Saturday, December 21, 2019

Language Itself is Made a Janus

Sonnet CXXIV - Shakespeare
If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for Fortune's BASTARD be unfathered,
As subject to Time's love or to Time's hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gathered.
No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto th' inviting time our fashion calls:
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-number'd hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic,
That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with showers.
   To this I witness call the fools of time,
   Which die for goodness, who have lived for CRIME.

The Motives of Eloquence – Richard A. Lanham

Perhaps the serious premises have thrived because they flatter us. The rhetorical view does not. The rhetorical view of life is satirical, radically reductive of human motive and human striving. Rhetoric’s real CRIME, one is often led to suspect, is its candid acknowledgment of the rhetorical aspects of “serious” life. The concept of a central self, true or not, flatters man immensely. It gives him an identity outside time and change that he sees nowhere else in the sublunary universe. So, too, the theory of knowledge upon which seriousness rests. Here there is little to choose between a positivist reality and a Platonic, between realism and idealism. As Eric Havelock points out, “For Plato, reality is rational, scientific and logical, or it is nothing.” How reassuring to arrive at essence, Eleatic Being. How flattering that we, at whatever brave cost to ourselves, penetrate to the way things are, look, at the end of our quest, upon the true face of beauty “itself, of and in itself, always one being” [Symposium 211B]. How humiliating to be all this time only looking in a mirror.
     At the heart of rhetorical reality lies pleasure. (…)


Billy Budd/Beauty - noble foundling

'Yes, Billy Budd was a foundling, a presumable by-blow, and, evidently, no ignoble one. Noble descent was as evident in him as in a blood horse.' (Melville, _Billy Budd_)


1850: "Hawthorne and His Mosses" by Herman Melville

"Would that all excellent BOOKS were FOUNDLINGS, without father or
mother, that so it might be we could glorify them, without including
their ostensible authors."

“I know not what would be the right name to put on the title-page
of an excellent book, but this I feel, that the names of all fine
authors are fictitious ones, far more than that of Junius,-- simply
standing, as they do, for the mystical, ever-eluding SPIRIT of all
BEAUTY, which ubiquitously possesses men of genius. Purely imaginative
as this fancy may appear, it nevertheless seems to receive some
warranty from the fact, that on a personal interview no great author
has ever come up to the idea of his reader. But that dust of which our
bodies are composed, how can it fitly express the nobler intelligences
among us?”

A Wanton Trade of Living: Rhetoric, Effeminacy and the Early Modern Courtier
Jennifer Richards

...Elizabethan indifference to the effeminizing effects of the kind of courtiership described in Il cortegiano seems all the more inexplicable given contemporary fears of the manipulable, will-less and ungendered self. Such fears of effeminization were levelled at theatrical cross-dressing, at the translation of bawdy Italian romances, and at the foibles of Italian (and French) manners and fashions, but not, apparently, at the steady flow of “englished” Italian courtesy books, including Il cortegiano, which inculcate such tastes. It is not that Il cortegiano presents an unambiguous portrait of virtuous courtiership. In fact, Hoby’s translation captures for English readers the surreptitious practice and optimistic ends of an Italian courtier who aims to “allure” (adescare) his prince to him, and to “distille” (infondere) into his mind “goodness” and “contintencie” and “temperance”. In its fourth and final book its principal speaker, Ottaviano, promises to defend the courtier from the charge that his “precise faciouns” and “meerie talk” described in books I-III will make him “womanish” (effeminare), and susceptible “to a most wanton trade of livinge”. Yet, he appears naively (or disingenuously) to believe that a virtuous end justifies covert “womanish” means. On his view, the courtier aims to “enflame” (edditare) his prince to goodness and to “leade him throughe the roughe way of virtue…deckynge yt about with boowes to shadowe yt and strawinge it over with sightlye flowers, to ease (temperare) the greefe of the peinfull journey in hym that is but of a weake force.” With the help of “musike,” “armes,” “horses,” “rymes and meeter,” and “otherwhyle with communication of love,” the courtier keeps his prince “occupyed in honest pleasure,” using “these flickering provocations” (illecebra) to bring him to “some virtuous condicion,” “beguilinge him with a holsome craft, as the warie phistiens do, …whan they minister to yonge and tender children”(…)


...But let them rest, that thus will rust: and for your selues, worthy Gentlemen, keepe your Armes bright; and thereby your names, your vertues, your soules: you shall be honoured in good mens hearts, whilst wanton and effeminate Gulls shall weaue and weare their owne disgraces. Thomas Adams 1617
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
Is it not then sufficient for you
To stay at home among the residue
Of better sisters: where my dearest Will, (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.

Samuel Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare

A quibble is to Shakespeare, what luminous vapours are to the traveller; he follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of his way, and sure to engulf him in the MIRE. It has some malignant power over his mind, and its fascinations are irresistible. Whatever be the dignity or profundity of his disquisition, whether he be enlarging knowledge or exalting affection, whether he be amusing attention with incidents, or enchaining it in suspense, let but a quibble spring up before him, and he leaves his work unfinished. A quibble is the golden apple for which he will always turn aside from his career, or stoop from his elevation. A quibble, poor and barren as it is, gave him such delight, that he was content to purchase it, by the sacrifice of reason, propriety and truth. A quibble was to him the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content to lose it.


Dangerous Conceits:
In his perceptive review of MM Mahood's Shakespeare's Wordplay GK Hunter makes the provocative suggestion that there is a book to be written, 'a Romantic and moving tale of love and hate between the Bard and the Word - Shakespeare's verbal vision of evil, when words cease to mean what they say.' Although such a publication is still to emerge, when it does a notable chapter will surely be devoted to Othello, the play which perhaps more than any other 'words' us. In Othello language itself is made a Janus. Words are inverted, perverted, and ultimately even rendered meaningless, and with the corruption of the real worth of language comes that of the honour and honesty in the nature of the men who hear and speak it. 
(Catherine M. Shaw. 'Dangerous Conceits Are in Their Natures Poisons': The Language of Othello)

Othello, Shakespeare

(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.)

Conceit, which is Dangerous -- Edward de Vere, Letters

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.

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

...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.


Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance and no space was seen
'Twixt this Turtle and his queen:
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine
That the Turtle saw his right
Flaming in the Phoenix' sight:
Either was the other's mine.

Property was thus appalled
That the self was not the same;
Single nature's double name
Neither two nor one was called.

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: 


The Performance of Nobility in Early Modern European Literature

David M. Posner

... In the discussion in book II, section 11, of masquerade (“lo esser travestito”) [in The Courtier], and of its great utility for showing of one’s true (noble) identity through disguising it, Castiglione emphasizes that the success of the courtier’s performance is determined by the audience reaction, and particularly by whether or not the audience “si diletta e piglia peacere” (“is delighted and pleased”). Control of that reaction, through controlling the pleasure experienced by the beholder, thus becomes paramount. This pleasure arises not from the audience’s experience of the showing forth of some Truth, a la Cicero, but rather from its being deceived. Castiglione shows that the essence of the courtier’s performance is a kind of multi-layered deception, in the form of a performed concealment – a concealment that pretends to be the opposite, to be an intentionally incomplete concealment that instead reveals, with a wink and a nudge, the “truth” behind its supposedly consensual pretense. Through performing "con abito disciolto,”: in a disguise meant to be seen into, the performer invites the audience to feel as though it is in on the joke. The audience’s pleasure arises from its accepting that invitation, from being fooled into believing that , rather than being fooled, it is seeing beyond the mask (representing e.g. a pastor selvatico, a peasant) to the “real” (i.e. noble) visage underneath. The precise locus of this pleasure, as Castilgione makes clear, is the tension between what is actually seen and what is artfully hinted at, without however being revealed in what Bacon will call the “Naked, and Open day light” of Truth. Nor could that shadowy something-hinted-at ever be thus revealed, as it is neither presence nor substance, neither essence nor Truth, but rather the reflection of the desire of the beholder, at the very moment of “l’animo…(chi)…corre ad imaginar…” (“the mind which rushes to imagine”). In this specular performance, there is always something more – Castiglione’s “molto maggior cosa” – than can be seen, or indeed be present; the desire for that shadowy cosa is the delectation proper to this masquerade, and it is the eliciting of that desire that is the object of the courtier’s performance.

The success of that performance, of its come-hither pseudo- revelation, is in turn dependent on a sort of meta-deception, another layer of pretense that likewise attempts to disguise itself as its opposite. The courtier’s performance must persuade, but that effort at persuasion must itself be covered over by another persuasive effort, on that “demonstrates” to the audience that no effort at persuasion is being made. One cannot be seen to be doing what one is in fact doing, namely working very hard to persuade one’s audience of a noble identity which – if it actually were what it claims to be – would need no rhetorical helps to impose its intrinsic veracity, its mathematical Identity with itself, on the minds and emotions of the audience. That such an effort of rhetoric is in fact needed suggest that the Identity being performed is not what it professes to be, or at least that the person laying claim to it has no intrinsic, “natural” right to do so. Effort must therefore be disguised as its opposite; one must persuade the witnesses to that effort of its absence. This is sprezzatura.(pp.9-12)


Castiglione appropriates from Cicero the notion of artful artlessness, as well as its seductive effect: that the audience, finding what it beholds “sit venustius sed non ut appareat,” is incited to suspect, and desire, the presence of something more than what is actually seen. (While Castiglione’s rewriting of diligens negligentia jettisons the explicit comparison with the woman made more beautiful and attractive by her non-use of external adornments, the model of a seductive delectation is everywhere implicit in Castiglione’s idea of the courtier’s relationship with his or her audience.) But the Cortegiano expand the field of application of diligens negligentia well beyond the narrow limits of a single style of oratory; sprezzatura governs all courtly behaviour, and indeed is its essential defining characteristic. Upon it depends grazia, grace, which must be seen to accompany the courtier’s every action; upon it depends above all the crucial ability to persuade one’s public of the presence of the “molto maggior cosa,” that Something Else, always just beyond the reach of clear perception, which is the key to noble identity.(p.13) 


"And I maintain this also, that when a certain training and well- formed learning achieve and outstanding and illustrious character, then that *noble and unique something* usually STANDS FORTH." (Cicero)


Shakespeare's Lady 8
Bruster, Douglas. Shakespeare Quarterly; Washington, D. C. Vol. 66, Iss. 1,(Spring 2015): 47-88,110.

THIS ESSAY FOCUSES ON THE ATTRACTIVE PRINTERS' ORNAMENT that, gracing the title pages of both Venus and Adonis and Lucrece upon their first publication, helped to announce Shakespeare when he emerged as London's leading writer in the mid-1590s. Resting atop female names rendered in titling font, and with a female face gazing at the viewer from a virtual thicket of flora, fauna, and supernatural figures, this ornament could be seen as offering a visual correlative of his works' variety and allegiances. In fact, were we to design something to represent the copious abundance in Shakespeare's writings, an image able, in Jachimo's words, to "inventory" his "adornment," "figures," "the contents o' th' story," and "natural notes," we might produce a picture much like this. Yet while this ornament is a familiar feature of these two early Shakespeare publications-one for the "younger sort," in Gabriel Harvey's words, the other for "the wiser"-it has never received serious analysis.1 This is not in itself surprising: ornaments of this kind have typically served as forensic evidence for analytical bibliography (testifying, for instance, to the time and place of book production).2 They have less often been read, remaining below the interpretive realm owing to their perceived interchangeability.
Answering D. F. McKenzie's call for "fuller understanding of those historical decisions made by authors, designers and craftsmen in deploying the many visual and even tactile languages of book form to help direct their readers' responses to the verbal language of the text," the following paragraphs aim to bring close attention to the ornament that decorated the first versions of Venus and Lucrece.

Pagan and beguiling, Lady 8 is nothing if not a Renaissance symbol, a humanist image reflecting even as it advertises the implied classical textures of Shakespeare's two narrative poems. One in a family of such ornaments, this headpiece's busy admixture of materials participates in a larger European genre of intricate decoration that has been identified by many names, including "grotesque," "fantastic," and "early mannerist." During the Elizabethan era, this ornament's style might also have drawn a specific term from Shakespeare's contemporaries: the "antike." "Antike" is a useful word for understanding the cultural aesthetics of this time in part because it defines Elizabethan art's familiar attraction to and ability to enfold the delightfully multifarious-the strange and the familiar, the ordered and the disordered, the new and the old. It is also a helpful term through which to conceive Shakespeare's achievement in particular, for its suggestion of the almost indiscriminately copious points toward the wild heterogeneity of the worlds he made.
The locus classicus of "antike" theory in the English Renaissance actually traces to the moment of its decline in the Jacobean era, when it was possible to look back on the style's development with an objective eye. In the thirteenth chapter of The Art of Drawing, originally published in 1606 and subsequently in 1607, Henry Peacham defines a style he spells "antique":

ANTIQVE so called ab antiquitate, because the inuention and vse therof aboue all other kinds among the Graecians especially was most auncient and in greatest request, the Italian calleth it L'antica: it hath the principall vse in plate, clocks, armour, all manner of compartmentes, curious Architecture, ders of &c. Though you shall seldome haue any greate vse of it, yet I woulde haue you know what it is, and what to obserue in it: *The forme of it is a generall, and (as I maye say) an vnnaturall or vnorderly composition for delight sake*, of me[n], beasts, birds, fishes, flowers, &c.without (as wee say) Rime or reason, for the greater variety you shew in your inuention, the more you please, but remembring to obserue a method or continuation of one and the same thing throughout your whole work without change or altering. 

You may, if you list, draw naked boyes riding and playing with their papermills or bubble[-]shels vppon Goates, Eagles, Dolphins &c. the bones of a Rammes head hung with strings of beads and Ribands, Satyres, Tritons, apes, Cornu-copia's, Dogges yoackt &c.drawing cowcu[m]mers, cherries & any kind of wild trail or vinet after your owne inuention, with a thousand more such idle toyes, so that heerein you cannot bee too fantastical.

 Perhaps appropriately, Peacham seems of multiple minds when explaining this involved style: crediting its origins to the Greeks, he prefers a Latin spelling while nevertheless giving it a modern habitation in the Italian "L'antica." Likewise, though he calls the style "vnnaturall or vnorderly," he is at pains to talk about the natural creatures and plants that populate it, and insists that his artist "obserue a method or continuation of one and the same thing . . . without change or altering"-nothing if not the definition of an "order." As if shoring up the diversity of his own explanation, Peacham goes on to inventory the diverse creatures, decorations, fruits, and vegetables this style offers, concluding by assuring his sophisticated reader that "heerein you cannot bee too fantastical." 

Again and again in his plays, an unforeseen catastrophe … suddenly turns what had seemed like happy progress, prosperity, smooth sailing into disaster, terror, and loss. The loss is obviously and immediately material, but it is also, and more crushingly, a loss of IDENTITY. To wind up on an unknown shore, without one’s friends, habitual associates, familiar network—this catastrophe is often epitomized by the deliberate alteration or disappearance of the name and, with it, the alteration or disappearance of social status.

Greenblatt, Stephen. 2004. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company. p. 85


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

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


 The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy
By Peter Burke
...Two common images of Fortune associated it, or rather here, with the winds and with a wheel. The wind image seems to be distinctively Italian. The phrase 'fortune of the sea' (fortuna di mare) meant a tempest, a vivid example of a change in affairs which is both sudden and uncontrollable. The Rucellai family, Florentine patricians, used the device of a sail, still to be seen on the facade of their church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence; here the wind represents fortune and the sail the power of the individual to adapt to circumstance and to manage them.

(In light of a Renaissance emblem of Fortuna blowing on the sails of a ship at ... and of a passage in Plato's Laws (book 4) to which the icon can be traced.(snip))

O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide,
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdu'd
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:
Pity me then and wish I were renew'd;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eysell, 'gainst my strong infection;
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye
Even that your pity is enough to cure me.

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