Monday, November 10, 2014

Soul of a Luxurious Age

How much did Oxford have to do with setting the elegant and refined tone of the Elizabethan court? Later in life Oxford would write that he had trusted in the Queen's promises and had been led on to 'presume in his expenses'. Older and broke, Oxford appears to have been set aside, both politically and personally.

I identify Oxford with 'Amorphus' of 'Cynthia's Revels' - a character who is portrayed by Jonson as silly and affected - afflicted with the vice of self-love. A character who is also rather out of date. There is a particular line spoken by this character that had appeared in a dedicatory poem written by John Southern to the Earl of Oxford in Southern's Pandora - a line that proved to be contentious/questionable enough to be included as an example of a literary vice in Puttenham's Art of Poesie (Ch XXII). That Amorphus parrots this line to describe himself is characteristic of his purported silly nature - he has mistaken flattering words for the truth about himself.

Jonson, _Cynthia's Revels_.

AMORPHUS. And there's her minion, Crites: why his advice more than
Amorphus? Have I not invention afore him? Learning to better
that INVENTION above him? and INFANTED with PLEASANT TRAVEL -- 

If the masculine plain style began to be adopted as a strategy to gain political legitimacy (by adopting 'courtly' variants of aristocratic republican mores) - then can the high chivalric style of the Elizabethan court have been a strategy as well? Courtiers adopted the pose of love-struck admirers charmed by the beauty and intelligence of a queen. Steven May suggests that Oxford was the primary mover behind the adoption of the lyric style at court - was this part of a strategy to legitimize a female ruler - and more importantly, was the Cult of Elizabeth/Fairy Land created and enforced to buttress an eroded Tudor legitimacy?

Presumably while Queen Elizabeth was alive it would have been difficult to openly target effeminacy as a sign of political illegitimacy. But once James came to the throne there was no longer any incentive to protect the realm of the feminine when it came to political discourse. In his advice to his son Prince Henry, James counseled his son on striking a balance between royal elegance and manly bravery - while cautioning him against any sign of affectation - because this would invite 'contempt' - which is 'the mother of rebellion' (Kuchta).

So I am toying with the idea of  Oxford as one of the architects of an admirable/wonderful style that supported the Elizabethan regime (e.g. his letter to Burleigh after the events of the Bartholomew Massacre) - only to be cast aside as outmoded and even corrupted as times changed. 

In this line of reasoning Oxford takes the role of court scapegoat and his extravagant and now politically unfashionable but still popular Book/Heir was orphaned. Eventually, as the opponents of the court became more organized and vocal, King Charles himself would be personally attacked in much the same contemptuous manner as the more vulnerable Oxford had been; Charles's Royal Image was bewrayed with suggestions of extravagance, deformity, idleness, luxury, corruption, and effeminacy. Contempt, the 'mother of rebellion' that Charles's father had warned of, perhaps even the same contempt that had fueled the Essex rebellion - had lifted its head yet again. The array of signs that signified a corrupt court and king became openly linked to the master image that these signs/symptoms pointed towards in classical literature - tyranny. 

For years now I have linked the image of Charles's defacement/beheading at Whitehall - by his virtuous enemies - with the figural defacement of the Earl of Oxford by the Droeshout Deformity at the front of the First Folio. 

In the context of rebellion, the republican Milton's description of 'Shakespeare's Book' as being the 'closet companion' of King Charles during his incarceration suggests that 'Shakespeare' might bear a political signification that is not normally associated with the Folio. Since Milton makes mention of Shakespeare in his 'Eikonoklastes' - a book created for the purpose of smashing the image of the King that the King had attempted to construct in his own Book - The Eikon Basilike - 'Shakespeare's Book' could be thought to take on the role of a corrupt counsellor of sorts - one who advised the King during his imprisonment. Perhaps even assisting him to form his own corrupt book - Eikon Basilike.

And of course in this view Hamlet is not autobiographical. The militant Protestant and providentialist Hamlet is more English Seneca than English Ovid (or even English Cicero), and certainly seems to be one who would rather pull on dark English wool than foreign silk. Hamlet is a master of the reformers' contempt for court culture - and his increasingly dark and often unsubstantiated beliefs about his family, his childhood friends and the principal courtiers of the Danish court bring havoc, death and loss of sovereignty to the court of Denmark.

After all, who besides Hamlet, Horatio and the others who were sworn to secrecy by Hamlet ever knew that Claudius had murdered his brother? The court cries 'Treason' when Hamlet stabs the King. Hamlet is a mannerist play, a play of many perspectives - and if we set aside the antic and attention hogging Hamlet (even for a moment) can we better sympathize with the perspectives and sensibilities of the other characters in the play? The victims of Hamlet's contempt and confusion - and his strange belief and arrogant belief that he is a divinely appointed scourge of vice?

Was it necessary to destroy not just the lives but the souls of his childhood friends Rosenkrantz und Gildensterne? No shriving time allowed? His friends who were serving a king whom they believed to be legitimate?

But such are Hamlet's persuasive powers. We condone any atrocity. Polonius did not know of Claudius's guilt - he was not a sycophantic and corrupt counsellor. He was a beloved and respected man who thought he counseled a legitimate ruler.

Go not to Wittenberg. Wittenberg (and Melanchthon) have changed you.


1581 - Oxford as the 'Knight of the Tree of the Sun'

..From forth this Tent came the noble Earle of Oxenford in rich gilt Armour, and sate down vnder a great high Bay-tree, the whole stocke, branches and leaues whereof, were all gilded ouer, that nothing but Gold could be discerned. [ . . . ] After a solemne sound of most sweet Musique, he mounted on his Courser, verie richly caparasoned, whe[n] his page ascending the staires where her Highnesse stood in the window, deliuered to her by speech [his] Oration ….


Kuchta, The Three Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity

(Chapter - The Old Sartorial Regime)

Moderation was a 'golden mediocrity, 'the via media between covetousness and lavishness, the moral and economic virtue of living within one's means. Moderation meant sumptuary stability: Virtue is never extravagant and underdetermined," wrote the author of the The Courtier's Calling; "as being perfect, it derives its rules from mediocrity, and to take it rightly, it is mediocrity itself. Avarice and prodigality are two vicious extremes, liberality the medium is a virtue." Moderation, of course, was a relative term, one that stood uneasily between modesty and prodigality, simplicity and extravagance. Effeminacy was found not in display and adornment, but in excess, in expenditure and display beyond one's means. Properly used, the material sign should bring grace and dignity; improperly used, materiality might lead to debauchery and sensuality. There was thus a fine and invisible line - termed moderation - between the proper and improper use of signs. (pp 26-27)

Linguistic and sartorial vices are linked - a question of manners/mores:



...In short, whenever you notice that a DEGENERATE STYLE pleases the critics, you may be sure that character also has deviated from the right standard. Just as luxurious banquets and elaborate dress are indications of disease in the state, similarly a lax style, if it be popular, shows that the mind (which is the source of the word) has lost its balance. Indeed you ought not to wonder that corrupt speech is welcomed not merely by the more squalid mob but also by our more cultured throng; for it is only in their dress and not in their judgments that they differ. You may rather wonder that not only the effects of vices, but even vices themselves, meet with approval. For it has ever been thus: no man's ability has ever been approved without something being pardoned. Show me any man, however famous; I can tell you what it was that his age forgave in him, and what it was that his age purposely overlooked. I can show you many men whose vices have caused them no harm, and not a few who have been even helped by these vices. Yes, I will show you persons of the highest reputation, set up as models for our admiration; and yet if you seek to correct their errors, you destroy them; for vices are so intertwined with virtues that they drag the virtues along with them. (SNIP)

Some individual makes these vices fashionable - some person who controls the eloquence of the day; the rest follow his lead and communicate the habit to each other.

There was thus a fine and invisible line - termed moderation - between the proper and improper use of signs. -- Kuchta

De Shakespeare Nostrat 1

  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. Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him: “Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.” He replied: “Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause; and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.

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)

I had not told posterity this but for their IGNORANCE, who chose that circumstance to *COMMEND* their friend by wherein he most faulted -- Jonson on Shakespeare

Cartwright, to Jonson (in 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,

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
THY thoughts were their owne Lawrell, and did win
That best applause of being crown'd within.. 

The *COMMENDATION* of good things may fall within a many,  their approbation but in a few· for the most *COMMEND* OUT OF AFFECTION,  selfe tickling, an easinesse, or imitation: but MEN iudge only out of KNOWLEDGE. That is the trying faculty. -- Ben Jonson

Ruling/Restraining/Holding Shakespeare's Extravagant Quill:

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

... 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)

Jonson struggled against the 'Opinions of the Age' which clearly went with Shakespeare:

Soul of the AGE! - (Soul of an Ignorant Age)

Dedication to Catiline - acted 1611

To the Great Example of H O N O U R and V E R T U E, the most Noble
E A R L of P E M B R O K E , L O R D C H A M B E R L A I N, &c.
M Y L O R D,

IN so thick and dark an IGNORANCE, as now almost covers the AGE, I crave leave to stand near your Light, and by that to be read. Posterity may pay your Benefit the Honour and Thanks, when it shall know, that you dare, in these Jig-given times, to countenance a Legitimate Poem. I must call it so, against all noise of OPINION: from whose crude and airy Reports, I appeal to that great and singular Faculty of Judgment in your Lordship, able to vindicate Truth from Error.

Verba over Res:

 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.



{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. 


DE VERE argutis? DE VERE's Wit? A Pun?

De corruptela morum -- There cannot be one colour of the mind; another of the WIT If the mind be staid, grave, and composed, the WIT is so; that vitiated, the other is blown, and deflowered. Do we not see, if the mind languish, the members are dull? Look upon an effeminate person: his very gait confesseth him. If a man be fiery, his motion is so; if angry, 'tis troubled, and violent. So that we may conclude wheresoever manners, and fashions are corrupted, language is. It imitates the public riot. The EXCESS of feasts, and apparel, are the notes of a sick state; and the wantonness of language, of a sick mind. -- Jonson
(Jonson, Discoveries 1171)

Curiousity/Sick Mind/Distemper of Learning:

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...


Reforming the Old Poetic Regime:

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 - 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. 


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.

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." 

Philip Sidney and the Poetics of Renaissance Cosmopolitanism

 By Professor Robert E Stillman

It is the logic...that explains the intense affection existing between Languet as an aging Burgundian at the twilight of a ruined career and the young, English Sidney, ripe with the expectation of a brilliant future. The two are united by a love of virtue, that all-encompassing abstraction that figures inside the correspondence [between Sidney and Languet] as shorthand in its public and political implications for love of the cause.

Inside this economy of virtue, friendship is the theme most readily accommodated to Languet's principal preoccupation, educating Sidney in the knowledge of himself. For a Philippist of Languet's disposition and training, convinced that friendship is intimately tied to the communication of duties, the transition from one theme to the other, from friendship to identity, is easily accomplished, since the pursuit of duty (named alternatively virtue, excellence, or the way of salvation) defines who and what one is. In an earlier letter, Languet tells Sidney of his hope of befriending him to "those men and admire excellence in any man whatsoever, since I had no doubt that by your behaviour you would readily be able to win their favor." Languet's idealization of the young Philip is rhetorically purposeful. Sidney is both praised and held accountable to the judgment of that community of "friends" to which Languet has dedicated his life. he adds that Sidney should always succeed in having such friends "provided that you do not swerve from yourself or become a different man."(4 December 1573)

Similar reflections on his pupil's success is cultivating friends lead to similar remarks about selfhood in another early letter. "My dear boy, as long as you do not swerve from yourself, nowhere will you be without good men to show you affection and courtesy." Piously and paternally, Languet elaborates on this idealized version of Sidney's self when he writes: "And if in early manhood your virtue bears such sweet fruit, what do you think will happen after twenty or thirty years, if you adhere steadfastly to your excellent intentions?" (26 Feb 1574). Sidney's self is idealized, here as elsewhere in the correspondence, as a self-in-the-making, a self whose excellence depends on fulfilling future expectations. That self, again, is dynamic and expansive, necessarily subject to change, even as (amidst these changes) it discovers the constancy of its own nature. Once more, as Languet is at pains to indicate throughout the early letters, his future expectations (about the changes that will make him who he truly is) proceed from divine providence: "God has bestowed mental powers on you which I do not believe have fallen to anyone else I know, and he has done so...for you to put them in the service of your country, and of all good men." Sidney is merely "the steward" of this gift," those mental powers providentially granted for the service of his country and all good men, or to shift metaphors for the sake of clarifiying the point, Sidney is merely an actor in a drama scripted by God (11 June 1574).

In contrast to this studied representation of Sidney's idealized self, Languet writes with increasing frequency during the early correspondence about another, very different Philip Sidney - a Sidney too easily seduced by pleasure, luxury, ease and what his mentor refers to most often as idleness. As a Philippist, aware that salvation can be lost, that David the psalmist is also David the adulterer and murderer, Languet has fears about change as well. In the letters that date from the period of Sidney's stay on the Continent, there are occasional references to his suspect pleasure in "lingering" too long in Italy, and constant complaints about his "negligence" as a correspondent. The volume of complaints about idleness echoes still more loudly in the later correspondence as Sidney returns to England in late 1575. As early as September, disturbed by the infrequency of his letters, Languet is already warning him to "shun that vile Siren, Idleness!" His choice of mythologies speaks to the nature of his fears: that the young heroic Philip will be seduced from his quest for what Languet elsewhere calls service to his country and all good men. It may be that Languet has real anxiety about Sidney's taste for pleasure, and the potential sinfulness (particularly for young men) associated with such a taste. (After all, as a Philippist, Languet was schooled in Melanchthon's reading of the fall and his distinctive emphasis on Adam's original sin as an instance, simultaneously, of self-love and indolence.) More prominent, however, are Languet's fears about Sidney's continued devotion to the cause. A letter from August begins by threatening to blame his "weakness of spirit and love of leisure" should he cease "to cherish" eloquent accomplishments. It ends by detailing the threats of the Spanish and the Italians against "those in France and the Low Countries who profess the reformed faith," concluding with the warning: "and once they are overwhelmed, I do not know how long you will be allowed to enjoy your luxurious idleness." (13 August, 1575). Idleness is such a dangerous siren because by threatening to seduce Sidney from his love of the cause, it threatens what Languet alludes to as his pupil's divinely appointed story, his providentially appointed future and self: "Do not think that God bestowed so fine a mind upon you for you to let it decay through disuse; but believe instead that he demand more of you than of others to whom he has been less generous." (3 Dec 1575)
Languet's letters summon Sidney to assume his providentially appointed role within what he represents as urgent historical drama, to employ his "virtue," as one early letter has it, as the salvation both of himself and his country. (5 March 1574). In another, he writes: "see if you do not fail your country in its very grave peril."*

...As  a devotee of the [Protestant] cause, as a teacher and a friend, and as a humanist trained in Philippist oratio, with a belief in the transformative power of words and the Word, Languet seeks to imitate in his letters Sidney's own virtue, so that informed and transformed by that architectonic knowledge of himself, Sidney can pass from well-knowing to well-doing in the service of his country and all good men. Invited to read in Languet's correspondence an idealized story of himself as the potential saviour of his country and his cause, to discover in self-knowledge his own devotion to liberty, Sidney is asked to see his life as a salvation narrative, even as a sort of saving fiction.

*Footnote - Sidney's fullest expression of this vision of himself as an actor whose role in the world is scripted by God appears in a letter to Walsingham written shortly before his death at Zutphen. After declaring his "love of the caws," he writes: "I think a wyse and constant man ought never to greev whyle he doth plai as a man mai sai his own part truly...I know there is a hyer power that must uphold me or els I shall fall, but certainly I trust, I shall not by other mens wants be drawn from my self," 24 March 1586

Shakespeare/Venus and Adonis/Idle Hours:

'Vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.'


I KNOW not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden only, if your honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all IDLE HOURS, till I have honoured you with some graver labour. But if the first heir of my invention prove DEFORMED, I shall be sorry it had so noble a god-father, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so BAD a harvest. I leave it to your honourable survey, and your honour to your heart's content; which I wish may always answer your own wish and the world's hopeful expectation.


Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophel and Stella, 72 (1591).
Desire, though thou my old companion art,
And oft so clings to my pure love, that I
One from the other scarcely can descry,
While each doth blow the fire of my heart;
Now from thy fellowship I needs must part,
Venus is taught with Dian's wings to fly:
I must no more in thy sweet passions lie;
Virtue's gold now must head my Cupid's dart.
Service and honor, wonder with delight,
Fear to offend, will worthy to appear,
Care shining in mine eyes, faith in my sprite:
These things are left me by my only dear;
But thou, Desire, because thou wouldst have all,
Now banished art. But yet alas how shall?

Allusions and Distinctions: Pentameter Couplets in Ben Jonson's Epigrams and Forest
Joshua Scodel

The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture
 edited by Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, Ben Burton

...Jonson's fifteen-poem collection[The Forest], by contrast, has nine different schemes, with four poems in his elegiace but none in his epic format. His avoidance of Statius's hexameters implicitly rejects the Roman poet's high style and its associations with decadent Roman luxury. Of Jonson's four poems in elegiac format, "To Penshurst' [Sidney family home] most pointedly avoids Statian hexameters. 'Penshurst' echoes at several junctures Martial's 3.58, which unfavourably contrasts its addressee's showy suburban estate to a productive farm. Yet 'Penshurst' is also indebted to the Silvae's two hexameter celebrations of country villas (1.3, 2.2) for its panegyric of the aristocratic house as a metonym for its owners virtues, and to 2.2 in particular for its praise of the lady of the estate's household management and of the owners' harmonious marriage. While Martial commends a farm's dirty simplicity, Statius in epic tones 'sing[s] with 'wonder' of luxurious 'marvels (1.3.14, 34, 37; 2.2.45), including lavish foreign materials, lofty colonnades, and colossal Greek art. Jonson avoids Martial's dirtiness but aggressively eschews Statian high-style luxury: Penshurst is not 'built to envious show' (l.1) like others' 'proud, ambitious heaps' (l. 101) and has no grandiose features 'whereof tales are told' (l.4). Given Jonson's evocation of Martial's elegiac couplets in his preceding epigrams, Jonson's format encodes his preference for (a sanitized version of ) Martial's epigrammatic praise of simplicity as opposed to Statius's quasi-epic celcbration of luxury.
...Martial may have avoided elegiac couplets in longer epigrams partly because elegiac couplets in extended compositions were strongly associated (as in Statius's Silvae 1.2) with love elegy. In his Amores, Ovid the poet of illicit (adulterous and promiscuous) love describes his elegiac couplets as 'lighter numbers' [numeris levioribus] than epic hexameters (Amores 1.1.19), and has a personified 'light' [levis] Elegy proclaim her fitness for expressing 'light' [levis] - irresponsible, fickle - Cupid (Amores 3.1.41). Jonson's description of Cupid's flight in the Forest's opening poem, 'Why I Write Not of Love' (HSVIII, 93) rewrites Amores 1.1's description of Cupid's forcing Ovid to write of love in elegiac couplets and thereby sets up false expectations that Jonson's Forest will avoid both erotic love and its associated elegiac metre. In a 'Proludium' preserved in manuscript that originally introduced Forest ii, Jonson indeed rejects elegy's 'lighter numbers' and 'wanton feete' as fit on for 'light braines/in whom the flame of every beauty raignes/Such as in lustes wilde forest love to rainge' (l1. 7-9, 11, HS VIII, 108).

To my beloved Master
Shine forth, thou star of poets, and with rage
Or influence, chide or cheer the drooping stage;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volumes light.

Ben Jonson, heroic couplet, elegy, riding rhyme

The Epicureanism of this week's poem, Ben Jonson’s  Inviting a Friend to Supper, serves as a reassuring end-of-holiday reminder that it's not impossible "to eat, drink and be merry" and still get up for work the next day. Ben Jonson’s poem, number 101 (CI) of his Epigrams balances the luxury and liberty of happy home-dining with the classical ideal of restraint.
The whole collection is dedicated to the author's most steadfast patron, William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, and he is the guest to whom Jonson is making his graceful and witty invitation. Others will be present, but the guest who will bring grace to the otherwise worthless supper is William Herbert.


 From To the Deceased Author of these Poems (William Cartwright)

Jasper Mayne

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)

Jonson, Epigams

On Play-wright.

PLay-wright convict of publick Wrongs to Men,
   Takes private Beatings, and begins again.
Two kinds of Valour he doth shew at Ones;
   Active in's Brain, and Passive in his Bones.


Same-sex attitudes and behaviors in ancient Rome often differ markedly  from those of the contemporary West. Latin lacks words that would precisely translate "homosexual" and "heterosexual".The primary dichotomy of ancient Roman sexuality was active/dominant/masculine and passive/submissive/"feminized". Roman society was patriarchal, and the freeborn male citizen possessed political liberty (libertas) and the right to rule both himself and his household (familia). "Virtue" (virtus} was seen as an active quality through which a man (vir) defined himself. The conquest mentality and "cult of virility" shaped same-sex relations. 

X L I X.

To Playwright.

Lay-wright me reads, and still my Verses damns,
   He says I want the Tongue of Epigrams;
I have no Salt: no Baudry he doth mean;
   For Witty, in his language, is obscene.
Play-wright, I loath to have thy Manners known
   In my chast Book: profess them in thine own.

L X V.

To my Muse.

Way, and leave me, thou thing most abhor'd
   That hast betray'd me to a worthless Lord;
Made me commit most fircefierce Idolatry
   To a great Image through thy Luxury.
Be thy next Masters more unlucky Muse,
   And, as thou'hast mine, his Hours, and Youth abuse.
Get him the Times long grudg, the Courts ill will;
   And Reconcil'd, keep him Suspected still.
Make him lose all his Friends; and, which is worse,
   Almost all ways, to any better course.
With me thou leav'st an happier Muse than thee,
   And which thou brought'st me, welcome Poverty.
She shall instruct my After-thoughts to write
   Things manly, and not smelling Parasite.
But I repent me: Stay. Who e're is rais'd,
   For worth he has not, He is tax'd, not prais'd.

Taxing Shakespeare:
Jonson's First Folio encomium - smelling of Parasite. Satura. Feasting Fools.

Smelling Parasite:

 Jonson, Discoveries

De Poetica. - We have spoken sufficiently of oratory, let us now make a diversion to poetry. Poetry, in the primogeniture, had many PECCANT HUMOURS, and is made to have more now, through the levity and inconstancy of men' s judgments. Whereas, indeed, it is the most prevailing eloquence, and of the most exalted caract. Now the discredits and disgraces are many it hath received through men' s study of depravation or calumny; their practice being to give it diminution of credit, by lessening the professor' s estimation, and making THE AGE afraid of their liberty; and THE AGE is grown so tender of her fame, as she calls all writings aspersions.

That is the state word, the PHRASE OF COURT (placentia college), which some call PARASITES PLACE, the INN OF IGNORANCE.


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.'


Titian, poetics and the performance of masculinity Author:Coughlin, Michael Trevor.

By studying several paintings by Venetian artist Tiziano Vicelio, better known as Titian, this thesis explores how the Venetian painter's works resisted the encroaching arrival of a masculine identity and reflected on the ramifications inherent in its performance. I will provide evidence that the contemporary discourses and/or criticisms of artistic production that informed Titian's style allow us to situate his feminized male within both the historical framework of sixteenth-century Venice, and the delicate negotiation of gender that was taking place at the same time. This thesis also situates Titian's works within contemporary literary acknowledgements about the fluidity of gender. I will begin by examining Titian's painting of David and Goliath in the church of Santo Spirito in Venice, as a prelude to my main analysis of the whole cycle. Next I will study his painting of Tarquin and Lucretia, concluding with an evaluation of his enigmatic Il Bravo. I will argue that, using the metaphorical power of contrast in his paintings Titian was highlighting the violent nature of masculinity and the tragic consequences of its performance, while simultaneously offering the image of the feminized male as an exemplar.


Hamlet - 'Speaking daggers' leads to using them.