth would decide which quarry to pursue.
Figure 2: George Gascoigne, The Noble Art of
Venerie or Hunting (1575)
Used by permission of The Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery.
Within the courtly context of Gascoigne’s allegorical framing narrative,
Elizabeth momentarily brings peace to courtly combat through her choice of
one courtier. Other artists similarly depicted Elizabeth with an olive branch
as the allegorical figure Pax in contemporary portraits and images.
The ca. 1572 “Allegory of the Tudor Succession,” for example, depicts Elizabeth’s
escorting Peace (the latter holding an olive branch) and bringing concord
and plenty to an England previously threatened by Queen Mary’s warlike Catholicism.
Painted by Lucas de Heere, an artist aligned with the Robert Dudley, the Earl
of Leicester, “Allegory” may have been known to Gascoigne, who became a client
of the Earl’s shortly after publishing Hunting(32).
In any case, choosing Gascoigne out of the battling fray of the court, Elizabeth
performs her noble role as master hunter and wise monarch momentarily ending
Like other social performances, the representation of the hunter’s report
remains enmeshed within a cultural matrix of accepted norms, behaviors, and
verbal codes, which Gascoigne has been teaching readers throughout Hunting
(33). Central among other such hunting codes, the “fewmishings”
Gascoigne depicts represent deer scat, which was examined to measure a tracked
deer’s health, thereby communicating the degree of enjoyable challenge and
reward awaiting the hunter. Within this overt context, the stage image of
a discerning Elizabeth examining deer scat constructs the Queen as a consummate
hunter performing her role as arbiter and choice maker, the judge of hunters,
beasts, and courtiers alike. As Manning writes, moreover, “the pleasures of
the hunt or her own amusement were of secondary consideration to spreading
the cult of Gloriana and enhancing the royal mystique. Thus, hunting
at the Elizabethan court had become merely another pretext for lavish theatrical
displays which made the Queen’s subjects admire her all the more” (34).
Gascoigne’s Hunting provides one representation of Elizabethan hunting
as allegorical and “theatrical display” but does so by perhaps making Gascoigne
a central actor in the performance; he ‘shares the spotlight’ with the Queen
as a member of an ensemble cast.
Rather than simply disappearing behind the “royal mystique” of the Elizabethan
image, the text positions Gascoigne within the penumbra of Elizabeth’s specular
presence in order to make him a glowing spectacle as well. At this allegorical,
courtly site, Gascoigne’s text adapts the cult’s tendency to make hunting
into royal display but does so by deploying this staged image as evidence
that he can perform consummate courtly service. As a petrarchan political
language, Gascoigne’s allegorical self-presentation constructs him not simply
as a successful hunter but as a successful courtier. This depicted and visually
enacted performance must be read, however, as complexly ironic because in
his previously published poem “Gascoigne’s Wodmanship,” the poet admitted
to being a lousy hunter even as the text worked to assert other forms of social
and moral power (35). In the context of such a multivalent
self-presentation, teaching others to hunt through his translation, ostensibly
leading Elizabeth to the best quarry, and staging his own successful ritual
performance, Gascoigne presents himself here as an idealistic figure distinct
from the portrait of court intrigue and conflict he had initially provided.
His earlier poetic construction of a chaotic court thus provides a useful
foil that accentuates his ideal social performance here.
Gale Carrithers and James Hardy have aptly detailed the early modern truism
that “all the world’s a stage,” whereon individuals actively fashioned themselves
performing the kind of ideally spectacular roles Gascoigne presents. Carrithers
and Hardy succinctly analyze the trope of early modern public life as performance
in the theatrum mundi:
More than simple rank (if such could even be imagined) was displayed;
approved social posture and attitudes were also presented. The presentation
of virtue or triumph rivaled rank in importance, for the great were also
the guarantors of right order. In the Renaissance, art alone possessed the
potentiality to display triumphant virtue, so conspicuously lacking in mere
political and theological polemic. (36)
Where Elizabeth ostensibly provides both the symbolic and political guaranty
of “right order,” the image of Gascoigne also transcends a relatively “simple
rank” to represent the courtier as embodying “approved social posture
and attitudes.” Within the formal construct of Elizabeth’s staged performance,
the text positions Gascoigne not outside of the theatrum mundi but
within an increasingly closer, publicly performed relationship with the Queen.
Where scholars have tended to focus primarily on Elizabeth’s image in this
woodblock print, it should be noted that she shares the public performance
with Gascoigne; she stands in the midst of a ritual that requires an interlocutor
to find and present possible game to her discerning view. As an author presenting
his own performance through this staging, Gascoigne seizes the “potentiality”
of art to create power through performance. Although scholars have aptly noted
that Gascoigne lived “the life of someone very, very near—and never very quite
near enough—to power,” here Gascoigne places himself at the center of the
Elizabethan political world and discursively adapts that power to his own
(hoped for) benefit through his deployment of Elizabeth’s image, which he
tells readers he has “set in portraiture” (37).
As Harry Berger demonstrates, early modern artists working in “portraiture,”
engaged actively in fashioning the social “masks” or virtuous identities embodied
overtly in Gascoigne’s portraiture. Not unlike Carrithers and Hardy, Berger
focuses our attention on “the visual or scopic dimension of the dominant discourses
by which a culture constructs its subjects to imagine and represent themselves”
(38). Influenced by Renaissance humanism and neoplatonic
idealism, early modern pictorial images of individuals like Gascoigne and
Elizabeth provided the discursive exempla needed by both the individual
and the state. In a society increasingly open to and dependent upon self-fashioning
as a means of establishing identity, as Berger following Stephen Greenblatt
and others indicates, such pictorial images served the cultural, political,
and personal need “for exemplary images; images that commemorate the individual
as the model, the embodiment, of the status, values, norms, and authority
of a particular class, lineage, institution, or profession” (39).
Evoking this exemplary or representative sense of identity performance, when
Gascoigne seeks and obtains Elizabeth’s empowering attention and, in turn,
presents an ideal image of himself—as a courtier gazed upon by other courtiers
in the staged image—he deploys the pictorial embodiment of Elizabeth to construct
his own ideal “status” and, most importantly, “authority” in “a particular
class.” The logic of courtly discourse necessarily requires the depiction
of the Queen yet would remain incomplete without the complimentary and discursively
aligned representation of the best and brightest courtiers like Gascoigne.
The self-fashioned and fashioning visual images provided in Hunting
enable Gascoigne to construct himself as an ideal courtier and public exemplum,
preventing us from simply reading Elizabeth as the only or dominant figure
in these hunting representations. Evoking a general theoretical sense of Gascoigne’s
specific claim that every viewer, including the Queen, remains subject to
the power of spectacle, Stephen Orgel demonstrates that artists and courtiers
readily used images of themselves with the Queen to establish their own identities.
In such artistic acts, which enable the “creation of the public self,” the
artist or patron presents him- or herself
The way he wants to be seen—above all, the way he wants to see
himself. In such a performance, any distinction between actors and audience
will be misleading. The protagonist is the audience, and other spectators,
to view the spectacle correctly, must see it through his eyes. The persona
he adopts, his mask, is not intended as a disguise but as a revelation:
of the truest, essential, Platonic self. (40)
The woodblock prints Gascoigne includes in Hunting and the performances
they embody rely upon this early modern aesthetic practice of picture as ideal
spectacle and individual as political actor in the theatrum mundi.
By the time Gascoigne entered the sphere of Elizabeth’s influence, this ubiquitous
specular practice had become a primary and effective means of self-fashioning
and political rhetoric. Rather than ceding representational power solely to
normative images of the monarch, here Orgel confirms that pictures embodied
the desires of the individual protagonist: “the way he wants to see himself.”
Other scholars, furthermore, have also established that portraits of Elizabeth
could be read with courtiers as the foci of those pictures (41).
In this broader aesthetic context, Gascoigne uses images of the Queen to construct
his own ideal self: she partly serves as the spectacular light that illuminates,
displays, and accentuates his own power and identity.
By focusing attention and analysis solely or primarily on Elizabeth, however,
cultural historians often forward a unidirectional model of the cult and its
power. Such unflinching visual and modern critical focus on the Queen in these
multiperspectival and multisubject pictures forwards a simplified historiography
and adopts a monolithic aesthetics of the Queen, which she and her advisors
readily forwarded. In fact, Elizabeth famously promulgated such a monolithic
aesthetics herself, indicating to members of Parliament, “we Princes are set
on stages in the sight and view of all the world duly observed” (42).
Elizabeth’s use of “duly,” meaning “in a manner agreeable to obligation or
propriety; as is due, rightly, properly, fitly” (OED 1), offers a hegemonic
understanding of observation constituting the “view of all the world.” Subjects,
that is, must view the Queen and all “Princes” “rightly” or in line with the
sense of “propriety” defined, in this case, by Elizabeth and her counselors.
Representing one group of readers who replicate this monolithic perspective,
Leonard Tennenhouse suggests that “the very nature of the institution of monarchy
was such that the monarch was always the object of public attention, constituting
the court around him, in full view at all times, and the single figure upon
whom everyone else gazed” (43). Hunting, however,
positions the courtly Gascoigne as yet another “object” of attention gazed
upon by other courtiers and the Queen, thereby literally embodying a multisubject
aesthetics in which Elizabeth represents only one subject or focus. Gascoigne,
moreover, incorporates contemporary European portrait aesthetics into his
writing, an aesthetics, which emphasizes group identity over hierarchical
Tennenhouse’s apparent replication of Elizabeth’s hegemonic mode of reading
turns attention away from the multiple modes of reading offered by other authors
and artists seeking power and self-construction through the strategic deployment
of redolent images of the Queen. Not unlike a modern corporation using the
image of a film star to improve the brand image of its product, men like Gascoigne
used Elizabeth to improve their own “brand image” or self-fashioned identities.
Although such fashioned identities may have been highly ephemeral and readily
rejected, the quality of the performance could (and for Gascoigne did) lead
the performer to success. Scholars have shown, in fact, that Gascoigne’s success
was so “dazzling” that he produced a body of “disciples” and “imitators,”
which Marie Axton dubs the “school of Gascoigne,” and created a posthumous
Elizabethan reputation as a poet, the “bringer of [poetic] order,” second
only to Spenser (45).
Gascoigne’s strategy of praising Elizabeth at the same time that he glorifies
his own power in Hunting proved dazzling enough to create not only
a posthumous reputation for the struggling gentleman but also proved effective
enough to draw the immediate attention of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester,
“one of the most influential men in England.” In the three week long Kenilworth
entertainments he produced for Elizabeth later in the same year that he published
Hunting, as Ilana Nash establishes, Gascoigne wrote and acted in a
series of performances that consistently praised both Elizabeth and Leicester,
as well as pursuing his own self-promotion (46). In fact,
very much as he presented himself in Hunting, Gascoigne designed a
series of entertainments “that advertised” Leicester’s “authority and high
position nearly as much as it did the queen’s” (47). Recognizing
here that Gascoigne uses the same double register of self-promotion and queenly
accolade in Hunting that he does in his later work at Kenilworth, we
can confirm the claim that “it could have been the publication of the Noble
Arte which attracted Leicester’s attention” (48). In
reading The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting, Leicester recognized
in Gascoigne the useful ability to improve one’s own power and reputation
in the same moment that one glorifies the Queen. Writing that Gascoigne’s
work at Kenilworth “illustrates the two constant themes of Dudley’s life:
a belief in his exalted status, and his desire for Elizabeth to recognize
and increase that status,” Nash could just as easily be referring to Gascoigne’s
ideal self-construction in Hunting and elsewhere (49).
Although Leicester’s use of Gascoigne’s literary entertainments resulted largely
in the Queen’s displeasure with the Earl, Gascoigne’s self-presentation achieved
what he intended, providing him with much needed employment and access to
The final self-image Gascoigne provides in The Booke of Venerie or Hunting
continues the cultural fantasy of successful courtly performance but simultaneously
negotiates a potential threat that he sees as endemic to the cult of Elizabeth.
In the chapter “An advertisement by the Translator of the English manner,
in breaking up of the Deare” (132-135), Gascoigne explains the unique English
custom in which the leader of the hunt tests the quality of the venison by
cutting into the animal and measuring the thickness of its fat. In the accompanying
image, the Queen stands next to a fallen deer beside Gascoigne (see fig. 3).
Elizabeth has chosen the kneeling Gascoigne as her guide and has brought down
the deer he originally tracked. Other courtier-hunters, holding spears or
horns, and footmen, holding her horse, stand around Gascoigne and the Queen
as he kneels and offers her a large knife, which she will use to cut the beast
open. As the representation of “the English manner,” the image of Elizabeth
attended by male courtiers represents the Queen as the defining focus of the
Elizabethan political community and an emblem of national identity. While
Gascoigne thus evokes the wider pictorial and poetic practice of making Elizabeth
the axis mundi of British culture, this image also subtly undermines
the normally hierarchical relationship between Queen and courtier (50).
Figure 3: George Gascoigne, The Noble Art of
Venerie or Hunting (1575)
Used by permission of The Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery.
As the culmination of his efforts on her behalf, this ritualistic scene
of carving the fallen deer represents Gascoigne’s courtly success within the
cult. Beckoning to the hunter to come close to her in the picnic image, Elizabeth
initiated this allegorical and courtly journey. Such an image embodied the
motivating power of the Queen to choose courtiers and servants based upon
her own assessment of their abilities (51). Initially, Gascoigne’s
text depicted Elizabeth as hailing him literally and ideologically into the
subject position of a political lover and servant, as his verse deployment
of “swaynes” and “hynde” suggests. Yet, Gascoigne also suggests that such
initial acceptance will not maintain the Queen’s favor nor will the Queen
be able to entirely limit the subject’s agency, because as the continuation
of the hunt and capture of the deer imply, Elizabeth becomes immediately dependent
upon continued performance and service. Gascoigne thus represents power dynamics
in the cult as reciprocal and interdependent and not emanating solely from
a deified monarch, thereby engaging contemporary political theory, as we shall
In the final self-portrait provided in Hunting, moreover¸ Gascoigne
kneels before Elizabeth but takes the central position in the image, which
also subtly suggests Elizabeth’s dependence upon him. His spatial centrality
in the foreground of the image, the illusion of movement created by his outstretched
arm, and his dominant position over the immense body of the magnificent deer
all construct him as a powerful man, consummate hunter, and visual
spectacle. While Berry is generally correct that “the dominance of the Queen
herself is overwhelming” in Gascoigne’s text, Gascoigne transfers some of
that dominance or power to himself (52). In essence, the
constitutive fantasy of court service brings Gascoigne to center stage in
an allegorical landscape in which he commands the coveted gaze of the monarch
and courtiers, a gaze that he had represented as desired by all. As the Queen
gazes directly and only at him as he desired in the picnic scene, the
image embodies Gascoigne’s political victory.
Gascoigne further constructs his own successful role in this butchering
image by underscoring that this scene represents the key moment in the social
and figurative performance of the hunt: a moment in which he remains the ideal
and delays Elizabeth from fulfilling her function as supreme hunter and leader.
As he explains, English men and women hunt in a different way than the continental
authors he has collated, translated, and expanded. “We use,” he writes, “some
ceremonie in taking out the shoulder” of the deer once it has been brought
down (134-135). Recognizing that this moment in the English hunt represents
a significant and central social performance, i.e., “ceremonie,” Gascoigne
explains that as the prince or chief hunter skins the deer, he or she must
perform with exacting precision. Once the prince has cut into the deer, “there
he rayseth out the synew or muskle with his knyfe, and putteth his forefinger
of his left hand, through under the sayd muscle to hold the legge by. If afterwerdes,
he touch the shoulder or any part of the legge, with any other thing than
his knife, until he have taken it out, it is a forfayture, and he is thought
no handsome woodman” (134-135; my emphasis). High-stakes butchering
at its best, the public performance of this arcane “ceremonie” determines
the ability of the hunter and thus the identity of the prince. Within the
context of this highly evocative ritual and within the context of their tenaciously
ritualistic culture, Gascoigne presents himself as the one handing the huge
carving knife to the Queen. Since this moment requires the monarch to perform
her true identity qua monarch and since the hunter directly and manifestly
enables her to perform that identity, the image ritually and allegorically
constructs the courtier Gascoigne as the indispensable individual who empowers
Elizabeth to be Queen.
As he appears to hand Elizabeth the knife, Gascoigne also represents the
Queen as a threatening monarch. Within his text and the larger culture, hunting
constituted political identity and represented the quintessential masculine
practice; Gascoigne’s text reconstructs the predominately masculine character
of this discourse through the distinctly gendered “handsome woodman”
he describes in the sporting manual. Gascoigne nevertheless represents the
female monarch as an excellent hunter who can choose the right deer to hunt,
track, and potentially kill. Even as she performs this traditionally masculine
role attired in a highly feminine dress, she reaches for a large, threatening
knife. Her hand is poised in midair set to take the knife and skin the venison,
much as her hand was raised holding a symbol of peace in the staged image
and poised in midair in the picnic image beckoning to Gascoigne to come close
and receive her benison. Within the allegorical world of political service
represented by the text, her hand thus represents her cultural, political,
and legal power. Where Hunting represented her power as bringing employment
and peace in the first two images, here in the final butchery image, the text
allegorically represents her power as threatening ritual dismemberment and
death. While Gascoigne’s text represents her without the knife, she reaches
for it, promising to enact her social role(s) as butcher-monarch. Such an
awareness of the life-giving and life-taking power of the Queen served Gascoigne
well, for this awareness earned the Earl of Leicester’s attention and employment
at Kenilworth, where Gascoigne again represented Elizabeth in this same simultaneously
supportive and threatening manner (53).
While Hunting admits the promise of the Queen’s disabling power
in a similar fashion, within the momentary space of offering and not
giving the knife to her, the butchery image briefly maintains Gascoigne’s
own efficacy. Again, Elizabeth’s raised hand in the picnic image represents
her power to choose, and her hand holding the emblem of peace and motioning
Gascoigne forward represents her ability to settle courtly discord. Here,
however, the threatening hand also momentarily represents her dependence,
because she does not hold the knife but only reaches for it; the text
represents her not cutting into the deer. In the moment in which Elizabeth
must perform perfectly to demonstrate her cultural agency, her “handsome”
or skilled (OED 2b) “woodman-ship,” Gascoigne prevents her from pictorially
doing so. Both the assembly picnic and stage images depict Elizabeth in the
midst of social performances, thereby representing and giving her power
through the depiction of those performances. In the butchering image, however,
she has yet to take the knife or cut into the deer. Berry correctly argues,
“in no other activity, political, religious, or social, was the Queen’s authority
so absolute as in the hunt” yet Gascoigne here pictorially and imaginatively
contains that authority. The “absolute” nature of the Queen’s power in the
hunt further underscores Gascoigne’s bold move. Elizabeth was known to have
slit the throat of a stag, as well as other hunting feats, so there is little
reason for Gascoigne not to represent her cutting into the beast, especially
in light of the cultural power afforded her by the hunt (54).
Within the context of those other images that make her into a consummate
hunter through performance, the lack of action in what has been constructed
as a semisacred vitalizing social ritual shifts from a recognition, to an
assertion of Gascoigne’s discursive power. Stopping time, the image contains
Elizabeth’s performance and display of power. Pictorially stopping what Catherine
Bates has more generally identified as the courtly “cycle of reciprocity,”
Gascoigne works to save himself or imaginatively preserve his own sense of
agency (55). In contrast to Elizabeth, he has completed
his assigned role; therefore, he can be said to pictorially and performatively
embody the ideal hunter in this pregnant moment. In subtly but distinctly
containing or momentarily postponing the Queen’s performance of her most ideal
identity, Gascoigne, then, noticeably shifts focus to the hunter as the embodiment
of the ideal courtier and man.
Deploying hunting as a cultural allegory for the courtly pursuit of preferment,
Gascoigne uses the image of the deer to embody a multiplicity of perspectives,
as do the overlapping narrative and temporal perspectives he constructs within
his other works (56). As we recall from the first Hunting
image, Gascoigne had allegorically equated courtiers to hunted deer. In this
allegorical context, when he positions himself as a power-holding (i.e., knife-holding)
courtier enabling the hunting Elizabeth to bring down such a deer, he becomes
a hunter of other courtiers. The image of a fallen stag lying below him thus
seems suggestive and appropriate. From this allegorical perspective, one might
read Elizabeth as a hunting Diana in Gascoigne’s text. In the traditional
and apropos myth of Actaeon and Diana, for example, Actaeon stumbles upon
the naked goddess bathing who turns him into a buck who is hunted down by
his friends and dogs. While the Elizabethan cult of the Virgin Diana did not
blossom until after 1580, in the Kenilworth entertainments presented in the
same year as the publication of Hunting, Gascoigne was apparently the
first to represent Elizabeth as the hunting goddess Diana, making her completely
helpless in the hunt and entirely dependant upon a man (Leicester), even though
she had turned her previous lovers into strange beasts like Actaeon (57).
While Gascoigne’s text provides the hunting Elizabeth with a much greater
degree of power than that given to her in the later Kenilworth texts, Gascoigne’s
representation of Elizabeth as Diana in that later text echoes the allegorical
meaning of the images he presents in the sporting manual. Thus, the male deer
depicted in Gascoigne’s butchery print, as well as Gascoigne’s verse identification
of courtiers and servants as hyndes, aptly represents those courtiers who
fall foul of her pleasure and are hunted down by Diana-Elizabeth and her male
courtiers. In pictorially preventing Elizabeth from cutting into the deer
in his published picture, Gascoigne prevents anyone, including himself, from
becoming the hunted “hynde.” Despite such discursively negotiated fears, in
1576 Gascoigne advanced his position in the Queen’s eyes by again successfully
deploying the political semiotics of kneeling before her.
Gascoigne’s self portrait crafted as the frontispiece to his Tale of
Hemetes the Heremyte (1576) also depicts his kneeling before the Queen
and provides a sense of ideal fulfillment to the symbolic and visual narrative
of courtly desire, service, and assertion begun in The Noble Arte of Venerie
or Hunting. Recognizing Gascoigne’s efforts, Gillian Austen writes that
the Hemetes image “offers another version of ‘Gascoigne,’” his “most
explicit bid for laureation; and it suggests a degree of familiarity between
poet and monarch.” While Austen also writes that the “frontispiece to Hemetes
may have another level of reference to previous encounters with the Queen,”
scholars have not traced the full development of Gascoigne’s narrative of
royal service through Hunting to Hemetes (58).
Figure 4: George Gascoigne, The Tale of Hemetes the Heremyte (1576)
Used by permission of the British Library.
In the summer of 1575, Gascoigne participated in an entertainment for Elizabeth
at Woodstock where she commanded him to write out the masque that had been
performed, which he then presented to her as The Tale of Hemetes for
a New Year’s gift. As “a form of encoded lobbying” for preferment, his self-representation
in this image confirms the foregoing reconstruction of the aggressive aesthetics
of courtly self-presentation provided in his Hunting (59).
Instead of kneeling and pleading for attention as the picnic text constructs,
in this Hemetes version, he kneels before the Queen and actively presents
her with the book she has commanded him to write (see fig. 4) (60).
Pictured with pen, sword, and lance, Gascoigne’s martial service fuses with
the poetic laurel of success hovering over him. Where the picnic image of
the Queen in Hunting had depicted her sitting under a tree and beckoning
the kneeling hunter Gascoigne forward, the Hemetes frontispiece pictures
her sitting motionless on her throne, smiling broadly and approvingly at the
The Hemetes image emblematically figures successful courtly performance
as well as a powerful political identity for the soldier. Having translated
the masque into a number of different languages, Gascoigne enacts a complex
social performance. Using the pictorial semiotics of petrarchanism perfected
earlier in The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting, Gascoigne’s accompanying
visual image allegorizes and visually embodies successful performance. Where
the Hunting images embodied Elizabeth’s power through the illusion
of her movement, here in Hemetes, by contrast, her total lack of movement
might be read as another attempt at containing her power. Reiterating but
qualifying the allegorical language evoked by the visual image, Gascoigne
provides yet another written text that directs readers to a specific understanding
of the visual image he constructs. He writes,
Beholde (good Quene) A poet with a Speare
(straunge sights well markt are understode the better)
A Soldyer armed, with pensile in his eare
With pen to fighte, and sworde to wryte a letter.
His gown haulffe of[f], his blade not fully bownde
In dowbtfull doompes, which waye were best to take
With humble harte, and knees that kysse the grownnde
Presenntes hymsellfe, to you for dewtyes sake
And thus he saithe, no daunger (I protest)
Shall ever lett this loyall harte I beare
To serve you so as maye become me beste
In feilde, in Towne, in Cowrte, or any where.
Then peereless prince, employe this willinge man
In your affayres to do the beste he cann. (61)
In potentially pathetic and depressive “dowbtfull dompes,” with a “humble”
“loyall harte,” and with “knees that kysse the grownde,” Gascoigne constructs
himself in a misleadingly vulnerable position similar to the one constructed
in Hunting. The poet, however, magnifies his own effectual power by
asserting his ability to act “in fielde, in Towne, in Cowrte, or any where,”
therein commanding each of the recognized Elizabethan public spheres: the
battlefield, London and/or Westminster (“Towne”), and Elizabeth’s court. Gascoigne’s
resultant geographical ubiquity translates as tremendous social and political
reach as a “willinge man” uniquely capable for employment, yet in ending such
a description with the claim that he can serve “any where,” he connects his
presence in her court to the whole world, including the hunting fields he
shared with her in his hunting text and perhaps at Kenilworth the preceding
summer. In effect, such a universalizing self-construction works to lift Gascoigne
off the printed page. Recalling the ironic combination of text and picture
in Hunting, his verse and pictorial description in Hemetes imaginatively
and paradoxically combine to cast Gascoigne’s political skill as not contained
or limited by courtly discourse. This ideal and poetically overt self-construction
compliments the thematization of the poet’s hidden power, which R. W. Maslen
sees as operative in Hemetes (62).
In Hemetes, Gascoigne manipulates and relies upon numerous forms
of identity as well as the cultural dynamics that make Queen Elizabeth the
axis mundi of British culture, as we have seen. As axis mundi,
Elizabeth remains in some senses fixed as the central point around
which the rest of her culture defines itself. In this Hemetes image,
Gascoigne presents Elizabeth as such a fixed, powerful, and unmoved mover,
placing himself alone at that Elizabethan center. In simultaneously constructing
himself as ubiquitously present any and everywhere in “towne” and at “cowrte,”
Gascoigne transcends the fixity of the cultural axis and makes himself a free-ranging
agent. The ostensible paradox of his vast mobility and immovable fixity, however,
aptly reflects the cultural dynamics of the axis mundi. As Mircea Eliade
establishes, individuals feel “the need to live at the Center always—like
the Achilpa, who, as we saw, always carried the sacred pole, the axis mundi,
with them, so that they should never be far from the Center and remain in
communication with the supraterrestrial world” (63). By
dedicating his pen and sword to Elizabeth, those powerful self-fashioning
tools simultaneously become totemic synecdoches of her and her power.
In this cultural context carrying his spear, he carries his own sacred
pole, his own axis mundi, and therein embodies the sense of culturally
and individually definitive mobility guaranteed by the sacred figure of Elizabeth.
Gascoigne fully recognizes the efficacious power of making the monarch into
a scared being, for he had strategically transformed Elizabeth into a “supraterrestrial”
goddess the preceding summer. Echoing this strategic aesthetics, the visual
text in Hemetes places Gascoigne at the sacred center of his culture
and the poetic text defines his service further as connected to the divine
Elizabeth wherever he goes. In the dissonant space between text and image,
past and present, and center and periphery, Gascoigne once again deploys a
discursive strategy that enables him to use the image and cultural position
of Elizabeth to create his own sense of empowered self.
The poet’s masterful command for the Queen to “Beholde” the visual text
in a specific fashion further belies his pose as the humble and depressed
supplicant and again goes beyond passive acceptance of subordinate courtly
roles to assert that Elizabeth remains subject to the power of his spectacle
and image. The poet’s self-description as a “straunge sight” once again recalls
the early modern practice of self-fashioning as visual spectacle and “revelation.”
When he asserts that “straunge sights” that are “well markt” are therefore
“understode the better,” Gascoigne directly connects his command to “Beholde”
to the process of reading and interpreting this image. As we also recall from
Orgel, to read such visual self-assertions correctly, one must place oneself
in the position of the artist: in this case Gascoigne. Rather than leaving
such interpretation to chance, Gascoigne assertively directs the Queen to
the “better” or “correct” reading of himself that he wishes to fix in her
mind. Much as Gascoigne seized discursive power by depicting the Queen’s looking
solely upon him in the stage woodcut, the poet once again asserts his own
mastery through his commanding verse and through depicting himself alone with
the attentive Queen in the Hemetes drawing.
Reflecting a broader critical feeling, Orgel asserts that in this image,
Gascoigne actually “disarms” himself by presenting himself as “suitor offering
a love token” (64). Gascoigne’s possession of a spear and
sword, powerful and violent arms in themselves, however, complicates such
an assertion by depicting him as much more than a dependant lover. Also recalling
his martial self-construction as a “swayne” in Hunting, in Hemetes
he subversively suggests that his “blade [is] not fully bownde,” implying
initially that his skill as a warrior remains at the ready but perhaps also
implying that even the presence of the monarch cannot “fully bind” his power.
Another notorious (but finally unsuccessful) courtier, Robert Devereux, the
Earl of Essex, clearly embodied a treasonous threat to Elizabeth when he put
his hand on his sword in anger because she had slapped him. While Gascoigne’s
unbound blade fails to represent such a treasonous insult, “his blade” does
speak both to the symbolic and potentially threatening power afforded swords
or their wielders in the period (65).
Gascoigne’s representation of such a threatening power may not be entirely
out of place or overly risky because, while Elizabeth clearly wanted to control
her courtiers, she needed their volatility and ability. As Montrose and others
develop, to entirely suppress their power or emasculate them would prevent
her from having effective use of that power. Much as the courtier-artist must
be careful not to offend the Queen, Elizabeth must also take care to conserve
the power of her servants lest she destroy or lose control of it (66).
Gascoigne’s pictorial and poetic self-fashioning as soldier and courtier,
then, positions him within a complex range of social needs, which may allow
him to represent himself as a barely contained power much as he does elsewhere.
In any case, as he presented in Hunting, here Gascoigne provides himself
with a variety of social, cultural, and allegorical identities, all of which
he classifies not solely or predominantly as a lover but as “A Soldyer armed”
and as “A poet with a Speare.”
While his perceived role as an allegorical lover might limit his power
in relation to the Queen, his overlapping but distinctive roles as artist,
soldier, and political counselor in Hemetes, provide alternative means
of self-assertion. The book he depicts thus represents his subordination to
Elizabeth, but the power of his pen enables Gascoigne discursively to escape
her control: she has commanded him to write the book, but he, in turn, commands
what and how she should read and understand the visual text he supplies of
his own choice. Gascoigne’s personal presentation of the book to Elizabeth
should, moreover, mimic other contemporary royal gift-giving practices in
symbolizing “unconditional praise of the queen and the total subjection of”
the gift-giver but fails to do so. Gascoigne’s unconventional and potentially
insulting choice to advertise his own martial and intellectual prowess and
ability in giving this gift repeats the kind of political slight to Elizabeth
that he had helped to enact in Leicester’s royal gift-giving at Kenilworth
the preceding summer (67). In fact, he classifies his pen
as a weapon and his writing as dangerous: he uses his “pen to fighte” and
sees himself, once again, as “A poet with a Speare,” which suggests that his
translation and all of his works represent active weapons in the social and
courtly war for preference he recreated in Hunting. Not simply a case
of the pen being mightier than the sword, the two are synonymous since he
uses his “sworde to wryte a letter,” representing thereby a powerful sense
of artistic and cultural agency for himself.
The writer’s gown, provocatively “haulffe of[f]”, may suggest that Gascoigne
resembles a statesman or counselor in contemporary political dress. Scholars
have repeatedly interpreted Gascoigne’s self-expressive power here in the
Hemetes image as primarily sexual, seeing, for example, his gown as
a “nightgown” (68). Under his furred gown, however, Gascoigne
appears to wear a doublet with sleeves, and he would also have worn a shirt
underneath that doublet. Gascoigne would probably not have worn a nightgown
over a doublet, rather he probably would have worn it over his shirt (69).
If not a nightgown, the furred “gown” that Gascoigne wears might suggest that
he holds “civil or legal or parliamentary office” (OED 4a). The gown being
half off might recall Gascoigne’s failure to take his parliamentary seat because
of bad debts, asserting a paradoxical power through recognition of fault,
repentance, and promised reformation, as he does elsewhere. More positively,
as he also suggests, its position half off (or half on) manifests the soldier-poet’s
ability to assume or abandon such an identity at will. Like the loose, readily
wearable garment that he can slip into and out of with ease, Gascoigne thus
advertises his facility with multiple professional identities.
Gascoigne’s own active self-representation as a member of the political
nation further accentuates his power when understood as functioning in concert
with Elizabeth’s visual representation as a political figure; representations
that together create resonant meanings in the contemporary political climate
of the 1570s when Gascoigne wrote and performed for the Queen. Within this
pictorial context, the artist dresses the Queen in her regalia of investiture,
including staff, globe, and crown, which Gascoigne would have seen at her
coronation and are represented in the “Coronation portrait” (70).
Marching in her coronation procession, Gascoigne participated in the performance
of the public ritual that established and enacted Elizabeth’s right to rule.
In such a private meeting as he represents in the Hemetes image, the
Queen would probably not have worn her coronation regalia. In presenting her
in this unlikely fashion, then, Gascoigne stresses the symbolic and political
significance of the regalia and the political relationships embodied in these
symbols. Recalling her coronation and assumption of royal power in this way,
Gascoigne flatteringly reminds the Queen that he had already participated
in creating her power some eighteen years earlier. In choosing to represent
her with the symbols of her imperial and royal power in Hemetes, he
again connects himself to that discursively potential power.
Gascoigne’s decision to depict Elizabeth in her imperial crown, the synecdoche
of her royal power and coronation, places his work squarely in the context
of monarchical political theory and contemporary parliamentary discourse on
the nature of both Elizabeth and her subjects’ rights and powers. Elizabeth,
in fact, recognized that she “derived her power from the ‘laws of God and
this realm always annexed to the Crown of this realm.’” Elizabeth’s evocation
of the laws of “this realm” references the limits that parliamentarians wished
to place on her royal power. As A. N. McLaren establishes, starting with the
Henrician reformation and reaching a crescendo in the 1570s, when Gascoigne
engaged the cult, political theorists challenged the definition of English
royal sovereignty and government, increasingly asserting a “mixed” monarchy
in which the king or queen’s power was balanced by the godly council of parliament,
to which group Gascoigne was elected a member (71). Period
constitutional scholars sought to “bridle” the worst excesses of monarchy
by asserting an ostensibly “balanced” form of government in which elected
counselors shared legislative power with the Queen. The physical position
of Gascoigne and the Queen sharing the space of his self-portrait seems to
pictorially embody such a balance between the two figures.
In advancing the theory of the Queen’s “two bodies,” scholars and politicians
asserted such shared governance through the idea of a “marriage between monarch
and realm, embodied in parliament.” Political theorists supporting the Queen
argued that through her marriage to the “body politic,” Elizabeth overcame
the “deficiencies” thought to be inherent to her gender. This mystical body
politic, which was specifically created in the elected parliament, “represented
the reason of the realm: pure, immortal, unerring, and invested in the person
of the queen through a mystical marriage effected at her coronation” (72).
Thus, Elizabeth’s right and power to rule not only derived from her coronation
and investiture with the imperial crown but also was directly linked to and
balanced by her counselors in the form of parliament. In representing Elizabeth
in her coronation attire and representing himself alone with her (as a husband
would be), Gascoigne potentially evokes this contemporary political context
in order to accentuate his role as being in balance with hers.
In their analysis of Gascoigne, the Hemetes image, and his election
to the 1572 parliament, which Elizabeth prorogued or cancelled, critics and
biographers have not noted Gascoigne’s potential self-representation as a
furred and gowned member of the political nation, whose representation takes
on tangible contemporary meaning. In specifically recalling his participation
in her coronation and his own political identity as counselor, Gascoigne references
a contemporary political context in which he shares a mystical union of political
marriage with Elizabeth. Within this context of a “mixed monarchy,” Elizabeth
still maintains her power and thus receives the appropriate deference of kneeling
accorded the monarch. However, as a “counselor,” member of parliament, and
member of the mystical union he helped to create in her coronation, he also
has a balancing and enabling power as a kind of symbolic husband to the Queen
as national, political wife. When he writes, in the controlling verse accompanying
his Hemetes image, that he promises “To serve you so as maye become
me beste” (my emphasis), he pointedly does not state that he will serve
Elizabeth solely as she commands but as “beste” becomes him or befits
his station and self-identity.
As a member of the political nation of men in mystical union with Elizabeth,
his best action may include decisions that benefit the whole nation
(including him) and not just the Queen, as his support of Leicester’s marriage
to the Queen at Kenilworth and other evidence in his writings indicates (73).
In any case, the “me” to whom Gascoigne refers consistently includes both
ideal and contemporary political components often ignored in readings of his
work. As a member of that political nation of men in parliament and in her
coronation, then, Gascoigne has a right and a “dewty,” which he overtly evokes
in the Hemetes verse, to provide Elizabeth with counsel and even leadership
(74). His sword, his ability, and his claims of enabling
Elizabeth in Hunting all come together here in a contemporary political
context that scholars have overlooked in favor of an incomplete understanding
of the Queen’s power, of contemporary political theory, and of the specifics
of Gascoigne’s self-representation.
Finally in the Hemetes image, Gascoigne kneels before the Queen
but purposefully kneels upon the sacred cloth of her gown: in effect he touches
Elizabeth through the synecdoche of her clothing, which creates yet another
discursive register for reading the courtier-soldier’s self-empowerment. Unlike
the three other images of himself and the Queen engaged in public relations,
his Hemetes portrait places him alone with the Queen (75).
Where the other images depicted social performances enacted publicly out of
doors, here Gascoigne and the Queen perform these roles in private chambers
solely for one another. Rather than “repressing almost every trace of creative
autonomy and originality from his work,” as McCoy argues, Gascoigne continues
to create multiply constructed images wherein he enjoys unmediated access
to the monarch and the very private, influential power of a political “husband”
(76). In touching her clothes, in effect, Gascoigne symbolically
touches her—an action only a husband or lover would perform privately. In
this final image alone with the Queen, Gascoigne pictorially achieves the
mastery of the royal attention and understanding that he sought and asserted
in Hunting, making the courtier-hunter-solider into an unqualified
success and considerable power with the almost magical ability to take on
any number of powerful and changeable identities and deploy them anywhere
(77). While this kind of self-representation might ring
hyperbolic or artificial in modern ears, his self-fashioning as poet, soldier,
and powerful courtier compelled one Elizabethan critic to reiterate Gascoigne’s
own hypermasculine and hyperintellectual public identity in which he becomes
“as painefull [i.e., diligent] a Souldier in the affayres of hys Prince and
Country as he was witty Poet in his writing” (78).
Although Gascoigne’s self-construction as powerful courtier and fighter
might thus be read as containing and redirecting the Queen’s power to his
own ends, Gascoigne did shortly thereafter receive employment from her. Even
though such a potentially equivocal or mercenary representation of the Queen
(as dependent) might be politically risky, his self-representation as a useful,
effective, and—above all—powerfully creative courtier was a gamble that paid
measurable rewards (79). Even so, Gascoigne published Hunting
anonymously, suggesting that his representations might offend. For Charles
and Ruth Prouty and for Austen, Gascoigne’s choice to remain largely anonymous
came from a desire to maintain his pose as a reformed prodigal unwilling to
write such a frivolous work as a hunting manual. However, these scholars also
note that the lack of textual ascription by Gascoigne proved irrelevant because
“the poet did not . . . make too great an effort to conceal his authorship”
because “the prefatory material gives the show away” (80).
Gascoigne’s friend, fellow soldier, and initial biographer George Whetstone
knew that Hunting was Gascoigne’s text; the text drew attention to
Gascoigne from Leicester, Lord Clinton, another of Gascoigne’s patrons, and
perhaps even the Earl of Bedford (81). This thin anonymity,
along with his openly direct self-construction as a soldier-courtier in the
Hemetes image, suggests that he had no qualms in circulating any number
of identities. I offer, then, that Gascoigne provided such a thinly veiled
anonymity in order to protect himself in case his self-serving representations
resulted in the Queen's dissatisfaction. In the epilogue to Hemetes,
in fact, he imagined that work potentially offending in just this way. He
states that he lives,
In hope they [“ev[r]ye leafe” of his “Booke”] maye, be tane as
they be ment
But if my Queene, shulde not accepte them well
They kyll his harte, wch (now) for Joye doth swell. (82)
While he could control his (potentially threatening) self-construction and
his construction of her, Gascoigne could not finally, as he repeatedly attempted,
control Elizabeth’s interpretation of his texts, precisely because she might
“not accepte them well” “as they be ment” by him (83).
The allegorical embodiment of Gascoigne as aggressive courtier and artist
unable to control the effect of his own self-fashioning performance, along
with the image of the courtier as both fallen deer and successful hunter,
thus, negotiates the tenuous position represented by a broad range of courtiers
and servants at the Elizabethan court. As the butchering image aptly suggests,
Queen Elizabeth is about to take the knife, and she will dissect the
deer. In the end, she has primary control however much Gascoigne imagines
his own role as powerful or however much he exposes her dependency. Regardless
of the specifics of his work at Kenilworth or Woodstock, for Gascoigne the
butchering image in Hunting represents the position in which he found
himself when he performed before the Queen with less than perfect success
in the summer of 1575 (84). In great debt, censured by the
Privy Council for his poetry and without gainful employment, Gascoigne’s public
image sometimes seemed more like the hunted deer than the powerful hunter
of his text.
Through his symbolic and pictorial movement ever closer to the Queen, Gascoigne
nevertheless envisions his own power slowly but markedly growing until he
physically and politically shares the Queen’s personal space. As scholars
have noted, counselors tightly controlled access to the monarch; the closer
one moved to the Queen, the more power the individual ostensibly or potentially
possessed (85). As he consistently asserts in verse and
picture, his position close to Elizabeth both empowers her and allows him
to enjoy a mutual empowerment. In such a fashioned performance, they share
the spotlight as all other competitors for her favor have been pictorially
shut out. In this complex aesthetics of courtly power, Gascoigne’s texts communicate
the fine line between praise and assertion that allowed artists and writers
to construct their own images of power. If other courtier’s idealistic fantasies
failed to achieve the kind of real success Gascoigne briefly enjoyed, his
eventful life and public persona embodied a common dream and the successful
language needed to actualize such a dream. Gascoigne thus provides an apt
example of a larger cultural practice and aesthetic in which images of the
Queen were manipulated for more than panegyric purposes. Although limited
by our distant position some four hundred years after her death, by actually
reading images of the Queen from perspectives that decenter her and recognize
the multidirectional nature of discursive power, we might not be completely
shut off from a more accurate understanding of early modern political dynamics
in the cult and in the wider culture.
Notes 1 Portions of an earlier version of this text were presented at
the 2003 Central Renaissance Conference. I want to thank the participants for
their thoughtful commentary. Recently, Courtney Lehmann, "Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Agenda: How Shakespeare and the Renaissance Are Taking the Rage Out of
Feminism," Shakespeare Quarterly 53.2 (2002), n. 12, has provocatively
noted that the film Elizabeth (1998) "might be more aptly titled
‘Gascoigne’s Revenge,’ for it has more in common with George Gascoigne’s attempts
to advance Robert Dudley’s and his own claim to power than it does with the biography
of Elizabeth I."
2 Ilana Nash, "‘A Subject Without Subjection’: Robert Dudley,
Earl of Leicester, and The Princely Pleasures at Kenelworth Castle,"
Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 25 (1994), 101-102,
writes, that "Gascoigne’s innovation of deifying Elizabeth became a commonplace
in the entertainment genre and later in Elizabethan poetry." Jean Wilson,
Entertainments for Elizabeth (London: Woodbridge and Co., 1980), 22, has
established that the Kenilworth entertainments "signal the beginning of the
cult of Elizabeth as a supernatural being." Charles Prouty, George Gascoigne:
Elizabethan Courtier, Soldier, and Poet (New York: Benjamin Blom,
1942), 4, asserts Gascoigne’s preeminence in the early Elizabethan court. The
critical literature on the cult of Elizabeth is extensive, but the most important
studies include Louis Montrose, "Idols of the Queen: Policy, Gender, and
the Picturing of Elizabeth I," Representations 68 (1999), 108-161;
Helen Hackett, Virgin Mother, Maiden Queen: Elizabeth I and the Cult
of the Virgin Mary (New York: St. Martin’s, 1995); Carol Levine, The Heart
and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power
(Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 1994); Susan Frye, Elizabeth
I: The Competition for Representation (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1993); John King, Tudor Royal Iconography: Literature and Art
in an Age of Religious Crises (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989);
Phillippa Berry, Of Chastity and Power: Elizabethan Literature and
the Unmarried Queen (London: Routledge, 1989); Louis Montrose, "A
Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Shaping Fantasies of Elizabethan Culture:
Gender, Power, Form," in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourse
of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret Feguson, Maureen
Quilligan, and Nancy Vickers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 65-87;
Frances Yates, Astrae: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century
(London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1985); Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth:
Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977)
and Portraits of Queen Elizabeth (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963); and Elkin
Wilson, England’s Eliza (New York: Octogon Books, 1966).
3 George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589),
includes Gascoigne in the "crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen
of her Maiesities owne seruauntes, who haue written excellently well." Quoted
in Marcy L. North, "Anonymity’s Revelations in The Arte of English Poesie,"
SEL 1500-1900 39.1 (1999), 6. Edward Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt:
A Cultural and Social Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001),
10-11, writes of "the ironies within Gascoigne’s social position. As a gentleman,
he is at one remove from both the servants, who find nothing but pain in the sport
[of hunting], and the nobles, who find only pleasure. The choice he makes, and
with self-mocking glee, is to align himself with the nobles." Steven May,
The Elizabethan Courtier Poets: The Poems and Their Context (Columbia:
University Press of Missouri, 1991), 40, refers to Gascoigne as an "out-of-court
poet . . . who wrote for courtiers and the court without being a part of that
institution at any level." Prouty, Elizabethan Courtier,119,
asserts, "Gascoigne wrote in and for the court circle."
4 On Gascoigne’s place in early modern prodigal discourse, see
Richard Helgerson, The Elizabethan Prodigals (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1977), 44-77.
5The noble art of venerie or hunting (London, 1575), STC
(2nd ed.) 24328.
6 The standard modern biography is Prouty, Elizabethan Courtier.
G. W. Pigman, III, ed., George Gascoigne: A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 2000), xxiii-xliii, and Richard McCoy "Gascoigne’s ‘Poemata
castrata’: The Wages of Courtly Success," Criticism 27.1 (1985), 29-55,
also offer important insights. Rayna Kalas, "The Technology of Reflection:
Renaissance Mirrors of Steel and Glass," The Journal of Medieval and Early
Modern Studies 32.3 (2002), 521-527, discusses Gascoigne’s self-interested
transformation and reformation in reference to his later satirical works and the
tradition of estates satires, specifically his The Steele Glas (1576).
Ilona Bell, Elizabethan Women and the Poetry of Courtship (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1998), 64-65, discusses Gascoigne’s reformation as an attempt
to "placate" some readers without actually reforming himself. R. W.
Maslen, Elizabethan Fictions: Espionage, Counter-Espionage, and the Duplicity
of Fiction in Elizabethan Prose Narratives (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997),
116, persuasively demonstrates that Gascoigne maintained an unreformed "youthful
pride in intellectual athleticism, his gift for extemporization, his love of risks,
his adventurousness [and that they] justify themselves retrospectively by being
harnessed at last in the service of the state." Gillian Austen, "The
Literary Career of George Gascoigne," Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, (Oxford
University, 1997), 4, 191, establishes that Gascoigne successfully manipulated
a number of different personas, including the reformed prodigal, as part of a
concerted effort to gain courtly employment: "this shifting mode of presentation
is characterized by courtly evasions," and "it seems clear that, far
from rejecting the courtly means to preferment, Gascoigne continued to pursue
that route while he constructed for himself a moralistic persona in print."
See also, his "Gascoigne’s Metamorphoses: The Princely Pleasures at Kenilworth,
1575," Imaginaires: Revue de Centre de Recherché Sur L’imaginaire dans
les Literatures de Langue Anglaise 4 (1999), 9-29. Wendy Wall, The Imprint
of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1993), 245-247, analyzes the way in which Gascoigne’s
"apology" and "reformation" are simply part of an authorial
strategy of literary self-fashioning, which reveals a false-front and lack of
7 Rather than forwarding an argument that Gascoigne definitively
scribed the woodcut images himself, my analysis provides a much needed examination
of how Gascoigne uses these images to engage with the cult in a complex fashion.
Roy Strong, Gloriana: The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth (Wisbech:
Thames and Hudson, 1987), 56-57, suggests that the woodcuts in the Booke of
Hunting may "possibly [be] after designs by Levina Teerlinc." Gascoigne’s
unique text surrounding and involving these woodcuts, along with their similarity
to Gascoigne’s own image kneeling before Elizabeth in his Hemetes, suggests
that at least he was active in directing Teerlinc or another artist in producing
the end product. Gascoigne’s narrative claim, Hunting 94, that "I
have here set in portraiture as well an assembly," self-identifies him as,
at the very least, the designer of the portrait of Elizabeth in the "assembly"
8 McCoy, "Gascoigne’s ‘Poemata castrata,’" 32; see also
33, 41-44, argues that by 1576 "larger forces overwhelmed" Gascoigne’s
"personal aims and authorial control," but in that same year he actually
asserts powerful discursive control, redefining the Queen and pictorially containing
her power in order to further his own "personal aims." More recently,
Steve Mentz, "Escaping Italy: From Novella to Romance in Gascoigne and Lyly,"
Studies in Philology 101.2 (2004), 164, suggest that "Gascoigne’s
presentation of himself as poemata castrada in the 1575 Poesies
accents the helplessness of the literary courtier in Elizabethan England,"
citing McCoy, "Gascoigne’s ‘Poemata castrata.’" For an argument that
also sees Gascoigne as maintaining agency in his later works, see Kevin LaGrandeur,
"‘Androgyny and Linguistic Power in Gascoigne’s The Steele Glas,"
Texas Studies in Literature and Language 37 (1995), 350, 359, who writes,
"far from being a beaten man—as most critics claim—he was simply learning
to bend the courtly rules to his advantage," and "now we have a poet
very different from the one critical tradition has given us: one who has learned
to use his creative power more subtly because of his bad experience at court,
rather than one who has capitulated completely to the power of censure."
9 For a recent reconstruction of the cult, which sees the cult
and the bulk of Elizabethan society as praising a loving Queen, see Gale Carrithers,
Jr., and James Hardy, Jr., Age of Iron: English Renaissance Tropologies
of Love and Power (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998), 57-70.
Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 166, writes, "that it did
not seem in the interest of a substantial segment of the population to attempt
to demystify the queen’s power, and hence it was enormously difficult to do so."
10 "Queen Elizabeth I: Representations of the Virgin Queen,"
Renaissance Quarterly 43.1 (1990), 36.
11 On such artistic resistance, see King, "Representations
of the Virgin Queen," 36. See also, Louise Montrose, "The Elizabethan
Subject and the Spenserian Text," in Literary Theory/Renaissance Texts,ed., Patricia Parker and David Quint (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1986), 310. On the active suppression of images by Elizabeth and her court,
see Montrose, "Idols of the Queen," 118, Leonard Tennenhouse, Power
on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare’s Genres (New York: Methuen;
1986), 104, who quotes a drafted but not enacted Tudor proclamation that called
for the creation of an official court painter "‘to take the natural representation
of her majesty’ and ‘to prohibit all manner of other persons to draw, paint, grave,
or portray her majesty’s personage or visage,’" and Roy Strong, Gloriana,
12 For a useful overview of the central importance of creating
and maintaining a normative image of the Queen, see Gloriana’s Face: Women,
Public and Private, in the English Renaissance, ed., S. P. Cerasano and Marion
Wynne-Davies (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1992), 12-15, 18-20. Montrose,
"Idols of the Queen," 148, aptly defines such negotiating representations
as "enabling" and "constraining" and also discusses the difficulty
of defining normative or "official" images of the Queen.
13 "Idols of the Queen," 109. See also, 131, where
he argues that most scholars "tend to take the fulsome tropes of royal panegyric
as if they were testaments of faith and consequently to exaggerate the extent,
consistency, and sincerity of this ‘cult of Elizabeth.’" Marie Axton, The
Queen’s Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession (London: Royal
Historical Society, 1977), 66, asserts, "clearly the conventions used by
Gascoigne and his colleagues could convey both criticism and complaint."
14 Frye, Elizabeth I, 16. On Elizabeth as the symbolic
center of political power, see Levin, Heart, 38, and Tennenhouse, Power
on Display, 105.
15 On Elizabeth’s love of the "aesthetics of the miniature"
in which courtiers were imaginatively made into children ruled by mother Elizabeth,
see Jeanne H. McCarthy, "Elizabeth I’s ‘picture in little’: Boy Company Representations
of a Queen’s Authority," Studies in Philology 100.4 (2003), 461-462.
Lean Cowen Orlin, "The Fictional Families of Elizabeth I," in Political
rhetoric, power, and Renaissance women, ed., Carole Levin and Patricia A.
Sullivan (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 85-110, explores
the ways in which Elizabeth and others, including King James VI, manipulated her
image as a mother and sister.
16 On this use of the cult of Mary, see Carrithers, Age of
Iron, 57-59, Strong, Cult of Elizabeth, 16, and Wilson, England’s
Eliza, 215. Robin Headlam Wells, Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the Cult of
Elizabeth (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble Books, 1982), 18-19, writes that
"the transference [of Marian devotion] to Elizabeth of certain deep-rooted
devotional habits no doubt filled an important emotional gap in the lives of her
subjects," Hackett, Virgin Mother, 37, 47-49, 55, 62, argues that
the cult did not fulfill such psychological needs.
17 David Starkey, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne
(New York: Harper Collins, 2001), 310, writes, "the love games"
that "Elizabeth required of her courtiers and councilors throughout her reign,
and the full-blown absurdities of the Gloriana cult in its later years, were all
means of forcing a masculine elite to pay tribute to a woman. And curiously, only
the fact that she was a woman made it tolerable. When a male sovereign required
to be worshipped as a deity, like Richard II or, in a somewhat different fashion,
Charles I, the political nation revolted. But with a woman such foibles could
be tolerated since they resembled the rituals of courtship." Christopher
Haigh, Elizabeth I (London: Longman, 1988), 172, writes, Elizabeth "had
to find an image of monarchy which was appropriate for a woman yet which invited
obedience. Out of these difficulties came the image of the Virgin Queen, mother
of her people." David Norbrook, Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 117-118, writes, "the language
of Petrarchan love poetry implied an absolute gulf between virtuous mistress and
humble suitor, a state of complete subjection. Elizabeth’s cult of courtly love
actualized a metaphor that was always latent in monarchical systems of government:
relations between individual and authority were not those of citizen and state
but those of a subject, a dependent, to a single individual whose favour had to
18The Complete Works of George Gascoigne, ed., John Cunliffe
(New York: Greenwood Press, 1969), vol. 2, 510.
19 On Gascoigne’s authorship of this anonymous text, see Charles
and Ruth Prouty, "George Gascoigne, The Noble Arte of Venerie, and
Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth," in Joseph Quincy Adams Memorial Studies,
ed. James McManaway, Giles Dawson, and Edwin Willoughby (Washington: Folger
Shakespeare Library, 1948) and Jean Robertson, "George Gascoigne and the
Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting," Modern Language Review
37 (1942), 484-485. D. H. Madden, The Diary of Master William Silence (London:
Longmans, Green, 1907), 366, sees Hunting as "the work of some hack
scribe, inferior in literary skill as well as in social position to Turberville,
whose spirited verses . . . are, in my opinion, superior to the task-work of George
21 On the political allegory of Petrarchan love, see the essential,
Arthur F. Marotti, "‘Love is Not Love’: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and
the Social Order," ELH 49 (1982), 396-428. See also William Sessions,
Henry Howard, the poet Earl of Surrey: a life (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1999), 176-177. Wyatt writes,
Who so list to hount, I knowe where is an hynde,
But as for me, helas, I may no more:
The vayne travaill hath weried me so sore.
I ame of theim that farthest commeth behinde.
Excerpted from Collected Poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt, ed., Kenneth Muir (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1966). On the petrarchan allegory of the hunt, see William
Kerrigan and Gordon Braden, "Milton’s Coy Eve: Paradise Lost and Renaissance
Love Poetry," ELH 53.1 (1986), 42-45.
22 The quote is from Laurie Shannon, "Poetic Companies:
Musters of Agency in George Gascoigne’s ‘Friendly Verse,’" GLQ: A
Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10.3 (2004), 459. On hunting, period hunting
manuals, and Hunting’s relation to TheBoke of St. Albans,
see Roger Manning, Hunters and Poachers: A Social and Cultural History
of Unlawful Hunting in England 1485-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993),
6-12, Marcia Vale, The Gentleman’s Recreations: Accomplishments and
pastimes of the English gentleman 1580-1630 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1979),
27-40, and Rachel Hands, English Hawking and Hunting in the Boke of St. Albans
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), xlii-xliii. Gascoigne’s Hunting
was republished, The noble art of venerie or hunting (London, 1611),
STC (2nd ed.) 24329, under King James with slight modifications, including
replacing the image of Elizabeth with James (in the picnic and butchering scenes)
and entirely removing the judging of the scat. Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt,
75, writes in reference to the most ceremonial elements of the hunt "Gascoigne’s
description . . . exercised such influence upon Elizabethan readers that it provides
us with our closest approximation of the actual event." Vale, The Gentleman’s
Recreations, 31, writes that Hunting was "a major source of hunting
information for the English gentleman."
23 All images from The Noble Arte of Venerie or Hunting are
used by permission of The Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. On the
identification of the hunter as Gascoigne, see Prouty, Noble Arte of Venerie,
663. Although Prouty also suggests that the courtier might be Lord Clinton, Austen,
"Literary Career," 180, 184, suggests that these images might offer
another of Gascoigne’s "self portraits," providing evidence that "the
distinctive profile of the chief huntsman, who appears in all three woodcuts,
is very similar to the falconer in the left foreground of the woodcut in Turberville’s
[hawking] book in which Gascoigne creates a covert self-presentation as a falconer
as well as a woodman."
24 On high fashion in the 1570s, see Iris Brooke, English
Costume in the Age of Elizabeth: The Sixteenth Century (London: Adam
and Charles Black, 1967), 64-71. Shannon, "Poetic Companies," 469, also
notes Gascoigne’s complex encoding of class difference and identity. Berry, Shakespeare
and the Hunt, 162, 181, notes the tensions of balancing pastoral with the
day’s rigorous and bloody hunt: "the difficulty with this aristocratic ‘pastoralizing’
of the hunt is that the joys of nature are incidental to the main business of
the day, the pursuit and killing of deer." Berry also notes that the "farcical
battle" between the butler and the cook undermines the pastoral setting.
He also claims, "although such affairs may seem ‘pastoral’ in design, they
connote less a harmony between civilization and nature than an invasion of nature
by civilization." Manning, Hunters and Poachers, 6, 17, writes that
as primarily an elite practice, hunting itself "visibly and symbolically
reinforced the social hierarchy," yet nevertheless, "in actual practice
hunting was never confined exclusively to those qualified by law, because peers
and gentlemen invariably hunted with servants and often compelled tenants to assist
them as well. The typical hunting band seems to have consisted of a dozen or so
members, and consequently numerous lesser gentry, yeoman, and even husbandmen
came to share with their social superiors a common set of cultural attitudes toward
hunting." On the multiple forms of pastoral and their distinctions, see Michelle
O’Callaghan, "Pastoral" in A Companion to English Renaissance Literature
and Culture, ed., Michael Hattaway (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 307-316.
25 On hunting as mock war, see Manning, Hunters and Poachers,
35-41. Prouty, Arte of Venerie, 657, suggests that this moment might be
a record of a masque performed for Elizabeth but that Gascoigne did not have a
"particular occasion in mind." Manning, Hunters and Poachers,
200-201, discusses Hunting’s masque-like qualities. On Gascoigne’s "marginalization"
at court, see Austen, Gascoigne’s Metamorphoses," 13-14. On his desire for
"revenge" against the "worldly, wily monsters of court," see
LaGrandeur, "Androgyny and Linguistic Power," 353.
26 On hunting as mock war, see Berry, Shakespeare and the
Hunt, 10. In reference to The Steele Glas, LaGrandeur, "Androgyny
and Linguistic Power," 354, writes, "his reflexive language is at once
allegorically allusive and self-disseminating . . . the slipperiness of the poetic
tropes upon which his satire is built provides few footholds for retort. There
is a good example of how such doubly reflective language operates in the epilogue."
27 Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt, 54, writes, "Gascoigne
praises hunting for its capacity to ‘represent’ other activities." On Elizabeth’s
knowledge and use of petrarchanism, see Leonard Forster, The Icy Fire:
Five Studies in European Petrarchism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1969), 122-147. See Louis Montrose, "The Work of Gender in the Discourse
of Discovery," Representations 33 (1991), 8-10, on Raleigh’s courtship
of the Queen as his petrarchan mistress. On Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester’s
petrarchan courtship of Elizabeth, see Nash, "‘A Subject Without Subjection,’"
28 The OED also indicates that "hind" also refers to
household servants. For courtiers, the ironic position of being both a political
servant and potential social or political target (metaphorically a hunted hind)
remained a real possibility.
29 LaGrandeur, "Androgyny and Linguistic Power," 351,
establishes that The Steele Glas offers versions of Gascoigne, subsuming
"simultaneous emasculation and empowerment." Austen, "Literary
Career," 169, 172-174, 176, 190, also demonstrates that Gascoigne is writing
"for a noble and courtly audience or readership," which included the
30 Austen, "Literary Career," 182, writes that "the
Queen is depicted as holding a small branch, which could perhaps have been one
of these ‘blemishes’ [a broken branch indicating where the deer ran], though most
would have been left in situ to indicate the direction the hart had taken."
31 In addition to providing the allegorical symbol of the olive
branch of peace, Gascoigne’s text refers to the allegorical function of these
images by setting them "in portraiture" "for the better declaration
and lively expressing of all these things" (my emphasis). For early modern
readers, "portraiture" not only refers to the "representation"
of an object or thing (OED 1) in life like terms but also, and more germane to
our purposes, figuratively refers to a "mental image," "idea,"
"a type," and "exemplar" (OED 3).
32 On the olive branch and on the olive branch as a symbol of
peace, see Strong, Gloriana, 139-141 and The Elizabethan Image (New
York: Penguin, 1970), 46. On Leicester, de Heere, and "Allegory," see
Strong, Gloriana, 56-57. Austen, "Literary Career," 196-197,
reviews the scholarship that sees Gascoigne as "Leicester’s poet." John
Kerrigan, "The editor as reader: constructing Renaissance texts," in
The practice and representation of reading in England, ed., James Raven,
Helen Small, and Naomi Tadmor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 111,
argues that Gabriel Harvey read Gascoigne’s "Fernando Jeronimi" and
thereafter thought that he was a member of "Leicester’s war party."
Shannon, "Poetic Companies," 476, however, argues that Gascoigne "supports
Elizabeth’s pacifism as an instance of wisdom warranted by example." Axton,
Queen’s Two Bodies, 61, 63, refers to Gascoigne as one of "Leicester’s
protégés" or "poets." See also Eleanor Rosenberg, Leicester:
Patron of Letters (New York: Columbia University Press; 1955), 166-172.
33 Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt, 11, discusses Gascoigne’s
painstaking translation and discussion of the language of the hunt, which gave
"outsiders [or the non-elite] access to an esoteric lore [and thus social
identity] from which they were otherwise excluded." In this linguistic context,
"hunting was thus not merely a physical but a verbal sport, and done in which
the mastery of words implied both power over nature and society."
34Hunters, 201. Austen, "Literary Career,"
180, also writes that the "three woodcuts can be seen as celebrating the
My worthy Lord, I pray you wonder not,
To see your wodman shoote so ofte awrie,
Nor that he stands amased like a sot,
And lets the harmlesse deare (unhurt) go by.
Of if he strike a doe which is but carren,
Laugh not good Lord, but favoure such a fault. (1-6)
Excerpted from Pigman, A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres. On "Gascoigne’s
Wodmanship," see George Kneidel, "Reforming George Gascoigne,"
Exemplaria 10.2 (1998), 349-355, who demonstrates that Gascoigne turns
his inability to hit the target in "Wodmanship" into his moral ability
to live ethically. Examining Gascoigne’s deployment of a "poetics of failure,"
Jonathan Crewe, Trials of Authorship: Anterior Forms and Poetic Reconstruction
From Wyatt to Shakespeare (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990),
125, 130, 135, 139, writes, "the ostensibly deviant and recalcitrant aspects
of the performance thus appear all along to have been in the secret and inescapable
service of the self-empowering autobiographical subject, never other but always
the same in whatever resistant or disarming guise." See also Robert DeSmith,
"Gascoigne’s Poems in Context," Proceedings of the Third Dakotas
Conference on Earlier British Literature (Brookings: English Department, South
Dakota State University, 1995), 49-51, Jane Hedley, "Allegoria: Gascoigne’s
Master Trope," English Literary Renaissance 11.2 (1981), and Douglas
Peterson, The English Lyric from Wyatt to Donne: A History of the Plain
and Eloquent Styles (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 154-160.
37 The quote is from Shannon, "Poetic Companies," 457.
38 "Fictions of the Pose: Facing the Gaze of Early Modern
Portraiture," Representations 46 (1994), 94.
39 Ibid. Steven Mullaney, "Reforming Resistance: Class,
Gender, and Legitimacy in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs," in Print, Manuscript,
& Performance: The Changing Relations of the Media In Early Modern
England, ed., Arthur Marotti and Michael Bristol (Columbus: Ohio State University
Press, 2000), 247, writes, "the new modes of drama emerging precisely at
this moment succeeded only insofar as they successfully reconstituted their audiences,
reconfigured their affective thresholds by demanding and producing new powers
of identification, projection, and apprehension, altering the threshold not only
of dramatic representation but also of self-representation, not only of the fictional
construction of character but also of the social construction of the self."
40 "The Spectacles of State," in Persons in Groups:
Social Behavior as Identity Formation in Medieval and Renaissance Europe,
ed., Richard Trexler (Binghamton: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies,
1985), 103. See also Strong, Gloriana, 153-155, who writes "this celebration
of Worcester is, however, subservient to that of Elizabeth."
41 Montrose, "Idols of the Queen," 147, establishes
that the "Rainbow Portrait" was read throughout Europe as a celebration
of not only Queen Elizabeth but also of Sir Robert Cecil and his father William
Cecil, Lord Burghley.
43 "Representing Power: Measure for Measure in its
Time," Shakespeare and History, ed., Stephen Orgel and Sean Keilen
(New York: Garland Publishing; 1999), 141.
44 Shannon, "Poetic Companies," 474, establishes that
Gascoigne "calls into being and traces" a Dutch portrait aesthetics,
which "is less emphatic about vertical authority and that offers a conjoint
image of individuation and membership."
45 Axton, Queen’s Two Bodies, 66, writes, "it may
sound odd to speak of the ‘school of Gascoigne’ but, for men like George Whetstone,
Thomas Churchyard or Thomas Blenerhasset, Gascoigne’s proximity to Leicester and
the Queen was a mark of dazzling success. He had his disciples and imitators."
On Gascoigne’s influence as a "bringer of order," see also Maslen, Elizabethan
Fictions, 8, 156, and Diana Henderson, Passion Made Public: Elizabethan
Lyric, Gender, and Performance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995),
47-48. See also, Rosenberg, Patron of Letters. Stephen Orgel, The Jonsonian
Masque (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), 39, states that in 1576,
Gascoigne was "the best living English poet (Sidney and Spenser had not been
heard from yet)." On his "powerful impression" at Kenilworth, see
Austen, "Gascoigne’s Metamorphoses," 16.
46 For Leicester as "one of the most influential men in
England," see Nash, "‘A Subject Without Subjection,’" 82-86. For
Leicester and Gascoigne’s mutually beneficial relationship, see Rosenberg, Patron
of Letters, 166-172. Nash, "‘A Subject Without Subjection,’" 89-90,
writes, "although the team of poets that devised the entertainment owed loyalty
to Queen Elizabeth, they were keenly aware of the bounty that could follow their
service to the Earl of Leicester, and would have striven to portray him in the
light that he wished. The entertainment thus reveals divided loyalties, for it
advertises Dudley’s puissance as well as the queen’s." On Gascoigne’s own
self-promotion, see, McCarthy, "Elizabeth I’s ‘picture in little," 444-446;
Henderson, Passion Made Public, 68-79; and Frye, Elizabeth I, 63-96.
At 74, Henderson writes, "it is certainly true that Gascoigne argues on Leicester’s
behalf at Kenilworth. But the narrative also emphasizes Gascoigne’s desire to
be accepted and ‘tamed’ by the queen’s beneficent presence, a desire to be worthy
of her divine grace translated into erotic imagery."
47 "‘A Subject Without Subjection,’" 91, 96. See also
Austen, "Gascoigne’s Metamorphoses," 12, 14-15, 21-22. Henderson, Passion
Made Public, 68-79, also analyzes Gascoigne’s complex mix of self-assertion
and compliment, writing that Gascoigne’s unperformed but published masque "maintains
a plausible but extremely fragile fiction that attempts to ‘cover’ political messages
verging on the impertinence (from the queen’s perspective)" (76).
48 Austen, "Literary Career," 172. See also his, "Gascoigne’s
Metamorphosis," 11-12, 23.
49 "‘A Subject Without Subjection,’" 89. LaGrandeur,
"Androgyny and Linguistic Power," 358, dates Gascoigne’s success later,
after the presentation of Hemetes to Elizabeth.
50 On Elizabeth as the axis mundi in painting and poetry,
see Albert Labriola, "Painting and Poetry of the Cult of Elizabeth I: The
Ditchley Portrait and Donne’s ‘Elegie: Going to Bed,’" Studies in Philology
93.1 (1996), 42-63 and Andrew and Catherine Belsey, "Icons of Divinity: Portraits
of Elizabeth I," in Renaissance Bodies: The Human Figure in English
Culture 1540-1660, ed., Lucy Gent and Nigel Llewellyn (London: Reaktion
Books, 1990), 11-35.
51 Jane Hedley, Power in Verse: Metaphor and Metonymy
in the Renaissance Lyric (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press,
1988), 26, writes, "the language of amorous eulogy and love-complaint
became the language of court politics not only because it could express the ‘irrational
logic’ of the patronage system but also because it masked the economic needs which
made that system an effective instrument of government. Elizabeth insisted on
her royal prerogative to dispense political patronage arbitrarily, on the strength
of her own assessment of the candidate’s worthiness. She must be appealed to as
a goddess, with absolute power to redress her suitor’s predicament but no obligation
to do so."
52 On Elizabeth’s hunting feats, see Berry, Shakespeare and
the Hunt, 76.
53 Nash, "‘A Subject Without Subjection,’" 93-94, writes
of Gascoigne’s work, which offers "to celebrate Elizabeth’s divine capabilities
while complaining of the damage they can cause" and that his work "claims
to praise [her] transformative power, but actually portrays it as a curse, an
agent of misery and frustration."
54 Berry, Shakespeare and the Hunt, 77. On Elizabeth’s
hunting feats, see Manning, Hunters and Poachers, 27.
55 Bates, Rhetoric of Courtship, 13, 46, writes, "the
longer that the response [in courtier-monarch exchanges] (which might be positive
or negative) is delayed—through the prevarication or equivocation of one party
(traditionally the woman) then the more prolonged becomes the complex social interplay
of debt and gratitude that exists between the individuals involved." "Archetypally,
the relation between Elizabeth and her courtiers reflected a moment in which a
courtship had been artificially frozen—in which the ‘lover’ and ‘beloved’ stood
permanently on the threshold of a sexual relationship which would never be realized;
and in which the cycle of reciprocity between an offer and its acceptance was
arrested and suspended, creating a tense network of social, sexual, and political
56 On these narrative positions, see Elizabeth Heale, Autobiography
and Authorship in Renaissance Verse: Chronicles of the Self (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 125-144. Henderson, Passion Made Public, 53,
analyzes Gascoigne’s "potentially dialogic play of lyric and satiric perspectives"
and his use of "the multiple perspectives afforded by temporal change."
See also, Susan Staub, "‘According to My Source’": Fictionality in
The Adventures of Master F. J.," Studies in Philology 87.1 (1990);
111-119, Hedley, "Allegoria" 148-164; and George Rowe, Jr., "Interpretation,
Sixteenth-Century Readers, and George Gascoigne’s ‘The Adventures of Master F.
J.,’" ELH 48 (1981), 271-289. Rowe situates Gascoigne in a movement
wherein fact and description replaced the humanist project of meaning and interpretation.
See also, Lynette McGrath, "George Gascoigne’s Moral Satire: The Didactic
Use of Convention in The Adventures Passed by Master F. J.," Journal
of English and Germanic Philology 70.3 (1971), 440-443; Paul Parish, "The
Multiple Perspectives of Gascoigne’s ‘The Adventures of Master F. J.,’"
Studies in Short Fiction 10.1 (1973), 75-85; and Leicester Bradner, "Point
of View in George Gascoigne’s Fiction," Studies in Short Fiction 3.1
(1965), 16-17. Arthur Kinney, ed., The Cambridge Companion to English Literature
1500-1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 5, writes, "painters
and writers of the Renaissance . . . placed a premium on the potential multiplicity
of perspective. Painters did not expect viewers to remain fixed in looking at
a work of art, but to move around to various positions to view it, just as the
writers at Henry’s court expected to be read . . . Shifting stances allow various
57 The story is from Book 3 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, ed.,
Horace Gregory (New York: Mentor, 1958), 89-92. The goddess Diana
Glanced a sidelong look across her shoulder
As though she wished her arrows were at hand,
But failing these, splashed water, sharp as rain,
In Actaeon’s face, and through his streaming hair . . .
And as she spoke, his wet hair branched in antlers,
Worn by the lively stag; his neck grew long,
Ears pointed, hands were hoofs, arms were thin legs,
And all his body a short-furred, spotted skin . . .
And while he stood in doubt, he saw his dogs,
His hunters, first Melampus, then quick-nosed
Ichnobates crying upon his trail.
The first early modern edition was The fyrst fovver bookes of P. Ovidius
Nasos worke, intitled Metamorphosis, trans., Arthur Golding (London, 1565),
STC (2nd ed.), 18955. Ilona Bell, "Elizabeth I—Always Her Own
Free Woman," in Political Rhetoric, Power, and Renaissance Women,
ed., Carole Levin and Patricia Sullivan (Albany: State of New York University
Press, 1995), 63, 69, 77, argues that Elizabeth did not fulfill the characteristics
of the traditionally chaste and virginal Petrarchan beloved. She writes that
"what cannot be sufficiently explained by a theory of political Petrarchism
is that even as Elizabeth veils her intentions like a conventional Petrarchan
lady, she asserts her desires like a man or, some say, strumpet." Frances
Teague, "Queen Elizabeth in her Speeches," in Gloriana’s Face,
63-78, argues that Elizabeth knowingly and actively created the image of herself
as the chaste virgin. King, "Representations of the Virgin," 43, argues
that Elizabeth only came to be identified with Diana as virgin later in her
reign, after 1580, when she was no longer capable of bearing children and thus
unlikely to be married. Greenblatt, Self-Fashioning, 168, dates the birth
of "secular cult of the virgin" to 1563. Austen, "Gascoigne’s
Metamorphoses," 21-22, writes of "Elizabeth and the mythic functions
of Diana, but this version of the story seems to evoke her darker side. Her
lovers (ambitious courtiers) become versions of Actaeon when the natural landscape
is revealed to be the product of Zabeta’s powers of transformation." See
also Montrose, The Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the cultural poetics
of the Elizabethan theatre (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996),
168-169, who discusses Elizabeth’s identification with the Diana and Actaeon
story in reference to Essex.
58 Austen, "Literary Career," 227 and 225; see also
246. The modern critical edition of Hemetes is available in Cunliffe,
Complete Works, 2, 472-510.
59 The quote is from Austen, "Literary Career,"223. Frye, Elizabeth I, 170-171, n. 7, argues that Elizabeth commanded
Gascoigne to translate Hemetes as a snub for forwarding Dudley’s power
at her expense in the Kenilworth entertainments. Hemetes, by contrast,
"more faithfully reproduced her preferred iconography of virginity."
Frye, Elizabeth I, 84-86, writes in "Kenilworth’s opening and censored
entertainments, Gascoigne and Dudley refuse the feminized role that Castiglione
assigned to the courtier, to charm his sovereign, and remasculinize themselves
by publicizing a deliberate conflict with her and her policies. At the same
time, in looking outside the court for an arena of male action, they demonstrate
how right Castiglione was that the courtier is feminized by the pursuit of ambition."
60 The image from Hemetes the Heremyte is used by permission
of the British Library.
65 The incident is discussed in Neville Williams, Elizabeth
the First: Queen of England (New York: E. P. Dutton; 1967), 332-333. The
treasonous nature of such acts of threatening the monarch by touching or bearing
a blade in her presence are defined in the Second Treasons Act of Elizabeth
1571, which reads, in part, "that if any person . . . during the natural
life of our most gracious sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth . . . shall, within
the realm or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise or intend the death or
destruction, or any bodily harm tending to the death, destruction, maim or wounding
of the royal person . . . that then all and every such said offence or offences
shall be taken, deemed and declared, by the authority of this act and Parliament,
to be high treason." Excerpted from The Tudor Constitution: Documents
and Commentary, ed., G. R. Elton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1992), 73-74. On swords, their power, and words as swords in Gascoigne’s other
work and in early modern culture, see Maslen, Elizabethan Fictions,
117, 134-135, 153.
66 Maslen, Elizabethan Fictions, 118, 122, 127, 132,
142, 155-157, details Gascoigne’s poetic construction of himself as an unpredictable
power that needs to be employed by the state, lest the Catholic enemies inside
and outside of England do employ him. Montrose, "The Work of Gender,"
9-10, writes of Elizabeth, "whose attempts to maintain an absolute command
over her courtiers’ alliances and their attentions had been flagrantly flouted.
Indeed, the various and conflicting recorded perceptions and attitudes of Elizabethan
subjects strongly suggest that such unpredictability [of ‘courting’] is itself
the historically relevant point; that it is, in fact, a structural feature of
the Elizabethan political system. A strategic ambiguity that might be manifested
as paradox, equivocation, or contradiction, it was of potential if limited utility
both to the monarch and to her (masculine) subjects. For the latter, however—as
Raleigh’s case demonstrates—it also carried considerable potential liabilities."
On the potentially subversive sense of courtship used by servants (and thus
not by the elite), see Matthew Steggle, "James Yates, Elizabethan Servant
Poet," Studies in Philology 101.1 (2004), 57-58. In reviewing the
dizzying array of identities that Gascoigne constructs for himself throughout
his work, Crewe, Trials of Authorship, 122, also finds that "all
this implies something more martially aggressive and mercurially devious than
Gascoigne’s credible self-characterization as a weak poet might lead one to
67 The quote is Nash, "‘A Subject Without Subjection,’"101.
On royal gift-giving practices and Dudley’s intentional slight or "ungracious
self-promotion," see 99-101.
68 The assertion comes from Susan Staub, "‘A Poet with
a Spear’": Writing and Sexual Power in the Elizabethan Period," Renaissance
Papers (1992), 2-3. I agree with her statement that Gascoigne "equates
writing with violence and aggression and fashions the male author not as subject
but as controller and creator" and the drawing "reveals the poet’s
ambivalence about the poetic enterprise, portraying, on the one hand, the surrender
of his freedom and identity to the female queen and, on the other, the assertion
of masculine power and autonomy."
69 On men’s clothing in the sixteenth century, see Brooke,
English Costume, 10-12. A contemporary image of Queen Elizabeth in parliament
includes members wearing furred gowns, a number of them resembling Gascoigne’s
gown with the short furred collar. The image is owned by the British Library
and is reproduced by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, The Life and Times of Elizabeth
(New York: Curtis Books; 1966), 5.
70 On the "Coronation Portrait" and the regalia of
investiture, see King, "Representations of the Virgin,"41-43. See
also Strong, Gloriana, 163-164.
71Political Culture in the Reign of ElizabethI:
Queen and Commonwealth 1558-1585 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1999),72, 100-104, 158-189.
73 Shannon, "Poetic Companies," 470-472, argues that
Gascoigne’s martial writings also "blur" the line between support
of a political superior and the assertion of Gascoigne’s own excellence (and
power) via "friendship’s (dehierarchizing) values."
74 McLaren, Political Culture, 102, writes, "given
contemporary beliefs about gender identities, queen-in-parliament denoted a
marriage between queen and the realm that at some level allowed, even insisted
upon, the ‘body’ taking the role of head, or husband. But this reversal was
unnatural, threatening established relations of hierarchy and degree."
On the godly as counselors, see 36-45. We should bring this highly contemporary
sense of "godly men" as rightful and necessary political "bridles"
to the Queen’s power to Gascoigne’s own concurrent self-representation as a
reformed and godly man writing moral works. As such, his self-construction in
those works seems much less the pandering argued by recent scholarship and more
an assertion of a specific kind of powerful self that justifies Gascoigne’s
sense of identity and desire for place.
75 Austen, "Literary Career,"228-229, also
discusses this moment, "it is not only an unmistakably favourable encounter,
in which Elizabeth seems to accept both Gascoigne’s book and his posturing,
but also a far more private encounter than he could ever hope to achieve in
his life, since there is not an attendant in sight."
76 "Wages of Courtly Success," 47; see also 52. He
also sees this moment as "Gascoigne’s courtly submission."
77 LaGrandeur, "Androgyny and Linguistic Power,"
351, writes of a similar power in The Steele Glas, "Gascoigne’s
persona straddles another boundary besides that of gender—it also bridges the
mortal and mythical, for beneath the appearance of self-deprecation are hidden
the features of an apotheosis of sorts." On "Gascoigne’s flexibility
and his talent for last-minute composition" at the Kenilworth entertainment,
see Austen, "Gascoigne’s Metamorphoses," 12-13.
78 The quote is by William Webbe, quoted in Henderson,
Passion Made Public, 48.
79 As Montrose, "Idols of the Queen," 116, writes,
"an ideologically embattled and politically insecure regime such as that
of Elizabeth Tudor was likely to construe a serious breach of decorum, if not
as an outright indication of seditious sentiment, any less than idealized representations
of the monarch and any less than reverential demeanor toward the royal image."
80 Prouty, George Gascoigne, The Noble Arte of Venerie,
652, writes, "he evidently did not think it well to put his name to so
light and trivial a work as The Noble Arte" and "when we think
of his other writings from this time on, all highly moral or designed to please
Queen Elizabeth, we may conclude that such a secular work . . . should not have
occupied as serious a reformer as George Gascoigne!" See also, Austen,
"Literary Career," 171-172.
81 Prouty, George Gascoigne, The Noble Arte of Venerie,
652, and Austen, "Literary Career," 172-173. On Bedford, see Rosenberg,
Patron of Letters, 167.
83 King, "Representations of the Virgin," 55, speaks
to such courtly evasions in reference to Spenser, "he shares Sidney’s realization
that ambiguity is the appropriate posture for one to assume in praising or advising
a queen whose own image and desires are ambiguous." On the political function
of anonymity and Gascoigne’s failure to "draw up and control the agreement
regarding anonymity and revelation with his elite audience" in his
A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, see North, "Anonymity’s Revelations,"
84 On Gascoigne’s muddled performance, see Austen, "Gascoigne’s
Metamorphoses,"16-18, who writes, "the incident became a running joke
between Gascoigne and the Queen." Such a joke characteristically turns
apparent failure into power for Gascoigne. See also, Richard McCoy, The Rites
of Knighthood: The Literature and Politics of Elizabethan Chivalry
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 44-45.
85 On control and access to the Queen’s body and the associate
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