Monday, January 23, 2017

Filth, Obscenity, and Addle Gallants

William Cartwright:

...Shakespeare to thee was dull, whose best jest lyes
I'th Ladies questions, and the Fooles replyes;
Old fashion'd wit, which walkt from town to town
In turn'd Hose, which our fathers call'd the clowne;
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;


Jonson - Epigrams


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 ; I profess them in thine own.


Obscene - Adj.
1590s, "offensive to the senses, or to taste and refinement," from Middle French obscène (16c.), from Latin obscenus "offensive," especially to modesty, originally "boding ill, inauspicious," of unknown origin; perhaps from ob "in front of" (see ob-) + caenum "filth." Meaning "offensive to modesty or decency" is attested from 1590s.

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 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).

Jonson - Poetaster

Whereof the Allegory and hid sense
. Is, that a well erected Confidence
. Can fright their Pride, and laugh their Folly hence.
. Here now, put case our Author should, once more,
. Swear that his Play were good; he doth implore,
. You would not argue him of Arrogance:
. How e're that common Spawn of Ignorance,
. Our fry of Writers may BESLIME his Fame,
. And give his Action that ADULTERATE Name.
. Such full-blown vanity he more doth loath,
. Than base dejection: There's a mean 'twixt both.
. Which with a constant firmness he pursues,
. As one that knows the strength of his own Muse.
. And this he hopes all free Souls will allow;
. Others, that take it with a rugged brow,
. Their Moods he rather pitties than envies:
. His Mind it is above their Iujuries.


 In Memory of Mr. William Cartwright.--John Berkenhead
But Thou art gone: and groveling Trifles crawl
About the World, which but confirm thy Fall.
The Belgick Floud, which drank down fifty Townes,
At dead-low water shews their humble Crowns:
So, since thy flowing Brain ebb'd down to death,
Small Under-witts do shoot up from beneath.
They spread and swarm, as fast as Preachers now,
New, Monthly Poets (and their Pictures too)
Who, like that Fellow in the Moon, look bright,
Yet are but Spots because they dwell in Light.
For thy Imperiall Muse at once defines
Lawes to arraign and brand their weak strong lines,
Unmask's the Goblin-Verse that fright's a page
As when old time brought Devills on the Stage.
Knew the right mark of things, saw how to choose,
(For the great Wit's great work, is to Refuse,)
And smil'd to see what shouldering there is
To follow Lucan where he TROD AMISS.
Thine's the RIGHT METTALL, Thine's still big with Sense,
And stands as square as a good Conscience.
No Traverse lines, all written like a man:
Their Heights are but the Chaff, their Depths the Bran:
Gross, and not Great; which when it best does hit
Is not the strength but Corpulence of Wit:
Stuft, swoln, ungirt: but Thine's compact and bound
Close as the Atomes of a Diamond.
Substance and Frame; Raptures not Phrensies grown;
No Rebel-Wit, which bears its Master down;
But checks the Phansy, tames that Giant's Rage
As he that made huge Afcapart his Page.
Such Law, such Conduct, such Oeconomy,
No Demonstrator walks more steadily.
Nothing of Chance, Thou handled'st Fortune then
As roughly as she now does Vertuous men.
Yet not meer Forme and Posture, built of SLIME;
'Tis Substantive with or without its Rime.
Nor were these drunken Fumes, 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.*
No rotten Phansies in thy Scenes appear;
Nothing but what a Dying man might hear.


Ay, ’twas he that told me on her first.
An honest man he is, and hates the slime
That sticks on filthy deeds.

Jonson - Poetaster

...This 'tis, that strikes me silent, seals my Lips,
And apts me rather to sleep out my time,
Than I would waste it in contemned strifes,
With these VILE IBIDES, these unclean Birds,
That make their Mouths their CLYSTERS, and still purge
From their hot entrails. *But, I leave the MONSTERS
To their own fate*. And, since the Comick Muse
Hath prov'd so ominous to me, I will try
If Tragœdie have a more kind aspect;
Her favours in my next I will pursue,
Where, if I prove the pleasure but of one,
So he judicious be; He shall b' alone
A Theater unto me:


Author: Holland, Abraham, d. 1626.
Title: Naumachia, or Hollands sea-fight Date: 1622

A Caveat to his Muse

You deem it a matter of high worth
To have a fame among 'em: New come forth:
And thinke your chiefe felicity is marr'd
If you be not perch't up in Paules Church-yard
Where men a farre may know you in a trice,
By some new-fangled, brasse-cut Frontispice.
Such book's indeed as now-dayes can passé
Had need to have their FACES made of brasse.(note - see Droeshout engraving)
Is it not then sufficient for you
To stay at home among the residue
Of better sisters: where my dearest Will, (my note - Will Browne?)
And other friends would praise and love thee still:
Him and my other harts-halfes I account
Intire assemblies, and thinke they surmount
A Globe of ADDLE Gallants: I averre
One judging Plato worth a Theater.


"become putrid," hence "be spoiled, be made worthless or ineffective," 1640s (implied in addled), from archaic addle (n.) "urine, liquid filth," from Old English adela "mud, mire, liquid manure" (cognate with East Frisian adel "dung," Old Swedish adel "urine," Middle Low German adel "mud," Dutch aal "puddle").


 From The Life of Mr. George Herbert
by Izaak Walton Cambridge we may find our George Herbert’s behaviour to be such, that we may conclude he consecrated the firstfruits of his early age to virtue, and a serious study of learning. And that he did so, this following Letter and Sonnet, which were, in the first year of his going to Cambridge, sent his dear Mother for a New-year’s gift, may appear to be some testimony.
– "But I fear the heat of my late ague hath dried up those springs, by which scholars say the Muses use to take up their habitations. However, I need not their help to reprove the vanity of those many love-poems, that are daily writ, and consecrated to Venus; nor to bewail that so few are writ, that look towards God and Heaven. For my own part, my meaning dear Mother—is, in these Sonnets, to declare my resolution to be, that my poor abilities in Poetry, shall be all and ever consecrated to God’s glory: and I beg you to receive this as one testimony."

My God, where is that ancient heat towards thee,
Wherewith whole shoals of martyrs once did burn,
Besides their other flames? Doth poetry
Wear Venus' livery? only serve her turn?
Why are not sonnets made of thee? and lays
Upon thine altar burnt? Cannot thy love
Heighten a spirit to sound out thy praise
As well as any she? Cannot thy Dove
Outstrip their Cupid easily in flight?
Or, since thy ways are deep, and still the fame,
Will not a verse run smooth that bears thy name!
Why doth that fire, which by thy power and might
Each breast does feel, no braver fuel choose
Than that, which one day, worms may chance refuse.

Sure Lord, there is enough in thee to dry
Oceans of ink; for, as the Deluge did
Cover the earth, so doth thy Majesty:
Each cloud distills thy praise, and doth forbid
Poets to turn it to another use.
Roses and lilies speak thee; and to make
A pair of cheeks of them, is thy abuse
Why should I women's eyes for crystal take?
Such poor invention burns in their low mind
Whose fire is wild, and doth not upward go
To praise, and on thee, Lord, some ink bestow.
Open the bones, and you shall nothing find
In the best FACE but FILTH; when Lord, in thee
The beauty lies in the discovery. 


Adulterate \A*dul"ter*ate\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Adulterated;

p. pr. & vb. n. Adulterating.] [L. adulteratus, p. p. of
adulterare, fr. adulter adulterer, prob. fr. ad + alter
other, properly one who approaches another on account of
unlawful love. Cf. Advoutry.]

1. To defile by adultery. [Obs.] --Milton.
2. To corrupt, debase, or make impure by an admixture of a
foreign or a baser substance; as, to adulterate food,
drink, drugs, coin, etc.

The present war has . . . adulterated our tongue
with strange words. --Spectator.
Syn: To corrupt; defile; debase; contaminate; vitiate;

Jonson - On the Famous Voyage

...Back, cry'd their Brace of Charons: they cry'd, No,
No going back; on still you Rogues, and row.
How hight the place? A Voice was heard, Cocytus.
Row close then Slaves. Alas, they will beshite us.
No matter, Stinkards, row. What croaking Sound
Is this we hear? Of Frogs? No, Guts Wind-bound,
Over your Heads: Well, row. At this a loud
Crack did report itself, as if a Cloud
Had burst with Storm, and down fell, ab Excelsis,
Poor Mercury, crying out on Paracelsus,
And all his Followers, that had so abus'd him:
And, in so shitten sort, so long had us'd him:
For (where he was the god of Eloquence,
And subtilty of Metals) they dispense
His Spirits, now, in Pills, and eke in Potions,
Suppositories, Cataplasms, and Lotions.


Iago's Clyster:
Purgation, Anality, and the Civilizing Process
Ben Saunders
In this essay I will elaborate a hermeneutic strategy that builds on the hints provided by Iago's attraction to verbal figures of purgation, evacuation, and oral/anal substitution and displacement, as witnessed in this passage. By attending to the neglected (waste) matter of bodily purgation and regulation in this play, I hope not only to say something about early modern anality but also to broaden our sense of its relation to a historically emergent racist vocabulary. In the process I will expand on the (by-now) commonplace notion that Othello generates a good deal of its aesthetic effect, and emotional affect, through "a black/white opposition" that is "built into the play at every level." Assuming the centrality of a related opposition between civilization and barbarism, which I find reinscribed and deconstructed throughout the text, I will suggest that the process of ideological invention whereby "civilized" man is distinguished from his "barbaric" other emerges in Othello quite literally from the sewer. In this account, Iago represents not only a portrait of the villain as anal-retentive artist but also as the Shakespearean figure who expresses the (disavowed) centrality of lower- body functions to the production of "civilized" Christian masculinity-- and who therefore also best reveals the violent, disciplinary force that is the (again, disavowed) foundation of that "civilizing" process.
(snip)    "I cannot imagine any spectator leaving Othello feeling cleansed."Edward Pechter
An excretory précis of the plot of Othello therefore runs as follows: Iago talks shit, pumping pestilence into Othello's ear, literally filling Othello's head with shit, until he believes that his love object smells like shit, and comes to feel that he has actually been smeared with shit--shit that can be washed away only with Desdemona's blood. Then, upon killing her, Othello discovers that he has not removed the stain but has rather become the very substance that soils: along with everything else he touches, Iago has turned Othello into shit.
To conclude by returning briefly to the "clyster-pipes" that initially inspired my inquiry: these pipes may now look more unpleasant than ever, though in the context of the foregoing arguments, their invocation is perhaps less startling. For the entire text of Othello can be read as in some sense the result of Iago's investment in violent evacuation and purgation. Iago--who restores the "natural" order in terms of normative homo-social and racially pure power relations--might even see his actions as analogous to those of the early modern physician, restoring health to what he would consider a diseased body politic, clogged as it is with unhealthful foreign excrements that have risen from the lower extremities, where they belong, to positions of power and authority: "Work on, / My medicine, work!" he cries, as the fit seizes Othello and drives him to his knees (4.1.44-45). He hatches a plot to expunge Venetian society of everything he associates with lower-body functions: women, people of color, sexual desire. Iago's "monstrous birth" is no baby, then, but rather a tremendous evacuation--the inevitable and horrific consequence of a "diet of revenge." And the complete success of Iago's enema is attested to when this masterful shitmonger has nothing left to say: "Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. / From this time forth I never will speak word" (5.2.300-301). The clyster has done its work. Othello, Desdemona, Emilia, and Roderigo lie dead, and Iago is . . . empty. Silent. Purged. But Iago's sadistic drives have already exposed the civilized impulses toward order, control, and cleanliness, impulses that provide one linguistic matrix for modern racism, as rooted in a series of paradoxical disavowals and denials: the obsessive need for order that itself produces chaos; the tremendous appetite to deny appetite; the consuming passion to be free of passion; the excessive desire to eliminate all excess; the overpowering lust to banish lust. Shakespeare has personified the civilizing process in Iago, an anal-retentive proto-racist poet devoted to the terrible logic of the purge.