Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity

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Add a LibraryThing Author. LibraryThing, articles, scholars, trips, meditation Studies, Amazon, coke, Bruna, etc. The download foreign and native on the english stage metaphor and national identity early will load manned to New television Hinduism. Offset from the courtly centre of English political life, offset also from the capital, London, Kent is the doorway to Europe.

A recent study by Lisa Hopkins suggests that the Dover cliffs represent the limits of British identity, a liminal place of intense eschatological anxiety. In contrast with Hopkins s approach, I hope by inter-layering dramatic and non-dramatic texts to demonstrate how the peculiarly Kentish fusion of foreign and native identities came to become so emotionally weighted, complex and unstable. In my third and final section, I further scale up my geography to examine the regional placement of English identity within European Christendom.

As Denys Hay suggested in his seminal essay on Europe, the geographical construction of this regional identity emerged forcibly under threat from the Ottoman empire in the late medieval period. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Henry V, TLN. National identity in the Renaissance was the source not only of national pride but also, conversely, the generator of intense spiritual discomfort, a local distraction from God s cosmographical plan.

The dynamics of identity construction are in this period hugely complicated by belief systems that sought to transcend individual identity as a function of merely local and contingent factors. Particularist identity constructions might signify, and even produce, estrangement from spiritual homelands. Christendom may be at once England s eschatological destiny, and also, as a regional hegemonic structure, threaten to occlude the nation, particularly after the Reformation and the establishment of localist national churchs.

Was Christendom England s natural home? Was England estranged from Christendom? As various nations in this period struggled for regional pre-eminence, English and other European national identities might be expressed as alienated and demonic.

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As I shall demonstrate, texts in the s presented all too clearly this sense of unease. Continental literature, particular Italian romance and epic literature, contributed to the English representation of Christendom in this period as fragile and fragmented, deeply interpenetrated by signs of spiritual corruption that may even be depicted as forms of Turkish difference. Plays examined in this section demonstrate English attempts to transform Italian Christian epic to conform to their peculiar national circumstances.

English reactions were complicated by a sense of physical and confessional distance from Italy as the historical heartland of. However, the volte face performed by James s willingness to make peace with Spain, following more than a decade of war, complicated the discursive formulations of the s. James placed the regional rhetoric of Christendom at the heart of his foreign policy, as W. Patterson s seminal account has demonstrated. It was reflected in his dynastic marriage planning, and, as we shall see, in popular stage plays by authors such as Heywood, responding positively to his early policy announcements.

However, the more pessimistic formulations of the s lingered on, and made it difficult if not impossible to read romance or epic depictions of Christian endeavour without a sense of ironic distance. I discuss early Jacobean plays whose satiric edge was sharpened by their awareness Machiavelli s treatises were translated and printed in England towards the end of the sixteenth century and widespread references to this author and his pragmatic political ideas can be found in contemporary writing.

The section on Christendom finishes with an examination of Cymbeline, a play that I see as encapsulating the complex English exploration of their national relationship with regional Christendom. Placed carefully on the periphery both of Christian chronology and territory, Shakespeare s stage geographies reflect English destiny as separate from yet inextricably linked with Christendom. The structure of romance resolution celebrates a homecoming, the return of both Imogen and Posthumous to Cymbeline s court and to each other.

The resolution of warfare between ancient Britain and Rome sympathetically reflects James s longing for a reunified Christendom, with his realm at its heart. Shakespeare s carefully interweaving of foreign, continental and native, English textual sources marks an aesthetic argument that English destiny may be harmoniously aligned with the regional materialisation of Christendom -- but not with absolute necessity, I shall suggest, with the apotheosis of James Stuart.

Cymbeline in the play named after him in many respects does not live up to eponymous expectations. Ineffectual and deluded for most of the play, he functions as part of the plot apparatus, reacting to events rather authoring his own, and his nation s, destiny; this is a representative strategy difficult to reconcile with readings of the play as a simple reflection of absolutist court politics. The celebratory hermeneutics of this Jacobean Cymbeline capture a fleeting moment, smoothing over with tactful ellipsis potential dissonant elements.

The work seems to have coincided with Prince Henry s coming of age, a rare moment when national and court politics might harmoniously converge and more dangerous. Leah Marcus notes that the play was revived at Charles I s court in to coincide with the king s progress to Scotland to receive the crown of Scotland, suggesting that the British politics expressed in the play reinforced Charles s domestic policy imperatives.

The discrepancy between Cymbeline s aesthetic resolution and unfolding history reminds us that art cannot fix identities as stable constructs, nor enforce identities which have no root in experiential social and political reality. Finally, the structure of my three sections in each case culminates with a play by Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear and Cymbeline. Shakespeare is sui generis, it might be argued; his representations are not, in a sense, truly representative of early modern identity formation; Shakespeare s virtuosity as a writer makes him an anomaly even amongst the majority of his peers.

However, it seems to me that the decision to foreground Shakespeare in this way may be defended because of his unusual ability to absorb and rework such a wide spectrum of discursive material, and because, as an author, his centrality to the longer term evolution of English national identity as a literary construct seems undeniable. Shakespeare is important to people whose sense of social identity is profoundly shaped by literary texts: to authors, and to readers and audiences for whom his works came to form the core of a canon that defined English national literary culture.

Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare, p. What we mean by Shakespeare the author is undoubtedly opaque; the radically collaborative nature of his writing is still being debated. David Scott Kastan has pointed out that author in this context means not only the principal writer, but also those agents involved in the production and dissemination of the text, players, printers, censors et al. His private beliefs are unknown: possibly he was raised a Catholic, possibly he found himself drawn to a broad church, Erasmian toleration; critics disagree.

Shakespeare s works, therefore, seem to me to be peculiarly well placed to reflect the fractures within his social David Scott Kastan, Shakespeare after Theory London: Routledge, , p On Shakespeare s formative Catholicism, see E. Honigman, Shakespeare: The Lost Years 2 nd edn. Manchester: Manchester University Press, Shakespeare s work has, moreover, seen active service, used both by writers and readers as part of the monumental literature that represents the English nation to themselves, and to others, and it seems reasonable to attempt to examine it in situ, before its translation to the status of national treasure.

Post-romantic critics after Herder read much into Ben Jonson s comment that Shakespeare was the Soule of the Age, and not just his own age, but for all time. In , William Hazlitt recalled a moment of national pride when visiting Paris as an art tourist in And there that fine passage stands in Antony and Cleopatra as we read it long ago with exulting eyes in Paris, after puzzling over a tragedy of Racine s, and cried aloud Our Shakespeare was also a poet! William Shakespeare, and what he hath left vs, in William Shakespeare, Mr. Howe London: J. Dent, , Vol. Shakespeare s words have become literally a part of the monumental record of English national history.

Shakespeare, then, is important to my study because no other author writing in this period has proved so serviceable to English readers looking to literature to authorise their self-image. But just how natural -- how true to native form -- is this construction? To answer this, it is illuminating to examine the critical judgements of two of Shakespeare s near-contemporaries, Ben Jonson and John Milton, both of whom judged that Shakespeare s writing somehow seemed to present the English language in a peculiarly natural form.

Both, however, take pains to show how this apparent naturalness was in fact highly artful: carefully positioning their own writing alongside Shakespeare s, they propose themselves as likewise well-placed to offer up to the English reading public, positioning themselves within an emerging national literature whose shibboleth is Shakespeare. Milton s L Allegro was probably written in the early s during one of his vacations from studying at Cambridge.

A companion piece to the more introverted Il Penseroso, this was an exercise in sprezzatura, a celebration of the student Milton s exuberant encounter with and absorption of a wide body of English and European literatures. Despite his celebration of Shakespeare, Milton writes, in fact, a densely artificial work, packed to bursting with pastoral shepherds, classical muses, throngs of knights and barons bold line and fairylands fresh from plays such as Shakespeare s Midsummer Night s Dream.

By celebrating Shakespeare s natural writing, Milton is in fact demonstrating that he can digest and naturalise Shakespeare s art. Returning to Antony Smith s description of the ethno-symbolic structures constructing nationhood, we see Milton here engaged in just such a construction: Shakespeare s writing provides Milton, in Antony Smith s terms, with a myth of common ancestry, shared historical memories and traditions, common culture, a link to an historic history or homeland, a measure of solidarity.

This rhetorical false modesty belies, of course, its author s evident display of literary competence. John Milton both English and Latin, compos'd at several times. London: Ruth Raworth for Humphrey Moseley, A5 r, lines The Folio is a self-conscious act of patriotic literary self-promotion, both for English letters, and the writers and publishers associated with the project. Jonson s epitaph slyly points out, however, that poets are not simply untutored natural geniuses: For a good Poet s made, as well as borne line Art is slowly revealed to be not so much natural but as a parallel creative force to Nature.

Milton and Jonson s literary theory wrestles with the knotty question of the relationship between art and nature, and reveals something of profound significance. If literary art is, in a sense, a world parallel to nature, it encodes at a most basic level an estrangement from its signified natural objects. Shakespeare, like all writers, is not simply natural, but nature s rival, remaking nature: Nature her selfe was proud of his designes does not mean simply that Shakespeare was sympathetically reflecting nature, but rather, that his writing profoundly changed how the English nation might be represented to itself.

Renaissance writing is therefore paradoxically at its most natural when it is at its most artificial: this tension, between natural but unselfconscious identities and artificial literary self-representations lies as a foundational concept in understanding the creative dynamic between native and foreign identities on the early modern stage. Identities so composed are themselves radically hybrid, both foreign and native. But in the sixteenth century, before the era of exotic and far flung European colonisation and global imperialism, actual European contact with civilisations to the East was likely to induce feelings of anxiety and cultural inferiority.

In both dynamics, the nation state itself is the hegemonic structure that generates counter-representations. Roudiez New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, Cameron, Julie M. Duck, Deborah H. Terry, and Richard N. Cleopatra s tragic love and her fall on Fortune s wheel make her sister to various wronged female co-travellers from classical times, who love their men generously and in spite of bitter trials, even to the death: Alceste, Thisbe, Dido, Hypsipyle, Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne, Philomela, Phyllis and Hypermnestra.

Surviving editions of medieval illustrated copies of Boccaccio s De mulieribus show Cleopatra dressed in contemporary European garb; not, in fact, Oriental at all. Robinson ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, , p. The opening story features Cleopatra, Egypti regine, whose love for Antony provokes war because Antony has abandoned his Roman wife in order to marry her; the plight of the abandoned wife is not explored, as Cleopatra s martyrdom to love is the moral of the tale.

While Anne of Bohemia s marriage was hardly tragic, she too was in geographical terms an eastern queen, and her much more successful marriage with the king of England presents a positive antitype to these tragic stories of exogamous relationships. More than this, by inviting the male author to write from the female perspective under queenly authority, Chaucer s Legend establishes a strand of discourse that both complements and counterweights the potentially tyrannous male perspective of the king.

This construction of Oriental feminine identity draws attention to a feminine political voice that would otherwise have remained passive, the object of desire encountered in works such as Chaucer s Romauns of the Rose or the tale of Troilus and Criseyde. By allowing these women s stories their proper place, by acknowledging that women may also have a point of view, and the right to speak as self-determining agents, Chaucer is acting as the agent of natural justice, creating a natural account -- one that is both English and balanced: This is the sentence of the philosopher, 9 John Lydgate asserts this in the first book of the Falls of Princes written ; The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed.

In the sixteenth century, however, European humanists turned afresh to the original classical sources, discovering in these important prototypical models for European nation-states and their subjects: accounts, however, that reproduced strongly the patriarchal Roman attitude towards women like Dido, Cleopatra and Medea as demonic aliens. In the literature of imperial Rome, Cleopatra s defeat at Actium had been the defining historical moment that marked the ascendancy of the Roman world-straddling empire, and, furthermore, of a particular, patriarchal formulation of Roman imperium that found its focal point in the figure of the western Emperor, the Caesar.

The Roman biography of Cleopatra was the normative version in classical and neoclassical European literature, but, as we shall see, writers in the sixteenth century found ways of engaging with this tradition that allowed subtle shifts of perspective, shifts that signalled a process of negotiation between the political identity of more proximate Caesars and their subjects. In the rest of this section, I will examine four pathways: the account by Plutarch, translated into French by Amyot and thence into English by Thomas North; Cleopatra s re-appearance in French sixteenth-century drama; Cleopatra s translation and transformation from French into English dramatic writing during the final decade of Elizabeth I s reign and into the Stuart period; and finally, the complex interactions of Shakespeare s 10 Geoffrey Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women, lines , p.

I will argue that the Cleopatra theme provides a narrative space in which parallel versions of native political identity can be formulated and explored. While specific topical contexts informed the reception of these representations, what will become clear is that the triangular relationship between Augustus, Antony and Cleopatra repeatedly uses Cleopatra to represent subordinate versions of political identity as apparently exotic when these are in fact aspects of core self identity, interior and even in some accounts intensely domestic.

The Orient is thus disturbingly near-to-home in its localisations; these naturalised images of Cleopatra allowed readers and audiences to explore particular and highly politicised tensions between individual and social identity: Cleopatra is thus representative of the sense of estrangement that these negotiations generated at the heart of social and political discourse. We have some surviving Egyptian coins, showing the queen as a strong faced Amazon, whose jutting, masculine nose and flaring nostrils curl over her snarling mouth: a face-off, in fact, against comparable coinage showing the heads of the Roman imperators.

In these accounts, Antony is a demagogue, a drunkard, a profligate, an adulterer, and Cleopatra a seductress, her threat to Roman hegemony in the Mediterranean translated and neutralised by her 11 For images of Cleopatra on contemporary coinage, see Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, catalogue entry GLAHM M. Plutarch was born in Charonea in western Boeotia in about AD Robert Lamberton s modern biography of Plutarch describes him as Janus-like, looking both forward and backwards in time, poised between Greek and Roman civilisations. His literary vision reflected, and, by reflecting, cemented into the tradition, Roman values with regard to Greek culture -- and the opposite, Greek attitudes towards Rome.

Plutarch s method was to use political biography as ethical instruction, laying out for comparison a succession of parallel lives, a Roman for a Greek. Lamberton describes Plutarch s writing as a conscious act of cultural mythmaking, positioning Greek civilisation as the necessary mirror reflecting Roman might, without which Rome was merely another barbarian nation. Plutarch s biographical method implied a comparison between an illustrious but decayed Greek intellectual inheritance and the vigorous, if often deeply flawed, 12 Cleopatra was a woman of insatiable sexuality and insatiable avarice etc -- Cassius Dio, The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus, trans.

Dio, born about a century after Plutarch, was also a Greek. Plutarch s Antony finds Greece -- the midway point between Rome and Egypt -- to be a place where models of public life are decayed and where private living has replaced public action. But Greece is critical to the making of Antony, for early in his career, Antony goes to Greece to learn rhetorical arts: he used a manner of phrase in his speeche, called Asiatik, which caried the best grace and estimation at that time, and was much like to his manners and life: for it was full of ostentation, foolishe braverie and vaine ambition.

Later, after the formation of the triumvirate and the defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, Antony is formally given command of the eastern Empire, and his first port of call is again Greece: At his first comming into Graece, he was not hard nor bitter unto the Graecians, but gave himselfe onely to heare wise men dispute, to see playes and also to note the ceremonies and sacrifices of Graece, ministring justice to everie man, and it pleased him marvelously to heare them call him Philellen, as much to say, a lover of the Graecians. Hereafter referred to as North.

George Wyndham, writing his editorial introduction to North s translation of Plutarch s lives in , suggested that Plutarch s Greece was a land left empty and silent, save for the statues of Gods and the renown of great men. The final sentence of Plutarch s Antony draws a line forward from the debauched lovers to Nero s madnes and wicked life, which had almost destroyed the Empire of Rome.

This political inferiority complex lies at the heart of the transmission and translation practices that brought Plutarch s writing to new readers in western Europe in the sixteenth century. French and English translations of Plutarch engaged with Plutarch as a Greek author, requiring to be digested and assimilated by humanisttrained authors writing in the service of their aspirant national cultures.

The first French translation of the Moralia, by Jacques Amyot , and the first English translation by Philemon Holland acknowledge in their title pages that the original source language was Greek. The first English language edition, translated by Philemon Holland, appeared in The Philosophie, commonlie called, the morals written by the learned philosopher. Holland here is inviting the reader to recognise the translator as being sufficiently learned to have a capable command of Greek while also implicitly proposing English as capable of bearing the weight of the source material: promoting both his own intellectual capabilities and the serviceability of his readers national vernacular language.

The title pages of Amyot s Les Vies des hommes illustres and of North s translation of Amyot into English in similarly declare the work to be translated out of Greeke. In fact, a decent contemporary Latin copy also existed: but this was Italian in origin, produced under the supervision of Campari, in the Medici court The year before Amyot s translation appeared under the patronage of Margaret of Navarre, the French had attempted to better Boccaccio s Decameron with the publication of Margaret s rival collection of stories, the Heptameron.

If Plutarch was concerned in the period in which he wrote to fold Greek civilisation within Roman imperium, ensuring the survival of Greek values under the wing of the Roman eagle, and imbuing the new masters of the world with Greek values and high cultural status, the humanist writers of the Renaissance were similarly concerned to appropriate classical texts to legitimise their own national cultures and to out-do their contemporary cultural rivals. Plutarch of Chaeronea. Hereafter referred to as Amyot.

In England, North s translation of was dedicated to his sovereign, Elizabeth. Margaret s court was strongly associated with a movement to reform French political life through improving the culture of letters: a distinctively feminine route into public life. The feminised framework of patronage within which these translations appeared sat uneasily with the predominately masculine public codes of the age, a paradoxical placement of an ethical exemplar in an apparently non-public sphere.

Plutarch s uneasy awareness of the decayed state of Greek public culture complemented contemporary Renaissance concern with degeneracy in national public life. In , when Thomas North s translation of Plutarch appeared in print, Elizabeth s more vehemently Protestant subjects were horrified to learn that the queen was seriously considering a marriage proposal from Francis, Duke of Anjou. If they have done this for glory, what should we doe for religion? If they have done this without hope of heaven, what should we doe that looke for immortalitie? Turning now to North s handling of the story of Antony and Cleopatra, we find that the process of translation from French to English created some peculiar naturalising adjustments.

Some are obvious: throughout the Lives, North renders Amyot s la chose publique, the Grecian public life, as the commonwealth, a formulation that encapsulates a very English view of public life and its constitutional history. More usually, however, North s translation selects English vocabulary that situates the text more deliberately in a neo-chivalric cultural context, one sympathetic to his projected English aristocratic readership.

Where Amyot s Antony is a homme d entreprise, et bon et vaillant capitaine, [ a man of action, and a good and brave captain ], North s translation finds him a hardy man, and a valliant 25 North, p North, p. Here, North is bettering the French original at its own game: hardy came into English via the French word hardi, used in the Chanson de Roland of c. North s translation thus reconfigures Antony, underlining his rugged, masculine qualities in terms sympathetic to a readership familiar with chivalric romance literature.

In complementary fashion, North s Cleopatra is, in small but important ways, less attractively feminine than Amyot s, more demonic and alien. In Amyot s accounts, when Cleopatra meets Antony at Cydnus, Antony is drawn to Cleopatra not just by her beauty but also by what he describes as la douceur et gentillesse de son naturel, qui assaisonnait tout ce qu elle disait ou faisait [ the sweetness and gentility of her nature, which seasoned everything that she did or said ].

North, however, curtails this phrase: it is her curteous nature, that tempered her words and deeds. Amyot describes 27 Amyot, Vol. II, p. VI, p. Cleopatra subsequently applies these to criminals already condemned to death in order to find a painless but fatal poison appropriate to her own suicide. With North, Cleopatra s experimentation is more generally malicious in intent: Cleopatra in the meane time was verie carefull in gathering all sorts of poysons together to destroy men.

Like Sidney, North was writing in a period of frustrated inaction, watching continental wars unfold while Elizabeth refused to commit troops and even contemplated marrying out of the faith. Amyot was at ease with his female patroness: North s milieu was much more conflicted in its attitudes to Elizabeth at this time, and concerned with the effect that her policies might have on the masculine vitality of the nation. Fittingly, he signs off his dedication to Elizabeth with a rhetorical question that hangs tantalisingly unresolved: what service is there in warre, what honor in peace, which they [the readers of this work] will not be ready to doe, for their worthy Queene?

Amyot, p. The choice of subject - - adulterous love -- was again topical, as Henri like his father kept a high profile mistress, Diane de Poitiers, alongside his wife, the Italian Catherine de Medici. And, as we shall see, this was a literary court culture that found itself able to associate strongly with the Egyptian, Oriental, perspective. Authors and patrons in this case shared a similar aspirational nationalist agenda. II, pp. In , France was waging war against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, for control of lands on France s eastern frontier; in January , after a lengthy siege, Charles retreated from Lorraine, leaving this important border region in the control of Francis, Duc de Guise, one of the French crown s foremost subjects.

The victorious Henri has managed to appropriate the Holy Roman Emperor s own world-straddling emblem. Jodelle s play repeatedly criticises the orgueil [pride, or hubris] of the central characters, but in particular, finds this to be the central defining characteristic of the victorious Roman commander. Henri s victories will more than equal his: Seeing that his very successors will be obliged To yield in your favour to the dictates from on high, Which already commit the world to your royal rule, Confessing you the envoy of all the Gods.

In preserving and representing Cleopatra s defiance of Octavian, the play shadows the French king s defiance of the over-mighty ambitions of the Holy Roman Emperor. Reading the play typologically, it might be said that Henri will succeed against his contemporary Emperor where Cleopatra and Antony had failed. Kathleen Hall comments on the frequent use of the word estrange, which in its simplest sense means foreign or strange, particularly drawing attention to Act IV when the Egyptians bewail strangeness as the particular form taken by their tragic nemesis: Any translation such as strange, unusual, unfamiliar seems impossible here and not much better when the Chorus mentions Du temps le vol estrange , Cleopatra ceste estrange guerre or Eras their estrange prison A stronger translation such as unprecedented or frightful might do for the last two instances, but not for the first two.

Cleopatra is distraught not simply because she has lost her lover, but because the defeat at Actium has meant her enslavement to a foreign conqueror. She and the chorus of Alexandrian women therefore fear being submerged in a Roman state, seeing this alienation as tragic destiny. See how fleeting Is her ill-timed Felicity.

Such is the will Of immovable Fate. Thus is dispensed The Gods disfavour to us. Translatio imperii is therefore represented as estrangement from divine favour and enslavement to foreign laws. By committing suicide, Cleopatra and her women have refused to continue to live under these conditions of self-alienation. The chorus, on the other hand, are presumably left to bear the full weight of the tragic historical progression. In the concluding lines, the Chorus laments: Mais tant y a qu il nous faudra renger Dessous les loix d un vainqueur estranger.

Souvent nos maux font nos morts desirables, Vous le voyez en ces trois miserables. The three presumably refers to the dead bodies of the three women, Cleopatra, Eras and Charmion, since Antony is already dead and speaks from beyond the grave. And henceforth in our town we ll learn The folly of defying Caesar. Often misfortune makes Death desirable As you have seen in these three wretched ones.

In the final Act, Octavian is not allowed to speak: instead, Proculee, his lieutenant finds the bodies, mute symbols of Octavian s failure to control historical destiny, and shares the stage with the chorus of Alexandrian women. Indeed, both in their numerical dominance of the stage area and by dint of giving them, literally, the last word, the drama effectively hands over control to the Egyptian choric voice -- and, of course, to the silently resistant bodies of the queen and her attendants.

Antony and Cleopatra s speeches in the first Act are appropriately for these Alexandrian lovers set in syllable Alexandrine meter, with its falling, final feminine inflection, which became the standard meter for French tragic verse in the sixteenth century, 43 but which is also illustrative of their effeminate way of living. It is therefore significant that their final chant adopts Octavian s own heroic verse form, their command of the victor s metrics mounting a verbal challenge of his assumption of control and mastery every bit as effectively as Cleopatra s suicide.

By allowing the Chorus such prominence, by allowing them to digest Roman metrics, Jodelle s play hints that, in a different time for example, his own contemporary sixteenth-century Europe , the defeat of the Orient might be typologically transposed: translated into a cultural victory by Occidental France. The translatio imperii from Egypt to Rome would in the fullness of time be superseded by a similar movement westwards from Rome to France. In these successive acts of estrangement, patriotic identity is reclaimed and given voice.

This translation of national identity into exotic, feminine garb may have worked within the very peculiar performance context of the Dionysian court and its poets, but it is nevertheless fraught with existential unease. The piquancy of political cross-dressing and cross-naturisation may, of course, be a key aspect of the original audience s enjoyment of the play -- a slightly decadent whiff of devil-may-care aristocratic sang-froid.

Nevertheless, at a seminal moment for the construction of early modern French national identity, it is curious to find a subaltern, even subversive element folded deep within the centre of the political nation. This Oriental inflection filtered down from the court to colour more generally representations of French national politics in the troubled sixteenth century, as France s European ambitions were overtaken by the domestic tragedy of the wars of religion.

The threat posed by private interests to civic harmony is the theme of Robert Garnier s closet drama, Marc Antoine Garnier, a prominent Catholic jurist, wrote several plays from the perspective of the victims of the Augustan state about the period of civil war that had brought the Roman Republic to an end and heralded the early days of the Empire.

Hill and Mary G. Morrison eds , London: The Athlone Press, Several sixteenth-century editions of the play exist: , , , and with errata The edition used here appears to be the one that Mary Sidney used when creating her English translation. Garnier stayed clear of the more extreme opinions of the French Catholic League for most of his career except for a brief period in , following the assassination of Henri III, when the succession was unstable and genuinely contested.

But in the period when Marc Antoine was written, in the aftermath of the St Bartholomew s massacre, Garnier was loyal to his king, and intensely aware of the criticism laid against Henri by the Huguenots as decadent and in thrall to the extreme Catholicism of the Guise faction. In Garnier s play, the central, tragic love affair is sympathetically handled: both Antony and Cleopatra are allowed to solicit the audience s pity. Nevertheless, it is demonstrated that their love has been profoundly destructive of civil peace.

Gillian Jondorf, a modern biographer of Garnier, writes: The parallel between Marc- Antoine and Henri III was likely to occur to his readers, even if Garnier did not intend it; but he probably did. In this analogue, Antony and Cleopatra s uncompromising love presents a classical parallel to sixteenth-century confessional convictions, with equally fatal political and personal outcomes. The tragedy serves as a patriotic warning to Garnier s readers on the price of political division.

To a writer further away from the political centre during the French civil wars, the symbol of Cleopatra continued to invite more proximate self-identification. Nicholas de Montreux, otherwise known as Olenix du Mont-Sacre, Gentleman of Maine, was a writer associated with patronage circles in opposition to the French court in the s: indeed, one who questioned whether France should be governed as an integrated nation state from Paris.

But religious difference was only one -- if the major -- element in the civil war struggle.

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Regional difference also played a part. In the west of France, confessional struggle overlaid Brittany s historical sense of regional resistance to direct government from Paris. Led by the Duc de Mercoeur, ambitious to establish a semi-autonomous Duchy in north-west France, resistance to Henri IV continued until well into the s, with Spanish assistance.


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From , Montreux was associated with Mercoeur s household, acting as one of the Duc s private secretaries. Subsequent editions in and appeared in Paris. And indeed, after years of bitter fighting, how might such reconciliation be achieved? On the one hand, suicide is an honourable political act. On the other hand, as Acts I to IV explore from both the Egyptian and the Roman perspectives, there are alternative possibilities.

Montreux s concern for the fate not only of the tragic lovers but also of their dependents, the victims of the situation, puts a new twist on French representations of this story. Iras in particular seeks to dissuade her mistress, trying with increasing desperation to explore other options. Acts II and IV find Octavius and his advisors discussing not only whether or not, and how, to punish Cleopatra, but also the general fate of the Egyptian people.

The Alexandrian philosopher Arius pleads for leniency for Cleopatra s subjects: Punis-la si tu veux: mais, Octave, fais grace A ce peuple innocent qui fremist sous ta face 52 [Punish her if you wish, but, Octavius, be merciful To this innocent nation which trembles before you] Offstage, between Acts IV and V, Cleopatra commits suicide.

Act V shows Epaphroditus s relation of her tragic death, and Octavius s response. In following Senecan precepts and removing Cleopatra s body offstage at the critical moment of her suicide, Montreux s drama makes dramatic choices that are significantly different from other sixteenth-century French representations of this story. Montreux s Cleopatra, on the other hand, is abruptly silenced.

Octavius peevishly interrupts Epaphroditus s account of Cleopatra s death, revealing both his anxiety to control the narrative, and his irritation with the manner in which she has defied him: Conte moy donc comment, ton long discours m ennuye [Tell me how she did it; your long tale is boring me]. Une femme esploree [A weeping woman] has outwitted him and taken control of her own posthumous fame: nevertheless, he declares that he will manage the return to normality. Like Cleopatra, the readers of Montreux s play might have wished to be seen as martyrs for a heroic cause.

However, the story of Antony and Cleopatra demonstrated that in public life, individual conflicts of love and loyalty might be more difficult to reconcile. Montreux s play demonstrates the extent to which dreams of an integrated French national identity might be interrogated and decentred by the memory of Cleopatran resistance. A metaphor once associated with courtly self-identification might as readily be appropriated by opponents of the central authorities. Livre premier. Mary Sidney s colophon dates her translation, to which she gave the title Antonius, to the 26 th November, , at which time Protestant fortunes in France had reached a nadir.

By choosing to translate a work by a monarchist French playwright, albeit a Catholic one, Sidney was participating in a recognisable contemporary debate, using the Egyptian theme as a metaphor for national life under attack, threatened by disunity and civil war. Two events in English domestic politics of the late s would also have found strong analogues in the story of Antony and Cleopatra s doomed love, and in both cases continental responses to English domestic concerns are deeply interlinked.

The tragic death of Mary Queen of Scots in was still featuring strongly in continental polemical writing in Anxious to minimise the possibility of sectarian violence -- and looking to France as a salutary example in this respect -- Protestant writers had long been accustomed to attack Mary s private lustfulness rather than, explicitly, her difference in faith. Mary s legendary intemperance and 57 For example, G. Waller, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. The Sidneys and their close acquaintances were amongst the most enthusiastic disseminators of continental cultural and political ideas in England.

Philip kept in touch with the most recent European developments and was a friend and correspondent of the Huguenot diplomat Languet. The direct representation of Mary, and necessarily of her cousin Elizabeth, was obviously deeply problematic in England. Edmund Spenser was famously criticised for his thinly disguised allegorical depiction of Mary s treason trial in Book V of The Faerie Queene. In this work, Elizabeth was portrayed sympathetically: the English queen wishes to save Mary but is persuaded by her councillors that Mary Stuart s execution would prevent Elizabeth s assassination and a subsequent civil war.

When the play appeared in print in Paris in the English ambassador Sir Ralph Winwood was sent to complain to the French chancellor that the representation was impertinent, and won assurances that the author would be suitably chastised. Ward, , Vol. In , Mary Stuart would have been readily accessible as the contemporary archetype of a tragic queen in a public discourse that was not just English, but which straddled the channel.

This close to her execution, direct representation would have been extremely impolitic, but a number of glancing allusions to Mary Stuart s biography could have been read into the English translation of Garnier s Marc Antoine. In the opening speech of the play, Garnier s Antony depicts Cleopatra as a sorceress luring men away from truth, much as Protestant diatribes against Mary had written that the Scottish queen was the onlie Circes, which hath this mischief wrought.

Representations of Mary Stuart drew on this image: for example, she is imagined in one account lamenting that her lustfulness has caused a woefull wreck in this my commonweal. If potential analogues between Cleopatra and Mary Stuart preserved the polarity of the original classical tale, the sea metaphorically sends the compass needle spinning, permitting readings in which contemporary events might be seen as typologically replaying classical history. In , English ships saw off the Spanish Armada: the fame was loud, but equally strong was anxiety about future invasion attempts.

Sidney s Egypt is similarly a land threatened from the sea. Driuing with our Kings from hence Our establish d gouernment, Injustice, sworde, and Lawes defence. It is quite possible that the Chorus s remembrance of Troy, the great cittie put to sack 71 would have also reminded contemporary English readers of the infamous fall of Antwerp to the Spanish, the Spanish Fury of , which in contemporary writing was regularly held up as a direct warning to London of the consequences of sloth and inaction Mary Sidney, Antonius, II. The event was also reprised on the London stage: see Anon, A larum for London or the Siedge of Antwerpe with the ventrous actes and valorous deeds of the lame soldier as it hath been played by the right Honorable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants London: Edward Allde for William Ferbrand, ,.

In his own words, at the opening of Act IV, Octavius sees himself not only as victorious over Egypt, but also over Rome: Mastering the world with fearful violence Making the world widow of libertie: Yet at this daie this proud exalted Rome Despoil d, captiu d, at one mans will doth bende: Her Empire mine, her life is in my hand, As Monarch I both world and Rome commaund. The function of the Chorus in Greek drama invites audience selfidentification and directs audience response. However, in Sidney s play, the identity of the Chorus is unstable, shifting in the course of the play from a Greek to a Roman voice, a shift of ethnicities that reiterates the trope of translatio imperii with unsettling consequences for the core choric identity and audience perspective.

Roman victory silences the communal Egyptian voice, accentuating Cleopatra s isolation.

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Et sans desemparer nos mains Des glaives dans nostre sang teints, Et sans despuoiller la cuirace, Nostre continu vestement, Nous irons-nous de race en race Massacrer eternellement? Shall neuer we this blade, Our bloud hath bloudie made, Lay downe? These armes downe lay As robes we weare always? But as from age to age, So passe from rage to rage? This brings the possibility of civil war home to roost inside the English state, undoubtedly a less positive aspect of translatio imperii.

The idea of historical cyclicity and repetition, of the past informing the future, is picked up by Sidney s syntax, which is often, and certainly in the example quoted, much 74 John King, English Reformation Literature: The Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, , pp. Sidney s verses use sound repetition rhyming couplets , and a range of self-conscious rhetorical figures of inversion and partial repetition e. The choric shifts of perspective, and Sidney s deployment of self-reflexive figures, suggest a deliberate evasiveness about the singularity of native identity.

Choric soul-searching produces moments of divided consciousness. The speakers in the play look backwards and forwards at their historical and future selves. And indeed when the translation appeared in print in , this sense of native self-alienation would have intensified for Mary Sidney s circle, as recent events would have created uncomfortable analogues between the Egyptian Queen and the English Elizabeth.

Elizabeth s foreign policy had been extremely cautious, but three years after the Armada, in August , she had eventually allowed herself to be persuaded to send the Earl of Essex to France to assist Henri IV in his siege of Rouen. The campaign foundered as Henri absented himself on campaigns elsewhere in France, and Essex s improvisations, including his decision to create a large number of knighthoods on the battlefield, went considerably beyond Elizabeth s sense of propriety and strategic caution.

In January , Essex was recalled in a decision uncomfortably similar to Cleopatra s abandonment of Antony and flight at Actium. It is worth asking why Mary Sidney decided to take her translation to print. In an age when manuscript was still a viable method of circulating literature,. The key to this, as Victor Skretkowicz has argued, must lie in the Sidney circle s concern to promote an active foreign policy, for which Mary s brother had been a leading proponent, precisely at a point when English commitment to such a policy appeared to be wavering.

Mary Sidney may have found the theme sympathetic for its continuation of themes developed by her brother s political arguments in favour of European intervention in the s. Fulke Greville recalled Philip Sidney representing France as Antony in those years: the undertaking of this Antony single -- I mean France -- would prove a begetting of brave occasions jointly to disturb this Spanish Augustus in all his ways of craft or forcible conquests, especially since Queen Elizabeth, the standard of this conjunction, would infallibly incline to unite with the better part.

This influential circle of noblemen and women seems to have viewed literature and as a means of enlisting political support, and of broadening this beyond elite circles. Gouws Oxford: Clarendon Press, , p. Antony s great grief in the play is his sense that he and Cleopatra, by their inaction, have allowed their subjects to be subjected to a tyrant: Not rul de but left to great men as pray While this fonde Prince himselfe in pleasur s drowns Who heares nought, sees nought, doth nought of a king, Seming himselfe against himselfe conspirde.

Then equall Iustice wandreth banished, And in hir seat sitts greedie Tyrannie. God alone chooses the moment of our death. Applied to politics, and voiced here by an author and translator committed to active Protestant political policies, this suggests that silence and inaction -- effectively, bowing out of political life -- are no longer ethical options.

For obvious reasons, open criticism of Elizabeth would have been impossible: and indeed, the available analogues in between Cleopatra and Mary Stuart discussed above might in have created a useful smoke-screen. Diomedes s description of Cleopatra in Act II is one such moment, when a commonplace formulation of white European beauty echoes the visual iconography associated with Elizabeth in the final decade of her reign: 82 The Allabaster couering of hir face, The corall coullor hir two lipps engraines, Her beamie eies, two Sunnes of this our world, Of hir faire haire the fine and flaming golde, Her braue streigth stature, and hir winning partes, Are nothing else but fiers, fetters, dartes.

Yet this is nothing th e enchaunting skilles Of her caelestiall Sp rite, hir training speache, Her grace, hir Maiestie, and forcing voice, Whither she it with fingers speech consorte, Or hearing sceptred kings embassadors Answer to eache in his owne language make. John Florio wrote in the second preface To the Reader at the start of his Italian- English dictionary that Elizabeth was famously adept at foreign languages.

He praises Elizabeth: of whose innumerable excellences, if not the fore-most, yet most famous I have heard, and often haue had the good hap and comfort to see, that no Embassador or stranger hath audience of her Maiestie, but in his natiue toong. Mary Sidney s choice of masculine perspective was neatly inverted by her client, Samuel Daniel. At the Countess s suggestion, The Tragedie of Cleopatra, Daniel s companion piece to Antonius, appeared in , bound up with Daniel s sonnet sequence To Delia, and the verse narrative Rosamond s Complaint.

Cleopatra clearly remained dear to Daniel s heart as the centrepiece of his oeuvre: over the next 13 years, he tinkered with it repeatedly, and republished two significantly corrected versions. 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 Samuel Daniel, The Tragedy of Cleopatra in Delia and Rosamond augmented.

Danyel London: Peter Short, In the s editions, Daniel s play opens with Cleopatra s lament for her lost love, framing her tragedy as arising from the irreconcilable demands of her public and private roles: I ll be my selfe, my thoughts doe rest thereon Blood, children, nature, all must pardon mee. Ideally, as queen and mother, her private life should be reconcilable with her public duty, as provision of royal children might have ensured a smooth dynastic transition of power in her state.

However, the civil war has made this impossible, and produced moreover a serious conflict of priorities within Cleopatra s own domestic life: Charmion: Live for your sonnes. Cleopatra: Nay for their father die. Charmion: Hardhearted mother! Cleopatra: Wife kindhearted I. Charmion: Then will you them depriue of royall right? Cleopatra: Do I depriue them? No, it s dest nies might. Cleopatra s domestic disruption becomes emblematic of the 87 Samuel Daniel, Cleopatra , sig.

Samuel Daniel picks up and develops the idea of a domestic Cleopatra as the major theme of his play. By silencing Antony, Daniel is able to foreground Cleopatra s persona as a mother rather than as a lover. Time and time again, she voices anxiety for the fate of her children: the luckles issue of a wofull mother, as she calls them in her opening monologue. Her suicide is delayed largely because of her concern to ensure their safety. As reported to Caesar by Proculeius, she hopes that the Roman conqueror will care for these mixed race offspring: No other crowne I seeke, no other good.

Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity
Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity
Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity
Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity
Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity
Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity

Related Foreign and Native on the English Stage, 1588–1611: Metaphor and National Identity

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