Greville - a staunch Calvinist - implies that Oxford is all bluster and show: a creature made by fortune and chance, but 'no-thing' of worth. Like an idol, Oxford 'is coextensive with his exterior'. It is Sidney's 'inner worth' - his 'that within which passes show' that enables him to penetrate Oxford's gloriously deceptive exterior, and makes him impenetrable to the amazement and confusion that false magnificence stirs up in the minds of less fortified souls.
In other words, Sidney remains 'unastonished' by Oxford's false show.
Nicolette Zeeman, _The Idol of the Text_:
Idolaters foolishly worship idols despite the fact that they have made them: idols in turn, lure their worshippers in the direction of their own materiality, sometimes even rendering idolators themselves inanimate (Milton - reader turned to marble/astonement)
Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten
images are wind and confusion.
- Isaiah 41:29
To review Greville's account of Sidney's Famous Act of Iconoclasm:
And in this freedome of heart being one day at Tennis, a Peer of this Realm, born great, greater by alliance, and superlative in the Princes favour, abruptly came into the
Sir Philip temperately answers; that if his Lordship had been pleased to express desire in milder Characters, perchance he might have led out those, that he should now find would not be driven out with any scourge of fury. This answer (like a bellows) blowing up the sparks of EXCESS already kindled, made my Lord scornfully call Sir Philip by the name of Puppy. In which progress of HEAT, as the TEMPEST grew more and more vehement within, so did their hearts breath out their perturbations in a more loud and shrill accent. The French Commissioners unfortunately had that day audience, in those private Galleries, whose windows looked into the Tennis-Court. They instantly drew all to this tumult: every sort of quarrels sorting well with their humors, especially this. Which Sir Philip perceiving, and rising with inward strength, by the prospect of a mighty faction against him; asked my Lord, with a loud voice, that which he heard clearly enough before. Who ( LIKE AN ECHO, that still multiplies by REFLEXIONS) repeated this Epithet of Puppy the second time. Sir Philip resolving in one answer to conclude both the attentive hearers, and PASSIONATE ACTOR, gave my Lord a Lie, impossible (as he averred) to be retorted; in respect all the world knows, Puppies are gotten by Dogs, and Children by men.
Source: Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
(1.) Heb. aven, "NOTHINGNESS;" "vanity" (Isa. 66:3; 41:29; Deut.
32:21; 1 Kings 16:13; Ps. 31:6; Jer. 8:19, etc.).
(2.) 'Elil, "a thing of naught" (Ps. 97:7; Isa. 19:3); a word
of contempt, used of the gods of Noph (Ezek. 30:13).
(3.) 'Emah, "TERROR," in allusion to the hideous form of idols
(4.) Miphletzeth, "a fright;" "horror" (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chr.
(5.) Bosheth, "shame;" "shameful thing" (Jer. 11:13; Hos.
9:10); as characterizing the obscenity of the worship of Baal.
(6.) GILLULIM(!) , also a word of contempt, "dung;" "refuse"
(Ezek. 16:36; 20:8; Deut. 29:17, marg.).
(7.) Shikkuts, "filth;" "impurity" (Ezek. 37:23; Nah. 3:6).
(8.) Semel, "likeness;" "a carved image" (Deut. 4:16).
(9.) Tselem, "a shadow" (Dan. 3:1; 1 Sam. 6:5), as
distinguished from the "likeness," or the exact counterpart.
(10.) Temunah, "similitude" (Deut. 4:12-19). Here Moses
forbids the several forms of Gentile idolatry.
(11.) 'Atsab, "a figure;" from the root "to fashion," "to
labour;" denoting that idols are the result of man's labour
(Isa. 48:5; Ps. 139:24, "wicked way;" literally, as some
translate, "way of an IDOL").
(12.) Tsir, "a form;" "shape" (Isa. 45:16).
(13.) Matztzebah, a "statue" set up (Jer. 43:13); a memorial
stone like that erected by Jacob (Gen. 28:18; 31:45; 35:14, 20),
by Joshua (4:9), and by Samuel (1 Sam. 7:12). It is the name
given to the statues of Baal (2 Kings 3:2; 10:27).
(14.) Hammanim, "sun-images." Hamman is a synonym of Baal, the
sun-god of the Phoenicians (2 Chr. 34:4, 7; 14:3, 5; Isa. 17:8).
(15.) Maskith, "device" (Lev. 26:1; Num. 33:52). In Lev. 26:1,
the words "image of stone" (A.V.) denote "a stone or cippus with
the image of an idol, as Baal, Astarte, etc." In Ezek. 8:12,
"chambers of imagery" (maskith), are "chambers of which the
walls are painted with the figures of idols;" comp. ver. 10, 11.
(16.) Pesel, "a graven" or "carved image" (Isa. 44:10-20). It
denotes also a figure cast in metal (Deut. 7:25; 27:15; Isa.
(17.) Massekah, "a molten image" (Deut. 9:12; Judg. 17:3, 4).
(18.) Teraphim, pl., "images," family gods (penates)
worshipped by Abram's kindred (Josh. 24:14). Put by Michal in
David's bed (Judg. 17:5; 18:14, 17, 18, 20; 1 Sam. 19:13).
"Nothing can be more instructive and significant than this
multiplicity and variety of words designating the instruments
and inventions of idolatry."
Carlos M.N Eire, in _War Against the Idols_ writes:
What makes the Calvinist theories "distinctly Calvinist" is not the arguments themselves, but the reasons for the arguments, and beyond that, the reason for the theories and for the cause itself. This is the struggle against idolatry - and not just idolatry in the church, but as a social phenomenon, as something that needs to be wiped out from the body politic. If there is one concept or word that stands out as some sort of red blinking light in all the Calvinist theories from Calvin to Buchanan, it is precisely this issue of idolatry. If one accepts the religious issue as a real motivating force, as the ideological foundation of dissent, and not just some sort of tool insincerely used in a grand social and political plot, it is possible to say that the word "idolatry" and the concepts it signified became the Calvinist shibboleth in the sixteenth century. It became an inescapable password. (p.308)
In part, this is why I choose to portray Sidney's tennis-court challenge of Oxford as an act of iconoclasm. By virtue (or accident) of his birth Oxford was an influential figure, set up high on a stage in the eyes of his age. Arthur Golding, in a dedication to the Earl, reminded him of his responsibilities to the commonwealth:
..I beseeche your Lordship consider how God hath placed you vpon a high stage in the eyes of all men, as a guide, patterne, insample, and leader vnto others if your vertues be vncounterfayted, if your religion be sound and pure, if your doings be according to true godliness you shalbe a stay to your cuntrie, a comforte too good men, a bridle too euil men, a ioy too your freends, a corzie too your enemies, and an increace of honor to your owne house. But if you should become eyther a counterfayt Protestant, or a peruerse Papist, or a colde and carelesse newter, (which God forbid,) the harme could not be expressed which you should do to your natiue Cuntrie. For (as Cicero, no lesse truely than wisely affirmeth, and as the sorrowfull dooings of our Present dayes do too certeinly auouch) *greate men hurt not the common weale so much by beeing euil in respect of themselues, as by drawing others vnto euil by their euil example*. (Golding, THE EPISTLE DEDICATORYCalvin's Commentaries, Vol. 8: Psalms)
Given his love of Sir Philip Sidney, it is not surprising that Greville portrays his enemy
'Tell me in good sooth, doth it not too evidently appeare, that this English Poet [Oxford] wanted but a good PATTERNE before his eyes, as it might be some delicate, and choyce elegant Poesie of good M. Sidneys, or M. Dyers (ouer very Castor, & Pollux for such and many greater matters) when this trimme geere was in hatching: Much like some Gentlewooman, I coulde name in England, who by all Phisick and Physiognomie too, might as well have brought forth all goodly faire children, as they have now some YLFAVOURED and DEFORMED, had they at the tyme of their Conception, had in sight, the amiable and gallant beautifull Pictures of ADONIS, Cupido, Ganymedes, or the like, which no doubt would have wrought such deepe impression in their fantasies, and imaginations, as their children, and perhappes their Childrens children to, myght have thanked them for, as long as they shall have Tongues in their heades."
(Unfortunately, Satan also shared the power to deform and misrepresent)
The opposition of Christ and Satan in Paradise Lost is in the same was, as John Steadman has argued, the difference between image and idol, the “eikon and the eidolon of HEROIC VIRTUE.” The Son is the image of the Father’s glory; Satan, in his “Sun-bright chariot,” is the false appearance or phantasm of that image, the 'Idol of Majesty Divine”. His fallen legions, left free to wander the earth after the Fall, will inaugurate the history of idolatry in the shape of “various Idols through the Heathen World”, and their polluted rites will become the type of Catholic mis-devotion and of the political idolatry of the Stuart court. This distinction between idol and icon, which Steadman traces back through Bacon’s critique of the “idols” to Plato’s Theatetus and The Sophist, also set the terms of the debate in Italian criticism between Mazzoni and Tasso – the one maintaining that poetry is “phantastic,” a sophistical art of fallacious appearances only, the other that poetry is “eikastic,” an art of likeness and probability related to dialectic and more directly reflecting the truth it images. The topic is epitomized in
“For I will not denie, but that mans wit may make Poesie (which should be Eikastike, which some learned have defined, figuring foorth good things) to be Phantastike: which doth, contrariwise, infect the fancie with unworthy objects. As the Painter, that shoulde give to the eye eyther some excellent perspective, or some fine picture, fit for building or fortification, or containing in it some notable example as Abraham sacrificing his Sonne Isaack, Judith killing Holofernes, David fighting with Goliath, may leave those, and please an ill-pleased eye with wanton shewes of better hidden matters.
An idolatrous poetry infects the fancy and pleases the eye. An eikastic poetry illuminates the desire for “good things.” It too can appeal to the eye, but as Sidney’ notable examples suggest – all of them Old Testament histories, often represented in Protestant art, against which no charge of idolatry could be levered – its highest aim is to move the soul to virtuous action, to the sacrificing, killing, and fighting performed by the faithful in response to God’s word. (Ernest B. Gilman, (pp.162-163)
Greville, _Life of Sidney_
Neither am I (for my part) so much in love with this life, nor believe so little in a better to come, as to complain of God for taking him [Sidney], and such like exorbitant worthyness from us: fit (as it were by an Ostracisme) to be divided, and not incorporated with our corruptions: yet for the sincere affection I bear to my Prince, and Country, my prayer to God is, that this Worth, and Way may not fatally be buried with him; in respect, that both before his time, and since, experience hath published the usuall discipline of greatnes to have been tender of it self onely; making HONOUR a triumph, or rather TROPHY OF DESIRE, set up in the eyes of Mankind, either to be worshiped as IDOLS, or else as Rebels to perish under her glorious oppressions. *Notwithstanding, when the pride of flesh, and power of favour shall cease in these by death, or disgrace; what then hath time to register, or fame to publish in these great mens names, that will not be offensive, or infectious to others? What Pen without blotting can write the story of their deeds? Or what Herald blaze their Arms without a blemish? And as for their counsels and projects, when they come once to light, shall they not live as noysome, and loathsomely above ground, as their Authors carkasses lie in the grave? So as the return of such greatnes to the world, and themselves, can be but private reproach, publique ill example, and a fatall scorn to the Government they live in. Sir Philip Sidney is none of this number; for the greatness which he affected was built upon true Worth; esteeming Fame more than Riches, and Noble actions far above Nobility it self.
From Michael O'Connell, _The Idolatrous Eye - Iconoclasm and Theatre in Early-Modern England_,pp.116-117.
Any reader of Elizabethan texts is well aware how this anxiety about the visual is enacted in suspicion of linguistic ornament: phrases like "painted shows" or "painted eloquence," "colours of rhetoric," "fine polished words" and "filed phrases" convey an at best ambivalent, and frequently pejorative sense of the appeal to the eye. The underlying tropological sense of these phrases reflects an unease about visual art itself, suggesting an identity with the forgery of cosmetics. Distrust of the visual, while by no means universal, is a persistent strain in Humanist poetics. Ernest Gilman has described the ways in which the paragone between the "sister arts" was crossed by the Reformation rejection of images:
(Gilman) It is important to realize that "iconoclasm" is something that can happen to texts and within texts written during this period, and that the most compelling texts often betray a consciousness of the image-debate that reflects the process of their own composition. The scene of such writing is set at the crossroads where a lively tradition of image making confronts a militantly logocentric theology armed not only with an overt hostility to "images" in worship but with a deep suspicion of the idolatrous potential of the fallen mind and its fallen language.
In comparison with the word, the image may have come to seem coercive in the response it provokes; its affective power appears to leave no gap for critical reflection, especially in the mass audience at which the electronic image is aimed. By contrast the word is frequently claimed as evocative rather than coercive, as calling forth reflection and allowing the participation of the listener's (or reader's) own subjectivities.
"Weigh the meaning and look not at the words." -- Jonson
looke/ Not on his Picture, but his Booke. -- Jonson
Nicolette Zeeman, _The Idol of the Text_
Despite the literalists best efforts, they could not escape the capacity for language to create verbal 'images', or speaking pictures. In the 'Idol of the Text', Nicolette Zeeman concentrates on 'a particular figure seen in the imaginative text' , believing that, 'the idol is the underside of the notion that the imaginative text is like an image.'
"For a number of later medieval writers, including Chaucer, the figure of the idol is a means of focusing on problematic aspects of imaginative textuality and its contents. The idol articulates some of the difficulties of dealing with textual inheritance, the archive, and the 'authority'. '
What is the idol in the Middle Ages? Contrasting idols with Christian signs in the semiotics of Augustine, John Freccero describes idols as 'reified signs devoid of significance', gods 'coextensive with their representations.'. The idol refuses to be read as part of a larger sign system, drawing attention only to itself and to its own malleable materiality. In this sense, although it is highly material, it is 'NOTHING' (I Corinthians 8:4). It exists in the mutable world only for itself and to be worshipped for itself. Idolaters foolishly worship idols despite the fact that they have made them: idols in turn, lure their worshippers in the direction of their own materiality, sometimes even rendering idolators themselves inanimate (Milton - reader turned to marble/astonement) -NLD)***************************
Greville, An Inquisition vpon Fame and Honour.
Then make the summe of our Idea's this,
Who loue the world, giue latitude to Fame,
And this Man-pleasing, Gods displeasing is,
Who loue their God, haue glory by his name:
But fixe on Truth, who can, that know it not?
*Who fixe on error, doe but write to blot*.
"Make Men their God, Fortune and Time their worth,
"Forme, but reforme not, meer hypocrisie,
"By shadowes, onely shadowes bringing forth,
"Which must, as blossomes, fade ere true fruit springs,
"(Like voice, and eccho) ioyn'd; yet diuers things.
For both Jonson and Shakespeare the issue of theatrical identity is crucial, and both enjoin the issue of eye and ear in the self-reflexive moments when their plays project an awareness of their own artificiality. Jonson is ever the more agonistic in his assertion of the nature and ends of theater - and at the same time paradoxically the more inclined to quarrel with the demands themselves of creating theatrical spectacle. Jonas Barish has described Jonson's always ambivalent, frequently hostile relationship to the stage for which he wrote, characterizing it, without exaggeration, as a "deeply rooted antitheatricalism." Something of Jonson's hostility came of his contentious temperament and the quarrels that were somehow necessary to the kind of artist he was and the kind of theater he wished to create. But that hostility was founded intellectually on his primary allegiance to humanist culture. Richard Helgerson has shown how large a part this
allegiance played in Jonson's creation for himself of a laureate identity against his identity as a man of the theater. Even when promoting or defending his stage works, as he does almost constantly in his prologues dedications, inductions, and epilogues, Jonson seldom appears able to allow a play simply to be a play. Most frequently he insists on them as poems, as for example in his dedication of Volpone to the two universities, or when he dedicates the failed Catiline to the Earl of Pembroke, assuring him that posterity will honor him for countenancing "a legitimate Poem" in these "jig-given times". Mockery of the physical requirements of staging, predominantly the movement and visual effects required by the audience for whom a play was not a poem but a show, also pepper the prefatory explaining he found essential to his identity, not as a playwright, but as a "dramatic poet" Jonson's insistent hope that readers would find in his plays what mere spectators had missed reached its logical end when, in mid-career, he printed them in his Works of 1616, a gesture of self-presentation as characteristic of Jonson as it was innovative for the stage. After the theatrical failure of The New Inn, he bitterly dedicated the printing of the text of the play "To the reader." If his reader-patron can but construe the sense of the words, Jonson insists, he is better off that the "hundred fastidious impertinents" who saw the play but never made it out. Erasmus' insistence of the higher truth of the verbal, printed edition of Christ finds a significant counterpart in Jonson's valuation of the printed texts of his plays against their theatrical incarnations. (snip)
Jonson's quarrel with Inigo Jones can be understood at one level as centering on the losing battle that the word waged with the multiplicity of arts appealing to the eye in the court masque. Intensified by this quarrel, Jonson's cross-grained dislike of the theatrical seems to have increased rather than decreased in the latter part of his writing for the stage. If the Puritans would have worshippers avoid the idolatry of the visual to attend wholly to the word of Scripture, Jonson wished them to evade the seduction of spectacle to attend to his words. The prologue to The Staple of News not only distinguishes between the poet nad those who perform his words on stage, but seems indeed to yearn for a blind audience:
For your own sakes, not his, he bade me say
Would you were come to hear, not see a play.
Though we his actors must provide for those
Who are our guests here in the way of shows,
The maker hath not so. He'd have you wise
Much rather by your ears than by your EYES.
This comes but as an extreme version of what Jonson in one way or another seems always to have wanted: near exclusive attention to the verbal element of the mixed art that theater is . In the play this is tied to the falsity that the display of costume represents..
Sweet Swan of
To SEE thee in our waters yet appear,
From a Poetics of Idolatry, Kenneth Gross_Spenserian Poetics_,
The idol may be the emphatic lie taken for truth, but it is also the truth that has collapsed into a lie, the urgent, mythopoeic cipher converted into a vacant myth. The idol may be the originally secular or profane image invested with an almost sacred trust. It can also be the sacred, hierophantic image reduced to mechanism, a mystery become a temporal institution subject to the rule of a selfish priesthood. "Idolatry" thus implies the blockage or betrayal of vision, and yet it may also be the name by which a troubled orthodoxy slanders the visionary work of the poet, magician, or prophet. Nor is that name the worst banner under which such laborers might enlist, not only because one person's idolatry is another's orthodoxy, but because it is as often the scholiasts of illusion as the purveyors of revelation who have the most to teach us about human religion and human imagination. WH. Auden advises: "recognizing idols for what they are does not break their enchantment." And yet to embrace, even in ambivalence, a conscious idolatry may help put off the blindness of a greater one. (pp. 27-28)
· The description of the idol as "no-thing" depends on the Hebrew use of the word 'elil, "nonentity," "worthlessness," to refer to idolatrous images. The word appears among other places in Leviticus 19.4, Psalms 96.5, Isaiah 2.8, 18, 20 and Ezekiel 30.13. Its perjorative sense is often reinforced in these texts by its ironic proximity to the words 'el or 'elohim, generic titles for the Hebrew god. On the variety of Hebrew epithets for "idol" or "GRAVEN image," see George Buttrick et al., Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 2:673-74.
Greville, A Letter to an Honourable Lady
For the evill is malitious, and yet subiect, changing, because imperfection cannot stand alone; amorous, for that euery thing seemes louely, compared with the deformitie of euill it selfe. But it may please you to remember, that Inconstancy hath so strong a wall of craft about it, as it is hard by sophistication of WIT; to master the experience of euill: it being old borne with vs, and acquainted with euery corner, accesse and recesse of our mindes. Besides, it comes not into the nature of man with cleare, and open euidence, as true theirs doe; but as Vsurpers, whose vnderminings are hardly to bee seene, while they may be preuented; and when they are seene, beyond care, or contention.
For the being of e uill being nothing, but onely a depriuing of the good, and the captiuing of our free-will-lights to the workes of darknesse; it must needs come to passe, that when her conquering venimes are once distilled through all our powers, and wee won with our selues, that there can bee no thought within vs to heare, or entreat; and without vs, *though Authority may cut off the infection of ill Example from others*, yet can it no more take away the Diuels part in vs, than call vp the dead. Out of which I conclude: whatsoeuer cannot be mended (without Authority) cannot be RULED.