Friday, March 23, 2012

Hamlet's Zealous Noise and the Trope of 'The Puritan at the Fair'

Vanity Fair - Oxford's 'emptiness' and insubstantiality in Greville's account of the Tennis Court Quarrel signifies for reformers a vain nature - essentially empty/worthless. Vanity - vapours, humours, bubbles, wind, echoes. Reformers attack upon Oxford's 'worth'.

Worth \Worth\, v. i. [OE. worthen, wur[thorn]en, to become, AS.

weor[eth]an; akin to OS. wer[eth]an, D. worden, G. werden,
OHG. werdan, Icel. ver[eth]a, Sw. varda, Goth. wa['i]rpan, L.
vertere to turn, Skr. v[.r]t, v. i., to turn, to roll, to
become. [root]143. Cf. Verse, -ward, Weird.]

To be; to become; to betide; -- now used only in the phrases,
woe worth the day, woe worth the man, etc., in which the verb
is in the imperative, and the nouns day, man, etc., are in
the dative. Woe be to the day, woe be to the man, etc., are
equivalent phrases.


Oxford - social, political and religious conservative, Elizabethan equivalent of 'high Tory', associated with the Court. Hamlet - Militant Protestant Reformer along Sidneyan/Essexian lines?

Hamlet - A 'mongrel' tragi-comedy made upon social, religious and political reformers. Hamlet an early version of the Puritan Clown and the court of Denmark is the Faire - 'Mad' Hamlet runs amok castigating puppets, hobby-horses, drunkeness, baked/roasted meats, pearls, panders, apes, hornpipes, jigs, bawds, bubbles, tyrants, flatterers, devils. Destroys the court (knocking down the booths?) and murders the essentially ordinary and innocent people who live and function within that structure. Hamlet contemptuous and intolerant of others believing them to be corrupt. Gathers little information about the inner states of other people because of his habit of soliloquizing and lecturing others rather than conversing with them. Denies that others can understand him, yet believes he can unfold/hold the mirror up to others. Ironically, he cannot correctly interpret an individual concealed by an arras let alone 'essences' concealed by flesh. Love of militant, bloody and violent metaphors (speaking daggers - language is the dress of thought) leads to violent actions. Hamlet's foreign learning has made him a dangerous stranger in Denmark. Satire is his whip of choice, and in his hands it is bloody. He is a stranger to the humanity and tolerance of Shakespeare's Comic Spirit, although the author of the play portrays Hamlet's confusion with understanding and some compassion.

The Puritan at large in the Fair.

Hamlet a threat to the internal stability of Denmark.

Monarchy and idea of 'Merry England' - festive ritual as attempt to unify country and court - method endorsed by Oxford/Shakespeare?

Hamlet - the cure is worse than the disease.
Sidney, Defense of Poesy

...Our tragedies and comedies not without cause cried out against, observing rules neither of honest civility nor of skilful poetry, excepting Gorboduc, - again I say of those that I have seen. Which notwithstanding as it is full of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca`s style, and as full of notable morality, which it doth most delightfully teach, and so obtain the very end of poesy; yet in truth it is very defectious in the circumstances, which grieveth me, because it might not remain as an exact model of all tragedies. For it is faulty both in place and time, the two necessary companions of all corporal actions. For where the stage should always represent but one place, and the uttermost time presupposed in it should be, both by Aristotle`s precept and common reason, but one day; there is both many days and many places inartificially imagined.

But if it be so in Gorboduc, how much more in all the rest? where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Afric of the other, and so many other under-kingdoms, that the player, when he cometh in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived. Now ye shall have three ladies walk to gather flowers, and then we must believe the stage to be a garden. By and by we hear news of shipwreck in the same place, and then we are to blame if we accept it not for a rock. Upon the back of that comes out a hideous monster with fire and smoke, and then the miserable beholders are bound to take it for a cave. While in the mean time two armies fly in, represented with four swords and bucklers, and then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field?


But, besides these gross absurdities, how all their plays be neither right tragedies nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns, not because the matter so carrieth it, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters, with neither decency nor discretion; so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragi-comedy obtained. I know Apuleius did somewhat so, but that is a thing recounted with space of time, not represented in one moment; and I know the ancients have one or two examples of tragi-comedies, as Plautus hath Amphytrio. But, if we mark them well, we shall find that they never, or very daintily, match hornpipes and funerals. So falleth it out that, having indeed no right comedy in that comical part of our tragedy, we have nothing but scurrility, unworthy of any chaste ears, or some extreme show of doltishness, indeed fit to lift up a loud laughter, and nothing else; where the whole tract of a comedy should be full of delight, as the tragedy should be still maintained in a well-raised admiration.


But our comedians think there is no delight without laughter, which is very wrong; for though laughter may come with delight, yet cometh it not of delight, as though delight should be the cause of laughter; but well may one thing breed both together. Nay, rather in themselves they have, as it were, a kind of contrariety. For delight we scarcely do, but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves, or to the general nature; laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature. Delight hath a joy in it either permanent or present; laughter hath only a scornful tickling...But I have lavished out too many words of this playmatter. I do it, because as they are excelling parts of poesy, so is there none so much used in England, and none can be more pitifully abused; which, like an unmannerly daughter, showing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesy`s honesty to be called in question.


Milne, Kirsty.: Reforming Bartholomew Fair: Bunyan, Jonson, and the Puritan point of view.

Huntington Library Quarterly (74:2) [2011] , p.289-308.

"I can get money for my popish ware": Fair Satires and the Civil War

The idea of the church as a fair where indulgences and relics are bought and sold is a recognizable trope in Reformation satire and polemic, doubling as a comment on Catholic practice (selling indulgences, relics, and benefices) and a critique of Catholic doctrine (objectification as idolatry). But in the early days of the Long Parliament, this familiar figure was re-animated to attack the hierarchy of the Laudian church, with the "fair of Rome" metamorphosing into "Lambeth Fair" (Laud was popularly known as "the Pope of Lambeth").73 "Lambeth Fair" became the leitmotif for a run of versified anti-Episcopal pamphlets that imagined the bishops frantically flogging off their "popish ware"vestments, crosiers, jurisdiction in the church courts - in order to flee the country74 The Lambeth theme was picked up and inverted a few months after the Restoration with The Purchasers Pound; or, The Return to Lambeth-Fair, of Knaves and Thieves with All the Sacred Ware. Instead of the bishops selling off their vestments and livings, the panicked buyers are trying to give them back ("Here doctor, take this tippet, scarfe and cope / The which I fear will bring me to a rope").75

The fair satire was, in other words, a highly partisan and contested subgenre. During the course of the 1640s, in a tables-turning exercise that anticipates Bunyan's own, supporters of Charles I appropriated the fair as a polemical device to ridicule the Parliament, the Westminster Assembly and - after the king's execution in 1649 - Fairfax and Cromwell.76 Written in the form of verse monologues or prose dialogues, these pamphlets contain none of the descriptive detail we would associate with Jonson. Certain formulae recur: the fair is invariably proclaimed by a crier, and there are references to "Boothes, Shopps and Stalls."77 But the fair is essentially a framing device to reinforce the idea of degraded value. As in the Lambeth Fair pamphlets and in Bunyan's Vanity Fair, the sacred has been commodified and bracketed with the everyday. When a crier, entering with Charles Ts robes and crown, announces, "Here's a bowl his blood to carouse, with the goods belonging to his House," the metaphorical and material are juxtaposed.78 So too are fact and fantasy: although the king's goods were sold off, his blood was not literally drunk. This hybrid representational mode, born of a refusal to accept a distinction between the empirical and the invisible ("come buy the Holy Ghost of me") persists in Bunyan's disturbing mix of the mystical and the mundane.

The fair satires also anticipate Vanity Fair (note - Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) as a fantasy space of empowerment, retaliation, and release. The Lambeth Fair pamphlets end with the terrified bishops in flight; the later, royalist variations conclude with predictions of the king's return or with Fairfax and Cromwell unexpectedly falling on their swords. Nigel Smith has suggested that the persistent use of fictional travesty in this period is a response to powerlessness and disillusionment; certainly these antagonistic imaginings share none of the impulse toward reconciliation that concludes Jonson's play79 This partisan weighting of the fair is crucial to Bunyan's re-working of Jonson's trope, as is his resolutely non-mimetic portrayal of the fair.

Vanity Fair, therefore, incorporates elements of two traditions, reclaiming the Jonsonian Puritan stereotype and setting it against a schematic fair motif associated both with royalism and crypto-Catholic episcopacy. The link between fairs and Stuart kingship is already apparent in Jonson's play, which can be read, as Leah Marcus argued twenty- five years ago, as "a lucid and elegant defense of royal prerogative" against attacks on the theater by the Corporation of London.80 This royalist link had only intensified during the Civil War and Commonwealth period, when - as is clear from The Dagonizing of Bartholomew Fair, discussed above - fairs became a symbol of resistance to Puritan rule.81 At the Restoration, Charles II embraced his grandfather's approach to festive pastimes, extending the duration of Bartholomew Fair from three to fourteen days.82 The association between fairs and episcopacy, familiar from the Lambeth Fair pamphlets of the early 1640s, received new impetus from the deadline for compliance with the Act of Uniformity, St. Bartholomew's Day, 1662, which marked both the start of Bartholomew Fair and the "setting up" of Stourbridge in Cambridgeshire.83 From the Nonconformist point of view, the country's two biggest fairs were associated not just with drunkenness, promiscuity, riot, and Sabbath-breaking, but with dispossession and humiliation.

For Bunyan, therefore, the fair operated on a number of different levels. It functioned as a general (and familiar allegory) for worldly life. It had associations with Catholicism - intensely topical at the time of the Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis - which Bunyan made explicit in referring to "the ware of Rome" and developed in his sequel, the Second Part of The Pilgrim's Progress (1684), with a new group of pilgrims arriving at Vanity Fair and confronting a monster that lurks in the woods. Finally, there is the covert but highly political referent, in which the fair is aligned with royalist insistence on conformity with the Church of England. In Vanity Fair, Bunyan constructs a contemporary discourse of martyrdom that utilizes the familiar idiom of Foxes Acts and Monuments while subtly alluding to the persecution of Nonconformists in the 1660s and 1670s.

To read Bunyan against Jonson is to discover something unexpected. Bunyan's pilgrims and his fair have antecedents in theatrical tradition (the pamphlet-plays being, as a number of critics have argued, a kind of submerged continuation of drama after the closing of the theaters in 1642). 84 Their genealogy helps to illuminate the subliminal presence of the theater in Bunyan's own text, which refers only glancingly to plays in the contemptuous jumble of "Jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, knaves" (PP, 88). But Vanity Fair is a performance, and the pilgrims are part of it. This emerges clearly from late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century illustrations; one shows billboards advertising Dryden's All for Love, while an image by George Cruikshank from the 1830s has performers from different nations (interpreting Bunyan's "the Britain row, the French row, the Italian row...") dancing, singing, and declaiming on stage.85 The iconography of Vanity Fair acknowledges a debt to the theater, even if the text cannot.

If we accept Collinson's argument that the theater "constructed" images of Puritanism, we might ask why Bunyan should take as his template a stereotype so offensive to fellow Nonconformists. One answer might be that the stereotype was true: Jonson and Bunyan were, indeed, as Donaldson suggests, working from "personal knowledge." John Warner, as we have seen, perfectly fulfilled the role of killjoy Puritan, whether cutting down holly and ivy at Christmas or halting premature celebrations at Smithfleld. Several eminent Presbyterians record unpleasant encounters with fairs. Lucy Hutchinson has a particularly painful account of a confrontation between revelers and the cortège bringing her husband's body home.86 One of Bunyan's early nineteenth-century editors, the Baptist minister Joseph Ivimey, glosses the Vanity Fair passage with an (unsourced) anecdote about a contemporary of Bunyan's, Edward Hunt of Hitchin, known as "Holy Hunt." According to Ivimey, Hunt happened to be passing through the marketplace when mountebanks were performing. "One cried after him, 'Look there, Mr Hunt!' Turning his head another way, he replied, 'Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.'"87


In the following account of an encounter between Philip Sidney and the Earl of Oxford, who is the dauntless truth-teller? Who is the tyrant? Who is perceived to be virtuous? Who perceives the Court to be the seat of corruption? Who scorns outward forms in favour of inner worth? Who is portrayed as vain, hollow and proud?

Who is portrayed as a hero by his Achates, when his actions (a gentleman challenging an Earl) must have appeared mad to the Court?

Who leaves the encounter believing himself to be in the right - a transcendent right that scorns ordinary usages and manners?

Was Oxford Hamlet - or did he encounter a Hamlet?

Down with Dagon, down with Dagon; 'tis I will no nonger endure your profanations. . . that idol, that heathenish idol, that remains, as I may say, a beam*, a very beam, not a beam of the sun, nor a beam of the mood, nor a beam of a balance, neither a house-beam, nor a weaver's beam, but a beam in the eye, in the eye of the brethren; a very great beam; an exceeding great beam; such as are your stage-players, rhymers, and morris-dancers. . .

Zeal-of-the-Land Busy, Bartholomew Faire (5.5.1-11)


Greville. The life of the renowned Sr Philip Sidney.


THus stood the state of things then: And if any judicious Reader shall ask, Whether it were not an error, and a dangerous one, for Sir Philip being neither Magistrate nor Counsellor, to oppose himself against his Soveraigns pleasure in things indifferent? I must answer, That his worth, truth, favour, and sincerity of heart, together with his reall manner of proceeding in it, were his privileges. Because this Gentlemans course in this great business was, not by murmur among equals, or inferiours, to detract from Princes; or by a mutinous kind of bemoaning error, to stir up ill affections in their minds, whose best thoughts could do him no good; but by a due address of his humble reasons to the Queen her self, to whom the appeal was proper. So that although he found a sweet stream of Soveraign humors in that well-tempered Lady, to run against him, yet found he safety in her self, against that selfness which appeared to threaten him in her: For this happily born and bred Princess was not (subject-like) apt to construe things reverently done in the worst sense; but rather with the spirit of annointed Greatness (as created to reign equally over frail and strong) more desirous to find waies to fashion her people, than colours, or causes to punish them.

Lastly, to prove nothing can be wise, that is not really honest; every man of that time, and consequently of all times may know, that if he should have used the same freedome among the Grandees of Court (their profession being not commonly to dispute Princes purposes for truths sake, but second their humours to govern their Kingdomes by them) he must infallibly have found Worth, Justice, and Duty lookt upon with no other eyes but Lamia's; and so have been stained by that reigning faction, which in all Courts allows no faith currant to a Soveraign, that hath not past the seal of their practising corporation.

Thus stood the Court at that time; and thus stood this ingenuous spirit in it. If dangerously in mens opinions who are curious of the present, and in it rather to doe craftily, than well: Yet, I say, that Princely heart of hers was a Sanctuary unto him; And as for the people, in whom many times the lasting images of Worth are preferred before the temporary visions of art, or favour, he could not fear to suffer any thing there, which would not prove a kind of Trophy to him. So that howsoever he seemed to stand alone, yet he stood upright; kept his access to her Majesty as before; a liberall conversation with the French, reverenced amongst the worthiest of them for himselfe, and born in too strong a fortification of nature for the less worthy to abbord, either with question, familiarity, or scorn.

In this freedome, even while the greatest spirits, and Estates seemed hood-winkt, or blind; and the inferior sort of men made captive by hope, fear, ignorance; did he enjoy the freedome of his thoughts, with all recreations worthy of them.

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 Tennis- Court; and speaking out of these three paramount authorities, he forgot to entreat that, which he could not legally command. When by the encounter of a steady object, finding unrespectiveness in himself (though a great Lord) not respected by this Princely spirit, he grew to expostulate more ROUGHLY. The returns of which stile comming still from an understanding heart, that knew what was due to it self, and what it ought to others, seemed (through the MISTS of my Lords PASSIONS, SWOLN with the WINDE of his FACTION then reigning) to provoke in yeelding. Whereby, the lesse amazement, or confusion of thoughts he stirred up in Sir Philip, the more SHADOWES this great Lords own mind was POSSESSED with: till at last with RAGE (which is ever ILL-DISCIPLINED) he commands them to depart the Court. To this

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.

Hereupon those GLORIOUS INEQUALITIES of FORTUNE in his Lordship were put to a kinde of pause, by a precious inequality of nature in this Gentleman. So that they both stood silent a while, like a dumb shew in a tragedy; till Sir Philip sensible of his own wrong, the forrain, and factious spirits that attended; and yet, even in this question between him, and his superior, tender to his Countries honour; with some words of sharp accent, led the way abruptly out of the Tennis-Court; as if so unexpected an accident were not fit to be decided any farther in that place. Whereof the great Lord making another sense, continues his play, without any advantage of reputation; as by the standard of humours in those times it was conceived.

A day Sr Philip remains in suspense, when hearing nothing of, or from the Lord, he sends a Gentleman of worth to awake him out of his TRANCE; wherein the French would assuredly think any pause, if not death, yet a lethargy of true honour in both. This stirred a resolution in his Lordship to send Sir Philip a Challenge. Notwithstanding, these thoughts in the great Lord WANDRED so long between GLORY, ANGER, and INEQUALITY of state, as the Lords of her Majesties Counsell took notice of the differences, commanded peace, and laboured a reconciliation between them. But needlesly in one respect, and bootlesly in another. The great Lord being (as it should SEEM) either not hasty *to adventure many inequalities against one*, or INWARDLY satisfied with the progress of his own Acts: Sir Philip on the other side confident, he neither had nor would lose, or let fall any thing of his right. Which her Majesties Counsell quickly perceiving, recommended this work to her self.

The Queen, who saw that by the loss, or disgrace of either, she could gain nothing, presently undertakes Sir Philip; and (like an excellent Monarch) lays before him the difference in degree between Earls, and Gentlemen; the respect inferiors ought to their superiors; and the necessity in Princes to maintain their own creations, as degrees descending between the peoples licentiousness, and the anoynted Soveraignty of Crowns: how the Gentlemans neglect of the Nobility taught the Peasant to insult upon both.

Whereunto Sir Philip, with such reverence as became him, replyed: First, that place was never intended for privilege to WRONG: witness her self, who how Soveraign soever she were by Throne, Birth, Education, and Nature; yet was she content to cast her own affections

into the same moulds her Subjects did, and govern all her rights by their Laws. Again, he besought her Majesty to consider, that although he were a great Lord by birth, alliance, and grace; yet hee was no Lord over him: and therfore the difference of degrees between free men, could not challenge any other homage than precedency. And by her Fathers Act (to make a Princely wisdom become the more familiar) he did instance the Government of K. Henry the eighth, who gave the Gentry free, and safe appeal to his feet, against the oppression of the Grandees; and found it wisdome, by the stronger corporation in number, to keep down the greater in power: inferring else, that if they should unite, the OVER-GROWN might be tempted, by still coveting more, to fall (as the Angels did) by affecting equality with their Maker.

This constant tenor of truth he took upon him; which as a chief duty in all creatures, both to themselves, & the soveraignty above them, protected this Gentleman (though he obeyed not) from the displeasure of his Soveraign. Wherein he left an authentical president to after ages, that howsoever TYRANTS allow of no scope, stamp, or standard, but their own WILL; yet with Princes there is a latitude for subjects to reserve native, & legall freedom, by paying humble tribute in manner, though not in matter, to them.


The stigmatizing of Puritans as Jews in Jacobean England: Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon and the Book of Sports controversy

Nicholas McDowell
On 19 June 1618, John Traske (c. 1585–1636), a clergyman from Somerset, was sentenced to life imprisonment, fined £1000 and expelled from the ministry. It was further decreed that Traske's punishment should be performed as a public spectacle: he was ‘to bee whipped from the prison of the Fleete to the Pallace of Westminster with a paper on his head . . . then to bee sett on the Pillory and to have one of his ears nayled to the Pillory, and after hee hath stood there some convenient tyme, to bee burnte in the forhead with the letter J’. He was then to ‘bee whipped from the Fleete into Cheapside . . . sett in the Pillory and have his other Eare nayled therunto’. The sentence was carried out sometime between 23 and 30 June.1 The letter ‘J’ was branded on Traske's forehead, according to a report of the trial, to signify ‘that hee broached Jewish opinions’.

Traske had been found guilty of preaching that Jewish ceremonial laws, in particular the Saturday Sabbath and prohibitions against consuming blood and swine's flesh, had not been abrogated by the coming of Christ but remained moral laws that should be upheld by all Christians. He had been imprisoned since November 1617 for this ‘Judaizing in matters of dayes and meats’. Several of his followers, including his wife Dorothy, were also gaoled. Initially Traske was tried before High Commission, the court established under Elizabeth to deal with ecclesiastical and doctrinal irregularities. However after ‘writing presumptuous lettres to the Kinge’ apologising for his beliefs, he was re-tried in the Star Chamber, the venue for passing judgement on crimes against the state.2 Traske's heresy was thus redefined as sedition. His dramatic public torture demonstrated to Jacobean England that religious heterodoxy would be treated as political subversion.

However James was not laughing when he came to compose his Meditation Upon the Lords Prayer, published in 1619; a text in which, as Kevin Sharpe puts it, James turns the Lord's Prayer into ‘a diatribe against the Puritans’. Here the Traskites become a warning to the king's subjects of the sliding scale of sectarian depravity set in motion by adopting a Puritan mentality: ‘trust not to that private spirit or holy ghost which our Puritanes glory in; for then a little fiery zeale will make thee turne Separatist, and then proceed stil on from Brownist to some one Sect or other of Anabaptist, and from one of these to another, then to become a Judaized Traskite, and in the end a profane Familist’.17


Jonson's Bartholomew Fair also points us towards the polemical expediency of having John Traske publicly mutilated in June 1618 for holding judaical opinions. According to John Aubrey, James had commanded Jonson to ‘write against the Puritans, who began to be troublesome in his time’, and it has been suggested that the representation of Puritanism in Bartholomew Fair may have been instigated by the government. The play was performed before the king on 1 November 1614, only a day after its first performance in a public theatre, indicating that James already knew something of the play and had arranged for a royal performance in advance.32 In his ‘Prologue to the King's Majesty’ Jonson emphasises those anti-Puritan elements of the play that he knew would find favour with James, drawing attention to its satirical portrayal of

the zealous noise
Of your land's faction, scandalized at toys,
As babies, hobbyhorses, puppet plays,
And suchlike rage, whereof the petulant ways
Yourself have known and have been vexed with long.
These for your sport, without particular wrong
Or just complaint of any private man
(Who of himself or shall think well or can),
The maker doth present, and hopes tonight
To give you, for a fairing, true delight.33




Vanderbilt University

To our frequent discomfort and his own, Hamlet often preaches virtue and rails against vice. His most frequent targets are Ophelia, Gertrude, and Claudius, though neither Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Horatio nor the players are spared his moral diatribes. Hamlet even preaches to Polonius after he kills him. It may be only coincidental that Hamlet's dress, his "customary suits of solemn black," suggests a Puritan's traditionally sober garb, or that the Puritans, also like Hamlet, carried "tables" or diaries to remind themselves of the dictates of conscience. It is harder to dismiss as somehow "Puritan" Hamlet's analogous sense of calling, his being as he says at the end of the scene with the ghost "born to set it right." The same might be said of his later self- designation as "patient merit," since "merit" is, according to Martin Van Beek "a branded [Puritan] word insofar as it was applied to man's works." Christopher Hill describes the elect as setting themselves up as "an aristocracy of the spirit" against the "carnal aristocracy" which ruled the world. In his soliloquies as well as his homilies, Hamlet also persistently exhibits this us-versus-them mentality as he laments both "all the uses of this world" and all the ills that "flesh is heir to." Encouraged by such parallels, this paper . First explores the ways in which Hamlet's outspoken, even hyperbolic, righteousness towards himself and others echoes the unique diction, syntax, and imagery of the represented Puritan, if not always the real one. Then it suggests that Hamlet's concerns about idleness, his advice to the players, and even the complicated political and moral ground on which he so reluctantly stands may also be informed by Puritan forms and pressures of the late 1500's and early 1600's. Historians have recently encouraged and complicated this endeavor by showing that actual Puritans were in many ways closer to the Protestant mainstream, and even that of the sixteenth century continental humanist, than was thought to be the case twenty years ago. To be sure, Peter Lake and Patrick Collinson both reveal that the traditional us-versus-them mentality of the Puritans as well as their sense of special election has stood the test of this bracing revisionism. However, Collinson, Margo Todd and Ralph Houlbrooke have shown that the language of spiritual self-scrutiny and the assertions of moral scrupulousness once closely associated with the Puritans is in fact common to many Europeans of the time, Protestant and Catholic. Marjorie McIntosh and Todd root even the general tendencies to control misbehavior in fields much broader in time and space than English Puritanism.5 John Bossy has revealed the obverse of this coin by showing that the battle for the moral high ground, even on the issue of showing charity or civility towards one's disagreeing and often disagreeable Christian neighbors, was evenly spread across both Protestant and Catholic camps. Recusants and church papists, reformist and conservative Anglicans were apparently all concerned about the "censoriousness" and the "moral invidiousness" associated with their parties. Nowhere is the reappraisal toward consensus more widespread than in considerations of the "Puritan attitude" toward theatre and the other verbal arts. Not only have Edward Muir and Collinson argued that both mainstream English Protestants and continental Catholics turn out to be involved in a late sixteenth-century anti-mimetic trend that was once associated almost exclusively with the Puritans. In the other direction, Margot Heinemann and Collinson have also reminded us of Puritans like Milton who understood theoretically if not always theatrically the moral usefulness of theatre, and of others who referred to details of performance in their polemical pamphlets. Since Shakespeare and his contemporary dramatists leaned so heavily on the same Puritan stereotypes the historians are currently reappraising, our new critical stance must balance precariously between the usefulness and the limitations of the Puritan stereotype. Nowhere is this challenge greater than in the consideration of its resonance in a character and a play as complex and contradictory as Hamlet.

Hamlet's Puritan Accent

Hamlet often expresses his moral indignation in the exaggerated imagery and diction of the represented Puritan, and sometimes the real one too. His "nasty sty" sounds especially like the cage of "unclean birds" or the "locusts of the foul pit" Ananias uses to characterize his morally polluted city in The Alchemist. Hamlet also shares the imagery of the diseased state with The Alchemist's Tribulation Wholesome. Both Hamlet and Ananias use the high-profile Puritan word "scruple," though Hamlet's "craven scruple" is characteristically more contradictory and perplexing than Ananias's usage. Hamlet also shares Zeal-of-the-Land Busy's chauvinistic idea in Bartholomew Fair, though of course it is not exclusively a Puritan idea, that "the disease of longing, it is a disease, a carnal disease, an appetite, incident to woman," when he says of Gertrude, "frailty, thy name is woman." Busy fears the devil's cozenage of this weaker vessel

with the trinkets of the fair, Hamlet with the game of "hoodmanblind" that has lured Gertrude to Claudius, and to "Rebellious hell." What Van Beek describes as the popular Puritan metaphor of "the spot and corruption of sin" is also prominent enough in Hamlet for Francis Ferguson to center his fine interpretive essay on the play's image of the hidden impostume. Hamlet's description of his mother's soul as an "ulcerous place / [Where] rank corruption, mining all within, / Infects unseen" is a particularly vivid example. According to Van Beek, "Facepainting" is another favorite Puritan phrase and target. Hamlet uses it once with Ophelia and again about all women. Jonas Barish, Eugene Waith, and "Alvin Kernan all help us hear how often the diction and imagery of Hamlet's hortatory voice is reinforced by a syntax and a sound also associated by the satirists with Puritan expressions of moral outrage. What Barish calls "devices of repetition" are particularly prominent in this style. Sometimes, as Waith says, they take the form of "repeated nouns with their increments of accumulated modifiers." "A disease, a carnal disease," or "an idol, a very idol, a fierce and rank idol" are good examples from the fictive Puritan Zeal-of-the- Land Busy. "A lustful love, a venereous love, a concupiscencious, bawdy, and bestial love," written by the actual Puritan moralist Philip Stubbes, is just as good. Hamlet's "O most pernicious woman! / O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain" (1.5.105-6) certainly rivals this rhetorical tic. Barish describes the "pyramids of verbs, adverbs or adjectives, with their appropriate modifiers" which intensify the moral outrage, as with Zeal's "troubled, very much troubled, exceedingly troubled." Anaphora and similar forms of cadenced parallelism, often embellished with alliteration, also intensify their expressions of rage, as with "the peeping of popery," "the page of pride," or "the bells of the beast." Waith also reminds us of the frequent linkage of exhortation and apostrophe. Hamlet responds to what he perceives as the Player-Priam's showing-up of his own lassitude with a dressing-down of Claudius rivaling Zeal's own alliterative adjectives of outrage - "Bloody, bawdy villain." The pejorative string which follows, "Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain," echoes the style if not the superficiality of Ananias's "lewd, superstitious and idolatrous breeches." Barish and Kernan agree that the original model of such syntax is the Bible, its purpose in preaching and writing to assert authority. However, its caricature usually mocks the "sham biblicality" of "exhortation" when this style of "false biblical feathers" becomes "oratorical in the worst sense," "set[ting] up a trance-like rhythm" to "lull the listener into a narcotic doze."


A. Hamlet and the Players

B. Which of Shakespeare's play-loving contemporaries would have failed to hear a kind of Puritan voice in the midst of Hamlet's admonitions to the players, especially when he exclaims, "O reform it altogether"? Like the extremest reformers of several parties, Hamlet even finds "indifferent" reform inadequate; he wants total reformation. On the other hand, and like perhaps the more moderate reformers, Hamlet would only outlaw those things that "would make the judicious grieve." Indeed, at the same time that Hamlet is advocating total reform, Shakespeare is simultaneously defending the theatre, not only against Puritan scrupulousness but apparently also against an increasing antimimetic trend crossing all party lines in the late 1590's and early 1600's. Both real and represented Puritans like Stephen Gosson and Rabbi Busy distrust theatre because they believe that "disguise is sinful and imitation a form of lying." Hamlet disagrees. It can "hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature," "show" "the very age and body of the time his form and pressure." Only if this is "overdone" will the precisian, the "judicious grieve" and "censure." Hamlet thus finds it completely congruous that "the accent of Christians" and "the gait of Christians" might be well-performed. Hamlet's nervous "not to speak profanely," however, or Shakespeare's, also apologizes obliquely and tongue-in- cheek that the Puritan subset of these Christians is, sometimes through Hamlet himself, being represented in gait and speech, the walk and the talk as we might say today, in this very play. Most Puritans, many Protestants, and some Catholics would probably have been troubled by Hamlet's Sidneyan defense of the truth and virtue of the stage, even though in truth it is a purist's and a puritanical defense. Hamlet elsewhere shares aspects of their distrust, as, for example, when he apologizes to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, "Let me comply with you in this garb, lest my extent to the players (which I tell you must show fairly outwards) should more appear like entertainment than yours." Hamlet's sombre dress and his tables of conscience are part of this outward show. So dressed, so sombre, and so often morally outraged, Hamlet might thus seem to be pretending simply because he looks and sounds like the stereotype of the hypocritical Puritan. Worse, when he welcomes the players to Denmark in the "inky cloak," he will in his joy appear only to have pretended to be sober and melancholy earlier, as his mother seems already to have charged. In this lose- lose case he must appear to be "entertaining," either playing false grief or playing false joy. The only way to avoid this appearance of hypocrisy is to dress himself falsely now, dress like the festive court, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. While speaking to the players, Hamlet has also associated his own acting with false stage gestures as well as illusory costuming and props. But if such gestures as "the windy suspiration of forced breath," "the fruitful river in the eye," "the dejected 'havior of the visage," indeed "all forms, moods, shapes of grief" are "actions that a man might play," they are also the only way to "denote" "that within which passeth show," an inner truth that these outer forms, what Hamlet calls "the trappings and the suits of woe," can express only inadequately, and may also misrepresent. In similar terms Thomas Nashe distrusts the Puritans' homiletic style as merely outward shows of piety and grief, "the writhing of the face, the heaving uppe of the eyes to heaven." Hamlet's true woe seems both confined and defined then by the stereotype of Puritan hypocrisy and by their criticism of the most feigning stage. He looks suspiciously like the perpetually, ostentatiously grieved Puritan in his own shows of grief and moral outrage. He also looks like an actor.


33 Hamlet's love of the stage is not so contradictory of the English Puritan as it might at first appear. As Heinemann says, "To see all Puritans as automatically hostile in principle to the theatre and the arts in general is : : : to misunderstand the depth and complexity of the intellectual and social movements that led to the upheavals of the 1640's" . Heinemann mentions Puritans like Milton, Pembroke, one of Shakespeare's patrons, Leicester and Walsingham who were also sympathetic to the theatre. Even Phillip Stubbes approved like Hamlet of edifying moral drama, Stephen Gosson (The School of Abuse) wrote plays, and both Heywood and Sidney, defenders of the theatre like Hamlet, were "authors known to have had some Puritan sympathies." The Marprelate pamphlets too "continually use theatrical jokes and allusions and obviously assume an audience which, like the writer, enjoys a play" (30-31). In "The Protestant Culture and the Cultural Revolution" (46-47), Collinson observes, however, in the 1590's and

afterwards an increasing opposition to all theatre among many Christian communities and a consequent increase in the segregation of the secular and the sacred in the plays themselves. See also Paul Whitfield White, Theatre and Reformation, Huston Diehl, Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage, and Muir 165-81, 270-72, on varied reformation attitudes toward theatre.


Melville, Billy Budd

Aside from his qualities as a sea-officer, Captain (note-Edward Fairfax) Vere was an exceptional character. Unlike no few of England's renowned sailors, long and arduous service with signal devotion to it, had not resulted in absorbing and salting the entire man. He had a marked leaning toward everything intellectual. He loved books, never going to sea without a newly replenished library, compact but of the best. The isolated leisure, in some cases so wearisome, falling at intervals to commanders even during a war-cruise, never was tedious to Captain Vere. With nothing of that literary taste which less heeds the thing conveyed than the vehicle, his bias was toward those books to which every serious mind of superior order occupying any active post of authority in the world naturally inclines; books treating of actual men and events no matter of what era--history, biography and unconventional writers, who, free from cant and convention, like Montaigne, honestly and in the spirit of common sense philosophize upon realities.

In this line of reading he found confirmation of his own more reasoned thoughts--confirmation which he had vainly sought in social converse, so that as touching most fundamental topics, there had got to be established in him some positive convictions, which he forefelt would abide in him essentially unmodified so long as his intelligent part remained unimpaired. In view of the troubled period in which his lot was cast this was well for him. His settled convictions were as a dyke against those invading waters of novel opinion, social, political and otherwise, which carried away as in a torrent no few minds in those days, minds by nature not inferior to his own. While other members of that aristocracy to which by birth he belonged were incensed at the innovators mainly because their theories were inimical to the privileged classes, not alone Captain Vere disinterestedly opposed them because they seemed to him incapable of embodiment in lasting institutions, but at war with the peace of the world and the true welfare of mankind.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Aristocratic Notion of Liberty


André Laks 

Ancient Philosophy, Université Charles de Gaulle–Lille 3/Institut Universitaire de France


This essay aims at establishing that the word “free” (eleutheros) and related terms are used by Plato in the Laws in two main senses. There is, first, the constitutional meaning of “freedom” which is put to work in book 3 in order to analyze moderately good and degenerate forms of historical constitutions. Strikingly enough, this meaning does not play any subsequent role in the shaping of the Platonic constitution itself—a fact which requires some kind of explanation. There is, then, scattered throughout the work, the behavioral meaning of “freedom” according to which the citizens of Magnesia, who are free in the sense that they are free men, are supposed to behave as such and to be educated accordingly, that is as “gentlemen.” One important aspect here is that a free education will appeal to rationality. The philosophically interesting fact, however, is that there appears to be no intrinsic link for Plato between freedom and rationality, as we might expect on the basis of modern philosophical assumptions whereby freedom is grounded on rationality. Rather, freedom is the condition for exercising rationality, because this exercise takes time. True, there is in the Laws a unique occurrence of yet another conception of “freedom” according to which one is free when one's reason masters one's desires. One might speculate why Plato did not develop this specific conception of freedom, which is in some sense closer to some modern views about liberty, as is shown, for example, from I. Berlin's concept of “positive liberty.”

Liberty may be conceived … as the exercise of a universal right, or as the enjoyment of a privilege. In the middle ages, those who possessed any liberty of action, viz. the feudal aristocracy, figured to themselves their liberty under the latter type. They desired it, not because it was what all were entitled to, but because each considered himself as possessing, in his own person, a peculiar right to it. And thus has liberty almost always been understood in aristocratic societies, where conditions are very unequal…. This aristocratic notion of liberty produces, among those who have imbibed it, an exalted idea of their own individual value, and a passionate love of independence…. —Alexis de Tocqueville

[=11] Cecil Papers 9/15: Oxford to Burghley, [13 July 1576].

My very good Lord. Yesterday, at your Lordship's earnest request, I had some conference with you about your daughter wherein, for that her Majesty had so often moved me, and for that you dealt so earnestly with me, to content as much as I could, I did agree that you might bring her to the court, with condition that she should not come when I was present nor at any time to have speech with me, and further that your Lordship should not urge farther in her cause. But now I understand that your Lordship means this day to bring her to the court, and that you mean afterward to prosecute the cause with further hope. Now if your Lordship shall do so, then shall you take more in hand than I have or can promise you. For always I have, and will still, prefer mine own content before others' and, observing that wherein I may temper or moderate for your sake, I will do most willingly. Wherefore I shall desire your Lordship not to take advantage of my promise till you have given me some honourable assurance, by letter or word, of your performance of the condition which, being observed, I could yield, as it is my duty, to her Majesty's request, and bear with your fatherly desire towards her; otherwise, all that is done can stand to none effect. From my lodging at Charing Cross, this morning. Your Lordship's to employ.

Edward Oxenford


de Tocqueville, (con't)

from Memoir, Letters and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville

...This aristocratic notion of liberty produces, among those who have imbibed it, an exalted idea of their own individual value, and a passionate love of independence; it gives extraordinary energy and ardour to their pursuit of their own interests and passions. Entertained by individuals, it has often led them to the most extraordinary actions; - adopted by an entire people, it has created the most energetic nations that have ever existed.

Sanctioned Irregularities - Billy Budd

Jonson, on Shakespeare

...Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Caesar, one speaking to him: 'Caesar, thou dost me wrong.' He replied: 'Caesar did never wrong but with just cause;' and such like, which were ridiculous.