English Literary Renaissance

Journal Information
ISSN / EISSN : 0013-8312 / 1475-6757
Published by: University of Chicago Press (10.1086)
Total articles ≅ 1,121
Current Coverage
Archived in

Latest articles in this journal

Marc Juberg
English Literary Renaissance, Volume 51, pp 442-475; https://doi.org/10.1086/715426

As topical, satirically charged plays proliferated on London stages around the turn of the seventeenth century, playwrights became increasingly concerned about the threat of overactive interpretation distorting the intended meaning of their dramatic fictions. In Poetaster, his third and last “comical satire,” Ben Jonson calls upon Horatian and Erasmian precedents to construct an elaborate system for protecting authoritative interpretations of satire from the envy of libelous and ignorant auditors. The system as constructed revolves around a clear moral distinction between “well digested” literary creation, which Poetaster purports to embody, and undigested “crudities,” which characterize the inferior poetry of hack writers, the excrescences of inaccurate interpretation, and above all, personal attacks against real people. Jonson falls short of his own ideal, however, when he has the poetaster Crispinus vomit up the neologisms of John Marston: an obvious lampoon, and therefore an “envious” reading that compromises the moral authority of his hermeneutic system. In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare uses metaphors of digestion to interrogate the relationship between Authority and Envy, exploring what happens when hypocrisy makes them indistinguishable. Specifically, the well digested literary tradition of Cressida’s falsehood ends up authorizing the jaundiced view of her undigested, “o’ereaten faith,” corrupting the audience’s judgement and impoverishing theatrical imagination. [M.J.]
English Literary Renaissance, Volume 51, pp 505-514; https://doi.org/10.1086/716484

This essay examines James Bell’s narrative of the Swedish princess Cecilia Vasa’s journey to England in 1564–1565 with focus on the representation of Elizabeth I and Cecilia. The essay argues that the narrative is best understood as a travelogue whose rhetorical function is that of an encomium, celebrating first of all Elizabeth, but also Cecilia and the two women’s relationship. In doing this, the text partakes in contemporary constructions of Elizabeth as potent yet female ruler through its deployment of the so-called rhetoric of love and through its use of iconography that depicts Elizabeth as wise and legitimate ruler. By positing Cecilia as lover of Elizabeth, Bell extends the discourse of love to foreign royalty and a potential political ally; a special bond between the two is set up in ways that would have been accessible to contemporary readers more broadly but also through imagery that would have connected the two in ways open to a more select readership. While the relative status between Elizabeth and Cecilia is maintained throughout the travelogue, Bell celebrates the venture of the journey itself, and thus the meeting of the two women in a way that defines it as a diplomatic exchange with the specific purpose of furthering contact, dialogue, and goodwill between the two countries. [A.S.] This essay revisits Leander’s abduction in the Hellespont with a focus on the geopolitical significations in Marlowe’s Hero and Leander. The imagery of the abducted boy, often recast as the iconic Ganymede, as object of desire is prevalent in early modern literature. Tracing representations of the abducted boy within the historical context of abductions in the Ottoman Mediterranean, the essay argues that the abducted boy is not just a classical prototype from a Greco-Roman lineage, but is also a reflection of the boys actually abducted in the early modern period, especially the boys who were objects of cross-cultural circulations generated by imperial hierarchies in the greater Mediterranean space. In his addition of a homoerotic abduction plot to the classical story from Musaeus and Ovid, Marlowe deploys the figure of Ganymede as well as a rhetoric of Mediterranean trade to imprint on Leander’s body an erotic-cultural history of abducted boys. Pursuing Leander in the Mediterranean waters and thus traveling between English and Ottoman contexts, this essay offers a relational reading strategy in exploring sexual, racial, and imperial components of literary and historical abductions in a global context. This approach ultimately reveals a connected history of homoerotic desire and imperial violence between English and Ottoman cultures in the global Renaissance. [A.A.] This essay re-examines the meaning of Shakespearean soliloquies in light of both historical context and performance practice, arguing that they stage the interpersonal dimensions of identity in early modern culture. Solo speeches in Richard II and Hamlet offer textual evidence of their intended performance not as mere inward contemplation but as direct encounters with the playhouse audience. As dialogic speech acts, they constitute a deliberate ontological paradox: the act of speaking “alone” onstage becomes a dynamic interpersonal process in which the audience plays a crucial role. This key stage-audience exchange resonates with the practice of Augustinian “soliloquy” as exemplified in contemporary religious texts. Augustine’s own Soliloquies are alive with the paradox that his fullest act of self-speaking is inherently a dialogue, voicing not just subjective experience but the reciprocal recognition of an interlocutor. By the late seventeenth century, however, the neoclassical disparagement of direct-address soliloquy as unnatural and ridiculous reflects a radical shift toward conceptions of the self as a more discrete and self-contained entity. Critical readings of Shakespearean soliloquy have often followed that post-Renaissance view, missing the significant role of the audience that Shakespeare writes into the action of soliloquy. Today’s players have helped to recover that dramaturgy of interplay. [N.S.] This essay revisits Othello’s jealousy to detail the politico-theological significance of this dramatic affect. In the Hebrew Bible, jealousy maintains a covenant between God and a holy nation. When Pauline teaching defines marriage as an index of Christ’s love, this redefinition promises to replace exclusivity with a supposedly universal truth. Yet jealousy persists to reveal a clash between individual realities and corporate truths. Jealousy performs this by underscoring the fictive nature of the identification of a husband with Christ. Before The Winter’s Tale relates the problems of jealousy to a hereditary monarchy, Othello locates them within a republic. The Venetian state sidesteps the effects of tragedy because its perpetuation exists at a remove from marriage. Yet for this reason, it cannot assist Othello in occupying the fictions of Christian marriage. Othello shows us how politico-theological meaning can be communicated artistically, and in a way that thwarts any interpretation that locates real meaning in a forward-looking trajectory of state power. This essay concludes by arguing that Othello helps us to pinpoint the deficiencies in Carl Schmitt’s reading of Hamlet—and, more generally, in the way Schmitt conscribes the power of Shakespearean tragedy for his tendentious view of political history. [E.S.] This essay posits that, on the early modern stage, dance was a powerful communicative modality which performed racializing work. Focusing on The Spanish Gypsie (1623), this essay argues that Middleton, Rowley, Ford, and Dekker’s play innovatively deployed around Gypsy characters an animalizing choreographic discourse called “antics.” That discourse, given the early modern understanding...
Anthony Ossa-Richardson
English Literary Renaissance, Volume 51, pp 383-408; https://doi.org/10.1086/715424

This essay examines Sir John Davies’ long poem Nosce Teipsum in dialogue with an unpublished contemporary critique by the otherwise unknown Robert Chambers, written in the same verse form. Whereas Davies conveys a thoroughgoing ambivalence about the possibility of self-knowledge, an ambivalence rather obscured by his confident and polished iambic pentameter, Chambers explicitly and repetitively rejects that possibility. But whenever Chambers tries to engage with the details of Davies’ theological tenets—that every soul was created directly and individually by God, that man was made in the image of God, and that the soul exists entirely in every part of the body—he arrives at inarticulate and even nonsensical rival formulas. In other words, Chambers’ poem seems unwittingly to demonstrate his own argument that spiritual self-knowledge is impossible. I read these two poems together as a sort of parable about the potential value to readers of accidental inarticulacy, alongside the deliberate counterfeit sort of inarticulacy that we have long prized. [A.O.R]
Liza Blake
English Literary Renaissance, Volume 51, pp 331-355; https://doi.org/10.1086/715422

This essay argues that we can enrich our understandings of form and formalisms if we return to early modernity’s rich variety of physics. The central object of study is the relationship between physics and poetics in Arthur Golding’s 1567 English translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Although this translation is commonly cast today as the work of an unsophisticated or moralizing Puritan, Golding claimed that Ovid’s work offered a “dark philosophy of turnèd shapes,” a natural philosophy of substance and change. As Golding translates, he systematically reshapes the physics he finds in Ovid, converting Ovid into a crypto-Neo-Platonist and, in the process, offering a new physics and poetics revolving around the concept of shape—a concept similar to but not identical with our modern understanding of form. In Golding’s translation, poetics becomes not just a way of communicating or elaborating natural philosophy, but the mechanism for exploring the nature of the universe. [L.B.]
Ethan John Guagliardo
English Literary Renaissance, Volume 51, pp 476-502; https://doi.org/10.1086/715427

In Hamlet the crisis of political authority that famously rots Denmark is registered as an aesthetic crisis—a crisis of perception, feeling, and experience. This essay recovers this broken regime of feeling under the tradition of “majesty,” which in the period described the conventional set of affective and sensible experiences one was supposed to have in the presence of a sovereign prince. Whereas other contemporary plays such as Richard II often dispelled majesty as theatrical illusion, this essay argues that Hamlet takes majesty seriously but redescribes its enchantments to fit a new, post-Reformation decorum of sensibility characterized by dissensus. Here feelings of majesty most indicate sovereignty’s divine authority when, paradoxically, they fail, unable (precisely as exceptional feelings of exceptional authority) to command common agreement. This essay thus counters readings that overemphasize the epistemic nature of Hamlet’s crisis and resituates its aesthetic modernism at the intersection of phenomenology and political theology. [E.G.]
Judith H. Anderson
English Literary Renaissance, Volume 51, pp 356-382; https://doi.org/10.1086/715423

Discussions of Titus Andronicus have often treated myths as literalizations of metaphor, meaning the staged embodiment of Ovidian myth, despite the fact that a literal meaning is one still in letters. Distinctions between language and physical act or between mind and matter bear both on the aestheticizing and sensationalizing of physical violence and on the metaphor pervading Titus. The speech in Titus that has caused the strongest assertions about the disparity between poetic rhetoric, notably metaphorical symbolism, and the representation of physical violence and human suffering is uttered by Marcus when he unexpectedly sees Lavinia in the near distance, following her rape and mutilation. My essay focuses on this long speech, its rhetorical, poetical, and mythic context, and then its aftermath, the revenge of the Andronici and Lavinia’s death. It notes that Lavinia is conscious, not the dumb object of Marcus’ speech, as commonly assumed, and that her awareness is a game changer. In the aftermath of Marcus’ speech, Lavinia’s reception by Titus and her role in the Andronici’s revenge is again remarkably and mythically crucial. [J.A.]
Andrew S. Keener
English Literary Renaissance, Volume 51, pp 409-441; https://doi.org/10.1086/715425

On account of its setting and its emphasis on domesticity, critics traditionally recognize The Merry Wives of Windsor as Shakespeare’s “English comedy.” Building on the work of scholars interested in the play’s non-English elements, however, this essay argues that the cacophonous mixture of foreign words and phrases represents precisely the comedy’s objective. Merry Wives looks different when read in relation to the multiplicity of polyglot dictionaries and phrasebooks circulating in the playwright’s moment, some of which—such as Noël de Berlaimont’s ultra-popular Colloquia et Dictionariolum—drew a link between translation and seduction. Against this book-historical background, the essay examines how Merry Wives’ accented immigrants and crafty women join forces against the lascivious monoglot (and colonizer) Falstaff, whose plans to “translate” Mistress Ford and Mistress Page “out of honesty into English” end up reversing upon him. At the center of these dealings is Mistress Quickly, an immigrant-employed “go-between” whose language can be understood not as “malapropism,” but rather as playful mixings of foreign wines and words. Seen freshly in these terms, this play stands as Shakespeare’s “cosmopolitan comedy.” [A.K.]
Back to Top Top