Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shakespeare's Sugar, Ciceronianism and Manner over Matter

Shakespearean Sweetness and the Idolatrous Italianate Ciceronian

Ben Jonson's Poems By Wesley Trimpi

...Jonson’s fundamental objection to the sonnet…is that it leads one to say more than one has to say in order to satisfy the form. The poet is obliged to use rhetorical figures, and his intentions becomes contradictory to that of the plain style. As the rhetorical figures and the form become more important, the range of subject matter decreases. The poet who seeks the grace and charm of the middle style will do well to utilize that grace which, according to Demetrius, “ may reside in the subject matter, if it is the gardens of the Nymphs, marriage-lays, love-stories” (On Style, 132), or “Petrarch’s long-deceased woes.” The freedom of the plain style to treat of any subject depends on it primary purpose, which is to tell the truth. Since the officium of the middle style is to delight (delectare), many subjects must be excluded, and the emphasis is no longer on content but on expression.

The conventional adjectives for rhetorical ornateness in poetry were “sugred” or “honied,” and each could be used as a equivalent for Ciceronian rhetoric itself. The term “sugred” was most often applied to sonnets, such as in the famous comment of Francis Meres on “the mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his private friends.” Among the literary genres the epigram was often regarded as a corrective for the trite diffuseness of the sonnet. The salt of incisive wit was needed to preserve the poem, which otherwise might cloy and dissolve like candy. Sir John Harington contrasts the two sets of conventions in his epigram called “Comparison of the Sonnet, and the Epigram”:

Once, by mishap, two Poets fell a-squaring,
The Sonnet, and our Epigram comparing;
And Faustus, having long demur’d upon it,
Yet, at the last, gave sentence for the Sonnet.
Now, for such censure, this his chiefe defence is,
Their sugred taste best likes his likresse senses.
Well, though I grant Sugar may please the taste,
Tet let my verse have salt enough to make it last.

In terms of the poetic conventions the rhetorical controversy between Ciceronianism and Senecanism became one between a mellifluous and a sinuous style.


HONEY-TONGUED Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue,
I swore Apollo got them and none other;
Their rosy-tinted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother:
Rose-cheeked Adonis, with his amber tresses,
Fair fire-hot Venus, charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia, virgin-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquin, seeking still to prove her:
Romeo, Richard; more whose names I know not,
Their SUGARED tongues, and power attractive beauty
Say they are saints, although that saints they show not,
For thousands vow to them subjective duty :
They burn in love, thy children, Shakespeare HET them ,
Go, woo thy Muse, more Nymphish brood beget them.

Epigrammes in the oldest Cut, and newest Fashion.
John Weever. 1599. Fourth Weeke, Epig. 22.


Say They Are Saints Although That Saints They Show Not": John Weever's 1599 Epigrams to Marston, Jonson, and Shakespeare

William R Jones.

BIOGRAPHERS OF SHAKESPEARE have often numbered John Weever s sonnet to William Shakespeare in his Epigrammes in the oldest cut, and newest fashion (1599) among a triad of works demonstrating the universal admiration accorded to Shakespeare at the end of the sixteenth century.1 James Shapiro, however, calls attention to Weever's puzzling failure to name more than two of Shakespeare's plays in the poem ("Romea Richard; more whose names I know not"; line 9), concluding that "Shakespeare would not have been flattered" by such a clumsy tribute.2 Perhaps he was not meant to be. In his 1598 work Palladis Tamia, Francis Meres names no fewer than twelve plays by "mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare," as well as his sonnets and the two Ovidian poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrèce. Although he does not mention the plays, Richard Barnfield (the third contributor to the triad) praises Shakespeare's "hony- flowing Vaine," proclaiming that Venus and Lucrèce have earned Shakespeare a place in "fame's immortal Booke." Weever's epithet, "Honietong'd Shakespeare," because it directly echoes the laudatory language of both Meres and Barnfield, seems at first to join in the adulation.3 Here I suggest that the poem's multivalent language and contentious context (in particular, Weever's role in the Poetomachia, or Poets' War, and the influence of the Bishops' Ban) call for a more nuanced reading. Weever's poem emerges not as unalloyed praise but as a kind of rhetorical Janus, safely displaying the fashionable face of praise while simultaneously engaging with the anti-theatrical discourses of the period, a posture that also informs his later works, Faunus and Melliflora (1600) and The Whipping of the Satyre (1601). Weever defines himself in opposition to the vogue for licentious excess, particularly in drama and formal verse satire, an ideological position that doubtless helped the Epigrammes avoid the Bishops' Ban on the publication of satires, epigrams, and unlicensed histories and plays, issued on 1 June 1599. Weever's subtle critiques serve not only to mock those he judges to be negative moral influences (the avant-garde group of recently banned satirists representing the most egregious offenders) but also to proffer, even to enact, what he considers a more appropriate style of poetic wit.

Meres's characterization of Shakespeare as harboring "the sweete wittie soule of Ovid " ( Wits Treasury, 281) is clear praise, and Weever's apparently laudatory epigram similarly foregrounds the Ovidian aspects of Shakespeare's work. Yet at the time, as Jonathan Bate argues, "ways of reading Ovid underwent radical transformation, as a newly unapologetic delight in the poetic and erotic qualities of the Metamorphoses came to compete with the predominant medieval practice of moralizing and even Christianizing them."24 Such a tension is evident in the dedication to Arthur Golding's 1567 translation of the Metamorphoses, where he admonishes the reader to seek the underlying moral lesson and not be "provoked to vice and wantonness."25 Heather James has broadened the picture beyond such polarizations, positing that intellectuals of the era were drawn to Ovid as the "counter-classical" love poet, in a self-conscious effort to transform the literary scene. Thus, just as the banned satirists had employed Juvenal as a means to distinguish their style from traditional modes, experimenters such as Shakespeare saw in Ovid, argues James, an alternative to the Horatian ideal of decorum. With the Ovidian narrative poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrèce (1594), Shakespeare is signaling the choice to explore and to challenge conventional wisdom, to illuminate the "erotic possessions of the will," yet to revel in the power of the individual wit to reshape the world. The Ovidian was moral, literary, and political at the same time - and was as culturally dangerous as the Juvenalian mode in satire.

Mellifluous Shakespeare, whose enchanting Quill
Commandeth Mirth or Passion, was but Will.

--Thomas Heywood

Thomas Bancroft (1639), Two Bookes of Epigrammes and Epitaphs

118. To Shakespeare.

Thy Muses SUGRED DAINTIES seeme to us
Like the fam’d apples of old Tantalus :
For we (admiring) see and heare thy straines,
But none I see or heare those sweets attaines.

(empty rhetoric)


Sidney Sonnet II

Let DAINTY wits crie on the Sisters nine,
That, BRAVELY MASKT, their fancies may be told;
Or, Pindars apes, flaunt they in PHRASES FINE,
Enam'ling with pied flowers their thoughts of gold;
Or else let them in statlier glorie shine,
Ennobling new-found tropes with problemes old;
Or with strange similes enrich each line,
Of herbes or beasts which Inde or Affrick hold.
For me, in sooth, no Muse but one I know,
Phrases and problems from my reach do grow;

And strange things cost too deare for my poor sprites.
How then? euen thus: in Stellaes face I reed
What Loue and Beautie be; then all my deed
But copying is, what in her Nature writes.


Sidney , Defense

...But let this be a sufficient, though short note, that we misse the right use of the material point of Poesie. Now for the outside of it, which is words, or (as I may tearme it) Diction, it is even well worse: so is it that HONY-FLOWING Matrone Eloquence, apparrelled, or rather disguised, in a Courtisanlike PAINTED AFFECTATION. One time with so farre fet(ched) words, that many seeme monsters, but must seeme Straungers to anie poore Englishman: an other time with coursing of a letter, as if they were bound to follow the method of a Dictionary: an other time with figures and flowers, extreemely winter-starved. But I would this fault were onely peculiar to Versefiers, and had not as large possession among Prose- Printers: and which is to be mervailed among many Schollers, & which is to be pitied among some Preachers. Truly I could wish, if at I might be so bold to wish, in a thing beyond the reach of my capacity, the diligent Imitators of TULLY and DEMOSTHENES (note - Tully/Cicero); Demosthenes, most worthie to be imitated, did not so much keepe Nizolian paper bookes, of their figures and phrase, as by attentive translation, as it were, devoure them whole, and make them wholly theirs. For now they cast SUGAR and SPICE uppon everie dish that is served to the table: like those Indians, not content to weare eare-rings at the fit and naturall place of the eares, but they will thrust Jewels through their nose and lippes, because they will be sure to be fine.


Poets and Poesie.
by Michael Drayton

The noble Sidney, with this last arose,
That Heroe for numbers, and for Prose.
That throughly pac'd our language as to show,
The plenteous English hand in hand might goe
With Greeke and Latine, and did first reduce
Our tongue from Lillies writing then in use;
Talking of Stones, Stars, Plants, of fishes, Flyes,
Playing with words, and idle SIMILIES,
As th'English, APES and very ZANIES be
Of every thing, that they doe heare and see,
So IMITATING his ridiculous tricks,
They spake and writ, all like meere lunatiques.

Sidney was to observe that Euphues's style is not a logico-rhetorical system but an ornamental device (Lorna Hutson):

Now for similitudes in certain printed discourses, I think all herbarists, all stories of beasts, fowls and fishes are rifled up, that they come in multitudes to wait upon any of our conceits; which certain is as absurd a surfeit to the ears as possible: for the force of a similitude not being to prove anything to a contrary disputer, but only to explain to a willing hearer; when that is done, the rest is a most TEDIOUS PRATTLING. (Sidney,Defence of Poetry)

Vickers, Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy:

...Of the hundreds of writers who followed Quintilian and Erasmus in reiterating the greater importance of the subject-matter [note-matter over manner], let us just recall Sir Philip Sidney's letter to his younger brother Robert on 18 October,1580, advising him on his studies. 'For the method of writing Historie', Sidiney tells him, 'Bodin hath written at large; you may reede him and gather out of many wordes some matter' - a fatal sign of verbosity. That was obviously a current danger for a young student, given the stylistic fashions then in vogue: 'So you can speake and write Latine not barbarously I never require great study in Ciceronianisme, the cheife abuse of Oxford, Qui dum verba sectantur, res ipsas negligunt'.[who, in their application to words, neglect the things themselves.]

It is from this basis that Gabriel Harvey compared the style of Osorio's oration De gloria unfavourably with that of Cicero's De amicitia, bringing out

the difference between the redundancy of Osorius and the copiousness of Cicero. Both men have fluent diction, to be sure; but whereas Cicero's flows without any ripples, like a smooth and quiet river, Osorio's sometimes overflows its banks, like a swollen, hurrying torrent, too impatient to be confined within the bounds set by the other.

In ascribing copia to Cicero, redundantia to Osorio, Harvey was doubtless aware that Quintilian described the latter as a vice of style (Institutio oratoria VIII.3.57; XII.10.12-19). Harvey's criticism of Osorio was reinforced in the prefatory epistle to his Ciceronianus by William Lewin, a fellow of Christ's College and perhaps Harvey's tutor, who judged it 'a little more copious and overflowing than was proper'.

Returning to Bacon's critique of Ciceronianism we can now see that it is entirely typical of Renaissance rhetorical humaism in its conceptual categories and in the judgements resulting. His characterization of Osorio - 'Then grew the flowing and watery vein of...the Portugal bishop to be in price' - might have come straight from the pages of Harvey's Ciceronianus. At all events J.W. Binns, in his recent study of 'Ciceronianism in sixteenth-century England: the Latin debate', finds that Bacon's account of 'the growth and progress of a Ciceronianism which paid more attention to style than to just and perceptive', while his 'use of the term "watery" to describe [Osorio's style] is this in the mainstream of critical thinking. In evoking this fashion of writing Bacon perhaps echoes Harvey's self-mocking description of the care for superficial qualities of style that marked his juvenile flirtaiton with Ciceronianism, but he goes on further in juxtaposing both the vices and virtues of style. He begins with a plain statement of the disease, in the appropriate language, when care for verba exceeds that for res. Then he enlarges this simple distinction into two unequal parts, first showing how the mimicry of Ciceronian Latin developed a self-propagating power (redundantia), proliferating before our eyes:

men began to hunt more after words than matter--more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the SWEET falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment.

Those bare, unadorned symmetries in the second part of the sentence sum up pages of teaching from the rhetoric-books on the main virtues of style for which the orator should strive: 'weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgement.' That is surely the definitive expression of what the distinction between res and verba really implied. Bacon's concluding antithesis, then - 'the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copie than weight' - is not an attack on copia, tout court, but describes what happens when writers cultivate copia verborum in separation from copia rerum, resulting in that disordered condition 'when men study words and not matter'. The terms in which Bacon formulates his critique of Ciceronian imitatio are not critical of, but derive from the rhetorical tradition, from Cato to Quintilian. His dismissive flourish, comparing their enamoration with words to Pygmalion's madness in falling in love with the stature he has made, unites a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses with part of Aristotle's definition of language, and unlikely combination for a modern perhaps, but wholly typical of humanist eclecticism, where all quotations are equally useful.

Breeding with Venus - Shakespearean Copia?


Ben Jonson: "I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a 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 chose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candor, for I loved the man, and do honor his memory on this side idolatry as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he FLOWED with that facility that sometime it was necessary he should be stopped. 'Sufflaminandus erat,' as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so too.

"On Shakespeare"


What needs my Shakespeare for his honour'd Bones,
The labour of an age in piled Stones,
Or that his hallow'd reliques should be hid
Under a Star-ypointing Pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of Fame,
What need'st thou such weak witnes of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thy self a live-long Monument.
For whilst to th' shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easie numbers FLOW,

Samuel Cobb (1675–1713), translator and master at Christ's Hospital:

"Yet He with Plautus could instruct and please,
And what requir'd long toil, perform with ease
Tho' sometimes Rude, Unpolish'd, and Undress'd,
His Sentence flows more careless than the rest.

rival - (Latin rivus, stream - originally 'those living on the opposite bank of a stream from one another. Can be partners or competitors in a pursuit.)


A Remembrance of Some English Poets (1598), And

Shakespeare thou, whose HONEY-FLOWING vein

(Pleasing the world) thy praises doth obtain:
Whose Venus and whose Lucrece, sweet and chaste,
Thy name in Fame’s immortal Book hath placed.
Live ever you, at least in Fame live ever,
Well may the body die, but Fame dies never.

Idolatrous Italianate Ciceronian

Homosociality, Imitation, and Gendered Reading in Robert Greene's Ciceronis Amor

Kevin L Gustafson. Philological Quarterly

Gabriel Harvey provides a particularly illuminating example of this argument because he was a contemporary (though hardly a friend) of Greene, and because his Ciceronianus (1577) offers a brief history of Ciceronian debates up to the middle of the sixteenth century, even while presenting the author as a repentant idolater.47 Harvey follows Jerome's letter in confessing to a prodigality in which he "virtually preferred to be elected to the company of the Ciceronians rather than to that of the saints."48 But now, having digested the arguments of the anti-Ciceronians Erasmus and Peter RAMUS, he claims to have a more balanced view. Cicero is still "the eldest son and indeed heir of Eloquence," and thus most worthy of imitation, but one who also has faults and is best imitated when exceeded.49 For Harvey, as for Ramus, true imitation like true friendship is an exercise dedicated to appreciating and cultivating "all of his virtues and conduct and character [virtutisfundamentuni], rather than merely mimicking affect or style.50 Here again rhetorical imitation bears a striking resemblance to the appreciation and cultivation of virtue in theories of friendship, and the Elizabethan scholar casts this transformation in language directly reminiscent of Quintilian's characterization of imitation as a kind of desire: "To me Cicero was always Cicero, and eloquence, eloquence; but now more than ever my mind, fired with unprecedented ardor and love, not merely expects but promises something greater than Cicero in Cicero himself."51 The reformed Harvey will take what is best from a variety of sources and, following Erasmus and Ramus, redefine "Ciceronian" so that it refers not exclusively to the orator but instead to any writing that is "excellent and in conformity with the most careful usage of speech and thought."52 Harvey's journey of rhetorical reformation traverses a gap between what he elsewhere calls "curious universall scholars" and "superficial humanists,"53 or the broadly educated orator versus the less-desirable rhetor, who is "highly trained and polished in the single faculty of eloquent speech."54 There is throughout Harvey's work a tension between scholarship and courtiership, and in a quite telling move he characterizes the singular concern with style as a kind of effeminacy, derisively saying, "Let the little ladies hold sway in the classroom."55 Harvey's ability to police imitation through gender categories only underscores the pervasive and largely tacit homosociality of the work. The Ciceronianus, like the Rhetor that immediately followed it, began as a university lecture in Latin addressed to students as well as fellow scholars, and both treatises were dedicated to academic friends.

Ciceronis Amor initially may seem far removed from Harvey's academic polemics. Yet Greene's fiction is equally concerned with the twin discourses of friendship and imitation-equally concerned to mark proper and improper ways of loving Ciceronian eloquence.

The letter that Cicero writes on behalf of Lentulus (57-58), and that Greene subsequently translates for his English readers, is the central document in this drama of rhetorical desire. Relihan adduces this episode of women reading as singular evidence that Ciceronis Amor advocates the antimisogynist position that women are just as capable as men of participating in humanist culture. On closer inspection, the scene appears much more ambivalent in its attitude towards women readers. The letter is of course a common feature of amatory writing, and Greene here no doubt expected his audience to have Ovid in mind. Nor is there anything particularly unusual about two Roman ladies reading Latin, which is of course their native tongue. What is striking is that, much like the Ciceronian derided by Harvey, they respond foremost, even exclusively, to its style, the pleasing surface that may lead to but does not necessarily correspond to Ciceronian virtue. Flavia first correctly attributes the letter to Cicero based on its style. Terentia, however, goes no further, as she becomes enflamed with desire for a man she has never met: "Ah Tullie, sweete Tullie, from whose mouth flows mélodie more enchaunting then the sirens" (66). Greene has already referred to the Sirens to suggest the dangers of other-sex desire, sensuality that Parker associates with not only woman's body but also woman's speech. Here the reference indicates a particularly sensual way of reading, and as such highlights a disjunction-between Cicero's motives for eloquence and Terentia's reception of it-that is even more noticeable later in the story, when he tries to persuade Terentia to accept Lentulus: "This discourse of Tully did but sette Terentias herte more on fire. For hearing the pleasant harmony of hir Cicero, shee likt of the musicke as of the Syrens melody, and so entangled her selfe with many newe conceived fancies" (102). Rhetoric here is in a profound sense at cross-purposes for the two characters. Cicero's act of writing the letter exemplifies the ideal that true eloquence is subordinated to virtue, in this case the devotion and self-sacrifice that, in De amicitia, characterize true friendship. Her emotional reception of it, by contrast, resembles the stylistic infatuation of the idolatrous Italianate Ciceronian and looks forward to the stereotype of the mad and oversexed woman reader of Jacobean city comedy.62

Chapman, Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois


I over-tooke, comming from ITALIE,
In Germanie a great and famous Earle
Of England, the most goodly fashion'd man
I ever saw; from head to foote in forme
Rare and most absolute; hee had a face
Like one of the most ancient honour'd Romanes
From whence his noblest familie was deriv'd;
He was beside of spirit passing great,
Valiant, and learn'd, and liberall as the sunne,
Spoke and writ SWEETLY, or of learned subjects,
Or of the discipline of publike weales;
And t'was the Earle of Oxford.

Gabriel Harvey, Rhetor
On Art.

Can anyone be an artist without art? Or have you ever seen a bird flying without wings, or a horse running without feet? Or if you have seen such things, which no one else has ever seen, come, tell me please, do you hope to become a goldsmith, or a painter, or a sculptor, or a musician, or an architect, or a weaver, or any sort of artist at all without a teacher? But how much easier are all these things, than that you develop into a supreme and perfect orator without the art of public speaking. There is need of a teacher, and indeed even an excellent teacher, who might point out the springs with his finger, as it were, and carefully pass on to you the art of speaking colorfully, brilliantly, copiously. But what sort of art shall we choose? Not an art entangled in countless difficulties, or packed with meaningless arguments; not one sullied by useless [31] precepts, or disfigured by strange and foreign ones; not an art polluted by any filth, or fashioned to accord with our own will and judgment; not a single art joined and sewn together from many, like a quilt from many rags and skins (way too many rhetoricians have given this sort of art to us, if indeed one may call art that which conforms to no artistic principles). We want rather an art that is concise, precise, appropriate, lucid, accessible; one that is decorated and illuminated by precise definitions, accurate divisions, and striking illustrations, as if by flashing gems and stars; one that emerges, and in a way bursts into flower, from the speech of the most eloquent men and the best orators. Why so? Not only because brevity is pleasant, and clarity delightful, but also so that eloquence might be learned in a shorter time, and with less labor and richer results, and so that it might stand more firmly grounded, secured by deeper roots. For thus said the gifted poet in his Ars Poetica: "Whatever instruction you give, let it be brief." Why? [32] He gives two reasons: "So that receptive minds might swiftly grasp your words and accurately retain them." And indeed, as the same poet elegantly adds: "Everything superfluous spills from a mind that's full."

But those annual whistles and shouts I hear indicate that almost all, or at least the greater part of my auditors are newcomers, who do not understand what they should do or whom they should imitate, but who nonetheless are captivated by the splendor of rhetoric, and seek to be orators. Therefore I will now, if I am able, reveal those things and place them all in their view, in such a way that they might seem to see them with their eyes, and almost hold them in their hands. In the meantime I pray you, most eloquent and refined gentlemen, either withdraw, if you like, or with the kindness that you've shown so far hear me as I recite some precepts so common as to be almost elementary. And from those whose tongues and ears Cicero alone inhabits, I beg forgiveness, if by chance I let drop in my haste a word that is un-Ciceronian. We cannot all be Longeuils and Cortesis: [9] some of us don't want to be. As for those who study more Latin authors, but only the best and choicest, and who to accompany Cicero, the foremost of all, add Caesar, Varro, Sallust, Livy, Seneca, Terence too, and Plautus and Vergil and Horace, I am sure they will be sympathetic to me. For reading as I do many works by many authors, sometimes even the poets, as Crassus bids in Cicero, I cannot guarantee that in so impromptu an oration I will not use a word not found in a Ciceronian phrase book.

But those little CROWS and APES of Cicero were long ago driven from the stage by the hissing and laughter of the learned, as they so well deserved, and at last have almost vanished; and I now hope to find not only eager and attentive auditors, but friendly spectators as well, not the sort who scrupulously weigh every individual detail on the scales of their own refined tastes, but who interpret everything in a fair and good-natured way. I too in fact wanted, if I was able--but perhaps I was not--to speak in as Ciceronian a style as the Ciceronianest of them all. [10] Forgive me, illustrious Ciceronians, if I ought not use that word in the superlative.


Greene's Groatsworth:

With thee I ioyne yong Iuuenall, that byting Satyrist, that lastlie with mee together writ a Comedie. Sweete boy, might I aduise thee, be aduisde, and get not many enemies by bitter wordes: inueigh against vaine men, for thou canst do it, no man better, no man so wel: thou hast a libertie to reprooue all, and none more; for one being spoken to, all are offended, none being blamed no man is iniured. Stop shallow water still running, it will rage, or tread on a worme and it will turne: then blame not Schollers vexed with sharpe lines, if they reproue thy too much libertie of reproofe.

And thou no lesse deseruing than the other two, in some things rarer, in nothing inferiour; driuen (as my selfe) to extreme shifts, a little haue I to say to thee: and were it not an idolatrous oth, I would sweare by sweet S. George, thou art vnworthy better hap, sith thou dependest on so meane a stay. Base minded men all three of you, if by my miserie ye be not warned: for vnto none of you (like me) sought those burres to cleaue: those Puppets (I meane) that speake from our mouths, those Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange that I, to whom they al haue beene beholding: is it not like that you, to whome they all haue beene beholding, shall (were yee in that case that I am now) bee both at once of them forsaken? Yes, trust them not: for there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey. O that I might intreate your rare wits to be imploied in more profitable courses: & let those Apes imitate your past excellence, and neuer more acquaint them with your admired inuentions. I know the best husband of you all will neuer proue an Usurer, and the kindest of them all will neuer seeke you a kind nurse: yet whilest you may, seeke you better Maisters; for it is pittie men of such rare wits, should be subiect to the pleasure of such rude groomes.

In this I might insert two more, that both haue writ against these buckram Gentlemen: but let their owne works serue to witnesse against their owne wickednesse, if they perseuere to mainteine any more such peasants. For other new-commers, I leaue them to the mercie of these painted monsters, who (I doubt not) will driue the best minded to despise them: for the rest, it skils not though they make a ieast at them.


Tully and Demosthenes:

Cynthia's Revels/Narcissus - Jonson

Act I. Scene Iv
Crites, Asotus, Amorphus.

What! the well-dieted Amorphus become a Water-
drinker? I see he means not to write Verses

Asotus. No, Crites? why?

Crites. Because —— Nec placere diu, nec vivere carmina
possunt, quæ scribuntur aquæ potoribus.*

Amorphus. What say you to your Helicon?

Cri. O, the Muses well! that's ever excepted.

Amorphus. Sir, your Muses have no such Water, I assure
you; your NECTER, or the juyce of your Nepenthe is no-
thing to it; 'tis above your Metheglin, believe it.

Aso. METHEGLIN! what's that, Sir? may I be so audaci-
ous to demand?

Amo. A kind of Greek Wine I have met with, Sir, in
my Travels; it is the same that DEMOSTHENES usually
drunk, in the composure of all his exquisite and MELLIFLUOUS Orations.

Cri. That's to be argued (Amorphus) if we may cre-
dit Lucian, who in his Encomio Demosthenis affirms, he
never drunk but Water in any of his compositions.

Amo. Lucian is absurd, he knew nothing: I will be-
lieve mine own Travels, before all the Lucians of Eu-
rope. He doth feed you with fittons, figments, and

Cri. Indeed (I think) next a Traveller, he do's pret-
tily well.

Amo. I assure you it was Wine, I have tasted it, and
from the hand of an Italian Antiquary, who derives it
authentically from the Duke of Ferrara's Bottles.


Metheglin -Mead/honey wine with herbs and spices

Jonson opposes desirable Nectar to contemptible 'Metheglin'


H Y M E N Æ I:
Or, the Solemnities of Masque and Barriers
M A R R I A G E.

IT is a noble and just Advantage that the Things sub-
jected to Understanding have of those which are
objected to Sense; that the one sort are but momen-
tary, and merely taking; the other impressing,
and lasting: Else the glory of all these Solemnities
had perish'd like a Blaze, and gone out, in the Beholders
Eyes. So short-liv'd are the Bodies of all Things, in com-
parison of their Souls. And though Bodies oft-times have
the ill luck to be sensually preferr'd, they find after-
wards the good fortune (when Souls live) to be utterly
forgotten. This it is hath made the most Royal Princes
and Greatest Persons (who are commonly the Personaters
of these Actions) not only studious of Riches, and Mag-
nificence in the outward Celebration, or shew; (which
rightly becomes them) but curious after the most high
and hearty Inventions, to furnish the inward Parts: (and
those grounded upon Antiquity, and solid Learning) which,
though their Voice be taught to sound to present occasions,
their Sense, or doth, or should always lay hold on more
remov'd Mysteries. And, howsoever some may squemishly
cry out, that all endeavor of Learning, and Sharpness in
these transitory Devices, especially where it steps beyond
their little, or (let me not wrong 'em) no Brain at all,
is superfluous; I am contented, these fastidious Stomachs
should leave my full Tables, and enjoy at home their clean
empty Trenchers, fittest for such AIRY Tastes; where per-
haps a few ITALIAN HERBS, pick'd up and made into a SAL-
LADE, may find sweeter Acceptance than all the most nou-
rishing and sound Meats of the World.
For these Mens Palates, let not me answer, O Muses. It
is not my Fault, if I fill them out Nectar, AND THEY RUN TO METHEGLIN,

Vaticana bibant, si delectentur.
All the Courtesie I can do them, is to cry again;
Prætereant, si quid non facit ad stomachum.
As I will, from the thought of them, to my better Sub- ject.

The Untrussing of the Humourous Poet - Thoimas Dekker

Tucca: Be not so tart, my precious METHEGLIN; be not, my old whore Babylon; fit fast.

Daniel Defoe proposed an English Academy:

The Work of this Society shou’d be to encourage Polite Learning, to polish and refine the English Tongue, and advance the so much neglected Faculty of Correct Language, to establish Purity and Propriety of Stile, and to purge it from all the Irregular Additions that Ignorance and Affectation have introduc’d; and all those Innovations in Speech, if I may call them such, which some Dogmatic Writers have the Confidence to foster upon their Native Language, as if their Authority were sufficient to make their own Fancy legitimate.


Water/wine drinkers:

Crites: Nec placere diu, nec vivere carmina
possunt, quæ scribuntur aquæ potoribus.

*No song can give pleasure for long, nor can it last,
that is written by drinkers of water (Horace)

The Odes of Horace: A Critical Study By Steele Commager

...The confrontation of ars and ingenium was reproduced in the quarrel of the so-called "wine drinkers" and "water drinkers". As confidence in a definable source of poetic genius had faded, intoxication had become increasingly acceptable as a token of inspiration, until some Alexandrian writers boldly declared that the waters of the holy spring were now available as a bottled commodity. In the idea we may see a deterioration of the furor poeticus, a belief that poetic natures might be most felicitous when uninhibited by rational control. Anxious to give the theory a reputable, or, at any rate, and antique derivation, its proponents adopted Cratinus as their spirited ancestor. They could recall the story that he had died from the shock of seeing a wine cask shattered (Aristophanes, Pax), and they were careful to remind contemporaries that he had delared wine a "swift horse to the poet". By construing all praise of wine as a confession that the author wrote only when drunk, they might mount any poet upon the same Pegasus. Archilochus, Anacreon, Alcaeus, and Aristophanes were soon conscripted, while Sophocles' praise of Aeschylus for writing (...) was similarly vulgarized. The movement may have taken its impetus from protest against what seemed the affected precision of Callimachus and his school - "dry dogs" they were termed. Allimachus referred to Archilochus as "wine smitten", and Callimachus' followers seem to have maintained that mounting the Muses' chariot was only a more elegant confession of being on the wagon. The foolishness of the ensuing dispute was exceeded only by its acrimony. It passed down to the Augustans through such writers as Antigonus, Nicaenetus, and Antipater of Thessalonica, and Horace preserves a record of its vitality.
(Epistle 1.19.1-14)
If learned Maecenas, you believe old Cratinus, no poems written by water drinkers are able to please for long or to survive. Ever since Bacchus enrolled poets with his Fauns and Satyrs, the sweet Muses have generally smelled of wine in the mornings. Homer, by his praise of wine, is convicted of addiction to it; father Ennius himself never leaped forth to tell of battles unless he had drunk well. "I shall hand over the Forum and Libo's well to the dry and sober; the abstemious I shall prohibit from song." Once I had said this, poets did not cease to strive in drunkenness at night, and in reeking of wine by day. What? If anyone with fierce and savage aspect, barefoot and with scanty toga, were to imitate Cato, would he then be an example of Cato's virtue and morals?

This apostrophe to Maecenas - si credis - is not a Horatian credo. He is satirizing a popular attitude, not endorsing it, as is sometimes claimed. Cato's virtue is not available to those aping his costume. Why then should poetic genius be the reward of those reproducing only a fabled incoherence... Horace's own indulgence was at most an accident of his life, not an essential element of his creativity. The only thing poetic about poets, he held, should be their poetry. Though he did not join battle professionally with the (......), his sympathies with male sanos poetas are not discernible:

Because Democritus believes genius more blessed than wretched art, and excludes sane poets from Helicon, a good number do not cut their nails or beard, but seek out secluded spoets and avoid the baths. Indeed one can win the name and esteem of being a poet simply by never entrusting to the barber Licinus a head so incurable that even three Anticyras could not cure it.

His slave Davus' diagnosis of 'th'hysteric or the poetic fit" is a jibe at contemporary poetasters rather than an analysis of Horace's own habits,(...). Horace would have approved the spirit if not the scholarship of Dryden, who emended Aristotle's 'by a happy gift of nature or madness,' to 'by a happy gift of nature and not by madness.' The two Odes (C.2.19, 3.25) professing to be written in a Dionysiac frenzy are remarkable calculated, and no one to my knowledge has suggested that Horace's feet were ever incapable of treading a perfect line. (pp. 28 - 31)


In Memory of Mr. William Cartwright. (Cartwright/Race of Ben)

John Berkenhead

...Thou didst not write
Warm'd by male Claret or by female White:
Their Giant Sack could nothing heighten Thee,
As far 'bove Tavern Flash as Ribauldry.
Thou thought'st no rank foul line was strongly writ,
That's but the Scum or Sediment of Wit;
Which sharking Braines do into Publike thrust,
(And though They cannot blush, the Reader must;)
Who when they see't abhor'd, for fear, not shame,
*TRANSLATE their BASTARD to some Other's NAME.*


Duke of Ferrara's Bottles (Amorphus):


The d'Este family ruled the city-state of Ferrara throughout the Renaissance. When Alfonso d'Este (1486-1534) became the Duke of Ferrara in 1505, he was as ambitious as any Renaissance prince, achieving wealth and influence through alliances with France and Spain against the Pope. Alfonso married the controversial Lucrezia Borgia who was the daughter of the Pope and who was falsely accused of poisoning her previous husband and of incestuous relations with her father. Alfonso created at Ferrara a truly magnificent court, attracting there famous writers (Ariosto), poets (Petrarch) and painters (Bellini and Titian). For his palace at Ferrara, Alfonso commissioned art from the most gifted artists of the age, the jewel of his collection being a painting by Giovanni Bellini, the acknowledged leader of Venetian art. The Feast of the Gods was the last painting which Bellini was to complete before his death in 1516.

The Duke's art collection was to become famous and the Feast of the Gods was its centerpiece. The painting depicted a bacchanal described in the writings of Ovid, and the other paintings in the collection portrayed related mythological episodes. To create a grand theme and a unified design for the series, Isabella d'Este, Duchess of Mantua and Alfonso's sister, lent Alfonso the services of Mario Equicola, one of the most admired classical scholars of the Renaissance

Titian/colorito vs. disegno debate:

Lichtenstein aims to show how even the defenders of colorito, preeminently Roger de Piles, exploit the biased gender implications that inhere in the traditional distinction, comparing 'the surprises of coloring' that seize the spectator to "the surprises of love" by which the "lover is victimized."

Oxford at Venice:

A man in hue, all hues in his controlling

Words, above action: matter, above words (Jonson):

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

IF gracious silence, sweet attention,
Quick sight, and quicker apprehension,
(The lights of Judgments throne) shine any where;
Our doubtful Author hopes this is their Sphere.
And therefore opens he himself to those;
To other weaker Beams his labours close:
As loth to prostitute their Virgin strain,
To ev'ry vulgar and adult'rate Brain,
In this alone, his Muse her SWEETNESS hath,
She shuns the print of any beaten Path;
And proves new ways to come to learned Ears:

Pied ignorance she neither loves nor, fears.
Nor hunts she after popular Applause,
Or fomy praise, that drops from common Jaws:
The Garland that she wears, their bands must twine,
Who can both censure, understand, define
What merit is: Then cast those piercing Rays,
Round as a Crown, instead of honour'd Bays,
About his Poesie; which (he knows) affords
Words, above action: matter, above words



Cartwright, William, Jonsonus Virbius

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


Shakespeare Sonnet 99

The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love's breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells
In my love's veins thou hast too grossly dy'd.
The lily I condemned for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stol'n thy hair;
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red nor white, had stol'n of both,
And to his robbery had annexed thy breath;
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,
But sweet, or colour it had stol'n from thee.


Unknown author C.B. (1614) identifies Shakespeare's 'nectared veines' of style, 'drunke by thirstie men'.

Richard III speaks:

"To him that impt my fame with Clio's quill (note-Muse of History)
Whose magick rais'd me from oblivion's den,
That writ my storie on the Muses' hill,
And with my actions dignifi'd his pen;
He that from Helicon sends many a rill,
Whose nectared veines are drunke by thirstie men;
Crown'd be his stile with fame, his head with bayes,
And none detract, but gratulate his praise.

Yet if his scænes have not engrost all grace
The much fam'd action could extend on stage;
If time or memory have left a place
For me to fill, t' enforme this ignorant age,
To that intent I shew my horrid face,
Imprest with feare, and characters of rage:
Nor wits, nor chronicles, could ere containe
The hell-deepe reaches of my soundlesse braine."

(note - questionable praise in the mouth of Richard III)


Henry Chettle

Mourning Garment.

Nor doth the silver tongued Melicert,
Drop from his honeyed Muse one sable tear
To mourn her death that graced his desert,
And to his laies opened her Royal ear. (laies/Lays: songs, poems)
Shepheard remember our Elizabeth,
And sing her Rape, done by that Tarquin, Death. [Modernized English]


Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild. - Milton


...In another exchange Ingenioso says "Amonge other of youre vertues I doe observe youre stile to be most pure, youre English tonge comes as neere Tullies (note- Cicero)as anie mans livinge." to which Gullio replies "Oh Sir, that was my care, to prove a complet gentleman, to be tam Marti quam Mercurio; in so muche that I am pointed at for a poet in Pauls church yard.."

When the penniless poet offers verses written in a variety of styles, Gullio far prefers the writing style of Mr. Shakespeare and his speech is littered with quotations from the plays.

Gullio speaks scornfully of 'Liteltonians', that is people who learned elementary French from the language tutor Claude Hollyband's 'French Littleton', which is worth comparing with the comment Florio makes in the opening address to his translation of Montaigne's essays: "seven or eight of great wit and worth have assayed but found these Essayes no attempt for French apprentises or Littletonians." As the scene draws to a close Gullio exclaims "O sweet Mr Shakspeare, Ile have his picture in my study at the courte."

Ingenioso (mocking) Sweet Mr. Shakespeare!

Gullio: Oh sweet Mr. Shakespeare, I’ll have his picture in my study at the Courte

Gullio: Let the duncified worlde esteeme Spenser and Chaucer, I’ll worship sweet Mr. Shakespeare.

Civility and Virility in Ben Jonson, Lorna Hutson

"Style is the man":
The Virility of Conversation

What is the relationship between the classical proposition that a man's literary style must be like his life and the early modern investment in table talk, or conversation, as an arena for social advancement? The topic of stylistic manliness, disparaging by contrast an effeminate decay in modern oratory, is pervasive in classical literature; examples that elaborate upon it are Persius' first satire, the preface to the first book of the elder Seneca's declamations, and the younger Seneca's 114th epistle to Lucilius. The topic was revived, in relation to both Latin and vernacular prose, by Renaissance humanists. In a brilliant recent essay, Patricia Parker has analyzed the literature of this revival and the way in which it expresses "a desire for a more 'masculine' or virile style," a style "linked to the metaphorics of the male body in its prime." Parker deftly unpacks the key opposing terms in this debate over style: the first term is*nervus*, a word that, as well as meaning "sinewy" or muscular, also connoted the male sexual member; and the second is *mollis*, "soft," a word associated in Roman culture both with women and with the male "pathic," the man who desired to be penetrated by other men. One of her objectives in discussing this "massively influential Latin tradition" is to engage with the gender politics of what has been the central contention of prose studies of the English Renaissance - that is, the argument that a seventeenth-century reaction against the Ciceronian excesses of sixteenth-century English prose pave the way for the rise of a scientific "plain style." If the concept of stylistic virility is above all marked by a certain conflation of body and language, however, a rather different historical development might come to mind as its more probable outcome. I am thinking of the well-attested emergence, in the early modern period, of the phenomenon known as "CIVIL CONVERSATION," according to which the arts of polite discourse become newly central to the acquisition and expression of Social status. And yet the problem for any examination of the relationship between "virile style" and "civil conversation" is, of course, that conversation (in our modern sense of informal exchanges of speech) simply cannot be recovered as a practice. Even the social historians whose work provides compelling evidence of conversation's new centrality necessarily derive their evidence from the period's theoretical literature - from conversation manuals. More perplexing, it would seem that, if there were a relationship between the prescriptive literature of early modern CIVIL CONVERSATION and a classically derived discourse of "VIRILE STYLE" in literary prose, such a relationship could only be one of OPPOSITION. How else could the discourse Parker describes as privileging deeds over words, and disparaging linguistic excess as effeminate, coexist with a conduct literature that makes manliness (for Renaissance conversation manuals are, primarily, addressed to men) depend on the ability to converse with ease, fluency, and confidence?


Nathaniel Baxter tutor to Philip Sidney, travelling companion to de Vere in Europe - author of Sidney's 'Ourania'?

Nathaniel Baxter acrostic poem (1606) to Susan Vere (married to 'incomparable brethren' brother Philip Herbert)

Valiant whilom the Prince that bare this mot [motto],
Engraved round about his golden Ring:
Roaming in VENICE ere [before] thou wast begot,
Among the gallants of th’Italian spring.

Never omitting what might pastime bring,
Italian sports, and Siren’s melody:
Hopping Helena with her warbling sting,
Infested th’Albanian dignity,
Like as they [it] poisoned all Italy.

Vigilant then th’eternall majesty
Enthralled souls to free from infamy:
Remembring thy sacred virginity,
Induced us to make speedy repair,
Unto thy mother everlasting fair,
So did this Prince beget thee debonaire.

colorito/disegno debate:

Lichtenstein aims to show how even the defenders of colorito, preeminently Roger de Piles, exploit the biased gender implications that inhere in the traditional distinction, comparing 'the surprises of coloring' that seize the spectator to "the surprises of love" by which the "lover is victimized


Amorphus. ... (emphasis on expression - manner over matter)

For, let your Soul be as- sur'd of this (in any rank, or profession whatever) the
more general, or major part of Opinion goes with the
Face, and (simply) respects nothing else. Therefore
if that can be made exactly, CURIOUSLY, exquisitely,
thorowly, it is enough.


Gendered Style - Metaphorical Terminology of Style/Sugar and Paint:

Jonson - Timber
{Topic 67}} {{Subject: AFFECTED language}}

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


Harry Berger, Fictions of the Pose:

The formal interplay of bound variables that characterizes the system of early modern painting thus provides a necessary but not sufficient basis for politico-formal interpretation. Yet within the disegno/colorito distinction lurk the makings of a more sufficient basis, which would surface in the rhetoric of the French polemicists. This rhetoric has been analyzed by Jacqueline Lichtenstein as activating an ancient distinction
between ornament and makeup, between a a regulated and unregulated use, between lawful employment and abuse...In the case of language, it was addressed to the din of hyperbole, the indulgence of metaphor, the glut of tropes that were charged with overwhelming content and obscuring the purity of the idea. In the case of the image, the distinction concerned coloration, whose brilliance was accused of shrouding the line and corrupting its efficacy. The analogy is often explicit in medieval rhetoricians: 'Employed sparingly, rhetorical figures enhance style just as colors bring out a drawing; when used too lavishly, they obscure it and cause the clear line to disappear.'


"Words are like leaves; and where they most abound.

Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found." --Pope

So Quint. 8, Proem. 23 : "Too many niceties obscure the sense and choke the
crop, as it were, with a superabundance of herbage.


What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you but one, can every shadow lend.
Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new:
Speak of the spring, and foison of the year,
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear;
And you in every blessed shape we know.
In all external grace you have some part,
But you like none, none you, for constant heart.


Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning

There be therefore chiefly three vanities in studies, whereby learning hath been most traduced. For those things we do esteem vain which are either false or frivolous, those which either have no truth or no use; and those persons we esteem vain which are either credulous or curious; and curiosity is either in matter or words: so that in reason as well as in experience there fall out to be these three distempers (as I may term them) of learning--the first, fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the last, delicate learning; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and vain affectations; and with the last I will begin. Martin Luther, conducted, no doubt, by a higher Providence, but in discourse of reason, finding what a province he had undertaken against the Bishop of Rome and the degenerate traditions of the Church, and finding his own solitude, being in nowise aided by the opinions of his own time, was enforced to awake all antiquity, and to call former times to his succours to make a party against the present time. So that the ancient authors, both in divinity and in humanity, which had long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. This, by consequence, did draw on a necessity of a more exquisite travail in the languages original, wherein those authors did write, for the better understanding of those authors, and the better advantage of pressing and applying their words. And thereof grew, again, a delight in their manner of style and phrase, and an admiration of that kind of writing, which was much furthered and precipitated by the enmity and opposition that the propounders of those primitive but seeming new opinions had against the schoolmen, who were generally of the contrary part, and whose writings were altogether in a differing style and form; taking liberty to coin and frame new terms of art to express their own sense, and to avoid circuit of speech, without regard to the pureness, pleasantness, and (as I may call it) lawfulness of the phrase or word. And again, because the great labour then was with the people (of whom the Pharisees were wont to say, Execrabilis ista turba, quae non novit legem) [the wretched crowd that has not know the law], for the winning and persuading of them, there grew of necessity in chief price and request eloquence and variety of discourse, as the fittest and forciblest access into the capacity of the vulgar sort; so that these four causes concurring--the admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching--did bring in an affectionate study of eloquence and copy of speech, which then began to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter--more after the choiceness of the phrase, and the round and clean composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their works with tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment. Then grew the flowing and watery vein of Osorius, the Portugal bishop, to be in price. Then did STURMIUS spend such infinite and curious pains upon Cicero the Orator and Hermogenes the Rhetorician, besides his own books of Periods and Imitation, and the like. Then did Car of Cambridge and Ascham with their lectures and writings almost deify Cicero and Demosthenes, and allure all young men that were studious unto that delicate and polished kind of learning. Then did Erasmus take occasion to make the scoffing echo, Decem annos consuumpsi in legendo Cicerone [I have spent ten years in reading Cicero(ne); and the echo answered in Greek, One, Asine. Then grew the learning of the schoolmen to be utterly despised as barbarous. In sum, the whole inclination and bent of those times was rather towards copy than weight.

Here therefore is the first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter, whereof though I have represented an example of late times, yet it hath been and will be secundum majus et minus[more or less] in all timeAnd how is it possible but this should have an operation to discredit learning, even with vulgar capacities, when they see learned men's works like the first letter of a patent or limited book, which though it hath large flourishes, yet it is but a letter? It seems to me that Pygmalion's frenzy is a good emblem or portraiture of this vanity; for words are but the images of matter, and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture.

But yet notwithstanding it is a thing not hastily to be condemned, to clothe and adorn the obscurity even of philosophy itself with sensible and plausible elocution. For hereof we have great examples in Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and of Plato also in some degree; and hereof likewise there is great use, for surely, to the severe inquisition of truth and the deep progress into philosophy, it is some hindrance because it is too early satisfactory to the mind of man, and quencheth the desire of further search before we come to a just period. But then if a man be to have any use of such knowledge in civil occasions, of conference, counsel, persuasion, discourse, or the like, then shall he find it prepared to his hands in those authors which write in that manner. But the excess of this is so justly contemptible, that as Hercules, when he saw the image of Adonis, Venus' minion, in a temple, said in disdain, Nil sacri es [Thou art no Divinity]; so there is none of Hercules' followers in learning--that is, the more severe and laborious sort of inquirers into truth--but will despise those delicacies and affectations, as indeed capable of no divineness. And thus much of the first disease or distemper of learning.

The second, which followeth, is in nature worse than the former, for as substance of matter is better than beauty of words, so contrariwise vain matter is worse than vain words; wherein it seemeth the reprehension of St. Paul was not only proper for those times, but prophetical for the times following, and not only respective* to divinity but extensive[5] to all knowledge: Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiae.[Avoid profane novelties of terms and the oppositions of what is falsely called knowledge." I Tim. 6.20] For he assigneth two marks and badges of suspected and falsified science: the one, the novelty and strangeness of terms; the other, the strictness of positions,[7] which of necessity doth induce oppositions, and so questions and altercations. Surely, like as many substances in nature which are solid do putrefy and corrupt into worms, so it is the property of good and sound knowledge to putrefy and dissolve into a number of subtile, idle, unwholesome, and (as I may term them) vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness* and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the schoolmen, who having sharp and strong wits and abundance of leisure and small variety of reading, but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors (chiefly Aristotle their dictator) as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges, and knowing little history, either of nature or time, did out of no great quantity of matter and infinite agitation of wit spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning which are extant in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, worketh according to the stuff, and is limited thereby, but if it work upon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work but of no substance or profit.


Cob-Web Stuff:

Cynthia's Revels, Jonson

Act III. Scene IV.

Arete, Crites.

What, Crites! where have you drawn forth the day?
You have not visited your jealous Friends?

Crites. Where I have seen (most honour'd Arete,)
The strangest pageant, fashion'd like a Court,
(At least I dream't I saw it) so diffus'd,
So painted, pyed, and full of Rainbow strains,
As never yet (either by time, or place)
Was made the Food to my distasted sense:
Nor can my weak imperfect Memory
Now render half the forms unto my Tongue,
That were convolv'd within this thrifty room.
Here, stalks me by a proud and spangled Sir,
That looks three hand-fulls higher than his Foretop;
Savours himself alone, is only kind
And loving to himself: one that will speak
More dark, and doubtful than six Oracles;
Salutes a Friend, as if he had a stich,
Is his own Chronicle, and scarce can eat
For registring himself: is waited on
By Mimicks, Jesters, Pandars, Parasites,
And other such like Prodigies of Men.
He past, appears some mincing Marmoset
Made all of Clothes, and Face; his Limbs so set
As if they had some voluntary act
Without Mans motion, and must move just so
In spite of their Creation: one that weighs
His Breath between his Teeth, and dares not smile
Beyond a point, for fear t'unstarch his look;
Hath travel'd to make Legs, and seen the Cringe
Of several Courts, and Courtiers; knows the time
Of giving Titles, and of taking Walls;
Hath read Court-common-places; made them his:
Studied the Grammar of state, and all the Rules
Each formal Usher in that politick School
Can teach a Man. A third comes giving nods
To his repenting Creditors, protests
To weeping Sutors, takes the coming Gold
Of insolent, and base Ambition,
That hourly rubs his dry and itchy Palms:
Which grip't, like burning Coals, he hurls away
Into the Laps of Bawds, and Buffoons Mouths.
With him there meets some subtile Proteus, one
Can change, and vary with all forms he sees;
Be any thing but honest; serves the time;
Hovers betwixt two Factions, and explores
The drifts of both; which (with cross Face) he bereas
To the divided Heads, and is receiv'd
With mutual grace of either: one that dares
Do deeds worthy the Hurdle, or the Wheel,
To be thought some body; and is (in sooth)
Such as the Satyrist points truly forth,
That only to his Crimes owes all his worth.

Arete. You tell us wonders, Crites.

Crites. This is nothing.
There stands a Neophyte glazing of his Face,
Pruning his Clothes, perfuming of his Hair,
Against his Idol enters; and repeats
(Like an unperfect Prologue, at third Musick)
His part of Speeches, and confederate Jests,
In passion to himself. Another swears
His Scene of Courtship over; bids, believe him,
Twenty times e're they will; anon, doth seem
As he would kiss away his Hand in kindness;
Then walks as melancholick, and stands wreath'd,
As he were pinn'd up to the Arras, thus.
A third is most in action, swims, and frisks,
Plays with his Mistresses Paps, salutes here Pumps,
Adores her Hems, her Skirts, her Knots, her Curls,
Will spend his Patrimony for a Garter,
Or the least Feather in her bounteous Fan.
A fourth, he only comes in for a mute:
Divides the Act with a dumb shew, and Exit.
Then must the Ladies laugh, strait comes their Scene,
A sixth time worse confusion than the rest.
Where you shall hear one talk of this Mans Eye;
Another, of his Lip; a third, of his Nose;
A fourth commend his Leg; a fifth his Foot;
A sixt his hand; and every one a Limb:
That you would think the poor distorted Gallant
Must there expire. Then fall they in discourse
Of Tires and Fashions, how they must take place,
Where they may kiss, and whom, when to sit down,
And with what grace to rise; if they salute,
What curtesie they must use: such Cob-web stuff,
As would enforce the common'st sense abhor
Th' Arachnean workers.

Are. Patience, gentle Crites.
This knot of Spiders will be soon dissolv'd,
And all their Webs swept out of Cynthia's Court,
When once her glorious Deity appears,
And but presents it self in her full light:
Till when, go in, and spend your hours with us
Your honour'd Friends, Time and Phronesis,
In Contemplation of our Goddess Name.
Think on some sweet and choice invention, now,

Worthy her serous and illustrious Eyes,
That from the merit of it we may take
Desir'd occasion to prefer your worth,
And make your service known to Cynthia.
It is the pride of Arete to grace
Her studious lovers; and (in scorn of Time,
Envy, and Ignorance) to lift their state
Above a vulgar height. True happiness
Consists not in the multitude of friends,
But in the worth, and choice. Nor would I have
Vertue a popular regard pursue:
Let them be good that love me, though but few.

Shaping 'English Seneca'?

Languet to Sidney, Nov 14, 1579

...Now I will treat you frankly, as I am accustomed to do, for I am sure our friendship has reached a mark at which neither of us can be offended at any freedom of the other. It was a delight to me last winter to see you high in favour and enjoying the esteem of all your countrymen; but to speak plainly, the habits of your court seemed to me somewhat less manly than I could have wished, and most of your noblemen appeared to me to seek for a reputation more by a kind of affected courtesy* than by those virtues which are wholesome to the state and which are most becoming to generous spirits and to men of high birth. I was sorry therefore, and so were other friends of yours, to see you wasting the flower of your life on such things, and I feared lest that noble nature of yours should be dulled, and lest from habit you should be brought to take pleasure in pursuits which only ENERVATE the mind.

If the arrogance and insolence of Oxford has roused you from your trance, he has done you less wrong than they who have hitherto been more indulgent to you. But I return to my subject...

*footnote - The readers of Shakespeare and Scott are familiar with the language and manners of the Euphuists of Queen Elizabeth's Court. John Lilly's two books, "Euphues, the anatomy of wit," and "Euphues an dhis England," from which the Elizabethan school of Courtiers derived their name, were not published till 1581. (Steuart A Pears)


Enervate \E*ner"vate\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Enervated; p. pr. &

vb. n. Enervating.] [L. enervatus, p. p. of enervare, fr.
enervis nerveless, weak; e out + nervus nerve. See Nerve.]
To deprive of nerve, force, strength, or courage; to render
feeble or impotent; to make effeminate; to impair the moral
powers of.

Wesley Trimpi: In terms of the poetic conventions the rhetorical controversy between Ciceronianism and Senecanism became one between a mellifluous and a sinuous style.

Jonson - Timber

 "There be some styles again that have not less blood, but less flesh and corpulence. These are bony
and sinewy, ossea et nervosa; ossa habent, et nerves."

Falstaff - embodies 'corpulent' style


O! lest the world should task you to recite What merit lived in me, that you should love
After my death,--dear love, forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove.
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O! lest your true love may seem false in this
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth.

Spenser, Tears of the Muses

"All these, and all that else the Comic Stage,

With seasoned wit and goodly pleasance graced,
By which man's life in his likest image
Was limned forth, are wholly now defaced;
And those sweet wits which wont the like to frame
Are now despised and made a laughing game.

"And he the man whom Nature's self had made
To mock herself and truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under Mimic shade,
Our pleasant Willie, ah! is dead of late.
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also deaded and in doleur drent.

"But that same gentle spirit from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow,
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men,
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw,
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
Than so himself to mockery to sell."


Author: Herbert, George, 1592-1637. Title: Wits recreations. Selected from the finest fancies of moderne muses

Date: 1640

147 B. I. approbation of a copy of verses.

One of the witty sort of gentlemen,
That held society with learned Ben---
Shew'd him some verses of such Tragique sense
They did his curious eare much violence;
But after Ben had been a kind partaker
Of the sad lines, he needs must know the maker;
What unjust man he was, that spent his time
And banish'd reason to, advance his rime:
Nay gentle Ben, replies the gentleman
I see I must support the Poet than;
Although those humble straines are not so fit
For to please you, hee's held a pretty wit;
Is he held so? (saes Ben) so may a goose,
Had I the holding, I would let him loose.

Courtier Oxford/'Dissimulating' Antonius:

Jennifer Richards


...The questione della lingua is focused on a particular question: should the courtier imitate the literary greats, borrowing from them words already endowed with authority, or should he follow the promptings of his own talents, and employ the language of his contemporaries? [24] Notably, it covers ground already familiar to us from the earlier discussion of nobility: can courtly gracefulness be learned, or is it a property natural to the nobly born? For this reason, it contributes to our understanding of the relationship between art and nature so central to the nobility debate, and it also further aims to inculcate in us a practice of reading which is itself ennobling.

Throughout the discussion, Canossa is committed to the idea that all we need is talent and a willingness to adopt the contemporary linguistic idiom, but he needs to defend his position against an interlocutor, Fregoso, who champions the need for imitation. Castiglione seems to set up an argument in utramque partem which enables us to see both sides of the debate, and to choose the more persuasive one. However, the dialogue does not quite work like that. When Fregoso objects that Canossa's advice encourages the courtier to reproduce the solecisms of ignorant speakers, our speaker produces this confusing explanation: "Good usage in speech is born with men who have native wit, and, with teaching and experience, acquire good judgement, and in accordance with it, agree upon apt words whose quality they know from a certain natural judgement rather than from art or any rule" (87/68). [25]

This sentence seems to epitomise Canossa's disdainful refusal to teach us; it looks like a deliberate obfuscation. However, he is in fact following the example set by the dissimulating Antonius, and is showing, not telling us, the artificial causes of "natural" rhetorical skill (78-80/63-64). The questione della lingua is difficult to follow not just because it is meandering, contradictory and ambiguous, but because it offers a partial account of De oratore while relying on our knowledge of that text. [26]

For example, Canossa invokes Cicero to support his thesis that native wit (ingegno) and natural judgement (giudicio naturale) alone produce eloquence (91/70). In particular, he recalls the observation of Cicero's Antonius that many orators become excellent without needing to imitate a model: "Parmi ancor ricordare che Cicerone in uno loco introduca Marc'Antonio dir a Sulpizio, che molti sono i quali non imitano alcuno, e nientedimeno pervengono al summo grado della eccellenzia" (94/71). He is referring here to Antonius's explanation that we see there are "many who copy no man, but gain their objects by natural aptitude, without resembling any model" (2.98) and he is also invoking his reputation as a self-made orator, a speaker "so completely furnished with the bounty of nature, as to seem of more than human birth, and to have been shaped by some divinity" (1.115).

From this excerpt it would seem that Canossa is interested only in Antonius's reputation as a gifted, self-made orator, and has forgotten the strategy of dissimulatio which he employed in De oratore to expose his naturalness" as a studied gesture. This is odd because he has already called our attention to Antonius's use of dissimulatio in the earlier debate on nobility (64/53). (On that occasion he explicitly recalls Antonius's advice to show in rhetorical display "as little trace as possible of any artifice" (2.152-53).) I suggest, though, that Canossa does not need to invoke this aspect of Antonius's style since he is showing us how it works. For example, his praise of natural aptitude, like that of Antonius in De oratore, is tactical: just like his role-model, he is describing naturalness as an effect the courtier should strive to attain, not the cause of his delightful expression.

If we return to Canossa's problematic judgement, we should be able to see more clearly how that paradoxical sentence tells us all we need to know about the natural art of the courtier. Just as in De oratore, I suggest, so in book 1 of Il cortegiano good judgement is acquired as a habit and in this sense it is indeed natural, or rather immediately available, to its practitioner. Canossa's emphasis on the need to follow instinct and "usage" (linguistic custom) temporarily conceals the quality of the relationship between these two distinct entities -- that instinct can be shaped by usage or practise -- so that we can better comprehend their combined effect.

Canossa's use of the term "consuetudine" is doubly meaningful. When he claims that earlier writers learned by practice (consuetudine) he is acknowledging not only their desire to be true to idiomatic speech (practice), but also their educational process which involves assimilation (practise). Indeed, Canossa follows his advice on the good use of speech by explaining that the courtier should follow contemporary practice (consuetudine) rather than a particular literary model, and he cites the example of the ancients who themselves learned -- as the English translator Thomas Hoby aptly offers -- "by use and custome" ("imparato dalla consuetudine") (90/69). Although Canossa does not allude here to Cicero, we can almost hear Crassus emphasising the importance both of idiomatic practice and of rhetorical practise, or, for that matter, Antonius reminding us, by refusing to teach us, of the importance of practise (consuetudo), rather than the study of rules (1.152; 1.208). I suggest that we now apply these insights t o Canossa's earlier discussion of native nobility and to his famous introduction of the trope which characterises courtly display: sprezzatura.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Oxford, Amorphus and the Venetian Buffone

Amophus's 'Faces' and Protean Virtuosity of the Buffone:


Jonson presents Amorphus as ridiculous because rather than subscribing to the Jonsonian idea of an authentic, centred and stable self, Amorphus brings a multiform virtuosity to the social 'stage' of the Elizabethan court - a protean virtuosity that was disparagingly associated with the buffone or clown of Italian and English comedy:

Jonson, Cynthia's Revels, Act II. Scene III.


Come Sir. You are now within regard of the Pre-
sence, and see, the privacy of this Room, how
sweetly it offers it self to our retir'd intendments. Page,
cast a vigilant, and enquiring Eye about, that we be
not rudely surpriz'd, by the approach of some ruder

Cos. I warrant you, Sir. I'll tell you when the Wolf
enters, fear nothing.

Mercury. O, what a mass of benefit shall we possess, in be-
ing the invisible Spectators of this strange Show now to
be acted.

Amorphus. Plant your self there, Sir: and observe me. You

shall now, as well be the Ocular, as the Ear-witness,
how clearly I can refel that paradox, or rather pseudodox;
of those, which hold the Face to be the Index of the
mind, which (I assure you) is not so, in any politick
Creature: for instance; I will now give you the parti-
cular, and distinct face of every your most noted species
of Persons, as your Merchant, your Schollar, your
Soldier, your Lawyer, Courtier, &c. and each of these
so truly, as you would swear, but that your Eye shall
see the variation of the Lineament, it were my most
proper and genuine aspect. First, for your Merchant,
or City-face, 'tis thus, a dull, plodding Face, still look-
ing in a direct line, forward: there is no great matter
in this Face. Then have you your Students, or aca-
demique Face, which is here, an honest, simple, and
methodical Face: but somewhat more spred than the
former. The third is your Soldiers Face, a menacing,
and astounding Face, that looks broad, and big: the
grace of this Face consisteth much in a Beard. The anti-
face, to this, is your Lawyers Face, a contracted, sub-
tile, and intricate Face, full of quirks, and turnings,
a labyrinthæan Face, now angularly, now circularly, e-
very way aspected. Next is your statist's Face, a seri-
ous, solemn, and supercilious Face, full of formal, and
square Gravity, the Eye (for the most part) deeply and
artificially shadow'd: there is great judgment required
in the making of this Face. But now, to come to your
Face of Faces, or Courtiers Face, 'tis of three sorts,
according to our subdivision of a Courtier, Elementary,
Practick, and Theorick. Your Courtier Theorick, is
he, that hath arriv'd to his farthest, and doth now
know the Court, rather by speculation, than practice;
and this is his Face: a fastidious and oblick Face, that
looks, as it went with a Vice, and were screw'd thus.
Your Courtier Practick, is he, that is yet in his Path,
his course, his way, and hath not toucht the puntilio,
or point of his hope; his Face is here: a most promi-
sing, open, smooth, and over-flowing Face, that seems
as it would run, and pour it self into you. Somewhat
a northerly Face. Your Courtier Elementary, is one
but newly enter'd, or as it were in the alphabet, or ut-re-
mi-fa-sol-la of Courtship. Note well this Face, for it is
this you must practice.

Aso. I'll practice 'em all, if you please, Sir.

Amo. I, hereafter you may: and it will not be alto-
gether an ungrateful study. For, let your Soul be as-
sur'd of this (in any rank, or profession whatever) the
more general, or major part of Opinion goes with the
Face, and (simply) respects nothing else. Therefore,
if that can be made exactly, curiously, exquisitely,
thorowly, it is enough: But (for the present) you shall
only apply your self to this Face of the Elementary
Courtier, a light, revelling, and protesting Face, now
blushing, now smiling, which you may help much with
a wanton wagging of your Head, thus, (a Feather will
teach you) or with kissing your Finger that hath the
Ruby, or playing with some String of your Band, which
is a most quaint kind of melancholy besides: or (if a-
mong Ladies) laughing lowd, and crying up your own
Wit, though perhaps borrow'd, it is not amiss. Where
is your Page? call for your Casting-bottle, and place
your mirrour in your Hat, as I told you: so. Come,
look not pale, observe me, set your face, and enter.


Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries ... edited by Michele Marrapodi

...'Even at it's most 'literary' , and despite Hamlet's official censure, Shakespearean theatre depended on the virtuosic but anarchic energies of clowns such as Will Kemp and Robert Armin. So too the commedia dell'arte, even at its most culturally prestigious, always relied on the multiform routines of the 'buffone'. In early sixteenth-century Venice, the crucible of the commedia dell'arte, a self-conscious buffone tradition, of which actors both inside and outside of the commedia dell'arte were aware, emerged from the charismatic careers of Domenigo Taiacalze (d. 1513) and especially Zuan Polo Liompardi (d.1541). Extensively documented in Marino Sanudo's diaries and in popular texts published between 1513 and 1541, these amateur entertainers performed intermedi between the acts of regular comedies, cantastorie-style improvisation in ottava rima, momarie in the context of Venetian civic rituals, theatrical impersonations representing a wide range of characters, and various other entertainments, including dance and acrobatic numbers, trick horseback riding, and even sleight-of-hand tricks. Especially noteworthy was their metamorphic capacity to change, at dizzying speed, between various personae. So Sanudo records Zuan Polo's range in a February 11, 1525 entry:

Zuan Polo carried himself very well and performed the intermedi beautifully, with every theatrical and musical skill that it is possible to have. He dressed himself in the various costumes of a Moor, a German, a Greek, a Hungarian, a pilgrim, and others, but without masks.

Rather than representing his various personages in an extended manner, Zuan Polo presents them in rapid succession. His display showcases his theatrical talent insead of drawing the audience's thoughts and feelings into a mimetic illusion. Central to the buffone's skill was his ability to impersonate the stylized dialects of various 'out-groups' living in Venice (here Moor, German, Greek, and Hungarian, elsewhere Albanian and Dalmatian), marking ethnic difference by each group's linguistic divergence frm Venetian. The 'callesella', a buffone set piece that mimicked voices echoing through the Venetian alleys, or calli, also demonstrated presentational virtuosity, and was again mostly evoked by the voice. The buffoni could conjure stages on life's way, as when Zuan Polo 'counterfeited a baby' and Taiacalze talked back as an old man, and they could animate an entire intermedio single-handedly, as when Zuan Polo imitated a sorceror, the God of Love, Taiacalze himself and Paris. Just as Will Kemp's jigs could showcase his protean virtuousity without damaging the 'necessary question' because they were placed at the end of the play, so the Italian buffoni could stand adjacent to the regular play without violating its structure.

polygeneric virtuousity of the zanni

female tumbler - Jonsons 'tumbling whore' (Volpone) - hopping Helena?

La Bella Maniera

Commedia dell'arte, disegno interno, and the discordia concors

Important corollaries exist between the disegno interno, which substituted for the disegno esterno (external design) in mannerist painting. This notion of projecting a deeply subjective view as superseding nature or established principles (perspective, for example), in essence, the emphasis away from the object to its subject, now emphasizing execution, displays of virtuosity, or unique techniques. This inner vision is at the heart of commedia performance. For example, in the moment of improvisation the actor expresses his virtuosity without heed to formal boundaries, decorum, unity, or text. Arlecchino became emblemmatic of the mannerist discordia concors (the union of opposites), at one moment he would be gentle and kind, then, on a dime, become a thief violently acting out with his batte. Arlecchino could be graceful in movement, only in the next beat, to clumsily trip over his feet. Freed from the external rules, the actor celebrated the evanescence of the moment; much the way Cellini would dazzle his patrons by draping his sculptures, unveiling them with lighting effects and a sense of the marvelous. The presentation of the object became as important as the object itself.


Amorphus. ... For, let your Soul be as- sur'd of this (in any rank, or profession whatever) the
more general, or major part of Opinion goes with the
Face, and (simply) respects nothing else. Therefore
if that can be made exactly, curiously, exquisitely,
thorowly, it is enough.


Nathaniel Baxter acrostic poem (1606) to Susan Vere (married to 'incomparable brethren' brother Philip Herbert)

Valiant whilom the Prince that bare this mot [motto],
Engraved round about his golden Ring:
Roaming in VENICE ere [before] thou wast begot,
Among the gallants of th’Italian spring.

Never omitting what might pastime bring,
Italian sports, and Siren’s melody:
Hopping Helena with her warbling sting,
Infested th’Albanian dignity,
Like as they [it] poisoned all Italy.

Vigilant then th’eternall majesty
Enthralled souls to free from infamy:
Remembring thy sacred virginity,
Induced us to make speedy repair,
Unto thy mother everlasting fair,
So did this Prince beget thee debonaire.

Soul of A Jiggy Age:

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.C X V.

Jonson, Bartholomew Faire
...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 Nature afraid in his Plays, like those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries, to mix his head with other Mens Heels; 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, to William Herbert
In so thicke, and darke an IGNORANCE, as now almost couers the AGE, I craue leaue to stand neare your light: and, by that, to be read. Posterity may pay your benefit the honor, and thanks; when it shall know, that you dare, in these JIG-GIVEN times, to countenance a legitimate Poëme. I must call it so, against all noise of opinion: from whose crude, and airy reports, I appeale, to that great and singular faculty of Iudgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate truth from error.

Nat. Field to Jonson (on Sejanus):

But, in this AGE, where JIGS and DANCES moue,
How few there are, that this pure worke approue!

_Mirth Making_, Chris Holcomb

In his Ethics, Aristotle suggests that changes in stylistic and substantive predilections indicate advances in civilization. While enumerating the differences between the jesting of a buffoon and a witty gentleman, Aristotle compares each character type to Old and New Comedy, respectively: "The difference (between a buffoon and a gentleman) may be seen by comparing the old and modern comedies; the earlier dramatists found their fun in obscenity, the modern prefer innuendo, which marks a great advance in decorum; (4.8.6). This comparison suggest that smutty humor is less civilized than the more refined humor delivered through innuendo. (footnote pp. 199-200)


William Cartwright

...Shakespeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lyes
I'th Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes; [70]
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;


E P I G R A M S .


PLAYWRIGHT me reads, and still my verses damns,
He says I want the tongue of epigrams ;
I have no salt, no bawdry he doth mean ;
For witty, in his language, is obscene.
Playwright, I loath to have thy MANNERS known
In my chaste book ; profess them in thine own.

Mirth Making. The Rhetorical Discourse on Jesting in Early Modern England
Chris Holcomb

...Associations between social status and certain forms of jesting appear as early as the Nicomachean Ethics, where Aristotle classifies different modes of jesting according to three social types: the boor, the buffoon, and the witty man of tact. Aristotle has little to say about boorish men except that they never say "anything funny themselves and take offense at those who do" (4.8.3) Instead, Aristotle dwells on differences between the buffoon and man of wit, and in differentiating these two social types, he associates indecorous jests with those of the lower-class buffoon and decorous ones with those of a gentleman. 'Those who go to excess in ridicule are thought to be buffoons or VULGAR FELLOWS, who itch to have their joke at all costs, and are more concerned to raise a laugh than to keep within the bounds of decorum' (4.8.3). The buffoon often jests in a 'servile' and often obscene fashion (4.8.5-6), he 'cannot resist a joke,' he will 'not keep his tongue off himself or anyone else, if he can raise a laugh,' and he 'will say things which a man of refinement would never say' (4.8.10). Those 'who jest with good taste,' by contrast, will say 'only the sort of things that are suitable to a virtuous man and a gentleman; (4.8.5). They prefer to jest by way of 'innuendo, which marks a great advance in decorum,' and they will never stoop so low in their jesting as to say anything 'unbecoming to a gentleman' (4.8.6-7). The line Aristotle draws here is not simply one between the indecorous and decorous; it is also one between the lower and upper classes. And while Aristotle couches his distinctions in more or less descriptive (although elitist) terms, they do have prescriptive force. If a speaker is to show himself as a 'man of refinement,' he must limit his jesting behaviours and avoid the excesses of the buffoon.

Cicero and Quintilian adopt Aristotle's method of classifying decorous and indecorous jests along class lines, and they both use the buffoon and well-bred man of tact to define forms of jesting befitting an orator (the boor, as often happens in everyday life, is left out of their discussions of jesting). But they add to the ranks of the buffoon (or SCURRA, in Latin) a cast of characters familiar from the Roman stage, street performances, and entertainments provided at a gentleman's dinner party - characters including the mime (mimus), pantomime (ethologus), and clown (sannio). Cicero says that 'an orator must avoid each of two dangers: he must not let his jesting become buffoonery or mere mimicking (scurrilis...aut mimicus)' (2.58.239). Like Aristotle's buffoon, the Latin scurra violates proprieties of time. Cicero says he jests "from morning to night, and without any reason at all" (2.60.245). He also shows no restraint in his selection of objects of ridicule, and his jests, like a scattergun, will often strike 'unintended victims' (2.60.245). He will even turn himself into an object of ridicule if he thinks he can raise a laugh (Quintilian, 6.3.82). Most important, the scurra is a member of the lower classes, a parasite who would often perform at a gentleman's dinner party for table scraps, and his antics almost always bespoke his lowly position. For all of these reasons, especially the last, Cicero and Quintilian repeatedly insist that orators avoid all likeness to buffoons, and toward this end, they offer a set of strictures limiting the jesting practices of orators so that those practices accord with the orator's gentlemanly status. With respect to proprieties of time, Cicero says, "Regard then to occasions, control and restraint of our actual raillery, and economy in bon-mots, will distinguish an orator from a buffoon (oratorem a scurra)" (2.60.247). As we have seen, orators should also be careful in their selection of comic butts and avoid targeting the excessively wretched or wicked and the well-beloved. Moreover, they must never turn themselves into objects of laughter for, as Quintilian says, "To make jokes against oneself is scarcely fit for any save professed buffoons and is strongly to be disapproved in an orator" (6.3.82). Presumable, orators should keep the audience's laughter off themselves and direct it only at their opponents. Above all, the orator should only jest in ways that befit a gentleman or liberalis. He should avoid obscenities in his jesting, which are 'not only degrading to a pubic speaker, but also hardly sufferable at a gentleman's dinner party (convivio liberorum)' (De oratore, 2.61.252), and 'scurrilous or brutal jests, although they may raise a laugh, are quite unworthy of a gentlman (liberali)' (Quintilian, 6.3.83). In an allusion to his famous formulation or the orator as a GOOD MAN, or vir bonus, skilled in speaking, Quintilian sums up his attitudes toward buffoonery, a summation that will serve for Cicero's views on the subject as well: 'A good man (vir bonus) will see that everything he says is consistent with his dignity and the respectability of his character (dignitate ac verecundia); for we pay too dear for the laugh we raise if it is at the cost of our own integrity (probitatis)' (6.3.35). (Holcomb,pp.39-40)



Latin probitas HONESTY, probity, uprightness.


"To My Book" by Ben Jonson

It will be looked for, book, when some but see
Thy title, Epigrams, and named of me,
Thou should'st be bold, licentious, full of gall,
Wormwood, and sulphur, sharp, and toothed withal;
Become a petulant thing, hurl ink, and wit,
As madmen stones: not caring whom they hit.
Deceive their malice, who could wish it so.
And by thy wiser temper, let men know
Thou are not covetous of least self-fame.
Made from the hazard of another's shame:
Much less with lewd, profane, and beastly phrase,
To catch the world's loose laughter, or VAIN gaze.
*He that DEPARTS with his own HONESTY
For VULGAR PRAISE, doth it too dearly buy.*


On the Towns honest Man. (Jonsons, Epigrams)

YOu wonder, who this is! and, why I name
Him not, aloud, that boasts so good a Fame:
Naming so many, too! But, this is one,
Suffers no Name, but a Description:
Being no vitious Person, but the Vice
About the Town; and known too, at that price.
A subtle Thing, that doth Affections win
By speaking well o'th' Company it's in.
Talks loud, and bawdy, has a gather'd deal
Of News, and Noise, to sow out a long Meal.
Can come from Tripoly, leap Stools, and Wink,
Do all, that 'longs to the Anarchy of Drink,
Except the Duel. Can sing Songs, and Catches;
Give every one his Dose of Mirth: and watches
Whose Name's unwelcome to the present ear,
And him it lays on; if he be not there.
Tells of him, all the Tales, it self then makes;
But, if it shall be question'd, undertakes,
It will deny all; and forswear it too:
Not that it fears, but will have to do
With such a one. And therein keeps it's Word.
'Twill see it's Sister naked, ere a Sword.
At every Meal, where it doth Dine, or Sup,
The Cloth's no sooner gon, but it gets up
And shifting of it's Faces, doth play more
Parts than th'Italian could do, with his Dore.
Acts old Iniquity, and in the fit
Of miming, gets th'Opinion of a Wit.
Executes Men in Picture. By defect,
From friendship, is its own Fames architect.
An Ingineer, in Slanders, of all Fashions,
That seeming Praises, are yet Accusations.

Describ'd it's thus: Defin'd would you it have?
Then, The Towns honest Man's her errant'st Knave


In Cynthia's Revels, Amorphus/Oxford takes aside his protege Asotus to initiate him into the social game of 'galanterie' - ensuring that they will not be seen or overheard:   Jonson, Cynthia's Revels, Act II. Scene III.

Amorphus, Asotus, Cos, Prosaites, Cupid. Mercury.

COme Sir. You are now within regard of the Pre-
sence, and see, the privacy of this Room, how
sweetly it offers it self to our retir'd intendments. Page,
cast a vigilant, and enquiring Eye about, that we be
not rudely surpriz'd, by the approach of some ruder

Cos. I warrant you, Sir. I'll tell you when the Wolf
enters, fear nothing.

Mer. O, what a mass of benefit shall we possess, in be-
ing the invisible Spectators of this strange Show now to
be acted.

Amo. Plant your self there, Sir: and observe me. You
shall now, as well be the Ocular, as the Ear-witness,
how clearly I can refel that paradox, or rather pseudodox;
of those, which hold the Face to be the Index of the
mind, which (I assure you) is not so, in any politick
Creature: for instance; I will now give you the parti-
cular, and distinct face of every your most noted species
of Persons, as your Merchant, your Schollar, your
Soldier, your Lawyer, Courtier, &c. and each of these
so truly, as you would swear, but that your Eye shall
see the variation of the Lineament, it were my most
proper and genuine aspect... (snip)

Sociability, Cartesianism, and Nostalgia in Libertine Discourse
Elena Russo

...When the petit-maître Versac, in Crébillon's Les Egarements du coeur et de l'esprit, decides to take under his wing the young and inexperienced Meilcour, in order to initiate him to the social game of galanterie, he is careful to choose a secluded spot where their conversation will not be disturbed. Their dialogue demands not only tranquillity but also secrecy.


Versac dazzles Meilcour from their first meeting with his perfect command of his social persona: he displays the sense of ease and naturalness that is recommended by all the classical theoreticians of sociability, from Castiglione, to Méré, to La Rochefoucauld, to name just a few: "Coolly likable and always pleasing, both by the content and by the new turn he gave to the things he said, he lent an unexpected charm to the stories he related after others, and nobody was able to relate after him the stories of his own invention. He had composed the charms of his body and those of his mind and was able to appropriate those unique attractions that can be neither imitated nor defined . . . It seemed that such easy impertinence was a gift that nature had bestowed upon him only. Nobody could resemble him.  Thanks to his command of body and language, Versac has mastered an art de plaire which lies in a renewed effect of surprise and a capacity to be creative with his own self: everything he says and does has a "tournure neuve" and a "charme nouveau." His "heureuse impertinence" corresponds to Castiglione's noble "sprezzatura," the art of doing everything as if it came naturally. In a language deeply indebted to classical aesthetics, Meilcour evokes Versac's "grâces" and "agréments," which cannot be imitated because the effect of surprise they create is endlessly renewed and always different. In his undefinable power of seduction, the libertine is the direct heir of the seventeenth-century honnête homme, whose capacity to please is both the natural gift of his aristocratic nature and the product of a hidden art, both concurring to create a charm, a je-ne-sais-quoi that cannot be analyzed because it knows no rules and no codification. The language of the libertine is indebted to the seventeenth-century reflection on sociability. His discourse makes constant reference to "honnêteté," "bienséance" and the authority of established "usage." And yet, the libertine spirit is in many respects the very antithesis of the ideal of honnêteté.

In the classical reflection on honnêteté, social virtues are seen as universal; they are both rooted in nature and in the norms and practices of the community of honnêtes gens, whose values are represented as universal. This community finds its unity in a shared language and norms that are at once perfectly "natural" and perfectly coded. They are natural because they are supposed to conform to nature and create an effect of spontaneity, but they are also coded, since "nature" itself is nothing but an ideal model sanctioned by the rules of vraisemblance and bienséance, the content of which is defined, in its turn, by the community of honnêtes gens. 7 The honnête subject thus finds his or her expression in the miraculous correspondence between his or her own "naturel" and the ideal model he or she strives to conform to. Honnêteté strikes a balance between the "private" aristocratic self (already socialized through and through) and the public, idealized language of the community. For Méré honnêteté is universal because it is based on reason: "True honnêteté . . . is nothing if not just and reasonable in every part of the world, because it is universal and its manners belong to every court, from one end of the earth to the other . . . Changes in space, revolutions in time and differences in custom take nothing away from it." (snip)

Stoicism is not unique to the eighteenth-century libertine; Méré's honnête homme, his predecessor, displayed a similar stoic awareness of the theatrical nature of social roles. Here is what he says in his essay "Le commerce du monde": "I am convinced that on many occasions it is useful to consider what we do as a comedy, and to imagine that we are playing a character on the stage. That prevents us from taking things too much at heart and gives us a freedom of language and action that we do not have when we are preoccupied and troubled by fear." 16 However, Méré's metaphor of the theater does not have the same value it has in Versac's discourse. For Méré, role playing does not involve thwarting and repressing the self, but only aims at protecting it. The Latin motto adopted by the erudite libertines, Intus ut libet, foris ut  moris est (inside as if free, outside as if bound by custom) 17 applies to the honnête homme as well, since it prescribes a critical attitude towards social forms and an inner freedom for the self that should keep it from becoming too dependent on the community whose norms it professes to follow. However, the libertine honnête homme is not a mere hypocrite, because even though he tries to see himself as playing a role, the role he plays is his own: act thyself is the necessary complement of be thyself. "The heart is no less necessary than the mind to the activities of polite society because society is not an empty appearance like the theater, but always involves some real sentiment," writes Méré in the same passage. 18 The metaphor of the theater has therefore a double function in the discourse of honnêteté. On the one hand, it reveals a desire to preserve critical distance and inner freedom, on the other, it indicates a belief in the necessity to mold and fashion the private self for the sake of its public appearance. The latter point needs some explanation. Acting one's own "real" character allows the honnête homme to channel his true nature along the path prescribed by the rules of bienséance, to present an aesthetically more appealing version of himself. In the words of Méré I just quoted, acting gives "freedom" from troubling feelings such as "crainte et inquiétude," which make a person awkward and unfit to appear in public. In the discourse of honnêteté, ethics merges with aesthetics, and the true criterion of moral behavior is a capacity to please; one's own natural disposition has therefore to be worked on, it has to be molded into an acceptable form. It is important to understand that seventeenth-century writers of sociability all try to strike a fragile balance between unhewn nature and a preestablished ideal model of behavior embodied in the rules of bienséance; all their efforts go at reconciling the two. In his essay "De l'air et des manières," La Rochefoucauld judges the socialized self in the same way as he would a work of art: there has to be a "harmony" between one's attitude, gestures, tone, and one's thoughts and feelings. The metaphor he uses is borrowed from music: "The reason why we often displease is that nobody knows how to make one's manners and air conform to one's countenance, one's tone with one's thoughts and sentiments. We disturb their harmony by something false and unfamiliar . . . nobody has an ear attuned enough to hear perfectly that sort of cadence."  Taste replaces moral judgment about the self: the accomplished honnête homme manages to balance and harmonize the different parts of his self, and creates, by the same token, a pleasing social persona.


Cynthia's Revels, Act II, Scene II

Hedon. I have ruminated upon a most rare wish too, and

the Prophesie to it, but I'll have some friend to be the
Prophet; as thus: I do wish my self one of my Mistresse's
cioppini. Another demands, Why would he be one of his
Mistresse's cioppini? A third answers, Because he would
make her higher. A fourth shall say, That will make her
proud. And a fifth shall conclude: Then do I prophocie
pride will have a fall, and he shall give it her.

Anaides. I'll be your Prophet. By Gods so, it will be
most exquisite; thou art a fine inventious Rogue, Sirrah.

Hed. Nay, an' I have poesies for Rings too, and riddles
that they dream not of.

Ana. Tut, they'll do that, when they come to sleep
on 'em, time enough: but were thy devices never in the
Presence yet, Hedon?

Hed. O, no, I disdain that.

Ana. 'Twere good we went afore then, and brought
them acquainted with the room where they shall act,
lest the strangeness of it put them out of countenance,
when they should come forth.

Cupid (note- looking on). Is that a Courtier too?

Mercury. Troth no; he has two essential parts of the
Courtier, Pride, and Ignorance; marry, the rest come
somewhat after the ordinary Gallant. 'Tis Impudence it
self, Anaides; one that speaks all that comes in his
Cheeks, and will blush no more than a sackbut. He
lightly occupies the Jesters room at the Table, and keeps
Laughter, Gelaia (a Wench in Pages attire) following
him in place of a Squire, whom he now and then
tickles with some strange ridiculous stuff, utter'd (as his
Land came to him) by chance. He will censure or
discourse of any thing, but as absurdly as you would
wish. His fashion is not to take knowledg of him that is
beneath him in Cloaths. He never drinks below the
salt. He do's naturally admire his Wit that wears
Gold-lace, or Tissue. Stabs any Man that speaks more
contemptibly of the Schollar than he. He is a great
proficient in all the illiberal Sciences, as cheating, drink-
ing, swaggering, whoring, and such like: never kneels
but to pledg Healths, nor prays but for a Pipe of Pud-
ding-tabacco. He will blaspheme in his Shirt. The
Oaths which he vomits at one Supper, would maintain
a Town of Garrison in good swearing a Twelve-month.
One other genuine quality he has, which Crowns all
these, and that is this: to a Friend in want, he will not
depart with the weight of a sodred Groat, lest the World
might censure him Prodigal, or report him a Gull:
marry, to his Cockatrice, or Punquetto, half a dozen
Taffata Gowns, or Sattin Kirtles, in a pair or two of
Months, why they are nothing.


...No rotten talke brokes for a laugh; no page
Commenc'd man by th'instructions of thy stage;
No bargaining line there; no provoc'tive verse;
Nothing but what Lucretia might rehearse;
No need to make good count'nance ill, and use
The plea of strict life for a looser Muse:
No Woman rul'd thy quill: we can descry
No verse borne under any Cynthia's eye:
Thy Starre was Judgement onely, and right sense,
Thy selfe being to thy selfe an influence.
Stout beauty is thy grace: Sterne pleasures do
Present delights, but mingle horrours too:
thy Muse doth thus like Joves fierce girle appeare,
With a faire hand, but grasping of a Speare...

William Cartwright, Jonsonus Virbius

Jonson, on Shakespeare

He was (indeed) honest, and of
an open, and free nature: had an excellent
fancy; brave notions, and gentle expressions:
wherein he flowed with that facility, that
sometime it was necessary he should be
STOP'D: sufflaminandus erat; as Augustus said
of Haterius. His wit was in his own power;
would the RULE of it had been so too."

Jonson, then Cartwright Ruled Shakespeare's Quill:

From 'To the Deceased Author of these Poems' (William Cartwright)
by Jasper Mayne

...And as thy Wit was like a Spring, so all
The soft streams of it we may Chrystall call:
No cloud of Fancie, no mysterious stroke,
No Verse like those which antient Sybils spoke;
No Oracle of Language, to amaze
The Reader with a dark, or Midnight Phrase,
Stands in thy Writings, which are all pure Day,
A cleer, bright Sunchine, and the mist away.
That which Thou wrot'st was sense, and that sense good,
Things not first written, and then understood:
Or if sometimes thy Fancy soar'd so high
As to seem lost to the unlearned Eye,
'Twas but like generous Falcons, when high flown,
Which mount to make the Quarrey more their own.

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. (snip)


An Essay on Criticism - Alexander Pope


Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend;
From vulgar bounds with brave DISORDER PART,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of Art,
Which, without passing thro' the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its end at once attains.


But tho' the ancients thus their RULES invade,
(As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made)
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end;
Let it be seldom, and compell'd by need;
And have at least their precedent to plead;
The Critic else proceeds without remorse,
SEIZES YOUR FAME, and puts his laws in force.

Jonson withholding Fame:

Cartwright, William, Jonsonus Virbius

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