The antique story of the Judgement of Paris was adapted to the language of courtly praise of royal women in sixteenth-century England. Absorbing the early modern interpretation of the tale as the praise of a balanced life (triplex vita), the motif lent itself well to the flattery of Queen Elizabeth appearing in the genres of poetry, pageantry, drama, and painting. However, within the Elizabethan context, the elements of the myth were slightly transformed in order to fit the cul- tural and political needs of the court. From the mid-1560s onwards, the elaboration of the theme became part of a broadening classical discourse within the praise of Queen Elizabeth, and the intro- duction of a fourth goddess, Diana, from the early 1580s foregrounded the emergence of her Virgin Queen cult. Furthermore, the tale of the Judgement of Paris represented a synthesis of the flat- tery of female excellence and the growing popularity of the pastoral tradition in English literature which highlighted the conceit of praising Elizabethan England as the land of a new Golden Age.
The paper argues that Marlowe presents a sceptical worldview on religious and social conduct in his plays. However, his scepticism does not affect his views of the natural world, which is represented by the planetary influences. The ability to exert one’s will over the world is called into question and substituted by the deterministic power of the planets. The paper is concerned with the idea of promises in terms of human interaction from various perspectives, such as religious and political points of view. Both religious and secular promises are either void or turn on themselves. In my reading ofMarlowe’s plays (The Jew ofMalta, Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine Parts I and II), notions of promises and scepticism are strongly intertwined, which might help us understand why Marlowe’s works are seen as the products of a cynical mind with atheistic traits.
Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus has a lot to offer when interpreted in the context ofbeliefand disbelief. From the beginning, Faustus repeatedly reminds himself that he should be resolute, but at the end of the play, he wishes above all to be like beasts whose souls are soon dissolved in ele- ments—he, however, is convinced that his soul “must live still to be plagued in hell.” This cer- tainty of the existence of hell is the end-point, something we have not only expected but known from the beginning, when Faustus casually and mockingly calls hell a fable. In this paper, I discuss various aspects of the play’s belief-disbelief spectrum, as well as that of fixity and change. I focus on Faustus’s changes of belief-states arguing that he only dismisses old beliefs so that he can find a final saving belief and he only changes to reach a final state where he will need to change no more. The paper suggests that, in a way, he accomplishes both goals, but it is not exactly the way he imagined or hoped for.
Tracking Faustus's Decision
The Personae of the Muse in the Fair Youth Sonnets
The figure of the Muse in Shakespeare’s sonnets, seemingly inconstant in its depiction, on a closer inspection, is revealed to be the signifier of a number of different entities, ones that are somewhat removed from concepts usually associated with the nine mythical Muses of Classical antiquity. These “personae,” or in other words, various manifestations or appearances of the Muse function in markedly different ways from each other and reveal the workings or the modus oper- andi of the Poet with regard to his endeavour of eternalising the Fair Youth’s beauty. The words of the Muse in sonnet 101 raise questions about the representational powers of pen vs. pencil, invok- ing the Renaissance paragone of poetry and painting, which leads to a number of enquiries con- cerning mimesis, invention, style, and Platonic realism. In my paper, I shall examine the forces and circumstances that shape the figure of the Muse, as well as what those forms could represent, in hopes of illuminating the poetic process of eternalisation in verse.
In this paper, we explore the ways Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream stages its own status as theatrical fiction, then analyse the subtle web of fiction and reality it creates, and the ways it incites the audience to take part in this network. The most intriguing instances of the play’s undertaking of relating fiction and fact are the ones which hold out promises of illu- minating the transition between the two. After presenting some important instances of such tran- sition, or, in the play’s own terminology; “translations,” this paper will deal in particular with Puck’s closing speeches, with a special focus on a puzzling reference to his broom as well as to his sweeping. By focusing on the potentially diverse functions, and even more importantly, on the rich dramatic heritage of Puck’s broom, we will examine what more general things it tells us about the ways theatrical fiction and the audience’s reality interact.
This essay discusses the links between counsel and subjectivity in the context of early modern English drama, with particular reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of the gnomic self, which he recovers from the ancient philo- sophical tradition, it asks what kind of subjectivity emerges from situations of counsel in which remembered knowledge, in the form of sententiae, is supposed to act as a transformative force in the subject of advice.
The first mention of The Merchant of Venice appears in 1598, when a publisher announces that he is about to publish “a booke of the Marchaunt of Venyce, or otherwise called the Jewe of Venyce.” And the first mention of Othello appears in 1622, when another publisher announced his intention to print “The Tragoedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice.” Shakespeare, thus, writes two plays whose titles seemingly claim something about the inclusiveness of the Venetian Republic: its ability to allow a conspicuous outsider to be “of” the very city that was known as the most sophisticated, commercial, and cosmopolitan community in Italy, indeed in all ofEurope. In each, ofcourse, the character discovers how provisional and vulnerable his existence is. The essay, therefore, looks at how Shakespeare understands the possibilities and challenges of cosmopolitan- ism, in ways that may help us understand something about Shakespeare’s world and perhaps something about our own.
Belief and disbelief play an important role in Othello: between the figures and between the action and the audience. The focus here is on audience reactions. They are notoriously difficult to determine as they are poorly documented. Two general factors apart from historical evidence are used here to sketch them: the difference between reading and attending a performance, and the generic frames suggested by the play: comedy, tragedy and, in Shakespeare’s own time, the morality play. Audiences would easily get confused. It may be surprising, then, that Othello is the Shakespeare play where the most violent audience reactions are documented. It may be the very confusion pro- duced by it that is responsible for them.
This essay asks the question: can a poem serve as proof for religious belief? By reading John Donne’s devotional sonnets in light of the Pauline letters, the argument unfolds in two par- allel directions. First, it shows that in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the concept of pis- tis (proof or belief) refers primarily to Christian faith as a self-referential proof. Second, it argues that Donne’s poems enact this sense of faith-as-proof by using language as material for attention exercises. The essay concludes by suggesting that the connection that these poems reveal about cer- tainty and attentiveness gives us a way to think about the continuity between early modern devo- tion and emergent discourses of philosophy.
This paper considers and contextualises René de Lucinge’s The Beginning, Continuance and Decay of Estates (translated into English by John Finet, 1606), and argues that this particu- lar work proposes a fascinating strategy to deal with the Turkish threat in Europe. Besides present- ing the claims ofthe work, I approach the work from the perspective ofthe history ofthe book. This way, I explore the material aspects of the English version from the paratextual elements to type- setting and decoration, and delineate the pattern that emerges from these elements. I also note that these elements influence the act of reading and interpreting the work.
René de Lucinge's The Beginning, Continuance and Decay of Estates
“Fixe heere,” a curious fragment by the young Milton, has been interpreted by critics as an emblematic piece expressing the poet’s pervasive sense of belatedness. In my “speculative flight of fancy,” I propose a different reading, one that finds a general sense of anticipation and adventure in Milton’s couplet.
What we see can confirm our preconceptions, act as proof for what is doubtful. Yet, belief is strongest when it does not require visual, tangible, or any kind of proof. Milton’s later epic dramatises the threefold temptation of Christ in the wilderness, exploring the beliefs of Christ, the Tempter, and even the reader. In the spiritual battle of the two characters, the pictures that the words paint give much of the epic grandeur, as the poem investigates the reliability of the visual. In this process Satan’s disguises try to capitalise on the cultural connotations of clothing, while Christ stands in naked honesty.
Viewing utopias and histories as two sides of the same fantasy enables an interpretation ofHenry Neville’s The Isle ofPines (1668) that reads it as both a caustic commentary on the prob- lems inherent in monarchical government—especially when an absolute sovereign is dissolute—and a profoundly self-critical utopia. It is primarily through its complex and, at times, parodic inter- textuality with Exodus that this text offers an ironic commentary on the notion of paradise itself, a beguiling no-place, located in the dimmest recesses of the past, which continues to inspire blue- prints for a better world.
This paper discusses the theory of passions of Alexander Pope (1688–1744) and David Hume (1711–1776). It focusses on two phrases: “ruling passion” by Pope and “predominant inclination” by Hume. This study attempts to demonstrate that Hume used his term with a simi- lar meaning to that of Pope. The importance of the passions in the conduct of human life, accord- ing to these authors, involves a sceptical attitude towards the capabilities of reason. This paper attempts to show the manifestations of this attitude in Pope’s satires on human characters and in the characterisation of a false philosopher and philosophy by Hume.
Pope's "Ruling Passion" and Hume's "Predominant Inclination"
This paper looks at two twentieth-century rewritings of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: one by Bertolt Brecht, who in 1933 wrote a parable-play on contemporary German social politics entitled Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe (The Roundheads and the Peakheads), and one by Charles Marowitz, who in 1975 finished his Variations on Measure for Measure, a play re-written after, and partly as a reaction to, his unjust arrest for shoplifting and vagrancy. As the contexts of their birth also indicate, both plays called upon Measure for Measure to reflect on the nature of justice and its relation to politics, but, aside from their political stance, the two dramas differ largely in the way they work with Shakespeare’s text. Indeed, one could argue that if we take the “fidelity to Shakespeare’s text” as the gauge of our imaginary spectrum of adapta- tions, they, at first glance, seem to occupy almost the opposite ends: while Brecht distances himself from the original almost completely, Marowitz relies on the play’s text closely, only to concoct from its pieces a surprisingly different ending. However, this essay wishes to argue that, in spite of their different textual approaches, the two Measure for Measure spinoffs are alike in several aspects.
In Shakespearean drama reason at times falters and becomes ineffective in coping with the events. Its limits appear as temporary but dramatic reminders of the necessarily curbed scope of human understanding. Instances of ‘reasonless’ and meaningless phenomena abound in the plays and present themselves mostly in the forms of paradox and the absurd. In the selective recourse to paradoxes in Shakespeare, this article will focus on the tragedies—together with a potentially tragic instance in a chronicle play—which most blatantly expose the limits of reason. I believe that these momentary lapses demonstrate recurring structures of containment characteristic of Shakespeare. Demonstrating the ways paradox and the absurd are contained in Shakespearean drama also entails an overview of the fundamentally different handling of these concepts in the Theatre of the Absurd.
The Paradox and the Absurd
Within and Without the Border: On Géza Kállay's Last Book