Thursday, August 2, 2018

Signior Oxford and the Protestant Cult of Sincerity

The Scandal of Sincerity - Esterhammer

“Sincerity”, as a critical concept, did not do very well in the twentieth century. The New Critics, in particular, were unimpressed with an interpretative criterion that seemed to emphasize authorial intention; to them, ‘Is the poet sincere?’ was ‘always an impertinent and illegitimate question’. In philosophical terms, too, sincerity has been displaced and overshadowed since Heidegger and Sartre by the notion of authenticity, which can be applied to objects, works of art or human subjects, in the context of ontology, epistemology or aesthetics. Although elusive, authenticity has proved an effective an adaptable notion for what we recognize, in the mode of nostalgia or desire, as a free ath truthful relation to the world.
Compared with the diffuse concept of authenticity, sincerity has somewhat more specific critieria and a longer, if chequered, history. In its modern usage, ‘sincerity’ can only be applied to human beings and human action, and it always involves a relation between inward disposition and outward expression. From the Latin sincer-us ‘clean, pure, sound’, it was originally applied to physical substances such as wine or bodily fluids to mean ‘pure’ or ‘unmixed’. Taking on a figurative meaning in religious literature during the seventeenth century, this notion of purity came to be applied to the should and to a person’s disposition; a ‘sincere’ Christian, in the terms of the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘not falsified or perverted in any way’, but, rather, ‘characterized by the absence of all dissimulation and pretence’. With this idea of dissimulation, two very important notions become attached to sincerity: that of correspondence between (inner) reality and (outward) appearance, and that of not pretending or not acting. Nowadays, the adjective ‘sincere’ can no longer be applied to water or urine, but only to human forms of expression: a sincere promise, a sincere apology, a sincere appreciation, or ‘sincerely’ at the close of a letter, implying (at least by convention) a correspondence between what the letter –writer actually feels and what he or she has written. (snip)

Casting Waters:
Sweet Swan of Avon! what a SIGHT it were
To SEE thee in our waters yet APPEAR,

The notion of a ‘sincere intention’ is somewhat more internalized, but even here the criterion of sincerity is only meaningful when the inward intention can be tested against the resulting visible behaviour. One can refer to a person as ‘sincere’, but this is an applied sense of the work used when the persons disposition, as manifested in behaviour, is usually or always seen to correspond with his or her verbal self-expression. At the beginning of his insightful book Sincerity and Authenticity, Lionel Trilling defines sincerity as ‘a congruence between avowal and actual feeling’. The relevance of sincerity to verbal expression and the public sphere is also reflected by his prominence in the Anglo-American speech-act theory of J. L. Austin and, evn more, John Searle. *snip_

Intention, then, must be visible and readable in some external manner – through speech, behaviour, gesture or facial expression – in order for the standard of sincerity to come into play. To put it somewhat more polemically, intention must be performed – and, as soon as it is, it enters the realm of the socially determined codes and conventions by which speech-acts, gestures and expressions are interpreted by others. Trilling makes the interesting observation that ‘sincerity’ entered the English language during the first third of the sixteenth century, which is also the epoch of the ‘sudden efflorescence of the theatre’. This paradoxical conjunction between the sincerity and theatrically famously recurs with reference to Romanticism in Matthew Arnold’s 1881 preface to the Poetry of Byron. Echoing Swinburne, Arnold identifies ‘the splendid and imperishable excellence of sincerity and strength’ as the crucial attribute of Byron’s poetry – while, in the same breath, critiquing the ‘affectations and silliness’ of the ‘the theatrical Byron’. Once again, sincerity and theatricality appear oddly conjoined. By definition, sincerity is anti-performative – ‘not feigned or pretended’, in the words of the OED - yet an awareness of sincerity seems to arise amidst heightened theatricality. Hence the scandal of sincerity: it is inimicable to performativity; however, it must be read in or on the body, and through the semiotic systems by which body language gets interpreted, and in that sense it is coextensive with performance.


Samuel Daniel

THE Tragedie of Cleopatra.
AEtas prima canat veneres postrema tumultus.

To the Right Honourable, the Lady Marie, Countesse of PEMBROOKE.

...O that the Ocean did not bound our stile
VVithin these strict and narrow limmits so:
But that the melody of our sweet Ile,
Might now be heard to Tyber, Arne, and Po.
That they might know how far THAMES doth out-go
The musique of Declyned Italie:
And listning to our songs another while,
Might learne of thee, their NOTES to PURIFIE.[note- wood-notes wild]
O why may not some after-comming hand,
Vnlock these limits, open our confines:
And breake a sunder this imprisoning band,
T'inlarge our spirits, and publish our dissignes;
Planting our Roses on the Apenines?
And teach to Rhene, to Loyre, and Rhodanus,
Our accents, and the wonders of our Land,
That they might all admire and honour vs.
Wherby great SYDNEY & our SPENCER might,
VVith those Po-singers beeing equalled,
Enchaunt the world with such a sweet delight,
That theyr eternall songs (for euer read,)
May shew what great ELIZAS raigne hath bred.
VVhat musique in the kingdome of her peace.
Hath now beene made to her, and by her might,
VVhereby her glorious fame shall neuer cease.


And so sepúlchred in such POMP dost LIE, - Milton on Shakespeare


Far pompo, “showing off,” as an expression of an urban lifestyle and the rejection of all “POMPE” as INSINCERE aptly describes the difference between Italian and English culture, which is a topic in every English view of Italy. Such a view always remains essentially that of an outsider: it inherently contains a form of perception that always remains caught up in the perceiver’s mental schemata which set the framework for interpreting what it perceives. What an Englishman traveling to Italy sees is in the last analysis only a negative image of what he is familiar with: it corresponds to “the perception of an alien culture in terms of an upside-down version of one’s own”: - Andreas Mahler

Inverting Oxford:
Values aligned with 'theatrical' Southern European cultures (courtesy) rather than the more modern, Northern European 'sincerity' -- Othello rather than Hamlet.


Sincerity, “Modernity,” and the Protestants
Webb Keane

...As a form of self-understanding, the subject is likely to require some contrastive terms – those objects against which its distinctiveness can be defined.  Such “objects” may comprise not only material things, but also institutions, rituals, social others, and the language one shares with those others. For instance, we need look no farther than familiar, sometimes trivial anxieties about plagiarism, quotation, cliché and originality, truth telling, keeping one’s word, mimicry, and finding one’s own voice, to find hints of how thoroughly language can trouble the boundaries of the subject. The linguistic trouble with boundaries, the sense that heteroglossia might pose a threat, however, is hardly confined to minor questions of style and everyday ethics. Religious traditions abound with worries about the slippery, corrupting, or deceiving effects of language (and, signs, more generally) and efforts to control them (Keane 1997b). In many cases, these worries center on the perceived external and material or objectlike character of language.  Early English Puritans, for instance, considered rhetorically elaborate styles of language to be “fleshly” distortions of God’s truth (Bauman 1983:2) Their insistence on plain style and even silence seems to have been, at least in part, a response to an intuition that language is external to that spiritual component defining what is most valuable in the human person, that which would transcend the material  world. To the extent that their worries about fleshly language articulate with their worries about other aspects of the “external” world like showy clothing, the sforms of etiquette, liturgical rites, architectural ornament, or religious icons, they are part of a more general representational economy. As this article attempts to show, LANGUAGE IDEOLOGY, that is, people’s assumptions about language (Kroskrity 2000) may be linked to ideas about material goods through their repective implications for the presumed nature of the human subject.

The 17th-century Puritans were not isolated in the reformist interest in words and their relation to the material and social world. Their contemporaries, the scientists who founded the Royal Society, promoted a “naked, natural way of speaking” (quoted in Bauman 1983:2). They aspired to language so transparent that it would do no more than refer to those things intended by its speaker, thus serving as a proper vehicle for objectivity. This convergence of Puritan morality and scientific objectivity at a particular historical moment, in a similar language ideology, would seem to be no accident. In their conjunction, I suggest, we can see themes that have come to be characteristic of some common ideas about the proposed subject of modernity. Briefly put, this is the subject whose distinction fro the domain of objects is produced not only in the norm of sincerity, but also in its sharp distinction from material goods and in a related aversion to the supposed excesses of ritual, idolatry, and even courtesy – an aversion that the historian Peter Burke (1987:13, 2240) has suggested is characteristic of modern Europe.

Othello, Shakespeare

Iago - He  [Cassio] hath a daily beauty in his life
That makes me ugly.

Protestant Sincerity?  - Modern Inversions of Oxford's Character:

Contested Reproduction: Genetic  Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate
John H Evans

…As anthropologist Joel Robbins has argued, a “sincerity culture” is one of the linguistic features of modernity. Indeed, this rise in the importance of sincerity in communication – in place of earlier notions of honor and courtesy – first occurred as a side effect of the Protestant Reformation.  Robbins writes, “Expressing the truth about one’s inner states in everyday conversation and conduct became a value in a way that it had not been before…Protestantism could develop this emerging cult of sincerity to an impressive extent, taking  a nascent version of …a ‘sincerity culture’ and making it a cornerstone of modern views of the self, of social life, and…language.” If this notion did originate in Protestantism – and its historical origins are not important to us here – it has spread to be a general belief held by the citizens on the modern United States. (p.168)


Here Lies”: Sincerity and Insincerity in Early Modern Epitaphs Onstage

In early modern England, theatrical performance was charged with undermining sincerity, while epitaphic writing was praised as upholding it. Given that epitaphs and plays were perceived to occupy contrasting positions with respect to the contemporary discourse surrounding sincerity, it is striking how often epitaphs are invoked in the dramas of the period: the preeminently “sincere” genre within the preeminently “insincere” genre. I suggest that the epitaphic genre provided dramatists with an unexpected vehicle for exploring the limits of sincerity; the repeated convergence of the two genres provides a kind of mutual critique.
Donald Davie once contentiously claimed that sincerity, as a category of poetic evaluation, was irrelevant for “nearly all the poetry that we want to remember written in England between 1550 and 1780” (62).1 Yet we ought to recall that the word ‘sincerity’ itself “enters the English language in the sixteenth century” (van Alphen and Bal 2). The early modern era’s problematic ideal of sincerity can be better appreciated by the semantic field to which it was contrasted. That is, sincerity was posed as the antithesis to hypocrisy, “flattering and fauning,” or “deceitfull” speech, as a 1649 sermon by Nicholas Lockyer asserts (5, 9).2 The constitutive tension between sincerity and dissimulation is confirmed by a series of early modern dictionaries that gloss “sincere” as “without dissimulation,” or “no dissembler.”3 This antagonism even gets personified in Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London (1584), in which Sincerity, when introduced to Dissimulation (upon Simplicity’s suggestion that he serve as a petitioner for him), responds vehemently: “Dissimulation, out vpon him, he shall be no spokeman for me” (l.543). The lexicon of feigning, disguise, and dissimulation was used to criticize both the stage and the court (and, often conflated with these two, women). Such criticism depends upon the dichotomy between internal feelings and external expression, a gap that can only be overcome by a rigorous alignment between both parts. Thus when discussing “Simplicity” (which “sounds the same with sincerity, and therefore coupled together hereas Synonymas, contemini, words of the same signification”), Lockyer holds that “this terme is opposed to double mindednesseand signifies an unity and identity between the heart and tongue; what the tongue sayes, the heart really intends” (8, 7).
Nowhere was the disjunction between the heart (“the ultimate locus of interiority” [Mazzio 63]) and the tongue perceived to be presented in such an overt, even defiant manner as on the stage. Theatrical performance itself was taken to be the exemplary problem within a more general analysis of insincerity; the fact that critiques of courtiership and ecclesiastical rituals often reverted to the vocabulary of the theatre confirms its centrality within this debate. As Lionell Trilling posited, “it is surely no accident that the idea of sincerity, of the own self and the difficulty in knowing and showing it, should have arisen to vex men’s minds in the epoch that saw the sudden efflorescence of the theatre”

Definition of sincere
sincerer; sincerest
1 a : free of dissimulation : honest
  • a sincere interest
b : free from adulteration : pure
  • a sincere doctrine
  • sincere wine
2 : marked by genuineness : true


'Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,
When not to be receives reproach of being;
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed
Not by our feeling, but by others' seeing:
For why should others' false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts, my deeds must not be shown;
   Unless this general evil they maintain,
   All men are bad and in their badness reign.


William Empson points out that 'honest' and 'honesty' are used  52 times in Othello, writing that 'in Othello, divergent uses of th(is) key word are found for all the main characters; even the attenuated clown plays upon it; the unchaste Bianca, for instance, snatches a moment to claim that she is more honest than Emilia the thief of the handkerchief; and with all the variety of use the ironies on the word mount up steadily to the end. Such is the general power of the writing that this is not obtrusive, but if all but the phrases involving honest were in the style of Ibsen the effect would be a symbolical charade. Everyone calls Iago honest once or twice, but with Othello it becomes an obsession; at the crucial moment just before Emilia exposes Iago he keeps howling the word out. (William Empson, _Honest in Othello_)


Sincerity, Part I: The Drama of the Will from Augustine to Milton

In the Reformation period, the age-old issue of the freedom of the will with regards to human sinfulness continues to receive enormous attention, and the two registers of sincerity—the moral and the agonistic—continue to collapse in interesting ways as the individual’s conscience takes on renewed theological consequence. Many consider the early modern period to occasion the sorts of spiritual, political, economic, and aesthetic conditions that are conducive to reimagining the importance of inwardness, and such forms of inwardness are often described as combining practice and doctrine (lex orandi, lex credendi), and thus combining outwardness and inwardness. Magill, for instance, stresses how a turn to the inward conscience, combined with new practices of personal Bible reading and the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, fostered a “Protestant culture of religious inwardness that emphasized feeling, reflection, and self-examination.”29 Charles Taylor dwells on the related Protestant critique of Catholic practices that synthesize metaphysics and classical ideas of hierarchy with Christian theology (essentially, a Protestant opposition to Christian eudaimonia, arguably in line with Scotus’s departure from intellectualism). Reformers contended that this is a pattern of thought that funds forms of idolatry, where intellective and material media were thought to carry too much of the weight of faith.30 Such departure from Christian eudaimonia resulted in a growing recognition of “the new spiritual status of the everyday,” an effort in Protestant and Catholic territories to redeem daily living by focusing on God as the spiritual end to everything, while avoiding prideful asceticism.31 In the period surrounding the Protestant Reformation there was, thus, a dual pressure both to search one’s inner conscience and to sanctify the outward habits of life in a way that unambiguously respects the primacy of the conscience.
Protestants often described the sincerity of contrition as un-searchably internal, but for this reason, and paradoxically, the purity of outwardly visible practice accumulated new importance as a testimony to that internal reality. Historians of early modern England have widely recognized a consequent “ethos of plainness” emerging from this pious resistance.32 As David Parry discusses in this issue, to speak “plainly” was to constrain oneself to an ethic of directness and transparency. Yet perhaps the more pertinent social effect of plain speaking was to rhetorically disavow oneself of insincerity—where insincerity is characterized in part by unnecessary complexity of thought and communication. A popular visual emblem for sinceritas in Renaissance Europe is a heart being held or “proffered” by a hand, sometimes the hand of a figure.33 The image works both to locate sincerity and to disembody it—a striking illustration of the kind of psychological violence that might characterize the need to perform what is instinctively internal. This is a period in which sincerity was associated largely with purity, with coming from the right source, from the heart, and associated also, if I can be allowed the phrase, with being on the right side of history. A scan of the OED’s earliest listed usages of “sincere” and “sincerity” reveals liberal uses of the relatively new English word in vernacular translations from the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible: “As newe borne babes desire the syncere [Gk. δολον] mylke of the worde”; “Blessed are the vndefiled [margin. Or, perfect, or sincere] in the way”; “Feare the Lord, and serue him in sinceritie, and in trueth,” to list a few examples.34 Given the effects of the printing press on disseminations of the vernacular scriptures and prayer offices, it is likely that those who read about such “sinceritie” and “trueth” knew well their polemical and political implications in movements of reform, even when such movements are encased in rhetoric of the plain, direct, sola, and sincere.

What I’ve done is simply to reframe a familiar account of the “classical” narrative patterns of Renaissance literature, in the vein of early critics like T. E. Hulme or Harry Levin, as a history of sincerity. If one way to describe the classical (i.e., ontological) narrative is as a character overreaching, then, in the vocabulary of sincerity, we can describe this character as transgressing the bounds of nature by representing herself as someone she is not, where who she is  not a matter simply of “that within which passeth show” but of the authority of nature, original sin, and final judgment. Hence, Trilling’s observation that the early modern “villain” typically combines maleficence with dissembling and duplicity, that is, with insincerity.  Just so, morality and self-representation were continuously tied to one another through the medieval and early modern periods. And yet the logics of morality and self-representation began to war with one another, not to the ultimate end of severing their connection but of amplifying the content of dramatic conflict. Such villainous characters may believe that they are exercising agonistic yet honest intentions, but their demise culminates with a recognition not only of overreaching the scope of moral activity but of getting caught between opposing views of self-coherence: to what extent am I responsible directly to my own felt experience, and to what extent is experience itself shaped by a misdirected will and thus subject to judgment?

Taylor’s exploration of sincerity centers on a comparison of two figures of (potential) conversion: St. Paul as depicted in two of Caravaggio’s oil paintings, and Aaron, the moor villain from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. The three scenes are renderings of sincerity, or, rather, of what a person will and can do when he is faced with the demand to prove his sincerity, particularly his sincerity of conversion. Taylor finds common ground between religious and legal discourses in the problem of providing and appraising evidence of a subject’s sincerity, here defined as a “performance” of the self. The content of a given performance of sincerity, she says, must exceed “rational description and instrumental reason” because otherwise an act of alleged conversion might simply be interpreted as reasonable given the circumstances—e.g., interrogation, violence, judgment. For Taylor, the instruments whereby sincerity is demonstrated must, paradoxically, be invisible and therefore putatively natural to the subject and his examiners, and this is accomplished by using the signifiers for the self specifically provided by the examiners. Furthermore, she summarizes the paradox of sincerity as between sincerity as performance, on the one hand, and the fact that a performance is inherently insincere because it “provides an instrument that makes it possible to represent an inner state upon the surface.”61 Thus, “Whenever ‘sincerity’ names itself, it ceases to exist.”62 To perform sincerity, then, is to reflect an authority’s semiotics for personhood, the kind of personhood that is allowed the privilege of conversion, and, according to Taylor’s examples, in the period of the Reformation such semiotics are racial as well as religious.

w/Sincerity, Part I: The Drama of the Will from Augustine to Milton

This paradox plays out in Taylor’s vivid comparison of the two Paul conversion paintings that depict Paul as he is confronted and blinded by Christ on his way to Damascus. Whereas the earlier Conversion of Saint Paul (1600) is theatrical—in the sense of Fried’s coup de théâtre, a spectacle that acknowledges the presence of viewers—showing a conspicuously Jewish and elderly Paul extravagantly hiding his face and his circumcision, the later version (1601) presents a calmer, younger, and Roman-looking Paul, gently closing his eyes and resigning himself to conversion, ready to fight for the Romans. Version 1 “is a scene of rape,” rendering Paul naked and pained. “Version 2 is perhaps more suggestive of a seduction,” where Paul is clothed and lying flatly on his back with his arms outspread and inviting.63 This second version, with its Romanized Paul, arguably showcases a sincere conversion as “inner submission to the will of God,” a concession to the imperialism of sincerity in religious and racial semiotics. The earlier version, however, is caught up in the violence—or what we’ve called the agonistic drama—of the paradox of sincerity as inhering within the individual yet determined and corroborated by objective standards (affectio iustitiae, or, turning toward God).
Taylor uses the Caravaggio paintings as a heuristic for reading Titus’s Aaron. She focuses on Aaron’s famous anti-confession, in which, under duress, he admits to all of his accused crimes, and, “Ay, that I had not done a thousand more.”64 While he cannot expect any mercy himself, the life of Aaron’s child is on the line, but he must know that naming so many additional offences, as he does, would lead to something like the harsh and especially symbolic execution of the final scene. What should we make, then, of Aaron’s willing and excessive confession? Is Shakespeare simply representing his “black” character—the play never ceases to remind the audience of this fact—as sincere merely by virtue of his race, reflected in a degree of character flatness and legibility that has no choice but to be sincere? Taylor says that the case is vehemently the opposite. “When Aaron is held to account for his vile acts, the resolution [or the boast] that defines his speech is that while he will confess, he will not renounce his prior self.”65 He will not, like Paul in Version 2, become Roman. He rejects the Romans’ semiotics of sincerity and so owns his crimes but not their form of contrition. Thus, Aaron exercises an extraordinary amount of will not in demonstration but in defiance of the sincerity of conversion.
Taylor’s overarching point about sincerity is that early modern art forms convey the “confounding of inner and outer” in an era that increasingly externalized signs of sincerity.66 We might identify this as the development of rhetoric and social codes for an increasingly dramatized agonistic form of sincerity. Artists like Caravaggio and Shakespeare, Taylor convincingly avers, aim to show how the inner self is conceived outwardly and how outward expression always implies an already active view of the inner self.
Essentially, theater exposes how the “natural” and the “self-evident,” within a plurality of sincerities, are contingent upon certain structurings of will—as is the case with the medieval voluntarists and intellectualists. And because such theatricality accompanies all performances of sincerity, I suggest that its truth, its reliability, its negotiation of happiness and justice, remain near the surface of the modern (re)turn to sincerity that we locate in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. What change, then, might occasion a more significant shift away from sincerity, a shift characterized perhaps by a freedom from external constraint rather than a freedom in constraint? I’ve tried to complicate this question. By locating the roots of sincerity in Augustinian and Scholastic discussions about the will, we can understand the early history of sincerity as a problem of coherence, where the question becomes cohering with what? The self cohering with God? Cohering with the nature of its own will, a faculty designed by God and thus accountable to God’s justice? Or, in the post-Reformation period, cohering with one’s experience, avowal, or feeling? I’ve argued that the notion that sincerity is defined as the self cohering with itself—in the form of affectio commodi, experience, or avowal—exists as a possibility in the early modern period as well as the premodern period, but also that this form of selfhood is always accompanied by (some may say “haunted” by) a standard for moral action outside the self. The characteristics of this external moral standard, whether described positively or by negation, constitute the theology of sincerity.
Moreover, as these various perspectives on sincerity become present in single contexts such as the writings of Luther, Shakespeare, and Milton, we see the rhetoric of coherence (like the rhetoric of sincerity) being used by power and blending with different expressions of identity. Thematically, thus, the early modern period witnesses a drama of coherence, incorporating into its literary themes an agonistic register of sincerity, the very struggle to become sincere and to parse these interrelated questions. What we see are cracks in the edifice of sincerity—cracks filled by political and thematic possibilities—but no break, no absolute severance of the self from theology where the self generates its own moral significance.69 Where, then, is this break located, if it exists at all? And what would it take to completely disintegrate the concept of self-coherence from the theological tradition of moral agency that incubated it? Are modern and postmodern performances of sincerity structurally distinct from the versions represented in Shakespeare and Milton, or are they simply variants? Is there a more definitive line to be drawn, or is modern authenticity really old sincerity in disguise?

From Echo and Meaning on Early modern English stages by Susan L Anderson
Music, Satire and Sincerity

You, two and two, singing a palinode,
March to your several homes by Niobe’[s stone,
And offer up two tears apiece theron’
And after penance thus performed,
You become
Such as you fain would seem; and then return,
Off’ring your service to great Cynthia

The song is a palinode, a formal recantation of their bad behaviour, which, when combined with music creates an imagined quasi-magical performativity that turns intention into reality. The (admittedly far from coherent) ending to the play inverts the process enacted by Jonson’s masques whereby the true identity of masquing courtiers is reflected in personations that valorise them as quai-gods, and the metaphorical relationship between body and idea is literalized as much as possible. Echoes of real identities frame the fictional roles taken on by persons well-known to the audience, and vice versa.


Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offense.
Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,
Against thy reasons making no defense.
Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill,
To set a form upon desired change,
As I’ll myself disgrace, knowing thy will;
I will acquaintance strangle and look strange,
Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue
Thy sweet belovèd name no more shall dwell,
Lest I, too much profane, should do it wrong
And haply of our old acquaintance tell.
  For thee against myself I’ll vow debate,
  For I must ne'er love him whom thou dost hate.


Now the matter depending in this sort, I find my state weak and destitute of friends, for having only relied always on her Majesty I have neglected to seek others, and this trust of mine, many things considered, I fear may deceive me.
Thus with a lame hand to write I take my leave, but with a mind well disposed to hope the best of my friends till otherwise I find them, which I fear nothing at all, assuring myself your words and deeds dwell not asunder. (Oxford to Cecil, January 1602)


The End of Courtesy?

Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos'd in cinders lie.
Death is now the phoenix' nest;
And the turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,
Leaving no posterity:--
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.
Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.
To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer. 


The Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics
Hornsby, RA

A poem or song of retraction; originally a term applied to a lyric by Stesichorus (early 6th C. BCE) in which he recanted his earlier attack upon Helen as the cause of the Trojan War. The palinode became common after Ovid’s Remedia amoris, supposedly written to retract his Ars amatoria. It is a frequent device in medieval and Renaissance love poetry, including the Roman de la Rose. Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women is a palinode retracting Troilus and Criseyde, and a character called Palinode appears in Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender. Any ritualistic recantation may loosely be called a palinode, even one in prose, but the term palinodic form denotes a particular pattern in which two metrically corresponding elements are interrupted  by another pair of similarly corresponding elements. The palinodic form may be represented as ABBA where the letters refer to lines, stanzas, or strophes, and where ab makes a statement that b’a’ recants.

Sincerity – Derived from Latin sincerus (clean or pure), the word sincerity entered English in the early 16th c and briefly retained the meaning of its cognate, so that, e.g., “sincere wine” denoted wine that was undiluted. But William Shakespeare uses sincerity ixclusively to indicate the absence of duplicity or dissimulation, and by 1600, the term had assumed its modern connotations.  It was not until the end of the 18th century that sincerity became a valued literary commodity. For William Wordsworth and the romantics, sincerity was an indication of literary excellence since it emphasized the necessity of a congruence between the poet’s emotion and his utterance. Matthew Arnold ambitiously expanded the concept, adding to it a moral dimension, when he claimed that the touchstone of great poetry was the “high seriousness which comes from absolute sincerity.”


Ceremony and Text in the Renaissance
Douglas F. Rutledge
“Because He was a Prince”: St. Leopold, Habsburg Ritual Strategies, and the Practice of Sincere Religion at Klosterneuburg
Amelia Carr

On his deathbed, I n1576, the Habsburg ruler Maximilian II refused the last rites, saying that his priest was in heaven. But during his lifetime, he had built a special stall in the Augustinian convent of Klosterneuburg for worship at the altar of St. Leopold, one of the least spectacular of saints, albeit one of Maximilian’s ancestors. This rejection of one controversial ritual and acceptance of another is the kind of inconsistency in religious practice we take as evidence of a sixteenth-century crisis about ritual behaviour, a crisis in which scepticism about the efficacy of acts and gestures leads to a profound sense of disjunction, such that mere ceremony is a charade of power, masking the real rules motivating effects.

The different social structures that emerge in this period have been correlated to models adopted fom the social historians. Muir and Burke suggest  that Catholic, Mediterranean cultures are theatre states, based on Honor and Ceremony and concerned with appearances, while Northern, Protestant cultures are sincerity cultures, perhaps short on courtesy, but strong on individual conscience and on verbalizing signifying intentions.  According to traditional evaluation of the emperor, Maixmilian II’s attendance to the cult of St. Leopold is the gesture of the ruler of a theatrical state, and Maximilian himself can only be considered weak, opportunistic, and politically motivated. Aside from moments of authenticity in his youth and on his deathbed, Maximilian is usually regarded as cynical and insincere.

St. Leopold, son of Leopold the Fair, Margrave of Austria. In the eleven hundred thirty-sixth year after the birth of our Lord Christ, on the fifteenth day of Noember, he was virtuously separated from theis world, and buried at Klosterneuburg, where he is held in great honor.

This minimalist inscription emphasizes only Leopold’s lineage and the honor of his burial. Yet these are important cues that we must shift our frame of reference to the courtly codes of honor.
Renaissance considerations of honor begin with the definitions offered by Aristotle in the Ethics: “Honor is the prize of excellence (arête) and it is to the good that it is rentdered.” More than fifty sixteenth-century Italian treatises attest to both the urgency and the complexity of he subject, also giving us a guide to Austiran manners, since the members of the Habsburg court figured prominently in any discussion of nobility. Following Aristotle, these sixteenth-century philosophers and ceremonialists conclude that honors are external and include distinctions of rank bestowed, statues erected, and compliments paid. In the worldview, mortal achievements are elevated and conscience operates in the public arena. But a problem arises, as frequently noted, in that honor depends more on those who confer it than on those who receive it. Emphasis is placed on the perceptions and actions of others. One could be honourable, but not honoured. Honor can be conferred and taken away – hence, the elaborate code of insult and revenge. Honor is a matter of public consensus. Honoring is a social act, which must be performed in conventional ways so that it can be recognized by others. It is the center, then, of a ceremonial, or theatrical, culture.
Yet for Christians, nothing is more transient than earthly reward. The ethical structures that devolve from the values of an honor culture are usually understood as deeply incompatible with Christianity, since the praise of men is worthless in a value system determined by transcendent deity. For example, Thomas a Kempis encouraged the devout to affirm to God that “all human glory, all temporal honor, all worldly exaltation, compared to Thy eternal glory, is but vanity and folly.” Eternity triumphs over fame.



Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,—
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,—
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe;
Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburn'd brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting invention's stay;
INVENTION, NATURE’S CHILD, fled step-dame Study's blows;
And others' feet still seem'd but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
"Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write."


Invention/Shake-speare – Nature’s Child

A phrase selected by Puttenham as an example of an 'intollerable vice' in writing had been associated with the Earl of Oxford. This phrase was subsequently spoken by the affected courtier Amorphus in Jonson's _Cynthia's Revels_. Curiously, the phrase does not appear in full in the 1601 Quarto (while Oxford was alive) - but does appear in the 1616 and 1640 editions of Jonson's 'Works'.

  1. (rhetoric) The awkward or humorous use of different languages MIXED together, often using a foreign term incorrectly or in an inappropriate situation.


601 Quarto - Cynthia's Revels, Jonson

Act IV, Sc. V


And there’s her Minion Criticus; why his advise more then Amorphus? Have I not Invention, afore him? Learning, to better that Invention, above him? And Travaile.


1616 Folio, Jonson

Act IV, Sc V


And there’s her minion Crites! Why his advice more then Amorphus? Have not I invention, afore him? Learning, to better that invention, above him? And infanted, with pleasant travaile ----

Southern, Pandora (1584)

To the right honourable the Earl of Oxenford etc.

No, no, the high singer is he
Alone that in the end must be
Made proud with a garland like this,
And not every riming novice
That writes with small wit and much pain,
And the (God’s know) idiot in vain,
For it’s not the way to Parnasse,
Nor it will neither come to pass
If it be not in some wise fiction
And of an ingenious INVENTION,
For it alone must win the laurel,
And only the poet WELL BORN
Must be he that goes to Parnassus,
And not these companies of asses
That have brought verse almost to scorn.


Beauty vs. Honesty in Othello – Meg Harris Williams

…In Dr Meltzer’s description, `sincerity’ does not apply to a particular emotion but to the state of mind within which the emotions interact. It has to do with Wittgenstein’s category of “meaning it”, and this in turn is integrally connected with the capacity to experience beauty:

There is a qualitative aspect of sincerity that has to do with richness of emotion. Clinical work
strongly suggests that this aspect of the adult character is bound up with the richness of emotion characterizing the internal objects. It can be distinguished from other qualities such as their strength or goodness. It is different from their state of integration. It seems perhaps most coextensive with their beauty, which in turn seems related to capacity for compassion. (Sincerity[1994], p. 205)

It also, says Meltzer, has an `aspirational quality’. In this description of richness, without (necessarily) corresponding strength or integration, we begin to see the possibility of characters such as Othello and Cassio, in touch with and daily governed by an inner ideal of beauty which may not have been tried and tested but which encompasses all their potential for `meaning it’, for being themselves -expressed by Othello as the place `where I have garnered up my heart, Where either I must live or bear no life’ (IV.ii.58-9).


Cecil Papers 251/28: Oxford to Cecil, [July 1600].

Although my bad success in former suits to her Majesty have given me cause to bury my hopes in the deep abyss and bottom of despair, rather than now to attempt, after so many trials made in vain & so many opportunities escaped, the effects of fair words or fruits of golden promises, yet for that I cannot believe but that there hath been always a true correspondency of word and intention in her Majesty, I do conjecture that, with a little help, that which of itself hath brought forth so fair blossoms will also yield fruit... And I know not by what better means, or when, her Majesty may have an easier opportunity to discharge the debt of so many hopes as her promises have given me cause to embrace than by this, which give she must, & so give as nothing extraordinarily doth part from her. If she shall not deign me this in an opportunity of time so fitting, what time shall I attend (which is uncertain to all men) unless in the graves of men there were a time to receive benefits and good turns from princes? Well, I will not use more words, for they may rather argue mistrust than confidence. I will assure myself and not doubt of your good office, both in this but in any honourable friendship I shall have cause to use you. Hackney.

Oxford to Cecil, [May 1601?].

My very good brother, I have received by Henry Lok your most kind message, which I so effectually embrace that, what for the old love I have borne you which, I assure you, was very great; what for the alliance which is between us, which is tied so fast by my children of your own sister; what for mine own disposition to yourself, which hath been rooted by long and many familiarities of a more youthful time, there could have been nothing so dearly welcome unto me. Wherefore not as a stranger, but in the old style, I do assure you that you shall have no faster friend & well-wisher unto you than myself, either in kindness, which I find beyond mine expectation in you, or in kindred, whereby none is nearer allied than myself sith, of your sisters, of my wife only you have received nieces, a sister, I say, not by any venter, but born of the same father and the same mother of yourself. I will say no more, for words in faithful minds are tedious, only this I protest: you shall do me wrong, and yourself greater if, either through fables, which are mischievous, or conceit, which is dangerous, you think otherwise of me than humanity and consanguinity requireth.

(I will in Cassio’s lodging lose this napkin
And let him find it. Trifles light as air
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ. This may do something.
The Moor already changes with my poison.
DANGEROUS CONCEITS are in their natures poisons
Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,
But with a little act upon the blood
Burn like the mines of sulfur.)

Cecil Papers 181/99: Oxford to Cecil, [January 1602].

Now, brother, I do not by these letters make challenge of your words for, if you list to forget them, my putting in remembrance will be bitter, and to small purpose. Only this now is mine intention, not to tell any new thing, but that which is already known unto you. The matter, after it had received many crosses, many inventions of delay, yet at length hath been heard before all the judges…, but now time and truth have unmasked all difficulties and I do understand the judges are, if they will be indifferent, to make a good report to her Majesty. Yet (I know not by what unfortunate star), there are so many disposed to withstand it as the truth, much oppressed by the friends of the contrary part, is likely, if not wholly to be defaced, yet so extenuated as the virtue thereof will be of little effect.


Now the matter depending in this sort, I find my state weak and destitute of friends for, having only relied always on her Majesty, I have neglected to seek others, and this trust of mine, many things considered, I fear may deceive me. Another confidence I had in yourself, in whom (without offence let me speak it) I am to cast some doubt by reason as, in your last letters I found a wavering style much differing from your former assurances, I fear now to be left in medio rerum omnium certamine et discrimine which, if it so fall out, I shall bear it, by the grace of God, with an equal mind sith time and experience have given me sufficient understanding of worldly frailty. But I hope better (though I cast the worst), howsoever, for finis coronat opus, and then everything will be laid open, every doubt resolved into a plain sense. In the mean season, I now, at the last (for now is the time), crave this brotherly friendship that, as you began it for me with all kindness, so that you will continue in the same affection to end it.
I hope her Majesty, after so many gracious words which she gave me at Greenwich upon her departure, exceeding this which I expect, will not now draw in the beams of her princely grace to my discouragement and her own detriment. Neither will I conceive otherwise of your virtue and affection towards me now, at the end, than I apprehended all good hope and kindness from you in the beginning. Thus with a lame hand to write I take my leave, but with a mind well disposed to hope the best of my friends till otherwise I find them, which I fear nothing at all, assuring myself your words and deeds dwell not asunder.

Cecil Papers 99/150: Oxford to Cecil, 25, 27 April 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.