Monday, July 1, 2013

Shakespeare on Masculinity and the Rejection of Bellicosity

 Although Robin H. Wells' book Shakespeare on Masculinity was published in 2000 I have read it only last week. Very interesting for Wells' take on the polarization of masculine/feminine and the detailed study of 'Shakespeare's' opposition to the bellicose rhetoric of the Sidney-Essex faction. 

I haven't made out a time-line, but the characterization of the Earl of Oxford as effeminate and lacking in warlike ardor certainly goes back to Harvey's 1580 'Speculum Tuscanismi' and his exhortation of the Earl to put away his 'bloodless' books in the 1578 Gratulationes Valdinenses at a time when Harvey was a client of the Earl of Leicester - Sidney's uncle and Essex's step-father.

IMO, the violent rhetoric and bellicose character of Hamlet makes him more recognizable as a figure of Protestant militancy than a representation of the character of Edward de Vere. 

This book also elaborates upon the bellicose character of Prince Henry and the environment that Oxford's heir Henry de Vere must have been exposed to as he was raised as the companion of the Prince. (Abraham Holland's decision to have Henry de Vere met in Elysium by the ghost of Sidney suggests that Henry may not have had the temperament to honour his own father's literary or personal legacies. ):

Henry de Vere - Militant Protestant, masculine, anti-court:

 from (AN ELEGIE VPON THE DEATH OF THE RIGHT NOBLE and Magnanimous Heroë, HENRY Earle of Oxford, Viscount Bulbec, Lord Samford, and Lord great Chamberlaine of England.

WHO SICKENED IN SERVICE OF HIS KING and Countrie, in defence of the States. And died at the Hagh in Holland. Aprill 1625.

...He [Henry de Vere] sought no new-made Honours in the Tide
Of favour, but was borne the same he di'de.
Nor came he to the Elysium with shame
That the old VERES did blush to heare his Name
Brighter than theirs: where his deserts to grace
His Grand-fathers rose up and gave him place,
And set him with the Heroës, where the Quire
Of ayrie Worthies rise up, and admire
The stately Shade: those Brittish Ghosts which long
Agoe were number'd in th'Elysian throng
Ioy to behold him; SYDNEY threw his Bayes
On OXFORDS head, and daign'd to sing his praise;
While Fame with silver Trumpet did keepe time
With his high Voice, and answered his rime.

The soft inticements of the Court, the smiles
Of Glorious Princes the bewitching wiles
Of softer Ladies, and the Golden State
That in such places doth on Greatnesse waite
And all the shadie happinesse which seemes
To attend Kings and follow Diadems
Were Boy-games to his minde: to see a Maske
And sit it out, he held a greater taske
Than to endure a Siege: to wake all Night
In his cold armour, still expecting fight
And the drad On-set, the sad face of feare,
And the pale silence of an Army, were
His best Delights; among the common rout
Of his rough Souldiers to sit hardnesse out
Were his most pleasing Delicates: to him
A Batter'd Helmet was a Diadem:
And wounds, his Brauerie: Knowing that Fame
And faire Eternitie could neuer claime
Their Meeds without such Hazards:


Harvey, Gratulationes Valdinenses, 1578 - Latin Address to the Earl of Oxford:

...Up, great Earl, you must feed that hope of courage. It befits a man to keep the horrid arms of Mars busy even in peace; " 'Tis wise to accustom oneself", and "Use is worth everything". You, O you can be most mighty! Though there be no war, still warlike praise is a thing of great nobility; the name of Leader suits the great. It is wise to watch for effects and to see what threatens beforehand, like the prince who in time of peace strolling the fields with his family: "Tell me (he said), if the enemy were to hold this hill or maybe that hump, what would you do? Which of you’d be better protected? Which side would have the honor to win on its right? In what manner would you attack? With what strategies would you advance? Which is our safest position? Which is unsafe for them? If retreat's the thing, if delay, if force or impetuosity, whence would show our best escape or entry? Suppose these humps here or these streams were in the way; here hostile cities and troops of the enemy opposed you: many are the chances, the uncertain dangers of wars! Battles are doubtful; everything has to be anticipated in the mind first; neither our advantages nor disadvantages should seem to have been poorly explored. Tell me, what would you do? what occurs to you, my good Pyrrhus? What to you, veteran? You speak sagely, but the thing is difficult. But pluck up, Fortune favors the brave. The only fear is lest the enemy should judge by those documents of your leisure; we should do cunningly whatever we approach. May God favor so great daring, but let us imitate that god who looks in both directions."


O Earl, O Hero, more courageous than Pyrrhus himself, you too meditate such thoughts. Better things can befall and will befall you. The greatest pleasure in peace is to occupy your mind with camps, skirmishes, and warlike shields, to deal in destructive balls and dire missiles. And I warn you to be awake; you, with Mars and Mercury propitious, may combine the merits of the camp and city. Where your great courage calls you, go, with lucky foot! Be indulgent, I pray: whosoever asks to surpass what you now do, by inciting you to acts foretells and approves them. It was that I might not seem to have talked and said nothing, and that my "Hail" might be somewhat more congenial to you, that I chose material to suit such ardor as yours. Would that the land would salute you in the same tones; how, great-hearted Hero, you ought to save yourself for war and return safe to mother Peace! That is the care of men in command; that agrees with Nobility.

Shakespeare on Masculinity - Robin Headlam Wells

Masculinity was a political issue in early-modern England. Phrases such as ‘courage-masculine’ or ‘manly virtue’ took on special meaning. As used by members of the Sidney-Essex faction, and later by admirers of the bellicose young Prince of Wales, they signified commitment to the ideals of militant Protestantism. Diplomacy and compromise were disparaged as ‘feminine’.

   Shakespeare on Masculinity is an original study of the way Shakespeare's plays engage with a subject that provoked bitter public dispute. Robin Headlam Wells argues that Shakespeare took a sceptical view of the militant-Protestant cult of heroic masculinity. Following a series of portraits of the dangerously charismatic warrior-hero, Shakespeare turned at the end of his writing career to a different kind of leader. If the heroes of the martial tragedies evoke a Herculean ideal of manhood, The Tempest portrays a ruler who, Orpheus-like, uses the arts of civilization to bring peace to a divided world.

The Tempest and the importance of 'thaumaturgical' kingship? 


Edward de Vere to Robert Cecil, April 27, 1603- 

...I cannot but find a great grief in myself to remember the mistress which we have lost, under whom both you and myself from our greenest years have been in a manner brought up and, although it hath pleased God after an earthly kingdom to take her up into a more permanent and heavenly state wherein I do not doubt but she is crowned with glory, and to give us a prince wise, learned and enriched with all virtues, yet the long time which we spent in her service we cannot look for so much left of our days as to bestow upon another, neither the long acquaintance and kind familiarities wherewith she did use us we are not ever to expect from another prince, as denied by the infirmity of age and common course of reason. In this common shipwreck, mine is above all the rest who, least regarded though often comforted of all her followers, she hath left to try my fortune among the alterations of time and chance, either without sail whereby to take the advantage of any prosperous gale or with anchor to ride till the storm be overpast. There is nothing therefore left to my comfort but the excellent virtues and deep wisdom wherewith God hath endued our new master and sovereign Lord, who doth not come amongst us as a stranger but as a natural prince, succeeding by right of blood and inheritance, not as a conqueror but as the true shepherd of Christ's flock to cherish and comfort them.


 ‘Male deformities’: Narcissus and the Reformation of Courtly Manners in Cynthia’s Revels

in Ovid & the Renaissance Body

By Goran V Stanivukovic
Mario Digangi


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

The Faerie Queen; disposed into Twelve Books, fashioning XII moral Virtues. (T. Keightley)
The British Quarterly Review 44 (Oct 1855): 368-412.  

...The character of the Earl of Oxford, Sir Philip Sydney's rival and enemy, is certainly given in that of the ape at court [in Spenser's Mother Hubberd's Tale]. His dainty attire, his skill in tilting and dancing, his 'fine loving verses,' together with his profligate habits and his sceptical notions, must have pointed him out to the most superficial reader, as clearly as the following character of

'The brave courtier in whose beauteous thought
Regard of honor harbours more than aught,'

points at 'all-accomplished Sydney.'


 A Speech according to Horace. --Ben Jonson

...And could (if our great Men would let their Sons
Come to their Schools,) show 'em the use of Guns.
And there instruct the noble English Heirs
In Politick, and Militar Affairs;
But he that should perswade, to have this done
For Education of our Lordings; Soon
Should he hear of Billow, Wind, and Storm,
From the Tempestuous Grandlings, who'll inform
Us, in our bearing, that are thus, and thus,
Born, bred, allied? what's he dare tutor us?
Are we by Book-worms to be aw'd? must we
Live by their Scale, that dare do nothing free?
Why are we Rich, or Great, except to show
All licence in our Lives? What need we know?
More then to praise a Dog? or Horse? or speak
The Hawking Language? or our Day to break
With Citizens? let Clowns, and Tradesmen breed
Their Sons to study Arts, the Laws, the Creed:
We will believe like Men of our own Rank,
In so much Land a year, or such a Bank,
That turns us so much Monies, at which rate
Our Ancestors impos'd on Prince and State.
Let poor Nobility be vertuous: We,
Descended in a Rope of Titles, be
From Guy, or Bevis, Arthur, or from whom
The Herald will. Our Blood is now become,
Past any need of Vertue. Let them care,
That in the Cradle of their Gentry are;
To serve the State by Councels, and by Arms:
We neither love the Troubles, nor the harms.
What love you then? your Whore? what study? Gate,
Carriage, and Dressing. There is up of late
The ACADEMY, where the Gallants meet ——
What to make Legs? yes, and to smell most sweet,
All that they do at Plays. O, but first here
They learn and study; and then practise there.
But why are all these Irons i' the Fire
Of several makings? helps, helps, t' attire
His Lordship. That is for his Band, his Hair
This, and that Box his Beauty to repair;
This other for his Eye-brows; hence, away,
I may no longer on these PICTURES stay,
These Carkasses of Honour; Taylors blocks,
Cover'd with Tissue, whose prosperity mocks
The fate of things: whilst totter'd Vertue holds
Her broken Arms up, to their EMPTY MOULDS.


Jonson, Cynthia's Revels

Cynthia: Dear Arete, and Crites, to you two
We give the Charge; impose what Pains you please:
Remembring ever what we first decreed,
Since Revels were proclaim'd, let now none bleed.
Arete. How well Diana can distinguish Times,
And sort her Censures, keeping to her self
The Doom of Gods, leaving the rest to us?
Come, cite them, Crites, first, and then proceed.
Then, Crites, practise thy DISCRETION.


The word [discretion] was almost invariably used in Elizabethan England as a means of constructing social, cultural, or aesthetic difference. (David Hillman, Puttenham, Shakespeare, and the abuse of rhetoric).


Jonson's Discretion - Holding/Restraining/Ruling 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)


'Cutting off' Oxford's Book. Was the First Folio published or released by imprisoned Henry de Vere to please the pacifist King James - but divorced from the name/legacy of Vere? Shakespeare's Book was designated by Milton as the companion of King Charles as he awaited execution. Shakespeare a 'courtly' book?

Spenser, Mother Hubberd's Tale

...Such is the rightfull Courtier in his kinde:

But vnto such the Ape lent not his minde;
Such were for him no fit companions,
Such would descrie his lewd conditions:
But the yong lustie gallants he did chose
To follow, meete to whom he might disclose
His witlesse pleasance, and ill pleasing vaine.
A thousand wayes he them could entertaine,
With all the thriftles games, that may be found
With mumming and with masking all around,
With dice, with cards, with balliards farre vnfit,
With shuttlecocks, misseeming manlie wit,
With courtizans, and costly riotize,
Whereof still somewhat to his share did rize:
Ne, them to pleasure, would he sometimes scorne
A Pandares coate (so basely was he borne);
Thereto he could fine louing verses frame,
And play the Poet oft. But ah, for shame
Let not sweete Poets praise, whose onely pride
Is vertue to aduaunce, and vice deride,
Be with the worke of losels wit defamed,
Ne let such verses Poetrie be named:
Yet he the name on him would rashly take,
Maugre the sacred Muses, and it make
A seruant to the vile affection
Of such, as he depended most vpon,
And with the sugrie sweete thereof allure
Chast Ladies eares to fantasies impure.
To such delights the noble wits he led
Which him relieu'd, and their vaine humours fed
With fruitles follies, and vnsound delights.
But if perhaps into their noble sprights
Desire of honor, or braue thoughts of armes
Did euer creepe, then with his wicked charmes
And strong conceipts he would it driue away,
Ne suffer it to house there halfe a day.


Oxford/Shakespeare/Comus (Circean eloquence - making beasts of men)

Milton, John: Comus

118: COMUS enters, with a charming-rod in one hand, his glass in the

119: other: with him a rout of monsters, headed like sundry sorts of
120: wild
121: beasts, but otherwise like men and women, their apparel
122: glistering.
123: They come in making a riotous and unruly noise, with torches in
124: their hands.


127: COMUS. The star that bids the shepherd fold
128: Now the top of heaven doth hold;
129: And the gilded car of day
130: His glowing axle doth allay
131: In the steep Atlantic stream;
132: And the slope sun his upward beam
133: Shoots against the dusky pole,
134: Pacing toward the other goal
135: Of his chamber in the east.
136: Meanwhile, welcome joy and feast,
137: Midnight shout and revelry,
138: Tipsy dance and jollity.
139: Braid your locks with rosy twine,
140: Dropping odours, dropping wine.
141: Rigour now is gone to bed;
142: And Advice with scrupulous head,
143: Strict Age, and sour Severity,
144: With their grave saws, in slumber lie.
145: We, that are of purer fire,
146: Imitate the starry quire,
147: Who, in their nightly watchful spheres,
148: Lead in swift round the months and years.
149: The sounds and seas, with all their finny drove,
150: Now to the moon in wavering morrice move;
151: And on the tawny sands and shelves
152: Trip the pert fairies and the dapper elves.
153: By dimpled brook and fountain-brim,
154: The wood-nymphs, decked with daisies trim,
155: Their merry wakes and pastimes keep:
156: What hath night to do with sleep?
157: Night hath better sweets to prove;
158: Venus now wakes, and wakens Love.
159: Come, let us our rights begin;
160: 'T is only daylight that makes sin,
161: Which these dun shades will ne'er report.
162: Hail, goddess of nocturnal sport,
163: Dark-veiled Cotytto, to whom the secret flame
164: Of midnight torches burns! mysterious dame,
165: That ne'er art called but when the dragon womb
166: Of Stygian darkness spets her thickest gloom,
167: And makes one blot of all the air!
168: Stay thy cloudy ebon chair,
169: Wherein thou ridest with Hecat', and befriend
170: Us thy vowed priests, till utmost end
171: Of all thy dues be done, and none left out,
172: Ere the blabbing eastern scout,
173: The nice Morn on the Indian steep,
174: From her cabined loop-hole peep,

175: And to the tell-tale Sun descry
176: Our concealed solemnity.
178: In a LIGHT FANTASTIC round.


180: The Measure.


182: Break off, break off! I feel the different pace
183: Of some chaste footing near about this ground.
184: Run to your shrouds within these brakes and trees;
185: Our number may affright. Some virgin sure
186: (For so I can distinguish by mine art)
187: Benighted in these woods! Now to my charms,
188: And to my wily trains: I shall ere long
189: Be well stocked with as fair a herd as grazed
190: About my mother Circe. Thus I hurl
191: My dazzling spells into the spongy air,
192: Of power to cheat the eye with blear illusion,
193: And give it false presentments, lest the place
194: And my quaint habits breed astonishment,
195: And put the damsel to suspicious flight;
196: Which must not be, for that's against my course.
197: I, under fair pretence of friendly ends,
198: And well-placed words of glozing courtesy,
199: Baited with reasons not unplausible,
200: Wind me into the easy-hearted man,
201: And hug him into snares. When once her eye
202: Hath met the virtue of this magic dust,
203: I shall appear some harmless villager
204: Whom thrift keeps up about his country gear.
205: But here she comes; I fairly step aside,
206: And hearken, if I may her business hear.

from Anne Lady Southwell:

To my worthy Muse, that doth these lines infuse. the Ladye Ridgway.

 ...For it is as great an error to give purges to one in a consumption, as it is to give cordialls to one in a Repletion. Therefore it is necessarye to knowe how the humor aboundes, that soe wee may the boldlyer applye. then, since all are eyther fooles, or phisitians, to escape the former I will take uppon mee to knowe, what hath so distasted your palate against this banquett of soules, devine Poesye. Some wanton Venus or Adonis hath bene cast before your chast eares, whose evill attyre; disgracing this beautiful Nimph, hath unworthyed her in your opinion and; will you, because you see a man madd, wish yourself without Melancholye, which humour is the hand of all the soules facultyes. All exorbitant thinges are monstrous; but bring them agayne to theyr orbicular forme and; motion, and; they will retayne theyr former beautyes. Our reason ought to bee the stickler in this case. who would not skornefully laugh with Micholl, to see the old Prophett daunce; but when wee knowe hee daunced before the Arke, must wee not thinke the Host of heaven was in exultation with him, as well as that of Jerusalem. To heare a Hero and Leander or some such other busye nothing, might bee a meanes to skandalize this art. But can a cloud disgrace the sunne? will you behold Poesye in perfect beautye. Then, see the kingly Prophett, that sweete singer of Israell, explicating the glorye of our god, his power in creating, his mercye in redeeming, his wisdome in preserving; making these three, as it were the Comma, Colon, and Period to every stanzae. Who would not say, the musicall spheares did yeeld a dadencye in his songe, and; in admiration crye out; O never enough to bee admired, devine Poesye.    


Sidney, Defense of Poesie

Their third is, how much it abuseth mens wit, training it to wanton sinfulnesse, and lustfull love. For indeed that is the principall if not onely abuse, I can heare alleadged. They say the Comedies rather teach then reprehend amorous conceits. They say the Lirick is larded with passionat Sonets, the Elegiack weeps the want of his mistresse and that even to the Heroical, Cupid hath ambitiously climed. Alas Love, I would thou couldest as wel defend thy selfe, as thou canst offend others: I would those on whom thou doest attend, could either put thee away, or yeeld good reason why they keepe thee. But grant love of bewtie to be a beastly fault, although it be verie hard, since onely man and no beast hath that gift to discerne bewtie, graunt that lovely name of love to deserve all hatefull reproches, although even some of my maisters the Philosophers spent a good deale of their Lampoyle in setting foorth the excellencie of it, graunt I say, what they will have graunted, that not onelie love, but lust, but vanitie, but if they will list scurrilitie, possesse manie leaves of the Poets bookes, yet thinke I, when this is graunted, they will finde their sentence may with good manners put the last words foremost; and not say, that Poetrie abuseth mans wit, but that mans wit abuseth Poetrie.


But I have lavished out too many words of this playmatter. I do it, because as they are excelling parts of poesy, so is there none so much used in England, and none can be more pitifully ABUSED; which, like an unmannerly daughter, showing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesy`s HONESTY to be called in question.


From Thomas Moffett's _Nobilis_ or_ A View of the Life and Death of a Sidney_,
dedicated to WILLIAM HERBERT: Jan 1594 (?)

"A few, to be sure, were observed to murmur, and to ENVY him [Sidney] so great
preferment; but they were men without worth or virtue, who considered
the public welfare a matter of indifference- fitter, in truth, to
hold a DISTAFF and CARD WOOL AMONG SERVANT GIRLS than at any time to be
considered as RIVALS by Sidney. For no one ever wished ill to the
honor of the Sidney's except him who wished ill to the commonwealth;
no one ever for forsook Philip except him whom the hope that he might at
some time be honourable had also forsaken; and no one ever injured him
except him for whom virtue and piety had no love. He was never so
incensed, however, by the wrongs of malignant or slanderous men but that at the
slightest sign of penitence the heat of his disturbed spirit would
die down, and he would bury all past offenses under a kind of everlasting
OBLIVION. (p.82 Nobilis (The Noble Man), Moffett)


Spindle/Distaff-side as opposed to Spear-side:

'WIL you handle the spindle with Hercules, when you should SHAKE the SPEARE with Achilles?" Lyly _Campaspe_.