The Body in Pain in Early Modern England

James C.W. Truman 
Huntingdon College

James C.W. Truman. "The Body in Pain in Early Modern England". Early Modern Literary Studies 14.3 (January, 2009) 1.1-37 <URL:>.

  1. In Book IV of Paradise Lost, Satan and Gabriel engage in a battle of wits over the nature of pain. When Satan has been discovered at his initial attempts to seduce Eve, Gabriel demands of him why he has escaped from Hell and come to Earth, having “broke the bounds prescrib’d/To thy transgressions” (IV.879-80). Satan responds:
    Gabriel, thou hadst in Heav’n th’ esteem of wise,
    And such I held thee; but this question askt
    Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain?
    Who would not, finding way, break loose from Hell,
    Though thither doom’d? (IV.886-890)
    Satan’s initial response is structured to play upon the most intuitive understanding of physical pain—that it is to be avoided and feared, as he asks incredulously “lives there who loves his pain?” As Satan develops his argument, he appeals to the “self-evident” distinction between pleasure and pain, putting to Gabriel that
    thou wouldst thyself, no doubt,
    And boldy venture to whatever place
    Farthest from pain, where thou might’st hope to change
    Torment with ease, and soonest recompense
    Dole with delight”(IV.890-895).
    This opposition of “torment” and “ease” voices an understanding of pain so prominent in the early modern period (not to mention our own) that Satan may take such a rhetorically nonchalant tone, expecting to play to a natural empathy for his position; with his chiding that Gabriel “hadst in Heav’n th’ esteem of wise,” Satan implies that it belies common sense to even ask why one would “break loose from Hell.” Hell is pain, and pain is to be escaped.  

  2. Satan’s intuitive analysis of pain depends upon understanding suffering in what could be called “penal” terms. In this sense, pain acts as punishment, as the lexicographical root of the word “pain” from the Latin poena, “punishment,” clearly asserts. This formulation of pain structures the basic, overarching narrative of Paradise Lost; the entire basis of the poem is, in essence, one of punishment of the rebel angels by means of “torture without end”(I.67), followed by the parallel punishment of humanity for their disobedience. As Adam is shown the future of mankind, he sees the horror and suffering in store:
    Immediately a place
    Before his eyes appear’d, sad, noisome, dark,
    A Lazar-house it seem’d, wherein were laid
    Numbers of all diseas’d, all maladies
    Of ghastly Spasm, or racking torture, qualms
    Of heart-sick Agony, all feverous kinds,
    Convulsions, Epilepsies, fierce Catarrhs,
    Intestine Stone and Ulcer, Colic pangs,
    Daemoniac Frenzy, moping Melancholy
    and Moon-struck madness, pining Atrophy,
    Marasmus, and wide-wasting Pestilence,
    Dropsies, and Asthmas, and Joint-racking Rheums.
    Dire was the tossing, deep the groans, despair
    Tended the sick busiest from Couch to Couch;
    And over them triumphant Death his Dart
    Shook, but delay’d to strike, though oft invok’t
    With vows, as thir chief good, and final hope.
    Sight so deform what heart of Rock could long
    Dry-eye’d behold?(XI.479-495)
    In the historical narrative made so familiar by Michel Foucault, this equation of pain with punishment dominated the juridical mechanisms of the early modern period, before the penal reform movements of the 18th and 19th centuries. There was a wide variety of different forms of pain applied to a range of crimes, from the pillory for sexual transgressions (often by means of nailing the ear to a post), to branding for vagrancy, and whipping for petty larceny, as well as for multiple other offenses[1]. Pain, in no uncertain terms, established the power of the monarch (or other governing body), controlling the boundaries of behavior for those subjected to her/his/its authority. And as Foucault has shown, it was absolutely essential that the pain of the condemned not be hidden by the walls of a prison, but exhibited in a public forum, proclaiming the limits of transgression while inviting the general populace to participate in the demarcation of those limits[2].

  3. The transition from this form of spectacular punishment to post-Enlightenment forms of systematic discipline has traditionally been seen as part of a progressive historical narrative that celebrates the triumph of the “humane” over the brutish savagery of the past. Foucault, though, famously pointed out the limits of this whiggish historical vision, asserting that the rituals of torture and execution were not simply barbaric or sadistic practices, as they are imagined to be by later generations. Pain was administered through complex, highly regulated methods; it was not a savage act, but a “quantitative art of pain[3].” It was through such methodical and strategic deployment of violence upon the body that the subject was shaped and contained within the ideological field of monarchical power. The pain of the victim acted as a form of “truth;” his suffering marks his position to the power of the sovereign through the spectacular visibility of his suffering. Pain is not to be hidden, for “every death agony expresses a certain truth: but when it takes place on the scaffold, it does so with more intensity, in that it is hastened by pain”(45-6). Pain produces the truth of the subject, not simply for the object of torture, but for the populace who must observe and participate in the rituals of suffering in order for them to function effectively[4].

  4. It is therefore reasonable for Milton’s Satan to appeal to an understanding of pain that cannot possibly be loved. In Paradise Lost, pain is the mechanism of punishment; it is Satan’s rebellion against authority that produces pain, in the most literal sense—pain emerges for the first time during the battle in Heaven, when Michael’s sword “deep ent’ring shear’d/All [Satan’s] right side”(VI.326-7) and Satan “first knew pain,/And writh’d him to and fro convolv’d”(VI.329). This pain is expressed in a most spectacular manner, as “a stream of Nectarous humor issu[ed] flow’d/Sanguine, such as Celestial Spirits may bleed”(332-3). Milton represents this spectacular pain as emerging directly from the sin of disobedience, when the Satanic host has retreated, “then first with fear surpris’d and sense of pain/Fled ignominious, to such evil brought/By sin of disobedience, till that hour/Not liable to fear or flight or pain.”(VI.393-5). And so while “fear” and “flight” are symptoms of the emergence of evil into the universe, “pain” is given pride of place, both in the catalogue of woes for the routed host, as well as that which can mortify Satan himself; he is “gnashing with anguish and despite and shame/To find himself not matchless, and his pride/Humbl’d by such rebuke”(VI.340-2). And despite Milton’s assertion that Satan’s wounds heal almost instantly, since “ethereal substance [is]…/Not long divisible”(VI.330-1), the mark of Satan’s disobedience remains as a scar, a dramatic disfigurement born upon his face. Satan appears as an “Arch-Angel ruin’d”(I.592) with “his face/Deep scars of Thunder had intrencht”(I.601); the residue of his suffering, the mark of his violation by the force of justice and legitimate authority, remains for all to see.

  5. But, as with most issues in Paradise Lost, nothing is simple; Milton shows pain to be much more than merely a form of punishment, even for Satan himself. For while Satan argues for an intuitive aversion to pain that would justify his escape from Hell, Gabriel points to a flaw in his argument, taunting:
    But wherefore thou alone? wherefore with thee
    Came not all Hell broke loose? is pain to them
    Less pain, less to be fled, or thou than they
    Less hardy to endure? courageous Chief,
    The first in flight from pain, hadst thou alleg’d
    To thy deserted host this cause of flight,
    Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive. (IV.917-23)
    And this accusation of cowardice strikes at the heart of Satan’s own definition of his heroism, which is formulated by the ready acceptance of pain upon the body. Satan’s declaration “to be weak is miserable/Doing or suffering”(I.156-7) recalls Scaevola’s declaration “to suffer, as to do,”[5] aligning him, as does a large segment of the opening books, with a classical Roman virtus of martial power defined by self-possessed endurance of suffering. Thus even for Satan, pain ceases to be about “punishment” and becomes recoded in terms of heroic agency. Pain is not just to be shunned, denied, or avoided, but also to be embraced, even desired as a mark of one’s heroic virtue. This shifts the interpretation of the body in pain away from punishment and toward the concept of “suffering,” with its lexicographical origins in the Latin sufferre, “to bear.”[6] The conception of the body’s pain as a “heroic suffering” points toward a way pain could be conceived of as not marking the boundaries of transgression, but as central to a valorized identity—as the source of a heroic self.

  6. Milton is thus caught in the crossfire of competing meanings for bodily pain. For despite an affection for a vengeful God, able to exert his authority through the extravagant display of violence upon the bodies of the disobedient, Milton’s theological position is simultaneously highly invested in the authority of Christian suffering, in that suffering is an essential element of salvation. “Heroic martyrdom”(IX.32) is the structuring principle of Book IX, an
    Not less but more Heroic than the wrath
    Of stern Achilles on his Foe pursu’d
    Thrice fugitive around Troy Wall; or rage
    Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous’d.”(IX.13-17).
    Milton is thus setting up a hierarchical opposition between the traditional “subject of heroic song” (IX.25), the active violence of martial endeavors, and the “better fortitude/Of patience and heroic martyrdom” (IX.31-32), clearly privileging the submission of martyrdom as the more heroic, and thus the more manly.[7]

  7. I begin with the problem of pain in Paradise Lost, because it usefully manifests the complexity of how pain, and particularly the spectacle of the body in pain, was understood in early modernity—a complexity that tends to be elided in critical discussion of early modern subjectivity, even in post-new historicist criticism. For the answer to Satan’s rhetorical question “lives there who loves his pain?” is “no, of course not—only a fool would seek out his own punishment.” Yet it is also “yes, of course—one can only be truly heroic if one suffers.” This double-answered question expresses both the ambivalence of pain and the desires that circulate around and emerge from the body in pain, which become a complex intersection for desire and subjectivity in early modernity.

  8. Pain and the “Self”

  9. The paradox of pain and suffering so evident in Paradise Lost, the fraught relationship between pain and subjectivity, troubles scholars well beyond early modern studies. A work that typifies the problem of pain is a collection of anthropological essays titled Pain as Human Experience. Reifying pain into an absolute and transhistorical concept, the editors begin their introduction insisting that it is “reasonable to assume that pain is a universal feature of the human experience.”[8] As the authors contend, “perhaps more than other somatic experiences, pain resists symbolization. Language and categories may rework and reshape pain, but they cannot remove or avoid it.”[9] This approach focuses almost solely on how pain is, in effect, external to the subject—a fundamentally physical experience that is, at its core, biological, as nerve impulses recognize damage to the body—to which individuals, as a transcendent abstraction whose “self” exists a priori to experience, only react.[10] For this subject, pain is only a negative pressure, dismantling or disrupting the “self”; it is the sort of pain included in the medical specialization of “pain management.” In fact, the articles that constitute Pain as Human Experience focus exclusively on the medical language of pain, particularly on sufferers of “chronic pain,” persistent pain connected (at least originally) with a medical condition, such as TMJ or back injury.[11] Pain is always, in the simplest terms, bad. From this medicalized perspective, Satan’s question could only be answered in the negative; no individual suffering pain as it is imagined by the authors of these essays could possibly been seen as “loving” pain. Pain is completely evacuated of desire, and of any constitutive power outside its most reactionary, destructive elements.

  10. The editors of Pain as Human Experience acknowledge the influence of one of the most important works on pain in the last 20 years, Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Scarry presents an eloquent analysis of the central problem in the representation of pain—that, as she puts it, “physical pain has no voice.”[12] Pain is for Scarry, as for the editors of Pain as Human Experience, an external force that pressures subjects in a transhistorical fashion; it is always the same, albeit with some variations in articulation. Scarry argues that even if one were to enumerate a variety of different historical and cultural depictions of pain,
    such cultural differences, taken collectively, would themselves constitute only a very narrow margin of variation and would thus in the end work to expose and confirm the universal sameness of the central problem, a problem that originates much less in the inflexibility of any one language or in the shyness of any one culture than in the utter rigidity of pain itself: its resistance to language is not simply one of its incidental or accidental attributes but is essential to what it is.[13]
    Scarry’s interpretation of pain is based in an individual’s relationship to pain, “the events happening within the interior of that person’s body [which] may seem to have the remote character of some deep subterranean fact.” [14] Her approach is engendered by the political work it is designed to perform—it is, by intent, an anti-totalitarian work, written to confront the militarism of Reagan-era foreign policy. This is most evident in that her work focuses on the meanings and uses of torture, beginning with readings of Amnesty International interviews with torture survivors and spinning outward to the broader rhetoric of warfare and geopolitics to develop her arguments about the “political consequences of pain’s inexpressibility.” [15] She herself has acknowledged equating human suffering with political oppression, seeing a progressive political agenda as correspondent to the elimination of human suffering. [16] It is particularly telling that no terms associated with “martyrdom” or “masochism” appear anywhere in Scarry’s text, and the work of de Sade only appears as the briefest side reference. [17] The most clearly manifest forms of suffering that may be seen as expressing the “love” of pain, of which Milton’s Satan speaks, simply disappear from Scarry’s theoretical matrix.

  11. This conceptual blind-spot is extended throughout other major works on pain. Roselyne Rey’s The History of Pain is a useful history of pain, but also privileges a medicalized language of pain management; she declares that her work “is dedicated to discovering the ways in which physicians, physiologists, and neurologists have throughout the ages attempted to understand the practical mechanisms of pain and to find appropriate remedies for it.”[18] In his The Culture of Pain, David Morris contends that in examining sociopolitical and historical interpretations of suffering, “we can recover the power to alleviate” it.[19] I do not want to dismiss the work of these scholars, particularly Scarry’s. Yet Scarry and other critics do not tell the whole story of the body in pain. Their approaches overwhelmingly privilege the poena dimension of pain, while excluding the potential that suffering may have as the condition of possibility for subjectivity, where a “love” of the body in pain exceeds the formulation of pain as universally destructive and abhorred. My aim is to historicize a small segment of the discourses where the subject is not placed in dialectic opposition to pain, but where suffering acts as a constitutive element of the formulation of the “self,” as sufferre means not only “to bear,” but “to allow.”

  12. That Within Which Passeth Show: New Historicism and the Suffering Subject

  13. The narrative of new historicism’s rise is now quite familiar; following Foucault, critics such as Jonathan Goldberg, Stephen Greenblatt, Francis Barker, and Catherine Belsey, rejected the premise of Burkhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy: i.e. the vision of the Renaissance as the moment the humanist individual, the self-contained and independently self-authorizing “I,” rises from the misty superstition of the “Dark Ages” to take control of his own destiny through a powerful will-to-mastery. New historicism preferred the “invention” of the modern subject through disciplinary systems and technologies of control, which create the “individual” as an object of knowledge, interpolated by the apparati of power surrounding it. [20] This reevaluation of subjectivity lead to a dramatic shift in how critics conceived of the emergent early modern subject, particularly the notion of “interiority,” or the “inner life” of the humanist subject. According to the first generation of new historicists, the “bourgeois individual” of the post-Enlightenment was not yet fully articulated in the 16th and 17th century, and so any texts that may appear to represent a subject with “inner life” are ahistorical illusions, “liberal humanism finds its own reflection, its own imaginary fullness everywhere.” [21]

  14. This approach is most clear in the new historicist reinterpretations of Hamlet, who as a character had been traditionally seen as one of the clearest markers of an emergent humanist subject. New historicists rejected this reading—as Catherine Belsey argues, Hamlet’s relentless soliloquizing is not a sign of depth, but “it is as if the hero is traversed by the voices of a succession of morality fragments, wrath and reason, patience and resolution. In none of them is it possible to locate the true, the essential Hamlet.” [22] This de-essentialization of the subject became something of a new orthodoxy in early modern studies. [23] Yet this approach ignored the significant rhetoric of interiority that circulates throughout early modernity. Katherine Eiseman Maus, in her forceful intervention in this debate, has shown that there was a “ubiquity of…conceptual categories” structuring a distinction between the verifiable exterior performance of the subject and its unknowable inner life in early modern culture.[24]

  15. I would like to focus on how the tropes of the body in pain play a significant role in the formulation of early modern interiority, one which I contend is not simply a precursor of a bourgeois subject-to-come, but which plays a significant role in specifically early modern cultural negotiation. For while suffering may play a role in the genealogical development of what will become the contained bourgeois subject, the extravagant representation and percolating eroticism of the early modern suffering subject become, I would venture, most distasteful to the rarified middle-class sensibilities of bourgeois culture. The canonization of Shakespeare’s more staid and cerebral plays over the more visceral (as Titus Andronicus evaporates from the canon despite its popularity in the 16th and 17th Centuries) and the traditional interpretation of Stuart drama’s “degeneration” into savage spectacle may be seen as a symptom of the Victorian sense of propriety that rejected the spectacle of suffering ubiquitous in early modern culture. I am not attempting an exhaustive analysis of the different forms of interiority available to early modern subjects, but aim to trace a particular mechanism by which interiority is produced in early modernity, one which cuts across a variety of these different discourses of inwardness.

  16. For generally overlooked in the debate over Hamlet’s declaration of interiority is what allows him to declare that depth; not in the sense of the “essence” that Barker and Belsey show is always already displaced, but what, in terms of the drama itself, is inexpressible in Hamlet’s inner life—his suffering. Hamlet’s interiority, what has appeared to modern readers as his depth of angst and inner struggle, is an effect, and an affect, of his declaration of inner torment. Hamlet manifests his suffering in a most physical fashion; his interiorized musings are all about his “woe,” his fantasies of dissolution, violence, and death, and he somaticizes his inner torment through his own acts of violence against himself and others. Post-modern theatrical productions, having become more aware of the historical context of Hamlet, have set aside the romantic and pensive Hamlet, preferring the more psychotic, and excessively violent, character. Suffering, for the subject named “Hamlet,” is the particular mechanism that produces the image of “depth,” of that which is not spoken. He, in the most occult sense, is defined by his suffering, a suffering that has the authority of authenticity—it is not merely “the trappings and the suits of woe,” but the “truth” of himself.

  17. It is not a generalized notion of suffering that is significant, but, I would argue, pain that is manifest somatically. [25] Building upon the work of new historicism, and developing what Maus calls a “materialist psychology,” this somaticization of interiority has been examined in great depth in the work of Gail Kern Paster, Jonathan Sawday and Michael Schoenfeldt. These scholars focus upon how the medical discourses of Galenic humoral theory are used to express an interiority of the subject, envisioned as dependent on the motions of the blood within (and in and out of) their bodies.[26] Yet I contend that the trope of the body in pain gains a particular power to produce the vision of an interiorized subject because it crosses over multiple discursive fields, and so has an ethical effect that acts both within and in excess of these medicalized models of embodiment. For while Foucault’s work in Discipline and Punish emphasizes the power of suffering to re-incorporate the subject within dominant monarchical society, that is not the whole story the body in pain may tell. Foucault himself briefly acknowledges the potential plurality of meanings attached to the suffering body, as he notes the instability of the public spectacle of the scaffold, which was always a potentially volatile event. He asserts that “in these executions, which ought to show only the terrorizing power of the prince, there was a whole aspect of the carnival, in which rules were inverted, authority mocked and criminals transformed into heroes.”[27] I contend that just as pain may inscribe the “truth” of the subject, it may also act to illuminate a “depth” of the subject. This articulation of depth, of an “inner life,” may produce a subject who, by embracing the pain of the body as a constitutive element of her/his self, is able to invert monarchical power even as it works to inscribe itself upon her/him. In a way, this is a historicization of Scarry’s theories of pain; i.e. that pain is inexpressible because it is the most absolutely subjective experience, that it only exists within the subject, and resists any communication beyond that interiorized experience. As Scarry puts it, “when one speaks about ‘one’s own physical pain’ and about ‘another person’s physical pain,’ one might almost appear to be speaking about two wholly distinct orders of events.”[28] While the isolating character of pain can, at times, act in support of the powers that wield it by excluding the victim from her/his community and containing transgression, I argue that this same isolating effect may be recoded to illuminate a depth of the self that can resist those who wield violence against the subject.

  18. Elizabeth Hanson’s study of the reemergence of legalized torture in the late Elizabethan period has initiated an investigation into the potential of the body in pain to be a site of resistance. England had outlawed torture in the 12th century, yet it came briefly back into use in the 1580s as a weapon against the perceived Jesuit threat.[29] Hanson argues that the texts surrounding this historical moment reveal an early modern ethos of “truth in suffering,” as the tortured body became the contested site of the “truth” of the self which is hidden from public view:
    Elizabethan torturers sought to establish discursive hegemony by forcibly appropriating their victims’ speech. Their victims, in struggling to maintain religious discourse in the torture chamber, sought the same end by holding their enemies’ discourse at the frontier marked by torture.[30]
    Suffering acts as the medium from which the truth of the self is crafted, either in terms of treasonous guilt (as is the goal of the Elizabethan establishment) or of righteous martyrdom (as is the goal of Jesuits).[31] Hanson’s argument thus begins a process of inverting and extending Foucault’s reading of early modern torture by showing the potential for victims to control the meanings of their own pain, converting the violation of their bodies from an act of subjugation to monarchical power, to a symbol of their own inner sovereignty, their own individuated authority.[32]

  19. This is not necessarily a radical statement, as Hanson’s declaration that the Jesuits “hold...their enemies’ discourse at the frontier marked by torture” replicates a traditional logic of martyrdom which defines “inner” strength through a logic of resistance to suffering. But there is more to the structure of the early modern suffering subject. It is more than simply a logic of “resistance” that illuminates the “inner life” of the subject; interiority is produced through a welcomed, even desired, acceptance of pain upon the body. As Cardinal William Allen expresses in his martyrology of Jesuits, Protestant authorities “rack not our bodies only, but our very consciences.”[33] Allen’s statement is, in one sense, designed to point out the injustice of Elizabethan paranoia that attempts to invade even the most inaccessible of spaces, reserved only for divine knowledge. Yet he also dismantles the authority of that torture through clever rhetorical jujitsu, as he does not simply dismiss the Protestant use of torture to find truth—Allen implicitly accepts the role of torture as a truth-gathering mechanism. For Allen, torture does not simply test the strength of the body to resist pain in order to keep some occult truth hidden. Torture, for Allen, is able to reveal the very truth of conscience; i.e. that there is no treason to be confessed, that the Jesuits are upright English citizens. As he describes Edmund Campion, his chief model of comportment, Allen says, “if they had torne him in ten thousand peeces or stilled him to the quintessence, in that holy breast they should never have found any peece of those fained treasons.”[34] Campion’s suffering makes evident the purity of his “holy breast” by literally tearing his body open, exhibiting through torture the truth of the inner self. And Campion himself was described as conducting himself with particular humor as he incorporates his pain to himself:
    his said keeper asking him the next day how he felt his handes and feet: he answered, not il, because not at al. And being in that case benomed both of hand and fote, he likened him selfe to an elephant, which being downe could not rise: when he could hold the bread he had to eat betwixt both his handses, he would compare him selfe to an ape: so mirry the man of God was in minde in al his bodely miseries.[35]
    Campion translates the breaking of his body, the very marks of his subjection to power into a (rather absurd) joke, thus recoding his pain from the logic of poena into a grim pleasure, a brief eruption of darkly humorous jouissance that witnesses to his inner self defined by the suffering of his body.

  20. This configuration of the suffering body offers the early modern subject a powerful site for the self-fashioning[36] of an individuated subject. I am not arguing that there is an “authentic,” trans-historical self that is revealed in suffering; rather, I argue that this individuation manifests only as it is rendered before an audience. And the “depth” of that subject gains its authority because that audience is directed to recognize and react empathetically to that suffering. This, certainly, is Satan’s expectation; that his pain should breed a sympathetic reaction in Gabriel, his audience. Essentially, the suffering subject is constituted in an aesthetic field that works to establish a sense of affective intimacy radiating from the spectacle of the suffering body, to communicate the most intimate sense of a “self.”[37] Suffering within such an aestheticized spectacle thus acts as a “technology of affect,” to borrow Lisa Jardine’s term, a discursive structure designed to control the responses of an audience.[38] This is most evident in texts that emerge from the traditions of martyrology, as the “theater of martyrs” produces dramatic spectacles of torture and public execution. These texts are constructed to frame the “appropriate” response, setting up the terms of the audience reaction; the meanings of the body’s pain, whether it be formed as heroic or treasonous, is the prize for which the text contests. For example, in Campion’s case, a key element of William Allen’s martyrology is not simply the dramatic rendition of his reactions on the scaffold or on the rack, but the reactions of the spectators who experienced his suffering: Allen works to control the representations of the crowd’s reaction to the Jesuit’s suffering, which he contends had been corrupted at the hands of “libelers” like Anthony Munday. Allen presents his version of events in terms of an eyewitness account, to give historical authority to his account:
    a few of the people set on by the Ministers that used to follow the gallowes, gave credit and aime to the rest that stoode farther off, to cry away with them, away with them. Though thousands went home after the sight of so notorious a spectacle, as the constancie of the Martyrs yelded that time, sighing, weeping and lamenting the case.[39]
    Allen portrays the crowds as profoundly affected by the spectacle of pain, rhetorically controlling the authority of pain. For Allen, the rhetoric of suffering is predicated on a narrative structure that attempts to control the reactions of the audience; the authority of suffering as the site of subject-construction is built upon the power of “witness.” “Witnessing,” of course, has specific theological implications, as it is the origin of the term “martyr.” Religion was a ubiquitous presence in pre-Enlightenment Europe, and was, in essence, the primary arbiter of culture—and even more so in context of the struggles of the Reformation. So it is with early modern martyrological texts. Katherine Eisaman Maus asserts that the “far-reaching political, religious, and economic realignments that constitute the English Reformation” were central to the emergence of the rhetoric of “inner life” in early modern England. She primarily sees it as “an almost inevitable result of religious oppression” that a notion of an inner, concealed self would be produced—and so she, like Hanson, implies that the “inner self” is a product of torture, or the threat of torture, driven by violent theological conflicts.[40] And though martyrdom was a prominent discursive form that deployed the aesthetic of the body in pain, in early modernity this aesthetic of suffering extends well beyond the evangelical tropes of martyrology. This aesthetic of witnessing extending through diverse fields, from the representations of military culture in the martial dramas of Henry V and Coriolanus to the courtly poetics of petrarchism, with each of these discourses constructing an affective aesthetic that situates the extremes of suffering as constitutive of a distinct, interiorized form of subjectivity.[41]

  21. Penetration, Desire, and Male Friendship

  22. The rhetorical excess of Satan’s question “lives there who loves his pain” calls attention to how erotic desire becomes productively entangled within the suffering subject. For while Satan and Gabriel do agree that embracing pain makes them more “manly,” more heroic in the most traditionally martial sense, Satan’s use of “love” to describe a relationship to pain stresses the dynamic connection between valorized suffering and sexual desire. This connection is energized by the fact that the early modern sex/gender system was built upon the axiom of male domination; Spenser asserts this in The Fairie Queene with his demonization of Radigund, the Amazonian warrior, who has “shaken off the shamefast band, / With which wise Nature did them strongly bynd, / T’obay the heasts of mans well ruling hand” (5.5.25-27). In light of this hierarchical structure of gender, Valerie Traub, Peter Stallybrass, and others have shown how the female body is the particular focus of social control, in relation to its penetrability, often coded in terms of the defense of chastity. The elaborate policing system set up around women’s bodies was deemed (by the status quo) as “necessary” because women were, by their very nature, penetrable, essentially fungible, in opposition to the idealized male body, defined by both continence and a unidirectional ability to dominate and penetrate. [42] Masculinity was defined in terms of the subject’s ability to master the feminine, and the feminine determined in terms of submission to domination.[43] In early modernity, then, penetration was the key to producing both gendered subjects and articulating erotic desire, as opposed to the biomedical essentialism that defines gender and sexuality in post-Victorian sexology.[44] Symptomatic of this was the criminalization of any penetration that failed to align “active” and “passive” position with the appropriate gender. Sodomy statutes were structured around inappropriate penetration, not exclusively inappropriate object choice, and even women engaging in same-sex relationships were prosecuted not for inappropriate object-choice, but for inappropriate penetration, either by prosthetics or by enlarged clitoris.[45] This logic is embedded in Satan’s call to the self-evident absurdity of “lov[ing] his pain,” where the masculinity of the generic pronoun of “his” would be, in essence, impossible if defined by the “love” of his own painful subjection—a subjection which would be almost unavoidably eroticized through analogy to the erotic structures of penetration.[46] The anxiety surrounding the suffering man is supported by the paranoid fear invested in the figure of the “sodomite,” the subject who participates in actions that violate the normative hierarchies of penetration, which condensed primarily around the notion of “buggery.”[47] An accusation of sodomy was, essentially, equitable with witchcraft or heresy, as with the accusations of sodomy made against Christopher Marlowe, where he was said to declare “all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools” and that “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma.”[48] Here, even as Marlowe’s corrupted and depraved nature is linked to the sin of heresy, its horror ultimately centers on an evocation of the penetrated man.

  23. Yet in early modernity, the equation of masculinity with masterful domination is far less rigid than dominant gender ideologies often imply. John Foxe, in his Actes and Monuments, makes this clear as he establishes the authority of martyrs in direct opposition to a martial heroic of masculine violence. Martyrs
    declare to the worlde what true fortitude is, and a waye to conquer, which standeth not in the power of man, but in hope of the resurrection to come… Undoubtedly these martyrs are much more worthy of this honor, then .600. Alexanders, Hectors, Scipioes, and warring Julies. For… with God the judge of al men, they are most reputed in dede, not that kil one another with a weapon (for by that reason we may attribute the renoune of fortitude unto Beares, Lions, Wolves, Leopares) but they which being constantly killed in Gods cause, doo retayne styll an invincible spirit and stomacke against the threates of Tirantes, and injuries of Tormentours. These undoubtedly are the true Conquerers of the world, at whose hand we learne true manhoode…[49]
    Baines’ libel is quite telling in this respect; he claims that Marlowe says John “used” Christ, that Christ was the object of sexual violation. Yet Christ’s body is the very icon of penetrability—the very authority of Christ’s virtue emerges from his acceptance of suffering upon himself; literally, from his passion, which exhibits the greatest possible love of pain, one that was often envisioned in erotic terms. And this central figure of the subjected, impassioned male body became a site around which circulated an extravagant homoeroticism, most evident in the ardent devotional poetics of the 16th and 17th centuries, as when John Donne laments, “to hang upon him that hangs upon the Crosse, there bathe in his teares, there suck at his wounds.”[50]

  24. In the light of the role of suffering within the sex/gender system, the socio-political significance of the eroticism (especially homoeroticism) that is often attached to the suffering of the male body becomes apparent.[51] For with the complex intersection of suffering-as-individuation and suffering-as-desire, the eroticization of pain positions the subject within the networks of homosocial desire that constitute patriarchal power relationships in early modern England.[52] It has long been recognized that the powerful emotional bonds between men falling under the rubric of the prosaic term “friendship,” were vital to the socio-political power structures of early modernity. Developed from models such as Cicero’s De Amicitia and other neoplatonic treatises, friendship utilizes the rhetoric of platonic unity to construct powerful alliances between men, privileging the pure, homosocial unity of “like” against degraded heterosexual desire.[53] The erotic potential of these male relationships, though, has only recently been recognized, despite the amorously charged rhetoric often used. Not only is the intimacy between men dramatically physical, as the common and lauded practice of men being “bed-companions” expresses, but even Bacon’s platonic description of the joys of male friendship reverberates with orgasmic imagery, as he declares “a principle fruit of friendship is the ease and discharge of the fullness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce.”[54] In fact, Alan Bray has shown that the tropes of sodomy and those of male friendship often were indistinguishable. [55]

  25. Jeffrey Masten’s work has been of particular significance in articulating the complex erotics of male friendship. Masten focuses his reading on Montaigne’s “On Friendship,” often seen as evidence against a homoeroticized friendship due to its dismissal of pederasty, or as he calls it, the “insolent and passionate violences” of the “Greek license.” He argues that to read Montaigne as anti-homoerotic misses the key elements of friendship; Masten declares that Montaigne argues that
    sexual relationships are incompatible with friendship not because they are sexual per se, but because, in the only precedent example (Greek pederasty), they included “disparitie” and “difference”—whereas the essayist would require “conference and communication,’ or returning to Brathwait’s language [in The English Gentleman] “mutuall interchoice.” What appears to be the strict separation of friendship and sexuality in the essay, then, is instead a refusal of relations founded on “disparity”: of gender, of age, or of “office.”[56]
    Masten’s reevaluation argues that friendship is built upon an egalitarian “erotics of similitude.”[57] Yet while this erotic economy of male friendship is established against traditional heterosexual hierarchy, it does not forgo the structural parallel of desire and penetration that formulates heterosexual desire; it simply reorganizes it. According to Masten, the erotic exchange between men in this form of sanctioned homoeroticism is one of interpenetration. In this, to use Montaigne’s term, “commixture” of male friends, “penetrator and penetrated are indistinguishable,”[58] where the male body, which in a heterosexual system is supposed to be solely the penetrator, may become legitimately penetrated in an intimate relationship with another man[59] in “the sanctioned homoeroticism of male frienship [that] is not only sanctioned but also constitutive of power relations in the period.”[60]

  26. With the reorganization of penetration in male friendship, eroticized wounding and the affective authority of suffering become powerful mechanisms for the generation of intimacy between men. In an almost literal sense, the wounds of the suffering male body may act as conduits between subjects. This is most cogently analyzed in Richard Rambuss’s study of 17th-century devotional poetics; as he puts it, “an orifice or perforation in the body becomes the portal for devotional access.” [61] Yet the eroticized devotion to the wounded body of Christ is only one (albeit a powerful and influential) model for this sort of desire; the union of men across their wounds is multiplied across early modern culture. The heroic deaths of York and Suffolk in Henry V exemplify such a secularized model of intimate male suffering, as the fatally wounded York “comes to [Suffolk] where in gore he lay insteeped,/And takes him by the beard, kisses the gashes/That bloodily did yawn upon his face”( Wounding thus has the potential to energize any discursive site that calls for an affective attachment between men.

  27. Most significantly, the very affectivness of these representations of suffering manifests itself not only in relationships imagined within a text, but is extended outward through the aesthetics of suffering articulated by texts to the reader/viewer of the spectacle of suffering. The invasive power of representation was seen as fundamental to the aesthetics of poetry; poetry was judged “good” if its poetic energia has the ability to “inwardly work...a stirre to the mynde,” as Puttenham says.[62] Poetic authority came from the ability of the text to act beyond the authority of the rational or the intellectual. Sidney states that the poet “yieldeth to the powers of the mind and image of that whereof the philosopher bestoweth but a wordish description, which doth neither strike, pierce, nor possess the sight of the soul so much as that other doth.”[63] Milton establishes the authority of spectacle in Paradise Lost; for even as the affective power of Satan’s suffering is dismantled by Gabriel’s arguments, the future suffering of humanity seen by Adam in Book XI is set up as worthy of pity, and therefore forcibly affective:
    Sight so deform what hear of Rock could long
    Dry-ey’d behold? Adam could not, but wept,
    Though not of Woman born; compassion quell’d
    His best of Man, and gave him up to tears
    A space, till firmer thoughts restrain’d excess(XI.494-498).
    Milton’s description of the “quell[ing]” of Adam’s very maleness, his “best of Man,” by the overwhelming power of his “compassion,” expresses the invasive authority of the spectacle of suffering, a power that Milton shows as directly intervening in the hierarchical structure of gender. A similar affective force was also understood to be inherent to dramatic spectacles on the stage, which is seen as having an invasive power over its audience, for better or worse.[64] Antitheatrical Puritans see this invasive aesthetic as a threat, as when William Prynne declares with horror that “Stage-Playes devirginate unmarried persons,”[65] while Meredith Hamner describes the virtuous experience of witnessing Eusebius’ “Theater of Martyrs” as being “ravished with Zeale.”[66] Representations of violation themselves incorporate the spectator within that matrix of penetration and exchange, as the audience is to be “ravished with zeale” even as the victims are ravished in their suffering.

  28. Petrarchism and Constitutive Pain

  29. The constitutive potency of the aesthetics of the suffering body is two-fold; in one sense, suffering articulates an image of individuation and depth, radically separating the subject from those around her/him. Yet in another sense, the ecstatic violation of the body constructs an affective fantasy of access between subjects, as the intimacy of suffering duplicates the intimacy of homoerotic friendship. The wounded and suffering body becomes both the marker of individuated power and an aperture for exchange between self-fashioned individuals. This phenomenon may be at its most visible in the late 16th Century fashion for petrarchan verse, when sonnet sequences “virtually flooded the literary market in the 1590s.”[67] Yet in critical discussions of this poetic discourse, the significance of pain is diminished, either by oversimplifying it as “real,” or displacing it as “metaphorical;” either way, these readings avoid recognizing the constitutive and functional elements of pain in the development of subjectivity.[68] But at the core of the discourse is the spectacle of the suffering poet, wracked with pain. Sidney, in the opening of Astrophil and Stella aggressively establishes suffering as the reservoir of the truth of the self:
    Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
    That she (dear she) might take some pleasure of my pain;
    Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain;
    I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
    Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain;
    Of turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow
    Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburnt brain.
    But words came halting forth, wanting invention’s stay;
    Invention, nature’s child, fled step-dame study’s blows;
    And others’ feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
    Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
    Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
    ‘Fool,’ said my muse to me; ‘look to thy heart and write.’ (Astrophil and Stella 1)
    As Astrophil looks to “paint the blackest face of woe,” to express the “truth’ of his love, which is the “truth” of his pain, he turns to “inventions fine,” attempting to use poetic artifice—laying on, or “painting,” a surface projection of suffering. Yet art fails to express the authenticity of his desire, which finally emerges only with the famous declaration “look to thy heart.” Suffering, in this case the suffering of unrequited desire, is that which exists beyond artifice, beyond performance—it is, for these early modern writers, the very substance of the unrepresentable, of the truth of the self.

  30. Following new historicism, the self-fashioning effect of the petrarchan rhetoric, with its ironic self-abjection producing masculinized and self-authorizing voice, has been well-recognized. But this argument ignores the rhetoric of pain’s role in producing this authorized, “authentic” subjectivity, particularly in relation to the anti-petrarchan rhetoric which highlights the genre’s poetic artifice and inauthenticity.[69] Petrarchism’s recognizable artifice sets the stage for the role the rhetoric of suffering will play in constituting the “inner life” for the early modern poet. [70] For Astrophil/Sidney, when he finally finds his authentic self by “look[ing] to [his] heart,” he is not representing an abstraction of “love,” but how he is able to manifest the “blackest face of woe” that he could not adequately represent through imitation of external sources. In Astrophil and Stella 6, Astrophil/Sidney does not simply speak, as if plain speaker were sufficient. It must be with “trembling voice,” evoking the speaker’s fear and torment. In his Amoretti, Spenser begins with the description of his poetry as “the sorowes of my dying spright,/Written with teares in harts close bleeding booke”(1.7-8), which he follows with an address to his “unquiet thought, whom at the first I bred/Of th’inward bale of my love pined hart”(2.1-3). Inwardness is so closely linked to suffering that it is literally, semantically inseparable; it is not the “close booke” of the poet’s inner self, but his “close bleeding book.” It is not the “inward hart,” but the “inward bale of my love pined hart.” In the Elizabethan sequence, then, a link between suffering and the truth of the self is rendered fairly consistently, as the mimesis of “depth” and “inner life” is equated with a depth of physical, somatic suffering.[71]

  31. The traditional liberal-humanist definition of the subject-as-individual that exists a priori to the experience of suffering would see such pain as only one of a series of obstacles, trials, and/or punishments that the subject must endure in its quest for any particular end-pleasure, be it salvation, philosophical enlightenment, erotic pleasure, political advancement, or some other desired end. And there is certainly an initial structuring of the subject against pain in petrarchan sequences; Astrophil/Sidney does protest that the true goal of his writing is to achieve end-pleasure in a physical union with Stella, his “sweet reward for sharpest pain”(fourth song, 4). Spenser, in Amoretti 26, declares his willingness to suffer in order to attain his goal: “Why then should I accoupt a little paine,/That endlesse pleasure shall unto me gaine?” Yet within the narrative, this division between the subject and his suffering collapses almost immediately, and the speaker ceases to be defined within a simple dialectic of “resistance” or “endurance.” Suffering ceases to have the teleological trajectory of a pain to be endured with the promise of reward; as the sequence progresses, the inevitability of erotic failure collapses the separated poles of process and outcome, and the pain of process becomes situated in the place of end-pleasure. Engaging an array of standard petrarchan oxymorons in sonnet 19, Astrophil/Sidney declares:
    On Cupid’s bow how are my heart-strings bent
    That see my wrack, and yet embrace the same!
    When most I glory, then I feel most shame:
    I willing run, yet while I run, repent. (1-4)
    Astrophil thus declares his situation so “bent” by Love’s violence that it is deformed to the point that the previously opposing poles of suffering (“wrack”) and desire (“embrace”) become unified. This melding of pain and pleasure, significantly, does not parallel a “masculine” form; it is not a sadistic structure where pleasure is linked to being the agent of pain, but to a celebration of the male subject’s own “wrack.” Astrophil/Sidney attempts to maintain the unstable separation between pain and pleasure, emphasizing the strangeness of the situation, expressing astonishment with the use of “yet” in the second line, while the following two oppositions, of “glory”(3) and “shame”(3) and “willingly run”(4) and “repent”(4) stress an internalized rejection of suffering, even as it is desired. Yet Astrophil/Sidney does not fear or resist his wrack; he merely “see[s]” it. Despite the attempts at deferral in the rest of the quatrain, the authority of the first lines render the poet’s following attempt to limit his desire for suffering rather hollow.

  32. Spenser’s Amoretti is more systematic than Astrophil and Stella in articulating this intertwining of suffering and subjectivity, as in Amoretti 35, where the poet declares
    my hungry eyes through greedy covetize
    Still to behold the object of their paine,
    With no contentment can themselves suffize:
    But having pine and having not complaine.
    For lacking it, they cannot lyfe sustayne,
    And having it, they gaze on it the more (1-7).
    The traditional ability of the poet to objectify his subject matter is here dramatically inverted—even as the first line replicates the hierarchical domination of the object of sight. As the poet’s eyes “covetize” their object, the poet is converted to the willing victim of that object. The tortured syntax of line 2 twists the meaning of the term “object” from occupying a position of subjection to one of violent domination. Thus the violence associated with the desiring male gaze, the “object of their paine,” is turned back against the poet, as the position of viewer becomes one of pain. The poet has, for Spenser, become dependent upon his own subjection, “for lacking it, [his male eyes] cannot lyfe sustayne.” This power of inversion is the “mighty charm,” Spenser declares in Amoretti 47, “which makes men love theyr bane,/And thinck they dy with pleaure, live with payne.”[72]

  33. It is in this sense that the predominance of somaticized imagery (as wounds and blows are the predominant vocabulary of petrarchism) gives life to the interiority that, with the elaborate rhetoric of failure, is given no direct verbal expression. The image of the pain becomes the site of an ineffable inner nature even as it is linked metonymically to somatic violation, and thus visible, images of suffering. Spenser’s Amoretti 50 deploys a very specific medical image, as the poet consults with a physician concerning his suffering:
    Long languishing in double malady,
    Of my harts wound and of my bodies griefe,
    There came to me a leach that would apply
    Fit medicines for my bodies best reliefe.
    “Vayne man,” quod I, “that has but little priefe,
    In deep discovery of the mynds disease,
    Is not the hart of all the body chiefe?
    And rules the members as it selfe doth please?
    Then with some cordialls seeke first to appease
    The inward languour of my wounded hart,
    And then my body shall have shortly ease:
    But such sweet cordialls passe Physitions art.”
    Then my lyfes Leach doe you your skill reveale,
    And with one salve both hart and body heale.
    This image of the “double malady” of suffering, the “harts wound” and the “bodies griefe,” link together a suffering self that is accessible—literally—to medical intervention of the “Physition,” and an interior, and therefore hidden, suffering subject, to which the physician’s “art” may have no access. The separation, though, is not absolute, as the poet declares his sufferings to be linked; if one was to “first…appease/The inward languour,” then the “body shall have shortly ease.” The doubled nature of suffering thus maintains the visible suffering of the body as separate from the interior suffering. The “deep...wound that dints the parts entire”(Amoretti 6.11) is a wound too “entire,” too deep to be seen; representing the suffering of the petrarchan subject is, finally and absolutely, a “solitary paine”(Amoretti 52) to which viewers have no direct access. Yet this “pain which passeth show” is still, paradoxically, able to be represented, at least partially, through the rhetoric of wounding, as the double-malady of pain allows for a recognizable glimpse of ineffable depth, producing the aesthetics of wounding as a image of the deep, hidden “truth” of an inner self.

  34. This truth of the inner self is of particular use to the petrarchan sonnetteer, as it petrarchism’s unabashedly extravagant discourse of suffering negotiates the contradictory objectives of Elizabethan courtiership. Elizabethans were, to say the least, “preoccupied” with the problem of positioning Elizabeth as a female monarch within a political system structured by male homosocial relationships. [73] The ability of sonneteers to use rhetoric to negotiate court politics has been long recognized— These readings, though, have remained locked into a rigid structure of domination and submission, seeing the position of the subject within both the political and sex/gender hierarchy, either with the male poet adopting a submissive, masochistic position in relation to power,[74] or becoming a “sadistic sonneteer,”[75] striking in textual form against tyrannical power (made, by the presence of Elizabeth, an estrogenical tyranny). But the rhetoric of pain that structures petrarchism resists such a strict hierarchy of subject positions, and so sabotages the conservative forms of hierarchical gender. For even as suffering produces the fantasy of autonomy replete with depth and “inner life,” the “technology of affect” built into petrarchism as a poetic spectacle produces a parallel fantasy of exchange built upon the eroticisation of suffering—essentially reconfiguring the very gender politics of the court itself. Petrarchan rhetoric shifts the ostensibly heterosexual and hierarchical forms of desire to a model of homoerotic exchange analogous to models of “male friendship,” as the impulses of individuation and erotic desire intersect at the trope of the suffering body.

  35. Petrachism’s positioning of the female object of desire as a participant within male homosocial desire is most clear in the deployment of militaristic images that pervade the sonnet sequence. Military imagery is ubiquitous throughout petrarchan discourse, as it emerges from the rime sparse imagery of Laura as “dolce mia guerras,” “my sweet warrior.” Yet this imagery is significant beyond its generic origins, for as Bruce Smith has most usefully shown, the fantasy of violent struggle between men is not just a powerful trope of male relationships, but acts as the core structuring principle of male homosocial desire.[76] The figuring of that struggle as eroticized becomes highly significant for subjects who must negotiate both their definition as individuated subjects, while remaining engaged in a mutual exchange of violence that binds them together in a social matrix. Spenser, in Amoretti 11 speaks of his love as the “cruell warriour [who] doth her selfe addresse/To battell,” and of his struggle with her as “the weary war.” Sidney, of course, develops the most elaborate set of martial images in Astrophil and Stella, most clearly articulated in the jousting sequences of sonnets 41 and 53.[77] The sonnets are inversions of each other, addressing both triumph and defeat on the tournament field. Sonnet 41 speaks to Astrophil/Sidney’s empowerment on the jousting field, where he “obtained the prize,/Both by the judgement of the English eyes/And of some sent from that sweet enemy, France”(2-4). This power he credits to the fact that “Stella looked on, and from her heavenly face/Sent forth the beams, which made so fair my race”(13-14). While this sort of relationship fits the traditions of courtly love, it is undercut by the political specificity of the moment, which scholars have pointed out were quite recognizable. This emphasis on the social implications of martial triumph, in the “judgement” of those watching, and especially that of “sweet enemy, France” shifts this tournament scene from being a simple fantasy of nostalgic romanticism and demands that attention be paid to the political significance of agonistic male relationships—while the female figure of Stella is actively situated within that highly charged network of power. The representations of desire in violent and blood-soaked forms begin almost immediately at the outset of the sequence; sonnet 2 opens with martial images of wounding: “not at first sight, nor with a dribbed shot,/Love gave the wound which while I breathe will bleed”(1-2). Sonnet 36 elaborates this image:
    Stella, whence doth this new assault arise,
    A conquered, yelden, ransacked heart to win?
    Whereto long since, through my long battered eyes,
    Whole armies of thy beauties entered in;
    And there, long since, love, thy lieutenant lies;
    My forces razed, thy banners raised within
    Of conquest do not these effects suffice,
    But wilt new war upon thine own begin? (1-8)
    The implications of Astrophil/Sidney’s “ransacked heart” are, certainly, erotic, and not simply as a metaphor of penetration. Despite the development of military discipline, in the 16th century the fall of a city still called forth images of indiscriminant sexual violence. As Henry V tells the inhabitants of Harfleur, they are to expect that their “pure maidens [will] fall into the hand/of hot and forcing violation [and]… the blind and bloody soldier with foul hand/ [will] defile the locks of [their] shrill-shrieking daughters”(3.3.19-35). Astrophil/Sidney’s emphasis on the repetition of the “new assault” accentuates this erotic potential—since a surrender did not by any means lead to an automatic ravaging of a city’s citizens; it is an “excessive” assault that implies the explicitly sexual violation of a city’s populace.

  36. Yet the poet is not simply the passive victim of military aggression; his whole agenda in writing is one of unabashed assault. Astrophil/Sidney, in his sonnet 61, declares “oft with true sighs, oft with uncalled tears,/Now with slow words, now with dumb eloquence,/I Stella’s eyes assail, invade her ears”(1-3). And again, in sonnet 55, Astrophil/Sidney describes his writing in martial terms: “oft whole troops of saddest words I stayed,/Stribing abroad a-foraging to go,/Until by your inspiring I might know/How their black banner might be best displayed”(5-8). This is a particularly menacing set of images, as the description of words as a “black banner” echoes the ruthless violence of Tamburlaine, while “a-foraging” troops were a very real threat to noncombatants, as they scavenged the countryside for supplies. This sort of violence, built around wounding and suffering, is a primary nexus of early modern male relationships. This agonistic desire at the core of early modern politics is, in the economy of this sequence, transferred completely to the boudoir struggles between Astrophil and Stella—sonnet 30 offers an intricately detailed cartography of the political/military landscape of late 16th-century Europe, where
    Whether the Turkish new moon minded be
    To fill his horns this year on Christian coast;
    How Pole’s right king means, without leave of host,
    To warm with ill-made fire cold Muscovy;
    If French can yet three parts in one agree;
    What now the Dutch in their full diets boast;
    How Holland hearts, now so good towns be lost,
    Trust in the pleasing shade of Orange tree;
    How Ulster likes of that same golden bit
    Wherewith my father once made it half tame;
    If the Scottish court be welt’ring yet… (1-11)
    These political conflicts are displaced directly to the romantic friction between Astrophil and Stella, as Astrophil/Sidney “know[s] not how” to respond to the “questions busy wits to [him] do frame,” but thinks only of his love. In this rhetorical transference, love functions not in an isolated, private sphere. It operates, as much as these geo-political negotiations do, as a mechanism of powerfully, eroticized negotiation.

  37. Thus in these negotiations of love, there is a developing erotic/political economy that is not an exclusive hierarchy of erotic violence and domination. As the narrative of the occult courtship reaches towards the apex of the single kiss, in sonnet 79 the idealized form of eroticism is depicted as a sublime exchange that by no means eradicates violence, but rather incorporates the tropes of suffering within a formulation of desire that is defined by interpenetrability:
    Nest of young joys, schoolmaster of delight,
    Teaching the mean at once to take and give;
    The friendly fray, where blows both wound and heal;
    The pretty death, while each in other live (8-11).
    Here, deploying the disciplinary logic of pedagogy that links the scourging of the body with “delight”[78] and the martial logic of violent struggle, the consummation of desire is articulated as a mutual exchange, to “at once take and give.” And this mutual exchange is built around violent penetration, a penetration that is non-hierarchical, where “blows both wound and heal,” as violence both penetrates and reconstitutes the wholeness of the subject. It is in this moment that the traditional rhetoric of petrarchism, with its conjoining of opposites (“friendly fray,” “pretty death”), manifests most clearly that the ideal erotic economy is not one of heteroeroticism, but of homoerotic male friendship, rebuilding the hierarchical violence of heteroeroticism into a fluid and mutual exchange of desires.

  38. This collapse between heteroeroticism and homoeroticism is both dramatically supported, and forcefully denied, in the most controversial of Shakespeare’s sonnets, #20, which has been used by critics to not only affirm, but also to deny, the homoerotic structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets
    A woman’s face, with Nature’s own hand painted,
    Hast thou, the master mistress of my passion;
    A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
    With shifting change, as is false woman’s fashion;
    An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
    Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
    A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
    Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
    And for a woman wert thou first created,
    Till Nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
    And by addition me of thee defeated,
    By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
    But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
    Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure.
    Sonnet 20 is, undeniably, a rabidly misogynist verse: the male object of desire is admired in oppositon to “false woman” whose “fashion” is “shifting change.” Maleness and normative, admirable stability are established, setting up the violent heterosexual hierarchy that structures not just this poem, but the whole of the sonnet sequence.

  39. Yet it is in the coying fluidity of the term “prick’d” that the traditional hetereosexual structure of the poem begins to collapse. With its layered pun on both “penis” and “pain,” the aesthetic of petrarchism produces its speaking subject as “master mistresses,” as dominant and submissive, as violator and violated. For while “prick’d…out for woman’s pleasure” means “given a penis,” it also may jokingly elicit the figure of man who is “pricked:” i.e. penetrated as the passive object of erotic desire by a fantasy of phallicized “women” for their “pleasure.” And, simultaneously, “to my purpose nothing,” which ostensible expresses a denial of homoerotic desire, may be seen as either the male speaker taking upon himself the “nothing” of female genitalia[79]—he becomes the “nothing” to the “prick” of his friend—or as him taking the “prick” as equivalent to the “nothing” of the penetrable female anatomy. Either way, the fantasy of penetrating and penetrated men, prick’d for pleasure, flows through this ostensible denial of “love’s use” between men.

  40. Yet this playful fantasy of desire is within a sonnet that demands a radical separation between hetero- and homoeroticisms, even as it mischievously violates it. And it is in this playful language that the skill of the poet becomes all the more evident. Even as the poet sets himself up to be “prick’d,” as “nothing,” he is doing so through an elaborate performance of his eloquence as a speaking subject. Thus Shakespeare has his cake (as empowered, self-authorizing male subject) and can eat it, too (play at violability, at fantasizing of his own “pricking”). It is this play of aesthetics and fantasies of gender that the aesthetic of the body in pain enables, and to which poets like Shakespeare readily respond.

    The Limits of Pain

  41. It is easy to misconstrue the goals of writing about the love of pain, but I do not want my argument to be seen as some sort of endorsement of physical pain, and I certainly do not want to deprecate the excruciating reality of human suffering. Above all, I do not want to been seen as minimizing the significance of the repressive political apparati that construct an architecture of physical pain to control and curtail individual rights. The effectiveness of pain as a weapon of terror, wielded without conscience, is a particular horror for which there is no apology. Yet to limit the discussion of pain to only its destructive elements is to curtail the potential for reading different forms of resistance to those sorts of repressive aparati. There remains a great deal to do to historicize this complex and important, yet under-investigated concept, which demands extensive investigation into the genealogies of our conceptions of suffering. While this essay is only an initial step in the examination of the cultural work of pain in early modernity, to ignore the multiple meanings of pain is to close down discussions that now more than ever demand our attention.


[1].  See in particular Clive Emsley, Crime and Society in England, 1750-1900 (New York: Longman, 1996); Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil society in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992); J.A. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England, 1550-1750 ( New York : Longman, 1984); J.S.Cockburn, ed. Crime in England, 1550-1800, (London : H.M. Stationery Off., 1978); and John Addy, Sin and Society in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Routledge, 1989).

[2].  Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Random House, 1979).

[3].  Foucault 34.

[4].  Foucault’s work on torture is not directly transferable to an English context since torture was outlawed in England in the 12th century, although it did make a brief reappearance in the late 16th century. Yet the general cultural understanding of the uses of pain remains applicable to early modern England, as the general concepts of punishment remained contiguous with continental forms.

[5] Mucius Scaevola, when captured by the Etruscans, thrust his own hand into the fire to exhibit the strength of his Roman virtus. Livy, History II.12.

[6]. This entanglement of the terms “pain” and “suffering” becomes most obvious when one sees how most dictionaries use the terms to define each other in a disorientingly tautological fashion: to feel pain means to suffer, and to suffer means to feel pain.

[7].For an in-depth discussion of Milton’s relationship to martyrology, see John Knott, Discourses of Martyrdom in English Literature 1563-1694 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993) 151-178.

[8].  Mary-Jo Delvecchio Good Paul E. Brodwin, Byron J. Good, and Arthur Kleinman, eds., Pain as Human Experience: An Anthropological Perspective (Berkeley: U California P, 1992) 1.

[9].  Good 7-8.

[10]. This is also the definition of pain given by Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator II;” when he is asked if he feels pain, he replies “I sense injuries. The data could be called pain.” James Cameron not only solidifies the perception of pain as the experience of damage to the body, but also represents the post-Enlightenment fantasy (embodied in Schwarzenegger’s Cyberdyne Systems model 101 Terminator) of the subject who reacts to pain, but whose identity is fundamentally independent of it.

[11].  The only real exception to this is the article by Arthur Kleinman, “Pain and Resistance: The Delegitimation and Relegitimation of Local Worlds,” which points toward a use of pain as an act of political resistance, both on a macro level (deployed by survivors of China’s Cultural Revolution) and on a micro level (as patients refuse to follow a doctor’s instructions, thereby resisting the hierarchical structure of the doctor/patient relationship). Good et al. 169-198.

[12].  Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985) 1.

 [13].  Scarry 5.

[14].  Scarry 1.

[15].  Scarry 11.

[16].  See The New York Times Magazine profile of Scarry, (Emily Eakin, “Professor Scarry Has a Theory,” The New York Times Magazine. Nov 19, 2000) as well as her Professions article (“Beauty and the Scholar’s Duty to Justice,” Professions 2000, 21-31).

[17].  Scarry makes brief references to the “sadism” of torturers, but exclusively to pathologize actions of “moral stupidity.” Scarry 8.

[18].  Roselyne Rey, The History of Pain, trans. Louise Elliott Wallace, J.A. Cadden, and S.W. Cadden (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995) 3.

[19].  David B. Morris, The Culture of Pain (Berkeley: U California P, 1991) 5.

[20].  See Francis Barker, The Tremulous Private Body: Essays on Subjection (London: Methuen, 1985); Jonathan Goldberg, James I and the Politics of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1983); Catherine Belsey, The Subject of Tragedy: Identity and Difference in Renaissance Drama (London: Methuen, 1985); Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1980); and Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations (Berkeley: U California P, 1988).

[21].  Belsey 51.

[22].  Belsey 42.

[23]Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt have thoughtfully engaged with many of the problems of new historicism and its legacy in their Practicing New Historicism (Chicago: U Chicago P, 2000).

[24].  Katherine Eisaman Maus, Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1995).

[25]See Scarry’s distinction between psychological pain and bodily pain, which is a particularly modern, post-cartesian distinction to make, but still offers a useful rubric. Scarry 10.

[26].  Gail Kern Paster, The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993); Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (New York: Routledge, 1996); and Michael Schoenfeldt, Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England: Physiology and Inwardness in Spenser, Shakespeare, Herbert, and Milton (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999).

[27]Foucault 61. For discussions of the troubles surrounding the scaffold see Thomas Laqueur’s “Crowds, Carnival and the State in English Executions, 1604-1868,” The First Modern Society: Essays in English History in Honour of Lawrence Stone, ed. A. L. Beier, David Cannadine, and James M. Rosenheim (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989) 305-55; and Peter Linebaugh, “The Tyburn Riot against the Surgeons,” Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England, ed. Douglas Hay, Peter Linebaugh, John G. Rule, E. P. Thompson, and Cal Winslow (New York: Pantheon, 1975) 65-117.

[28]Scarry 3.

[29].  See James Heath, Torture and English Law: An Administrative and Legal History from the Plantagenets to the Stuarts (Westport: Greenwood, 1983).

 [30].  Elizabeth Hanson, Discovering the Subject in Renaissance England (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998) 34.

 [31].  The ethos of suffering was, of course, not limited to Catholics, as the work of John Foxe shows. But it did tend to be deployed by those outside the dominant power structure, as the Jesuits were in the 1580s, and as the Protestants were in the 1550s.

 [32].  Of course, it was often the case that the victim was unable to write her/his own story. But regardless of the mediation between the texts and the “real” historical events, these texts produce a field of meaning that structured how the “self” could be imagined, and how that subject could relate to the matrix of power that surrounded it. How people “really” acted as they were tortured and executed is, of course, not accessible; but how they were written about, and how the meanings of those deaths is formulated, is not only available to us as distant observers, but is of profound cultural significance.

 [33].  William Allen, A Briefe Historie of the Glorious Martyrdom of the xii Reverend Priests, ed. J.H. Pollen (London, 1908) 39.

 [34].  Allen 58.

 [35].  Allen 58-59.

 [36].  I use the term “self-fashioning” to mark my argument’s indebtedness to Stephen Greenblatt’s analysis of the production of early modern subjectivity. However, I see my argument as essentially reversing his analysis of the figure of the martyr from his chapter on Oldcastle. Greenblatt sees martyrdom as a sort of cookie-cutter for subjects, as martyrs simply follow a standard script. While this is, to an extent, certainly true, a close reading of martyrology shows a far more complex utilization of the body in pain to produce an affect of suffering to articulate an inner life of the subject. Renaissance Self-Fashioning 74-114.

 [37].  For a discussion of the complex issues of empathy and aesthetics, see Karl F. Morrison, I Am You: The Hermeneutics of Empathy in Western Literature, Theology, and Art (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1988).

 [38].  Lisa Jardine, “Reading and the Technology of Textual Affect,” Reading Shakespeare Historically (London: Routledge, 1996) 78-97.

 [39].  Allen 33.

 [40].  Maus 16-24. See also James C.W. Truman, “John Foxe and the Desires of Reformation Martyrology,” ELH 70.1 (2003): 35-66.

 [41].  Debora Shuger has elegantly shown how suffering is used to constructing the “psychic depth” in Shakespeare, following Foucault’s model of the “pastoralization of power,” as character depth is a function of the appropriation of religious forms of subjectivity to the realm of the secular which “demarcate[s] a generic selfhood distinct from one’s public, social identity—a selfhood already present in medieval religious texts but in Shakespeare for the first time transposed into secular, literary forms.” “Subversive Fathers and Suffering Subjects: Shakespeare and Christianity,” Religion, Literature, and Politics in Post-Reformation England 1540-1688, ed. Donna B. Hamilton and Richard Strier (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press) 59. I would argue for a broader origin of these tropes of suffering; i.e. it is not an exclusively theocentric form of subjectivity.

 [42].  Women’s social position within the patriarchal structures of early modernity was primarily contingent upon their function as exchangeable commodities between men; in the process of this control, “‘woman’, unlike man, is produced as a property category.” Peter Stallybrass, “Patriarchal Territories: The Body Enclosed,” Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1986) 127.

 [43].  For a historicization of this link between the “active” as the masculinized position and the “passive” with the female, see Ian McLean, Renaissance Notions of Woman (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1980); Linda Woodbridge, Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Humankind, 1540-1620 (Urbana: U Illinois P, 1983). By the 19th century, the very formulation of a pathologized desire for submission was given the name “masochism” by Kraft-Ebbing, and became formed in the discourse of psychoanalysis as femininity’s defining characteristic. My project is not intended to be a psychological analysis of early modernity in terms of masochism, nor is it an attempt to construct a genealogy of masochism. Cynthia Marshall’s The Shattering of the Self: Violence, Subjectivity, and Early Modern Texts (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002) has begun a very useful investigation into the tropes of masochism and the structure of early modern subjectivity. Her elegant readings, though, tend to elide the particular sociopolitical effects of the suffering subject—which my argument hopes to illuminate. Much recent work in psychoanalysis that offers useful approaches to rethinking the psychological and political relationship between masculinity to suffering: see Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave?” October 23 (1987): 197-222; Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New York: Routledge, 1992); John K. Noyes, The Mastery of Submission: Inventions of Masochism (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1997); and Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (New York: Pantheon, 1988). My project is also informed by critics who have begun to historicize the notion of the suffering body, primarily in the early Christian church. See Judith Perkins, The Suffering Self: Pain and Narrative Representation in the Early Christian Era (New York: Routledge, 1995), and Stephen Moore, God’s Gym: Divine Male Bodies of the Bible (New York: Routledge, 1996). There have also been extremely useful work on the politics of suffering and masculinity in postmodern America. See William Warner, “Spectacular Action: Rambo and the Popular Pleasures of Pain.” Cultural Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler (New York: Routledge, 1992) 672-688; and David Savran, Taking it Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998).

 [44].  See Valerie Traub, “Desire and the Difference It Makes,” Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (New York: Routledge, 1992); Stallybrass, “Patriarchal Territories;” Thomas Laquere, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990); and Sawday, The Body Emblazoned. This early modern hierarchical structure of gender and sexuality is analogous to the formulations of the sex/gender system in the ancient world. See Jonathan Walters, “Invading the Roman Body: Manliness and Impenetrability in Roman Thought,” Roman Sexualities, ed. Judith P. Hallett and Marilyn B. Skinner (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1997) 29-46.

 [45].  See Valerie Traub, “(In)significance of Lesbian Desire,” Queering the Renaissance, ed. Jonathan Goldberg (Durham: Duke UP, 1994) 62-83, and Stephen Greenblatt, “Fiction and Friction,” Shakespearean Negotiations (Berkeley: U California P, 1988) 66-93.

 [46].  See Catharine Belsey’s analysis of masculinity defined by agency in The Subject of Tragedy 13-93. On the significance of analogy in early modernity, see Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: Vintage Books, 1974). For a useful discussion of the eroticization of violence during public execution see Frances Dolan, “‘Gentlemen, I have one more thing to say’: Women on Scaffolds in England, 1563-1680,” Modern Philology 92.2 (1994): 157-78.

 [47].  Alan Bray’s work has shown that sodomy was a crime not analogous to modern conceptions of “homosexuality” as it is now organized around object choice. It was not limited to same-sex liaisons, and included bestiality (as in the famous case in colonial New England). Nor was it necessarily a sexual crime, since transgressions such as counterfeiting, and treason were included in the broadest definition of sodomy. Yet the United States Supreme Court, as well as modern Bible translations, have made the mistake of equating sodomy with modern homosexuality because the act that primarily structured the definitions of sodomy was focused on the legal terms of sexual crime of “buggery,” which was generally used in tandem with the term “sodomy.” Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay Men’s Press, 1982); Alan Bray, “Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship in Elizabethan England,” Queering the Renaissance, ed. Jonathan Goldberg (Durham: Duke UP, 1994) 40-61.

 [48].  Quoted in Jonathan Goldberg, “Sodomy and Society: The Case of Christopher Marlowe,” Staging the Renaissance: Reinterpretations of Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama, ed. David Scott Kastan and Peter Stallybrass (New York: Routledge, 1991) 75-82.

 [49].  John Foxe, “The Utility of this History,” Actes and Monuments (London, 1563) n.p.

 [50].  John Donne, Death’s Duel (London, 1631).

 [51].  As Bray and others have shown, a clear figuration of “homosexuality” was not operative before the 18th and 19th centuries. See Jeffrey Weeks, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love (New York: Routledge, 1990).

 [52].  I borrow the term “homosocial desire” from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia UP, 1985). My project aims to historicize a particular form of that homosociality.

 [53].  This is particularly evident in the conflict in Shakespeare’s sonnets between the platonic love of the poet and the young man, and the eroticism surrounding the Dark Lady. For the traditional view of Renaissance friendship as a non-physical, platonic abstraction, see Laurens Joseph Mills, One Soul in Bodies Twain: Friendship in Tudor and Stuart Drama (Bloomington: Principia, 1937).

 [54].  Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon: A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. Brian Vickers (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996) 391.

 [55].  See Bray, “Friendship;” Jeffrey Masten, Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997); Bruce Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England: A Cultural Poetics (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1991); and Laurie Shannon, Sovereign Amity (Chicago: U Chicago P, 200 2).

 [56].  Masten 35.

 [57].  Masten 35.

 [58].  Masten 35.

 [59].  Of course, as Mario DiGangi eloquently points out, “just because the discourse of male friendship allowed a place for homoerotic desire does not mean that all friendships were necessarily homoerotic,” but that early modern friendship certainly involved a powerful erotic element. Mario DiGangi, The Homoerotics of Early Modern Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997) 12.

 [60].  Masten 37.

 [61].  Richard Rambuss, Closet Devotions (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1998) 39.

 [62].  George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (London: 1589) 226.

 [63]Philip Sidney, “A Defense of Poesy,” The Oxford Poetry Library: Sir Philip Sidney ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994) 111.

 [64].  On the “theater of martyrs” see Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning, Knott, and Ritchie Kendall, The Drama of Dissent: The Radical Poetics of Nonconformity (Chapel Hill, U North Carolina P, 1986). For while Foucault and the new historicists have shown that monarchical authority is established in theatrical representation, I follow Maus in arguing that theatricality is not equitable with an absence of depth.

 [65].  William Prynne, Hystrio-mastix: The Player’s Scourge or Actor’s Tragedy (New York: Garland, 1974) 340-341, quoted in Laura Levine, “Rape, Repetition and the Politics of Closure in A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Feminist Readings of Early Modern Culture, ed. Valerie Traub, M. Lindsay Kaplan, and Dympna Callaghan (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996) 222.

 [66].  Meredith Hamner, “The Translator unto the Christian Reader as Touching the Translation of these Auncient Histories,” The Auncient Ecclesiasticall Histories (London: 1577) iv.

 [67].  Arthur Marotti, “‘Love is Not Love’: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and the Social Order.” ELH 49 (1982): 396.

 [68].  One significant exception to this pattern is Cynthia Marshall’s chapter “‘To Speak of Love’ in the Language of Petrarchanism” in The Shattering of the Self 56-84. Marshall’s psychoanalytic approach, while it elegantly maps a structure of masochistic desire in the sonnets, overemphasizes the disintegration of the petrarchan subject while neglecting the potential for this rhetoric of pain to create an autonomous, authorized voice.

 [69].  For a discussion of the complex relationship between Elizabethan petrarchism and its predecessors (and particularly the rhetoric of anti-petrarchism), see Heather Dubrow, Echoes of Desire: English Petrarchism and its Counterdiscourses (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1995).

 [70].  The most exhaustive reading of interiority in English renaissance lyric has come from Anne Ferry, The “Inward” Language: Sonnets of Wyatt, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1983).

 [71].  The link between suffering and interiority may be seen emerging in the Rime Sparse as well, which is clearly linked to Petrarch’s indebtedness to the Christian Augustinian tradition of the “inner life.” While it goes beyond the scope of this project to attempt to map the forms of interiority and suffering across all of European Renaissance, I would venture that Petrarch’s model of a secularized suffering subject is reasonably peculiar in the 14th century—certainly the forms of martyrology, as in the Golden Legend, did not follow such a logic of interiorized suffering as following Protestant forms did. The 16th century’s adaptation of the Petrarchan suffering subject would mark, then, not a point of origin, but a moment of dramatic expansion, in the articulation of individuation through suffering.

 [72].  This aesthetic of suffering interiority, I contend, offers some historical specificity to Scarry’s theory of pain’s inaccessibility.

 [73]The new historicist reevaluations of Elizabethan courtly literature, of course, makes this argument possible. As Katherine Eggert points out:

If nearly twenty years of new-historicist studies of early modern England have taught us anything, it is that England’s literature from 1558 to 1603 was preoccupied with the anomalous gender of the country’s monarch, Elizabeth Tudor. In other words, Elizabethan literature must be regarded as just that, Elizabethan, in ways that earlier critics did not take into account.

Katherine Eggert, Showing Like a Queen: Female Authority and Literary Experimentation in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton (Philadelphia: U Penn P, 2000) 1.

 [74].  Marshall 56-84.

 [75].  Maureen Quilligan, Milton’s Spenser: The Politics of Reading (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983) 198. “One of the paradoxes of Petrarchan poetry [is that] although the lover depicts himself as humble suitor to a dominating lady, he actually performs an act of public mastery, demonstrating his virtuosity in the practice of a masculine convention.” Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, “The Politics of Astrophil and Stella,” SEL 24 (1984): 54-55. See Nancy Vickers’ work, especially “Diana Described: Scattered Woman and Scattered Rhyme,” Writing Sexual Diversity, ed. Elizabeth Abel (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1982) 95-108; and Vickers, “‘The Blazon of Sweet Beauty’s Best’: Shakespeare’s Lucrece,” Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, ed. Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman (New York: Methuen, 1985) 95-115. In the case of women writers like Lady Mary Wroth, the dyadic structure would remain consistent, with the authors working to strategically invert or shift the dialectic form even as they maintained it. See Mary Moore, Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers and Petrarchism (Carbondale: U Southern Illinois P, 2000). As Montrose summarizes, “the Petrarchan persona is a distinctly masculine subject explicitly fashioned in relation to a feminine other…. The Petrarchan lover worships a deity of his own making and under his own control; he masters his mistress by inscribing her within his text, where she is repeatedly put together and taken apart—and, sometimes, killed.” Montrose, “Elizabethan Subject” 325. Maureen Quilligan, Milton’s Spenser: The Politics of Reading (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1983) 198. Katherine Eggert’s interpretation of Hamlet and the production of the proto-modern subject as a reaction against a female monarch is particularly apt here, despite not being specifically about petrarchism. See Eggert 100-131.

 [76].  As Bruce Smith describes, the “Myth of Combatants and Comrades is both the starting point and, in a sense, the whole… All other myths take this one as a subtext.” Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England: A Cultural Poetics (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1991) 76.

 [77].  This has been seen, by Marrotti and other new historicists, as a biographically specific set of images, reflecting Sidney’s prowess as a soldier both in tournaments and in real battle. However, we should not be distracted by the ease with which the “autobiographical effect” can offer significance to these sorts of images.

 [78].  See Wendy Wall, Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama.(Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002) 59-93; and Alan Stewart, Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997).

 [79].  Sedgwick 39.

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