Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jonson, Show and 'Seeming'

Vice and Deformity:


Thus the epigram "On Something, that Walks Somewhere" (Epigrams XI)equates "brave" or ostentatious dress with the activity of "SEEMING" good, substantial and duly paternal -- namely, "a statesman" (1-2).This configuration of effects or signs typifies the presumptive courtier and fashionable man-about-town in such satires as "On the New Motion," "On Don Surly," "To Mime," or supremely "On the Town's Honest Man," one of Jonson's attacks on Inigo Jones, the author of "shows, shows, mighty shows" ("An Expostulation with Inigo Jones" [39]). And because they commit this fraud to acquire illegitimate status and power (an argument usually taken up in the verse epistles like "To a Friend, to Persuade Him to the Wars" [Underwoods XV]), the effeminate invariably break the grand taboo of insurgency against the status quo, in the process becoming prodigious and deformed. Accordingly, to the moral imposture of statesmanship manufactured from clothes, title and grave looks, Jonson's little epigram adds the concomitance of sexual disfigurement and monstrosity, simultaneously neutering and denaturing the courtier with his choice of pronoun and the command to "walk dead still" (8). If one may return again to Epicoene, the synergy of moral imposture and artificial display is the argument made by Clerimont's song ("Still to be neat, still to be dressed"): the presumption that especially where "art's hid causes are not found, / All is not sweet, all is not sound" (4-6). Every vice in Jonson's satires involves a similar practice of deceit, especially of the EYE, and is exposed to the shrewd observer by the sort of excessive display put on by the lady here: "Still to be neat, still to be dressed, / As you were going to a feast; / Still to be powdered, still perfumed" (1-3). The iteration of "still" conveys a further quality of the semblances of vice, which is that they involve an immense activity merely to "appear" like virtue. The vicious are thus singularly mobile in Jonson, an image of their seditious and epidemic pictorial energy. And the shrubs, the courtlings, the Captains Hungry and Surly, the Guts and Groins, my Lords Ignorant, the plagiarists and censors, the spies, the Fine Lady Would-be's, Court Pucell's, all in one way or another follow this same pattern. They each undertake to create an illusion that Jonson detects in the very excess or ostentation, the virulent energy of its display, whether this illusion is created by speech, by dress, by title, by profession, or in the case of Sir Voluptuous Beast, by panoramic sex.


Davies, Scourge of Folly
Of the staid furious Poet FUCUS.
Epig. 114

Fucus, the furious Poet writes but Plaies;
So, playing, writes: that’s, idly writeth all:
Yet, idle Plaies, and Players are his Staies;
Which stay him that he can no lower fall:
For, he is fall’n into the deep’st decay,
Where Playes and Players keepe him at a stay.


fucus definition

1. a kind of paint for the face
2. any paint or dye


T H E F O R E S T .



..............What if alone,
Without companions ? 'tis safe to have none.
In single paths dangers with ease are watch'd ;
Contagion in the press is soonest catch'd.
This makes, that wisely you decline your life 50
Far from the maze of custom, error, strife,
And keep an even, and unalter'd gait ;
Not looking by, or back, like those that wait
Times and occasions, to START FORTH, and SEEM.
Which though the turning world may disesteem,
Because that studies spectacles and shows,
And after varied, as fresh objects, goes,
Giddy with change, and therefore cannot see
Right, the right way ; yet must your comfort be
Your conscience, and not wonder if none asks 60
For truth's complexion, where they all wear masks.
Let who will follow fashions and attires,
Maintain their liegers forth for foreign wires,
Melt down their husbands land, to pour away
On the close groom and page, on new-year's day,
And almost all days after, while they live ;
They find it both so witty, and safe to give.
Let them on powders, oils, and paintings spend,
Till that no usurer, nor his bawds dare lend
Them or their officers ; and no man know, 70
Whether it be a face they wear or no.
Let them waste body and state ; and after all,
When their own parasites laugh at their fall,
May they have nothing left, whereof they can
Boast, but how oft they have gone wrong to man,
And call it their brave sin : for such there be
That do sin only for the infamy ;
And never think, how vice doth every hour
Eat on her clients, and some one devour.
You, madam, young have learn'd to shun these shelves, 80
Whereon the most of mankind wreck themselves,
And keeping a just course, have early put
Into your harbor, and all passage shut
'Gainst storms or pirates, that might charge your peace ;


Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well turned and true FILED lines;
In each of which he *SEEMS* to shake a lance,
As brandisht at the EYES of IGNORANCE.


Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to SHOW

Eyes of Ignorance:

Jonson, Staple of News

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.


Staple of News, Prologue for the Court

The P R O L O G U E for the C O U R T.

Work not smelling of the Lamp, to night,
But fitted for your Majesty's Disport,
And writ to the MERIDIAN of Your Court,
We bring; and hope it may produce Delight:
The rather, being offered as a Rite,
To Scholars, that can judge, and fair report
The Sense they hear, above the VULGAR SORT
Of Nut-crackers, that only come for SIGHT...

vulgar sort:

And been a king among the meaner sort.


To the Great Example of H O N O U R and V E R T U E, the most Noble


E A R L of P E M B R O K E , L O R D C H A M B E R L A I N, &c.

M Y L O R D,

N so thick and dark an IGNORANCE, as now almost covers the AGE, I
crave leave to stand near your Light, and by that to be read.
Posterity may pay your Benefit the Honour and Thanks, when it shall
know, that you dare, in these JIG-GIVEN times, to countenance a
Legitimate Poem. I must call it so, against all noise of Opinion: from
whose crude and airy Reports, I appeal to that great and singular
Faculty of Judgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate Truth from
Error. It is the First (of this Race) that ever I dedicated to any
Person; and had I not thought it the best, it should have been taught
a less Ambition. Now it approacheth your Censure chearfully, and with
the same assurance that Innocency would appear before a Magistrate.

Your Lordships most faithful Honourer,


jig-given times/Jonson

He is loth to make Na-
ture afraid in his Plays, like those that beget Tales, Tem-
pests, and such like Drolleries, to mix his HEAD with
mens HEELS ; let the CONCUPISCENCE of
Jigs and Dances,
reign as strong as it will amongst you:

Ignorant Age:

FALKLAND, Jonsonus Virbius

...How in an IGNORANT, and learn'd AGE he [Jonson] swaid,
(Of which the first he found, the second made)
How He, when he could know it, reapt his Fame,
And long out-liv'd the envy of his Name:

Soul of an Ignorant Age:

I remember, the players have often
mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that
in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never
blotted out line. My answer hath been, would
he had blotted a thousand. Which they thought
a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity
this, but for their IGNORANCE, who choose that
circumstance to commend their friend by,
wherein he most faulted.

John Beaumont , Jonsonus Virbius

...Twas he that found (plac'd) in the seat of wit,
DULL grinning IGNORANCE, and banish'd it;
He on the prostituted stage appears
To make men hear, not by their eyes, but ears;
Who painted virtues, that each one might know,
And point the man, that did such treasure owe :
So that who could in JONSON'S lines be high
Needed not honours, or a riband buy ;
But vice he only shewed us in a glass,
Which by reflection of those rays that pass,
Retains the figure lively, set before,
And that withdrawn, reflects at us no more;
So, he observ'd the like decorum, when
*He whipt the vices, and yet spar'd the men* :
When heretofore, the Vice's only note,
And sign from virtue was his party-coat;
When devils were the last men on the stage,
And pray'd for plenty, and the present age.


Bartholomew Fair: Jonson

I N D u C T I O N
S T A G E.

It is further covenanted, concluded and agreed, That
how great soever the expectation be, no Person here is
to expect more than he knows, or better Ware than a
Fair will afford: neither to look back to the Sword and
Buckler-age of Smithfield, but content himself with the
present. Instead of a little Davy, to take Toll o' the
Bawds, the Author doth promise a strutting Horse-courser,
with a leer-Drunkard, two or three to attend him, in as
good Equipage as you would wish. And then for Kind-
heart, the Tooth-drawer, a fine Oily Pig-woman with her
Tapster, to bid you welcome, and a Consort of Roarers
for Musick. A wise Justice of Peace meditant, instead
of a Jugler, with an Ape. A civil Cutpurse searchant. A
sweet Singer of new Ballads allurant: and as fresh an
Hypocrite, as ever was broach'd, rampant. If there be ne-
ver a Servant-monster i' the Fair, who can help it, he
says, nor a Nest of Antiques? *He is loth to make Na-
ture afraid in his Plays, like those that beget Tales, Tem-
pests, and such like Drolleries, to mix his HEAD with
mens HEELS (note - inversion/preposterous); let the CONCUPISCENCE of
Jigs and Dances,
reign as strong as it will amongst you*: yet if the Pup-
pets will please any body, they shall be entreated to
come in.

Jonson, _The Alchemist_


If thou beest more, thou art an understander, and then I trust
thee. If thou art one that takest up, and but a pretender,
beware of what hands thou receivest thy commodity; for thou wert
never more fair in the way to be cozened, than in THIS AGE, in
poetry, especially in plays: wherein, *now the CONCUPISCENCE of
DANCES and of antics so reigneth, as to run away from nature,
and be afraid of her, is the only point of art that tickles the
spectators*. But how out of purpose, and place, do I name art?
When the professors are grown so obstinate contemners of it, and
presumers on their own naturals, as they are deriders of all
diligence that way, and, by simple mocking at the terms, when
they understand not the things, think to get off wittily with
their IGNORANCE. Nay, they are esteemed the more learned, and
sufficient for this, by the many, through their excellent vice
of judgment. For they commend writers, as they do fencers or
wrestlers; who if they come in robustuously, and put for it with
a great deal of violence, are received for the braver fellows:
when many times their own rudeness is the cause of their
disgrace, and a little touch of their adversary gives all that
boisterous force the foil. I deny not, but that these men, who
always seek to do more than enough, may some time happen on some
thing that is good, and great; but very seldom; and when it
comes it doth not recompense the rest of their ill. It sticks
out, perhaps, and is more eminent, because all is sordid and
VILE about it: as lights are more discerned in a thick darkness,
than a faint shadow. I speak not this, out of a hope to do good
to any man against his will; for I know, if it were put to the
question of theirs and mine, *the worse would find more
suffrages: because the most favour common errors*. But I give
thee this warning, that there is a great difference between
those, that, to gain the opinion of copy, utter all they can,
however unfitly; and those that use election and a mean. For it
is only the disease of the unskilful, to think rude things
greater than polished; or scattered more numerous than composed.

'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost which is so deem'd
Not by our feeling but by others' seeing:
For why should others false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shakespeare's Nonclassical Body

And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,

The First Folio Droeshout Engraving represents Shakespeare's 'non-classical' form/body:

1. not classical or contrary to classical precepts.

Main Entry: un·clas·si·cal
Pronunciation: -'kla-si-k&l
Function: adjective
: not classical; especially : unconcerned with the classics

Edward de Vere vs. Sir Philip Sidney

Shakespeare vs. Sidney family admirer Ben Jonson

"The Englishman in this quality is most vain, indiscreet, and out of order. He first grounds his work on impossibilities; then in three hours runs he through the world; marries, gets children, makes children men, men to conquer kingdoms, murder monsters, and bringeth Gods from Heaven and fetcheth devils from Hell." Whetstone, dedication to _Promus and Cassandra_

In First Folio poem Ben Jonson critiques Edward de Vere under cover of a figure - and correctly (according to classical precepts) employs figured language (eschematismene) to either:

1 - Speak truth to power.

2 - According to Quintilian, figured language may also be used to speak of 'conditions laid down by tyrants on abdication and decrees passed by the senate after a civil war, and it is a capital offence to accuse a person with what is past,'

I'm interested in the special condition of a Stuart amnesty, and an authorized 'forgetting' of the factional differences in the late Elizabethan court. Edward de Vere had opposed the Stuart accession - was _The Tempest_ a plea for amnesty/oblivion from the 'furious Medean/enchanter'?

"As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free."

"...I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fadoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I'll drown my book."

George Marcelline (1609) writing of witches plotting against King James:

"Who, as he went to Padan-baran, or towards Denmarke, to take a wife in
the Royal house of the King, how cruelly was he assayled by *furious
Medeaes*, and his owne chiefe Ship foulded up in stearne *Tempests*?"
Contrary Windes did afflict it, beat and drive it every where, they
excited and blew the Waves, which swelled, foamed, roared, and gaped
with open mouths to swallow him. And as the winds wrastled on either
side, against the Mast, the sayles, and the maine yard, behold, even
in labouring (with al their might) to devoure him, they proved the
cause of his happy escape, and with full sayles (through all the
stormes) brought him to Port Loetus, in which place, al Scotland at
his return, welcommed him with singular joyfulness.


The idea of ancient literary criticism
By Yun Lee

...In his treatise On Style, Demetrius declares that figured language
must be employed if somebody wishes to address and to criticize either
a tyrant or a powerful individual, and he advocates this as a middle
course between flattery, which is base, and direct criticism, which is
dangerous. Ahl notes, in an essay entitled 'The Art of Safe
Criticism', that Quintilian, Vespasian's imperial rhetorician,
subsequently elaborates Demetrius' account of the political use of
figured language at Institutio oratoria 9.2.66. Quintilian sets out
three different occasions on which figured language, which he defines
as language that is changed from its most obvious and uncomplicated
usage by poetic or oratorical usage (9.1.13), may be employed. The
first of THese concerns when it is dangerous to speak openly; the
second concerns propriety - where the Latin 'it is not fitting/
suitable ('non decet' ) perhaps renders the Greek
'improper' (aprepes); while the third advocates the use of figured
language where the novelty of such structures may produce delight and
pleasure. Of these three occasions, the first is the
most obviously
political, and what Quintilian proposes is a need for the author in
question to tread warily around authority, particularly as author and
political leader may be at odds. The following section of the work
suggests that the rhetorician has in mind the empire, figured as
tyranny: he cites the use of rhetorical figures in school exercises
which require pupils to produce speeches to instigate rebellion
against despots without speaking too plainly to tyrants (9.2.67).

Institutio Oratoria
Book IX
Chapter 2

65 Similar, if not identical with this figure is another, which is much in vogue at the present time. For I must now proceed to the discussion of a class of figure which is of the common est occurrence and on which I think I shall be expected to make some comment. It is one whereby we excite some suspicion to indicate that our meaning is other than our words would seem to imply; but our meaning is not in this case contrary to that which we express, as is the case in irony, but rather a hidden meaning which is left to the hearer to discover. As I have already pointed out,101 modern rhetoricians practically restrict the name of figure to this device, from the use of which figured controversial themes derive their name. 66 This class of figure may be employed under three conditions first, if it is unsafe to speak openly; secondly, if it is unseemly to speak openly; and thirdly, when it is employed solely with a view to the elegance of what we say, and gives greater pleasure by reason of the novelty and variety thus introduced than if our meaning had been expressed in straightforward language.

67 The first of the three is of common occurrence in the schools, where we imagine conditions laid down by tyrants on abdication and decrees passed by the senate after a civil war, and it is a capital offence to accuse a person with what is past, what is not p417expedient in the courts being actually prohibited in the schools. But the conditions governing the employment of figures differ in the two cases. For we may speak against the tyrants in question as openly as we please without loss of effect, provided always that what we say is susceptible of a different interpretation, since it is only danger to ourselves, and not offence to them, that we have to avoid. 68 And if the danger can be avoided by any ambiguity of expression, the speaker's cunning will meet with universal approbation. On the other hand, the actual business of the courts has never yet involved such necessity for silence, though at times they require something not unlike it, which is much more embarrassing for the speaker, as, for example, when he is hampered by the existence of powerful personages, whom he must censure if he is to prove his case. 69 Consequently he must proceed with greater wariness and circumspection; since the actual manner in which offence is given is a matter of indifference, and if a figure is perfectly obvious, it ceases to be a figure. Therefore such devices are absolutely repudiated by some authorities, whether the meaning of the figure be intelligible or not. But it is possible to employ such figures in moderation, the primary consideration being that they should not be too obvious.