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The Imperfect Friend

The Imperfect Friend: Emotion and Rhetoric in Sidney, Milton and Their Conexts

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 400
  • Book Info
    The Imperfect Friend
    Book Description:

    Many writers in early modern England drew on the rhetorical tradition to explore affective experience. InThe Imperfect Friend, Wendy Olmsted examines a broad range of Renaissance and Reformation sources, all of which aim to cultivate 'emotional intelligence' through rhetorical means, with a view to understanding how emotion functions in these texts. In the works of Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), John Milton (1608-1674), and many others, characters are depicted conversing with one another about their emotions. While counselors appeal to objective reasons for feeling a certain way, their efforts to shape emotion often encounter resistance.

    This volume demonstrates how, in Renaissance and Reformation literature, failures of persuasion arise from conflicts among competing rhetorical frameworks among characters. Multiple frameworks, Olmsted argues, produce tensions and, consequently, an interiorized conflicted self. By situating emotional discourse within distinct historical and socio-cultural perspectives,The Imperfect Friendsheds new light on how the writings of Sidney, Milton, and others grappled with problems of personal identity. From their innovations, the study concludes, friendship emerges as a favourite site of counseling the afflicted and perturbed.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8831-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Notes on Transcriptions
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Counselling the Unstable Self: Conflicting Emotional Frameworks, Persuasion, and Inwardness
    (pp. 3-19)

    While Homeric heroes could lament bitterly, weep, or abandon themselves to grief without seeming unmanly, warriors in Renaissance representations of emotion reject such display.¹ As Sir Philip Sidney’s character Boulon asks, ‘what can breed more peevish incongruities / Than man to yield to female lamentations?’² Writings on emotion in this period seek to prevent dissolution into effeminate tears. They attempt ‘to mitigate’ the ‘griefe’ of a friend, that he ‘knowing the grounds of these passions ... might be the more comforted’ and refreshed, as the Protestant Timothie Bright puts it (1586).³ Authors relieve diseased passion by clarifying the causes of...

  6. 2 Unyielding Judge or Gentle Physician? The Friend as Counsellor in Guazzo’s The Civile Conversation and Sidney’s Old Arcadia
    (pp. 20-53)

    Renaissance rhetoricians entertained powerful fantasies that eloquence could compel people to follow the laws, as Wayne A. Rebhorn has amply demonstrated.¹ Anto Maria de’ Conti, a Milanese professor of rhetoric writing in the 1550s, claims that only the eloquent speaker ‘could have softened and changed the spirits of people so as to force them to obey his will.’² The English humanist Thomas Wilson (1560) insists that the eloquent man must ‘perswade and move the affections of his hearers’ so that they shall be ‘forced to yeeld unto his saying,’ following Cicero and Augustine, who argue that, ‘To teach is a...

  7. 3 Poetry as Orator and Physician in Sidney’s Defence
    (pp. 54-75)

    If theOld Arcadiaexplores the tensions between manly vehemence and gentle counsel, endeavouring to balance sympathy and judgment,A Defence of Poetrystrives to authorize a poetry that moves people to act well. ‘Right’ poetry does not coerce the will; it draws audiences towards truth and right action, cultivating their delight in learning and arousing ardour in the heart. Like the physician and counsellor, it produces shame at folly and heals diseased emotions. In doing so, it uses rhetoric’s power to move emotions and encounters the danger that it may injure rather than curing the patient. Renaissance rhetoricians engaged...

  8. 4 The Politics of Emotion in Hospitality, Rivalry, and Erotic Love: Sidney’s New Arcadia
    (pp. 76-105)

    The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (The New Arcadia)(1584) (NA), a revision of theOld Arcadia, recasts friendship in terms of hospitable interchanges that, damaged by civil war, require inventive forms of counsel. Criticizing emotions that produce war, the text turns to representations of civil conversation to shape emotions that otherwise run out of control. Emotion can be ameliorated in the company of persons who live in solitary self-sufficiency. The geography of Arcadia provides a template for this ideal. After Musidorus witnesses a shipwreck that fills the sea with the blood of war he travels through Arcadia, where the houses...

  9. 5 Anger as an Instrument of Justice: The Vehement versus the Mild Style in Milton’s Early Prose
    (pp. 106-127)

    Like Sir Philip Sidney, John Milton explores the inner rhetoric of tyrants who consume themselves with envy and hatred. Seeking to surpass all others,Paradise Lost’s Satan creates insatiable desire and anxious cares. The fallen Satan, Adam, and Eve cannot by themselves shift from angry to mild emotions, from despair to hope. They cannot acknowledge counter-evidence to their own feelings. Without friends or internal conversation, Satan (eternally), and Adam and Eve (temporarily) experience emotion that turns ceaselessly back on itself, independent of objective social facts and norms.Paradise Lostdiscovers an internal solitude more absolute than anything envisioned by Stephano...

  10. 6 Emotion as Defined by the Discourse of Honour: Spiritual Warfare and Rhetorical Agon in Paradise Lost
    (pp. 128-145)

    Like Milton’s early pamphlets,A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes(February 1659) calls for a vigorously agonistic ‘confutation’ that, ‘by instant and powerful demonstration ... by opposing truth to error,’ changes people’s beliefs.¹Paradise Lostrepresents such clashes in terms of the discourse of honour articulated in archaic epic and Aristotle’sRhetoric.² God, the Son, and the unfallen angels respond with anger at slights to their goodness. Milton represents them as retaining their identities by the righteous indignation they feel when enemies diminish their glory (PLIII.164–5, V.719ff., VI.675–87). Francis A. Blessington demonstrates that Milton draws...

  11. 7 Seventeenth-Century Protestant Rhetoric: Cause and Cure of Fallen Emotion
    (pp. 146-174)

    Paradise Lostrepresents imaginings that become unmoored from their references to external socially defined action. Whereas in theIliadAchilles becomes angry at a particular insult to his honour, fallen characters inParadise Lostexperience unbounded anger, envy, shame, and fear arising from their imaginations and their dreams. Emotion becomes more one-sided and unlimited than it was even in Sidney’sNew Arcadia, where tyrants caught up in intense emotion nevertheless appealed to evidence from the external world to feed their fears and hatreds. Although Sidney’s tyrants produce one-sided emotions, they use discourses oriented towards socially defined events.Paradise Lost, on...

  12. 8 Marriage as a Site of Counsel in Marriage Handbooks, Milton’s Divorce Pamphlets, and Paradise Lost
    (pp. 175-208)

    Paradise Lost, like Sidney’sArcadias, represents advisers as using humanist topoi to correct endless fear, envy, and rage. Sidney, following a long tradition, represents tyrants as friendless, but Milton goes further to represent the fallen as estranged from themselves. Experiencing a shame that makes them want to avoid their own registering eyes, Adam and Satan flee themselves and God. But when Adam becomes lost in self-division, Eve’s words and gestures bring him back to himself. Instead of taking an independent stand like the ideal Renaissance friend, Eve supplicates him to ‘bereave me not ... thy gentle looks, thy aid’ (PL...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 209-216)

    Renaissance writers urge counsellors to correct their friends’ excessive emotion by leading them to a truer view of circumstances. But, I have asked, what grounds that truth? Psychologies, dialogues, and rhetorical analyses claim that good emotions arise from true knowledge of good and evil things, and bad emotions follow when people’s cognitions are erroneous.¹The Imperfect Friendhas argued that this view, though often expressed, masks the actual multiplicity of rhetorical frameworks used to move emotions.

    While acknowledging the allure of a univocal epistemology of emotion for early modern writers, my argument has analysed conflicting frameworks of rhetorical topoi (whether...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 217-272)
  15. Index
    (pp. 273-293)