http://northernrenaissance.org | ISSN: 1759-3085

Creative Commons License

Published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License.

You are free to share, copy and transmit this work under the following conditions:

Exhibition Review: Elizabeth I and Her People, National Portrait Gallery

Elizabeth I and Her People, National Portrait Gallery, 10th October 2013 – 5th January 2014.

Reviewed by Nicola Clark


[1] Elizabeth I is one of only a few monarchs who lie at the hub of British historical consciousness. The National Portrait Gallery’s Elizabeth I and Her People exhibition taps into this sentiment at the moment of its birth, presenting Elizabeth as the idolised centre of her own contemporary society. The title of the exhibition is perhaps a little ambiguous; it suggests a collection focused on the Queen and her immediate attendants, her chosen ‘people’. In fact, ‘her people’ is used here to mean ‘her subjects’, and this has significant ramifications. Unlike most similar exhibitions, the scope here has been widened to include all echelons of society, and, in consequence, the volume of artwork focused on Elizabeth herself is far less than viewers may expect. This plumbing of the depths of Elizabethan society – a new thing for an exhibition of portraiture – also means that the quality of the painting is variable, which may surprise viewers who are not expecting to see poorly executed or ‘ugly’ portraits in a curated exhibition. However, it is these very departures from tradition which are new and exciting, offering a chance to experience the gamut of Elizabethan portraiture as it really was across Renaissance society in its entirety.

[2] Curated by Tarnya Cooper, the exhibition is structured in stages representing different societal levels, though the pattern of survival means it is necessarily weighted towards the higher echelons. The layout – five rooms for five societal segments – is effective, and presents many lesser-known portraits alongside those already familiar.

[3] The exhibition begins with maps and paintings of social scenes to set the context for the Queen and her people. William Smith’s View of London, Westminster and Southwark (1588) is a highlight here, quietly underscoring the complex relationship between the Crown and the City, the monarch and her subjects – a tension only really explored in the comprehensive accompanying catalogue. From this room visitors are led on to encounter the Queen in a number of interesting guises. Several of the best-known and most beautiful portraits of Elizabeth are here, including the so-called Darnley Portrait (c. 1575) (one of the few likenesses of the Queen suspected to have been drawn from life) and the ‘Ermine’ Portrait (1585) attributed to Nicholas Hilliard and lent by Hatfield House. Alongside these, however, this room makes the point that royal authority reached into all corners of society through the Queen’s image. Particularly striking, if not beauteous, is Elizabeth I with the Cardinal and Theological Virtues (c. 1598) painted for the Corporation of Dover to hang in the Town Hall, where it still resides. The detailed historical research on which this exhibition hangs reveals that it cost 25 shillings and was paid for in 1598.

[4] From here the show moves into courtly, aristocratic and gentry society, the largest space in the exhibition. The selection is well-balanced, including figures as diverse as adventurer Martin Frobisher; premier nobles the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, a pair of portraits originally intended to hang together, but now owned by separate private collections and reunited here; the Browne brothers, one of the smallest but most exquisite works in the exhibition; and three unknown children holding what may be the earliest depiction of a guinea pig in a portrait. Material culture is a particular strength here. This room alone includes two cases of objects designed to evoke those seen in the portraits. These play with the boundaries between public and private; while one case holds objects like pistols and tankards – public, male possessions echoing portraits of Frobisher and the Earl of Essex – the other cradles jewellery, trinket boxes and a fine comb – feminine, domestic objects seen in the disturbingly intimate portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton (c. 1598) which was never intended for public perusal.

[5] The next room is dedicated to merchants and traders, and begins appropriately with Sir Thomas Gresham, a man who embodied the segue between courtier and mercer. These portraits are not the glittering nobles usually seen in galleries but serious, hardworking, self-made people, and the curation rightly emphasises their importance to our knowledge of Elizabethan art and society. Contemporary preoccupations with immigration and religion are displayed here in the portraits of the Wittewronghele family, Netherlandish Protestant immigrants working in the brewing business. Materiality is again given due weight. The utility of the collection of merchant and professional rings provides direct comparison with the luxury of those owned by the nobility in the previous room. Documents too, reveal an admirable level of interdisciplinary research; art historians do not generally consult haberdashers’ inventories, let alone transform them into ties to sell as gift-shop souvenirs!

[6] From merchants we move to professionals, writers and artists, perhaps the most thoughtful section of an immensely thoughtful exhibition. The quality of these portraits is not always the highest, but this is not the point; the point is that portraits existed for the same reasons at all levels of society. Here we find the writer, John Donne; painter, Isaac Oliver; lawyer, William Lovelace; clergyman, Gregory Martin; and surgeon, Edward Lister. Alongside the portraits are copies of their owners’ books and depictions of their professions. The portrait of writer, Esther Inglis (1595), is particularly interesting for the – sadly unexplored – questions it raises about the interplay between gender, profession, and portraiture; is she depicted here as a writer, or as a wife? George Gower’s self-portrait adds to the dialogue here about the function of portraits, for he chose to use it to declare that his profession was more important to him than his ancestry. The timing of this work takes on significance when we know that it was painted just before his promotion to Serjeant-Painter for the Queen.

[7] The final element to this exhibition focuses on the most ordinary of Elizabethans: the working people and the poor. This is necessarily object-heavy as so few portraits of these people were painted and the survival rate is extremely poor. The section focuses on the narrative of the Baker family; a father away at sea, a sick mother, and a host of small children. The centrepiece is Susan Baker’s will, in which she begs a neighbour to look after her children until her husband should come home. Documentary research reveals that he never did. The exhibition thus ends on a note of extreme pathos which is somehow at odds with the impression of societal unity created elsewhere. Throughout these last sections it becomes increasingly clear that this is not an exhibition concerned with ‘art history’ as we know it – though the failure to link this show to the Making Art in Tudor Britain project, where the technical research on the paintings can be accessed, represents a serious trick missed. Instead, this thoughtful curation represents a scholarly marriage of art history, history, literature, and material culture. Though the exhibition is one of portraiture, it is itself a portrait of Elizabethan society in all its variable glory.

Royal Holloway, University of London, November 2013

Sid Ray, Mother Queens and Princely Sons: Rogue Madonnas in the Age of Shakespeare (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

Sid Ray, Mother Queens and Princely Sons: Rogue Madonnas in the Age of Shakespeare (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). ISBN: 978-1-137-003379-9, 210 pp. £50.00.

Reviewed by Thomas Rist


[1] The Virgin Mary is having a Renaissance. The evidence is in Miri Rubin’s Mother of God (2009) and Marina Warner’s recent reassessment in The London Review of Books (8 November, 2012) of Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary. It is also visible in early modern studies, where the revisions to the Reformations of the last two decades have led to significant historical works on Mary by Christine Peters and Diarmaid McCulloch among others. In early modern literary studies, Regina Buccola and Lisa Hopkins have given us Marian Moments in Early Modern British Drama (2007); Dominic Janes and Gary Waller have presented Walsingham in Literature and Culture from the Middle Ages to Modernity (2010); Rubin Espinosa has published Masculinity and Marian Efficacy in Shakespeare’s England (2011); and now Sid Ray gives us Mother Queens and Princely Sons. Underlying each of these literary studies are fundamental questions, asked by the likes of Eamon Duffy and Christopher Haigh in the final decade of the last century, about what England’s Reformation was. The picture that has emerged is of an England of conflicted religion long after Elizabeth I became queen in 1558 and made the country officially Protestant – a gift to scholars of the literature of the age already interested in the subversively political, since their studies now extend to the subversively religio-political. And of benefit to literary study more generally, since the literary now speaks as a historical source for post-Reformation scholarship. Literature quietly venerating Mary, it transpires, is one kind of evidence for an un-reformed England that survived long after England was officially reformed. Like the previous books in the field I have mentioned, Ray’s focus on the Virgin ‘in the age of Shakespeare’ thus contributes to a complex set of recent intellectual interests with significant and wide-ranging implications.

[2] Like those books, Ray is also interested in Mary’s feminist possibilities – immediately so when naming and shaming twentieth century theorists for ‘stubbornly selective historicising’ of the Virgin (p. 12); but with early modern purchase when noting that: ‘Protestants regarded Madonna and Child icons as inverting at least three unassailable hierarchies: that of God over human, that of male over female, and that of husband over wife’ (p. 9). This feminism sees the Reformation as anti-, and the preceding eras of Catholicism as relatively pro-, women, in a style recalling Frances Dolan (whom Ray cites more than once) in Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture (repr. 2005). Yet it is one thing to show Marian subversions as a proto-feminism in the era’s ‘Protestant patriarchalism’ (p. 129) – though the argument would have benefitted from more early modern examples; but it is another to use it as an effective critical tool for interpreting particular plays, mainly by Shakespeare, as this study would do. For while Marian images, fragments and controversies are certainly everywhere in his culture, they are almost nowhere explicit in Shakespeare, if, as Ray does, one excludes the playwright’s 238 evocations of the oath ‘Marry’. In a scenario where art is not easily reducible to culture, Ray must bridge the gap between a grand narrative of feminine disempowerment centring on the reform of Mary and would-be feminist readings of Shakespearean plays where the Virgin can be hard to find. The book best achieves this aim where cases of Catholicism or Marianism in the drama are relatively clear-cut.

[3] The Winter’s Tale has been repeatedly noted for its Catholicism and Marianism: its debt to Catholic ritual is now largely beyond doubt. Ray does a decent job of bringing out the salient points: the sixteen years of Leontes’ penance (p. 120), the ‘statue’ in the ‘chapel’ (p. 125) and the ‘context of forbidden art’ (p. 128). Only what Alison Shell has called the ‘dehistorisized critic’ can today miss the Catholic in these phenomena, so Ray’s further points – that the play ‘explores and critiques the unchecked power of Jacobean patriarchalism through family analogies to the state’ (p. 119), including fascinating analogies to James I and his Catholic queen, Anna of Denmark (pp. 122-3); that ‘Mamilius and Herminone are a Madonna and child’ (p. 121); that Leontes ‘Taking his wife for a harlot is the flip side of the status she shares with the Virgin Mary, who … was transfigured after the Reformation into the whore of Babylon’ (p. 123); and that Paulina’s chapel seems ‘recusant’ (p. 125) – are all well-founded, advancing understandings of the play. Ray is also on solid ground discussing Macbeth, with its equally established allusions to Father Garnet, the Gunpowder Plot and equivocation. Although I remain to be convinced that Lady Macbeth presents ‘Shakespeare’s most notorious of Rogue Madonnas’ (p. 81), the Dolan-inspired claim that she ‘embodies Protestant anxieties about the powerful version of Mary venerated by Catholics’ (p. 81), but in a play where ‘Shakespeare critiques Protestant excesses as well as Catholic ones’ (p. 87), is largely persuasive.

[4] Where Shakespeare’s plays touch the religio-political of the time less overtly, or through histories as yet undiscovered, the argument is less effective. Frequently evoking the king’s two bodies of Ernst Kantorowicz is Ray’s interesting way of thinking about male and female in the domestic setting, but it does not easily produce analogies for Mary and her family in Shakespeare. Although the readings of The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, Henry V and (the one non-Shakespearean play considered) The Duchess of Malfi, are often insightful regarding gender, they do not clearly lead either to arguments about Mary or her dramatisation. Webster’s play might fruitfully, perhaps, have linked Kantorowicz to Mary, since it stages the Marian shrine at Loretto, but Ray never discusses the shrine.

[5] The larger problem is the un-bridged gap between broadly feminist and Marian dramatic perspectives alluded to. Although the book sometimes tries to overcome this by claiming the plays are allegory (p. 15) or through moments of historicism, the development of both approaches is limited and the concept of the Rogue Madonna itself is based on a fragmentary and rather potted history. Mother Queens and Princely Sons contributes to a growing and worthwhile field of early modern literary study. A bigger and richer book on the subject, though, remains to be written.

University of Aberdeen, November 2013

Celebrating Professor Charles McKean: A New Platform for Scottish Renaissance Studies

CGDThe ambitiously entitled “A New Platform for Scottish Renaissance Studies” conference was recently held in Perth on October 26th and 27th 2013. The conference, organised by the University of Dundee and sponsored by a number of renowned cultural institutions, including Historic Scotland, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, presented some of the most recent academic research in the field of Scottish Renaissance Studies from senior academics, independent researchers and junior scholars. Instigated by the late Charles McKean, a distinguished Professor in Architectural History at the University of Dundee, the focus reflected his research interests, concentrating on the early modern built environment. Following his recent death, his students decided to recast the conference as a celebration of his contribution to the field and, indeed, it was a great tribute to the man who had inspired their own individual research interests. Professor McKean had insisted on reading and selecting every research paper so his academic concerns and influence continued to pervade the proceedings.

The papers presented adopted a variety of approaches, relying on documentary and visual evidence, such as inventories or architectural source books and paintings or drawn reconstructions of historic buildings. Architecture was not solely considered from a stylistic perspective and exploration of the history of interiors (furnishings and plasterwork, in particular) further enhanced understanding of the diversity of influences at work during this transitional period. Indeed, the notion of a “Scottish Renaissance Architecture” was also subject to discussion and question. With buildings taking the form of both tower houses and classical country piles, it was acknowledged that an overall style was somewhat difficult to pinpoint. Several contributions to the conference assessed the importance of patrons (including the Stuart monarchs and wealthy aristocrats, like the Strathmores or the Lauderdales) to the way buildings were conceived, designed, executed and used. The baronial style or the revival of the Château form, for which Charles McKean had a special interest, as testified by his book, The Scottish Chateau, published in 2001, as well as his watercolour reconstructions, should not be considered as solely exemplifying the architecture of the Scottish Renaissance. Similarly, the term of “architect” proved misleading, since frequently the designers of buildings in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, according to the definition of an architect supplied by Vitruvius in the first century BC, were actually wrights or master masons.

CGD2This re-evaluation of concepts and notions continued with an appraisal of the very nature of the Scottish Renaissance. Viewed from the perspective of emergent ideas and models derived from Antiquity, these characteristics were difficult to reconcile with the Scottish context. Instead, the notion of a continuum with the medieval period was proposed as more pertinent to Scotland’s architecture. The influence of the Continent and, in particular, of Italy, France and the Low Countries was discussed – the Scots had well-established trade links and access to the most up-to-date printed sources. Although Italy and France provided the obvious background for the Scottish Renaissance, the Low Countries were within easy reach by sea and also offered contact with new building materials and source-books. Scotland’s tower houses, it was reasoned, were not a specifically Scottish invention but definitely set the nation within the context of the Northern European Renaissance since their dominant features of verticality and solidity were also present in continental castles like Vincennes.

The quest for authenticity, evoked in the various conservation and restoration projects carried out by Historic Scotland, showed how eager institutions were to render Scottish history accessible to the wider public and, as part of the conference programme, two field trips were organised, to Megginch Castle and to Huntingtower Castle. Although the conference attendees were easily guided through the history of Megginch, which has remained in the hands of the Drummond family since the 1660s, it was somewhat more difficult to account for the development of Huntingtower, an ancient building composed of two juxtaposed towers subsequently joined by an additional range.

The conference made an important contribution to our developing understanding of Scottish renaissance buildings, interiors and architects, drawing together scholars from a range of backgrounds – academia, architectural practice and conservation – and providing a platform for some stimulating debate. It is to be hoped that Professor McKean’s legacy will continue beyond this event, inspiring further interdisciplinary enquiry into the nature of the Scottish Renaissance.

Clarisse Godard Desmarest, Université de Picardie Jules Verne

Philostratus Comes To Scotland: A New Source for the Pictures at Pinkie

Philostratus Comes To Scotland: A New Source for the Pictures at Pinkie.

Michael Bath

[1] The inscription which Alexander Seton, first Earl of Dunfermline, placed over the gate to his garden at Pinkie House, Musselburgh (Fig. 1) describes his new building as a ‘villa’ (villam) or ‘suburban dwelling’ (suburbana aedificia) which was designed to celebrate all kinds of culture and urbanity (urbanitatis omnis humanitatisque). This is only one of the signs that the house, erected shortly after the union of the crowns on the site of the last battle ever to be fought between the Scots and the English – the battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 – was designed as a neoclassical building to celebrate the return of the arts of classical antiquity to the newly united kingdoms of Scotland and England. The inscription certainly alludes to a famous letter in which Pliny the Younger celebrates his house out-of-town (suburbanum), to which he escapes from the city and which is designed to carry down to posterity his own tastes and values (Pliny, Epistulae I.3, see Bath 2003: 100).[1] 

Fig. 1 Inscribed panel commemorating Alexander Seton’s reasons for building his ‘villa suburbana’ at Pinkie in 1613. Photo author.

Fig. 1 Inscribed panel commemorating Alexander Seton’s reasons for building his ‘villa suburbana’ at Pinkie in 1613. Photo author.

Pliny’s letter occupies a significant place among the classical sources that influenced the development of the country house in early modern Britain. ‘There is nothing here to do with warfare,’ Seton’s inscription insists at Pinkie, ‘not even a ditch to repel enemies, but a fountain of pure water, lawns, pools and other things that may add to their pleasures in order to welcome guests with kindness and treat them with benevolence.’[2] The pretensions of the building to be viewed as some kind of renovatio of the buildings of classical antiquity extend to its remarkable neo-Stoic long gallery. This, as I have argued elsewhere, asks to be regarded in its trompel’oeil fictive arcading and its emblematic picturae as a recreation of the ancient painted gallery or stoa poikile in Athens from which Stoicism took its name (Bath 2003: 96-99). (Fig. 2) Those pretensions are, I believe, confirmed and strengthened by a newly discovered source for one of the emblems which fill this painted gallery at Pinkie.

Fig. 2 Pinkie House, Musselburgh, painted long gallery. Crown Copyright: RCAHMS

Fig. 2 Pinkie House, Musselburgh, painted long gallery. Crown Copyright: RCAHMS

[2] Of the 30 emblems painted on the gallery ceiling eight are copied from the Emblemata Horatiana (Antwerp 1607) of Otto van Veen (‘Vaenius’), and three copy examples from the Emblemata (Frankfurt 1596) of Denis Lebey de Batilly (Bath 2003: 79-103). Several of the others use, or adapt, images which go back to various continental sources, but among the emblems in this gallery which have not so far been sourced is one with the motto Nympharumque leves cum satyris me secernunt populo (The light-footed nymphs with satyrs distinguish me from other people), which quotes Horace, Od. 1.1.32. (Fig. 3) The picture for this emblem shows a group of nymphs, with a satyr, dancing round a circular building resembling a classical temple along with other figures and spectators, and on the steps in front of the doorway lies a sleeping baby in a cradle of branches. The motto below the picture also quotes Horace, Od. 4.8.28, and refers to the immortal memory which poets confer on praiseworthy people, Dignum laude virum musa vetata mori (‘The muse will not allow the praiseworthy man to die’). It is not at all easy to make sense of this picture, particularly the small detail of the baby in its cradle, in relation to the two mottoes. However the newly discovered source for this emblem, which can now be identified as copying an engraved illustration to Blaise de Vigenère’s French translation of the Imagines of Philostratus (Philostratus 1614, sig. 378),[3] not only clarifies just what is being represented in the emblem and what it means, but also confirms, I believe, the status of this building and its decoration as a deliberate attempt by the Scottish Chancellor  to recreate in early-modern Scotland a building which would reconstitute the arts of antiquity. [4] (Fig. 4) My reasons for making this claim have everything to do with the reputation of Philostratus’s celebrated descriptions of the paintings he claims to be observing on the walls of a house in second- or third-century Naples as models of literary ekphrasis.

Fig. 3 Nympharumque leves cum satyris me secernunt populo (The light-footed nymphs  with satyrs distinguish me from other people) emblem in long gallery, Pinkie House. Photo  Ann Buchanan.

Fig. 3 Nympharumque leves cum satyris me secernunt populo (The light-footed nymphs with satyrs distinguish me from other people) emblem in long gallery, Pinkie House. Photo: Ann Buchanan

Fig. 4 ‘Pindare’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 378. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 4 ‘Pindare’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 378. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[3] What the Nympharumque leves… emblem actually shows us is a picture which Philostratus entitles ‘Pindar’, depicting  what ancient writers tell us about the birth of the poet who was predicted by the gods to become the greatest of lyric poets. His father, they tell us, placed the future poet on a cradle of laurel and myrtle branches in his doorway, where the bees came from their hives and laid honey on his lips so that he would be inspired with harmony and music. At the same time, Philostratus tells us, Pan and a group of nymphs danced round him, overlooked by the mother of the Gods, earth goddess Rhea, whose marble statue stands in the doorway. The painting at Pinkie copies an engraving from the first edition of Philostratus ever to have been illustrated. Published in Paris in 1614, the translation into French was by Blaise de Vigenère with Vigenère’s own commentary. First printed in Paris in 1578, unillustrated (Adams, Rawles and Saunders, F.478), it was not until 1614 that Vigenère’s Images ou Tableaux de Platte Peinture des Deux Philostrates appeared with illustrations by a Parisian engraver called Jaspar Isaac.[5] (Fig. 5) De Vigenère (1523–1596) was a French diplomat and author of over twenty books, of which his Traicté des Chiffres on cryptography has attracted modern interest since it is thought to have invented the first intelligence cipher of its type not to be easily breakable. His role as French diplomat and man of letters may be what drew him to the attention of Alexander Seton. Seton had pursued legal studies in France in the 1570s following his early education by the Jesuits in Rome. In 1577, aged 22 and having completed his education abroad, he returned to Scotland to pursue a distinguished legal career, elected Lord President of the Court of Session in 1588, Chancellor of Scotland in 1604 and Earl of Dunfermline in 1605. In 1583, and again in 1584, he had accompanied his father, George Seton, on a royal embassy to Paris to attempt to persuade Henri III to renew the ‘auld alliance’ (Maitland 1829: 63; Seton 1939: 296). Although the engravings that illustrate de Vigenère’s Images ou Tableaux are nearly all signed by Isaac, some of the others were designed by Antoine Caron, court painter to Catherine de Medici and Henry II of France. Caron was responsible for organizing the French court pageants and his drawings of festivities at the court of Charles IX are well known as likely sources for the Valois Tapestries (Yates 1959).[6] When we look at Isaac’s picture of the Birth of Pindar, I think we might easily imagine that what it represents is the type of allegorical pageantry represented by the French ballet de cour in court festivals of the later sixteenth century: we see nymphs and satyrs dancing to the music of onstage performers who are part of the scene, and in the bottom right-hand corner there is even a group of spectators, one of whom is turning as if to invite us to join in the spectacle.

Fig. 5Title page of Blaise de Vigenère’s translation of Philostratus, in the Paris 1637 edition, which is a page-for-page reprint of 1614/15 with the same title page. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 5 Title page of Blaise de Vigenère’s translation of Philostratus, in the Paris 1637 edition, which is a page-for-page reprint of 1614/15 with the same title page. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[4] There was one further collaborator in the production of this particular rendition of the Imagines, for beneath each engraving is a set of verses. Those accompanying the Birth of Pindar take the form of a dialogue – a question-and-answer session in which key details in the picture are explained.

D[emande].       Que peuvent server des abeilles
                               A la naissance d’un enfant ? 
R[éponse].         Nous en predisons les merveilles,
                               Et qu’il doit estre triomphant.

[Question: What purpose can bees serve in the birth of a child? Answer: We predict wonders by them, and that he must be a winner.]

These verses were written especially for the 1614 edition by a poet called Artus Thomas, Sieur d’Embry, who is named on the title page, and their interest from our point of view is that they give each of the pages containing these new illustrations a format which closely resembles that of the sixteenth-century emblem books, with the capitalised title above the engraving occupying the space normally filled by an emblem motto, and the verses below having much the same explanatory and moralising function as an emblematic epigram or subscriptio. It must have been the emblematic format which recommended this edition of Blaise de Vigenère’s Philostratus to Alexander Seton as a suitable source to fill a vacant space in the trompe l’oeil emblem panels that fill his ceiling. Philostratus’s Imagines are not generically the same as emblems, but one can easily see why this format might have suggested to Seton their suitability for his purposes, indeed Mario Praz includes this edition of Philostratus in the ‘Bibliography of Emblem Books’ that concludes his Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery, although, as he says, ‘the figures are not accompanied with mottoes, they are illustrated by verses which point their moral applications’(1964: 453). Seton was therefore not the last person to identify Blaise de Vigenère’s illustrated edition of Philostratus as some kind of emblem book. De Vigenère’s commentary on the Pindar painting makes no mention of Horace’s Odes, and Seton must presumably himself have chosen these to supply the missing mottoes, making this panel conform with the other emblems from different emblem books that he chose for his painted ceiling, all of which have two mottoes for each picture.[7] Both of these mottoes confirm Philostratus’s moral by celebrating the status and immortality of poetry, and Horace’s reference to ‘Nymphs and satyrs’ in Odes 1.1.32 must have seemed particularly appropriate to this picture of Pan and his Nymphs cavorting round the nascent poet.

[5] It is only rarely that we find evidence of who owned the actual books or engravings used as sources for works of art at this period, but a highly important and suggestive inventory of some of Seton’s books has recently come to light which confirms Seton’s ownership of a copy of de Vigenère’s Philostratus. Compiled in 1625, the ‘Inventair of som of the Earril of Dunfermline his buiks in Pinkie’ has survived amongst the Crawford papers in the National Library of Scotland.[8] Among books on such subjects as theology, mathematics, astronomy, chronography, perspective, and a truly remarkable number of books on art and architecture (including copies of Serlio, Palladio, and Vitruvius), the Inventory records not only a copy of ‘Philostrati opera’, which was probably the original Greek text, but also what the Inventory lists as ‘Les tableaux de plate peinture de Philostrate par viginere folio’. This is not, moreover, the only work by Blaise de Viginère that Seton owned, for the list also includes his book on secret cyphers (‘Traites de ciphres de viginere 4°’), his commentaries on  Caesar’s  Gallic Wars (‘Commentaires de Caesar par vignere 4o’), and Vigenère’s translation of Onosander’s Greek treatise on military strategy (‘Onosander par viginere 4°’). Seton evidently had a strong interest in the writings of this French humanist and diplomat and we may well wonder whether the two men had ever met. In view of Seton’s manifest interest in neo-Stoicism, it is also interesting to note that the books he kept at Pinkie in the seventeenth century included the works of Justus Lipsius (‘Opera omnia Lypsii’).

[6] In the absence of any surviving ancient paintings, the ekphrastic descriptions of them by ancient authors assumed a new importance as essentially the only available source for modern attempts to recreate or imitate them. As Jean Hagstrum reminds us, ‘Of the work of the great painters of antiquity – Polygnotus, Zeuxis, Parrhasius, Apelles – not a single undisputed example has survived’ (Hagstrum 1958: 17). It was only the fifteenth-century rediscovery of Nero’s Golden House in Rome that revealed the first examples of authentic antique painting ever to have come to light, and the speed with which these were imitated by Raphael and his followers, as the new fashion for grottesco painting spread across Europe, is testament to the excitement and importance of this discovery.[9] But grottesco is a purely decorative style of painting, which cannot realise many of the high ideals of illusionism, commemoration or idealisation which classical writers found in the great painters. And for this reason – even after the discovery of Nero’s fantastic murals – the literary models of ekphrastic description retained their importance in painting which had any higher aspirations.  Ekphrasis was primarily a rhetorical rather than an artistic or aesthetic principle, however, held up for critical admiration wherever it was encountered in the writing of classical authors, whose examples of rhetorical enargeia were imitated or emulated as a regular classroom exercise in the schoolroom – indeed in his proem to the Imagines Philostratus explains that it was only when he was challenged to talk about the paintings in a house he was visiting by a group of local youths that he agreed to produce his ekphraseis: these were showpiece exercises in epideictic rhetoric, offered above all as ‘a vehicle to reveal the author’s credentials, his detailed knowledge of Greek myth and literature and the ingenuity with which he can weave these into his account of a Neapolitan picture gallery’ (Newby 2009: 323). If we are right to define ekphrasis as ‘a rhetorical description of a work of art’ (Hagstrum 1958: 18, citing Oxford Classical Dictionary) then the attempts of modern artists to create, or recreate, the pictures which were suggested by such descriptions are what, I suggest, might better be called ‘realised  ekphrasis’ since ekphrasis is, strictly, the verbal description of a painting whereas ‘realised ekphrasis’ is the visual realisation of such verbal descriptions. Such realisations are likely to be characteristic of Renaissance artists if only because they stand as attempts to recreate the art of the ancient world. It is because Alexander Seton’s house at Pinkie has so many other features that ask to be read as a deliberate renovatio of the arts of antiquity that his motives for including one of Philostratus’s Imagines in his Long Gallery therefore has to be seen as a deliberate attempt to recreate an authentic example of ancient painting in early-modern Scotland. The tendency of a now somewhat superannuated school of architectural historians to restrict the ‘neoclassical’ label to strictly neo-Palladian models should not therefore deter us from recognising these more diverse antiquarian influences on Scottish architecture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as clear enough indicators of a northern renaissance.[10] The fact that Alexander Seton’s octagonal trompel’oeil cupola in the long gallery at Pinkie House also copies an illustration from one of the most advanced pattern books of the early seventeenth century on the mathematics and theory of perspective is surely further evidence of its Renaissance pretensions.[11]

Fig. 6 Titian, The Andrians, 1522-1524, Madrid: Prado.

Fig. 6 Titian, The Andrians, 1522-1524, Madrid: Prado.

Fig. 7 ‘Les Andriens’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de  Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 205. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 7 ‘Les Andriens’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 205. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[7] In the light of this discovery, it is natural to ask where else the Imagines of Philostratus have been identified as the source, or inspiration, behind other examples of what I am calling ‘realised ekphrasis’ in Renaissance painting. Applications of Philostratus in the Renaissance and Baroque start with Titian, who painted two canvases, The Worship of Venus, and The Andrians for Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara between 1518 and 1525 (Goff 1997, n.4). The Worship of Venus (Madrid, Prado) has long been recognised as a realisation of Philostratus’s description of a painting showing cupids playing in an orchard, where they chase a hare in front of a grotto dedicated to Venus (Goff, n.4). The Andrians (also in the Prado) depicts a drunken orgy which betrays in several of its details the influence of Philostratus’s description of an ancient painting showing the arrival of Bacchus, god of wine, on the isle of Andros (Murates 1973; Wickhoff 1902).[12] (Fig. 6) Classical mythology tells of the wanderings of Dionysus, alias Bacchus, over the various territories in which the cultivation of the vine became established, amongst which are the Andrians who live beside a stream of wine flowing out of the ground down to the sea past revelling Satyrs, Bacchantes and Seleni. (Fig.7) Titian based both paintings on Philostratus’s descriptions, and Poussin made his early pictures in emulation of Titian, although his version of The Andrians in the Louvre has been described as a subject ‘so obscure that it could only have been lifted from the mysterious ecphrasis in book I of Imagines’ (Bann 2009: 344). (Fig.8) Rubens also made a copy of the Andrians during the time when he was in Madrid, involved in negotiations for a truce between England and Spain which were cut short by the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham in 1628, and Rubens filled in his time making portraits and copying the Titians (Bertos 1976).

Fig. 8 Poussin, Bacchanal: the Andrians, 1630, Paris: Louvre.

Fig. 8 Poussin, Bacchanal: the Andrians, 1630, Paris: Louvre.

[8] Claims for Philostratus’s influence on particular paintings before the 1614 publication of de Vigenère’s illustrations have, necessarily, to rely on careful demonstration of the resemblance between details of the painting and Philostratus’s verbal descriptions. Hence Stephen Bann’s somewhat tendentious claims for Philostratus’s influence on the Narcissus of Caravaggio (Fig. 9) depend on a closely argued analysis of such details as the handling of his hair: ‘Caravaggio’s Narcissus,’ argues Bann, ‘betrays, or rather advertises, its adhesion to the text of Philostratus … principally by the uncanny precision with which it picks up the classical author’s concluding description of the young huntsman’s hair arrangement’ (Bann 2009: 347). (Fig.10) A painting of ca. 1640 by Jacob Jordaens in The Hague, Mauritshuis,

Fig. 9 Caravaggio, Narcissus, c.1597-1599

Fig. 9 Caravaggio, Narcissus, c.1597-1599,
Rome: Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.

Fig. 10 ‘Narcisse’ as illustrated in Philostratus,

Fig. 10 ‘Narcisse’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 192. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

which has long been misidentified under the title Marsyas Ill-Treated by the Muses (Fig. 11) has recently been shown to be a realisation of Philostratus’s Pan and has therefore been reinterpreted as Pan Punished by the Nymphs. (Fig. 12) Jordaens could not read Latin and is therefore likely to have used De Vigenère’s translation, but if this was in one of the illustrated editions he simply ignored Isaac’s engraving, since as Edith Wyss notes, ‘Beyond the general type of pastoral landscape, the engraving and the painting have little in common. Jordaens must have based his interpretation on the text, not on the illustration’ (Wyss 2010: 5). The Pinkie ceiling thus appears to be an extremely rare, if not unique, example of painting which copies the de Vigenère illustrations rather than merely following Philotratus’s descriptions: this surely gives it an exceptional importance.

Fig. 11Jacob Jordaens, Pan Punished by the Nymphs, The Hague, Mauritshuis.

Fig. 11 Jacob Jordaens, Pan Punished by the Nymphs,
The Hague, Mauritshuis.

Fig. 12‘Pan’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 369. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 12 ‘Pan’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 369. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[9] The anonymous painter who executed the designs for Alexander Seton’s long gallery in the early seventeenth century, however, was certainly no Titian, no Poussin, no Rubens. But the fact that Scotland had no school of painters of a quality that might stand comparison with such European masters does not mean that Scottish patrons such as Alexander Seton, who had travelled on the continent, did not bring to the decoration of their buildings many of the same ideals and values which motivated Renaissance and Baroque painting elsewhere in Europe, particularly when such painting depended as much on rhetorical or wider humanist values as it did on purely aesthetic ones. Seton’s use of Philostratus at Pinkie strengthens the somewhat tentative case I make in the closing pages of my book Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland (2003) for some of the paintings elsewhere in Scotland at this period as ekphrastic. The Siege of Troy (Fig. 13) and the Calydonian Boar Hunt (Fig. 14) at Cullen House, Banffshire, are both paintings of subjects which stood high on the list of ekphrastic descriptions; indeed as Alastair Fowler says, ‘The locus classicus [of ekphrasis] was Aeneas’s response to the Carthage murals showing the fall of Troy’ (Fowler 2003: 77). This is in Aeneid, Book I, when Aeneas is moved to tears as he sees the temple which Dido has built to goddess Juno; its bronze gates are decorated with pictures representing the fall of Troy. In Book II Aeneas tells that story – which is, of course, his own story – at first hand to Dido, but in Book I he is describing what he can actually see depicted in a work of art, which makes it a true ekphrasis. Unlike the siege of Troy, the Calydonian Boar Hunt, which was depicted on the facing frieze of the gallery at Cullen, is the subject of one of the actual imagines of Philostratus the Younger, which surely establishes its right to be considered an example of what I am calling realised ekphrasis, even if it owes more to Ovid’s than to Philostratus’s description of the hunt which Meleager, prince of Calydon, organised to kill the monstrous wild boar that goddess Diana had sent to ravage the land. In that Ovidian story Atalanta triumphs over her male compatriots, who miss their target or leap up into the trees, by herself shooting the arrow which kills the huge boar (Bath 2003: 211-212). Philostratus’s ‘Meleager’ is not illustrated by de Vigenère since it is one of the Suite of Images in the latter part of the book by Philostratus the Younger, all but two of which lack illustrations, so there was no engraving of this subject for the Cullen artist to copy, even if he knew of de Vigenère’s illustrated edition.

Fig. 13Cullen House, Banffshire, The Seige of Troy, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 13 Cullen House, Banffshire, The Siege of Troy, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 14Cullen House, Banffshire, Calydonian Boar Hunt, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 14 Cullen House, Banffshire, Calydonian Boar Hunt, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 15Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, Hector and Achilles, tempera painting in window bay.

Fig. 15 Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, Hector and Achilles, tempera painting in window bay.

[10] The remarkable painting at Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, in a window bay which the painter has reinterpreted in a rather wonderful bit of trompe l’oeil as a tent opening, shows Hector talking to Achilles: on one side sits Hector, on the other Achilles, and we know this is who they are because there is an inscription between the two that identifies them: ‘When during a trewes of four monethes maist worthy and noble hector walked into the grekes host and of the talking betwyne him and ferce Achyles’. (Fig. 15) Hector’s meeting with Achilles is not described by Homer or Virgil (nor indeed by Philostratus) but goes back to the twelfth-century medieval reworking of the Troy story by Benoît de Sainte Maure (Bath 2003: 213-214). It had already been illustrated in the visual arts in some late-fifteenth century tapestries, but the way this painting shows two onlookers peering over the tent flaps comes very close to realising Philostratus’s recommendations for illusionist painting in his description of a picture of the siege of Thebes (‘Menoeceus’) where, he says, ‘The clever artifice of the painter is delightful. Encompassing the walls with armed men, he depicts them so that some are seen in full figure, others with the legs hidden, others from the waist up, then only the busts of some, heads only, helmets only, and finally just spear points. This … is perspective [lit. ‘the principle of proportion’] since the problem is to deceive the eyes’ (Philostratus 1931, p. 17).

[11] This is a passage which has had a significant influence on thinking about the role of the imagination, and the relationship between truth and deception, in the visual arts (Dundas 1993: 70-71); indeed Philostratus’s description has attracted the attention of modern literary and art historians ever since Ernst Gombrich (1962: 176-177) pointed out that it appears to authorise Shakespeare’s description of the Troy wall painting in Tarquin’s chamber in The Rape of Lucrece:

For much imaginary work was there
Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind,
That for Achilles image stood his spear,
Grip’d in an armed hand, himself behind
Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind:
A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head
Stood for the whole to be imagined. (ll.1422-28)

We have already remarked how the Pinkie rendition of the Birth of Pindar suggests a theatrical scenario, and in this context it is worth noting Frances Yates’s claim:

Philostratus was one of [Ben] Jonson’s favourite authors, and though the Vigenère commentary is published too late for him to have used it in the earlier masques, it should, I think, be consulted in relation to Jonson, for it reflects the mythological learning of those French circles out of which the ballet de cour, so close a relation of the English masque, was born. (Yates 1951: 179)

Fig. 16 ‘Anthée’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 470. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 16 ‘Anthée’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 470. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Some of the clearest signs of Jonson’s debts to Philostratus are, perhaps, to be found in the masque Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, performed at court on Twelfth Night, 6th of January 1618. The masque dramatises the expulsion by Hercules of gross sensuality from the world, characterised by ‘the belly god’ Comus and by the giant Antaeus – Antaeus was son of the earth goddess Gaia and was invincible as long as his feet touched the ground of his mother earth; Hercules accordingly defeated him in classical mythology on his way to his eleventh labour by lifting him up into the air and holding him there. Antaeus is the subject of one of Philostratus’s descriptions showing Hercules lifting the semi-giant off the ground and being congratulated by the descending heavenly figure of Mercury. (Fig. 16) He puts in no appearance directly in Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, but Hercules alludes to the myth in his opening observations on the ‘first Antimasque’ which is danced by ‘Men in the shape of bottles, tuns. &c’: ‘What rytes are theis? Breeds Earth more Monsters yet? Antaeus scarce is cold’, he exclaims. In the ‘second Antimasque’ Hercules is roused from his sleep at the foot of Mount Atlas by a chorus of pigmies whom he sweeps from the land; they enter the stage with the words ‘Antaeus dead? And Hercules yet live?’ (Jonson 1925-52 7: ll. 87-9 135). The pygmies vaingloriously resolve to attack him, and attempt to steal his club, an action which we find pictured in the illustration to de Vigenère’s ‘Hercules Furieux’ showing Hercules destroying a host of pigmies who have attacked him (Fig. 17).

Fig. 17‘Hercules Furieux’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 486. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 17 ‘Hercules Furieux’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 486. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[12] Hercules is a well-known hero, but many of Philostratus’s pictures represent relatively obscure and unfamiliar figures from Greek mythology and Comus is one of these: one looks in vain for him, as students of Milton soon learn, in any of the familiar classical mythographies, which is why we can be fairly sure that he found his way into the English court masque from this source and no other; indeed it was probably Jonson’s precedent that led to A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle in 1634. Comus is depicted in what is only the second of Philostratus’s Imagines by a picture which shows no figure of the portly belly-god identified by Jonson in the opening lines of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, but shows figures feasting and dancing in a darkened hall, where candles and a flaming torch consume themselves, just as people do who abandon themselves to base desires. (Fig. 18) The scene depicts what Artus Thomas’s epigram describes in its opening line as ‘Un masque’, by which he means primarily the disguise which suits carnivalesque pleasure-seekers, but by the second line it has become identified with ‘la dance et le bal’. The use of the word ‘masque’ so prominently beneath this picture must surely have played its part in securing the enduring association of Comus with courtly feasting and dancing.

Fig. 18 ‘Comus’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614: 9. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 18 ‘Comus’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614: 9. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[13] Having expelled the grosser pleasures from the courtly world of make-believe in Jonson’s Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue Hercules is joined by Mercury, who descends not from Olympus but from Mount Atlas to congratulate him on suffocating Antaeus (‘Anteus by thee suffocated here’) and expelling ‘the voluptuous Comus’. For a picture of Mercury descending from the heavens on precisely such a mission we have only to look at Jaspar Isaac’s illustration of Philostratus’s ‘Antaeus’ (see Fig. 16).  In Jonson’s masque Mercury points to the figure of Virtue, who sits opposite Pleasure on the mountain, and tells Hercules that the time has come when the two opposites should be reconciled on earth in a union that will inaugurate what amounts to a Hesperian golden age. In achieving this reconciliation Hercules will fulfill, Mercury says, the aim of ‘My grandsire Atlas’ who ‘taught thee all the learning of the sphere, And how, like him, thou might’st the heavens up-bear’. For an image of Hercules supporting Atlas we need only refer to the picture entitled ‘Athlas’ in de Vigenère, where what Philostratus describes and what we see in the unsigned illustration is, indeed, Hercules offering to relieve Atlas of his burden. (Fig. 19) It is the way the whole action of this masque brings together as many as four different mythological pictures from Philostratus that suggests its influence. The first performance of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue on Twelfth Night 1618 was not a great success, and Jonson revised it for a repeat performance in February the same year which included an additional antimasque entitled For the Honour of Wales to celebrate the dancing debut of Charles as Prince of Wales; it features a cast of Welshmen whose funny Welsh accents are satirised in the dialogue.

Fig. 19 ‘Atlas’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 463. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 19 ‘Atlas’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 463. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[14] Only two months later Jonson was in Scotland, having walked all the way on foot, where he stayed with William Drummond at Hawthornden and had some famous conversations about life and literature. Those conversations evidently included some discussion of the painted ceiling in Alexander Seton’s gallery at Pinkie, although whether Jonson actually visited the house and saw the ceiling is unknown.[13] What we do know, however, is that on his return to London, in 1619, Jonson wrote to Drummond reminding him of some Scottish materials which Drummond had promised to send him: ‘I most earnestly solicit you for your promise of the inscriptions at Pinky,’ he writes in what is the earliest record we have of this painted ceiling. That Jonson is referring to the ceiling and not to the other monumental inscriptions we have noticed at Pinkie is suggested by the fact that although what Drummond actually sent him was not a description of the painted gallery, it was a very full and detailed description of the similarly emblematic embroideries which Mary Queen of Scots had sewn on her Bed of State, bed hangings which only four years earlier had been sent down to London for repair in preparation for King James’s visit to Scotland in 1617 (Bath 2008: 17-21). The bed hangings were in the care of the keeper of the King’s wardrobe in Scotland, a man called John Auchmoutie, who was ordered to send them to London for repairs. The same John Auchmoutie must have accompanied, or followed, them down to London, for he danced in more than one of the court masques, including For the Honour of Wales in which the Welsh antimasquers have some trouble getting their Welsh tongues round Scottish names, including his own, comically arguing that Sir Robert Kerr must be Welsh since his name echoes that of ‘Caerlyon, Caermadin, Cardiff’ whereas ‘Acmooty,’ they argue, ‘is Ap-mouth-wy of Llanmouthwye’ (Jonson 10: 592). The connections between Jonson, Auchmoutie, and Seton extend somewhat further since John Auchmoutie actually married Seton’s niece, Isabel, daughter of his brother William, sometime Sheriff of Edinburgh and Postmaster of Scotland (Bath and Craig 2010: 285). Seton is likely to have taken an interest in Prince Charles’s coming out into public life, which is what both these masque performances were celebrating in 1618, since Seton had been guardian to the baby prince in his earliest years, until the seven year old prince was taken down to London in 1604 (Seton 1882: 50-53, 61). Auchmoutie, and his descendants, retained their hereditary role as Keepers of the King’s Wardrobe in Scotland for more than 100 years, long after there was effectively any wardrobe to be kept, though the embroidered State Bed of Mary Queen of Scots evidently remained in Auchmoutie’s care up until the Civil Wars when it disappeared (Bath and Craig 2010: 286-287). None of this evidence proves any direct influence of the Pinkie ceiling, let alone of a single detail from that ceiling, on the English court masques of Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, but clearly we have quite a close correspondence between the ways in which the Imagines of Philostratus were being used in the applied arts of both Scotland and England at this time. The long gallery was not any kind of theatre or masquing arena, but rather a gallery for philosophical perambulation, or a memory theatre perhaps, combining word and image, but I think there can be little doubt that, in copying an illustration which claimed to realise an ancient ekphrasis out of Philostratus, the First Earl of Dunfermline was confirming his intention of creating a faithful and accurate imitation or renovatio of the classical arts in early-modern Scotland.

[15] There is one further antiquarian discovery which may well have influenced this piece of neoclassical renovatio, for in 1549 it was near Musselburgh that one of the earliest Roman inscribed altar stones ever to be found in Scotland was reported. Its inscription recorded that the stone had been dedicated to Apollo Grannus, known as the ‘long-haired Apollo’, by an Imperial Procurator called Quintus Lucius Sabinus: APOLLINI GRANNO Q. LVSIVS SABINVS PROC. AVG. V. S. L. V.M. (To Apollo Grannus, Quintus Lucius Sabinianus, Imperial Procurator, fulfils his vow freely, gladly and deservedly’ – the concluding abbreviation is short for ‘votum susceptum solvit lubens merito’). That the Roman empire had reached Scotland in classical times had long been evident to readers of Tacitus, but the discovery of actual Roman antiquities north of Hadrian’s wall must have brought home to educated Scots the continuities between the ancient world and the land they lived in. The Musselburgh discovery aroused extraordinary interest at the time, much of it from people known to Seton personally. In 1565 the English ambassador to Scotland, Thomas Randolph, wrote about it to William Cecil, ‘The cave found bysyde Muskelbourge semeth to be some monument of the Romaynes, by a stone that was found, with these words greven upon hym APOLLINI GRANNO Q. L. SABINIANVS PROC. AVG.’ The cave, he writes, was made out of ‘Dyvers short pillars sette upright in the ground, covered with tyle stones large and thycke’ (Cardonald 1809: 87). In the same year Mary Queen of Scots ordered that a messenger be sent from Edinburgh to ‘direct the Baillis of Mussilburgh, charging thame to tak diligent heid and attendance, that the monument of grit antiquitie new funden be nocht demolish nor brokin down’ (Chalmers 1818: 294). In the Scottish part of his Britannia (in Philemon Holland’s English translation of 1610), William Camden mentions the altar stone immediately following his account of the Battle of Pinkie, citing John Napier, who also mentions the stone in his commentary on the Apocalypse; Camden prints an accurate copy of the inscription which, he tells us, was made for him by ‘the eminent sir Peter Young, tutor to king James VI’ (Camden 1610: ‘Lothien’ para.3). Camden’s book would almost certainly have been known to Alexander Seton, as would Napier’s, indeed in 1617 Napier dedicated his book on logarithms to Seton. In building his strongly neoclassical villa suburbana close to the site of a monument which testified to the fact that Scotland had once been part of the Roman imperium Seton must have recognised the importance of signalling its status as a classical revival, and this may well be why he resorted to such neoclassicism more strongly at his house in Musselburgh than in his other houses at Fyvie or at Winton. Another inscription on the front of the house at Pinkie – now no longer visible – confirms the date when he built it: ‘Dominus Alexander Setonius hanc domum aedificavit, non ad animi, sed fortunatum et agelli modum, 1613’ (Master Alexander Seton built this house not as he wished it to be, but as circumstances and finances permitted, 1613).[14] The illustrated edition of de Vigenère’s Images, ou tableaux de platte peinture was only published in 1614, as we have seen, which suggests just how closely in touch Seton must have been with the publication of learned books published overseas; it also gives us a terminus post quem for the actual painting of his long gallery, a year or so later than the date he records for the actual building of the house.

[16] Which brings us back to the inscriptions at Pinkie. The full inscription defining the building as a suburban villa reads:


[To God the best and greatest. For his own benefit, for the benefit of his descendents, and that of all men of cultivation and urbanity, Alexander Seton, most loving of culture and the humanities, has founded, erected and decorated a villa, gardens and these suburban buildings. There is nothing here to do with warfare, not even a ditch to repel enemies, but a fountain of pure water, lawns, pools and other things that may add to their pleasures in order to welcome guests with kindness and treat them with benevolence. He has brought together all kinds of amenities that can afford decent pleasures of heart and mind. But he declares that whoever shall destroy this by theft, sword or fire, or behaves in any kind of hostile manner, will show himself to be a man devoid of all charity and  urbanity, nay an enemy of all culture and the human race. The sacred stones will speak and proclaim it.]

The inscription can still be found, not on the actual building but on the garden wall. This was not its original position, however, since George Seton (1896: 822) tells us that this and the adjoining slab lay detached for many years before being built into the garden wall in 1884. This information led me incautiously to assume that the inscriptions had originally appeared on the external face of the actual building (Bath 2007: 73). However thanks to Marilyn Brown’s recent book Scotland’s Lost Gardens (Brown 2012: 155) we now know that this inscription was always associated with the garden rather than the house itself, for SirJohn Lauder, in 1668, records the inscription as ‘above the outer gate’ of ‘a most sweit garden’ with a long green walk, a 200 foot knot (‘much larger than that at Hamilton’), summer houses, ‘sundrie parks’, and ripe figs: the letters of the inscription were in gold (Lauder 1900: 189-90). This affords strong support for the case made by David Allen for the garden at Pinkie as a leading example of a type which became characteristic of Scotland in the seventeenth century which Allen characterises as the neo-Stoic garden: ‘In preparing the ground for Scotland’s eager adoption of post-Renaissance garden cultivation, no more relevant development can be identified than the powerful resurgence of interest in classical Stoicism which so marked the second half of the sixteenth century’ (Allan 1997: 61). As Allan reminds us, Stoicism offered some refuge from the disorder and disruption of public life, becoming strongly associated, particularly in the neo-Stoicism of Justus Lipsius, with a belief that rural withdrawal or gardening represented not some Epicurean retreat from public responsibility but ‘the most appropriate venue for the effective Stoical cultivation of prudentia’ (Allan 1997: 62). Its Scottish exponents include Florence Wilson, whose De animi tranquilitate dialogus (1542) records a philosophical neo-Platonic discussion in a garden above Lyons, and they include William Drummond, whose verse ‘breathes the authentic spirit’ Allan suggests, ‘of contemporary neo-Stoic pastoralism’ (1997: 64-65). Comparable gardens include, according to Allan, Sir David Lindsay’s garden at Edzell with its classical bas-reliefs of the Liberal Arts and Planetary Deities, the Drummond Castle of the Earls of Perth at Crieff, and the castle of the Gordon Earls of Sutherland as far north as Dunrobin. ‘All of these innovations,’ writes Allan, ‘seemingly expressed a zealous but overdue Scottish attachment to the horticultural enthusiasm of the French and Italian Renaissances’ (1997: 60).

[17] Whatever reservations we might have about defining all of these as strictly ‘neo-Stoic’, the remarkable correspondence between the cultural and philosophical context defined by Allan for this type of Scottish garden in the seventeenth century and that which we have defined for the house itself at Pinkie is striking.[15] Not only is the long gallery a recreation of the Athenian stoa poikile in which Stoicism had its origins and from which it took its name but, as I have noted elsewhere, the emblem book which was the source for most of its emblems, Otto Vaenius’s Emblemata Horatiana, was in fact dedicated to Justus Lipsius, the great Dutch exponent of neo-Stoicism (Bath 2003: 96).[16] The subject of the picture which Seton selected from the 67 illustrations to de Vigenère also confirms Allan’s hypothesis, for Pindar was the greatest of Greek lyric poets, and the rejoicing of Earth goddess Rhea, with Pan and the Nymphs, at his birth suggests his association with the strongly pastoral and bucolic genres of poetry which Allan identifies – in the writing of such poets as William Drummond, William Alexander, or Alexander Ross – as expressions of Scottish seventeenth-century neo-Stoicism. The fact that the remarkable inscription describing Seton’s building at Pinkie as a modest, peaceful Plinian villa suburbana was originally placed above the gateway leading into its garden is therefore not only a confirmation of Allan’s thesis concerning the philosophical context for the wider development of the country-house poem, and garden, in seventeenth-century Scotland, but also a strong indication of the unity of both house and garden at Pinkie itself.[17] The fact that all the windows in this generously fenestrated painted gallery actually overlook the garden offers a final confirmation of the architectural and intellectual unity of the house and its garden. It was only in the eighteenth century that Edinburgh staked its claim to be viewed as ‘Athens of the North’, but long before this we can surely see the same spirit of classical emulation anticipated in the house which Scotland’s great humanist, Catholic Chancellor, Alexander Seton, built himself at Pinkie in 1613.


[1] Pliny’s much longer description of his ‘Laurentine’ villa, Epist. II.16, was equally influential, containing as it does a detailed account of its apartments and surroundings. [back to text]

[2] The significance of this inscription is now increasingly recognised in Scottish architectural histories, see Howard 1995: 51; Glendinning, MacInnes, and  MacKechnie 1996: 29,  56. [back to text]

[3] The Philostratus source was identified for me by Stephane Rolet (University of Paris-VIII and École Pratique des Hautes Études) and Anne Rolet (University of Nantes) during an excursion to Pinkie House organised for delegates attending the Ninth International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies in Glasgow, July 2011. I am greatly indebted to them for this discovery, and for prompting me to explore its Scottish significance in the present article. [back to text]

[4] Seton had as it happens played a significant part in negotiations for a political union of the two kingdoms. In 1604 he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Scotland and commissioner for the projected political union between England and Scotland which, in the event, only came about more than 100 years later, in 1707. [back to text]

[5] The first edition of de Vigenère appeared in Paris, 1578, unillustrated, with reprints in 1502 and 1511; the first illustrated edition was printed in Paris in 1614/1615 (some copies have the date altered by the simple addition of an extra ‘I’, but are the same edition), with further editions in 1629/1630, and 1637. As Adams, Rawles and Saunders remark, ‘It is remarkable that such a large work should have been reprinted so frequently’ (2002: 294): their Bibliography of French Emblem Books is now the fullest and most accurate account of the publishing history of this work. The 1614/15 edition, they note, required an investment of 4000 écus for the engravings alone. The fact that there are only three illustrations to the latter half of the volume, containing the Suite de Philostrate and the Heroïques de Callistrate, suggests that despite this large investment economies had to be made as the book progressed. All 65 of the preceding Imagines of Philostratus the Elder are illustrated, however. For an excellent and informative study of the reception of de Vigenère’s Philostratus in seventeenth-century France see Crescenzo 1999. [back to text]

[6] For Caron’s illustrations and the influence of French ballet de cour in Scotland see Bath 2013. [back to text]

[7] My assumption that it must have been Seton himself who chose the emblems for his ceiling rests on everything we know about his intellectual interests, education and library. Although his friend, architect William Schaw, might possibly have been consulted, there is no evidence that Schaw worked on Pinkie, and the actual painters or their lead designer would not have had the command of Latin or access to these resources. [back to text]

[8] NLS Acc 9769/14/2/2. I am extremely grateful to Peter Davidson for drawing my attention to this Inventory, on which he is currently working, and to the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres for allowing me access to it. [back to text]

[9] The standard work on the rediscovery of the Domus Aurea remains Dacos 1969; for the use of grottesco ornament in Scotland see Bath 2010, and for its wider influence see Zamperini 2008. [back to text]

[10] The case for a more diverse and eclectic set of classical models for the northern Renaissance was strongly argued by the various contributors to Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660, see in particular the contributions by Lucy Gent, Christy Anderson, Susan Foister, and Catherine Belsey in Gent 1995. [back to text]

[11] The octagonal cupola has been shown to copy the illustration from Hans Vredeman de Vries, Perspectiva, Antwerp 1604-5: 20, see Bath 2003: 102. [back to text]

[12] For Titian in this context see e.g. Murutes 1973. The literary source for the Andrians in Philostratus was first identified by F. Wickhoff (Wickhoff 1902). [back to text]

[13] The precise details of Ben Jonson’s visit to Scotland have remained uncertain ever since 1623, when the documents recording them went up in smoke with the fire which consumed Jonson’s library. However James Loxley’s recent discovery of a manuscript recording the journey and written by an unidentified travelling companion confirms that he not only visited Seton Palace at Winton and Sir George Bruce’s house with its emblematic painted ceiling at Culross, but also stayed in Dunfermline, where he played ‘shooting at buttes’ with Alexander Seton and his wife. For further information on this important document, which will certainly advance our understanding of the relations between Scotland and the culture of the Stuart court in England, we await the publication of Ben Jonson’s Foot-Voyage to Scotland, ed. Groundwater, Loxley and Sanders (announced as forthoming 2014). Anna Groundwater’s preliminary summary has just appeared as the present article went to press in a two-part resumé in the popular History Scotland  magazine (Groundwater 2013). [back to text]

[14] The inscription recording the date of the building is noted in Seton 1882, p. 17. [back to text]

[15] For the wider influence of neo-stoicism in Scotland see Allen’s Philosophy and Politics in Later Stuart Scotland: Neo-Stoicism, Culture and Ideology in an Age of Crisis, 1540-1690, East Linton, 2000. [back to text]

[16] For neo-Stoicism and the visual arts see  M. Morford, Stoics and Neostoics: Rubens and the Circle of Lipsius, New Haven, 1992. [back to text]

[17] The importance of relating the building to its setting is well argued by McKean 2003. [back to text]



Adams, Alison, S. Rawles, and A. Saunders. 2002. A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, vol. 2 (Geneva: Droz)

Allan, David. 1997. ‘“A Commendation of the Private Countrey Life”: Philosophy and the Garden in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,’ Garden History 25: 1, 59-80.

_____. 2000. Philosophy and Politics in Later Stuart Scotland: Neo-Stoicism, Culture and Ideology in an Age of Crisis, 1540-1690. (East Linton: Tuckwell)

Anderson, Christy. 1995. ‘Learning to Read Architecture in the English Renaissance’, in Lucy Gent, ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660. (New Haven: Yale University Press): 239-287.

Bann, Stephen. 2009. ‘Philostratus and the Narcissus of Caravaggio’, in Philostratus, ed. Ewen Bowie and Jas Elsner. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 343-355.

Bath, Michael. 2003. Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland. (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland)

_____. 2007. ‘Ben Jonson, William Fowler and the Pinkie Ceiling,’ Architectural Heritage 18: 73-86.

_____. 2008. Emblems for a Queen: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots. (London: Archetype)

Michael Bath, ‘Andrew Bairhum, Giovanni Ferrerio and the “Lighter Style of Painting”‘, Journal of the Northern Renaissance, 2 (2010) <http://www.northernrenaissance.org/andrew-bairhum-giovanni-ferrerio-and-the-lighter-style-of-painting/>

_____, ‘“Rare shewes and singular inventions”: The Stirling Baptism of Prince Henry’, Journal of the Northern Renaissance, 4 (2012) <http://www.northernrenaissance.org/rare-shewes-and-singular-inventions-the-stirling-baptism-of-prince-henry/>

Bath, Michael and Jennifer Craig. 2010. ‘What Happened to Mary Stuart’s bed of State?’ Emblematica, 18: 279-288.

Belsey, Catherine. 1995. ‘Classicism and Cultural Dissonance’, in Lucy Gent, ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660. (New Haven: Yale University Press): 427-442.

Bertos, Rigas N. 1976. ‘A Short Note on the “Bacchanal of the Andrians”’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 20.3: 407-410.

Bowie, Ewen and Jas Elsner, eds. 2009. Philostratus. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Brown, Marilyn. 2012. Scotland’s Lost Gardens. (Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland)

Camden, William. 1607. Britannia, trans. Philemon Holland. (London: G. Bishop and J. Norton)

Cardonald, Adam de. 1809. ‘Description of Certain Roman Ruins Discovered at Inveresk,’ Archaeologia Scotica: Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 2: 159-167, 287-288.

Chalmers, George. 1818. ‘Miscellaneous Communications: Randolph’s Letters Concerning Roman Antiquities Discovered near Musselburgh’, Archaeologia Scotica: Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 3: 294-295.

Crescenzo, Richard. 1999. Peintures d’instruction: la posterité littéraire de Philostrate en France de Blaise de Vigenère à l’époque classique. (Geneva : Droz)

Dacos, Nicole. 1969. La découverte de la Domus Aurea et la formation des grotesques à la renaissance (London: Warburg Institute)

Dundas, Judith. 1993. Pencil’s Rhetorique: Renaissance Poets and the Art of Painting. (Newark: University of Delaware Press)

Fowler, Alastair. 2003. Renaissance Realism: Narrative Images in Literature and Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Gent, Lucy. 1995. ‘“The Rash Gazer”: Economies of Vision in Britain, 1550-1660’, in Lucy Gent, ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660. (New Haven: Yale University Press): 377-394.

Glendinning, Miles, R. MacInnes, and A. MacKechnie.1996. A History of Scottish Architecture from the Renaissance to the Present Day. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

Raichel le Goff. ‘Continuity in Change: Revisualizations of Philostratus’s Eikones’, Humanitas, 10/2 (1997) <http://www.nhinet.org/humsub/lego10-2.htm>

Gombrich, Ernst. 1962. Art and Illusion. (London: Phaidon Press)

Groundwater, Anna. 2013. ‘Ben Jonson’s Walk to Scotland’, History Scotland, vol.13/3, May/Jun, pp.24-29, and 13/4 July/Aug, 2013, pp. 32-36.

Hagstrum, Jean H. 1958. The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary Pictorialism and English Poetry from Dryden to Gray. (Chicago: Chicago University Press)

Howard, Deborah. 1995. The Architectural History of Scotland: Reformation to Restoration, 1560-1660. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

Jonson, Ben. 1925-52. The Complete Works of Ben Jonson. Ed. C. H. Herford and Percy Simpson. 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Lauder, John. 1900. The Journals of Sir John Lauder. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Publications of the Scottish History Society, 36)

Lebey de Batilly, Denis. 1596. Emblemata. (Frankfurt: [s.n.])

Maitland, Richard. 1829. History of the House of Seton. (Glasgow: Maitland Club)

McKean, Charles. 2003 ‘The Scottish Renaissance Country Seat in its Setting,’ Journal of Garden History 31:2, 141-62.

Morford, M. 1992. Stoics and Neostoics: Rubens and the Circle of Lipsius (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Murutes, M. 1973 ‘Personifications of Laughter and Dunken Sleep in Titian’s “Andrians,”’ Burlington Magazine 115:845, 518-525.

Newby, Zahra. 2009. ‘Absorption and Erudition in Philostratus’s Imagines’, in Bowie and Jas Elsner, eds. 2009: 322-342.

Philostratus. 1615. Les images ou tableaux de platte peinture des deux Philostrates sophistes grecs, trans. by Blaise de Vigenère. (Paris: chez veuve Abel l’Angelier et veuve Guilleminot, repr. New York : Garland, 1967)

_____. 1931. Imagines, with a Translation by Arthur Fairbanks (London: Heinemann)

Praz, Mario. 1964. Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery. (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura)

Seton, Bruce Gordon. 1939. The House of Seton: A Study in Lost Causes (Edinburgh: Lindsay and Macleod)

Seton, George. 1882. Memoir of Alexander Seton Earl of Dunfermline. (Edinburgh: Blackwood)

Seton, George. 1896. A History of the House of Seton. (Edinburgh: Privately Printed by T. and A. Constable)

Veen, Otto van. 1607. Horatii Flaccii Emblemata (Antwerp: Jerome Verdussen)

Vigenère, Blaise de. 1586. Traité des chiffres, ou secrètes manières d’escrire. (Paris: L’Angelier)

Wickhoff, F. 1902, ‘Venezianische Bilder,’ Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, 23: 118-120.

Edith Wyss, ‘An Unexpected Classical Source for Jacob Jordaens’, <http://www.kunstpedia.com/articles/an-unexpected-classical-source-for-jacob-jordaens.html>

Yates, Frances. 1951. ‘The Symbolic Persons in the Masques of Ben Jonson by Allan H. Gilbert’ (review article), The Review of English Studies, 2: 177-179.

_____. 1959. The Valois Tapestries. (London: Warburg Institute)

Zamperini, Alessandra. 2008. Ornament and the Grotesque: Fantastical Decoration from Antiquity to Art Nouveau. (London: Thames and Hudson)

Legacies: Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde as Testamentary Fiction

Legacies: Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde as Testamentary Fiction

Alex Davis

[1] My concern is with imagined inheritances rather than actual wills or bequests. The title-page of Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde (first published in 1590) reads: ‘Rosalynde. Euphues golden Legacie, found after his death in his Cell at Silexedra. Beqveathed to Philautvs Sonnes, noursed vp with their Father in England. Fetcht from the Canaries by T. L. Gent.’ The reference here is to John Lyly’s fictions, The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and its sequel Euphues and His England (1580). These relate the adventures of the Athenian Euphues and his Italian friend Philautus, concluding in Euphues’ retreat from the world to a life of contemplation on the fictional ‘Mount of Silixsedra’ (1580: sig. Ll4r). The pretence is that Rosalynde represents Euphues’ bequest, left to his friend’s sons for their moral improvement, and discovered by Lodge on his travels. In this way, Rosalynde hopes to position Thomas Lodge as the rightful inheritor of Lyly’s literary achievement. At the same time, as I hope to show, this gesture of imaginary association masks the text’s relationship to a medieval literary inheritance in ways that speak to the cultural dynamics underpinning the ‘new poetry’ of the 1580s and 90s, and indeed to the idea of an English literary Renaissance generally.


[2] Rosalynde’s fictional frame narrative is not maintained with perfect consistency. The dedication to Lord Hundson frankly admits that Lodge himself wrote the text ‘to beguile the time with labour’ during a sea voyage to the Azores and the Canary Islands (1592: sig. A2r). Nonetheless, it is developed in some detail. In particular, we find it elaborated in Euphues’ ‘Scedule’, which Lodge introduced between the dedicatory epistles and the narrative proper in the 1592 edition of his text:

The Scedule annexed to Euphues Testament, the tenour of his Legacie, the token of his Loue.

The vehemency of my sicknes (Philautus) hath made mee doubtfull of life, yet must I die in counsailing thee like Socrates, because I loue thee. Thou hast sons by Camilla, as I heare, who being yong in yeres haue green thoughts: & nobly born, haue great minds: bend them in their youth like the willow, least thou bewayle them in their age for their wilfulnes. I haue bequeathed them a Golden legacie, because I greatly loue thee. Let them read it as Archelaus did Cassender, to profit by it: and in reading let them meditate: for I haue approued it the best methode. They shall find Loue anatomized by Euphues, with as liuely colours as Apelles table: roses to whip him when he is wanton, reasons to withstand him when he is wilie. Here may they read that vertue is the King of labours, opinion the Mistres of fooles: that vnitie is the pride of Nature, & contention the ouerthrow of Families: here is Elleborus bitter in taste, but beneficial in triall. I haue nothing to sende thee and Camilla but this counsel, that in stead of worldly goods, you leaue your sons vertue and glorie: for better were they to bee partakers of your honours then lords of your mannors. I feele death that summoneth me to my graue, and my soule desirous of his God. Farewell Philautus, and let the tenor of my counsaile be applyed to thy childrens comfort.

Euphues dying to liue.

If any man find this scrowle, send it to Philautus in England. (1592: sig. A3v)

Lodge’s ‘scedule’ presents us with a resonant example of early modern culture’s engagement with the idea of the manuscript. This alleged transcript of a ‘scrowle’ is positioned as the source, as that which is anterior to print. The tradition of claiming a documentary origin for a fictional narrative was an old one. Here, though, the device is newly energised by the advent of print culture and its subsequent refashionings of what a handwritten document might signify, and the manoeuvre opens out onto a long history of future paratextual gestures, crisply summed up for modern readers by Umberto Eco’s insouciant epigraph to The Name of the Rose: ‘naturally, a manuscript’ (1998). But it is the way in which the ‘scedule’ develops a metaphor about literary production that is of particular interest to me here. Its insertion into the second edition of the text makes unmistakeable Lodge’s desire to ground his narrative in the conflation of an idea of literary influence with that of an actual inheritance. A ‘scedule’, here, means the codicil to a will; whilst a codicil, etymologically, is a little book (Swinburne 1590: sig. C8r). Lodge’s little book, Rosalynde, is a testamentary fiction: a narrative about legacies and bequests, but also one that uses the idea of inheritance to imagine itself as an object of transmission.

[3] We might think of the metaphor as constituting a subset of a larger genealogical topos. Neil Rhodes points out that it was customary to imagine proverbial wisdom of the kind offered by Euphues being handed down from father to son (Rhodes 2006: 162), and the familial metaphor is also a common way of thinking about literary influence, as in Thomas Hoccleve’s description of Chaucer as a ‘fadir reverent’ (Spearing 1985: 92). It is a motif that has been the object of critical scrutiny ever since Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence openly recast questions of literary inheritance as a drama of Oedipal succession (Bloom 1975; and see also Brooks 2005 and Guy-Bray 2009). These are discussions that frequently conflate the status of a child with that of a legatee – as the previous sentence does. The logic seems straightforward, yet the relationship is only a conventional one. As Thomas Hobbes notes, with his characteristic trenchancy: ‘the word Heire does not of it selfe imply the Children, or nearest Kindred of a man; but whomsoever a man shall any way declare, he would have to succeed him in his estate’ (1651: 100). Possession, in the English legal tradition, is marked by alienability, the power to give away; and alienability is specifically the freedom to violate succession (Baker 2007: 259-65).

[4] On the face of things, the ‘scedule’ works to insert Rosalynde into a generational scheme: framing Lodge’s narrative as a tale about fathers and sons and instituting an idea of the text as a comprehensively masculine possession – strikingly so, perhaps, in a cultural environment that often liked to play with the idea that to write fiction was to produce ‘ladies’ text’ (Fleming 1993), and given the prominence of women in the narrative proper. But the specific idea of the legacy has other, more complex and ambiguous functions. In the first place, it supplements the declaration of relatedness as such with an interest in the nature of the inheritance that is passed between the generations. Secondly, though, it threatens to undermine the biological metaphor for literary influence even as it evokes it. For stories about legacies are, typically, stories of contestation. They present us with scenarios in which the intersection between blood relationships and property relations is unclear, controvertible, and therefore – however provisionally – denaturalised. Certainly, in the ‘scedule’, Euphues is not an actual father, even if by offering advice and bequeathing a legacy he is performing roles that Rosalynde will identify as paternal. The actuating force behind the bequest is Euphues ‘loue’ for his friend, not that of Philautus for his sons; never mind Camilla’s. With the focus on the legacy as an instrument of transmission, we are entering a zone in which questions of generation and authority may become fruitfully muddied. Primogeniture never slips from view completely. Still: who, we might wonder, is the imagined as the dominant agent in terms of shaping the text: the parent, or the testator? Legacies can multiply points of origin, even whilst they attempt to contain writing within a social logic of property relations and genealogical succession.

[5] There are any number of texts from the late sixteenth century that engage with this testamentary theme, an index of the prominence of the will as an instrument of social organisation in this period. One thinks of the mock bequest to the city of London in Isabella Whitney’s Sweet Nosegay (1573); or of a text such as Greenes Groats-worth of Wit (1592), in which the miserly Gorinius bequeaths to his son Roberto an old groat; or Thomas Nashe’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament (1600) George Gascoigne’s account of the adventures of ‘Dan Bartholmew of Bathe’ contains a versified ‘Last Wyll and Testament’ (1575: sig. F7r), whilst Lyly’s Euphues opens by providing the most important information about his protagonist: ‘There dwelt in Athens a young gentleman of great patrimonie’ (1578: sig. B1r). The motif even produced recognised subgenres, such as the mother’s legacy and the mock testament (Wall 1993: 283-310; Hutson 1989: 127-151). But Rosalynde presents us with as intense and complex an exploration of the idea of the legacy as is to be found anywhere in Elizabethan literature. Precariously poised between triumphant authorisation and the parodic self-dispersals of the mock testament, this is a text that deserves to be considered as far more than just the source for As You Like It. And, precisely because of the way it constitutes itself as a meditation on its own antecedents, it bears a richly suggestive relationship to the cultural dynamics that underpinned the literary achievements of the English Renaissance.


[6] In one sense, Lodge’s fiction about the provenance of his own fiction represents a shrewd attempt to capitalise on the success of Lyly’s writing. The Anatomy of Wit was over a decade old by the time Rosalynde was published, but Lyly remained a commanding presence in the late sixteenth-century literary landscape, with numerous editions of the Euphues narratives appearing throughout the 1580s (and indeed into the next century). Lodge was not alone in hoping to ride on Lyly’s coattails. Before him, Robert Greene had produced Euphues His Censure to Philautus (1587) and Menaphon, subtitled Camillas Alarum to Slumbering Euphues, in His Melancholie Cell at Silexedra (1589). (For Greene’s role as a possible collaborator in Rosalynde, see Lodge 1997: 18-19.) Thomas Nashe’s first publication, The Anatomy of Absurdity (1589), announced its Lylyian antecedents in its title, whilst Euphues and Philautus actually appear as characters in the second Part of Barnaby Riche’s Don Simonides (1584: sigs. M3r, R1v). In the Elizabethan literary marketplace, Lyly’s writing constituted a recognisable brand, energetically parasitised by his contemporaries and successors.

[7] Commercial exploitation need not preclude authentic admiration, of course; nor more complex and ambivalent motives. In the case of Rosalynde, the ‘scedule’ acts to claim Lyly, or Lyly’s creation, as the ostensible author of Lodge’s fiction. One can scarcely conceive of a more self-cancelling device for signalling deference to another writer. Yet there are oddities and dissonances here that hint at a degree of resistance to Lyly’s success. Perhaps the first thing to note is that what is at stake in this narrative is a mere fiction of literary relatedness: scholars have on the whole resisted the suggestion that Lodge’s writing reflects the influence of Lyly’s style in any very deep way. For N. Burton Paradise, Lodge ‘was never a pure Euphuist’ (1998: 97), whilst Nancy R. Lindheim has argued that Euphuism as Lyly practised it is in fact ‘curiously incompatible’ with the romance mode of a tale like Rosalynde (1975: 10). Then there is the suggestion that Philautus has had children with Camilla. In Euphues and His England, he is actually rejected by her. Instead, in his final letter Philautus writes to Euphues about the financial arrangements for his ‘ioynter’ with a different woman, Frauncis (1580: sig. Kk4r). As Lyly winds up his narrative the readers are told they can imagine that Philautus is ‘newly married’ (1580: sig. Ll4r). It is of course possible that Lodge simply made a mistake. But it is also conceivable that he is taking advantage of the fact that Lyly never positively says who Philautus marries in order to rewrite – even if only in a very minor way – and assume control over Lyly’s work.

[8] The more one reflects upon the ‘scedule’, in fact, the more it discloses oddities that seem inconsistent with a straightforward desire to signal Rosalynde’s affiliation with Lyly’s work. Clearly that is part of what is going on here; but it is not the only thing. Much is unexplained, or puzzling. The ‘scedule’ is a codicil – but to what document? We never find out. It bequeaths a golden legacy – but how? This is a will without executors or any means of reliably communicating itself to its beneficiaries (‘If any man find this scrowle, send it to Philautus in England’). The document’s ‘reproduction’ by Lodge presumably means that it never reached Philautus; our ability to read Rosalynde is therefore grounded in the failure of a testamentary act. Then there is the self-proclaimed emptiness of the bequest. ‘I haue nothing to send thee and Camilla,’ Euphues writes, ‘but this counsel, that in stead of worldly goods, you leaue your sons vertue and glorie.’ In one sense, this focus on the more substantial legacy of wisdom in place of money, land or property seems admirable. In another, there is something curiously self-defeating here. Euphues has nothing to leave but advice about what to leave. Philautus’ sons are at least bequeathed a material object, the ‘scrowle’ that contains the narrative of Rosalynde; this too, however, understands itself only as a delivery system for ‘counsel’. [1] And, finally, if the aim of the testamentary motif is to imply a connection between literary relations and blood relations, the ‘scedule’ if anything undermines the association even as it suggests it, since it is the amicitia relationship between Euphues and Philautus that  produces the bequest.

[9] Part of the wit of Lodge’s prefatory mock-document, then, lies in its disorienting character. Rosalynde is using the testamentary fiction to problematise questions of literary ancestry, even whilst it sketches out its imagined family tree. And these paratextual complexities find their echo in the narrative proper. Actual filiation replaces imagined relatedness, but the intimations of uncertainty are remarkably similar. Rosalynde opens with the death of Sir John of Bordeaux and the distribution of his worldly goods among his three sons. Salaynde, the eldest, is to receive ‘fourteene ploughlands’ and Fernandine, the middle son, twelve. But to Rosader, the youngest son and his father’s favourite, are bequeathed ‘my Horse, my Armour, and my Launce with sixteene ploughlands’ (1592: sig. A4v). It is this expression of paternal preference, with its assumption that it is the junior son who deserves to inherit his father’s chivalric identity and the largest share of his worldly goods, that sets Lodge’s narrative in motion. An infuriated Saladyne determines to ignore Sir John’s wishes. He arrogates his brothers’ legacies to himself and raises Rosader as his ‘foote boy’ (1592: sig. B3v). It is only after some two or three years that Rosader will fully realise what has been done to him, and decide to claim what is rightfully his.

[10] These opening pages are managed in such as way as to echo not merely the general theme of Lodge’s prefatory frame (fathers, sons and inheritance), but also much of its specific detail. No sooner do we start reading the tale proper than Sir John of Bordeaux’s dying wishes are written up in a versified ‘Scedule’ (1592: sig. B2r), written in a ‘scroule’ (1592: sig. B1v), declaring that the best legacy he can leave is one of paternal wisdom:

My sonnes, behold what portion,
I leauue you goods, but they are quickly loste,
I leaue you aduise, to schoole you how to liue. … (1592: sig. B2r)

Furthermore, just as Euphues claims that his legacy will offer a hostile anatomy of Love, so too the dying Sir John enters into a long discourse on the same theme: ‘But aboue al, & with that he fetcht a deep sigh, beware of Loue …’ (1592: sig. B1r). Two dead fathers (one real; the other, Euphues, a would-be father figure), two sets of sons, two warnings against love, two scrolls containing two schedules: there is a peculiar quality of excess and repetition in the way Rosalynde pursues the motif of the legacy.

[11] In one sense, this compulsive ventriloquising of the voice of paternal authority acts to contain the potentially scandalous, ‘prodigal’ status of imaginative writing in the late sixteenth century (Helgerson 1976). In another, though, the effect is less to emphasise an important idea than to subvert it. This is the will imagined primarily as an instrument of control, as a means of bridling the desires of unruly sons. ‘Bend them in their youth like the willow,’ Lodge’s Euphues writes, ‘least thou bewayle them in their age for their wilfulness.’ Yet all this comes to nothing. As Saladyne says to himself, ‘sicke mens willes that are parole, and haue neither hand nor seale, are like the lawes of a Cittie written in dust, which are broken with the blast of euery winde’ (1592: sig. B3r – Saladyne is referring here to the purely verbal, or ‘nuncupative’ will, common in sixteenth-century England). Rosalynde is an extended demonstration of the uncontainable wilfulness of its characters: firstly through Saladyne’s flouting of his father’s wishes; then in his own failure to break his brother’s spirit; and then repeatedly in the text’s exploration of the helpless subjection of all and sundry to the dominant ‘will’ in the narrative that follows, which is that of Love. From the deathbed of Sir John, we follow Rosader into the forest of Arden, where he features as the male lead in a pastoral romance centred upon Rosalynde, the disguised daughter of his outlawed king of France, Gerismond. Lovesickness and erotic confusions abound, until all is resolved in a whirl of family reunions and reconciliations, combined with multiple marriages. It is in this strand of the narrative that we read that  ‘Loue willing to make [Rosader] as amourous as hee was valiaunt, presented him with the sight of Rosalynd [sic]’ (1592: sig. C2r); that Montanus sings that his sheep ‘are turnd to thoughts, whom froward will / Guydes in the restles Laborynth of Loue’ (1592: sig. E3r); and that, towards the end of the text, the shepherdess Phoebe has cause to reflect that ‘he that wrests against the will of Venus, seeks to quench fire with oyle, & to thrust out one thorn by putting in another.’ (1592: sig. N3v). The testamentary designs of Euphues and Sir John are as nothing when compared to the suasive force of love. Is Euphues’ inheritance a golden legacy, we might therefore wonder, or a leaden one?


[12] Legacies were important to Lodge. The second son of a Lord Mayor of London who had been bankrupted in the final year of his mayoralty, Lodge was excluded from his father’s will. When his mother died, her bequest to him was made conditional upon his good behaviour (the document is quoted in Tenney 1935: 70-71). He eventually ceded the lands she left to him to his elder brother William in exchange for ready money (Lodge seems to have been regularly in debt), and then in the 1590s engaged in a series of lawsuits in which he alleged assault against William and attempted to reclaim his inheritance. He left no will himself; there remains only the notice of a concession granted to his widow to administer his goods, rights and credits (Tenney 1935: 191, n. 1).[2]  In Lodge’s writing, meanwhile, legacies frequently operate as narrative turning points or signal passages of heightened emotional intensity. The early Alarum Against Vsurers presents us with a young gentleman whose liabilities are so excessive that his father disowns him, ‘dispossessing the ryghte heyre of what hee maye’ (1584: sig. C4r). The son is imprisoned, but released by his creditor, who trains him up to ensnare further heirs into debt (Lodge’s works swarm with predatory loansharks). In the relatively late Looking Glasse For London, written in collaboration with Robert Greene, Thrasibulus is cheated out of his inheritance by a usurer (1594: sig. D1r). And it is notable how often legacies appear as uncertain or contested in Lodge’s writing. Revealingly, the verse epistle ‘To his deere friend H. L.’ in A Fig For Momus advises a father to ‘Spend on thy sonne, to get instruction, / That he may liue by art, when wealth is gone’, as if simply assuming the exhaustion of the patrimony by one or other party (1595: sig. H1v). In his prose fictions, Robert Second Duke of Normandy turns on the question of whether or nor Robert will turn out to be the rightful heir of his noble father, or a vicious son of the devil, whilst The Life and Death of William Long Beard contains a prominent episode in which a ‘bill of debt’ drawn up to support a poor tradesman’s family after his death is first torn to shreds by his false friend, and then reconstituted by the protagonist (1593: sigs. A3r-B2v).

[13] In Rosalynde this capacity of the idea of the legacy to organise a narrative reaches its highest pitch of complexity and force. It would be misleading to suggest that Lodge’s testamentary fiction exerts its influence evenly, or with equal consequence, over every aspect of his text. Rosalynde, the eponymous heroine, necessarily enjoys a modified relationship to these paradigms of patrilineal transmission, even whilst the text lays due emphasis upon her position as her father’s daughter and the true heir to the kingdom of France. ‘Consider Rosalynde,’ she muses, ‘[Rosader’s] fortunes, and thy present estate, thou art poore and without patrymony, and yet the daughter of a Prince, he a yonger brother, and voyd of such possessions as eyther might maintaine thy dignities or reuenge thy fathers iniuries’ (1592: sig. C4v). But there are good reasons for thinking that the testamentary game initiated by the text’s self-description as a legacy represents a kind of deep structure underpinning Lodge’s textual production. The sense of organised repetition, as of Chinese boxes, that we have already noted in Lodge’s handling of the theme is extended once we realise that the narrative produces a metaphorical framework that can be used to describe its development from a different point of origin from the Lylyian one. Rosalynde may or may not be significantly indebted to Lyly’s famous Euphuistic style; may or may not wish to position itself as an authentic act of hommage to its Elizabethan literary precursor. But what all this careful hinting at shades of ambivalence serves to divert our attention from is the fact that Rosalynde is, as we say, related – quite definitively related – to an entirely different literary text.

[14] The anonymous fourteenth-century romance The Tale of Gamelyn was never printed during Lodge’s lifetime, but survives in a number of manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It relates the adventures of the youngest of the three sons of ‘Iohan of Boundys’. As he approaches death, Sir John divides his patrimony. His eldest son, also John, is to receive five ploughs worth of land; the middle son also gets five. But Gamelyn, the youngest, is to inherit everything else of Sir John’s ‘londes’ (1893: ll. 53-64). From this familiar starting point, the narrative progresses through the theft of his inheritance by his older brother, Gamelyn’s attempts to claim what is rightfully his, his escape to the greenwood and eventual triumph. Although Lodge innovates dramatically in making Rosalynde the eventual focal point for his narrative (strikingly, the medieval text contains no women at all, bar a brief reference to the hero’s marriage at the end), it is The Tale of Gamelyn that provides the narrative skeleton of inheritance and dispossession that Lodge so insistently fleshes out in his sixteenth-century version of the tale. It is therefore The Tale of Gamelyn that constitutes the source, the ‘scroule’ or discovered manuscript, that underpins Lodge’s fiction. And yet, for all Lodge’s concern to signal his indebtedness to Lyly’s work, this deeper relation is never once mentioned in his text. Such acknowledgements of it as there are, are almost entirely tacit. Lodge’s self-presentation in his dedication ‘To the Gentlemen Readers’ as a plain soldier, armed with his ‘curtlaxe’ (1592: sig. A3r) may in a sense represent a reworking of the figure of the rudely physical Gamelyn: the episode in which Gamelyn assaults his brother’s dinner guests with a ‘staf’ (1893: l. 499) is reconfigured in Rosalynde as an attack with a ‘pollaxe’ (1592: sig. F3r), so has Lodge imagined himself armed with his own version of Gamelyn’s most distinctive weapon. But these are, plainly, the very subtlest of connections.

[15] That Lodge’s narrative is adapted out of a medieval original is well known (it is mentioned in any modern edition of As You Like It). But this fact has not hitherto been thought through in terms of the testamentary logic of his framing device. Rosalynde is not just about an inheritance that has been neglected and disavowed; it performs a parallel act of disavowal itself. Not only does it fail to acknowledge its relationship of literary inheritance with The Tale of Gamelyn, it seeks to disguise it through a fantasised frame narrative, with its elaborate claim of inheritance from another, more glamorous (but in truth far less closely related) text. Entirely privately, then – privately since Gamelyn was never printed and there is no reason to think that any of Lodge’s readers need have been aware of the relationship – and with whatever degree of silent irony or self-laceration, Lodge’s text implicitly nominates itself as the wicked son of its own narrative paradigm: the child, or the heir, who refuses to acknowledge his heritage.[3] It is Lodge, here, just as much as his own Saladyne, who has wilfully determined to ‘make … hauocke’ of the legacies of the past (1592: sig. B2v). Through its testamentary fiction, Rosalynde both conceals and confesses its own creative bad faith.


[16] Another way of putting this might be to say that, for Thomas Lodge, legacies figure as a central device for thinking about the way in which the past surrenders itself, or is appropriated, in order to shape what comes after it (‘dying to liue’, as Euphues puts it). Yet for all its prevalence, the metaphor was not an inevitable one. On the contrary: Lodge’s positioning of Rosalynde within a testamentary fiction represents a significant divergence from another of his sources.

[17] The figure of ‘Rosalind’ is first mentioned in Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender (1579), a text every bit as concerned with questions of literary authority, and the relationship between the Elizabethan author and the medieval literary past, as Lodge’s is (Hadfield 2009). [4]  But while he borrows the name, Lodge substantially reworks the language that Spenser uses to think through these issues. Legacies are not absent from The Shepheardes Calender. In one of its most famous moments, E.K’s preface says that the volume aims ‘to restore, as to theyr rightfull heritage such good and natural English words, as haue ben long time out of vse and almost clere disherited’ (1579: sig. ¶2v). It is evident, however, that Spenser handles the motif of the legacy in a very different way from Lodge. In the first place, he advocates a project of restoration, rather than positioning the child as the recipient of others’ goods. Secondly, the world of inheritance is a first and foremost a maternal and female one for Spenser. His concern is with the restoration of the ‘Mother tonge’ to her ancient position. One’s ‘native speech’, which Spenser hopes to dignify, is ‘sucked’ with one’s ‘Nources milk’. Ignorant critics allege that ‘we speak no English, but gibbrish, or rather such, as in old time Euanders mother spake’ (1579: sig. ¶2v). From this point of view, The Shepheardes Calender might be understood as a recuperative cross-fertilisation of the mother’s legacy genre with the narrative imperatives of chivalric romance: the child labours to restore the possessions of the ‘disherited’ mother, the damsel in distress.[5]

[18] Elsewhere in the text, however, legacies are viewed with distance, and even outright irony. In the May eclogue, Piers distinguishes between ‘shepheards’ and ‘men of the laye’, since ‘with them it sits to care for the heire, / Enaunter [lest] their heritage doe impaire’ (1579: sig. E1v). E. K.’s note underlines the point: ‘in diuision of the lande of Canaan, to the tribe of Leuie no portion of heritage should be allotted, for GOD himselfe was their inheritaunce’ (1579: sig. F1v). The widowed mother of the kid in the ensuing tale wants to see her hapless son ‘succeede in thy fathers stead’ (1579: sig. E3r). And so he does, in one sense: both end up dead. If this reads like a cynical joke, so too might the collection’s other prominent mention of a legacy. In the gloss to the March eclogue, we read of Flora, ‘the Goddesse of flowres, but indeed (as saith Tacitus) a famous harlot, which with the abuse of her body hauing gotten great riches, made the people of Rome her heyre: who in remembraunce of so great beneficence, appointed a yearely feste for the memorial of her’ (1579: sig. C2v). In fact, Spenser’s favoured metaphor for cultural transmission in The Shepheardes Calender is pedagogy, not inheritance. This is particularly the case whenever he discusses ‘Tityrus’, his pastoral alias for Geoffrey Chaucer. In the June eclogue, Rosalind’s admirer Colin Clout laments that ‘the God of shepheards Tityrus is dead, / Who taught me homely, as I can, to make’ (1579: sig. F4r); in E.K.’s dedicatory epistle, John Lydgate is presented as the ‘scoller’ of his ‘maister’ Chaucer (1579: sig. ¶2r); and the volume’s epilogue aspires (following in Tityrus’ footsteps) ‘to teach the ruder shepheard how to feed his sheepe’ (1579: sig. N4r).

[19] It is worth remembering that Lodge would most likely have understood Gamelyn to be, not some minor anonymous romance, but a work by Chaucer himself (modern scholarship has rejected the attribution). The text survives in twenty-five manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales, in which it follows the unfinished Cook’s Tale, and is sometimes overtly ascribed to the Cook, as a second Cook’s Tale. Chaucer’s reputation had been, more-or-less since his death, constructed as that of a literary ‘father figure’: the father of Lydgate and Hoccleve, the father of English poetry: the first author to be celebrated as such in the English tradition (Lerer 1993). Chaucer’s entry into the networks of mechanical reproduction in the early modern period only produced an intensification of this idea (Bishop 2007): it is in this period that we get things like Thomas Speght’s 1598 edition of Chaucer’s Workes, in which Chaucer appears in portrait, hung about with armorial shields and placed above his son’s tomb (Chaucer 1598: ‘The true portraiture of GEFFREY CHAUCER’). For the sixteenth century, Chaucer was a significant representative of patrilineal values. By concealing its inheritance from Gamelyn, Rosalynde also significantly repudiates the image of Chaucer the father, even as it looks back to the moment as which the idea of lineal succession was adopted as the model for writing in the vernacular.

[20] In this sense, Rosalynde represents a double rejection of the revered ‘maister’ or teacher celebrated under the name of Tityrus in the Shepheardes Calender: he is banished from the scene of literary production that Lodge’s narrative imagines for itself, even whilst the image of the literary father is reinstated. We should therefore understand Rosalynde’s relationship to The Tale of Gamelyn, understood as Chaucerian writing, to be transacted in part through Lodge’s remodelling of this second literary progenitor, Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender. The text is imagined the point of intersection for multiple agents, with Lyly’s Euphues figuring only as the ostensible point of origin. Once we begin to probe Rosalynde’s actual literary affiliations, we are presented with a complex economy of revisions and adjustments, of apparent checks and balances produced as if in order to keep in play its investments in certain ideas both of gender and of literary authority. The figure of Rosalind is taken from The Sheheardes Calender, and, as Clare Kinney (1998) explains, developed from the silent object of lyric praise into an active interlocutor in poetic debates. At the same time, though, Spenser’s most significant literary progenitor (Tityrus/Chaucer) is erased; as are the maternal legacies E.K. imagines (indeed maternal figures in general disappear: barring Camilla, mothers are conspicuous only by their absence in Rosalynde); also any competing metaphors for imagining literary production, such as pedagogy. In their place, the supposedly Chaucerian narrative of the Tale of Gamelyn – adapted in order to provide a home for the new tale featuring Rosalind-as-protagonist – provides the narrative paradigm through which these all revisionary movements must now, it seems, be viewed. The superimposition of Euphues’ ‘scedule’ only serves to intensify one’s sense of the sheer intertextual density that undergirds Lodge’s text, and of the powerful emotional energies it might channel. The legacy, as the legal instrument that conventionally should but technically need not track biological relation, provides the perfect model for thinking about these complex movements of literary authority between past and present. After all, Euphues isn’t really a father; he just sounds like one.


[21] I want, then, to argue for Lodge’s Rosalynde as in some sense an exemplary text. It is certainly a strikingly unusual one in many ways; no other piece of writing from this period engages with the idea of the legacy at this level of intensity and commitment. But this very closeness of focus, coupled with the complexity of the way in which it positions Lodge’s text in relation to so many other profoundly significant works of literature from this period (The Shepheardes Calender, Euphues, and, later, Shakespeare’s As You Like It), means that Rosalynde can provide us with a model for thinking through the distinctive cultural achievements of the late sixteenth century – just as the testamentary motif helps Rosalynde think through its own antecedents. The 1580s and 1590s were a period of self-conscious novelty in literary production: the era in which, to quote Edmund Spenser, the ‘new poet’ enters onto the literary scene. This novelty has generally been understood as the paradoxical expression of a profound emulative impulse, one that decisively turned away from medieval models of composition and towards the ancient world as a source of inspiration. How might Rosalynde, as a text that problematises declarations of indebtedness, speak to the idea of a cultural ‘Renaissance’ – particularly, perhaps, to the idea of a belatedly Northern, anxiously English one?

[22] Lodge’s fiction strikingly confirms the sense, articulated in a number of recent works of criticism, that the medieval was a vigorous presence in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English culture, whatever writers of the period might have claimed to be the case. Important studies by James Simpson (2002), Gordon McMullan, David Matthews (2007) and Jennifer Summit (2008), have all in their different ways tried to argue that the old story, in which the Renaissance is understood as a simple rejection of medieval culture in favour of antique models, is no longer tenable. Just so: Rosalynde doesn’t simply reject Gamelyn; it rewrites it too. In its suppression of its Chaucerian antecedent, with the feigned legacy masking a very real debt to a medieval source, it seems almost the perfect image of the structures of bad faith implied by these studies. But there is more. Rosalynde also suggests that the cultural work that went into producing the new poetry of the late sixteenth century was not transacted purely along a temporal circuit. There is another, equally prominent process at work here, articulating itself in geographical terms; one that draws a line of connection from Spenser, through Lodge, out towards Shakespeare’s adaptation of his romance in As You Like It and the subsequent literary histories that attempt to understand the cultural significance of English Renaissance literature.

[23] In The Shepheardes Calender, Spenser’s efforts on behalf of writing in the vernacular have a paradoxical effect, in which the quest for authenticity via a return to older models of literary production results in a proliferating strangeness. Even as E. K. praises Spenser and exhorts Gabriel Harvey to release his English poems from ‘hateful darkness’ (1579: sig. ¶3v), his glosses are obliged to confess not just the antiquity but also the ‘straunge’ (the word is repeated) character of Spenser’s poetic diction (1579: sigs. D2r, F1r, G1r). This, then, is what it means for language to be ‘disherited’ and for Englishmen ‘in their own mother tonge straungers to be counted and alienes’ (1579: sig. ¶2v): to be foreign to oneself. (And this too in the context of anxieties regarding the queen’s marriage to a dubious ‘straunger’, the Duc d’Alençon (Spencer 1999: xii)).

[24] In Lodge, this dynamic is, if anything, intensified, to the point of suggesting a buried logic that connects the two movements, the temporal and the geographic. Precisely because they aim at transformation, both the return to older literary models and their disavowal open out onto the prospect of an imagined foreignness, such as interferes with any attempt to imagine literary relations as premised upon simple consanguinity. Consider how Euphues’s ‘schedule’ positions Lodge’s text as an exotic inheritance, as a foreign import. It derives from the Azores, or the Canaries. As the supposed legacy of a modern Greek, bequeathed to his Italian friend who has settled in Elizabethan London with his English wife, it recapitulates the key staging points in the narrative of translatio studii that provided such a convenient roadmap for thinking about the legacies of antiquity for writers of Lodge’s generation and afterwards – Athens, Rome, London. But it does so in emphatically contemporary terms (Lyly’s tales, the ones referenced by Lodge, are utterly up-to-date), and in relation to a medieval as much as a classical history.

[25] It is not certain under what exact circumstances Lodge sailed to the Azores and Canaries, but it seems likely he did so as part of Elizabethan efforts to disrupt Spanish trade in the Atlantic through piracy (Monterrey 2007). Rosalynde is therefore located at the intersection of two parallel projects. It is the product of, on the one hand, a literary climate in which humanistically-trained authors were searching for the forms that would allow English to achieve recognition as a medium of cultivated expression (thus, The Shepheardes Calender expresses the desire that ‘our vse might be equal to the learned of other nations’ (1579: sig. ¶3r)); and on the other, the political context of England’s ambition to assert her significance on an international stage against her continental rivals. And yet, should we expect the meeting of these two streams of influence to produce a simple declaration of authentic Englishness, we would be disappointed. For Rosalynde is, quite emphatically, foreign. Formally, Rosalynde presents itself as a document; but Rosalynde is also insistent on its nature as a work of art. The text repeatedly suggests through inset headings that human utterance and thought can attain the status of a formal object, shaped and bounded by inherited patterns of use. We read of ‘Saladynes meditation with himselfe’ (1592: sig. B2v); of ‘Rosalynds passion’ (1592: sig. C4r) and her ‘Madrigall’ (1592: sig. D1r); of ‘Alindas Oration to her father’ (1592: sig. D2r) and of ‘Saladynes discourse to Rosader vnknowne’ (1592: sig. K2v). Notably, though, the forms of art that the text incorporates are more often than not identified as alien ones: a ‘Madrigall’ or ‘passion’, an ‘Eglog’ (1592: C1v) or a ‘Sonnetto’ (1592: G3r). Rosalynde laughs at the ‘Sonettoes, Canzones, Madrigales, roundes and roundelaies’ of poeticising lovers (1592: sig. H4r); whilst the Englishman, Adam Spenser, can only rise to a mere ‘speech’ (1592: sig. F4r). One poem ends with an extended quotation from Terence’s Eunuchus in Latin (1592: sig. E4r); another is signed off with the words ‘Rosader en esperance’ (1592: sig. H4r). There is even a short poem entirely in French (1592: sig. M1r), borrowed from Philippe Desportes, who provides a source for a number of other ‘sonnets’ translated by Lodge (Prescott 1978: 143-4). Although basically a prose narrative in English, Lodge’s text is centrally concerned to exhibit its polyglot, linguistically miscellaneous influences. This is more than just an engagement with processes of grafting and assimilation or translation, although Rosalynde certainly attests to the absolute centrality of these activities to Elizabethan literary culture. On some level this text’s deepest fantasy about itself is one of imagined foreignness and self-alienation, for it is by rejecting its native inheritance in favour of a mock-continental substitute that it puts itself in the position of the wicked son ‘Saladyne’: nominally, the ultimate outsider and arch-enemy of Christendom itself.

[26] In his Discourse of English Poetry, William Webbe had written: ‘that there be as sharpe and quicke wittes in England, as euer were among the peerelesse Grecians, or renowmed Romaines, it were a note of no witte at all in me to deny. And is our speeche so course, or our phrase so harshe, that Poetry cannot therein finde a vayne whereby it may appeare like it selfe?’ (1586: sig. A4v). As a product of the same moment, Rosalynde’s testamentary fiction suggests that a dominant cultural process in the period is the fantasised exoticisation of vernacular writing. In order for English ‘Poetry’ securely to emerge as ‘it selfe’, it must first disguise itself as something other. Literary-cultural dominance is to be secured, not by taking possession of a stable, inherited identity, but through a process of self-estrangement. It is, notably, the same dynamic that governs the transvestite plot of the narrative proper, in which Rosalynde’s disguise as the page Ganymede is central to shaping and securing Rosader’s love and therefore also to his advancement to the position of heir to the king of France.


[27] ‘I writ this book,’ Lodge claims in his dedication, ‘rough, as hatcht in the stormes of the Ocean, and feathered in the surges of many perilous seas’ (1592: sig. A2r). It is, as Joan Pong Linton comments, a delightful image, figuring ‘the metamorphosis of sea surges into feathered bird, a spontaneous transformation of voyage into story’ (1998: 49-50). Here, just as much as in Euphues’s ‘scedule’, we are alerted to the fact that Rosalynde’s business is translation, whether literal or metaphorical. It is one reason why Shakespeare might have been drawn to the tale as a source: it is in a sense already primed for further revision. (On allusions to Lodge in Shakespeare, see Elam 1996: 163 and Shakespeare 2006: 81-3.) Certainly he retains Lodge’s testamentary emphasis: from its very first line, the play is saturated with inheritance motifs. Indeed, As You Like It in a sense completes the process, begun by Lodge, of exploiting the legacy as metaphor. Everybody notices the extent to which the play rehearses and toys with existing aesthetic forms: pastoral, love poetry, satire. In As You Like It, then, everything is inherited. Orlando’s poetry may be laughably second hand, but Orlando himself is a borrowing. Even gender, we are eventually made aware, is just another inherited array of conventions, there to be inhabited and manipulated, as one likes it.

[28] But Lodge’s manoeuvrings also offer a precedent for Shakespeare’s own careful blending of native and foreign. Much recent writing on the play has tended to focus on its connection to Shakespeare’s Warwickshire roots. Jonathan Bate, for example, is emphatic: ‘Thomas Lodge’s elegant prose romance is located in the Ardennes forest in France. When Shakespeare dramatized the tale and called it As You Like it, he domesticated the setting’ (2008: 37). Bate even suggests that Shakespeare himself might have played the part of the countryman William, born in the Forest of Arden (1997: 7). This is maybe to overstate the case. Orlando is still the son of one Rowland de Boys, and his name still derives from perhaps the most famous work of contemporary Italian literature, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. Like Rosalynde, As You Like It remains deliberately poised between the native and the exotic, producing a pastoral world in which one can never quite be sure if one is in ‘Arden’ or ‘Ardennes’. Yet the sense of a developing fantasy of authentic national identity in these exchanges may not be completely wide of the mark, either. From the process of literary renaissance as mingled domestication and estrangement, the medieval will eventually re-emerge, subtly repositioned: o longer simply the temporally alienated Other, if it ever was that, but also now (after so much imagined exoticism) native in a new way, the bedrock site of a kind of Ur-Englishness, awaiting its future recovery. In this way, then, the ‘new poetry’ of the English Renaissance eventually lays the ground for the antiquarianisms of the eighteenth century.

University of St Andrews


[1] Actual early modern wills do not, on the whole, look like Euphues’. See for example the documents collected in Honigmann and Brock 1993: these are mostly brisk, detailed and hard-headedly financial, and none features a moralising supplement such as we find in Rosalynde. For one that does, see ‘The Advice and Counsel of Dr. Harris to his Family, annexed to a Will made by him, Anno Christi 1636’ in Clarke 1662: 322. Harris addresses his wife, then his children. His advice is mainly religious, but also notes hereditary character flaws and infirmities endemic to the family and provides guidance on career, marriage, children.[back to text]

[2] For this account of Lodge’s life, I have relied upon Tenney 1935, Halasz 2004 and Walker 1933-34. Pleasingly, Alice Walker’s own testamentary arrangements are recounted in Laurie Maguire’s discussion of the life and achievements of this pioneering textual scholar (2005: 327-50). But for an account of how Maguire’s summary of Walker’s will erases from view her relationship with Janet Ruth Bacon, see Guy-Bray 2009: 19-20. Guy-Bray produces an attack on how the testamentary motif can underpin the ‘reproductive metaphor’, with its various biologistic, heteronormative and teleological imperatives.[back to text]

[3] By using this description, I am alluding not only to the narrative pattern Lodge is adapting, but also to Stephen Greenblatt’s invocation of the ‘wicked son’ of the Passover Seder in the context of his readings of early modern culture. Greenblatt’s recent work matches Lodge’s in the self-consciousness and power with which it invokes the figure of the father in order to articulate a relationship between past and present. See Stephen Greenblatt and Catherine Gallagher 2001: 136-62, and Greenblatt 2001.[back to text]

[4] I have used ‘Rosalind’ for Spenser’s character, and ‘Rosalynde’ for Lodge’s, reflecting the dominant spelling in each text, although this is not wholly consistent in either case.[back to text]

[5] The ‘mother’s legacy’ texts discussed by Wendy Wall postdate The Shepheardes Calender. However, the form was an old one: there exists, for example, a fifteenth-century ‘Northren Mothers Blessing’. This poem was first printed in a volume dedicated to Spenser, and is advertised as having been written ‘nine yeares before the death of G. Chaucer’ (I. S. 1597: sig. E3r).[back to text]


Primary Sources:

Anon. 1893. The Tale of Gamelyn, ed. by Walter W. Skeat (Oxford: The Clarendon Press)

Clarke, Samuel. 1662. A Collection of the Lives of Ten Eminent Divines (London: William Miller)

Chaucer, Geoffrey. 1598. The Workes of our Antient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer (London: Adam Islip for Thomas Wight)

Eco, Umberto. 1998. The Name of the Rose, trans. by William Weaver (London: Vintage)

Gascoigne, George. 1575. The Posies of George Gascoigne Esquire (London: Richard Smith)

Greene, Robert. 1592. Greenes Groats-worth of Wit (London: William Wright)

Hobbes, Thomas. 1991. Leviathan (London: Andrew Crooke)

Lodge, Thomas. 1584. An Alarum Against Vsurers (London: T. Este for Sampson Clarke)

_____. 1591. The Famous, True and Historicall Life of Robert Second Duke of Normandy (London: Thomas Orwin for Nicholas Ling and John Busbie)

_____. 1595. A Fig for Momus (London: Clement Knight)

_____. 1593. The Life and Death of William Long Beard (London: Richard Yardley and Peter Short)

_____. 1594. A Looking Glasse for London and England (London: Thomas Creede)

_____. 1592. Rosalynde (London: Abell Jeffes for T. G. and John Busbie)

_____. 1997 Rosalind, ed. by Donald Beecher (Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions)

Lyly, John. 1578. Euphues. The Anatomy of Wyt (London: Thomas East for Gabriel Cawood)

_____. 1580. Euphues and His England (London: Thomas East for Gabriel Cawood)

Nashe, Thomas. 1600. A Pleasant Comedie, Called Summers Last Will and Testament (London: Simon Stafford for Walter Burre)

Riche, Barnaby. 1584. The Second Tome of the Trauailes and Aduentures of Don Simonides (London: Robert Walley)

Shakespeare, William. 2006. As You Like It, ed. by Juliet Dusinberre (London: Thomson Learning)

Spenser, Edmund. 1579. The Shepheardes Calender (London: Hugh Singleton)

_____. 1999. The Shorter Poems, ed. by Richard McCabe (London: Penguin)

S., I. [John Stow]. 1597. Certaine Worthye Manuscript Poems of Great Antiquitie (London: Robert Robinson for Robert Dexter)

Swinburne, Henry. 1590. A Briefe Treatise of Testaments and Last Willes (London: John Windet)

Webbe, William. 1586. A Discourse of English Poetrie (London: John Charlewood for Robert Walley)

Whitney, Isabella. 1573. A Sweet Nosgay, or Pleassant Posye (London; R. Jones)

Secondary Sources:

Baker, J. H. 2007. An Introduction to English Legal History. Fourth Edition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press)

Bate, Jonathan. 1997. The Genius of Shakespeare (London and Basingstoke: Picador)

_____. 2008. Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare (London: Viking)

Bishop, Louise M. 2007. ‘Father Chaucer and the Vivification of Print’, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 106: 336-363

Bloom, Harold. 1975. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (London: Oxford University Press)

Brooks, Douglas A. (ed.) 2005. Printing and Parenting in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashgate)

Elam, Keir. 1996. ‘As They Did in the Golden World: Romantic Rapture and Semantic Rupture in As You Like It’, in Reading the Renaissance: Culture, Poetics, and Drama, ed. by Jonathan Hart (New York and London: Garland, 1996), pp. 163-76

Fleming, Juliet. 1993. ‘The Ladies’ Man and the Age of Elizabeth’, in Sexuality and Gender in Early Modern Europe: Institutions, Texts, Images, ed. by James Granthan Turner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 158-81

Greenblatt, Stephen. 2001. Hamlet in Purgatory (Princeton: Princeton University Press)

Greenblatt, Stephen, and Catherine Gallagher. 2001. Practicing New Historicism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)

Guy-Bray, Stephen. 2009. Against Reproduction: Where Renaissance Texts Come From (Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press)

Hadfield, Andrew. 2009. ‘Spenser’s Rosalind’, Modern Language Review 104: 935-46

Alexandra Halasz. 2004. ‘Lodge, Thomas (1558–1625)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16923> [accessed 1 March 2012]

Helgerson, Richard. 1976. The Elizabethan Prodigals (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press)

Honigmann, Ernst and Susan Brock (eds). 1993. Playhouse Wills, 1558-1642: An Edition of Wills by Shakespeare and his Contemporaries in the London Theatre (Manchester: Manchester University Press)

Hutson, Lorna. 1989. ‘Thomas Nashe in Context (Oxford: The Clarendon Press)

Kinney, Clare R. 1998. ‘Feigning Female Faining: Spenser, Lodge, Shakespeare and Rosalind’, Modern Philology 95: 291-315

Lerer, Seth. 1993. Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England (Princeton: Princeton University Press)

Lindheim, Nancy R. 1975. ‘Lyly’s Golden Legacy: Rosalynde and Pandosto’, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 15: 3-20

Linton, Joan Pong. 1998. The Romance of the New World: Gender and the Literary Foundations of English Colonialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Maguire, Laurie. 2005. ‘How Many Children Had Alice Walker?’ in Printing and Parenting in Early Modern England, ed. By Douglas A. Brooks (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), pp. 327-50

McMullan, Gordon, and David Matthews (eds.). 2007. Reading the Medieval in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Monterrey, Tomás. 2007. ‘Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde and the Canary Islands’, Sederi 17: 131-40

Paradise, N. Burton. 1998. Thomas Lodge: The History of an Elizabethan (New Haven: Yale university Press)

Prescott, Anne Lake. 1978. French Poets and the English Renaissance: Studies in Fame and Transformation (New Haven and London: Yale University Press)

Rhodes, Neil. 2006. ‘Shakespeare’s Sayings’, in Shakespeare and Elizabethan Popular Culture, ed. by Neil Rhodes and Stuart Gillespie (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006), pp. 155-73

Spearing, A. C. 1985. Medieval to Renaissance in English Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Summit, Jennifer. 2008. Memory’s Library: Medieval Books in Early Modern England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)

Tenney, Edward Andrews. 1935. Thomas Lodge (Ithaca and New York: Cornell University Press)

Walker, Alice. 1933-4. ‘The Life of Thomas Lodge’, Review of English Studies 9 and 10: 410-32 and 46-54

Wall, Wendy. 1993. The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press)

A Little Pig’s Will: Anthropomorphism, Materiality, and the False Testator in Early Seventeenth-Century Fictional Wills

A Little Pig’s Will: Anthropomorphism, Materiality, and the False Testator in Early Seventeenth-Century Fictional Wills

Chloe Porter

[1] What do fictional wills tell us about the relationship between materiality, mortality and ‘human’ agency in the early modern period? If the last will and testament is the document in which a testator articulates wishes regarding the disposal of their property after death, then what might the implications of a ‘false’ version of such a document be for notions of ‘human’ property, ownership, and speech? This essay explores these questions with reference to three ‘fictional wills’, a phrase used here to encompass texts from two distinct genres. Firstly, I consider what is revealed about the ‘human’ dynamics of testation in the Testamentum Porcelli (The Will of the Little Pig), an anthropomorphic, fourth-century Latin mock testament in which a piglet about to be butchered by a cook makes his testament. The Testamentum survives in seven medieval manuscripts, and ‘several early-modern editions’ (Steel 2011: 204). Among those early modern incarnations is an English translation in Edward Topsell’s The Historie of Foure-footed Beastes (1607); Topsell also presents the ‘fiction of a Swines name and Testament, or last will’ in Latin.[1] Where the Testamentum Porcelli is a prose joke that parodies human will-making, the other two fictional wills that I discuss are acts of false testation depicted in Thomas Middleton’s Michaelmas Term (first performed 1604 and first published in 1607) and Ben Jonson’s Volpone (first performed in 1606 and published in 1607). Although generically very different to the Testamentum Porcelli, these plays are contemporaneous with Topsell’s work. While I do not mean to point to a specifically early seventeenth-century attitude to will-making in these ‘fictional wills’, the shared historical contexts of these texts offer encouragement for the analysis of Jacobean city comedy alongside an ancient Latin prose joke. Together, these texts produce a suggestive reading of the status of the ‘real’, ‘human’ testator in early modern will-making practice. I begin with a discussion of the destabilisation of the ‘human’ in the Testamentum Porcelli, before combining observations about this mock testament with guidance on testation presented in Henry Swinburne’s A Briefe Treatise of Testaments and Last Willes, which was first published in 1591, and went through several editions in the seventeenth century. The implications of the mismanagement of testation are then discussed with reference to the two plays, both of which align false testators with non-human counterfeits such as the piglet of the Testamentum Porcelli.

The Performative Piglet
[2] The central comic premise of animal mock testaments is that the animal testator will bequeath its own body to a process of butchery. In John Lacy’s Wyl Bucke His Testament (1560), for example, a buck’s last will and testament is witnessed by the hunter who kills him; the testator bequeaths his ‘body’ to be used to ‘make Stekis, for a brekefaste’ (sig. a2v). In the Testamentum Porcelli, similarly, the little pig, who in Topsell’s translation is named Grunter Hoggson, makes his will because he is about to be butchered by the cook:

Magirus the Cooke said vnto me, come hither thou vnderminer of houses, thou rooter up of land, fearefull, fugitive little Pig, I must this day take away thy life. To whom Hog-son made this answer, If I haue done any harm, if I haue offended, if I haue trod in peeces any vessels of worth vnder my feet, then I entreat thee good M. Cooke pardon me, and grant me my request. But Magirus the Cook said, run (sir-kitchin-Boy) and bring me a knife out of the Kitchin, that I may let this litle pig bleed: presently I the little Pig was taken by the seruantes, and by them led the xiv. day of the calends of Torch-light into the place of Coole-worts, when Fiery-furnace & Pepper-spice were Consuls, and when I saw no remedy but that I must die, I entreated the Cooke but an houres space to make my will (Topsell 1607: 664).

The little pig’s account of the events leading to his testation expresses an absurd sense of agency that emphasises his subjection to human mastery; Hoggson is to ‘bleed’ because he is a transgressive, rebellious ‘fugitive’ who by his own admission disrupts the life of the kitchen.[2] The piglet’s punishment is therefore to be put to use in the kitchen as a consumable property; in this way, the Testamentum Porcelli demonstrates the tendency of anthropomorphism to ‘frame the natural world as a consumable asset’ (Boehrer 2002: 15). Purporting to consent to the death which is signalled ominously by ‘Fiery-furnace & Pepper-spice’, the piglet performs complicity in his own consumption, revelling in the making of a legacy which is evidently not his to dictate:

for my bowels I bestow them in manner following. I bequeath my bristles to the Coblers and shoomakers, my brains to Wranglers, my eares to the deafe, my tongue to Lawyers and Pratlers, my intrals to the Tripe-makers, my thighes to the Pye-makers, my loines to Women, my bladder to Boies, my taile to young maides, my muscles to shamelesse Dancers, my Anckle-bones, to Lackyes and hunters, my hooues to Theeues. (Topsell 1607: 664)

Topsell’s English translation loses some of the sodomitical humour of its ancient source, as he translates the Latin  ‘cinaedis’, meaning ‘the Unmanly’, to ‘Women’ (1607: 664).[3] Despite this adjustment, Hoggson’s bequest of his own body presents a queasy overlap between ‘human’ and ‘piglet’ bodies and behaviours while eroding distinctions between the consumer and the consumed. Such an overlap is also suggested by the piglet’s plans for the commemoration of his name. He requests:

that there be made for me a monument, wherein shall be engrauen in Golden Letters, this inscription or title, M Grunter Hog-son, Little-Pig, liued nine hundered ninety nine yeares and a halfe, and if he had liued but one halfe yeare longer he had liued a thousand yeares. And you my Louers and best counsellers of my life, I beseech you do good to my dead carkase, salt it well with the best season of Nutmegs, Pepper, and Honny, that so my name and memory may remaine for euermore (Topsell 1607; 664).

Hoggson’s wish to be commemorated in ‘Golden Letters’ parodies testators’ use of last will and testaments in the construction of a ‘post-mortem identity’, and the securing of ‘their place within … living communities’ (Helt 2000: 205). The Testamentum here critiques the absurdity of human testation as an assertion of agency at a moment which signals the testator’s subjection to corporeal processes of decay. Notably, Hoggson’s desire for a monument is aligned with the consumption of the piglet’s body as an act of commemoration, with his ‘name and memory’ imagined to ‘remaine for ever more’ in the passage of his ‘carkase’ through the human digestive system. This burlesque of human rituals of commemoration might remind us of the instance in which Hamlet lambasts the solemnity of death and ‘human’ ceremony by reminding Claudius that ‘we fat ourselves for maggots’, and that ‘a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar’ (4.3.29-30). In Hoggson’s and Hamlet’s accounts of post-mortem experience, humans, nonhumans and digestable foodstuffs exchange places. This morbid configuration is, in turn, echoed strikingly in Jane Bennett’s recent discussion of ‘eating’ as a process during which ‘human and nonhuman bodies recorporealize in response to each other; both exercise formative power and both offer themselves to be acted upon’ (2010: 49). Significantly, Bennett describes this process as part of her work on ‘vibrant matter’, or ‘the active role of nonhuman materials in public life’ (Bennett 2010: 2). Although the Testamentum Porcelli is, as Topsell suggests, a piece of ‘mirth’, the interaction between ‘human’ and ‘non-human’ that it entertains disrupts assumptions about the connection between humanness, agency and ownership (1607: 663). If the Testamentum Porcelli frames the ‘natural world as consumable asset’, it also attributes agency to this asset, and in the process destabilises the privileged position of the ‘human’ as consumer and ‘owner’ of nature. The little pig’s will therefore performs a further function of anthropomorphism, or ‘seeing the world in our own image’, which is to destroy ‘anthropos as a category’, since by ‘making the human vision the only vision, the separation of the species is impossible’ (Fudge 2000: 7-8).

[3] Much of the elision of distinctions between ‘human’, ‘animal’ and consumable carcass in the Testamentum Porcelli is achieved through linguistic play and parody of ‘human’ modes of expression. This wordplay begins with the name of the piglet, which in the Latin version is ‘Grunnius Corocotta Porcellus’. As Karl Steel explains, this title refers to grunniere meaning ‘to grunt’; and caro cocta, meaning ‘cooked meat’ and ‘the name of a famous Iberian bandit’, as well as the name of a ‘Plinian beast, a cross between a hyena and a lion’ (Steel 2011: 204-5). Since Hyenas ‘were famous for their gender bimorphism and for luring people to their deaths by imitating human speech’, Grunnius Corocotta Porcellus ‘is at once a criminal human, a cooked pig, and a hybridized, anthropophagous master of speech’ (Steel 2011: 205). The multivalency of the piglet’s Latin name is lost in Topsell’s English translation, where Grunnius Corocotta Porcellus becomes the more mundane, onomatopoeic ‘Grunter Hoggson’. Despite this name change, the rebellious little pig’s account of the textual production of his last will and testament further emphasises the ambiguity of his status:

I, M. Grunter Hogg-son, little pig haue made this my last will and Testament, which because I could not write with my own hand, I haue caused it to be endited by other. (Topsell 1607: 664)

In declaring his will ‘endited by other’, Hoggson emphasises his illiteracy as an animal, at the same time demonstrating his possession of the ‘human’ voice that dictates the will because he ‘could not write with my own hand’. Since Hoggson has language, his illiteracy does not ‘identify him as being only animal’; as Steel explains, ‘even lacking a hand’, the piglet can ‘be a legal agent’, and his illiteracy was shared by many living during the fourth century and the medieval and early modern periods (2011: 205). Moreover, Hoggson’s reliance on an ‘other’ to write down the will reflects the textual processes involved in the production of last will and testaments in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England. During this period wills were often written down in the first instance by a priest or scribe, and were ‘proved in an ecclesiastical court, at which point they were read and rewritten into the official record by a scribe’ (Richardson 2010: 100-2). In the case of nuncupative wills, meanwhile, testament was ‘made by word of mouth before witnesses’, before being relayed again to the scribe (Arkell, Evans and Goose 2000: 47).[4] Against this backdrop of textual mediation, the individual voice of the testator registers as a performative construct operational within public, legal discourse. In this view there is very little separating the real, legitimate human testator from Hoggson the testating piglet.

[4] Opening his mock testament with an allusion to the textuality and performativity of his legal voice, Hoggson heralds the mimetic referentiality of testation. In this, the Testamentum plays out concerns about the implications of textual mediacy for the legitimacy of real testaments. In his treatise on last wills and testaments, the ecclesiastical lawyer Henry Swinburne states that legitimate testation requires direct correspondence between meaning and expression. For Swinburne, it is crucial that the testator, ‘when the words were spoken, had Animum Testandi, that is to say, a mind or purpose then and thereby to make his testament or last will’ (1591: 8v). Swinburne here follows the early modern view that ‘language … is a way of expressing reason’ and that ‘possession of a rational soul  precedes and allows for language and speech’ (Fudge 2006: 14). Prior to René Descartes’ ‘declaration of animal automatism’ in his Discourse on Method (1637), most distinctions between humans and beasts followed the Aristotelian view that animals possess a sensitive soul connected to perception and movement, but lack the rational soul that ‘houses the faculties that make up reason’, and is possessed by humans (Fudge 2006: 1-2, 8; Decartes 1986: 44). Reason is therefore the primary property of the human in the early modern period, and hence people are considered to enjoy privileged access to meaningful speech. Animals (including parrots) may ‘parot’ words and phrases ‘without comprehension’, but a ‘human’ will utter ‘true speech’ in which there is a correspondence between the mind and what is said by the voice (Fudge 2006: 14). For Swinburne, the articulation of originary meaning produced by the correspondence between mind and voice is a privilege fundamental to testation, and is to be prioritised in the interpretation of a last will and testament:

The will therefore and meaning of the testator, ought before all thinges to bee sought for diligently […] it ought to bee sought for as earnestly as the hunter seeketh his game: And as to the sacred Anker ought the iudge to cleaue vnto it: Pondering not the words, but the meaning of the testator. For although no man be presumed to think other than hee speaketh, for the tongue is the utterer or interpreter of the heart, yet cannot euery man vtter al that he thinketh, and therefore are his words subiecte to his meaning. And as the mind is before the voyce, (for we conceiue before we speake) so is it of greater power; for the voyce is to the minde, as the servant is to his Lord (1591: 9v).

Here, divine correspondence between voice and mind transcends the textual limitations of the word; in legitimate testation, therefore, the différance between material text and human testator is overridden through participation in a divine sameness. The divine ‘voice’ of the legitimate testator exists beyond the limitations of ‘words’, which are considered inadequate to communicate meaning. Swinburne insists that this divine meaning is as recoverable as hunted ‘game’, but in pointing to the inadequacy of language, he demonstrates that this cannot be the case. The testator’s divine meaning always exists as the irrecoverable referent of the words written down by a scribe, and examined and interpreted by a judge. No testation can therefore meet Swinburne’s criteria for legitimacy, and the singular testator voice is deferred by the dynamics of testation.

[5] The possibility of the unavailability of the human testator voice is especially troubling for early modern attitudes to will-making, which are heavily invested in notions of the human and the attribution of this construct as a category. For example, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, testation is a human privilege to which not all people have access. Swinburne states that those ‘in subiection, as bondmen and other lyke personnes’, or ‘such personnes as haue not the vse of reason or vnderstanding, such as madde folkes, or idiots’ are ‘iustly excluded from making of testaments’ (1591: 10r, 8r). Swinburne aligns ‘bondmen’ with married women who, in common law, required their husbands’ consent to make testament (Swinburne 1591: 8r; Bedford, Davis & Kelly 2007: 205;  Houlbrooke 1998: 84-7). Here, Swinburne connects the ‘liberty to make a testament’ with the reasonable ability to do so (1591: 10r). Liberty in this sense goes beyond habitual conditions such as imprisonment or marriage; Swinburne insists that legitimate testation requires total self-possession, ‘that is to say full power and habilitie, to withstande all contradiction and countermaund’ (1591: 9v-10r). This ‘liberty’ ensures the fidelity of the will, ‘For as thy soule is not my soule, so thy will is not my will, nor my testament thy testament’ (1591: 10r). Testation for Swinburne is therefore rooted in the possession and protection of the individuated, rational soul, and is thus a distinctly ‘human’ practice. That entire groups of people are debared from this human practice suggests the extent to which early modern testation operates in a context in which ‘the borders of the human’ are ‘dangerously flexible, and uncontrollable … sometimes one thing is human, whereas at other times in other places that same thing is not’ (Fudge, Gilbert & Wiseman 1999: 5).

[6] As documents detailing the distribution of a person’s material goods, last wills and testaments are particularly susceptible to the sort of behaviour which, in an early modern view, indicates slippage into a non-human, bestial state. The distribution of goods implies the consumption of those goods, and the management of appetite for material things is an attribute of the rational soul. In the 1624 edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy Robert Burton explains:

will is the power of the rationall soul, which ever covets or avoides such things as have beene before judged and apprehended by the Understanding. If good, it approves it; if evill, it abhorres it; so that his object is either good or evill. Aristotle cals this our rationall Appetite; for as in the Sensitive, we are carried to good or bad by our Appetite, ruled and directed by Sense; so in this we are carried to Reason (27).

For Burton, the reasonable will manages carnal, bestial will; indeed, later in this work the author explains love-melancholy as a bestial lack of reason, within which understanding is captive, ‘like a beast’ (335). Humans can therefore be subject to bestial will, but only humans can reflect rationally on their material existence. In contrast:

Brutes cannot reflect upon themselves. Bees indeed make neate and curious works, and many other Creatures besides, but when they have done, they cannot judge of them (Burton 1624: 26).

An inability to think in the abstract here also characterises ‘brutes’ in contrast with ‘humans’. Abstract thought is the product of reason, and so animals, lacking reason, cannot think beyond themselves to make conceptual judgments, although they may develop preferences and desires based on ‘pleasure’ experienced at a ‘material level’ (Fudge 2006: 11-12). If an inability to rationally manage and articulate desires relating to material experience is a marker of animality in early modern discourse, then by implication, there is something bestial about testation that does not meet the standards set out in Swinburne’s widely-read text. It is against this backdrop that early modern depictions of will-making connect non-legitimate testation with animality.

Performing Testation in Volpone and Michaelmas Term
[7] In the final acts of both Volpone and Michaelmas Term, the production of a fictional will functions as a part of a plot device in which the central protagonist fakes his own death. In Michaelmas Term, a scheming draper named Quomodo makes his will as part of a ‘toy’ to fake death (4.2.89). Similarly, Volpone has it given ‘out about the streets […] That I am dead’, and produces a will in which he names his servant, Mosca, as heir, aiming to spite the crowd of legacy-hunters whose hopes for his legacy he has ‘milked’ throughout the play (5.2.60-1, 1.2.127). The association between false testation and animality is more marked in Volpone, and so I will begin this part of my discussion with reference to Jonson’s play. Steeped in bestial imagery, Volpone is based on the fable in which a fox pretends to be dead in order to ensnare birds of prey who swoop to consume what they believe to be a corpse. It is worth noting that Jonson may have read this fable in Conrad Gesner’s Historiae animalium (1551-1558), the text which provides much of the material included in Topsell’s Historie of Foure-footed Beastes.[5] A version of the fable is included in Topsell’s account of the fox:

His manner is when he perceiueth or seeth a flocke of foule to flye in the aire, to rowle himselfe in red earth, making his skin to looke bloody, and lie vpon his backe, winking with his eie, and holding in his breath as if he were dead, which thing the birds, namely Crows, Rauens and such like obseruing, because of the hatred of his person, they for ioy alight & triumph at his ouerthrow, and this the fox indureth for a good season, till oportunity seruing his turne, and some of the fowle come neare his snowt, then suddenly hee catcheth some one of them in his mouth, feeding vpon him like a liuing and not a dead foxe, and so doth deuoure and eate him (1607: 226).

In Jonson’s play, Volpone, the ‘Fox’ behaves in a similar manner; he lies in bed, pretending to be near death, wearing ‘ointment’ that creates the illusion of a leaking, disintegrating body (1.2.114). Legacy-hunters, whom Volpone calls ‘vulture, kite/Raven and and gorcrow’, circle his bed, offering the supposedly dying Magnifico gold and valuables in the hope of being named his heir (1.2.88-9). Both Volpone and the legacy-hunters act with a self-interest that registers as self-consuming. The goods offered by the ‘birds of prey’ would be returned to them were they to be named as heir; Volpone, meanwhile, builds up a ‘legacy’ which is entirely for his own consumption. Gorging on his own legacy, Volpone resembles the ‘anthropophagous’ Hoggson.

[8] Having pretended to be near death throughout much of the play, Volpone testates and fakes death as he passes a point of full satisfaction from the rewards of his parasitic behaviour. Jonson introduces the fake-death plot at a significant moment in the drama that Stephen Greenblatt has identified as the ‘false ending’ in Volpone (1976: 90). At this point in the play, Volpone has triumphed over the law and the legacy-hunters in a ‘masterpiece’ of deception in which he evades punishment for and profits from his attempted rape of Celia, the wife of the legacy-hunter Corvino (5.2.11). For Mosca, this ‘masterpiece’ is the limit of parasitic satiation that ‘we cannot think to go beyond’ (5.2.11-12). It is at this point that Volpone develops the plan to produce a will and fakes death in order to thwart the ‘expectation’ of the ‘vulture, crow’ and ‘raven’ that pursue his legacy by having it ‘ravished from their mouths’ (Jonson 1999: V. ii. 64-8). In this allusion to sexual violence, the fake-death plot is revealed to be driven by the same energies that fuel Volpone’s previous ‘masterpiece’, a deceit which he claims was ‘more’ satisfying ‘than if I had enjoyed the wench’ (5.2.10). Indeed,  Volpone exploits his recent triumph for this fresh device, deploying the ‘slander’ of the accusation of rape as the given reason for his supposed death (4.2.63). The fake-death plot, then, reflects Volpone’s  renewal of appetite at his arrival at a point of fulfilment in a play which is about ‘the hero’s attempt to “fill himself”’ (Greenblatt 1976: 96). False testation in Volpone is therefore the product of an unchecked, overflowing bestial appetite, or ‘wolfish nature’, as Mosca puts it when sentenced to prison for his part as ‘chiefest minister’ in the deceits of the play (5.12.115). The bestiality of Volpone’s ‘vice’ is emphasised by the concluding remarks of the first Avocatare:

Let all that see these vices thus rewarded
Take heart, and love to study em! Mischeifs feed
Like beasts till they be fat, and then they bleed (5.12.149-51).

Once again resembling the ‘rebellious little pig’ of the Testamentum Porcelli, Volpone receives violent punishment because he has overreached the boundaries of his status on earth. Just as Hoggson is complicit in his own destruction, so Volpone (with perhaps more self awareness than the piglet) realises that he will ‘bleed dead’ as a result of his plots, because he has made ‘a snare for mine own neck! And run / My head into it wilfully … out of mere wantonness’ (5.11.1-4).

[9] Because Middleton is not preoccupied with bestial imagery in Michaelmas Term as is Jonson in Volpone, the connection between false testation and animality is less evident in the former play. And yet, in Michaelmas Term, the use of false testation to satisfy unreasonable desires follows a similar pattern to that presented in Volpone. Like Volpone, Quomodo conceives of his plan to testate and fake death at a moment of triumph in a deceit that has been practiced throughout the drama; in this case, the cozening of a young country gentleman named Richard Easy of his lands in Essex. Momentarily, the acquisition of Easy’s lands satisfies Quomodo’s appetite, as he declares that ‘my desires are full – for this time’ and that ‘A little thing, three hundred pound a year, / Suffices nature’ (4.2.71-4). Indulging in a corrupted pastoral fantasy of corporeal immersion in his new, rural property with his wife Thomasine, Quomodo is propelled to fresh desires:

I long to warm myself by th’wood […] There will be a fine show on’s, I can tell you, where we citizens will laugh and lie down, get all our wives with child against a bank, and get up again. – Stay, ha! Hast thou that wit, i’faith? Twill be admirable. To see how the very thought of green fields puts a man into sweet inventions. I will presently possess Sim Quomodo of all the land (4.2.75-89).

The thought of the satiation of sexual desire on his land triggers in Quomodo the wish to indulge further his appetite for his property, since, as he concludes, he is ‘as jealous of this land as of my wife’ (4.2.120). Quomodo therefore decides to fake death in order to monitor the passage of his legacy:

In this business I will […] in disguise note the condition of all: how pitiful my wife takes my death, which will appear by November in her eye, and the fall of the leaf in her body, but especially by the cost she bestows upon my funeral, there shall I try her love and regard; my daughter’s marrying to my will and liking; and my son’s affection after my disposing (4. 2. 112-19).

Hoping to test and play with his property – including his family as well as his land – beyond the legal and temporal boundaries within which he lives, Quomodo is driven by desire operating in excess of its possible fulfilment. This appetite for property reflects a lack of self knowledge and capitulation to material pleasure that diverges from early modern Aristotelian markers of the human.

[10] The non-humanness of Quomodo’s and Volpone’s actions in early modern terms is most keenly demonstrated by these characters’ fundamental misconception of the relationship between a mortal ‘human’ and their property as delineated in a last will and testament. The disposal of property in a last will and testament is final, and marks a separation between the  testator and their goods; a continuation of the testator’s ‘ownership’ of those goods is impossible, since, as Swinburne explains, ‘so long’ as the testator ‘liueth, the testament is of no force; but dooth take its strength, and is confirmed by the testators death’ (1591: 10v). Both characters behave as if their legacies are reversible and recoverable; Volpone does not anticipate that Mosca will claim the inheritance left to him in his master’s will, refusing to admit that Volpone is alive unless the magnifico offers ‘half’ of his property to his servant (5.12.67). Quomodo, meanwhile, does not seem to have thought beyond the pleasure of attending his own funeral, and assumes that he will be able to reverse the terms of his will and the events set in motion by his supposed passing. For example, discovering that his son is ‘lewd’, Quomodo intends ‘to disinherit him forever’, but is foiled on this count because his son has since been cozened of the lands which have now passed back to Easy, ‘the right heir’ (5.3.44-76). Having ‘thirsted’ to maintain a totalising ownership of his property and legacy, Quomodo has absented himself from its control ( 5.3.39). Quomodo’s mistake, then, is in part to assume that his legacy is ‘his’ without limitation; Volpone, similarly, operates in a fantasy of totalising, endless ownership, and does not wish to leave his property to Mosca or to any other character. As they engage in morbid performances of death, both Volpone and Quomodo forget their own subjection to death. Although both ‘human’, these characters operate with a sense of agency no less absurd than that displayed by the little pig in the Testamentum Porcelli.

[11] Taken together, the Testamentum Porcelli, Volpone and Michaelmas Term depict testation as the site of blasphemously over-reaching assertions of material ownership and mortal agency. As such, these texts operate as memento mori, reminding readers and audience members to think on their deaths and to realise the limited value of earthly, material wealth. The mnemonic function of the Testamentum Porcelli is suggested by its inclusion (in an English translation) in the craftsman Thomas Trevelyon’s The Great Book (1616), a miscellany which, according to its preface, contains ‘matter’ that ‘teacheth examples […] manners, and […] a spirituall and heavenly institution’ (Wolfe 2007: 8).[6] In the plays, meanwhile, mnemonic meaning is advanced by metatheatrical allusions that emphasise the presence of actors’ bodies in the roles of false testators. Both fake-death plots involve extensive disguising and performance; in Volpone, for example, Mosca’s inheritance begins with a performance that is stage-managed and viewed by his master as a comedy. Volpone orders Mosca:

Hold, here’s my will.
Get thee a cap, a count-book, pen and ink
Papers afore thee; sit as thou wert taking
An inventory of parcels. I’ll get up
Behind the curtain, on a stool, and hearken;
Sometime peep over, see how they do look,
With what degrees the blood doth leave their faces.
O, ’twill afford me a rare meal of laughter! (5.2.80-7)

Following this initial performance, Volpone subsequently appears disguised as a ‘commandatore’ in the streets, where he discusses his own death with the legacy hunters (5.5.1.SD).  The performativity of Volpone’s actions is highlighted by Jonson’s repeated, mnemonic allusions to bodily decay, as in Volpone and Mosca’s solution to the absence of a corpse following Volpone’s supposed death:

Mosca: But sir, what if they ask after the body?
Volpone: Say it was corrupted.
Mosca: I’ll say it stunk, sir; and was fain t’ have it
Coffined up instantly and sent away. (5.2.77-9)

Similarly, Middleton’s play calls attention to its own performativity. For example, disguised as a ‘Beadle’, Quomodo attends his own funeral, an ironically performative event at which ‘a counterfeit corpse [is] brought in […] Thomasine […] and all the Mourners equally counterfeit’ (4.4.52.SD). Where the mnemonic function of Volpone is stimulated by multiple references to bodily decay, in Michaelmas Term, Middleton layers levels of performativity until it appears that there is almost no other state available. For example, there is an uneasy correspondence between the living Quomodo and the counterfeit corpse presented at his funeral. In the final scene of the play, Quomodo appears undisguised before a judge in the hope of reversing the terms of his will, but is only accepted as the ‘true’ Quomodo, and ‘no counterfeit’, when he admits to his false character, being ‘the man that lived the famous coz’ner’ (5.3.21-30). The morbid humour of Quomodo’s fake-death device performs the function of a memento mori by drawing attention to mortality, but unlike Volpone, Middleton’s play combines the corpse and the living testator in the same image. As a result, Michaelmas Term engages closely with questions about the availability of a legitimate testator. As noted above, the legitimate human testator voice is difficult to locate in the interpretation of the will; and yet the mnemonics of the fictional will urge the testator to act truthfully and rationally, or in other words, to testate legitimately in the manner described by Swinburne. As I discuss in the concluding section of this essay, fictional wills do not leave readers and audience members without an answer regarding the implications of the unavailability of ‘true’ testation. Reflecting Swinburne’s concerns about the significance of false testation, these texts instead present the deathly horror that forms in the absence of the legitimate testator.

‘My deeds have cleft me!’: Vibrant matter and deathly countefeits
[12] Writing on the notion of ‘female legacy’ in relation to Isabella Whitney’s Will and Testament (1573), Wendy Wall observes the ‘strange time frame involved in the concept of the will’, in which the testator’s ‘voice … fashions a present leave-taking in an imagined void’, and ‘makes visible a statement of desire from a corpse’ (1991: 38). This configuration echoes the dynamics of the Testamentum Porcelli, in which the little pig performs, or ‘fashions’ a farewell that articulates his status as dead meat destined for consumption. Wall’s account of the implications of the temporal dynamics of testation are also echoed in Derrida’s Specters of Marx, in which Horatio’s difficulty in speaking to the ghost of Old Hamlet is mobilised as a model for interaction between late-twentieth century Europe and the ‘specter’ of the communist past (1993: 151, 63). Where Wall finds the temporally ‘strange’ testator both ‘present and absent’, Derrida accounts for the spectre from whom Hamlet (standing for Europe) inherits on the basis of its ‘untimeliness’, or ‘disjointure in the very presence of the present’, a ‘sort of non-contempereity of present time with itself’ (1993: 29). In Derrida’s argument, Wall’s visibly-vocal corpse-testator becomes a spectre; in Volpone and Michaelmas Term, testators are not corpses or spectres, but they are inflected by modes of untimeliness as their performances of death are revealed. For example, Volpone is punished with life imprisonment and the confiscation of his property; actions which prevent him from ever again making testament. The terms of this sentence, and the destination of Volpone’s property, meanwhile, suggest that he is condemned to unending suffering:

Thy substance shall all be straight confiscate
To the hospital of the Incurabili.
And since the most was gotten by imposture,
By feigning lame, gout palsy and such diseases,
Thou art to lie in prison, cramped with irons,
Till thou be’st sick and lame indeed (5.12.119-24).

Although, as noted above, Volpone functions as a mnemonic reminder of death, Volpone’s sentence does not envisage his death, and by implication condemns him to interminably live out the terminal illness that he had previously performed. A similar sense of interminable decline is evoked in the bequest of Volpone’s property to the Ospedale degli Incurabili, Venice’s ‘hospital of the incurables’, associated with the treatment of syphilis, which was ‘often viewed as an incurable disease much like leprosy’ in early modern Europe (Lindemann 2010: 70).[7] Mocking Volpone’s lasciviousness as well as the impotency of the ‘childless’ magnifico’s legacy, his goods are invested in a place of irreparable decay (Jonson 1999: ‘The Argument’, 1).

[13] In Michaelmas Term, meanwhile, Quomodo’s faking of death and false testation signals an erasure of personhood that articulates his material ‘non-self-identity’, recalling the ‘non-identity to self’ of Derrida’s untimely ‘spirit’ (Harris 2009: 8; Derrida 1993: 151). Like Volpone, Quomodo realises that he has been complicit in his own erasure from the legal and temporal structures that he sought to exploit. Proclaiming ‘my deeds have cleft me, cleft me!’ Quomodo figures himself as a dismembered property subject to his own will, both in the sense of the legal document and in the sense of reasoned desire (5.3.91). As a result of his will in this double sense Quomodo loses the status of rational subject at ‘liberty’ to testate (Swinburne 1591: 10r). At this moment in the drama, the testator becomes the disposable property, but, significantly, is not a ‘thing’, or an object invested with discrete identity (for this concept of the ‘thing’, see Brown 2001: 1-22). This is not just in the sense that he has written himself out of his legal ‘identity’, but also because in declaring that he is ‘cleft’, Quomodo figures himself as a mode of re-worked and re-workable matter in the sense described as ‘untimely’ by Jonathan Gil Harris (2009: 11). Building on work on early modern textual and material culture by Jonathan Goldberg and Marry C. Fuller, Harris notes that where the ‘object assumes a synchronic temporal framework’ and is ‘reified as temporally singular’, matter ‘far from being an actuality endowed with self-identical presence’ is ‘understood as designating a play of multiple temporal traces’ (2009: 8). In this way, Harris explains, matter is ‘a surface that can be written on; but is itself a species of “arche-writing” in Derrida’s sense, inasmuch as it is characterized by an ontological and temporal self-differentiation and hence deferral’ (2009: 8). The process of testation arguably locates the testator as ‘untimely matter’, as a site of deferral, since this process articulates the testator’s status as material, social subject from the position, in Wall’s words, of a ‘corpse’ (1991: 38). The performance of false testation makes visible and exaggerates the deferential and material ‘play of multiple temporal traces’ involved in will-making, since the false testator lives beyond the temporal limitations with which testation corresponds.

[14] The conclusion that the testator is an untimely material site of deferral, however, seems unsatisfactory as an account of the status of the testator as an agent of material culture. From the textual production of wills to the ‘anthropophagous’ exchange between testator and inheritors displayed in Volpone and the Testamentum, the evidence that I have discussed thus far suggests that testation is the product of a network of interactions between ‘active’ matter. This configuration recalls the actor-network theory in which ‘objects’, or ‘non-humans’ are ‘full-blown actors’ in what Bruno Latour calls ‘the social’ (2005: 72). Actor-network theory influences Bennett’s account of ‘vibrant matter’, which I use above as a model for the ‘recorporealization’ of Hoggson’s post-mortem body, which, in turn, I found comparable to Volpone’s ‘fatted’, bleeding body in the wake of his false testation. Is it possible to configure the ‘corpse’ that is seen to speak in the last will and testament as ‘vibrant matter’ that partakes in a network of active interaction with other ‘non-human’ matter?

[15] This interpretation is tempting, but requires further qualification with attention to early modern ideas about the status of false testator. Quomodo’s description of himself as having been ‘cleft’ again provides a pertinent focal point. Significantly, the OED states that ‘cleft’ was used as a verb during the seventeenth century and at no other point before or since. This verb referred to dividing, splitting, and cleaving; the earliest sense given in the OED (postdating Middleton’s play), is from William Folkingham’s Feudigraphia (1610), a guide to surveying, in which the author mentions ‘that Earth, that by moulding in the hand doth clift and cleave’ (17). If ‘cleft’ was in use in the early seventeenth century to refer to the re-moulding of the earth, then Quomodo’s ‘cleft’ state at the conclusion of Michaelmas Term starts to resemble a return to an originary state of ‘non-identity’, given that Adam is said in Genesis 2:7 to have been made by God from the earth.  It is worth recalling here that in Calvinist discourse, the bodies of the elect were re-made post-mortem by God, who is often anthropomorphically figured as a kind of ‘human’ artificer. In Samuel Gardiner’s The Doomes-day booke (1606), for example, God’s remaking of the bodies of the elect is described with reference to the artisanal re-working of metal ‘substances’:

Goldsmiths, and such as worke in mettals, can dissolve confected substances, concreate of gold, silver, brasse, steele. And such are to be found, who can expresse Oyle and liquide matter out of anie drie bodie: Wherefore the illimited power of God, which made all things of nothing, shall reduce our bodies to their formes againe, howsoever formerly reduced to nothing … everie man shall have so much matter of his owne, as will serve to make him a perfect bodie (54).

Arguably, the transformation of the body into recyclable matter that is presented in mock testaments echoes the re-formation of the body as ‘matter’ that is imagined in Gardiner’s account of resurrection. Hoggson, Volpone and Quomodo would be unlikely candidates for membership of the elect, but there is an intriguing symmetry here between the degeneration of these false testators to reworkable non-human bodies, and the re-making of the body after death as described by Gardiner. In pretending to be dead, Quomodo has also entered into an imitation of the return to matter figured as a part of the process of resurrection.

[16] It is at this point that the performativity of testation and the unavailability of the legitimate testator become particularly troubling, since early modern legitimate testation is a question of divine being and material deathliness. I return here to Swinburne’s discussion of the significance of the testator’s ‘mind’ to make a will. Swinburne anthropomorphises the legitimate last will and testament as a document that may possess ‘life’ where false testation is a deceitful counterfeit:

Much lesse is that to be taken for a testament, when as any man rashely, bostingly, or iestingly, affirmeth that he will make this or that man his executor. For without meaning, or consent of minde, the testament is altogether without life; and it is no more a testament, then a painted Lion, is a Lion (1591: 8v-9r).

In his allusion to a ‘painted Lion’, Swinburne makes disingenuous or even merely inaccurate testation a question of deathly idolatry. The legitimate testation is ‘alive’ in that it is not an idolatrous false representation such as the ‘painted Lion’. It is worth noting here that in early modern thought an idol is equivalent to ‘NOTHING in all the world […] because they have nothing in them of the divinitie or Godhead, whether we regard the nature or the efficacie thereof’ (Perkins 1601: 4).[8] Implicit in the attribution of ‘life’ to the will is a fluid integration between the testator as a natural product of God’s work and the legal document as matter that is or is not ‘natural’ depending on the fixity of the testator’s meaning. The legitimate testament as text is ‘vibrant matter’. When the testator’s meaning is faulty or expressed in faulty terms, the will takes on a different kind of life altogether, becoming a false representation, a deathly thing (as opposed to matter) ‘without life’ that tries to pass as its ‘natural’ equivalent.[9] Given that a legitimate will is given ‘life’ by its traceable origins in the non-mimetic ‘meaning’ of the testator, we might also conclude that a false will that performs the role of that legal document leads back to an equally performative testator, ‘without life’. At this point, distinctions collapse between the life-less false testator, and the perpetual deathliness of the testator’s voice in a document that ‘makes visible a statement of desire from a corpse’ (Wall 1991: 38).

[17] As noted above, the non-mimetic meaning of the legitimate testator, forged through a divine correspondence between mind and speech, is irrecoverable in the interpretation of the last will and testament. Swinburne insists that judges must search for this meaning as if it were ‘game’, but gives no convincing assurances as to how this prey is to be caught. If legitimate meaning cannot be found, then by implication, the last will and testament reveals a counterfeit; a ‘painted Lion’, a mock testator that, like Hoggson, is significantly less lively than hunted ‘game’. This problem is played out in Volpone and Michaelmas Term, as both plays ridicule the efficacy of early modern judicial systems, not least in the fact that both wills are proven despite the ongoing life of the testator. In Michaelmas Term, in particular, the written word, spoken word and bodily presence are all discounted as means to prove the existence of the testator or the content or meaning of their will. Enraged that his wife Thomasine has re-married since his reported death, Quomodo promises to take her before a judge where she ‘shall feel … whether my flesh be dead or no’ (5.2.132). In the event, Quomodo’s ‘flesh’ is irrelevant to the judge’s interpretation of Quomodo’s ‘presence’, partly because of the possibility that ‘some false spirit’ might ‘assume’ Quomodo’s ‘shape’ (5.3.13). This concern highlights the correspondence between the Quomodo who ‘framed deceitful in his life’, and versions of the draper that might be discerned after his death. This correspondence is further emphasised when Quomodo admits to his lifelong falsity in order to demonstrate that he lives and is ‘no counterfeit’ (5.3.2-21). This much proven, Quomodo is unable to surmount the disjunction between his desires and their textual expression, as the judge rules that he may not recover the lands which have since passed back to Easy, because Quomodo has previously been persuaded to ‘set … firm’ his ‘own hand’ against a ‘memorandum’ declaring that Easy owes him nothing (5.3.69-71; 5.1.113). ‘Cleft’ by his own signature, the false testator is revealed as a counterfeit that mimics the vibrancy of divine processes of testation, death and resurrection. Playing out the mistakes, corruptions and deceits attendent on the production and interpretation of a last will and testament, Volpone and Michaelmas Term confirm the fear that it may not be possible to speak as anything other than a false testator.

[18] In naming the false testator as a deathly ‘counterfeit’ of vibrant matter, I do not mean to conclude evasively that all testators in this period are idolatrous ‘nothings’. For sixteenth- and seventeenth-century iconoclasts, the idol horrifies because it is a ‘nothing’ that exists materially and must be addressed, hence the numerous acts of violence carried out against images perceived to be false representations during this period (cf. Phillips 1973; Aston 1988, 1993). Similarly, the fictional wills discussed in this essay are unnerving for early modern readers and audiences because they draw attention to the false testator as a material ‘nothing’ whose voice exists to be heard. The mnemonic concerns of the Testamentum Porcelli, Volpone and Michaelmas Term urge readers and viewers to manage and articulate relationships to the material with ‘human’ rationality, lest they take on the deathliness of the false testator. In Volpone and Michaelmas Term in particular, the fact that the vital bodies of the actors perform the roles of false testators emphasises the corporeal reality of human subjection to death within a divinely-ordered framework. As these performances intersect with early modern concerns about the absence of a true, real testator, however, that mnemonic message also advances the monstrous spectacle of the living, post-mortem counterfeit as the only available testator identity. Working in tandem with the morbid imagery of these plays, the bodies of the actors suggest with horror that subjection to death makes mortal agency a mimetic counterfeit.

University of Sussex



[1] For the best edition of the Testamentum Porcelli in Latin, see Alvaro d’Ors (1953: 73-83). Karl Steel provides a useful overview of the textual history of the Testamentum (2011: 204). D. C. Allen discusses the early modern textual history of the Testamentum, suggesting that the pig’s will is an analogue for John Donne’s The Will (1954:559-60).[back to text]

[2] See also Edward Champlin’s intriguing discussion of the piglet as an allusion to dissident militarism (1987: 182-3). Elsewhere, Jean-Jacques Aubert considers the Testamentum Porcelli as a Jewish, anti-Christian text (2005: 119-21).  Steel finds Aubert’s analysis unconvincing (2011: 204, n. 74).[back to text]

[3] I am grateful to Karl Steel for pointing out this alteration in Topsell’s translation.[back to text]

[4] Following a statute of 1540, nuncupative wills ‘could only be used for transmission of moveable goods and not for lands’ (Arkell, Evans & Goose 2000: 47).[back to text]

[5] Brian Parker discusses Gesner as a source for Volpone in his introduction to the play (1999: 14).[back to text]

[6] This passage from The Great Book is quoted in Wolfe’s introduction but is not included in Nicholas Barker’s facsimile edition of this text.[back to text]

[7] On Italian Incurabili hospitals, see Arrizabalaga, Henderson & French (1997: 145-233).[back to text]

[8] I discuss idolatry and representation in my Making and Unmaking in Early Modern Drama: Spectators, Aesthetics and Incompletion (forthcoming, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013).[back to text]

[9] On the Aristotelian and Marxist distinction between the ‘potentiality’ of matter and the ‘actuality’ of thingly form, see Harris (2009: 7-8).[back to text]



Allen. D. C. 1954. ‘Donne’s “The Will”’, Modern Language Notes, 69: 8, 559-560

Arrizabalaga, Jon, John Henderson and Roger French. 1997. The Great Pox: The French Disease in Renaissance Europe (New Haven and London: Yale University Press)

Arkell, Tom, Nesta Evans and Nigel Goose (eds). 2000. When Death Do Us Part: Understanding and Interpreting the Probate Records of Early Modern England. A Local Population Studies Supplement (Oxford: Leopard’s Head Press).

Aston, Margaret. 1988. England’s Iconoclasts; Laws Against Images, vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

_____. 1993. Faith and Fire: Popular and Unpopular Religion, 1350-1600 (London: Hambledon Press)

Aubert, Jean Jaques. 2005. ‘Du lard ou du cochon?’: The Testamentum Porcelli as a Jewish Anti-Christian pamphlet’, in Jean Jaques Aubert  et al. (ed.), A Tall Order: Writing the Social History of the Ancient World (München and Leipzig: K. G. Saur Verlag GmbH)  107-141

Barker, Nicolas (ed). 2000. The great book of Thomas Trevilian : a facsimile of the manuscript in the Wormsley Library (London: Roxeburghe Club)

Bedford, Ronald Lloyd Davis and Philippa Kelly. 2007. Early Modern English Lives: Autobiography and Self-Representation 1500-1660 (Aldershot: Ashgate)

Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham and London: Duke University Press)

Boehrer, Bruce. 2002. Shakespeare among the Animals: Nature and Society in the Drama of Early Modern England, Early Modern Cultural Studies, 1500-1700 (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan)

Brown, Bill. 2001. ‘Thing Theory’, Critical Inquiry, 28:1, 1-22

Burton, Robert. 1624. The Anatomy of Melancholy (Oxford)

Champlin, Edward. 1987. ‘The Testament of the Piglet’, Phoenix, 41: 2, 174-183

Derrida, Jacques. 1993. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International. Trans Peggy Kamuf (New York and London: Routledge)

Descartes, René.  1986. Discourse on Method, Meditations on the First Philosophy, Principles of Philosophy (1637), trans. John Veitch (London: J. M. Dent)

d’Ors , Alvaro (ed). 1953. “Testamentum Porcelli: introduccion, texto, traduccion, y notas,” Suplementos de Estudios classicos: Serie de textos 3: 73–83.

Dutton, Richard. 2004. “Volpone and the Beast Fable: Early Modern Analogic Reading,” Huntington Library Quarterly, 67, 347–70

Erasmus, Desiderius. 1971. Praise of Folly (1511), in Praise of Folly and Letter to Maarten van Dorp, trans. Betty Radice (Harmondsworth: Penguin)

Folkingham, William. 1610. Feudigraphia (London: R. Moore)

Fudge, Erica. 2006. Brutal Reasoning: Animals, Rationality, and Humanity in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press)

_____. 2000. Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern English Culture (Houndmills: Macmillan)

Fudge, Erica, Ruth Gilbert and Susan Wiseman. 1999. ‘Introduction: The Dislocation of the Human’. In At the Borders of the Human: Beasts, Bodies and Natural Philosophy in the Early Modern Period, ed. Erica Fudge, Ruth Gilbert and Susan Wiseman (Houndmills: Palgrave) 1-8

Fuller, Mary C. 1993. ‘Ralegh’s Fugitive Gold: Reference and Deferral in The Discovery of Guiana’, in Stephen Greenblatt (ed.), New World Encounters (Berkeley: University of California Press), 218-40

Gardiner, Samuel. 1606. The Doomes-day booke: or, An alarum for atheistes, a watchword for worldlinges, a caveat for Christians (London)

Goldberg, Jonathan. 1990. Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford University Press)

Greenblatt, Stephen J. 1976. ‘The False Ending in Volpone’. The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. 75: 1. 90-104

Harris, Jonathan Gil. 2009. Untimely Matter in the Time of Shakespeare (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press)

Helt, J. S. W. 2000. ‘Women, memory and will-making in Elizabethan England’. In Bruce Gordon and Peter Marshall (eds.), The Place of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 188-205

Houlbrooke, Ralph. 1998. Death, Religion and the Family in England, 1480-1750 (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Jonson, Ben. 1999. Volpone, or The Fox (1606), ed. Brian Parker, 2nd edition, The Revels Plays (Manchester: Manchester University Press)

Lacy, John. 1560. Wyl Buck His Testament (London)

Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Middleton, Thomas. 2007. Michaelmas Term (1607) ed. Theodore B. Leinwand, in Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino (eds), Thomas Middleton: the Collected Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Phillips, John. 1973. The Reformation of Images: Destruction of Art in England, 1535-1660 (Berkeley: University of California Press)

Richardson, Catherine. 2010. ‘Household Writing’ in Caroline Bicks and Jennifer Summit (eds.), Palgrave History of British Women’s Writing 1500-1610 (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan), 89-107

Shakespeare, William. 2006. Hamlet. ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor. The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series (London: Thompson Learning)

Steel, Karl. 2011. How to Make a Human: Animals and Violence in the Middle Ages (Columbus: Ohio State University Press)

Swinburne, Henry. 1591. A briefe treatise of testaments and last willes (London: John Windet).

Topsell, Edward. 1607. The Historie of Foure-footed Beastes (London: William Jaggard)

Wall, Wendy. 1991. ‘Isabella Whitney and the Female Legacy’, English Literary History, 58: 1, 35-62

Wells-Cole, Anthony. 1997. Art and Decoration in Elizabethan and Jacobean England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)

Wolfe Heather (ed.). 2007. The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608: A Facsimile Edition of the Folger Shakespeare Library MS

‘With diligent studie, but sportingly’: How Gabriel Harvey read his Castiglione

‘With diligent studie, but sportingly’: How Gabriel Harvey read his Castiglione

Chris Stamatakis

[1] Gabriel Harvey’s reputation as a pedantic, humourless polymath is nearly as familiar to modern readers as are his habits of assiduous marginal annotation. This unflattering caricature – to some extent the legacy of Thomas Nashe’s pamphlet war with Harvey, a paper feud typically regarded as an ‘assault of wit on pedantry’ – finds its origins even earlier among the poetic and dramatic satires levelled against Harvey the Cambridge academic (Tribble 1993: 122). The Latin university comedy, Pedantius, performed at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 6 February 1581, lampooned Harvey as the titular anti-hero who, at a moment of pecuniary crisis, memorably promises to sell all those books that he has ‘enriched with marginal annotations like precious gems or stars’ (Wilson 1948: 346; see IV.iv.2197–2201 in Smith (ed.) 1905: 62). In a similar vein, Harvey has, on doubtful grounds, been proposed as a model (if not the source) behind Shakespeare’s tediously pedantic schoolmaster, Holofornes, in Love’s Labour’s Lost (Lamb 1986: 53). In 1578, even Harvey’s close friend and epistolary comrade, Edmund Spenser, felt compelled to prescribe the bookish scholar a dose of jest literature – Till Eulenspiegel, Scoggin, Skelton and the Spanish rogue novel Lazarillo de Tormes – perhaps in an attempt to remedy his dour disposition.[1] Earlier still, during his time as a young fellow of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1573, Harvey’s advancement to the degree of Master of Arts was blocked by, among others, Thomas Neville, who perceived conviviality lacking in him, not least in his failure to ‘take a part in the usual Yuletide merry-making’ (Pincombe 2001: 87–8). Indeed, for all the admiration of his copious scholarly marginalia, his brand of pragmatic humanism, his reputation as the leading ‘polyhistor’ of his generation ‘“interested” in the whole spectrum of the humane arts’, and his system of politically-oriented annotations, modern critics too ‘have also frequently echoed Nashe’s attacks on Harvey, condemning his repetitious, “euphuistic” style’, among other solecisms (Pincombe 2001: 85; Scott-Warren 2004). Even recent literary history, then, has tended to find in Harvey’s temperament something programmatic, dry, cumbersome, tedious.

[2] Yet close study of Harvey’s annotations brings to light a rather different individual who challenges this unfavourable reputation. His personal copy of Baldassare Castiglione’s seminal handbook of courtly behaviour, Il Libro del Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), reveals an unexpected dimension to his reading habits and a (surprising) literary interest in the art of jesting and readerly pleasure. Castiglione’s Cortegiano, first published in 1528, is routinely hailed as the most famous of the early modern handbooks on courtly manners. It takes the form of a series of dialogues over four successive evenings in March 1507, between a cast of courtiers resident at the Montefeltro court in Urbino, discussing such topics as the standardization of Italian vernaculars, the imitation of classical models, the rival merits of art, sculpture and painting, and the qualities that make for an ideal courtier. Not insignificantly, the work also assesses competing theories of humour, laughter and jesting, and these interests seem to have appealed especially to Harvey when encountering the Italian text.

[3] The specific volume owned by Harvey, an octavo of Il Cortegiano published in Venice by Gabriele Giolito de’ Ferrari in 1541 (hereafter C.), has remained untraced since the early twentieth century. Virginia Stern considered its ‘whereabouts unknown’ (Stern 1979: 205), and, more recently and more starkly, Peter Burke declared it ‘lost’ (Burke 1995: 171).[2] Its marginalia, almost all in Italian, languished unstudied even before the book’s disappearance. The volume survives, however, in University College London’s Special Collections, housed at The National Archives in Kew (shelfmark SR Castiglione 1541 (2)).[3] In itself, this volume marks an important addition to Harvey’s reconstructed library, since it confirms his ownership of a single work in three different languages – uniquely so among all the known acquisitions in his prodigious collection. Moreover, Harvey’s copy contains, besides his signatures both on the title-page and after the colophon, a series of intriguing marginalia that reveal new aspects of his reading and annotative practice.

Fig. 1, Harvey, Title-page

Fig. 1 Harvey’s signature and initials decorating the first of two title-pages in his copy of Il Cortegiano (title-page, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

[4] Harvey’s importance to ‘the history of the book, and within this the history of reading’ is so accepted as to require no special pleading (Richards 2008: 303). In a by now familiar paradigm, Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton have shown how a single reader (Harvey) could read texts, or even just a single text, in different ways as circumstances required, perhaps in his capacity as a professional reader or ‘facilitator’ (Jardine and Grafton 1990). Harvey’s marginalia in C. offer compelling evidence of yet another, perhaps unexpected, set of readerly procedures in his interpretative armoury beyond those now most closely associated with him. On this occasion, rather than reading his Castiglione to generate ‘knowledge transactions’ (Jardine and Sherman 1994: 114–16), or to glean political lessons or precepts for military and diplomatic ends (notwithstanding Castiglione’s discussions of courtly skill both in arms and letters), Harvey appears to have approached Il Cortegiano with an eye for literary playfulness and humorous appreciation. Recent developments in the history of reading have drawn attention not only to the consumption of ‘recreational’ books in early modern England, but also to modes of reading that go beyond a fragmentary ‘digest’ of authoritative texts for quotable commonplaces (Brayman Hackel 2005: 3; Mack 2005: 3). His annotations in Il Cortegiano suggest that there is room to reconsider the interpretative habits of even such a well-documented reader as Harvey in line with these emergent research interests.

[5] The evidence from his annotations in Il Cortegiano corroborates other recent attempts to rehabilitate Harvey. Jennifer Richards has analysed Harvey’s interest in debate, dialogue and jesting (Richards 2003), to reveal a Harvey who is ‘more playful, more self-mocking, and far more anti-Scholastic than his critics, contemporary and modern, have allowed’ (Richards 2009: 666). In a similar vein, Michael Pincombe has drawn attention to Harvey’s playful, ‘courtly flirtatiousness’ in his ‘Pleasant and pitthy familiar discourse, of the Earthquake in Aprill last’, from the Three proper, and wittie, familiar letters of 1580, and in particular the ludicrous tale of the worms and moles, laced with ‘some goodly plausible [J]est’, which underpins his account (Pincombe 2001: 95; Harvey and Spenser 1580: sig. B4v). Considered collectively, Harvey’s annotations in C. suggest a close engagement with wordplay; with the operations of witty language, as exemplified by the speakers in Castiglione’s dialogue itself; and, beyond that, Harvey’s interest in what might be called an affective reading strategy oriented in humour and jests – that is, an interest in how readers are moved in the act of reading and, particularly, how pleasure is instilled in an audience.

Date and context
[6] Unusually, even by his standards of encyclopaedic and polyglot reading, Harvey owned and copiously annotated Castiglione in three editions, each in a different language. Besides this Italian edition of Castiglione (C.), Harvey owned and annotated both Thomas Hoby’s 1561 English translation (now in the Newberry Library, Chicago) and also the 1571 Latin rendition by Bartholomew Clerke, to whom Harvey dedicated his 1577 treatise Rhetor. Harvey’s dated inscription in the Hoby text (‘X. gabrielharvey. 1572’) and his cross-referencing to Clerke’s Latin version in the margins of this English translation (Hoby 1561: sig. A2v) suggest that Harvey purchased or even began annotating both texts ‘by 1572’ (Stern 1979: 205–6, 246).

[7] Unfortunately, Harvey’s Italian copy C. is undated, but palaeographic and circumstantial evidence suggests that his initial encounter with this text can likewise be placed in the 1570s, most probably 1572–79. The marginalia in C., written in a consistent italic hand and uniform ink, appear to have been entered within a short space of time, rather than over a period of reading and re-reading as witnessed in other volumes, not least his copy of Hoby’s English translation which yields not only different inks and chirographies but also distinct dates, including ‘1572’ (sig. Yy3v) and ‘1580’ (sig. Zz5v) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 612–13). In its spacing and curvature, Harvey’s hand in C. seems to mark a development away from his very early italic of ‘the 1560s and early 1570s’, in which letter formations were ‘angular and pinched’, yet it falls short of the more rounded, darker hand that characterises his later script from ‘about 1579’ onwards when Harvey ‘apparently adopted a more permanent type of black ink’ (Stern 1979: 138–9). On chirographic grounds, then, his reading of the Italian Cortegiano seems to predate 1579.

[8] Harvey actively cultivated an interest in Italian literature over the 1570s. Beyond his early facility in Latin and Greek, he seems to have turned his attention to the study of Italian and French around 1578 (Stern 1979: 156). Harvey densely annotated his copy of William Thomas’ The historye of Italye (1561, first published 1549), which he described, in a marginal comment at the beginning of ‘The Table’, as a ‘necessarie Introduction to Machiavel, Guicciardin, Jovius’ (Stern 1979: 237). And he owned a copy of the same author’s Principal rules of the Italian grammer with a dictionarie for the better vnderstandyng of Boccace, Petrarcha, and Dante (1550). This latter manual seems to have been crucial in his learning of Italian in the late 1570s or early 1580s, since he pairs it with John Florio’s First Fruites (1578) as a foundational linguistic aid. Annotating his copy of Florio, perhaps for the first time in 1580, Harvey pinpoints Florio and Thomas as his chief guides:

Me Florio et Tomaso contesti inspirabunt, nobis linguis flagrantem. (sig. A3r)

[Florio and [William] Thomas in close connection will intensely inspire me with their [scil. our] language (Stern 1979: 156–7)].

[9] Another marginal aside in the same work hails Florio as a linguistic trailblazer, this time in the company of John Eliot, a French teacher and a reader-translator working in John Wolfe’s printing house. Harvey extols the pair as

mie new London companions for Italian, & French. Two of the best for both (sig. Ee1v).

On the same page he announces a foray into Stefano Guazzo’s writings:

Now to the 4. books of Guazzo, the sweetest & daintiest of Italian Dialogues. (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 49–50).

Collectively, such marginal comments suggest a concerted engagement with Italian language-learning and literary dialogues by 1580, although the dating of Harvey’s hand in C. and his encounters with Hoby’s English translation and Clerke’s Latin version ‘by 1572’ (Stern 1979: 245–6) may suggest that he was already closely acquainted with Castiglione’s Italian original as early as 1572.

[10] Harvey had already read many Italian works ‘too difficult for a beginner’ long before engaging with elementary Italian textbooks in 1579 and thereafter (Bourland 1940: 88). Indeed, Harvey’s reading of Il Cortegiano may have been partially motivated by a desire to learn the language: Florio suggested that readers wishing to learn ‘a little Italian’ consult ‘Castilions courtier, or Guazzo his dialogues’ (Florio 1591: sig. A4v). To be sure, Harvey ‘studied Castiglione and Guazzo with considerable care, evidently intent on learning the arts of courtierly manners and sprezzatura’ (Stern 1979: 17). Yet he may also have read them, in conjunction, in order to learn the language itself: having acquired Hoby’s English Courtyer in 1572, Harvey returned to it on several occasions over the next decade, in 1581 entering a cross-reference to Guazzo’s Civil conversatione, which he owned and annotated in both the original Italian and George Pettie’s English translation. In other quarters, the trilingual edition of Castiglione published in London in 1588, placing Hoby’s English in parallel with the original Italian and a French translation by Gabriel Chappuys, was ‘clearly designed for readers who wanted to study Italian as well as good behaviour’ (Burke 1995: 61; see also Richards 2001: 481).

[11] Harvey’s own trilingual cohort of texts, in Italian, English and Latin, may corroborate the suggestion that his study of Castiglione was linked to an enterprise of linguistic improvement in European vernaculars. Harvey’s copy of Scipio Lentulo’s An Italian Grammer (Grantham 1575), which he purchased in 1579, contains marginalia that suggest just such a use for his Cortegiano. In the bottom margin of page 44, beside the printed explanation that ‘Per il che … is vsed but thus, Il perche’, Harvey cites an example from Castiglione to illustrate the idiom:

Castiglione del Cortegiano. L. 1. Perilche conoscendo io questa (Bourland 1940: 93).

In the first instance, then, Il Cortegiano may well have served Harvey as a linguistic, much more than a moral or philosophical, guide.

[12] In a letter of April 1580, addressed to Spenser, Harvey comments on Castiglione’s contemporary reception. He reports that Italian and French were being pursued to the detriment of Greek and Latin at Cambridge: Tully and Demosthenes are ‘nothing so much studyed as they were wonte’ and ‘Matchiauell’ has become a ‘great man: Castilio of no small reputation: Petrarch, and Boccace in euery mans mouth: Galateo and Guazzo neuer so happy’ (Grosart (ed.) 1884–85: 1.69; Bourland 1940: 86–7). Yet despite bemoaning this vogue, Harvey seems to have been a keen devourer of these European vernaculars himself. As Warren Boutcher has demonstrated, despite Harvey’s famous letters of complaint to Spenser, the importance to a pragmatic humanist like Harvey of ‘a “ready” or conversational … skill in Latin and the modern languages’ was undeniable, and Harvey’s library clearly attests the ‘burgeoning role of modern languages in the 1570s and 1580s as part of an alternative humanistic curriculum geared for social and political success’ (Boutcher 1997: 51–2). Crucially, among the works most enthusiastically embraced by Harvey as possible aids in learning Italian were three pre-eminent authorities celebrating the art of conversation: Castiglione’s Cortegiano, Giovanni Della Casa’s Galateo and Guazzo’s Civil conversatione, all of which Harvey himself alludes to in his Gratulationes Valdinenses (Harvey 1578: sig. K4r). Of these three luminaries, Guazzo perhaps most extensively illustrated the ‘underlying motif that courtesy is ultimately an art of words’ (Grogan 2009: 146). In a marginal gloss in his copy of Guazzo (now British Library, shelfmark C.60.a.1(1)), Harvey himself called it a ‘Thesoro della lingua, discorso, e Conuersatione Italiana’ (sig. ††6r), a copious storehouse of Italian linguistic resources. Harvey’s acquisition of Italian, then, appears closely bound up with his interest in artful, witty conversation.

[13] Further corroborating evidence comes from a draft letter to Spenser, which Harvey composed between 1578 and 1580. Again, he records how his Cambridge contemporaries had grown dissatisfied with the traditional curriculum of classical reading, and were seeking out modish conduct manuals and continental arts of conversation:

schollars in ower age ar rather nowe Aristippi then Diogenes: and rather active then contemplative philosophers: covetinge above alle thinges under heaven to appeare sumwhat more then schollars if themselves wiste howe … And nowe of late forsoothe to helpe countenaunce owte the matter they have gotten Philbertes Philosopher of the Courte, the Italian Archebysshopies brave Galat[e]o, Castiglioes fine Cortegiano, Bengalassoes Civil Instructions to his Nephewe Seignor Princisca Ganzar: Guatzoes newe Discourses of curteous behaviour, Jouios and Rassellis Emblemes in Italian. (Harvey’s Letter-Book, BL, MS Sloane 93, fols. 42v–43r).

In Harvey’s account, these conversation manuals ranged from Della Casa’s Galateo (1564), to ‘Bengalassoes Civil Instructions’ (namely, Simon Robson’s Courte of ciuill courtesie, masquerading as a continental conduct book and appearing under the attributed name of Bengalassa del Mont. Prisacchi), to Paolo Giovio’s Ragionamento (1556). Most likely, such works were read with a view, ultimately, to employment at city or court. Conveniently, Harvey mentions to Spenser neither his own immersion in these very works in the late 1570s, nor his close engagement, in the form of marginal annotation, with such studies on the art of sociable repartee.

[14] Indeed, among the most heavily-scrawled items in all of Harvey’s library is his copy of Lodovico Domenichi’s Facetie, motti, et burle, di diversi signori et persone private (1571, revised and expanded from the first edition of 1548), an Italian collection of jests, short miscellaneous observations and anecdotes.[4] The work is bound together with another Venetian octavo published in the same year, Lodovico Guicciardini’s Detti et fatti piacevoli, et gravi, itself a collection of witty sayings in the facetiae genre. Jesting was ‘an essential component of an orator’s or courtier’s repertoire of rhetorical strategies’ found in early modern rhetorical handbooks, courtesy manuals, and facetiae or ‘jest collections’ (Holcomb 2001: 3). More particularly, facetiae formed an integral component of continental humanist programmes, especially those indebted to Cicero as a theorist of jests (Woodbridge 2001: 127–8). As a body of writing probably initiated by Poggio Bracciolini’s Facetie (c. 1470/1), the first to appropriate the term ‘facetiae’ from Cicero, collections of facetiae were received in England relatively swiftly: at the end of his translation of Aesop, Caxton provides eleven stories from ‘Poge [Poggio] the Florentyn’ (Caxton 1484: sigs. r5v–s6v). Among Harvey’s volumes of facetiae, both Domenichi’s Facetie and Guicciardini’s Detti et fatti piacevoli are inundated with Harvey’s annotations, filling every available margin. Moreover, both works corroborate his Italophile leanings in the 1570s or early 1580s, particularly in connection with Italian repositories of jests and witty exempla.

Ragionare delle facetie: Bibbiena, Eutrapelus and reading for jests
[15] While decorated much less copiously than his Domenichi or his Guicciardini or indeed his Livy, and while devoid of the astronomical symbols and acronyms that litter his more heavily-annotated volumes, Harvey’s copy of Il Cortegiano helps to recalibrate some of the modern critical assumptions about his reading habits. Admittedly, a few of Harvey’s marginal notes in C. are pedestrian, summative descriptions of subject matter, such as his comment on the universal desire for novelty, ‘Gli huomini sempre cupidi di no[v]ità’ (C., sig. A2v). Others, in keeping with humanist philological commentary, identify literary sources, as when he recognises Castiglione’s indebtedness to Cicero’s Orator – ‘proemio de L’oratore di Cicerone’ (sig. A6r). Castiglione’s text itself invites readers to note classical authorities and to mark sententiae in this way: Hoby’s epistle to Lord Hastings, prefacing his English translation, presents the work as a repository or ‘storehouse of most necessary implements for the con[v]ersacion, [u]se, and training [u]p of mans life with Courtly demeaners’ (Hoby 1561: sig. A3v). Yet many of Harvey’s annotations in C. go beyond mere summarizing or source-hunting. They seem to conform to Stern’s description of the second and third types of annotation found in his library – namely, ‘critical and supplementary comments on ideas in the text’ and ‘personal reflections, introspections, and precepts’ (Stern 1979: 141–4). Not an insubstantial number of Harvey’s annotations and (no less importantly) underlinings in C. are directed to the art of conversational humour – to identifying and mastering spoken and even written jests.

[16] As with some other works in his library, Harvey stops annotating C. half-way through. Of Il Cortegiano’s four books, Books 3 and 4 are devoid of marginalia, with the notable exception of the final page of text in Book 4, at the end of which Harvey has inserted ‘Il fine’ with a flourish, and, beneath the colophon, signed himself in ornately Italianate style as ‘Gabriel Arveio’, as if transformed into the perfect continental courtier by the end of his reading.[5] Perhaps an indication of depleting interest in the work, or distraction by other (more important) reading commitments, Harvey’s decision to cease annotating after Book 2 may rather imply that he had marked all he wanted to from the Italian in that second book, and felt no need to continue beyond it. Following on from the precepts of Book 1, Book 2 is devoted to the theory and practice of applying humour to social interactions and tailoring one’s language to particular occasions: due attention is paid to the pragmatic ideals of discrettio (discretion) and giudicio (judgement) as virtues essential for social decorum.

Fig. 2 Harvey’s florid, Italianate signature beneath the colophon (sig. BB8r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 2 Harvey’s florid, Italianate signature beneath the colophon (sig. BB8r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

[17] This particular book’s appeal to a pragmatic humanist like Harvey is self-evident, although its discussion of humour and verbal play at first sight seems out of keeping with his other reading interests. David Norbrook has identified Il Cortegiano’s didactic and moral import as the source of its attraction to mid-century readers and Protestant humanists: Castiglione’s work included ‘enough didactic matter to attract mid-century humanists’, while its ‘anti-ecclesiastical satire’ would have increased its appeal to Protestants (Norbrook 1984: 49). Yet Harvey’s interest in the work lies, instead, in its linguistic resources and its model for a type of discourse untroubled by moral considerations; its debates on the role of humour and the practice of jesting; and its illustrations of witty style. Corroborating these interests, one of Harvey’s scribblings in his copy of Hoby’s Courtyer implies the kind of comic intent that is hard to reconcile with Harvey’s academic standing (at the time of acquisition) as a Cambridge Fellow: adjoining the precept ‘To be portly and amiable in countenance [u]nto whoso beehouldeth him’, listed under Hoby’s ‘breef rehersall of the chiefe conditions and qualities in a Courtier’ at the end of the volume, is an arrow pointing towards a crudely sketched image of the same (sig. Yy4r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 609).

[18] ‘Marginalia rarely speak directly to the questions we most want answered,’ cautions William Sherman, ‘and often reveal a different side of a reader we thought we knew’ (Sherman 2008: 15). Marking texts for their wit and humour, despite critical presuppositions about Harvey’s methods, was central to his reading of Castiglione, both in the Italian original and Hoby’s English translation. Carl Grindley’s taxonomy of reader responses, cited by Sherman, might offer us a useful model for locating Harvey’s reading habits in his Cortegiano. Besides ‘Narrative’ aids, ‘Ethical Pointers’ and ‘Polemical Responses’, Grindley ventures a fourth category, ‘Literary Responses’, which includes the subcategory ‘Humour and Irony’ (Grindley 2001). It is within this last species of the genus that Harvey’s annotative reading of Castiglione can be most consistently located.

[19] When approaching Castiglione’s text, English humanists in the second half of the sixteenth century were evidently comfortable with a type of ‘diligent’ reading tailored to the work’s moral precepts. Roger Ascham’s posthumous Scholemaster articulated a model for reading ‘Conto Baldesær Castiglione in his booke, Cortegiane’ (by which he actually means Hoby’s English translation). This reading strategy sought ‘To [j]oyne learnyng with cumlie exercises’, such that the book be ‘advisedlie read, and diligentlie followed’ (Ascham 1570: sig. 20v). Harvey, however, seems to have adopted an approach no less ‘diligent’ but rather more in keeping with Philip Sidney’s recommendations for reading the memorable exempla of Sacro Bosco and Valerius Maximus. In his copy of Johannes de Sacro Bosco’s thirteenth-century astronomical textbook, Textus de Sphaera (published 1527), Harvey entered a note on the recommended method for reading the work:

To be read with diligent studie, but sportingly, as he [Sidney] termed it (sig. a2r) (Stern 1979: 79).

Harvey’s marginal note apparently recalls a conversation with Sidney, relating to ‘Sacrobosco, & Valerius’ as texts ‘[b]ie him specially commended to the Earle of Essex, Sir Edward Dennie, & divers gentlemen of the Court’ to be read in this jointly ‘diligent’ and ‘sporting’ fashion.

[20] That Harvey read his Castiglione in this way, too, is suggested by the testimony of his marginalia, whether cursory notes or longer pronouncements on his reading strategies. One such comment entered in the margins of his Italian Cortegiano directly invokes this mode of reading. Citing the very text ‘commended’ by Sidney – Valerius Maximus’ Dictorum factorumque memorabilium exempla (1544) which Harvey owned and annotated – Harvey writes, towards the start of Book 2,

Locus communis lepid[e], facet[e], et sals[e] dictor[um] in [V]alerio Maximo (C., sig. K8r).

When reading his Castiglione, then, no less than his Valerius Maximus, Harvey was evidently alert to the commonplaces, the locus communis, of verbal elegance – of things said charmingly, gracefully and wittily (‘lepid[e], facet[e], et sals[e] dictor[um]’) – which he might mark, glean, or copy in the margins of his text.

[21] This attention to what is witty or pleasingly humorous is found elsewhere in Harvey’s responses to Castiglione, as in his annotations on Hoby’s English translation. At the end of his copy of Hoby, Harvey lists the principal requirements of the courtier:

Above all things, it importeth a Courtier, to be gracefull & lo[v]elie in countenance, & beha[v]iour; fine & discreet in discourse, & interteinment; skilfull & expert in Letters, & Armes; acti[v]e & gallant in e[v]erie Courtlie Exercise; nimble & speedie of boddie & mind; resolute, industrious, & valorous in action; as profound & in[v]incible in execution, as is possible: & withall e[v]er generously bould, wittily pleasant, & full of life in all his sayings, & doings. […]
                      G.H. 1580.
(sig. Zz5v – Ruutz-Rees 1910: 634–5).

For this sedulous reader of Livy, the expected watchwords are here. The phrases ‘expert in Letters, & Armes’, ‘acti[v]e & gallant in … Exercise’, ‘valorous in action’, and ‘in[v]incible in execution’ all befit Harvey’s Ramist disposition – what has been described as a mentality geared to pragmatic training for public position (Jardine 1986).

[22] Yet, buried among these phrases, his attention to other courtierly virtues such as being ‘discreet in discourse & interteinment’ or being ‘generously bould, wittily pleasant, & full of life in all his sayings’ perhaps comes as more of a surprise. Harvey’s interest in the Ciceronian virtue of ‘discretion’ found in De officiis, ‘the skill of adjusting according to context or person’, has already been well documented (Richards 2009: 669), and Harvey’s fusion here of what is ‘discreet’ with what is courtly and amusing produces a hybrid that is striking in itself. Yet this affective interest in sources of humour, in what is ‘wittily’ pleasant – a term, along with its cognates pleasure and pleasurable, that will be seen to recur – is palpable throughout the traces that survive of his reading. Elsewhere in his copy of Hoby’s Courtyer, Harvey inscribes the marginal caption,

The Art of Jesting: pleasurable, & gratious (sig. R3r)

and remarks on the importance of actively deploying such ingenious sayings in the world, following Hoby’s examples of Aristippus and Diogenes:

Salsorum dictorum, usus in mundo maximus, et ingeniosissimus (sig. T3r).

[23] Again, a few pages later in Book 2, Harvey praises Aretino’s use of jests. Their excellence lies not simply in their ability to challenge expectations, but also in their sociability and discretion. This crucial skill of not only giving pleasure but also avoiding insult invokes an Aristotelian principle of moderation, whereby the witty speaker’s sociable discourse entertains without causing offence:

In derriving mens opinions, and frustrating the most probable expectation; Unico Aretino superexcellent … Without any offence, & with many delights (sig. Y2r).

The sentiment resonates with Harvey’s annotations on ‘civility’ that pepper the narrow margins of his sextodecimo copy of Guazzo’s Civil conversatione. There, likewise, civility is understood as a series of gestures which revolve around verbal competence in the art of jesting. Running up the inner margin, alongside the table of contents, is Harvey’s remark on a proverb that addresses the underlying rules of urbane repartee:


Play with me, & hurt me not:
[J]est with me, & shame me not.

A notable rule of Ci[v]ilitie.

(Harvey’s copy of Guazzo, Civil conversatione, sig. ††2r).

In both his Guazzo and his English Courtyer, then, Harvey’s annotations suggest a concerted strategy of marking the text so as to draw out inert rules or precepts for jesting which can then be enacted in the realm of social performance. This programme tallies closely with Harvey’s celebration of a particular ‘goal-oriented’ method of reading, as articulated in his Cambridge lectures on rhetoric, Rhetor, published in 1577. There, as Jennifer Richards has argued, the ‘rhetorical analysis and practice’ promoted by Harvey was designed to create readers who cultivated ‘“the light of divine nature” [naturae diuinae lumen] or eloquence through reading, writing, and conversing’, actively redeploying the fruits of their reading (Richards 2008: 311).

[24] Harvey’s annotations in his Italian text of Castiglione are no less oriented towards the social applications of artful jesting. In the margins of C., Harvey painstakingly marks each ‘Giuoco’ (game, or jest) proposed by the speakers in the preliminary stages of Book 1. This incipient interest in jesting is developed more fully in the margins surrounding the sporting passages in Book 2, particularly those sections devoted to the theory and execution of jesting (sections 43–93). Attesting this interest in giuochi, Harvey fills the lower margin of one page in Book 2 with an extensive bibliographic reference to Giovanni Paolo Cardelli’s jest-centric work, De’ giuocchi Discorso (1563), for which Stern gives no record of Harvey’s ownership but which he was clearly sufficiently familiar with to give its full title verbatim (C., sig. K8r).

Fig. 3 Harvey’s cross-reference to Cardelli’s De’ giuocchi Discorso (1563), and a marginal cue (‘Bibiena’) identifying Bernardo Bibbiena’s contributions to the discussion of humour in Book 2 (sig. K8r (bottom half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 3 Harvey’s cross-reference to Cardelli’s De’ giuocchi Discorso (1563), and a marginal cue (‘Bibiena’) identifying Bernardo Bibbiena’s contributions to the discussion of humour in Book 2 (sig. K8r (bottom half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

[25] Out of the speakers in this second book of Il Cortegiano, Harvey engages most closely with the jokes of Bernardo Bibbiena. The Florentine Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena, the lowest-born of Castiglione’s speakers, proves to be an ‘expert manipulator of words’ in Book 2 (Cavallo 2000: 404). Harvey keenly notes his name, ‘Bibbiena’, in the margin at the appropriate cue (sigs. A2v, K8r) and zealously underscores his punch-lines (as on sig. L4v). Notably, Harvey is as much an inveterate underliner as a marginal annotator in his Cortegiano. The variety of witty exempla offered by Book 2 evidently piqued his curiosity most. Page after page, he underlines jokes and humorous exchanges: salacious double entendres, as in the dual meaning of ‘una d[on]na d’assai’ denoting either a virtuous or meretricious woman (sig. L1v); scatological jests employing a figure described by Castiglione as ‘bischizzi’ whereby a letter or syllable is manipulated, as in the play on ‘lingua latina’ and ‘lingua latrina’ (sig. L8r); bathetic re-use of Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (sig. L8v); and regional or occupational satire, be it at the expense of the Sienese (sig. L4v) or lawyers, physicians and theologians (sigs. M3v–M4r). But most obviously, he is drawn to puns – relentlessly so. Ever keen to identify praiseworthy models of style, he underlines homographic puns, such as that on ‘Alessandro Papa VI’, where ‘vi’ signifies both ‘the sixth’ and the ablative of ‘vis’, mischievously suggesting that Alessandro had become Pope through the use of force (sig. L2v); or phonetic puns, as in the ambiguous Italian phrase ‘ha[v]er letto’, which as Hoby notes in his version ‘is interpreted both to ha[v]e a bed and to ha[v]e read’ (C., sig. L7v; Hoby 1561: sig. T3r); and equivocating puns or antanaclasis, as in the phrase ‘tre c[on]ti’, which plays on the ambiguity between three ‘causes’ for going to Bologna and three ‘Counts’ (sig. M2r), among other instances of paronomasia in Castiglione’s work.

[26] Throughout, Harvey’s interest lies both in the process of badinage and also in the practical applications of sociable discourse. At the point when Bibbiena launches into an exposition of jokes as ‘a form of recreation, a release from worldly concerns through laughter’, but also as a device ‘to comment on contemporary society rather than merely escape from it’ (Cavallo 2000: 404), Harvey pointedly underlines the key-word, ‘facetie’ (jests, witticisms), in this discussion of how to deploy jests in practice (‘ragionare delle facetie’, C., sig. K8r). In addition, Harvey’s interest lies also, it seems, in what might be considered the physiology of reader response – how pleasure or mirth is generated in one’s audience. Shortly afterwards, in the margin of sig. L7r, Harvey has added a bracket drawing attention to an entire section of text devoted to short jests whose force lies in their ambiguity or equivocation (‘facetie … che stanno in un bre[v]e detto, quelle sono acutissime, che nascono della ambiguita’). Harvey’s curiosity here seems centred on not only the practical effects such humour can have in social contexts, but also the pleasurable effects that such puns might induce in their listeners.

[27] It is just this brand of urbane wordplay that Henry Peacham, in the 1593 edition of The Garden of Eloquence (first published 1577), labels asteismus, or in its Latin cognate, ‘urbanitas’. Peacham notes how the ‘wittie [j]esting in ci[v]ill maner, and gracing of speech with some merie conceipt’ might arise from equivocation ‘when a word ha[v]ing two significations, is exprest in the one, and [u]nderstood in the other’. This device of asteismus, if ‘discreetely [u]sed with the due obser[v]ation of circumstances’, Peacham argues, ‘ministreth grace, and pleasure, and mirth to the hearer’ (Peacham 1593: sigs. G1r-v). Comparably, the humanist and rhetorical theorist Thomas Wilson likewise discusses the emotive reach of well-deployed language in his 1553 Arte of rhetorique, the 1567 edition of which Harvey owned and extensively annotated. In Wilson’s terms, the ‘turning of a word … doth often moue the hearer’, where ‘[w]ordes doubtfully spok[en]’ are especially known to ‘ge[v]e oft[en] [j]ust occasi[on] of muche laughter’ (Wilson 1553: sigs. t4v, v1r). Harvey’s annotations suggest the same interest in vernacular eloquence shown by these treatises, which likewise attend to both the practical instrumentality and the affective power of witty turns of phrase.

[28] The variety of illustrations annotated or underlined by Harvey in his Castiglione indicates an engagement not only with individual examples but also with the theory of jesting, or the mechanics of witty language, that underpin them. In particular, the virtuosity of Bibbiena’s word-games seems to elicit Harvey’s attention. On the very page in which Bibbiena celebrates those double entendres that induce wonder rather than mere laughter in their audience – ‘che piu presto mo[v]ano mara[v]iglia, che riso’ (Book 2, section 58) – Harvey underlines the wordplays on ‘ha[v]er letto’ (‘to have a bed’ / ‘to have read’) and ‘mattonato’ / ‘matto nato’ (a ‘brick-work floor’, or a ‘born fool’). Strikingly, Hoby reproduces Castiglione’s Italian text for both these wordplays, rather than attempting to render the joke in English. Conceding that the force of the puns works only in their original language, Hoby prints the following defence in the margin: ‘These two examples are put in Italian, bicause they ha[v]e no grace in the English tunge by reason of the doubtfulnesse of the woordes that may be taken two sundry wayes: yet is the Englishe as plentifull of these [j]estes as any other tunge’ (Hoby 1561: sig. T3r). Such jokes, so context-specific and (for Hoby) untranslatable that their usefulness to a pragmatist like Harvey would appear to be minimal, suggest that Harvey’s fascination with these puns derives not from the individual examples themselves, since the opportunities for applying them or putting them into practice would seem to be few and far between. Rather, his interest surely lies in the theory or rules of jesting that underpin these disparate illustrations – in the idea behind the puns, and in the model of a flexible idiom that can turn innocuous phrases into something pleasing.

[29] That his enthusiasm for doubtful language, puns, homophones and witty reapplications of phrases centre on the principles or the mechanics of humorous exchanges is corroborated by Harvey’s marginalia elsewhere. In his copy of Thomaso Porcacchi’s Motti Diversi Raccolti per Thomaso Porcacchi; Et aggiuntoui alle Facetie di M. Lodouico Domenichi (1574), another short treatise of witty jests that is appended to the Domenichi text, Harvey pens the following instruction vertically in the right-hand margin:

Make most of such Examples, as may ser[v]e for Mines of In[v]ention; Mirrours of Elocution; & fountains of pleasant de[v]ises. The finest platforms. (sig. Ee1r) (Stern 1979: 209, 230–1).

As ‘mines’, ‘fountains’ and ‘platforms’, these ‘Examples’ are merely the starting points for ‘In[v]ention’, rather than the end-products. Their potency, or use, lies in their role as models of ‘Elocution’.

[30] This sustained interest in both the theory and pragmatics of jesting tallies well with one of Harvey’s most recurrent personae, ‘Eutrapelus’. This textual alter-ego of Harvey’s, inhabiting many of his annotated margins, seems principally concerned with witty discourse and a conversational method of sporting interchange. The name ‘Eutrapelus’, recalling the ideal of ‘learned insolence’ or ‘wittiness’ embodied by the Aristotelian virtue of Εὐτραπελία (eutrapelia, literally, ‘turning well’), designates that persona ‘who is clever and ingenious with words … the eloquent orator, teacher of rhetoric, persuasive man in speech (and in writing) and one who engages in witty jesting and very often irony’. As Stern notes, Harvey’s Eutrapelus invokes Aristotle’s model of ‘pleasantness in conversation’, and also gestures towards the recondite English noun ‘eutrapely’, invoking an ideal of ‘courteous, civil conversation, or urbanity’ (Stern 1979: 177). In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle celebrates ‘witty or versatile’ speakers, eutrapeloi (εὐτράπελοι), and speakers ‘full of good turns’, eutropoi (εὔτροποι), whose speech achieves a type of moderate, civilized amusement (Rackham (ed.) 1934: 246–9, citing IV.8 (1128a10–b5)). Beyond Aristotle, Harvey’s choice of Eutrapelus as a persona may also directly recall Erasmus’ jest collection, Convivium fabulosum (‘Feast of fables’), first published in 1524. Among the aptronymic jest-tellers in Erasmus’ colloquy are Gelasinus (‘jocular’), Asteus (‘urbane’), Philogelos (‘laughter-loving’), Lerochares (‘joker’) and, as master of ceremonies, Eutrapelus (‘witty’) (Thompson (ed.) 1997: 571–89 (584)).

[31] While Eutrapelus does not make an appearance in Harvey’s annotations in C., the persona is clearly at home in his other Italian volumes. Another repository of Italianate wittiness found in Harvey’s library, the aforementioned Detti et fatti (1571) of Lodovico Guicciardini, contains an extensive marginal description in Harvey’s hand of the ‘pragmatic metamorphosis’ associated with Eutrapelus:

Eutrapeli Pragmatica Metamorphosis. Iu[v]at, in iocis haurire salem terrae, et lucem mundi. [u]trunque sapidissimum, et splendidissimum. Alii seria praetendunt: solus Eutrapelus seria exequitur perpetrat egregia. Magna in par[v]a mutat Eutrapelus: par[v]a in magna. Arcana metamorphosis Eutrapeli. Aliorum seria, in iocos con[v]ertenda: Tui ipsius Ioci, in Seria. Alienis addatur hyperbolicῶs, aut ironicῶs: Tuis detrahatur: (Harvey’s marginal comment, sig. **2v)

The pragmatic metamorphosis of Eutrapelus. It is helpful to draw the salt of the earth and the light of the world[, which are (respectively) very savoury and very splendid,] into jests […]. Others present serious discourses but only Eutrapelus works at serious matters and effects serious results. Eutrapelus is able to convert great matters into small ones, small into great ones. This is Eutrapelus’s secret metamorphosis: serious matters of others being converted into jests, your own jests into serious discussions. Hyperbole [scil. or irony] is added to the remarks of others and removed from yours (Stern 1979: 177)].

The metamorphosis in question is partly the reifying of precept, and partly the witty transformation of a speaker’s words. The art of jesting and the art of praxis are fused into a single enterprise. Here, as in Harvey’s annotations on Castiglione, the focus is, perhaps surprisingly, on pithy repartee. Yet the underlying goal remains the same as in the rest of Harvey’s annotative oeuvre – namely, a pragmatic application of theoretical ideals, as suggested by the litany of dynamic verbs and verb forms (‘perpetrat’, ‘mutat’, ‘convertenda’). Harvey’s remarks would seem, then, to fit squarely within that tradition of jesting as both ‘a form of recreation’ and a device for ‘pragmatic’ application, a tradition reaching from Cicero and Quintilian to their sixteenth-century imitators (Holcomb 2001: 15).

A pragmatic and affective style
[32] Harvey’s marginalia in his Italian books, his Cortegiano not least among them, reveal an ongoing interest in the arts of witty conversation. More precisely, they attest an important shift in Harvey’s habits of thought: a move from a Ramist conception of ‘ars bene disserendi’ (the art of discussing a topic under the auspices of Ramus’ dialectic) to what has been called a ‘method of sprezzatura’ tailored to sociable conversation (the practice of witty dialogue) (Prewitt 1999: 21). In the margins of C., Harvey keenly notes Il Cortegiano’s ideal of conversational practice:

Propone che ad ogniun sia lecito di contradire. (sig. B6v).

This annotation, adjoining Federico Fregoso’s plea in the main text that each interlocutor in the dialogue be allowed to say the opposite of any other (‘contradire’), confirms Harvey’s interest in the dynamics of conversation, and perhaps behind that the practice of arguing in utramque partem.

[33] Marginalia in his other Italianate texts hint at something similar. Towards the end of Book 2 in Hoby’s Courtyer, Harvey offers a note of reflective summary that gestures to the ideal, if not also etymology, of the aforementioned eutrapelia (Εὐτραπελία):

Men laugh at nothing more then at shreud turnes (sig. Aa4r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 610, 638).

Hoby’s English translation elicits from Harvey further annotations that address these underlying processes and principles of repartee. Analysing this shrewd turn-taking, Harvey muses:

Scitum est, respondere ad Idem; et ex eadem pharetra … Suis quemque telis confligere, Ingenii est (sig. V2v) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 611)

[It is a shrewd thing, to respond to the same person; and (to answer back with arrows) from the same quiver … It is ingenious to fight someone with their own weapons].

Advocating a pattern of dialogue founded on antistrephon, whereby a participant’s words are re-used to argue the opposite, Harvey conceives of conversation in resolutely pragmatic terms. Little regard is paid to any underlying moral import. More emphatically still, in his copy of Guazzo’s Civil conversatione, annotated in perhaps 1582, Harvey identifies the essential quality of the urbane courtier’s idiolect:

Discorso delli discorsi: pieno di varietà, acutezza, e sententiosa bre[v]ità, con molta piace[v]olezza. (sig. Ff3r).

In short, the ideal discourse for the courtier is one full of variety, sharp wit or ‘acutezza’ – perhaps here directly recalling Castiglione’s ideal of ‘acutezza recondita’, or in Hoby’s translation ‘co[v]ered subtilty’ (Hoby 1561: sig. F1r) – and concise, pithy axioms that bring pleasure (‘piacevolezza’) to one’s auditors. Repeatedly, Harvey’s reading of Italian dialogues is grounded in questions of affect (the ways in which jests prompt laughter or work on their audiences) no less than in questions of use (the practical ends to which readers subsequently apply their reading).

[34] Jardine and Grafton have discussed an underlying tension in Harvey’s reading. Harvey shows, on the one hand, a desire to glean a text’s axioms, ‘to find advice on tactics and strategems’; on the other, he seems no less fascinated by a text’s stylistic effects, betraying a ‘very evident attraction to the stylistic and affective’. Given this tension, Harvey appears to have read texts ‘not simply to reflect, boil down and imitate’ them, but also ‘to savour, speculate and admire’ (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 59, 69). The surviving traces show that Harvey’s reading of Castiglione adhered to these latter principles of savouring and admiring in particular. The evidence even suggests that Harvey read (dare one say it?) for pleasure, finding in Castiglione’s text not only something that was utile (useful) but also, on the other side of the Horatian dyad, something dulce (sweet).[6] Rather than serving as a utilitarian handbook or instructional guide, and far from offering a mere repository of moral wisdom, Il Cortegiano provoked in Harvey a fascination with verbal texture, and with pragmatic styles that could be studied and enjoyed without reference to a work’s moral bearings.

[35] In his Ciceronian scholarship of the 1570s, Harvey treats this severance of style from moral substance with apparent suspicion. He certainly questioned that brand of fashionable Italian Ciceronianism characterised by an over-reliance on Cicero’s style, a superficial attention to linguistic imitation and a privileging of words over subject matter. In his Ciceronianus (1577), Harvey charts his move away from this sort of outward imitation of Cicero towards a position based on ‘the Ciceronianuses of the Northern humanists Johannes Sturm, Johann Thomas Freigius, and Erasmus, as well as that of Ramus’. Collectively, these treatises ‘propounded the idea of imitating not just Cicero’s refined prose style, but his wisdom and statesmanship as well’ (Prewitt 1999: 22). Yet in reading Castiglione, Harvey appears content to study the causes and effects of elocutio independently of a speaker’s wisdom or moral standing. Writing in 1573 to Arthur Capel, who had matriculated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1571, Harvey reveals his habit of circulating books to cherished friends. The letter in question also sheds light on his practice of gleaning examples of eloquence from these works, among them Clerke’s Latin translation of Il Cortegiano:

Now, if your leisure wil serv you … to read over the Courtier in Lattin (whitch I would wish, and wil you to do for sundri causis) … send on for it, and make your ful account not to fail of it … I wuld have gentlemen to be conversant and occupied in thos books esspecially, whereof thai mai have most use and practis, ether for writing or speaking, eloquently or wittely, now or hereafter. (Harvey’s Letter-Book, fols. 90v–91r; Scott (ed.) 1884: 167–8).

Harvey appears very content to hive off moral considerations from linguistic skill (‘use and practis’).

[36] This urge to separate ethical from linguistic virtues is witnessed elsewhere in his marginalia. In Book 1 of Hoby’s English Courtyer, alongside the phrase ‘those studyes shall make him copyous, and … bould to speake [u]ppon a good grounde wyth e[v]erye manne’, Harvey writes in the margin,

ye fundamental ground of confidence

 { Art

 (sig. H4r).

Deploying a (Ramist) bracket to separate out these distinct qualities, Harvey identifies a linguistic ars independent of a moral ideal. Harvey repeats this distinction towards the end of the work too. In the margin beside the list of the courtier’s chief characteristics – firstly, what Hoby calls ‘vertues of the minde’ and, secondly, the art of being ‘more then indifferentlye well seene in learninge, in the Latin and greeke tunges’ – Harvey ventures the following schema:


 { ethica

(sig. Yy4v)

Harvey represents, in parvo, an uneasy tension in Castiglione’s work – a tension centring on what Peter Burke has called a ‘concern with the aesthetics as well as the ethics of behaviour – with the tradition of Ovid as well as the tradition of Aristotle’ (Burke 1995: 30).

[37] However, for all his emphasis on linguistic wit, Harvey’s encounter with Castiglione is certainly not out of keeping with the pragmatic aims of his other reading. As Jennifer Richards remarks, where Cicero’s De Oratore ventured a model of ‘an eloquent but practical man’, Castiglione ran the risk of eulogising merely ‘an impractical and pleasing artist’, a figure ostensibly at odds with Harvey’s avowed pragmatism (Richards 2001: 465). Yet in Harvey’s hands, Castiglione proffers a model of utilitas, or usefulness. Harvey’s parting judgement, on the final blank page of his copy of Hoby’s Courtyer, hails the work’s applicability to the political concerns of the here and now:

Castilios Courtier, ye right Gentlemans book … with continual Experience in ye pregnant affaires of the world. (sig. Zz6r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 631–2).

In blunter terms still, two of Harvey’s marginal notes early in Book 1 of his Italian copy announce the general potency of ‘use’ (‘di quanta forza sia l’uso’) and the specific ‘usefulness’ of this work – ‘[U]tilità di quest’opera’ (C., sig. A6v). Harvey’s linguistic, stylistic interests complement, rather than displace, his overriding pragmatic, utilitarian constitution.

[38] Unsurprisingly, Harvey’s marginalia in Castiglione, as with the other books in Harvey’s library that deal with ‘training in gentlemanly manners’, seem at least in part ‘oriented toward possible service at court’ (Stern 1979: 158–61). For instance, in his copy of Guicciardini’s Detti et fatti (1571), one of Harvey’s annotations recommends combining the virtues of urbane wittiness and political expediency:

Multi [u]rbani, non pragmatici: multi pragmatici, non [u]rbani. Da mihi [u]rban[um] pragmaticum: tam politic[um], quam facet[um]: solum combinatorem salium, et stratagemat[um]: ad Optim[um], qui esse potest, praesent[em] [u]sum. (sig. **3r)

[Many are urbane, not skilled in civil affairs: many skilled in civil affairs but not urbane. Give me the urbane man skilled in civil affairs, as much politically oriented as elegant: the only combination of cunning wit and stratagems, one who is capable of being of best use at that moment (Stern 1979: 161)].

Urbanity and pragmatism are redefined as complementary properties, an inseparable pair. Such annotations reveal the breadth of Harvey’s pragmatism, since he seems no less interested in the praxis of jesting than in more political, legal, or military types of praxis that are most commonly associated with his reading interests. On such evidence, Harvey’s pragmatic humanism can be stretched to incorporate the practice of applying jests and laughter to social occasions.

[39] This fusion of discursive elegance and civil pragmatism is even more forcefully presented elsewhere. In his copy of Domenichi’s Facetie, Harvey identifies irony as an instrument that cannot exist in the abstract, but which – in keeping with the Harveian goal of ‘use’ or application – reaches fulfilment only when reified in social practice:

Maiorum omnium praesens remedium, Ironia. Bonorum omnium praesens machina, Entelechia. Mundi etiam vanitas exigit (sig. Z7r)

[Irony, the remedy at hand for all major things [scil. matters of importance]. The device at hand for all good things, Entelechy. Worldly vanity […] demands it [scil. too] (Stern 1979: 183)].

While Harvey’s analysis of the art of conversation might be conducted in a seemingly unanchored realm of stylistic enquiry, his understanding of witty discourse as a weapon in the orator’s armoury is firmly grounded in ‘entelechy’ – the actualising of an abstract potentiality. Later in his Domenichi, even the disembodied persona, Eutrapelus, is reconceived of as something more material than a mere literary figment:

Totus est spiritus, et mera industria Eutrapelus: et tamen ludus, iocusque prae ipso Enteleche. (sig. Cc3v)

[Eutrapelus is all spirit and pure industry and nevertheless sport and jest precede accomplishment itself (Stern 1979: 183)].

Admittedly, a ‘ludus’ or ‘iocus’, the Latinate equivalents of Castiglione’s ‘giuoco’ (game or jest), might be analysed in the abstract. Yet it comes to have value or meaning only when put into practice. In the same spirit, verbal entertainment and political expediency become inseparable in Harvey’s copy of Guazzo. In the margins around the introductory table of contents, Harvey has penned a succinct axiom indebted to Della Casa’s Galateo: ‘He that can skill to interteine men; with a small aduenture may make a great gaine. Galateo’ (sig. ††5r). For Harvey, the pleasure of jesting is always to be considered for its pragmatic applications.

Implications for Harvey’s reading
[40] Harvey’s reading of Il Cortegiano for its humour, its rhetoric of pleasure and its models of witty pragmatism finds occasional parallels in the interpretative strategies of other early readers. One reader (an untraceable ‘E.H.’) has inserted a facetious comment in the margin of Hoby’s English translation in the tri-lingual edition (now British Library, shelfmark G.13759). Perhaps recalling Bibbiena’s examples of salacious punning, this reader supplements Castiglione’s description of how the lover should keep a picture of his beloved ‘shutte fast within his hart’ with the marginal coda, ‘& codpeece’ (Hoby 1588: sig. Oo7r). Yet, unlike such incidental quips, Harvey’s close grappling with Castiglione’s motifs of jesting appears unusually sustained, especially given his extensive cross-references to other studies treating the same topic.

[41] Harvey’s engagement with, not to mention enjoyment of, Castiglione’s jesting becomes all the more pronounced when contrasted with the reading habits of another early owner of Il Cortegiano in the original Italian. Lord Henry Howard (1540–1614), Earl of Northampton, son of the executed Earl of Surrey and brother to the executed Thomas, fourth Duke of Norfolk, likewise owned and annotated a 1541 octavo of Il Cortegiano printed in Venice (although, in his case, the Aldine text, rather than the Giolito edition used by Harvey). Howard’s annotations in his Cortegiano seem to ‘date from early in his career’ (Andersson 2009: 68). The comparison between Harvey’s and Howard’s reading habits is particularly revealing since, almost identically to Harvey, Howard ‘went through the first and most of the second book, not only underlining many passages but writing summaries in the margin, generally in Italian’ (Burke 1995: 79).

[42] However, Howard’s interpretative biases differ strikingly from Harvey’s. As with his annotations on the younger Seneca (in Muret’s edition), Howard seems to have read his Castiglione from a position of righteous indignation and social hauteur. Among the passages most heavily annotated are those sections devoted to envy and backbiting, reflecting Howard’s anxieties about unwarranted iniuria (injustice, insult). The mottoes and apothegms in Latin, Greek and Italian penned by Howard on the title-page of his Cortegiano in an elegant italic reaffirm his suspicions about the dangers of rhetorical craft and dissembling. Quite unlike Harvey, Howard reads the text with an eye to its moral, even ‘moralizing’, qualities (Burke 1995: 80). In his copy of Il Cortegiano, Howard’s markings are characterised by an ‘anti-courtly emphasis on “true” nobility, the degree to which a person’s speech must be taken seriously, and a rather personal obsession with envy’. It is here, in their contrasting responses to rhetorical craft, that Harvey and Howard differ most in their reading. Where Harvey celebrates the manipulation of language for comic effect, by contrast Howard, with an anti-courtly disdain that seems at odds with the tenor of the work, underlines the phrase ‘cioè, di nascondere l’arte’ (the art of hiding art) in Castiglione’s discussion of sprezzatura, and he dismissively marks ‘nearly every other reference to deception and lies in the book’ (Andersson 2009: 69, 71). In this context, Harvey’s reading of the very same passages in his Castiglione, without any regard for moralizing precepts and with a primary focus instead on a pragmatic style, appears more in keeping with Castiglione’s discussion of the practice of jesting.

[43] If nothing else, the annotations in Harvey’s Cortegiano confirm his versatility as a reader. As elsewhere, Harvey read his Castiglione not in isolation, but within a framework of other, related texts. Harvey’s fondness for linking disparate texts, for parallel citation and for a ‘centrifugal mode of reading’ is well documented (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 48). What is particularly striking about Harvey’s intertextual, collational reading of Castiglione is that it transforms his interpretation of those intertexts. Evidence for this process lies in Harvey’s longest annotation in C., adjacent to Bibbiena’s first joke in Book 2. In a marginal flurry that spills over from the top margin into the right-hand margin, Harvey gestures, in a centrifugal fashion, to a host of works connected to Il Cortegiano:

De jocis, et faceti[i]s conferendi, lib.2. de Oratore: Quinctiliani cap.4.lib.6. de Risu: M. Secretary Wylsons Rhetoric; Of delighting the Hearers, and pro[v]oking them to Lawghter: et[c] Io[v]iani Pontani de Sermone urbano, et faceto libri sex, præsertim tertius: Iocor[um] [v]eter[um], ac recenti[um]; Adriani Barlandi; Libri tres. (C., sig. K8r)

[Of jokes, and jests, one should compare Bk. 2 of De Oratore: Quintilian Bk. 6, ch. 4 [ch. 3 in modern editions], ‘of Laughter’; M[aster] Secretary Wilson’s Rhetoric, ‘Of delighting the Hearers, and prouoking them to Lawghter’: etc. Giovanni Pontano’s six books On urbane and humorous speech, especially the third book; Hadrianus Barlandus, three books of Jokes Ancient and Modern].

Fig. 4 Harvey’s polyglot annotation, cross-referencing a range of classical and early modern authorities on jesting (sig. K8r (top half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 4 Harvey’s polyglot annotation, cross-referencing a range of classical and early modern authorities on jesting (sig. K8r (top half), SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

This annotation directly links Castiglione’s work to jesting material in Cicero, Quintilian, Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique (1553), Hadrianus Barlandus’ Iocorum veterum ac recentium (1529) and Giovanni Pontano’s De Sermone (1520). Pontano’s first three books offer a theoretical discussion of urbane humour, the last three venturing concrete examples and practical applications of jesting: thus the very design of De Sermone would appeal to Harvey’s pragmatic sensibilities. A foundational text for the art of witty disposition (facetudo), Pontano’s De Sermone further confirms Harvey’s interest in a tradition of Ciceronian urbanitas.

[44] Most importantly, Harvey’s marginal annotation here links his reading of Castiglione to his reading of Quintilian. In his copy of Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria (now British Library, shelfmark C.60.l.11), which he first encountered in 1567 but reread thoroughly in 1579, Harvey has added marginal cross-references that match, almost verbatim, those found on sig. K8r of his Cortegiano. These marginalia in his Quintilian even replicate the layout and position on the page of the marginal notes in his Cortegiano. For instance, a note at the foot of sig. v6r in this Quintilian matches (and slightly expands) the bibliographic reference to Giovanni Paolo Cardelli’s De’ giuocchi Discorso to be found at the bottom of sig. K8r in C. Furthermore, the side-margins on both these pages venture exactly the same comments on Valerius Maximus’ Dictorum factorumque memorabilium exempla (the aforementioned phrase beginning ‘Locus communis lepid[e], facet[e], et sals[e] dictor[um]…’). The striking similarity in phrasing, hand, ink and layout suggests that Harvey entered these marginalia at the same time in both volumes.

[45] In particular, one note in Harvey’s Quintilian explicitly looks across to Book 2 of Il Cortegiano (‘jl secondo libro del Cortegiano’). This marginal comment directly mirrors the lengthy note written in his Cortegiano quoted above (in paragraph [43]), and it likewise identifies a skill in jests as a requisite for the orator:

De jocis, et faceti[i]s, conferendi Lib: 2. de Oratore: [i]l secondo libro del Cortegiano del conte Castiglione: Jo[v]iani Pontani de Sermone urbano, et faceto libri sex: præsertim tertius: M. Secretary Wylsons Rhetoric: of delighting the Hearers, and stirring them to Lawghter: The di[v]ision of pleasaunt beha[v]iour: Pleasaunt sport made by delightfull, and li[v]ely rehearsing of A whole matter: Sport moo[v]id by telling owld merry Tales, or straunge Historyes. fol. 69. 70, 71. 72. 73. &[c]. Jocor[um] [v]eter[um], ac recenti[um] libri tres Adriani Barlandi. (Harvey’s copy of Quintilian 1542: sig. v6r).

These mirroring cross-references, written in a similar hand and ink, serve several functions. Beyond identifying common sources or auctoritates, the matching marginalia show Harvey at pains, especially in the longer note in his Quintilian, to list with care the various affective facets of jesting. Indeed, on the facing page, he even celebrates the literary pleasure derived from the jests of Cicero and Thomas More: ‘Tully as pleasurable, and as full of his conceytid jestes, and merrimentes, when he floorisshed; as owr S[ir] Thomas More’ (Quintilian 1542: sig. v5v). Harvey’s extensive summary above describes the relevant section of Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorike and notes with care the importance of ‘delighting the Hearers’, ‘stirring … to Lawghter’ and provoking ‘pleasaunt sport … by delightfull, and li[v]ely rehearsing’. In his attention to the ways in which sport is ‘moo[v]id’, Harvey nods towards a reading method attuned not so much to teaching, but to the two other elements of the affective triad: delighting and moving.

[46] Perhaps most revealingly, this pair of marginal notes in Harvey’s Cortegiano and Quintilian suggests an important facet of Harvey’s reading practice. After the printed ‘FINIS’ in his Quintilian, Harvey pens another signature and the following note:

Relegi ab [i]nitio: Mense Septembri. Anno. 1579. unàq[ue] Ciceronis Oratorem ad M. Brutum, cum Quintiliani Oratore compara[v]i (sig. T7r)

[I reread [Quintilian] from the beginning in September 1579, and I compared Cicero’s Orator ad M. Brutum together with Quintilian’s Orator].

Grafton and Jardine have offered one model for Harvey’s reading of Quintilian in 1579, in which the text is read in conjunction with Cicero’s Topica. They describe Harvey’s habit of linking passages in Quintilian or Cicero ‘with a verbatim quotation of that passage in the Ramus Dialectica’. As such, this cross-fertilization reveals that ‘Harvey’s intensive study of Quintilian and Cicero takes place via – that is, literally by way of – Ramus’. In short, through that particular nexus of texts – Quintilian, Cicero and Ramus – dialectic was ‘certainly the focus of his attention’ (Grafton and Jardine 1986: 186–8).

[47] Yet, to judge by the long marginal cross-references to authorities on jesting found in both C. and Quintilian above, Harvey could read texts in ways that did not rely on Ramus. Harvey seems to be reading his Quintilian and Cicero in a rather different way when those texts are subtended through his study of Castiglione, rather than Ramus. Ramist dialectic now gives way to a fascination with the art of humorous dialogue. Harvey’s other marginalia again corroborate the pattern, revealing how Cicero and Quintilian were interpreted differently when inflected through (or ‘via’, in Grafton’s and Jardine’s term) Castiglione. In his 1567 copy of Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorike, Harvey’s marginalia locate Wilson’s text in the company of other authorities on jesting:

One of mie best for the art of jesting: next Tullie, Quintilian, the Courtier in Italian, the fourth of mensa philosoph. Of all, the shortest, & most familiar, owr Wilson (sig. I5r).

Here, the Courtier (notably, the Courtier in Italian) is positioned in a familiar matrix of Cicero and Quintilian, all of which intertexts are oriented to or read in the light of ‘the art of jesting’.

[48] Harvey’s reading of Castiglione in parallel with Cicero is recorded even more explicitly elsewhere. In another marginal note penned towards the end of Book 2 in his copy of the English Courtyer, Harvey opines:

Hitherto of the three sorts of Jestes. In quibus nisi fuisset Cicero Orator, non fuisset Castilio Aulicus (sig. Aa2r) (Ruutz-Rees 1910: 623–4)

[In which [scil. jests], had it not been for Cicero’s Orator, Castiglione’s Courtier would not have existed].

Even when a line of literary influence between texts is so clearly pronounced as here, there is a sense that the intertextual relations between the works are still fluid and malleable. Quintilian and Cicero, singly or in partnership, can be reinterpreted as authorities on jesting when considered through the lens of Castiglione. As Jardine and Grafton note of Harvey’s interlayered readings, at times it is ‘by no means clear which text sits at the centre of the reader’s field of vision and attention’ (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 46).

[49] Another well-documented feature of Harvey’s annotative practice is the likelihood that he read, as a professional facilitator, with or for other readers. As evidence of early modern scholar-secretaries being employed expressly for their reading, Jardine and Grafton cite Harvey’s joint reading, with Sidney, of three books from the 1555 Basle folio edition of Livy, between October 1576 and February 1577 (Jardine and Grafton 1990: 34–7). Harvey may have read his Castiglione in a similar way. In his volume of commendatory Latin verses, Gratulationes Valdinenses (1578), dedicated to Queen Elizabeth and notable members of her court, Harvey offers a tantalising suggestion that that co-reader of Castiglione, if one ever existed, may have been Sidney too.

[50] The evidence for this possibility is suggested in the fourth of the collection’s four books of poetry. Harvey hails Sidney as the embodiment of Castiglione’s courtierly ideal. More strikingly, and speaking on terms of great familiarity with his dedicatee (Sidney) at this point in the collection, Harvey repeatedly gestures towards his own annotative practice in his reading of Castiglione. In the first instance, he reflects on his own skills of abridgement and compression, as in,

En tibi, more meo paucis astricta Camænis,
Quæ tres tam longis exhibuêre logis
(Harvey 1578: sig. K4r)

[Look, I present you, compressed in a few verses, as is my way, what they [Castiglione, Della Casa and Guazzo] displayed in three longish treatises (Jameson 1938: n.p.)]


Omnia vis paucis? (sig. L1v)

[You want all in little space? (Jameson 1938: n.p.)].

In addition, he parades his intertextual, cross-referenced assimilation of disparate sources:

Castilio primas; Casa vendicet ipse secundas;
Tertia pars Guati[i] est: quarta futura mea est (sig. K4r)

[Let Castiglione claim the first prize, Casa the second; the third belongs to Guazzo, the fourth will be mine (Jameson 1938: n.p.)].


[51] In this fourth book of Gratulationes Valdinenses, Harvey’s Latin poems to Sidney themselves resemble a compilation of precepts gleaned from his multilingual reading of Castiglione. Indeed, in a declaration of striking appropriation and personalisation, Harvey’s poem entitled ‘G. Haruei[i] Castilio, si[v]e Aulicus’ (‘G. Harvey’s Castiglione, or Courtier’) exhorts his readers to imprint ‘these few precepts’ in their minds (‘Imprimat … dogmata pauca’), as if he were offering a digest or epitome of the whole work. In keeping with Harvey’s interpretative biases noted above, many of these precepts centre on the arts of jesting and dissimulatio:

Principem & ingenuis implicet [u]sq[ue] iocis.

Siquid inest stolidi, fac cautiùs arte tegatur (sig. L1r)

[Let him ever engage his prince in native jests … Whatever is doltish, see that it is carefully covered with art (Jameson 1938: n.p.)].

In this way, Book 4 of Gratulationes Valdinenses both attests to the fruits of Harvey’s reading of Castiglione and also reflects, knowingly, on the strategies of reading and annotating that he employed to harvest those fruits.

[52] Elsewhere, Harvey conjures a striking image of reading with a companion. In his Letter-Book, a passage of doggerel verse (which has not yet received critical attention) suggests this practice of joint reading in relation, specifically, to encounters with sixteenth-century Italian texts:

Machiavell, Aretine, and whome you will,
That ar any waye renownid for extraordinary skill;
Ether with myne owne familiar aloane,
Or when twoe of us, like dogges, strive for a boane,
I reade and reade till I flinge them away
(Harvey’s Letter-Book, fol. 66v; Scott (ed.) 1884: 135).

A comparable model for this dialogic tussle is ventured a few years later, when a small ‘interpretive community’ (to borrow Stanley Fish’s phrase) begins analysing Italian texts, expressly Il Cortegiano this time. In the last decades of the sixteenth century, Castiglione’s magnum opus became the imagined subject of collective, dialogic interpretation, as recorded (irony of ironies) by Harvey’s perennial antagonist, Thomas Nashe. In the dedication ‘To the right worshipful Charles Blount’, prefacing Nashe’s 1589 The Anatomie of Absurditie, Nashe records an interpretative dispute over Castiglione, taking the form of an exchange very close to the ‘open’ dialogue of Il Cortegiano itself. As described by Virginia Cox, the ‘open dialogue’ in the early modern period airs different viewpoints without presupposing a final consensus, and without needing to reach a definite conclusion (Cox 1992: 99–113). Nashe’s account runs as follows:

not long since lighting in company with manie extraordinarie Gentlemen, of most excellent parts, it was my chance (amongst other talke which was generally tra[v]ersed amongst [u]s) to moo[v]e di[v]ers Questions, as touching the se[v]erall qualities required in Castalions Courtier: one came in with that of O[v]id, Semper amabilis esto, another stood more stricktly on the necessitie of that affabilitie, which our Latinists entitle facétius, & we more familiarlie describe by the name of discoursing: the third came in with his carpet de[v]ises […] The fourth as an enemie to their faction, confuted all these as effeminate follies, and would needes maintaine, that the onely ad[j]uncts of a Courtier, were schollership and courage, returning picked curiositie to paultry Scri[v]eners and such like, affabilitie to Aristippus and his crue […] This discourse thus continued, at length they fell by a [j]arring gradation, to the particuler demonstrations of theyr generall assertions. (Nashe 1589: sig. ¶4r).

Resolution is here suspended; disagreement reigns as to the courtier’s principal merits. Yet in this open, unresolved debate, the evidence of Harvey’s marginalia in C. suggests that scholars can begin to position him, at least, among those who firmly embraced affable ‘discoursing’ – Nashe’s definition of ‘facétius’, that etymological sibling of the word ‘facetie’ pointedly underlined by Harvey in C. at the moment when Bibbiena begins his exposition of jokes (sig. K8r).

[53] In his encounters with and annotations on Il Cortegiano, Harvey proffers valuable evidence not only of his varied reading methods (a paradigm made familiar by Jardine and Grafton), nor just of his dual interest in stylistic and pragmatic effects (another well-trodden commonplace). Crucially, Harvey’s annotations also suggest that he read with a keen eye for affect – for the ways in which readers can be moved, and moved unexpectedly or in ways perhaps unforeseen by the predetermined reading strategies that critics tend to associate with him. On such evidence, Harvey might be placed among the company of other early modern intellectuals drawn to an analysis of readerly affect (Cockcroft 2003; Paster, Rowe and Floyd-Wilson 2004: 23–42). Harvey is attuned not only to the end-product of the reading experience (the ways in which readers go on to apply a text through some kind of action), but also to what happens, perhaps spontaneously, during the reading experience itself (for instance, the ways in which laughter is provoked when reading a pun).

[54] Finally, Harvey’s annotations in his Castiglione and related works offer tantalising glimpses of an interest in the physiology of reader response. This attention to the ways in which pleasure is induced in one’s audience may, at the broadest level, recall classical and early modern theories of rhetorical animation – of listeners or readers being moved to pleasure, and admiration, through language. For instance, in the Institutio Oratoria (8.3.5–6), Quintilian pays special attention to the admiratio and delectatio induced in an audience, and discusses the ways in which listeners might be transported with admiration (‘nonnunquam admiratione auferuntur’) (Butler (ed.) 1920–22: 3.212). More specifically, Harvey may be taking his lead from Castiglione’s discussion of the maraviglia (awed admiration) that is rhetorically nurtured in an audience, and which, in Quintilian’s model, is a prerequisite for moving or persuading that audience. Castiglione addresses maraviglia in the context of artful sprezzatura in Book 1 (section 26), amongst other places, and helps to establish ‘marvel or wonder’ as both ‘the basic response the courtier seeks to arouse in everyone about him’ and a quality ‘essential for his social success’ (Rebhorn 1978: 47–51 (47)).

[55] Intriguingly, Harvey directs his attention not simply to spoken but also to written jests. His marginalia contemplate not just the practical application of witty discourse in sociable settings – wit that is displayed viva voce in a courtly environment – but also a private literary activity, in which readers are prompted to respond in some way to the written word before them. As noted earlier, Harvey’s letter to Arthur Capel from 1573 advocated the ‘Courtier in Lattin’ as a text for young men ‘to be conversant and occupied in’ so as to hone their ‘use and practis, ether for writing or speaking’, where the work’s usefulness is measured through both its oral and written application. In Harvey’s copy of the Italian text, too, the arts of writing and speaking are again seen to overlap. In the following phrase from Castiglione’s prefatory letter to Miguel de Sylva, Castiglione defends his decision not to adopt a Boccaccian idiom:

mio n[on] do[v]e[v]a; perche la forza e [v]era regola del parlar bene consiste più nell’uso, che in altro, et sempre è [v]itio usar parole, che non siano in consuetudine

[And in the tunge, I ought not in mine ad[v]ise, bicause the force or rule of speach doeth consist more in [u]se, then in anye thinge els: and it is alwayes a vice to [u]se woordes that are not in commune speach (Hoby 1561: sig. C1r)].

Alongside this sentence, Harvey has written in the margin,

In che consis[te] la forza e la regola d[i] scri[v]ere bene (C., sig. A4r).

Fig. 5 Harvey’s annotation substituting the printed text’s ‘parlar bene’ with ‘scri[v]ere bene’ (sig. A4r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Fig. 5 Harvey’s annotation substituting the printed text’s ‘parlar bene’ with ‘scri[v]ere bene’ (sig. A4r, SR Castiglione 1541 (2), UCL Library Services, Special Collections.)

Unsurprisingly, the pragmatically-minded Harvey is drawn to this section of text in which Castiglione identifies ‘uso’ (use) as the prime consideration for eloquence. What is more striking is that Harvey’s marginal comment substitutes Castiglione’s parlar (speaking) with scrivere (writing), as he seeks to determine wherein lie the force and rule of good writing. Harvey effects a bridge between a spoken and a lettered rhetoric, converting Castiglione’s interest in the best practice for speaking to an interest in written discourse too.

[56] This porous division between speech and writing in Harvey’s mindset tallies well with Count Lodovico da Canossa’s claim a little later in Il Cortegiano (Book 1, section 29). He argues that ‘wrytyng is nothinge elles, but a maner of speache, that remaineth stil after a man hath spoken, or (as it were) an Image, or rather the life of the woordes’ (Hoby 1561: sig. E4v). Harvey seems attuned to the ways in which eloquence is instrumental on both hearers and readers. By contrast Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique, for instance, conceives of a distinctly aural audience, as he analyses the ways of ‘delityng’ and ‘stirring’ one’s ‘hearers’ (Wilson 1553: sig. t2r). Harvey’s comments in his Castiglione, then, mark an important addition to the vast corpus of marginalia in his hand. Not only do they nod towards an unexpected interest in the theory, art and pragmatics of jesting, but they also venture valuable evidence of his study into the methods, process and practice of reading itself – a fitting subject of enquiry for this most sedulous and versatile of readers.

University College London


* I am grateful to Professor Lisa Jardine, Dr Matthew Symonds and Dr Alexander Samson for advice and suggestions on this paper, an abridged version of which was delivered at the Early Modern Exchanges Seminar, ‘Gabriel Harvey: Renaissance Reader’, at University College London, 29 May 2013. I should also like to thank both the anonymous reader who reviewed this piece and who suggested several improvements, and Dr Marigold Norbye who kindly offered expertise on some points of Latin translation. Except where otherwise noted, all translations are my own. Square brackets indicate either expansions of scribal contractions, or my own additions and corrections to Stern’s translations from the Latin. The digital images were taken by the author, and permission to reproduce them here kindly granted by UCL Library Services, Special Collections.

[1] The marginalia in Harvey’s copy of Thomas Murner’s A merye jeste list the four works ‘given me at London of M[aster] Spensar XX. Decembris 1[5]78, on condition [I] shoold bestowe the reading of them over, before the first of January’ (Murner c. 1528: sig. M4v) as Murner’s A merye jeste, Andrew Borde’s Jests of Scoggin (c. 1566), the Merie Tales … by Master Skelton (1567), and David Rowland’s The Pleasaunt Historie of Lazarillo (c. 1576). Harvey directly references ‘Scoggins Crowe’ in a marginal comment in his copy of Domenichi and Guicciardini (Wilson 1948: 360). For the reception of Lazarillo in England, see Samson 2013).[back to text]

[2] Stern mistakenly assumes that the volume hails from the Aldine press. Rather, it is the octavo issued by Gabriele Giolito (Castiglione 1541).[back to text]

[3] The copy was presented in 1921 by the Egyptologist and Coptic scholar Sir Herbert Thompson, whose association with University College London dates to the 1890s. Thompson’s book acquisitions point towards an ongoing engagement with language learning, and, besides ‘the classics’, his interests included ‘Italian authors’ (Simpson 2004).[back to text]

[4] An excellent digital resource for Harvey’s Domenichi, and the Guicciardini with which it is bound, is available through Annotated Books Online (a digital humanities project co-ordinated by Arnoud Visser), offering high-resolution images of Harvey’s copious, multi-directional marginalia: see <http://abo.annotatedbooksonline.com/#binding-33-77> [accessed 7/07/13]. For the related project, Gabriel Harvey’s Livy Online, co-ordinated by the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL), see <http://www.livesandletters.ac.uk/projects/gabriel-harveys-livy-online>.[back to text]

[5] Harvey’s Italianate signature here might be compared not only with the ‘gabriel harueio’ that graces the title-page of his Guicciardini (bound together with his Domenichi), but also with Thomas Hoby’s self-styling at the end of his 1544 copy of La comedia di Dante Aligieri (Venice: Francesco Marcolini). As Jonathan Woolfson notes, ‘[s]omething of the playfulness and role-playing element of the Cortegiano is perhaps captured in the way Hoby chose to inscribe his name in his copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, now in St John’s College, Cambridge: “Thomaso Hoby Inglese”’ (Woolfson 2009: 414).[back to text]

[6] Harvey is alert to the combination of these qualities: in the margins of his Quintilian (Quintilian 1542: sig. B8r), in the chapter on ornament (‘De ornatu’, 8.3), Harvey pens and underlines ‘Vtile Dulci’, perhaps directly recalling Horace’s phrase ‘qui miscuit utile dulci’ from the Ars Poetica (l. 343).[back to text]


Andersson, D.C. 2009. Lord Henry Howard (1540–1614): An Elizabethan Life (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer)

Ascham, Roger. 1570. Scholemaster (London: John Day)

Borde, Andrew. c.1566. Jests of Scoggin (London: Thomas Colwell)

Bourland, Caroline. 1940. ‘Gabriel Harvey and the Modern Languages’. Huntington Library Quarterly 4.1: 85–106

Boutcher, Warren. 1997. ‘“A French Dexterity, & an Italian Confidence”: New Documents on John Florio, Learned Strangers and Protestant Humanist Study of Modern Languages in Renaissance England from c. 1547 to c. 1625’. Reformation 2: 39–109

Brayman Hackel, Heidi. 2005. Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Burke, Peter. 1995. The Fortunes of the Courtier (Cambridge: Polity)

Butler, Harold (ed.). 1920–22. The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, with an English Translation. 4 volumes (London: Heinemann)

Cardelli, Giovanni Paolo. 1563. De’ giuocchi Discorso (Milan: Francesco Moscheni)

Castiglione, Baldassare. 1541. Il cortegiano del conte Baltassar Castiglione, Nvovamente stampato (Venice: Gabriele Giolito de’ Ferrari)

Cavallo, JoAnn. 2000. ‘Joking Matters: Politics and Dissimulation in Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier’. Renaissance Quarterly 53.2: 402–24

Caxton, William. 1484. Here begynneth the book of the subtyl historyes and fables of Esope (Westminster: Richard Pynson)

Clerke, Bartholomew. 1571. Balthasaris Castilionis comitis de curiali sive aulico (London: John Day)

Cockcroft, Robert. 2003. Rhetorical Affect in Early Modern Writing (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan)

Cox, Virginia. 1992. The Renaissance Dialogue: Literary Dialogue in its Social and Political Contexts, Castiglione to Galileo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Florio, John. 1591. Florios second frutes (London: Thomas Woodcock)

Guazzo, Stefano. 1581. La Civil conversatione (Venice: Gratioso Percacino)

Grafton, Anthony and Lisa Jardine. 1986. From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)

Grantham, Henry. 1575. An Italian Grammer; Written in Latin by Scipio Lentulo a Neapolitane: and Turned in Englishe: by H.G. (London: Vautrollier)

Grindley, Carl. 2001. ‘Reading Piers Plowman C-Text Annotations: Notes toward the Classification of Printed and Written Marginalia in Texts from the British Isles, 1300–1641’, in The Medieval Professional Reader at Work: Evidence from Manuscripts of Chaucer, Langland, Kempe, and Gower, ed. by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton and Maidie Hilmo (Victoria, BC: ELS University of Victoria), 77–91

Grogan, Jane. 2009. Exemplary Spenser: Visual and Poetic Pedagogy in ‘The Faerie Queene’ (Farnham: Ashgate)

Grosart, Alexander (ed.). 1884–85. The Works of Gabriel Harvey. 3 volumes (London: for private circulation)

Harvey, Gabriel. 1578. Gratulationes Valdinenses (London: Henry Bynneman)

_____, and Edmund Spenser. 1580. Three proper, and wittie, familiar letters (London: Henry Bynneman)

Hoby, Thomas. 1561. The courtyer of Count Baldessar Castilio (London: William Seres)

_____. 1588. The Courtier of Count Baldessar Castilio (London: John Wolfe)

Holcomb, Chris. 2001. Mirth Making: The Rhetorical Discourse on Jesting in Early Modern England (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press)

Jameson, Thomas. 1938. ‘The Gratulationes Valdinenses of Gabriel Harvey’ (PhD, Yale University), unpaginated

Jardine, Lisa. 1986. ‘Gabriel Harvey: Exemplary Ramist and Pragmatic Humanist’. Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques 70: 36–48

_____, and Anthony Grafton. 1990. ‘“Studied for Action”: How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy’. Past & Present 129: 30–78

_____, and William Sherman. 1994. ‘Pragmatic Readers: Knowledge Transactions and Scholarly Services in Late Elizabethan England’, in Religion, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain, ed. by Anthony Fletcher and Peter Roberts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 102–24

Lamb, Mary. 1986. ‘The Nature of Topicality in Love’s Labour’s Lost’. Shakespeare Survey 38: 49–60

Mack, Peter. 2005. ‘Rhetoric, ethics and reading in the Renaissance’. Renaissance Studies 19.1: 1–21

Murner, Thomas. c.1528. A merye jeste of a man called Howleglas (London: William Copland)

Nashe, Thomas. 1589. The Anatomie of Absurditie (London: Thomas Hacket)

Norbrook, David. 1984. Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul)

Ong, Walter. 1958. Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press)

Paster, G.K., K. Rowe and M. Floyd-Wilson (eds.). 2004. Reading the Early Modern Passions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press)

Peacham, Henry. 1593. The Garden of Eloquence (London: Richard Field)

Pincombe, Michael. 2001. Elizabethan Humanism: Literature and Learning in the Later Sixteenth Century (Harlow: Longman)

Prewitt, Kendrick. 1999. ‘Gabriel Harvey and the Practice of Method’. Studies in English Literature 39.1: 19–39

Quintilian. 1542. M. Fabii Quintiliani … Institutionum oratoriarum Libri xii (Paris: Robert Estienne)

Rackham, Harris (ed.). 1934. The Nicomachean Ethics (London: William Heinemann)

Rebhorn, Wayne. 1978. Courtly Performances: Masking and Festivity in Castiglione’s ‘Book of the Courtier’ (Detroit: Wayne State University Press)

Richards, Jennifer. 2001. ‘Assumed simplicity and the critique of nobility: Or, how Castiglione read Cicero’. Renaissance Quarterly 54.2: 460–86

_____. 2003. Rhetoric and Courtliness in Early Modern Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

_____. 2008. ‘Gabriel Harvey, James VI, and the Politics of Reading Early Modern Poetry’. Huntington Library Quarterly 71.2: 303–21

_____. 2009. ‘Gabriel Harvey’s Choleric Writing’, in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, ed. by Michael Pincombe and Cathy Shrank (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 655–70

Robson, Simon. 1578. The Courte of ciuill courtesie (London: Richard Jones)

Rowland, David. c.1576. The Pleasaunt Historie of Lazarillo de Tormes (London: Abell Jeffes)

Ruutz-Rees, Caroline. 1910. ‘Some Notes of Gabriel Harvey’s in Hoby’s Translation of Castiglione’s Courtier (1561)’. PMLA 25.4: 608–39

Samson, Alexander. 2013 (forthcoming). ‘Lazarillo de Tormes and the Picaresque in Early Modern England’, in The Oxford Handbook of English Prose 1500–1640, ed. by Andrew Hadfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 121–36

Scott, Edward (ed.). 1884. Letter-Book of Gabriel Harvey, A.D. 1573–1580 (London: for the Camden Society)

Scott-Warren, Jason. 2004. ‘Harvey, Gabriel (1552/3–1631)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press). <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12517> accessed 1/07/13

Sherman, William. 2008. Used books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press)

Simpson, R.S. 2004. ‘Thompson, Sir (Henry Francis) Herbert (1859–1944)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press). <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36491>, accessed 1/07/13

Skelton, John (attrib.). 1567. Merie Tales … by Master Skelton (London: Thomas Colwell)

Smith, George Moore (ed.). 1905. Pedantius (Louvain: A. Uystpruyst)

Stern, Virginia. 1979. Gabriel Harvey: his Life, Marginalia, and Library (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Thompson, Craig (ed.). 1997. Colloquies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), in Collected Works of Erasmus (Toronto, 1974–), vol. 39

Tribble, Evelyn. 1993. Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia)

Wilson, Harold. 1948. ‘Gabriel Harvey’s Method of Annotating his Books’. Harvard Library Bulletin 2: 344–68

Wilson, Thomas. 1553. The arte of rhetorique for the vse of all suche as are studious of eloquence, sette forth in English, by Thomas Wilson (London: Richard Grafton)

Woodbridge, Linda. 2001. Vagrancy, Homelessness, and English Renaissance Literature (Urbana: University of Illinois Press)

Woolfson, Jonathan. 2009. ‘Thomas Hoby, William Thomas, and Mid-Tudor Travel to Italy’, in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, ed. by Michael Pincombe and Cathy Shrank (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 404–17


The Legacy of the Will of Henry VIII in John Webster’s Sir Thomas Wyatt and Thomas Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody

The Legacy of the Will of Henry VIII in John Webster’s Sir Thomas Wyatt and Thomas Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody

Steven Veerapen

[1] A collaborative play by Webster, Dekker, Heywood, Smith, and Chettle — likely pieced together from the lost play Lady Jane and a putative sequel, Sir Thomas Wyatt (1601-2, printed in 1607, STC 6537) — reflects on the period of political instability following the deaths, in relatively rapid succession, of Henry VIII and Edward VI (Hoy 1980: 311).[1] This was an instability which was in no small part exacerbated by the divergence between Henry’s will and Edward’s wishes with regard to the bequest of the kingdom. Similarly, Heywood’s own 1604-5 play, If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody (Part I) (printed 1605, STC 13328), made use of roughly contemporaneous material whilst chronicling the reign of the infamous Mary I and her fraught relationship with the popular, younger Elizabeth. Although critics have been hesitant to identify the hand of Heywood in Sir Thomas Wyatt, both plays also share discrete passages of stark similarity, notably in the accession speeches of Mary (Hoy 1980: 333-5). Further, a more general dedication to theatrical pageantry is evident in both plays’ depictions of royal ceremonial. This is, of course, unsurprising, given that both Sir Thomas Wyatt and If You Know Not Me dramatize the downfall of one sovereign and the accession of another, each complicated by the lack of a direct heir. As a result, both also share thematic concerns regarding the ways in which a monarch’s testamentary will, and its various legal ramifications, operated in a society in which debates around succession were reignited by Elizabeth’s advanced age and the accession of her Scottish-born cousin, James VI and I. The earlier Tudor succession crises, therefore, provided the playwrights with a ready means of engaging with the looming, and then newfound, arrival of a foreign monarch allegedly barred by a testamentary will but chosen by providence, apparent from historical circumstance and tacitly accepted by Queen and council.

[2] The notion of the will was, to a monarch, a means not only of distributing alms, goods and chattels, but — uniquely in the case of Henry VIII — of personally stipulating successors to whom the kingdom was to be bequeathed. The revolutionary nature of this step must not be underestimated. Commenting on Henry’s various Acts of Succession — unprecedented in the annals of English monarchical history — Alice Hunt has observed that the willing of the throne to nominated heirs rather than natural successors ‘brought the legitimacy of English kings and queens under authority of parliament’ (Hunt 2009: 560). More pointedly for the period, the combined authority of monarch and Privy Council proved instrumental in settling and securing thorny succession questions. Certainly, this was the case throughout Henry’s chequered history of nominating and barring his offspring from the succession, which met with little — if any — parliamentary demur. His first Act of Succession (1533) removed his eldest daughter from the succession; his second Act of 1536 bastardised Elizabeth; and his third and final Act of 1543 served to settle the throne on Prince Edward and his putative heirs, with any future children with Queen Katherine preceding the lines of Mary and Elizabeth. Henry’s will (1546) thus acted as a confirmation of his 1543 Act of Succession, which reinstated his daughters as rightful heirs whilst retaining their illegitimate status. Given the lack of fecundity amongst Henry’s children, as well as the fact that his colourful marital history ensured that two of those children remained tainted by bastardy, it is unsurprising that late Elizabethan and early Jacobean playwrights engaged with questions regarding the will of the council in matters of royal succession. Given Henry’s actions as well as historical circumstance, it was inevitable that the efficacy of royal wills would also come under the theatrical lens as, typically, the issues, arguments and debates of the day found their way on to the popular stage. Indeed, with the decline of Elizabeth and the accession of James I, the ‘fundamental incongruities’ exposed by the late monarch’s meddling with the accepted norms of English succession were once more brought to the fore (Ives 2009: 144).

[3] According to the will of Henry VIII the succession was to rest – should Edward die without issue – on the lines of his daughters Mary and Elizabeth respectively. Understandably, of course, Henry had hopes of Edward’s provision of an heir, and so direct bequests to his daughters focused on financial and material provisions aimed at their securing husbands. Edward’s wishes — bolstered by his Devise for the Succession (1553) — broke entirely with his father’s will and last succession Act by calling for the exclusion of his sisters in favour of his Protestant cousins, the Grey sisters (of whom Jane would meet her death under Mary I, whilst Mary and Katherine would continue to be a source of anxiety and annoyance for the childless Elizabeth). It will be noted also that in both Henry’s will and Edward’s Devise, however, no provision was made for the descendants of Henry’s sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland (and great-grandmother of the future James VI and I).

[4] Assessing the question of the Elizabethan succession as it was debated during the 1560s, Mortimer Levine notes that Henry definitively ‘set aside’ the Stuarts in his will. It was a step which led to a politically and religiously charged war of words waged in manuscript and print between those who supported his actions and those who questioned his legal right to dismiss the superior claim of the Stuarts in favour of the Suffolks (Levine 1966: 158). Henry’s reasons for doing so continue to provide fodder for interesting — if ultimately fruitless — historical speculation. Chief amongst the plausible motivations were Henry’s belief in the future marriage of Mary Stuart and Edward (a match which would have united the two British crowns under English domination); his fondness for the Suffolks; a national contempt for the Scots; and the common law rule against alien inheritance, derived from a 1351 statute against foreign-born individuals inheriting English property (Levine 1966: 159).

[5] At any rate, within a generation of Henry’s death, the pens of pro-Stuart writers scrabbled furiously in an attempt to prove the alleged illegality of the will. Arguments ranged from the King having ‘no right’ to exclude the succession of his older sister, Margaret, to the complicated interpretation of the common law rule of inheritance as it applied to the crown (Smith 1962: 21). So particular were the arguments that doubts were even raised as to the whether or not the King had used his own hand or a dry stamp in signing the will. The latter, it was argued, would have compromised Henry’s legal right to fix the succession via ‘a will signed in his most gracious hand’ (Smith 1962: 22). Undoubtedly, the succession provisions of the will were of great import in the early Elizabethan period, during which Mary Stuart’s advocates found it imperative to challenge their validity. However, as Anne McLaren recognises, the accession of James I to the throne ‘reintroduced a question…that came to dominate political discourse in the seventeenth century: whether Stewart kings were or could be godly kings of England’ (McLaren 2002: 290). Given that the 1603 accession of James (the only likely candidate for the throne, who was supported by the council, and in whom ‘blood, Protestantism and virility combined’) was a direct refutation of Henry’s will, it is small wonder that dramatists found in the legacy of the Tudor king’s will fertile ground in which to cultivate their exploration of the role of a deceased monarch’s will, its legal interpretations, and the dangerous outcome of a thorny and contested succession (McLaren 2002: 290).

[6] Sir Thomas Wyatt opens with self-interested noblemen and parents of Jane Grey and her husband, Suffolk and Northumberland, discoursing on the imminent death of Edward VI, with attention focused on the problem of confirming the king’s will. The exchange provides an early indication that the absolute power of the king will cease with his death. It is into this discussion that Wyatt intrudes, voracious in his allegiance to Henry VIII. Condemning the self-interested lack of constancy inherent in Northumberland and Suffolk’s dismissal of Henry’s wishes in favour of Edward’s ‘will’ (historically, his Devise), he declares

It boots me not to stay,
When in this land rebellion bears such sway.
God’s will, a court! ‘tis changed
Since noble Henry’s days.
You have set your hands unto a will:
A will you well may call it:
So wills Northumberland, so wills great Suffolk,
Against God’s will, to wrong those princely maids.
(Webster and Dekker 1953 [1607]: I.i.23-30)

The play on the notion of ‘will’ as it pertains to a document stipulating the wishes of the deceased (collapsed with God’s will when the deceased was King Henry) and the ‘will’ as it pertains to the wishes and desires (and subsequent manipulations) of the living monarch and his council is obvious. Castigating Suffolk and Northumberland for setting their hands unto ‘a will’ (Edward’s Devise), which is as much a product of their own willing desire to elevate their children to power, Wyatt’s contemptuous remark, ‘a will you well may call it’ is two-fold. In addition to drawing attention to the partisan willingness of the corrupt councillors, it also deftly brings into relief the Godly will of the deceased Henry and the so-called will of Edward, driven by Northumberland and Suffolk. It is this contrast between the testamentary will of the dead and the living will of those in power (with the added complication of the latter entailing the state) which drives the action of the play. Indeed, it will be noted that central to Wyatt’s rhetoric is the exposure of Edward’s Devise as a fraudulent, rebellious and invalid attempt by corrupt, living council members to seize power through spurious legal means.

[7] Certainly, the personalities involved in the framing of the will remain a source of scholarly interest, with the historical and legal detective work of J. L. McIntosh revealing the covert practices employed by the Edwardian council (McIntosh 2008: 39). Though it should have been a sacrosanct document, McIntosh notes the attempts by the regency council to undo the provisions of Henry’s will in the interests of assuming full regal authority. It was, in effect, ‘legal fraud’ perpetuated in order to remove the threat of Henry’s daughters: particularly Mary, who was viewed by the international Catholic community as the true heir, in addition to being part of a powerful female network, a focus of factional discontent with the regency regime, and a patron of considerable East Anglian influence (from which her later army against Jane Grey was to be formed). Although historian Eric Ives has convincingly argued that Edward (in slavishly following the precedent of his father in nominating heirs to the throne) is likely to have been acting under his own authority and intent, the fact remains the Devise was never sanctioned by parliament and thus lacked the authority and legality which was attached to Henry’s will (Ives 2009: 142). Indeed, as Levine notes, ‘when Edward ordered his judges and law officers to draw up a will along the lines of the Devise, they protested that it was “directly against the Act of Succession (1543), which was an Act of Parliament which would not be taken away by no such device”’ (Levine 1966: 150). Consequently, doubts regarding the document’s legitimacy and authorship were not only familiar to sixteenth and seventeenth-century commentators, but have echoed through the centuries. Furthermore, Webster and Dekker’s Wyatt lays claim to the support of divine authority in his argument, as he collapses the will of God (‘Against God’s will, to wrong those princely maids’) with the will of Henry VIII, God’s former deputy on earth. Crucially, it must be noted that Wyatt does not directly attack the Devise of Edward (a ‘will’, as he terms it, ‘extorted from a child’) but the actions of those officials whom he contends are responsible for its creation. It is a critical point for one, such as Wyatt, whose allegiance is predicated on the right of kings (Webster and Dekker 1953: I.vi.75-6).

[8] Adding further legal weight to his position, Wyatt later reprimands his peers in the council:

You were sworn before to a man’s will,
And not a will alone,
But strengthened by an act of Parliament
(Webster and Dekker 1953 [1607]: I.vi. 82-4)

By drawing on Henry VIII’s Third Succession Act (1543), later bolstered by 1547’s Treason Act (which made it a capital offence to interrupt Henry’s established line of succession), Wyatt therefore calls into question the legality of Edward’s Devise, and in so doing successfully argues for the instatement of Mary as Queen.

[9] It must be remembered, however, that the historical Edward’s Devise For the Succession followed Henry’s own precedent in ‘nominating and excluding heirs of his own volition, independently of traditional rules of descent’, a fact with which Webster and Dekker would have been undoubtedly acquainted (Ives 2009: 142-4). One must here draw attention to the legal validity of Wyatt’s reasoning. Despite his earlier argument centring on the divine authority which ostensibly reinforces Henry’s will, he is nevertheless willing to cultivate support via insistence on the very earthly conventions of oaths and legal statutes. Indeed, he expressly notes the implied parliamentary approval of Henry’s will in contradistinction to Edward’s, which was never sanctioned by parliament (Hunt 2009: 560). Consequently, Webster and Dekker depict a Wyatt whose overt belief in the tenets of divine right is belied by both his legal caviling over the Devise of Edward VI and the legal foundation upon which his insistence on the propriety of Henry VIII’s will is built. Ironically, the legal arguments put forward by Wyatt at this early stage in the play foreshadow what is to become the catalyst for his own downfall.

[10] Later destabilizing Wyatt’s position is his subsequent attitude towards the established Queen Mary. A formerly ardent supporter, Wyatt falls from grace through his refusal to accept the Queen’s desire for a foreign marriage to Philip of Spain. It is a refusal which he once again couches in a morally and legally upright commitment to the will of Henry VIII:

Remember, O remember, I beseech you,
King Henries last will, and his act at Court,
I mean that royal Court of Parliament,
That does prohibit Spaniards from the Land,
That Will and Act, to which you are all sworne,
And do not damn your souls with perjurie.
(Webster and Dekker, 1953 [1607]: III.i.140-45)

Once again, Wyatt’s adherence to Henry’s documentary will contrasts him with his by then unerringly compliant peers, who voice their support of the match immediately following Mary’s denunciation of Wyatt’s ‘liberal and offensive tongue’. It is this fall from favour which leads to Wyatt’s subsequent uprising as he attempts to dispossess Mary of the throne. However, the reasoning behind Wyatt’s refusal to assent to the Spanish match — and his consequent rebellion — needs further examination. Certainly, his claim that the ‘Will and Act’ to which the council were sworn (that is, the 1546 will of Henry VIII and the 1543 Act of Succession) ‘does prohibit Spaniards from the land’ is untenable. Whilst Henry’s will specified that Mary obtain the consent of the majority of the surviving councillors and executors named therein prior to any marriage (something, as Levine notes, she had no intention of doing), there was most certainly no prohibition of Spaniards (Levine 1966: 153]. The only possible interpretation by which Wyatt could have reached such a conclusion lies in the common law rule against alien inheritance of English land: a rule which would have barred Philip from becoming King of England and enjoying a life tenancy of Mary’s lands (Levine 1966: 108). Such a willful and seemingly obscure interpretation of the law (and Henry’s intentions) is less startling than it might seem. On the contrary, the idea was a popular one, advanced by anti-Catholic lawyers and religionists in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, when anxiety about the possibility of Mary Stuart’s accession to the English throne was at its zenith. The idea, of course, had enormous implications for the time of the play’s first performance, when Mary’s son (James VI) was widely expected to accede to the throne following the death of Elizabeth. By then, naturally, the idea had assumed a quite different complexion, and it is no surprise that the crux of Wyatt’s tragic descent lies not only in his adherence to the will of Henry VIII but more crucially in his legal misinterpretation of Henry’s will in support of his own xenophobic bias against Philip. In essence, it was the dramaturgical choice of the playwrights to make Wyatt a doubly tragic figure by making his legal misjudgement a product of anti-Spanish sentiment (certainly popular at the time of the play’s composition) whilst lending contemporary significance to the futility of his quibbling. To Webster and Dekker, the ultimate tragedy of Wyatt’s rebellion and subsequent execution is, therefore, based on a piece of legal chicanery which, with the inevitable prospect of a foreign monarch succeeding the present queen, looked increasingly irrational and outmoded.

[11] What the play makes clear is that the royal will, when it stipulated a deceased monarch’s intentions for future sovereignty, occupied a peculiar and uneasy position between supreme, enduring authority and individual (and thus potentially flawed or self-interested) interpretation. Hence, one can turn to the popularity of contemporary beliefs which held that the alterations in succession introduced by Henry VIII’s will (including his lack of provision for the hereditary claims of the Stuarts, and the arguments thus born concerning the rights of foreign princes to inherit not just land, but the crown of England) were human and invalid, because his body politic remained a separate entity untouched by either his personal or parliamentary attempts to interrupt hereditary succession. This was certainly the argument adopted by pro-Stuart commentators, who espoused the notion that the crown, ‘being a corporation’ was an ordained birthright and therefore something which could not be made or unmade by men (Walker 1998: 215). Such men, of course, included Henry VIII and all who cited his will as a valid bar against foreigners (whether Spaniard or Scot) inheriting the crown. It is no coincidence that this was an argument adopted by supporters of the Stuarts during the Elizabethan regime, in particular the celebrated Catholic lawyer Edmund Plowden, whose Treatise on the Succession presented the argument in 1566. A key component of Plowden’s argument was a belief that the body natural of the King may die, yet the body politic endured. Plowden pointedly wrote that, were Henry VIII’s will to be followed, the kingdom would have been ‘gayned by estopell [that is, an impediment or obstruction] and not by truth’, a view which gained wide currency in Catholic circles.

[12] Nor was Plowden unique in his public consideration of the issues raised by Henry’s unprecedented attempts to maintain his personal will after death. Levine has convincingly demonstrated the variety of means by which the opinions of subjects on the Tudor succession were disseminated both privately and publicly (Levine 1966: 19). Indeed, the Elizabethan period was plagued by treatises which were circulated under the guise of private letters, in addition to such tracts as John Hales’ A Declaration of the Succession on the Crown Imperiall of England (1563), which favoured the claim of the Grey sisters, and the plethora of reactionary texts it spawned. Of course, whilst Levine focuses his discussion on the 1560s, he nevertheless makes plain that by the close of the Elizabethan period, the ‘path was comparatively clear for James VI of Scotland to become James I of England’ (Levine 1966: 206). As such, the wealth of arguments which had had stemmed from the will of Henry VIII and its dismissal of the Stuarts broke down, as did the stipulations of the will itself due to the failure of both the Tudor and Suffolk lines in the production of heirs. The notion of the will itself, of course, is synonymous with mortality, and it is therefore no great deductive leap to recognise that a document which is predicated upon the physical death of the body had lesser sway in a culture which promulgated the belief that the state of sovereignty embodied by the ruler did not die, but rather that the mantle of monarchy passed to a worthy and natural successor. Given the impending death of Elizabeth, and the fact that her probable heir James VI did not pose quite the same threat in terms of religious controversy, the dramatic presentation of Wyatt and his flawed and willfully misinterpreted dedication to the will of Henry VIII provides his character with his particular tragedy.

[13] It may be further argued that Webster and Dekker present a Wyatt who, though successful in adopting and maintaining the will of one monarch, is unable to relinquish it (or, rather, his creative interpretation of it) and act with necessary political contingency according to the living will of the incumbent ruler. His intractability and intransigent nature naturally raises further questions about the role of the council in the play. Indeed, as it is Wyatt’s tragic misunderstanding of the will of a dead monarch at the expense of a living one which brings about his downfall, the play invites a consideration of the dangerous role of the rebel in resisting the combined will of queen and council. Whilst those who bend to the will of the living monarch survive, those who oppose it perish, with even the unfortunate Jane Grey (presented, with questionable authenticity, as largely lacking a strong will of her own) being executed following Mary’s accession. In short, the play highlights the danger of the rebellious subject’s legal wrangling around the posthumous will of a monarch, by exposing the danger of Wyatt’s misguided dedication to Henry VIII’s documentary wishes. The subject loyal to the will of the deceased monarch, it is seen, is cast down upon the accession of the new embodiment of the body politic.

[14] The play also represents the attitudes of the general populace to the royal wills, as the eager Northumberland recognises the importance of securing the assent of the people, calling, ‘In the market Proclaime Queene Jane. / The streets are full, the towne is populous’ (Webster and Dekker 1953 [1607]: II.ii.15-6). The response of the public is captured in an exchange between a clown and a maid:

Maid: God save the queen, what queen? There lies the sense:
When we have none, it can be no offence.

Clown: Well, cry God save queen Jane, as you go, and
God send you a good market.
Maid: Is the right queen call’d Jane? Alack, for woe;
At the first she was not christened so.
(Webster and Dekker, 1953 [1607]: II.i.21-30)

It becomes apparent that the people have a clear knowledge of the sudden complexities of royal succession, which they express with a degree of irreverent liberty and skepticism evidently not apparent to those in power; and yet the attempted subversion of Henry’s will is of particular consequence, as the failure of Northumberland to rouse an army from the people undermines his own grab for power. Consequently, the subversion of Henry’s will at this point in the play is a matter recognized and, although out of plebian control, undermined by the unwillingness and passivity of the common subjects in supporting the hapless Queen Jane. Similarly, the satirical confusion present in the Maid’s speech serves to highlight not only the relationship between commoners and state, but once more draws attention to the general confusion engendered by the changes in succession laws instigated by Henry and Edward’s wills (Ives 2009: 166). Nevertheless, the role of the unsupported and rebellious councillor is rendered largely ineffectual in a play which promotes an overarching political ideology that demotes the will of the deceased monarch in favour of a divinely ordained and legally sanctioned successor. It is here worth noting that Plowden’s concept of the nature of the crown as a corporation consisted of two elements. In addition to the divinity of a succession that was untouched by temporal concerns, the king and his subjects also made a ‘perfect corporation’ (Levine 1966: 113). This was a restatement of the mediaeval idea of the king as the head of a ‘corporation aggregate of many’, with emphasis on the monarch as ‘head’ and the subjects, parliament and council as ‘members’. That Northumberland rebels against the ‘head’ in a bid for power (as Wyatt had earlier punned, placing Northumberland’s will in opposition to ‘the will of God’) is of particular importance. In dramaturgical terms, the Duke’s motives may be placed in contradistinction to Wyatt’s; the latter’s actions stemmed from a tragic misunderstanding of Henry’s will, whilst the former openly sought power through the overturning of that will as manifested in his threat to the united, corporate crown.

[15] Webster and Dekker interrogate the relationship between the monarch, council members (both loyal and rebellious) and the more plebian subjects, and this is an area probed further in Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody, Part 1 (alternatively titled The Troubles of Queen Elizabeth), which reached audiences in 1604-5, following the accession of James I. In one particularly telling scene, a trio of soldiers debate the propriety of Queen Mary’s actions in imprisoning her obstinately willful and religiously fervent sister:

2: How shall we spend the time till morning.
3: Mate we’ll drink and talk of our friends.
2: I but my friend, do not talk of state matters.
1: Not I, I’ll not meddle with the state.
(Heywood 1935 [1605]: VI, 470-474)[2]

Naturally, however, the group cannot refrain from discoursing on the politically sensitive events that unfold around them, as they continue:

2: But beware of talking of the Princess,
Let’s meddle with our kindred there, we may be bold.
1: Well sirs I have two sisters, and the one loves the other,
And would not send her to prison for a million, is there any harm
In this? I’ll keep myself within compass I warrant you,
For I do not talk of the Queen, I talk of my sisters,
Ile keep my self within my compass, I warrant you.
3: I but Sir, that word sister goes hardly down.
1: Why Sir, I hope a man may be bold with his own,
I learn’d that of the Queene…
(Heywood 1935 [1605]: VI. 482-491)

Addressing this exchange, Kamps recognizes the soldier’s shift from the public to the domestic sphere as a means of criticizing the Queen and safely meddling with the state — a substitution considered ineffective by the laconic opinion of the third soldier, who holds that the word sister ‘goes hardly downe’ (Kamps 1996: 79). Kamps argues that the scene therefore provides a literary meditation on the way in which history might be approached (with the soldiers providing a metanarrative chorus on the ways in which drama can treat history safely). It is a convincing argument, and one which has consequences for both the play and its audiences. However, it can equally be argued that, like Webster and Dekker’s use of the citizenry in Sir Thomas Wyatt, Heywood’s play provides a dramatic contrast to the ways in which the premier noblemen of the play have little or no effective means of publicly voicing their own reservations about state matters. As such, the scene featuring the soldiers can be viewed alongside another in which Lord Shandoyse castigates the vacillating Sussex on his seeming lack of loyalty to the crown:

Shandoyse:  My Lord, my Lord, let not the love we bear the Princess, incur the Queen’s displeasure, tis no dallying with matters of Estate, who dares gainsay the Queen?

Suffolk: Marry a God not I, no, no, not I;
Yet who shall hinder these my eyes to sorrow,
For her sorrow: By Gods marry deer,
That the Queene could not, though herself were here:

My eyes would hardly prove me a true Subject:
But tis the Queen’s pleasure, and we must obey.
(Heywood 1935 [1605]: VII.546-552; 555-6)

The ways in which the private soldier airs his views stands in direct contrast to that of Sussex. The implication, therefore, is that the nobleman is well aware of the political expediency of dissembling his true will and feelings, as a great many were forced to do in the turbulent years of the reformation, counter-reformation and Elizabethan settlement. The matter is complicated, however, by Sussex’s assertion that his eyes will betray the true bent of his will, despite his demonstrable and overt actions affirming his loyalty to Queen Mary. In this way, the play suggests a greater degree of license on the part of the lower ranks in voicing their own will and opinion. It is an idea certainly reminiscent of Sir Thomas Wyatt, perhaps not coincidentally, as that play also features the hand of Thomas Heywood (at unidentified points). Indeed, both plays share a thematic concern with the divergence of public opinion from that of the monarch and council, and both present a breadth of opinion between council members, and so underline the potential dangers that can result from such divisions. Whilst the substitution method favoured by the first soldier may be crude, he goes unpunished for his discourse. Whilst Suffolk’s rank and public office ensure that he remains bound to the will of his sovereign, the soldier steadfastly maintains that ‘I’ll stand to it; for saying a truth’s a truth, I’ll prove it; / … I know what I know, / You know what you know, he knows what he knows, / Marry we know not what every man knows’ (Heywood 1935 [1605]: VI. 502-506). Heywood recognizes and explores the double bind in which noblemen could be caught when personal feelings diverged from the need to conform to the will of the monarch.

[16] It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the voices of the aristocracy and royal officials in If You Know Not Me are united in their submission to the will of Queen Mary. Indeed, the play, like Sir Thomas Wyatt, explores the issue of the corporate crown (and, in Plowden’s explicatory terms, the notion of a ‘divers degree and sort’ of subjects comprising the members of the body politic) and its multitude of integral power structures in a variety of ways. The ultimate intent, in dramatic purposes, is to illustrate the multitude of personal ‘wills’ at work under the guise of submission to the crown. Chiefly — as may be expected in a post-Marian drama — the play is critical of Mary’s advisers, particularly those ‘Prelates’ with whom the ‘Queen is much besotted’ (Heywood 1935 [1605]: XX. 1382). Of particular note is the corrupt Cardinal [sic] of Winchester, who encourages the Queen to ‘note the commons’ insolence’ in asking her to keep her promise of religious toleration to the Protestant commoners who supported her against the usurping Queen Jane. It is a promise she peremptorily revokes, in language which, once more, mirrors Mary’s volte face in Sir Thomas Wyatt. Winchester later cements his role as chief agitator by encouraging Mary’s suspicions of her sister, as he introduces the leading question: ‘is’t not probable / That she in Wyatt’s expedition, / And other insurrection lately quelled / Was a confederate’? (Heywood 1935 [1605]: II.  97-101).

[17] Similarly, Mary’s Constable of the Tower is consistently depicted as responsible for Elizabeth’s mistreatment, his role as gaoler being one which he performs with barbarous alacrity whilst ostensibly carrying out ‘The Queen’s commands’ (Heywood 1935 [1605]: VII. 626). His personal will and obvious enjoyment of the commission, however, are not concealed as, despite a prescient warning from Gage that ‘The Queene I know when she shall hear of this, / Will greatly discommend your cruelty,  … And you may live to serve her [Elizabeth] ere you die’, the Constable insists ‘O you preach well to deaf men, no, not I  …  She is my prisoner, and if I durst, / But that my warrant is not yet so strict, / I’d lay her in a dungeon’. He further, entirely un-presciently, voices the belief that the Queen ‘is likely to bear, / Of her own body a more royal heir (Heywood 1935 [1605]: VIII. 704-718; VII, 630-1). In the Constable of the Tower, consequently, is symbolized the malevolent will opposing and containing the willfully Protestant Elizabeth, in a figure who is wallowing in cruel excess and ‘deaf’ to the appeals of the council. The play’s treatment of Mary’s fragmented power and will undoubtedly allows Heywood to disperse the blame for the failures (and cruelty) of the Marian regime without Mary’s legitimacy to rule being questioned. Additionally, however, it provides a further example of the conception of the corporate body politic — here depicted as an entity corrupted by figures such as the Constable, operating under their own savage wills and potentially, as Gage suggests, in ways abhorrent to the Queen.

[18] The idea of a monarch served by unreliable and willful retainers is no longer an unfamiliar notion. Alice Hunt has identified the contemporary beliefs about the importance of a monarch’s ability to heed the advice of reliable and worthy men of government, while maintaining absolute authority — a bifocality which ‘simultaneously emphasized a state’s unequivocal need for good councillors and a good governor’ (Hunt 2009: 570). However, it arguably also invites audiences to recognize the dangers inherent in abusing the will of the sovereign by advancing personal ambitions and exercising personal will under the cloak of royal authority (further echoing the activities of Northumberland and members of the regency council in Sir Thomas Wyatt). Indeed, this view of the corporate nature of the crown and its underlying plethora of individual wills (only united by the pacific disposition of Elizabeth towards Mary’s former council) becomes a key theme of the play, as, with the death of Winchester and his successor, Cardinal Poole, Sussex remarks that ‘the state begins to alter’ (Heywood 1935 [1605]: XX. 1404).

[19] In historical terms, the image of a monarch and state which constituted a corporation in the sense of the ‘corporate crown’, comprising a body politic of royal head and non-royal members (as suggested by Plowden in his formulation of arguments against Henry VIII’s will), was very much in keeping with the issues raised by the unprecedented rise of three Queens Regnant to the throne. McIntosh has persuasively argued, Mary and Elizabeth were particularly suited to sovereignty not only because they were named so in Henry’s will, but because as landed women with individual households, they had forged strong corporate identities and won faithful followers who were loyal to the will of their mistress in matters of religion and political ideology (McIntosh 2008: 11). Accordingly, the play therefore draws contemporary parallels with the recent succession of Heywood’s sovereign, James I, lately arrived with his Scottish retinue and keen to portray a sense of unity both in terms of his two kingdoms and his hereditary right — as supported by the English council and recounted in the king’s first address to parliament (McLaren 2002: 290). However, it may be argued that the corrupt and self-interested activities of Mary’s officials and councillors, whilst detracting from the personal failures of the monarch, nevertheless illustrate an unwise council’s potential of poisoning the body politic as a whole.

[20] The notion of the crown as a corporate entity is notable also for the repercussions it has for the presentation of Mary’s husband, Philip of Spain, the ostensible cause of Wyatt’s rebellion in Sir Thomas Wyatt. In fact, both plays, despite having a common author in Heywood, diverge on their treatment of the unpopular king.  The Philip of If You Know Not Me acts as a mediator between rival sisters, whose only goal is ‘A peace that pleaseth heaven and earth and all’ (Heywood 1935 [1605]: XVIII. 1307). To Kamps, such a remarkably positive presentation is one of historical pragmatism, as, at the time of the play’s publication, peace with Spain (which had begun in 1604 following a period of economic hardship) provided a trade boom which could not be undercut by the resurrection of old, if long-held, antipathies (Kamps 1996: 73-4). It is a point well made, and certainly supported by the existence of what Margot Heinemann recognizes as one of the ‘guiding principles’ of Jacobean censorship, which forbade ‘unfavourable presentation of friendly foreign powers or their sovereigns’ (Heinemann 1980: 39). Whilst Kamps is undoubtedly correct in his assertion, it can still be argued that his focus on Jacobean trade relations and the importance of maintaining peace with Spain neglects the overall effect of Philip’s positive portrayal: that is, a further division of Mary’s royal will and prerogative between husband and wife. Whilst Philip might be portrayed positively as a matter of Stuart expediency, the yoking of a foreign king to Mary nevertheless provided a focal counterpoint to the virginal Elizabeth (who left England to a Stuart successor without accepting a foreigner as a husband). Thus in keeping with the attitudes of her prelates and judicial officials, who provide Elizabeth with antagonists in the play, Philip therefore proves to be a benefactor. More than this, however, he is a benefactor who shares Mary’s crown, thus still further undermining the notion that Mary’s living, royal will (already severely compromised by the meddling of Winchester and the abuses of the Constable in Mary’s name) is completely her own — rather, events proceed from a conglomeration of contentions and competing wills, split between herself, her religiously conservative advisers, her ambivalent subjects, and her husband. In all ways, the crown is a corporation, but here it is a corporation marred by internecine conflict and disharmony.

[21] The effect is one of implicit criticism of Mary’s reign, to the exaltation of her natural successor Elizabeth, who is presented as a bastion of truth and virtue; as is, by extension, her natural successor, James I. Indeed, at the play’s close, Elizabeth visibly ameliorates the concerns of her wrongdoers by introducing unity and peace — a common and united will which lacks the religious factionalism which had hovered in the background of Sir Thomas Wyatt and was made manifest in If You Know Not Me. As Elizabeth is shown succeeding to the throne, Heywood makes liberal use of such historic coronation tableaux as were designed to equate Elizabeth with religious truth and a flourishing commonwealth. In so doing, Heywood invites his audiences to consider the restoration of peace as ultimately providential (Heywood’s Elizabeth is quick to forgive her former tormentors), as well as the result of a successful relationship between the monarch and her subjects (the subjects, in this case, comprising the members of her council who swore their loyalty). Such an idyllic premise is, of course, historically inaccurate: religious factionalism continued throughout the Elizabethan period and beyond. However, in fore-grounding the divine accession of Elizabeth, despite the questionable nature of her right to rule (by dint of her legal illegitimacy), Heywood further legitimizes the equally ‘illegal’ reign of her successor, with the authority enshrined in religious and divine supremacy. Indeed, the difficulties of Henry’s alleged ‘barring’ of the Stuarts from the throne is deftly taken care of as Elizabeth, brandishing an English Bible as a stage prop, declares,

An English Bible!

Who builds on this, dwells in a happy state:
This is the fountain, clear, immaculate.
That happy issue that shall us succeed,
And in our populous kingdom this book read,
For them, as for our selves, we humbly pray,
They may live long, and blessed. So, lead the way.
(Heywood 1935 [1605]: XXIII. 1559; 1572-1577)

Drawing on the Bible given to Elizabeth during her coronation procession by the city of London, Heywood (who would later chronicle this event in his England’s Elizabeth [1631]) is keen to make clear that the book (as a symbol of the reformed religion) constitutes Elizabeth’s true legacy – a religious purity that will flow to and nourish her successors. That it is an English Bible is of particular relevance. Whilst contemporary accounts of the procession do not make explicit that the book presented was in English, the creation of a new, authoritative English Bible had its roots at King James’s Hampton Court Conference of early 1604 (Hunt 2007: 162). As a consequence, a correlation is implicitly drawn between the childless Elizabeth’s religious legacy and James I, Heywood’s monarch, in a way which makes an artistic play on Henry’s stipulation that, whilst the Stuarts had no place in the succession, the ‘heirs’ of Elizabeth did. It is, of course, no coincidence that the King James Bible project, which sought to correct perceived errors in previous Bibles, entered the early stages of production at the same time the play made its appearance. It is a fact clearly underscored by Elizabeth’s telescoping of time in directly imploring her ‘happy issue’ to ‘lead the way’ not only in succeeding her, but in continuing to provide religious succour to her kingdom. In short, the play encouraged audiences to view religion as solving the succession problems exacerbated by Henry’s will and the resultant arguments put forward by anti-­Catholic writers who had once viewed Stuart succession as a critical threat.

[22] While Mary’s marriage to Philip (so criticized in Sir Thomas Wyatt) is a matter of little political consequence in If You Know Not Me, the 1605 play nevertheless discusses matters of religion in a way that the 1601-2 play does not. With the narrative placing two historical queens at odds, notions of religious schism are, perforce, brought to the fore in a more complex manner. The competing wills (in matters of state religion) of queen and future queen are expounded vociferously, as Elizabeth maintains a willful and steadfast refusal to conform to the religious beliefs of her sister, the Catholic ministers, or her gaoler (with Winchester lamenting the decay of religion she is likely to catalyze and the Constable rebuking her as an ‘alien to us Catholics’). The battle of wills reaches its apex as Mary interviews Elizabeth and, on instructing her sister, ‘I am not of your mind’, is countered by Elizabeth’s ‘I would your highness were’ (Heywood 1935 [1605]: XVIII. 1288-9). Nevertheless, Elizabeth is careful to display the outward appearances of conformity and subjection to Mary’s will, repeating throughout her acceptance of her place as subject. This show of subordination, arguably, is crucial; whilst audiences are encouraged — through the use of dumb show — to appreciate Elizabeth’s dedication to Protestantism, it is no coincidence that her rise to power comes not through rebellion against the state, but through the deaths, in rapid succession, of Winchester, Poole and Mary. Such providential treatment of Elizabeth’s eventual accession is key, as religion plays a fundamental role in If You Know Not Me, with Elizabeth invested with the religious qualities (in addition to a gift for unity and Protestant virtue) that are lacking in Mary. It therefore becomes not only a means of excusing the Stuart succession via allegorical descent, but providing a dramaturgic means of portraying the failures of the one regime to the benefit of another. It is also worth noting that, just as the play was bound by censorship rules to portray Philip positively, so too was it illegal to portray any living sovereign on the stage, even favourably (Heinemann 1980: 39). Nevertheless, the spheres which drama and politics inhabited in the period tended to overlap (as Greg Walker and Henry James have noted in their examination of the succession question as addressed in Gorboduc of 1561), and consequent invitation was made to early-modern audiences to view drama as a direct commentary on contemporary issues (Walker and James 1995: 109-121). As a consequence, the death of a childless queen and the accession of her heir can only have encouraged viewers to further associate the play’s Elizabeth — a virtuous new monarch who had survived religious upheaval and was miraculously given a corporeal Bible by angels — with the newly crowned James, a Protestant heir provided by God despite decades of uncertainty and legal argument which had issued from Henry VIII’s will (Heywood 1935 [1605]: XIV).

[23] As demonstrated, If You Know Not Me shares thematic (as well as historical) concerns with the earlier Sir Thomas Wyatt. As has been seen, the latter explored at some length the danger of unwise and power-hungry council members and noblemen in either misreading or attempting to subvert the will of a deceased monarch, from Wyatt’s specious support of Henry’s will and interpretive creativity in using it as a tool against the Spanish marriage, to Northumberland’s divergent attempt to unseat Mary in favour of his daughter in law. In a similar vein, at the climax of Webster and Dekker, Elizabeth’s clown didactically advises that ‘We must live by the quick, and not by the dead’, a view which elicits the Lord of Tame to ruminate on the mortality of sovereigns and their wills:

Did you not love her father when he liv’d
And yet rejoiced at his funeral:
Likewise her brother, you esteem’d him dear,
Yet once departed, joyfully you sung,
Run to make bonfires, to proclaim your love
Unto the new, forgetting still the old:

Let Princes while they live have love or fear ‘tis fit,
For after death, there’s none continues it.
(Heywood 1935 [1605]: XXII. 1488-1502)

The echoes of Webster and Dekker’s Sir Thomas Wyatt are as unmistakable as Heywood’s point is explicit: the expedient subject would be wise to observe present circumstances, and to be loyal to the institution of the crown rather than to the will of a deceased monarch. Thus, whilst Hunt suggests that the Marian period coincided with a flowering of dramatic material which sought to ‘teach monarchs a lesson’ about heeding wise counsel, it becomes clear that the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period was characterised by an equal concern with educating the subject on his place in a providential commonwealth and stressing the unity of the corporate crown as it passed on via divinely appointed and hereditary succession (Hunt 2009: 570). One can therefore discern a direct indication that devotion to Henry VIII’s contested will, and its inherent bar to the Stuart line, was as futile as the presumptuous regency council’s ambitious pretension in attempting to uphold Edward VI’s Devise. Rather more important (especially so for a country which would be ravaged by civil war a generation later), emphasis is also consistently placed on the inefficacy of factional disputes in breaking royal wills and the need for a wise and unified council.

[24] In conclusion, it may be noted that the authors of Sir Thomas Wyatt employed the unusual historical circumstances of the posthumous, published will of Henry VIII, and the problems it entailed for the Jacobean succession, in order to expound the popular theory of the divine inheritance of a corporate crown. Further, both plays provide a tacit, if persistent, encouragement for subjects to practice pragmatic obeisance and loyalty to the current incumbent to the throne, rather than to a dangerous deference to the perceived wishes of his or her predecessor. It is perhaps to be expected that, given Henry VIII’s unprecedented attempts to secure his will after death, coupled with his son’s attempts at emulation and the subsequent failure of both in fashioning the future of the monarchy from beyond the grave, that dramatists would seek to explore contemporary concerns about succession through the lens of historiography. To Webster and Dekker, Thomas Wyatt presented a historically equivocal figure who supported the popular Queen Elizabeth (of lasting fame and memory), yet who was also responsible for rebellion against the crown, in Webster’s terms, ‘one who subverts the state’. Webster and Dekker invest their representation of Wyatt with an ambiguity which behooved such a divisive and enigmatic figure (aligned as he was with popular opinion but, in the play, tragically misguided by creative and partisan legal interference), and thus use Sir Thomas Wyatt to explore the role and motivation of the subject in a world of competing royal wills, rebellious councillors and a disharmonious body politic. In so doing, they took advantage of the ambiguity of Wyatt’s reputation in order to display the futility of the testamentary royal will in a contemporary political climate that hotly debated the inviolable rights of hereditary succession, and the political theology of the body natural being a separate and changeable entity from the body politic. Similarly, Heywood in If You Know Not Me took advantage of the realpolitik of Tudor history in order to reveal the crown as a site of competing, individual wills acting under the guise of submission, whilst ultimately upholding the virtues of a divine and unalterable succession at the expense of the flawed and unsuccessful, posthumous will of a deceased monarch. In this way, both plays took advantage of the (at first upcoming and then recent) accession of James I and the arguments put forward for and against the Stuart succession as a result of Henry VIII’s last will, in order to reflect on the pitfalls of disputed succession, to display the dangers of rebellion and partisan preoccupation with the legal niceties of that will, and to illustrate the benefits of smooth and divinely ordained transfer of power from the celebrated Elizabeth to her heir presumptive and coreligionist.

University of Strathclyde


[1] In the interests of brevity, the play will be henceforth attributed to Webster and Dekker as in the title page to the printed 1607 edition. [back to text]

[2] Spellings have been modernised from the Malone Society Reprint (1935) edition of the play. [back to text]


Heinemann, M. 1980. Puritanism and Theatre: Thomas Middleton and Opposition Drama Under the Early Stuarts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Heywood, T. 1935 [1605]. If You Know Not Me, You Know No Bodie, in If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody, Part I, ed. by M. Doran. Malone Society Reprint (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Hoy, C. 1980. Introduction, Notes, and Commentaries to Texts in ‘The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker’, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Hunt, A. 2007. The Drama of Coronation: Mediaeval Ceremony in Early Modern England. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Hunt, A. 2009. ‘The Monarchical Republic of Mary I’. The Historical Journal,  52 (3): 557-572

Ives, E. 2009. Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell)

James, H., G. Walker. 1995. ‘The Politics of Gorboduc’. The English Historical Review, 110 (435): 109-121

Kamps, I. 1996. Historiography and Ideology in Stuart Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Levine, M. 1966. The Early Elizabethan Succession Question: 1558-1568 (Stanford: Stanford University Press)

McIntosh, J. L. 2008. From Heads of Household to Heads of State: The Preaccession Households of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, 1516-1558. Gutenburg: Columbia University Press

McLaren, A. 2002. ‘The Quest for a King: Gender, Marriage, and Succession in Elizabethan England’. Journal of British Studies, 41 (3):  259-290

Smith, L. B. 1962. ‘The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII: A Question of Perspective’. Journal of British Studies, 2 (1): 14-27

Walker, G. 1998. The Politics of Performance in Early Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

[Webster and Dekker] Webster, J., H. Chettle, T. Dekker, W. Smith, T. Heywood. 1953 [1607]. Sir Thomas Wyatt, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, Volume I, ed. by F. Bower (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Review Article: Shakespeare and Cognitive Literary and Performance Studies

Shakespeare and Cognitive Literary and Performance Studies

Miranda Anderson

Amy Cook, Shakespearean Neuroplay: Reinvigorating the Study of Dramatic Texts and Performance through Cognitive Science. (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). 205 pp + xii. £55.00 hbk.

Evelyn Tribble, Cognition in the Globe: Attention and Memory in Shakespeare’s Theatre. (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). 200 pp + xv. £57.00 hbk.

Lina Perkins Wilder, Shakespeare’s Memory Theatre: Recollection, Properties, and Character. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 221 pp + vii. £58.00 hbk.

[1]  Questions are, and need to be, raised when scientific terms and ideas are reapplied in apparently non-scientific disciplines. The modern English restriction of the term ‘science’, a Latin derived term for knowledge, to those branches of study that deal with the natural and physical sciences, in itself suggests what can be an increasingly skewed modern perception of what are significant forms of human understanding (OED 5b). The concern then when the humanities adopt and apply such forms of scientific knowledge is that it entails an overbearing constraint on, and a further reduction of the value of, their own complex matter and methodologies. This has led to sceptical responses, such as Raymond Tallis’s dismissal of what he terms the current ‘neuromania’ or ‘Darwinitis’. Tallis’s book Aping Mankind warns that the reach of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology are being overestimated, with too much of a focus on the physical rather than the cultural contributions that make us human. This is potentially a valuable counterpoint. Yet such critiques of scientific disciplines often themselves err by focusing on only overly simplified versions of scientific data and claims. Besides, in the humanities it is the reach of the cultural rather than of the physical that has tended to be overestimated, with postmodernist notions of humans as sociocultural constructs overly dominating discourses (notably in new historicism, cultural materialism, and feminist, queer and globalisation studies).

[2]  In literary studies the initial focus of the ‘cognitive turn’ was on a limited range of cognitive scientific ideas that were often presented as if they constituted the entire field. From the 1990s on, cognitive literary approaches primarily emerged from US based scholars and tended to be focused on overly universalising and homogenising accounts derived from a narrow strand of approaches from evolutionary psychology and from cognitive linguistics on the embodied nature of language. The first-wave emphasis on universalizing models tended towards conflict with the postmodern relativistic viewpoints that have recently dominated the humanities, which instead argue that sociocultural forces are primarily responsible for human concepts and behaviour. The persisting methodological tensions between the arts and sciences seemed in danger of being repeated within the field of literary studies through the siding of critics with oppositional explanatory paradigms. However, these thinkers remained in the minority and on the peripheries of the mainstream literary and cultural methodologies against which they tended to situate themselves.

[3]  There are now a wider range of approaches classifying themselves as cognitive literary studies or performance studies, or under the even wider banner of the cognitive humanities. Emerging out of the second wave of cognitive literary studies, Shakespearean Neuroplay, Cognition in the Globe and Shakespeare’s Memory Theatre reflect the development of a more diverse spectrum of approaches. Second-wave cognitive literary approaches are both reconnecting with ideas of a longer heritage, such as phenomenology, as well as exploring what such ideas as theory of mind, studies of attention and mirror neurons might have to tell us about the nature of literary methods and experiences. The movement towards understanding cognition as a combination of universal and historical features is the most common characteristic of this second-wave, as is a generally more conciliatory attitude to existing strands of literary scholarship than the first-wave approaches.

[4]  The paradigm that arguably best allows for the negotiation of such a middle way is the extended mind hypothesis, also known as distributed cognition, which holds that the cognitive system is constituted by the brain, the body and the world. While a number of recent scholarly literary works have touched on this hypothesis, often it has been only fleetingly and nebulously. The transformative nature of this theory for literary and cultural studies lies in its implication that humans are fundamentally hybrid: while humans’ capacity to exist in cognitive niches is shared across generations, the niches exhibit particularity. Therefore rather than either universalism or postmodern relativism this implies that we will find a rich mix of shared features and particular divergences across history and cultures. This enables a reassessment of polar representations of the mind as autonomous and universal, or as only socially constructed and culturally relative: representations which have constrained understandings of historical, as well as modern, concepts of the mind.

[5]  Out of the three works, Amy Cook’s Shakespearean Neuroplay: Reinvigorating the Study of Dramatic Texts and Performance through Cognitive Science, holds most in common with first wave approaches in terms of its focus on cognitive linguistics. Despite its title, Shakespearean Neuroplay does not draw on very much neuroscientific material and where neuroscience is touched on it is presented in a form that would surprise many working in neuroscience. Neuroscience covers everything to do with the brain and nervous system, including genetics and molecular research, modelling and examining networks of cells, brain imaging and behavioural studies. Whereas Cook claims: ‘[o]f course the neurosciences are focussed at the level of the neurons’ (4). As this misunderstanding reflects, the subtitle might more precisely have replaced its ‘Cognitive Science’ with ‘Cognitive Linguistics’. Cook draws primarily on the conceptual blending theory of Giles Fauconnier (with various others) and to a lesser extent on the works of George Lakoff (with various others) (2). The replacement would also have made needless the defensive measures that the mention of ‘Cognitive Science’ has imposed on the introduction, with Cook’s description of ‘disciplinary walls’ as ‘figments of the imagination’ (xi). While disciplinary boundaries do not necessarily reflect or demarcate static or fundamental categories, so that interdisciplinary approaches remain an important means to probe and supplement disciplinary norms, to discount the shaping of disciplines by diverse matter and methodologies, not to mention sociocultural and political agendas, is not the best way to manage relations between the sciences and arts.

[6]  In some respects Cook’s work seems to be suffering from a postmodern hangover. The weak claim made for supposedly drawing on the sciences lies not with any assertion of its objectivity or veracity: ‘I deploy the sciences not because it is more “objective” or true than previous theoretical movements in theater, but because the interests and findings within that field shed light on this field’ (3). While the understandings that science offer us are still approximate and incomplete this need not mean that they do not hold truths. Cook goes on to explain that with this book she sets out to ‘provide the reader with a method of inquiry, (rather than just the results of my inquiry)’, yet it is not clear finally that this method does offer any new insights (2).

[7]  In Chapter 1 Cook describes how the shift in cognitive science from a view of the brain as a computer to the brain as embodied has meant that it now has much to offer performance studies and how since our ‘ability to watch, understand, appreciate and be moved by a theatrical production involves elements of our biology, an investigation into these questions will encounter research in science’ (1). This loosely implies that there is a scientific underpinning to theatrical engagement on which the humanities can draw. Cook then goes on to claim though that ‘we create linguistic and conceptual categories – they are not objective reflections of what is “out there”’, which does not state anything that has not been supposed by postmodern notions of language and still leaves humans in a state of epistemological solipsism (2). A more exact model that overcomes this impasse would be to argue that linguistic and conceptual categories are hybrid forms that relate both to cognitive structures and to structures in the perceived world.

[8]  One of the main arguments of the book is that ‘theater is a way of staging and challenging categories’, which although not a new claim about theatre, is an important one (2). Cook’s method of demonstrating this is in terms of considering the ways in which Lakoff’s conceptual metaphor theory and Fauconnier and Turner’s conceptual blending theory demand a rereading of Shakespeare. Cook begins by referring to Lakoff’s claim that linguistic and conceptual categories have the same character, which suggests that elements of the mind can be revealed through language. Lakoff argues that our abstract concepts are derived from our embodiment, and illustrates this with a number of image schema, such as ‘TO SEE IS TO KNOW’. Thus abstract concepts cannot be talked about non-metaphorically, and while a metaphor highlights certain aspects of an abstract concept it elides others (10). Cook then compares and contrasts this with Fauconnier and Turner’s conceptual blending theory (CBT), since rather than one thing being understood in terms of something else, ‘blends are constructions of meaning based on the projection of two or more input spaces to a blended space’, with only some information from both of the input spaces carried over and integrated to create the new idea (11). In line with her earlier definition of theatre, Cook sees this notion of emergent meaning as distinctively theatrical (12). Cook’s final conclusion that language is both ‘creative and banal’ she later describes as something ‘I hope to persuade theatre scholars and practitioners of’; yet, surely such persuasion is hardly necessary (92, 150).

[9]  Cook’s intention is also reflective of the second-wave in cognitive literary studies, in that she aims to blend these cognitive linguistic approaches with an appreciation of historical period, in order to give a new reading of the mirror in Hamlet in chapters 4 to 6. In order to achieve this, chapter 2 sets out to show that CBT is different from traditional literary analysis. Yet it begins by observing that the notion that language can emotionally move and can transform one’s perception and understanding has been long known by the rhetorical and oratorical traditions, before then needlessly redefining this capacity as ‘frame shifting’, using a modern term from Coulson (27-30). Cook next says she will clarify the three key elements of CBT: ‘mental spaces’, ‘compression’, and ‘vital relations’. The notion of ‘mental spaces’ is used to indicate the associations which a word entails. The supposed ‘vital relations’ are in fact not explained by Cook; Fauconnier and Turner define them as ‘all-important conceptual relations’ that ‘show up again and again’ such as ‘cause-effect’ (The Way We Think, 92). Finally, ‘compression’, Cook explains, refers to the way ‘language miniaturizes the complicated into the simple’, making complex relationships ‘human scale’, with this compression actually adding to the power of language rather than being reductive: ‘While simplicity obscures important elements of an issue, distilling makes our language rich because it necessitates decompression’ (31). The result Cook claims is that CBT shows us how ‘different linguistic structures…enabled and constrained different thinking’ and so in a reading of Hamlet ‘calls attention to the different linguistic mappings and cognitive mappings that undergird the play but generally go unnoticed’ (38, 41). Again we do not need to call on CBT for such awareness as Renaissance texts themselves evidence. Francis Bacon’s works, for instance, describe the tendency of the embodied mind in combination with the contingent nature of words to create elegant epistemological fictions by narrowing comprehension to an anthropocentric viewpoint, though Bacon adds that words, despite and because of this very contingency, also thereby enable the retention and transmission of knowledge (New Organon, 42, 50; Advancement of Learning, 110-11, 119). This tendency to create narratives that satisfy our own understanding and the pattern-making nature of the mind are exactly what Bacon hoped the great instauration might overcome through a more incremental and empirical testing for the ‘Interpretation of Nature’ (New Organon 30). Awareness of the workings and power of rhetorical play, our human-relating tendency and the constraining yet creative nature of words is not reliant on or particularly aided by CBT.

[10]  Chapter 3 explores the mirror in literary and visual art in relation to the technological advances in mirrors during the early modern period, although again CBT does not contribute to the existing knowledge of these as Cook claims (43). Cook concludes her analysis by approvingly quoting Harold Bloom: ‘There is no ‘real’ Hamlet as there is no ‘real’ Shakespeare: the character, like the writer, is a reflecting pool, a spacious mirror in which we needs must see ourselves.’ Cook suggests that the unwitting Bloom ‘is not the only one to use the mirror in Hamlet’s fashion’ as ‘[c]ritics are so steeped in the blend of meanings in Hamlet’s mirror, even before reading the play, they cannot read the blend without relying on it as an input space’ (43). In fact in the second half of the quotation given by Cook Bloom is, as he must know, drawing on another use of the mirror by Shakespeare in Anthony and Cleopatra, where Maecenas explains the cause of Caesar’s grief at Anthony’s death: ‘When such a spacious mirror’s set before him/ He needs must see himself.’ (5.1.34-5). More time spent on Shakespeare and less on CBT might have made for a more accurate reading of Bloom. In chapter 4 Cook goes on to analyse ‘the fourteen uses of “mirror” in Shakespeare’s plays’ in order to consider how they affect our reading of Hamlet (65). In fact, there are many more references to mirrors in Shakespeare’s plays albeit they do not necessarily use the word ‘mirror’; he predominately uses the word ‘glass’, aptly enough because it is calibrated to evoke a richer range of meanings, through its capacity to slip between signifying opaque reflectiveness and transparent penetrability. Therefore it is not clear why Cook restricts her analysis to the word ‘mirror’.

[11]  Chapter 5 offers a more insightful examination of Ingmar Bergman and Livliu Cuilei’s productions of Hamlet in order to compare their staging of the play, focusing in particular on the mirror scenes. In Bergman’s production Hamlet uses a stage knife as a mirror when instructing the players that the purpose of playing is ‘to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature’ (3.2.22) and when confronting his mother Gertrude and claiming that he will show to her ‘her inmost part’ (3.4.19); this draws on Renaissance notions of anatomizing as revealing hidden sins and therefore, as Cook explains it is ‘a rich and varied representation of the structuring metaphor’ (101). Cuilei uses an onstage vanity mirror in which Hamlet puts on clown make up during the instructing of the players and which is onstage but unused in the closet scene with Gertrude in order to focus attention ‘on the masks put on to generate and circulate power’ (101). Cook then turns her attention to Michael Almereyda’s film version of Hamlet in which Sam Shepard, a director as well as an actor, plays the ghost as Shakespeare is once believed to have done. Through ‘the confluence and clashes of mental spaces evoked’ Cook suggests ‘Almereyda tells a rich story of high and low art, dead and alive, father and son, film and video, stage and screen’ (111). To elucidate this Cook draws on McConachie’s notion of the ‘actor/character blend’ whereby spectators’ perceptions of the actor/character are created from our general notions about identity, as well as knowledge of the character and the actor (106-7).

[12]  This chapter closes with some reflections on David McNeill’s research on gestures, which has received attention lately in a number of literary or performance studies, because of McNeill’s assertion that gestures ‘“coexist with speech”’ and that the gesturing hand presents ‘“thought in action”’ and ‘“a narrative space”’ (113). Here there is some comment on the relation of these ideas to neuroscience with reference to work on mirror neurons that suggests that this mechanism links both speech and gestures. Research by Rizzolatti and his colleagues has established the presence of a brain system that links motor to verbal mechanisms, as well as a spectator to an actor’s cognitive processes. Neurons in your motor area fire not only when you perform an action but also when an action word is spoken or when you perceive another perform an action: ‘Mirror neurons represent the neural basis of a mechanism that creates a direct link between the sender of a message and its receiver’ (Rizzolatti and Craighero 2004, 183). Cook helpfully points out that if gestures are, as McNeill claims an integral part of language, then ‘this expands the field of focus for what language and cognition is’ and offers a ‘method of understanding performance’ (122).

[13]  Chapter 6 is primarily where the notion of neuroplay emerges, again in reference to mirror neurons and the capacity that they give us to map another’s experience onto our own, a capacity Shakespeare makes use of in his drama (136). Again this is not a new observation. For example, Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia’s preface to Mirrors in the Brain opens with the authors’ referring to the theatre director Peter Brook’s comment ‘that with the discovery of mirror neurons, neuroscience had finally started to understand what had long been common knowledge in the theatre’ (ix). Theatre makes use of the ways actors’ embodied movements, verbalisations and facial expressions are animatedly participated in by spectators and an understanding of mirror neurons helps uncover the neural mechanism that participates in this capacity. Cook’s final conclusion on the play as a mirror in Hamlet is that: ‘Shakespeare’s formulation that the purpose of playing is “to hold” masks the role of the holder in angling or pointing’ (148). Yet it goes unmentioned by Cook that this was a conventional motif; the use of play-as-mirror motif in a prologue had come into use in early morality plays a generation before Hamlet as described by Bernard Spivak in Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil (104). However in Hamlet the play-as-mirror motif is not offered as an objective prologue by the play, but only about the play-within-the-play, of which the audience is aware that the author of at least parts of it is the melancholic Hamlet. The adroit point Shakespeare is making through the appropriation of this convention then is that the angling is most decidedly pointed.

[14]  While Cook sets her work in the context of the move away from Chomsky’s ‘generative grammar’, which argued there was a universal inherited grammar enabled by a special language area in the human brain, and towards the comparatively more recent cognitive linguistic approaches she herself draws on (4), in the preface to Tribble’s work the editors of this series on ‘Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance Studies’ hark back to Chomskian theory, with Chomsky himself cast as the supposed father of the cognitive revolution, as the opening line reads: ‘Noam Chomsky started a revolution in human self-understanding and reshaped the intellectual landscape to this day by showing how all languages have deep features in common’ (ix). Even given the heavy leaning on a narrow branch of linguistics by early cognitive literary approaches, the view expressed here appears like Hamlet’s mirror to give a strangely askew view. Nor is it a view that seems reflective of the books that appear in this series, which include Cook and Tribble’s amongst them.

[15]  Evelyn Tribble’s Cognition in the Globe instead is one of the few works so far that has drawn on the theory of distributed cognition in any detail. Tribble suggests that the means by which early modern playing companies coped with the mnemonic load of performing up to 6 different plays a week was through distributed cognitive practices. This book expands on the arguments originally set forth in her paper ‘Distributing Cognition in the Globe’ that was published in Shakespeare Quarterly in 2005. In both these works Tribble argues that there has previously been a misunderstanding of the playing system due to the view of memorisation as individual and mechanistic rather than collaborative and situated. The basic line of argument is persuasively fleshed out in the book, with more detailed examination of: plots, playbooks, and parts in chapter 1; voice and gesture in chapter 2; and training of novices in chapter 3.

[16]  Chapter 1’s focus on ‘the stuff’ of memory, begins with a reconsideration of the use and number of stage doors, suggesting that by providing a visual, spatial and cognitive context they structured the work of the company. The plots, of which just seven survive, are large one-sided manuscript sheets that are thought to have been hung on the wall of the actors’ tiring house and that provide a list of casting, scenes, and entrances, and sometimes also lists of props, musical cues and descriptions of dumb shows. Tribble describes a plot as a ‘two-dimensional chart to be mapped onto the three-dimensional space of the theatre, and to be used in conjunction with the parts, the space of the stage and the playbook’ (52). If we think of the playbook as a street map spread over many pages, Tribble suggests, then the plot is like the map which provides on one page in reduced form all its most important components. Since players were only provided with copies of their individual lines and cues, the plot provided a means for the larger whole to be seen and helped ‘to facilitate thinking in groups’ (54). Tribble comments that the fact that amateur parts note the addressee of each speech and contain fuller cues reflects the fact that they could not rely on a similar level of ‘group expertise’ (58-67), although it could be added that it also reflected a lack of individuals’ expertise in the group. Meanwhile playbooks, of which sixteen survive from the pre-Restoration stage, are most salient in terms of what they lack: annotation. Tribble argues that this again indicates that a distributed cognitive system was in place, with such annotation made unnecessary by the expertise of the actors and knowledge of stagecraft during this period. Playbooks were sheets folded into four columns: one for speech headings; two for the play; and one for the generally sparse stage directions (54-58). All this ‘stuff’ Tribble concludes collectively make up the distributed system of early modern theatre, with each element providing a different ‘affordance’; with J.J. Gibson’s term ‘affordance’ describing the way that an object or a feature of the environment invites a certain relational mode (67-68).

[17]  In chapter 2 Tribble moves on to look at the roles played by the embodied skills of playwrights and players. The formal features were used to structure the language to maximise memorability and also to allow ‘fluent forgetting: the substitution of words within the metrical framework and the sense of the text’ (72). This was borne out of the hybridity of Shakespeare’s theatre which combined a desire for textual fidelity with oral practices. Tribble then reframes the observations of G.T. Wright, amongst others, by suggesting that the move in the later works to a more irregular rhythm and short and shared lines marks a shift from the scaffolding of memory by conventional verse structures to their distribution across the various actors as ‘remembering one’s own part hangs upon another…with the echo of words and phrases snaking across a series of speeches’ (85).

[18]  The next section considers the role of gesture with, as Tribble comments (drawing on Joseph Roach), the notion of moving the spirits of spectators through gestures a literal allusion to the physiological mechanisms thought to link actor and spectator. It would have been interesting to highlight here the parallels between this notion of emotional transmission and our current understanding of the role of mirror systems as enabling a partial sharing in the experiencing of another’s primal emotions, such as disgust, fear and pain. The mirror system provides a common neural base for experiencing and perceiving these emotions; they form an as if loop, a link between our own and others’ emotional experiences (Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia 173-193). The transmission of the passions via the spirits and the transpirable bodies of players and spectators is surely an expression of this capacity within the humoral belief system of the Renaissance.

[19]  Like Cook, but with a broader sweep, Tribble then examines recent theories by those such as David McNeill, Adam Kendon and Susan Goldin Meadow that claim a strong ‘“thought-language-hand link”’ with ‘greater retention of material’ and even ‘“a causal role in thinking”’ (93, 95). These are helpfully brought to bear on the debate between Rosenberg’s characterisation of Elizabethan acting as formalistic and mechanistic, and Bertram Joseph and Joseph Roach’s counter claims that acting is based on expressing and transmitting emotion. Tribble points out that in John Bulwer’s works, Chirologia and Chironomia, while the art of gesture must be learned it must also be adapted to one’s own nature and with its recruitment of social and institutional networks as well as embodied expertise, Tribble argues, it is part of an extended as well as an embodied system (99-101).

[20]  In chapter 3 the focus is on the social as a means to expertise and enskillment. The chapter begins with a quotation from Ed Hutchins’ seminal work on the use by navigation teams of distributed cognition: ‘“[o]ne can embed a novice who has social skills but lacks computational skills in such a network and get useful behaviour out of that novice and the system” (114). Tribble then tracks recent research on the social and situated learning necessary to transform novices into experts in a number of kinds of workplaces, before going on to examine depictions of players in Shakespeare’s plays that, Tribble asserts, emphasise the need for fluency more than for fidelity (126). The next section, drawing on David Kathman’s research, examines the practice of using ‘boys’ aged roughly between 12 and 22 who would then usually progress from female to male roles, and while as J.H. Astington has pointed out and Tribble notes, not all players passed through this system, she argues that this is suggestive of a training system. Not because the female roles the ‘boy actors’ were called upon to play to begin with, such as a Rosalind or a Lady Macbeth, were easier, but because the training and workplace structures enabled them to play these highly sophisticated roles. Tribble claims that early modern plays themselves scaffolded smaller speaking parts through using embedded instructions within the actor’s own lines or through the parts of those on stage with him, with repetition across lines a means of reinforcing memory and the correct take-up of cues. Interesting as this is the few examples offered do not compellingly demonstrate that this was a general or widespread system. Nonetheless, the book as a whole does much to support Tribble’s conclusion that the model of ‘cognitive ecology’ is necessary in tackling ‘a complex human activity such as theatre’ through calling for an examination of ‘the entire system’ (151).

[21]  Lina Perkins Wilder’s Shakespeare’s Memory Theatre offers a fascinating account of the interrelation between early modern notions of memory and theatre, even although some of the grander and widesweeping claims made by Wilder seem unwarranted. The introduction builds on recent claims by William Engel and Tribble that ‘the theatre was a place whose physical and social properties shape remembering’, by adding Wilder’s converse contention that just ‘as the plays enable remembering so remembering shapes the formal properties of the plays’ (1-2). Yet, while there is certainly evidence that theatrical materials can be used to signify memory and that concerns about memory can shape aspects of a drama, this does not legitimise the extravagant, and yet reductive, claim made by this book that: ‘The materials of theatre are, for Shakespeare, the material of memory’ (1). As with Cook’s book, this primarily begs the question as to why current volumes might feel driven to make such elevated claims.

[22]  Setting this aside, Shakespeare’s Memory Theatre offers a rich exploration of Shakespeare’s use of theatrical devices to help create a fictional past to plot and characters, with for instance, the use of objects and physical space, as well as rhetorically evoked but absent objects (2). The first chapter provides a detailed analysis of the concerns about memory that were heightened by print culture, and explores the various early modern descriptions of print as detrimental, a parallel, or as a replacement to memory. It also focuses on the contemporary use of ‘memory theatres’. As Francis Yates has previously described, from Greek antiquity into the early modern period, architectural spaces were used as a means to memorise knowledge systematically: by attaching a sequence of information to a sequence of places or features in a building you could then recall the information by visualising them again. Following Yates, Wilder comments on the distinction between continental models of memory theatres that were based on classical amphitheatres, and John Willis and Robert Fludd’s models, with the latter explicitly based on the playhouses of early modern London, which thereby strengthened the association between memory and contemporary theatre. Through the rhetorically evoked but absent objects, for instance Prospero’s books, Wilder argues that ‘the plays create an atmosphere of unfulfilled desire, a desire that attaches not just to the particular objects but to the whole notion that memory can be made tangible, that it can be given order’ (58). Absent here is any mention of what have become in literary theory the more traditional psychoanalytical discourses; the one lack in recent distributed cognitive approaches is their unremitting positivity concerning human’s embodied and extended nature, while Wilder here evokes Renaissance anxiety about these that psychoanalytical accounts’ illuminate. Arguably attention to both distributed cognitive and psychoanalytical insights are necessary as a complement to the anxiety as well as celebration of these in Renaissance accounts.

[23]  The following chapters explore how the relations between different accounts of memory play out in a number of Shakespeare’s plays and about how this relates to their theatrical genres. In chapter 2 Romeo and Juliet is used to exemplify the ‘key principles of Shakespeare’s memory theatre as it relates to tragedy’ (20). Wilder comments on the fact that Romeo and Juliet themselves ultimately become mnemonic devices and the retrospective quality of the play given the induction’s plot summary (59-60). Then we move on to a more shaky supposition that connects the Nurse’s and Romeo’s modes of remembering. The Nurse represents ‘the habit of dilatio’ in her recollections of weaning Juliet (65). The Apothecary, who Romeo fatefully remembers, is like the Nurse a ‘mother substitute’, one who replaces kinship with economic bonds, and who also contrarily evokes the Friar whom, Wilder argues, advocates orderly recall (68, 69). The Nurse ‘is the unacknowledged model for Romeo’s remembering’, Wilder contends, despite the fact that Shakespeare removes Romeo from the Nurse’s recollection scene that he is present for in Brooke’s version (71). Wilder asserts that there is an ‘implicit competition among mnemonic methods’ with Romeo replacing the Friar’s with the Nurse’s model, so that the play genders Romeo’s departure from social orderliness female (82). A more interesting point arises amidst this main argument, as Wilder describes how when Romeo recalls the apothecary he recalls a scene not witnessed by the audience, which suggests an extra-dramatic existence to his character and an ‘evoked but unstaged past’ that also serves to ‘enrich and motivate staged action’ (81).

[24]  Chapter 3’s exploration of Shakespeare’s history plays explicitly explores competition between mnemonic methods and objects, since ‘history as a theatrical genre gives focus to the conflict over ways and means of remembering’ (20). Wilder describes that ‘the conflict between Henry V and Falstaff is not between change and stagnation but between methods of, and focuses for, remembering’; while clearly issues concerning remembering are an important aspect of what is involved, this statement weakens itself by being overly ecliptic (87). In a similarly single-minded reading, the famous Prologue that calls on the audience to ‘[p]iece out our imperfections with your thoughts’ (1H4, 1.1.23), Wilder describes as making the ‘audience’s minds a third remembrance environment’ (in addition to the presentational platea and representational locus) (84); again memory is clearly involved here but so are other mental capacities, with the emphasis in this passage being on the dynamic interaction between representation and imagination: ‘And let us, ciphers to this great account,/ On your imaginary forces work./ … / For tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings’ (Pro. 17-18, 28). The physical contrast between Hal and Falstaff is described as being ‘increasingly a gendered contrast’ with Hal’s ‘habitual emasculation’ of Falstaff and the play’s description of the hostess as Falstaff’s ‘old tables, his note-book, his counsel-keeper’ (2H4, 2.4.264-5) feminizing Falstaff so that again the disorderly memory that is outcast is associated with ‘the female body’ (88, 102, 104). With this last quotation it might have been more productive to attend to the notion of the distribution of memory across persons, along with the simultaneous figuring of parity between textual and biological forms of memory. Overall Wilder overplays gender.

[25]  Chapter 4 reconsiders Hamlet in light of this focus on the memory, and again Wilder presents the play as gendering the remembering body as female: thus, Hamlet is feminized by the ghost (102), at the same time as Hamlet attempts ‘to remove the “baser matter” or feminine materia from the workings of his memory’ (22). Yet even given the general association of the material with the feminine and Hamlet’s misogyny, it should be noted that there is no actual connection of the feminine with memory in this passage. While in Hamlet memory is problematic in its ‘fertility’, in Othello and Macbeth memory is presented as diseased through being based on falsehood or fragmented, as explored in chapters 5 and 6. In Othello the invented past is a means of deception that ends in tragedy, which Wilder attributes in chapter 5 to ‘the unknowable mnemonic space of the female genitalia’ (140). In chapter 6 Wilder claims that like the supposedly feminized Hamlet, Lady Macbeth ‘enlarges the role of the female remember’ and ‘occupies a mnemonic agenda that is hybrid in its gender associations’ (156). Chapter 7, Wilder claims, demonstrates how the final plays make clear the mnemonic structure of Shakespeare’s memory theatre through a reading of The Tempest. It is suggested that in The Tempest there is an interrelation drawn between Prospero’s memory and the events on stage, with Prospero’s cell equivalent to a memory cell and the spirit actors like the spirits in Prospero’s brain. Yet the parallel here would be more correctly described as one between the cognitive and theatrical more generally.

[26]  In conclusion, while Wilder’s attempt with this work to explore the ways in which ‘[m]emory is not the purview of a single central agent but a collaborative and partial process’ offers in many places interesting readings of the plays, it is hampered by its reluctance to modify its readings appropriately in light of the evidence of the plays themselves through its determination to redefine Shakespeare’s Globe as ‘Shakespeare’s memory theatre’ (23). For Shakespeare calls his theatre ‘the Globe’ to evoke not just the memory, but the mind and world, and their intimate interrelation. Nevertheless, while these three books on Shakespeare and cognitive literary and performance studies all to varying extents reflect the tendency of emerging theoretical movements to either ‘[b]e too tame’ or ‘overdone’, they remain worthy of some applause for trying out new implements in their attempts to probe the means by which literature and performance ‘hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature’ (Hamlet 3.2.16, 3.2.25, 3.2.22).

University of Edinburgh