Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oxford Overthrown by the Men of Reason

Peacham, Minerva Britanna

In the Introduction to Humoring the Body, Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage, Gail Kern Paster writes of the perils of emotional intemperance:

"In Bishop Edward Reynold's Treatise of the Passions and Faculties of the Soule of Man (1640), there is a surprisingly vivid comparison of the passions of Christ to those of ordinary men. Reynolds writes, "The Passions of sinfull men are many times like the tossings of the Sea, which bringeth up mire and durt; but the Passions of Christ were like the shaking of pure Water in a cleane Vessell, which though it be thereby troubled, yet is it not fouled at all."

Seeking to refute Neostoicism's attack on the utility of the passions, Reynolds argues that Christ in his life on earth allowed himself to love, rejoice, weep, desire, mourn, and grieve like other men and that he used the passions as an occason for the exercise of his perfect reason. Christ's passions "never proceeded beyond their due measure, nor transported the Mind to undecencie or excesse; but had both their rising and originall from Reason, and also their measure, bounds, continuance limited by Reason". Christ embodies temperance, then, not by avoiding emotions altogether but by keeping his emotions within the bounds of moderation. While this perfect temperance distinguishes Christ from ordinary men, it also serves Reynolds as a strong defense of human emotion. It is human sinfulness that makes immoderate passions an instrument of self-harm - an instrument of excess and indecency - not the passions themselves. Whatever the passions may do to the minds and bodies of ordinary men, however vehemently reason and passion may fight for predominance within the souls of other men, in Christ the passions are not opposed to reason but apparently an instrument of it. Even more crucially for Reynolds, the mere existence of passions in Christ points to their functionality, their role in the divine endowment of nature.

There is much in Reynold's anti-Stoic defence of emotion to interest the student of the early modern passions. But it is Reynolds's picture of the passionate Christ as a glass vessel with its liquid contents shaken (but not stirred) that most catches my imagination, because it is a striking image that is nevertheless representative of its moment in time. For embedded in the terms of this double analogy are many of the early modern themes that occupy  my attention in this book. Reynolds employs a commonplace set of comparisons - of passions to water, of the roiling ocean to the clear contents of a vessel, of sinlessness to cleanliness, of sinfulness to dirtiness, of Christ's passions to the passions of men. Readers of early modern emblem literature were entirely familiar with the comparisons of the ocean to the human passions, as when Henry Peacham in Minerva Britanna compares the constant man to a rock amid the waves (see image above) or allegorizes the valiant mind as belonging to a man, like Aeneas, undaunted by the waves battering his vessel (Minerva Britanna, "His graviora") (pp. 1-2)


Passionate Will :

Steven May has determined that the innovative Earl of Oxford introduced the "New Lyricism' to the Elizabethan Court in the 1570's:

Jonathan Gibson, _Sidney's Arcadias and Elizabethan Courtiership_,

Oxford University Press

"One aspect of the Alencon dispute that, rather surprisingly, has been neglected in discussions of Sidney is the relationship between his own work and the writings of his court rival Edward DeVere, seventeenth earl of Oxford. The _Arcadias_ can plausibly be read as using their a more general meditation on the problems of Elizabethan courtiership. As Steven W. May has shown, French-influenced ‘new lyricism', closely associated with Oxford, was the dominant poetic form at the Elizabethan court at the time of the composition of the old _Arcadia_. Early Elizabethan court poetry had been largely religious and didactic but during the 1570's Oxford pioneered a revival of courtly Petrarchan lyric in the tradition of Wyatt and Surrey. I have argued elsewhere that this was connected with Oxford's advocacy of the French match, forming a key element in what H.R. Woudhuysen has called the 'wholesale importation of French culture and manners to England' which occurred in the wake of the marriage negotiations. The arrival of new lyricism' meant that the Petrarchan language of love became part of the lingua franca of English court life. The complicated overlap at the Elizabethan court between the language of early modern patronage negotiations and the language of Petrarchanism has been much discussed. The blurring of the two was greatly heightened - and arguably set in place, in its specifically Elizabethan manifestation - by Oxford's literary programme."


Lyric poetry is often defined as poetry that expresses a writer's emotions. Oxford's poems and Shakespeare's sonnets provide good examples.

There was a broad strain of neo-Stoic thought in England that believed the passions were something to be 'bridled', or otherwise firmly restrained or ruled by reason. The passions (the word 'emotion' was not used until much later) were regarded as inferior and animalistic - less developed - while human reason was associated with the divine part of man. The passions were also associated with inconstancy and were often gendered as feminine, and signified by changeable fluids, shadows or vapours (see Greville's description of Oxford in his _Life of Sidney, while the Renaissance Man of Reason seems to have aspired to a self-sameness and 'masculine' constancy that bordered on ossification.


The Poet’s Morals in Jonson’s Poetaster
Eugene M. Wait

…Caesar’s condemnation of Ovid and the other banqueters is most compelling. He rejects a plea for mercy made by Horace with the comment that virtue is wasted on those who live as if only vice were real, virtue imaginary. His concluding words are:

I will preferred for knowledge, none, but such

As rule their lives by it, and can becalme

All sea of humour, with the marble trident

Of their strong spirits: Others fight below

With gnats, and shaddowes, others nothing know.

(IV, vi, 74-78)

Sinning against Reason:
Dr. Johnson put his finger on a major objection to Shakespeare's art. Shakespeare's 'quibbling' may sound like a harmless bit of word-play, but as Ben Jonson informs us - 'his art doth give the fashion'. Dr. Johnson informs us that for the sake of his delightful quibbles Shakespeare willingly sacrificed 'reason, propriety and truth'. These must be the cardinal virtues of neoclassicism, and help to explain why Reasonable men such as Ben Jonson refused to follow Oxford/Shakespeare 'into the mire', and thought only ignorance could wholeheartedly/wholemindedly (?) admire such an incontinent trifler. And I suppose that Shakespeare's considerable cultural influence made his self-indulgent pursuit of his own delight at the expense of enriching is audience with civil virtues all the more objectionable - to his more severe critics.

If Oxford/Shakespeare had composed music rather than verse he would not have been subject to this tyrannical demand for 'matter above words'(Jonson, CR). If notes of music are strung together to create a bewitching sound that enchants listeners, why not words? Does everything have to be strained through the net of the judgement? Is it a cheap trick or a vice to bypass the judgement and speak directly to beauty, to the heart?
"A quibble is to Shakespeare, what luminous vapours are to the traveller; he follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of his way, and sure to engulf him in the mire. It has some malignant power over his mind, and its fascinations are irresistible. Whatever be the dignity or profundity of his disquisition, whether he be enlarging knowledge or exalting affection, whether he be amusing attention with incidents, or enchaining it in suspense, let but a quibble spring up before him, and he leaves his work unfinished. A quibble is the golden apple for which he will always turn aside from his career, or stoop from his elevation. A quibble, poor and barren as it is, gave him such delight, that he was content to purchase it, by the sacrifice of reason, propriety and truth. A quibble was to him the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content to lose it. (S. Johnson)


Wit, Judgment, and the Misprisions of Similitude

Roger D. Lund

...In his famous rejection of Metaphysical Wit, Dr. Johnson had condemned Cowley's verse for its "combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike ... [where] the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together." If Beattie is correct, however, all uses of similitude depend, in some degree, on the violent yokings of heterogenous ideas. The recognition of this fact may account, at least in part, for the Augustans' violent rejection of punning, which represents similitude in its purest form. Indeed, as Jonathan Culler points out, the pun may be regarded as "a sin against Reason itself ... in which an 'accidental' or external relationship between signifiers is treated as a conceptual relationship.... We treat the pun as a joke, lest signifiers infect thought." The Augustans were perpetually on guard against the "infection" of thought which was almost inevitable given the confusion of conceptual and verbal relationships in the apprehension of similitudes. In Spectator # 61 Addison argues that it is "impossible to kill a Weed, which the Soul has a natural Disposition to produce. The Seeds of Punning are in the Minds of all Men, and tho' they may be subdued by Reason, Reflection, and good Sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest Genius."


From _Milton and Empiricist Semiotics_, Daniel Fried

...When Hobbes (...) discusses reason, he finds that reason fails and falls into absurdity from seven separate causes - tellingly, all seven are due to semiotic abuses, and most are part of Hobbes’s anti-scholasticism. The problems include the lack of clear definitions of words, the naming of concepts and qualities as if they were physical realities, the use of metaphor, and the use of non-signifying words, such as "hypostatical, transubstantiate, consubstantiate, eternal-Now, and the canting of Schoolemen". He goes on to conclude, "The Light of humane minds is Perspicuous Words, but by exact definitions first snuffed, and purged from ambiguity (...) And on the contrary, METAPHORS, and senslesse and ambiguous words, are like IGNES FATUI, and reasoning upon them, is wandering amongst innumerable absurdities: and their end, contention, and sedition, or contempt." Putting aside the bizarreness of Hobbes’s metaphorical excoriation of metaphor, the choice and treatment of the trope are exactly the same as Milton's famous usage:

Hope elevates, and joy

Bright'ns his Crest, as when a wandring Fire

Compact of unctuous vapor, which the Night

Condenses, and the cold invirons round,

Kindl'd through agitation to a Flame,

Which oft, they say, some evil Spirit attends

Hovering and blazing with delusive Light,

Misleads th' amaz'd Night-wanderer from his way

To Boggs and Mires, and oft through Pond or Poole,

There swallow'd up and lost, from succour farr.

So glister'd the dire Snake, and into fraud

Led Eve our credulous Mother, to the Tree

Of prohibition, root of all our woe;

Which when she saw, thus to her guide she spake.(9. 633-645)


Jonson, Discoveries

De orationis dignitate. ’Εγκυκλοπαιδεια. - Metaphora. Speech is the only benefit man hath to express his excellency of mind above other creatures. It is the instrument of society; therefore Mercury, who is the president of language, is called deorum hominumque interpres. {110a} In all speech, words and sense are as the body and the soul. The sense is as the life and soul of language, without which all words are dead. Sense is wrought out of experience, the knowledge of human life and actions, or of the liberal arts, which the Greeks called ’Εγκυκλοπαιδειαν. Words are the people’s, yet there is a choice of them to be made; for verborum delectus origo est eloquentiæ. {111a} They are to be chosen according to the persons we make speak, or the things we speak of. Some are of the camp, some of the council-board, some of the shop, some of the sheepcote, some of the pulpit, some of the Bar, &c. And herein is seen their elegance and propriety, when we use them fitly and draw them forth to their just strength and nature by way of translation or metaphor. But in this translation we must only serve necessity (nam temerè nihil transfertur à prudenti) {111b} or commodity, which is a kind of necessity: that is, when we either absolutely want a word to express by, and that is necessity; or when we have not so fit a word, and that is commodity; as when we avoid loss by it, and escape obsceneness, and gain in the grace and property which helps significance. Metaphors far-fetched hinder to be understood; and affected, lose their grace. Or when the person fetcheth his translations from a wrong place as if a privy councillor should at the table take his metaphor from a dicing-house, or ordinary, or a vintner’s vault; or a justice of peace draw his similitudes from the mathematics, or a divine from a bawdy house, or taverns; or a gentleman of Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, or the Midland, should fetch all the illustrations to his country neighbours from shipping, and tell them of the main-sheet and the bowline. Metaphors are thus many times DEFORMED, as in him that said, Castratam morte Africani rempublicam; and another, Stercus curiæ Glauciam, and Canâ nive conspuit Alpes. All attempts that are new in this kind, are dangerous, and somewhat hard, before they be softened with use. A man coins not a new word without some peril and less fruit; for if it happen to be received, the praise is but moderate; if refused, the scorn is assured. Yet we must adventure; for things at first hard and rough are by use made tender and gentle. It is an honest error that is committed, following great chiefs.


As I've said before, if I do not spend time defending or praising Shakespeare it is because I believe Shakespeare's aesthetic choices stand for themselves. My time here, stolen from my 'real' life, is spent trying to suggest reasons why Oxford lost his reputation and became severed (or severed himself) from his authorial identity. (And another caveat, I do not wish to over-simplify matters with sweeping generalizations suggesting that Oxford was associated with a passionate, effeminate irrationality while men such as Jonson identified with models of self-restraint, temperance and hardened masculinity - but I probably will. )

The world responds to and identifies with Shakespeare's characterizations of passionate souls. Gail Kern Paster wonders about the divisive nature of Reason. Commenting on a sixteenth century Italian text Kern Paster writes:

"Robert Adams, La Circe's modern editor, insists that the text's intention is to ratify the unique and lonely burdens of human consciousness. I find Gelli's text more remarkable for the extent to which it is willing to particularize points of view constructed as nonhuman in order to ask if reason is really the foundation of human difference not only from animals but between one human and another as well." (_Humoring the Body_. pp. 183-184)

Shakespeare demonstrates the effort required to balance passion and reason in the character of Prospero - permitting us to witness Prospero's efforts to calm his 'troubled' mind - to 'becalme all sea of humour' without resorting to the grotesque and inhuman metaphor of inanimate stone:         (we are such stuff)

Ferdinand. This is strange. Your father’s in some passion

That works him strongly.

Miranda. Never till this day

Saw I him touch’d with anger, so distemper’d.

Prospero. You do look, my son, in a mov’d sort,

As if you were dismay’d. Be cheerful, sir,

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits, and 

Are melted into air, into thin air;

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack  behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex’d,—

Bear with my weakness—my old brain is troubled.

Be not disturb’d with my infirmity.

If you be pleas’d, retire into my cell

And there repose. A turn or two I’ll walk,

To still my beating mind.

Fer. Mir. We wish your peace.

Pros. Come with a thought. I thank thee, Ariel; come. Exeunt.

The Passions of the Mind in General - Thomas Wright

Book 1, Chapter 2

What We Understand by Passions and Affections

Three sorts of actions proceed from men’s souls: some are internal and immaterial, as the acts of our wits and wills: others be mere external and material, as the acts of our senses (seeing, hearing, moving, etc.); others stand betwixt these two extremes and border upon them both; the which we may best discover in children, because they lack the use of reason and are guided by an internal imagination, following nothing else but that pleaseth their senses, even after the same manner as brute beasts do; for as we see beasts hate, love, fear, and hope, so do children. Those actions then which are common with us and beasts we call passions and affections, or perturbations, of the mind. Motus, saith St. Augustine, animae quos Graeci pathe appellant ex Latinis quidam ut Cicero 3 Tuscul perturbationes dixerunt, alii affectiones, alii affectus, alii expressas passiones vocaverunt. “The motions of the soul, called of the Greeks pathe, some Latins, as Cicero, called them perturbations, others affects, other affects, others more expressly name them passions." They are called passions (although indeed they be acts of the sensitive power or faculty of our soul, and are defined of Damascene Motio sensualis appetetivae virtutis, ob boni vel mali imaginationem, “a sensual motion of our appetitive faculty through imagination of some good or ill thing”) because when these affections are stirring in our minds they alter the humors of our bodies, causing some passion or alteration in them. They are called perturbations for that (as afterward shall be declared) they trouble wonderfully the soul, corrupting the judgement and seducing the will, inducing, for the most part, to vice, and commonly withdrawing from virtue; and therefore some call them maladies or sores of the soul. They be also named affections, because the soul by them either affecteth some good or, for the affection of some good, detesteth some ill. These passions then be certain internal acts or operations of the soul, bordering upon reason and sense, prosecuting some good thing or flying some ill thing, causing therewithal some alteration in the body.

Here must be noted that albeit these passions inhabit the confines both of sense and reason, yet they keep not equal friendship with both; for passions and sense are like two naughty servants who ofttimes bear more love to another than they are obedient to their master.

Making Monsters against Nature/Unnatural Shakespeare:

Jonson, _Bartholomew Fair_ (1614),

If there be never a Servant-monster I’ the Fayre; who can help it? He sayes; nor a nest of Antiques? He is loth to make Nature afraid in his Playes, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries, to mixe his head with other mens heeles, let the concupiscence of Jigges and Dances, raigne as strong as it will amongst you: yet if the Puppets will please any body, they shall be entreated to come in.


Bishop Reynold's defense of the passions of Christ (quoted above) provides a useful guide to a pre-revolution dream of a rational passionality - and a guide to the sins and excesses of the lyrical earl Edward de Vere/Shakespeare. Shakespeare and Oxford shared a passionate nature, and both were accused of permitting their passions to proceed beyond their due measure (in art and in life), and for refusing to square their wit and wills by the rule of reason. For this, it was necessary that they (he) should be held, or restrained within the bounds of decorum - so that their passionate humourality and sinful self-love should not infect others.

As Jasper Mayne wrote to the deceased William Cartwright ( a Son of Ben) --

For thou to Nature had'st joyn'd Art, and skill.
In Thee Ben Johnson still Held Shakespeare’s Quill:
A Quill, RUL'D by sharp Judgement, and such Laws,
As a well studied Mind, and Reason draws.
Thy Lamp was cherish'd with suppolied of Oyle,
Fetch'd from the Romane and the Graecian soyle.

We know from Jonson that Shakespeare was incapable of ruling his wit/fancy, or blotting/correcting his own lines - so the above 'well studied Mind and Reason' belong to Jonson and Cartwright, not anti-classical Shakespeare.

William Cartwright

"Shakespeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lyes

I'th Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes;

Old fashion'd wit, which walkt from town to town

In turn'd Hose, which our fathers call'd the CLOWN;

Whose wit our nice times would obsceannesse call,

And which made Bawdry passe for Comicall:

Nature was all his Art, thy veine was FREE

As his, but without his SCURILITY;


On Mr William Cartwright’s surviving Poems.

...Thy skill in Wit was not so poorely meek


Confin'd their whole Discourse to a Street-phrase,

Such Dialect as their next Neighbour's was;

Their Birth-place brought o’th’stage, the Clown and Quean

Were full as dear to them as Persian Scean.

Thou (*to whom Ware, thus offer’d, smelt as strong

As the Clown’s foot*) hadst led thy Muse along

Through all learn’d Times and Authors; thy rich Pen

Travers’d more Languages than they read Men;

They but to Spain or Italy advance,

The Leg, or Shrugg, or to our Neighbour France;

Thy Universall Genius did know

The whole World’s posture, and mixt Idiom too.

But these, as modern faculties, thy Soul

Rear’d higher up, learnt only to controul:

In abler Works and Tongues yet more refin’d,

Thou wedg’st thy self till they grew to thy Mind;

The were so wrapt about thee, none could tell

A difference, but that Cartwright did excel.




Insolent Greece:

Jonson, Timber

The wit of the old comedy. - So that what either in the words or sense of an author, or in the language or actions of men, is AWRY or depraved does strangely stir mean affections, and provoke for the most part to laughter. And therefore it was clear that all INSOLENT and OBSCENE speeches, jests upon the best men, injuries to particular persons, PERVERSE and SINISTER SAYINGS (and the rather unexpected) in the old comedy did move laughter, especially where it did imitate any DISHONESTY, and SCURRILITY came forth in the place of wit, which, who understands the nature and genius of laughter cannot but perfectly know.

Aristophanes. - Plautus. - Of which Aristophanes affords an ample harvest, having not only outgone Plautus or any other in that kind, but expressed all the moods and figures of what is RIDICULOUS oddly. In short, as vinegar is not accounted good until the wine be corrupted, so jests that are true and natural seldom raise laughter with the beast the multitude. *They love nothing that is right and proper. The farther it runs from reason or possibility with them the better it is* (note - Soul of the Age!).

Perverse and Sinister Sayings - 'Ambisinister' Droeshout Engraving
To prefer your own manner or style or to tread your own way or path - and to eschew the paths set out by the ancients - was a sign of self-love. For humanist scholars, at least.

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 fantasies.


Horace, _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

In vaine, but you, and yours, YOU SHOULD LOVE STILL

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; (note - Drummond/Jonson Shakespeare 'wanted Art')

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.

Jonson - He is loth to make Nature afraid in his Playes, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries, to mixe his head with other mens heeles:

Arsy/Versy and Hysteron Proteron:

"Ye have another manner of disordered speech, when ye misplace your words or clauses, and set that before which should be behind. We call it in English proverb, the cart before the horse, the Greeks call it Histeron proteron, we name it the Preposterous, and if be not too much used is tolerable enough, and many times scarce perceivable, unless the sense be thereby made very absurd."

(George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, 1589)


De optimo scriptore. - Cicero. - Now that I have informed you in the knowing of these things, let me lead you by the hand a little farther, in the direction of the use, and make you an able writer by practice. The conceits of the mind are pictures of things, and the tongue is the interpreter of those pictures. The order of God' s creatures in themselves is not only admirable and glorious, but eloquent: then he who could apprehend the consequence of things in their truth, and utter his apprehensions as truly, were the best writer or speaker. Therefore Cicero said much, when he said, Dicere recte nemo potest, nisi qui prudenter intelligit. {124a} The shame of speaking unskilfully were small if the tongue only thereby were disgraced; but as the image of a king in his seal ill-represented is not so much a blemish to the wax, or the signet that sealed it, as to the prince it representeth, so disordered speech is not so much injury to the lips that give it forth, as to the *disproportion and incoherence of things in themselves, so negligently expressed*.

Neither can his mind be thought to be in tune, whose words do jar; nor his reason in frame, whose sentence is PREPOSTEROUS; nor his elocution clear and perfect, whose utterance breaks itself into fragments and uncertainties. Were it not a dishonour to a mighty prince, to have the majesty of his embassage spoiled by a careless ambassador? and is it not as great an indignity, that an excellent conceit and capacity, by the indiligence of an idle tongue, should be disgraced? Negligent speech doth not only discredit the person of the speaker, but it discrediteth the opinion of his reason and judgment; it discrediteth the force and uniformity of the matter and substance. If it be so then in words, which fly and escape censure, and where one good phrase begs pardon for many incongruities and faults, how shall he then be thought wise whose penning is thin and shallow? how shall you look for wit from him whose leisure and head, assisted with the examination of his eyes, yield you no life or sharpness in his writing?


Preposterous Events

Patricia Parker

Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 2. (Summer, 1992), pp. 186-213.

To look carefully at the "preposterous" in Shakespeare, then, in the midst of a context Lawrence Stone has described as "patrilinear, primogenitural, and patriarchal,' *is to see the presentation of an order authorized as "natural" as instead rhetorically produced and to become aware of the workings of "smooth discourse" - the histories it forges and the authority it creates*. The contexts we have traced all form part of the background against which we need to set the mises-en-scene of sequence, following, the reverse of the reasons Tillyard and others in an earlier era of Shakespeare criticism placed contemporary discourses beside the plays, but also to caution against considerations of Shakespeare that fall into the trap of reading such passages "straight" and hence, though with different explicit aims, repeat some of the gestures of an older historicism. *Shakespearean deformations of order and sequence* - in short what I am calling the "Shakespearean preposterous" - need to be remarked against the background of emergent discourses of order in an age whose increasing neoclassicism and neoAristotelianism were intimately related to the articulation of new structures of social order and power. To read Shakespeare carefully in this sense is also to read politically and to include within any conception of a political Shakespeare and awareness of the language that both stages this order and subversively dismantles it.


Jonson - Timber

Censura de poetis. - Nothing in our age, I have observed, is more PREPOSTEROUS than the running judgments upon poetry and poets; when we shall hear those things commended and cried up for the best writings which a man would scarce vouchsafe to wrap any wholesome drug in; he would never light his tobacco with them. And those *men almost named for miracles*, who yet are so VILE that if a man should go about to examine and correct them, he must make all they have done but one blot. Their good is so entangled with their bad as forcibly one must draw on the other' s death with it. A sponge dipped in ink will do all:-

" - Comitetur Punica librum

Spongia. - " {44a}

Et paulò post,

" Non possunt . . . multæ . . . lituræ

. . . una litura potest."

Cestius - Cicero - Heath - Taylor - Spenser. - Yet their vices have not hurt them; nay, a great many they have profited, for they have been loved for nothing else. And this false opinion grows strong against the best men, if once it take root with the ignorant. Cestius, in his time, was preferred to Cicero, so far as the ignorant durst. They learned him without book, and had him often in their mouths; but a man cannot imagine that thing so foolish or rude but will find and enjoy an admirer; at least a reader or spectator. The puppets are seen now in despite of the players; Heath' s epigrams and the Sculler' s poems have their applause. There are never wanting that dare prefer the worst preachers, the worst pleaders, the worst poets; not that the better have left to write or speak better, but that they that hear them judge worse; Non illi pejus dicunt, sed hi corruptius judicant. Nay, if it were put to the question of the water- rhymer' s works, against Spenser' s, I doubt not but they would find more suffrages; because the most favour common vices, out of a prerogative the vulgar have to lose their judgments and like that which is naught. (NOTE – Soul of the Age!)

Poetry, in this latter age, hath proved but a mean mistress to such as have wholly addicted themselves to her, or given their names up to her family. They who have but saluted her on the by, and now and then tendered their visits, she hath done much for, and advanced in the way of their own professions (both the law and the gospel) beyond all they could have hoped or done for themselves without her favour. Wherein she doth emulate the judicious but PREPOSTEROUS bounty of the time' s grandees, who accumulate all they can upon the parasite or fresh-man in their friendship; but think an old client or honest servant bound by his place to write and starve.

Indeed, the multitude commend writers as they do fencers or wrestlers, who if they come in robustiously and put for it with a deal of violence are received for the braver fellows; when many times their own rudeness is a cause of their disgrace, and a slight touch of their adversary gives all that boisterous force the foil. But in these things the unskilful are naturally deceived, and judging wholly by the bulk, think rude things greater than polished, and scattered more numerous than composed; nor think this only to be true in the sordid multitude, but the neater sort of our gallants; for all are the multitude, only they differ in clothes, not in judgment or understanding.


1. 'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,

2. When not to be receives reproach of being;

3. And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed

4. Not by our feeling, but by others' seeing:

5. For why should others' false adulterate eyes

6. Give salutation to my sportive blood?

7. Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,

8. Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

9. No, I am that I am, and they that level

10. At my (semiotic) abuses reckon up their own:

11. I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;

12. By their rank thoughts, my deeds must not be shown;

13. Unless this general evil they maintain,

14. All men are bad and in their badness reign.


The Passions of the Mind in General - Thomas Wright

That there are Passions in the reasonable soule.

Chap. VIII.

Now that we have determined how the Passions must dwell in an other soyle than the face; the order of methode requireth wee should wade deeper into the soule, to view, if in the reasonable part, we might finde out their habitation. And to be briefe in this poynt, I thinke it cannot be doubted upon, but that there are some affections in the highest and chiefest part of the soule, not unlike to the Passions of the Minde: for to God the scriptures ascribe love, hate, ire, zeale, who cannot be subject to any sensitive operations: And therefore, as in him they are perfections, and we are commaunded, and mayimitate him in them, there is no reason why they should be denyed unto us, in such sort as they be perfite, and that is principally in the Will.

Besides, we know most certaynely, that out sensitive appetite cannot love, hate, feare, hope, &c. but that by imagination: or our sensitive apprehension we may conceyve: for, Malum amare possumus, incognitum vero amare non possumus: we may love an ill thing, but we cannot love an unknowne thing: nowe experience teacheth us, that men doe feare the judgements of God, they love him, and hope in him, they hate sinne, and finally, exercise many notable affections, which reason prescribeth, and whereunto the sensitive apprehension ascendeth not: Furthermore, as beneath shall be declared, the sensitive appetite often, year and (for the most part) traleth and haleth the will to consent and follow her pleasures and delights, even for the same reason that she pretendeth the: as for example, (I would to God it were not true) how oft yeeldeth the will to the appetite, in procuring sensuall pleasures and pastimes, for no other ende, than to pleasure the unpleasable appetites, and lustes of the flesh? this experience more pregnantly prooveth it, than any reason can confirme it: finally, as our witte understandeth whatsoever our senses perceive, even so our will may affect whatsoever our passions doe follow: for as the object of the wit is all trueth, reall, or apparant, so the object of our will is all goodnesse indeede, or carrying the glosse thereof. Neverthelesse I must confesse that these affections which reside in the will, differ much in nature and qualitie form those that inhabite the inferior partes of the soule, because, these being bredde and borne in the highest part of the soule, are immateriall, spirituall, independant of any corporall subject: but hose of the sensitive appetite, are materiall, corporall, and depending upon some bodily instruments, as beneath shall be delivered.

Ariel - air and fire

Caliban - earth and water


The other two, slight air and purging fire,

Are both with thee, wherever I abide;

The first my thought, the other my desire,

These present-absent with swift motion slide.

For when these quicker elements are gone

In tender embassy of love to thee,

My life, being made of four, with two alone

Sinks down to death, oppress'd with melancholy;

Until life's composition be recured

By those swift messengers return'd from thee,

Who even but now come back again, assured

Of thy fair health, recounting it to me:

This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,

I send them back again and straight grow sad.


My life, being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppress'd with melancholy;


And thence retire me to my Milan, where every third thought shall be my grave