Friday, September 10, 2010

Irregular Shakespeare

Shakespeare in France

It was only in the early 18th c. that Shakespeare became known across the Channel, mainly through the writings of Prévost and, in particular, Voltaire's Lettres philosophiques. Voltaire's praise of the English playwright was quite bold, and he drew inspiration from him for his own dramatic innovations (more spectacular stage action, local colour, etc.). However, his attitude was from the beginning divided (as was that of many English contemporaries), and in later years his hostility was expressed more openly. For all his genius, Shakespeare's IRREGULAR plays seemed monstrous by French standards— pearls in a dunghill. Diderot described him grandly as a ‘colosse gothique’.


Regular \Reg"u*lar\ (-l?r), a. [L. regularis, fr. regula a rule, fr. regere to GUIDE, to RULE: cf. F. r['e]gulier. See Rule.]

1. Conformed to a rule; agreeable to an established rule,
law, principle, or type, or to established customary
forms; normal; symmetrical; as, a regular verse in poetry;
a regular piece of music; a regular verb; regular practice
of law or medicine; a regular building.
2. Governed by rule or rules; steady or uniform in course,
practice, or occurence; not subject to unexplained or
irrational variation; returning at stated intervals;
steadily pursued; orderly; methodical; as, the regular
succession of day and night; regular habits.
3. Constituted, selected, or conducted in conformity with
established usages, rules, or discipline; duly authorized;
permanently organized; as, a regular meeting; a regular
physican; a regular nomination; regular troops.
4. Belonging to a monastic order or community; as, regular
clergy, in distinction dfrom the secular clergy.
5. Thorough; complete; unmitigated; as, a regular humbug.


...Never did so much strength, or such a spell
Of Art, and eloquence of papers dwell.
For whil'st he in colours, full and true,
Mens natures, fancies, and their humours drew
In method, order, matter, sence and grace,
Fitting each person to his time and place;
Knowing to move, to slacke, or to make haste,
Binding the middle with the first and last:
He fram'd all minds, and did all passions stirre,
And with a BRIDLE GUIDE the Theater.

Shackerley Marmion, Josonus Virbius


Liking Men:
Ben Jonson's Closet Opened
Lorna Hutson
University of St. Andrews
In the prologue to the revised text of Every Man In, Jonson distinguishes the play that he presents as the "first fruits" of his dramatic career from the offerings of the more popular Shakespearean tradition, in which playwrights disregarded neoclassical poetics, happily ignoring the principle of unity of time. He declares that he has not "so loved the stage" as to follow the example of his contemporaries, who
. . . make a child, now swaddled to proceed
Man, and then shoot up in one beard and weed,
Past threescore years; or, with three rusty swords,
And help of some few foot and half-foot words,
Fight over York and Lancaster's long jars,
And in the tiring-house bring wounds to scars.4
The often-heard complaint of earlier humanist authors against the chronicle drama's violations of temporal probability is here given a peculiarly Jonsonian inflection in the reference to "three rusty swords" and the quick-changes of "wounds to scars" backstage. Jonson, unlike Shakespeare, persistently draws attention to the "inert materiality" and "creaking contrivances" of theater. Here, of course, the demystification of these contrivances works to invalidate any techniques of illusion except for those of linguistic currency and contemporaneity. Jonson's play, unlike those chronicle histories of Shakespeare, will seem real because it offers images of "deeds, and language, such as men do use" in contemporary life, enlivened by examples of the unmanly commission of "POPULAR ERRORS":
I mean such ERRORS as you'll all confess
By laughing at them, they deserve no less:
Which, when you heartily do, there's hope left then
You that have so grac'd monsters may like men.
("Prologue," 26-30)
The ERRORS to be staged in Jonson's play for the delectation of the audience, then, are aspects of those plays they have elsewhere applauded or "grac'd." These will be on display as "monsters," foils against which what is likeable about "men" will appear. The category not just of men, but of "likeable men," is thus elided with the persuasive power of a verisimilar, unified dramatic action: "You that have so grac'd monsters"-that have clapped at ILL-FORMED PLAYS- may now direct a more discriminating and appreciative gaze at the "natural," "manly" form of this play.

Horace Of the Art of Poetry - transl. Ben Jonson

...Most writers, noble sire and either son,
Are, with the likeness of the truth, undone.
Myself for shortness labour, and I grow
Obscure. This, striving to run smooth,
and flow,
Hath neither soul nor sinews. Lofty he
Professing greatness, swells; that, low by lee,
Creeps on the ground; too safe, afraid of storm.
This seeking, in a various kind, to form
One thing PRODIGIOUSLY, paints in the woods
A dolphin, and a boar amid the floods.
So shunning faults to greater fault doth lead,

Footnotes to Horace _Art of Poetry_

A Monstrous Figure:

"The word PRODIGIALITER apparently refers to that fictitious monster, under which the poet allusively shadows out the idea of absurd and inconsistent composition. The application, however, differs in this, that, whereas the monster, there painted, was intended to expose the
extravagance of putting together incongruous parts, without any reference to a whole, this prodigy is designed to characterize a whole, but deformed by the ill-judged position of its parts. The former is like a monster, whose several members as of right belonging to different animals, could by no disposition be made to constitute one consistent animal. The other, like a landscape which hath no objects absolutely irrelative, or irreducible to a whole, but which a wrong position of the parts only renders prodigious. Send the boar to the woods, and the dolphin to the waves; and the painter might show them both on the same canvas.
Each is a violation of the law of unity, and a real monster: the one, because it contains an assemblage of natural incoherent parts; the other, because its parts, though in themselves coherent, are misplaced and disjointed."


(Harvey prints his poem Speculum Tuscanismi disclaiming it as 'a bolde Satyricall Libell lately devised at the Instauce of an old friend.' It mocks Sidney's ENEMY the Earl of Oxford (See Katherine Duncan-Jones, Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet, London, 1991, pp.166-7)

'Tell me in good sooth, doth it not too evidently appeare, that this English Poet 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."

Sidney: The
Critical Heritage
By Martin Garrett (pp.92-93)


An Essay on Criticism
Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend;
From vulgar bounds with brave DISORDER PART,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of Art,
Which, without passing thro' the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its end at once attains.
But tho' the ancients thus their rules invade,
(As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made)
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end;
Let it be seldom, and compell'd by need;
And have at least their precedent to plead;
The Critic else proceeds without remorse,
SEIZES YOUR FAME, and puts his laws in force. -- Alexander Pope

In Memory of Mr. William Cartwright.
But Thou art gone: and groveling Trifles crawl
About the World, which but confirm thy Fall.
The Belgick Floud, which drank down fifty Townes,
At dead-low water shews their humble Crowns:
So, since thy flowing Brain ebb'd down to death,
Small Under-witts do shoot up from beneath.
They spread and swarm, as fast as Preachers now,
New, Monthly Poets (and their Pictures too)
Who, like that Fellow in the Moon, look bright,
Yet are but Spots because they dwell in Light.
For thy Imperiall Muse at once defines
Lawes to arraign and brand their weak strong lines,
Unmask's the Goblin-Verse that fright's a page
As when old time brought Devills on the Stage.
Knew the right mark of things, saw how to choose,
(For the great Wit's great work, is to Refuse,)
And smil'd to see what shouldering there is
To follow Lucan where he TROD AMISS.
Thine's the right Mettall, Thine's still big with Sense,
And stands as square as a good Conscience.
No Traverse lines, all written like a man:
Their Heights are but the Chaff, their Depths the Bran:
Gross, and not Great; which when it best does hit
Is not the strength but Corpulence of Wit:
Stuft, swoln, ungirt: but Thine's compact and bound
Close as the Atomes of a Diamond.
Substance and Frame; Raptures not Phrensies grown;
No Rebel-Wit, which bears its Master down;
But checks the Phansy, tames that Giant's Rage
As he that made huge Afcapart his Page.
Such Law, such Conduct, such Oeconomy,
No Demonstrator walks more steadily.
Nothing of Chance, Thou handled'st Fortune then
As roughly as she now does Vertuous men.
Yet not meer Forme and Posture, built of Slime;
'Tis Substantive with or without its Rime.
Nor were these drunken Fumes, Thou didst not write
Warm'd by male Claret or by female White:
Their Giant Sack could nothing heighten Thee,
As far 'bove Tavern Flash as Ribauldry.
Thou thought'st no rank foul line was strongly writ,
That's but the Scum or Sediment of Wit;
Which sharking Braines do into Publike thrust,
(And though They cannot blush, the Reader must;)
Who when they see't abhor'd, for fear, not shame,
*TRANSLATE their BASTARD to some Other's NAME.*
No rotten Phansies in thy Scenes appear;
Nothing but what a Dying man might hear.
John Berkenhead


Bastard \Bas"tard\, a.
1. Begotten and born out of lawful matrimony; illegitimate.
See Bastard, n., note.
2. Lacking in genuineness; spurious; false; adulterate; --
applied to things which resemble those which are genuine,
but are really not so.
That BASTARD SELF-LOVE which is so vicious in
itself, and productive of so many vices. --Barrow.
3. Of an UNUSUAL MAKE or PROPORTION; as, a bastard musket; a
bastard culverin. [Obs.]
4. (Print.) Abbreviated, as the half title in a page
preceding the full title page of a book.


Alciato's Book of Emblems
Emblem 69
Because your figure pleased you too much, Narcissus, it was changed
into a flower, a plant of known senselessness. Self-love is the
withering and destruction of natural power which brings and has
brought ruin to many learned men, who having thrown away the method of
the ancients seek new doctrines and pass on nothing but their own

Because your beauty gave you too much satisfaction, Narcissus, it was
turned both into a flower and into a plant of acknowledged
insensibility. Self-satisfaction is the rot and destruction of the
mind. Learned men in plenty it has ruined, and ruins still, men who
cast off the method of teachers of old and aim to pass on new
doctrines, nothing more than their own imaginings.


And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,


‘Male deformities’: Narcissus and the Reformation of Courtly Manners
in Cynthia’s Revels
in Ovid & the Renaissance Body
By Goran V Stanivukovic
Mario Digangi \

...In this essay I want to pursue such an analysis by focusing on Ben Jonson’s early comedy Cynthia’s Revels (1600), which offers particular insight into the social and political implications of the Narcissus myth for early modern English culture. Originally entered in the Stationer’s Register as Narcissus, or the fountain of self-love, this quirky satire of courtly manners represents Jonson’s ‘only extended use of Ovidian material.: Jonson’s uncharacteristic recourse to Ovidian subjects in Cynthia’s Revels suggests his recognition of the Narcissus myth’s theatrical viability as a vehicle for satire. While Narcissus never appears as a character in the play, the Narcissus myth provides Jonson with vivid material for exposing the transgressive bodily practices of unauthorized courtiers, especially through the character of Amorphous (“the deformed”), whose affected manners violate orthodox prescriptions for male aristocratic comportment. The play’s ridicule of courtly affectation thus accords with early modern interpretations of the Narcissus myth that primarily associate self-love not with homoerotic desire but with effeminate manners: a clear sign of social, economic and political transgression. By contrast, the virtuously ‘masculine’ comportment of the true gentleman, according to a particular strain of early modern political ideology, justifies his status and exercise of power. Exposing illegitimate courtiers as effeminate narcissists, Cynthia’s Revels reveals the importance of an ideology of ‘civilized’ masculinity to early-seventeenth-century constructions of political legitimacy.


Jonson, _Discoveries_
AFFECTED language:
De vere argutis.--I do hear them say often some men are not witty, because they are not everywhere witty; than which nothing is more foolish. If an eye or a nose be an excellent part in the face, therefore be all eye or nose! I think the eyebrow, the forehead, the cheek, chin, lip, or any part else are as necessary and natural in the place. But now nothing is good that is natural; right and natural language seems to have least of the wit in it; that which is writhed and tortured is counted the more exquisite. Cloth of bodkin or tissue must be embroidered; as if no face were fair that were not powdered or painted! no beauty to be had but in wresting and writhing our own tongue! Nothing is fashionable till it be DEFORMED; and this is to write like a gentleman. All must be AFFECTED and preposterous as our GALLANTS' clothes, sweet-bags, and night-dressings, in which you would think our men lay in, like ladies, it is so CURIOUS.


He that is with him is Amorphus
a Traveller, one so made out of the mixture and shreds
of forms, that himself is truly deform'd. He walks
most commonly with a Clove or Pick-tooth in his
Mouth, he is the very mint of Complement, all his Be-
haviours are printed, his Face is another Volume of
Essayes; and his Beard an Aristrachus. (Jonson, Cynthia's Revels,
Amorphus. That's good, but how Pythagorical?
Phi. I, Amorphus. Why Pythagorical Breeches?
Amo. O most kindly of all, 'tis a conceit of that fortune,
I am bold to hug my Brain for.
Pha. How is't, exquisite Amorphus?
Amo. O, I am rapt with it, 'tis so fit, so proper,
so happy. --
Phi. Nay do not rack us thus?
Amo. <>. Give me
your Ears. Breeches Pythagorical, by reason of their trans-
migration into several shapes.
Mor. Most rare, in sweet troth.


"Nos demiramur, sed non cum deside vulgo,
Sed velut Harpyas, Gorgonas, et Furias."
"We marvel too, not as the vulgar we,
But as we Gorgons, Harpies, or Furies see."

Epigraph Sejanus -- Jonson

Non hic Centauros, non Gorgonas, Harpyiasque
Invenies: Hominem pagina nostra sapit. Mart.
(No Centaurs here, or Gorgons, look to find:
My subject is of man and humane kind.)


Upon Ben: Johnson, the most excellent of Comick Poets.

Mirror of Poets! Mirror of our Age!
Which her whole Face beholding on thy stage,
Pleas'd and displeas'd with her owne faults endures,
A remedy, like Those whom Musicke cures,
Thou not alone those various inclinations,
Which Nature gives to Ages, Sexes, Nations,
Hast traced with thy All-resembling Pen,
But all that custome hath impos'd on Men,
Or ill-got Habits, which DISTORT them so,
That scarce the Brother can the Brother know,
Is represented to the wondring Eyes,
Of all that see or read thy Comedies.
Whoever in those Glasses lookes may finde,
The spots return'd, or graces of his minde;
And by the helpe of so divine an Art,
At leisure view, and dresse his nobler part.
*NARCISSUS conzen'd by that flattering Well,
Which nothing could but of his beauty tell,
Had here discovering the deform'd estate
Of his fond minde, preserv'd himselfe with hate*,
But Vertue too, as well as Vice is clad,
In flesh and blood so well, that Plato had
Beheld what his high Fancie once embrac'd,
Vertue with colour, speech and motion grac'd.
The sundry Postures of Thy copious Muse,
Who would expresse a thousand tongues must use,
Whose Fates no lesse peculiar then thy Art,
For as thou couldst all characters impart,
So none can render thine, who still escapes,
Like Proteus in variety of shapes,
Who was nor this nor that, but all we finde,
And all we can imagine in mankind.
E. Waller

Distort \Dis*tort"\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Distorted; p. pr. &
vb. n. Distorting.]
1. To twist of natural or regular shape; to twist aside
physically; as, to distort the limbs, or the body.
Whose face was distorted with pain. --Thackeray.
2. To force or put out of the true posture or direction; to
twist aside mentally or morally.
Wrath and malice, envy and revenge, do darken and
distort the understandings of men. --Tillotson.
3. To wrest from the true meaning; to pervert; as, to distort
passages of Scripture, or their meaning.
Syn: To twist; wrest; deform; pervert.


Cartwright, William, Jonsonus Virbius

...Blest life of Authors, unto whom we owe
Those that we have, and those that we want too:
Th'art all so good, that reading makes thee worse,
And to have writ so well's thine onely curse.
Secure then of thy merit, thou didst hate
That servile base dependance upon fate:
Successe thou ne'r thoughtst vertue, nor that fit,
Which chance, and th'ages fashion did make hit;
*Excluding those from life in after-time*,
Who into Po'try first brought luck and rime:
Who thought the peoples breath good ayre: sty'ld name
What was but noise; and getting Briefes for fame
Gathered the many's suffrages, and thence
Made commendation a benevolence:
THY thoughts were their owne Lawrell, and did win
That best applause of being crown'd within..


An Essay on Criticism
Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend;
From vulgar bounds with brave DISORDER PART,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of Art,
Which, without passing thro' the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its end at once attains.
But tho' the ancients thus their rules invade,
(As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made)
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end;
Let it be seldom, and compell'd by need;
And have at least their precedent to plead;
The Critic else proceeds without remorse,
SEIZES YOUR FAME, and puts his LAWS in force.
-- Alexander Pope


To The Memory Of My (Self)Beloved
Master William Shakspeare,


Horace, of the Art of Poetrie
transl. Ben Jonson

If to Quintilius, you recited ought:
Hee'd say, Mend this, good friend, and this; "Tis naught.
If you denied, you had no better straine,
And twice, or thrice had 'ssayd it, still in vaine:
Hee'd bid, blot all: and to the anvile bring
Those ill-torn'd Verses, to new hammering.
Then: If your fault you rather had defend
Then change. *No word, or worke, more would he spend
Alone, without a rivall, by his will*.

A wise, and honest man will cry out shame
On ARTELESS Verse; the hard ones he will blame;
Blot out the careless, with his turned pen;
Cut off superfluous ornaments; and when
They're darke, bid cleare this: all that's doubtfull wrote
Reprove; and, what is to be changed, not:
Become an Aristarchus. And, not say,
Why should I grieve my friend, this TRIFLING WAY?
These trifles into serious mischiefs lead
The man once mock'd, and SUFFERED WRONG TO TREAD.


But these WAYS
Were not the PATHS I meant unto thy praise;
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, BUT ECHOES RIGHT;


P R O L O G U E. Cynthia's Revels, Jonson

IF gracious silence, sweet attention,
Quick sight, and quicker apprehension,
(The lights of Judgments throne) shine any where;
Our doubtful Author hopes this is their Sphere.
And therefore opens he himself to those;
To other weaker Beams his labours close:
As loth to prostitute their Virgin strain,
To ev'ry vulgar and adult'rate Brain,
In this alone, his Muse her sweetness hath,
She shuns the print of any BEATEN PATH;
And proves new *WAYS* to come to learned Ears:
Pied ignorance she neither loves nor, fears.
Nor hunts she after popular Applause,
Or fomy praise, that drops from common Jaws:
The Garland that she wears, their bands must twine,
Who can both censure, understand, define
What merit is: Then cast those piercing Rays,
Round as a Crown, instead of honour'd Bays,
About his Poesie; which (he knows) affords
Words, above action: matter, above words.