English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain

English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain: Ethnopoetics and Empire

Eric J. Griffin
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
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    English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain
    Book Description:

    The specter of Spain rarely figures in our discussions of the drama that is often regarded as the crowning achievement of the English literary Renaissance. Yet dramatists such as Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare are exactly contemporary with England's protracted conflict with the Spanish Empire, a traditional ally turned archetypical adversary. Were these playwrights really so mute with respect to their nation's Spanish troubles? Or have we failed-for reasons cultural and institutional-to hear the Hispanophobic crosstalk that permeated the drama no less than England's other public discourses? Imagining an early modern public sphere in which dramatists cross pens with proto-imperialists, Protestant polemicists, recusant apologists, and a Machiavellian network of propagandists that included high government officials as well as journeyman printers, Eric Griffin uncovers the rhetorical strategies through which the Hispanophobic perspectives that shaped the so-called Black Legend of Spanish Cruelty were written into English cultural memory. At the same time, he demonstrates that the English were as ready to invoke Spain in the spirit of envious emulation as to demonize the Spanish other as an ethnic agent of intolerance and oppression. Interrogating the Whiggish orientation that has continued to view the English Renaissance through a haze of Anglo-American triumphalism, English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain recovers the voices of key Spanish participants and the "Hispanized" Catholic resistance, revealing how England and Spain continued to draw upon shared traditions and cultural resources, even during the moments of their most storied confrontation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0210-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. XI-XII)
  4. Introduction: The Specter of Spain
    (pp. 1-26)

    The remarkable literary florescence we associate with the English Renaissance is exactly contemporary with England’s protracted conflict with the Spanish Empire, an epoch that saw the emerging Protestant nation’s traditional ally transformed as an archetypical adversary. And yet “the specter of Spain” rarely figures in our discussions of the drama long regarded as the period’s crowning aesthetic achievement. This book will raise the Spanish specter in order to discover the role played by the drama in the production and dissemination of anti-Spanish sentiment during this troubled historical conjuncture. I maintain here that within the field of early modern studies, discussions...

  5. CHAPTER ONE From Ethos to Ethnos
    (pp. 27-48)

    When james anthony Froude closed his twelve-volume History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1862–70) with the signal event of 1588, he gave the English-speaking world what may be the fullest realization of the Whig view of the literary-historical period traditionally framed as the English Renaissance. Of his decision to emphasize the episode commemorated in his title as more pivotal than any other, Froude wrote, “Chess players, when they have brought their game to a point at which the result can be foreseen with certainty, regard their contest as ended, and...

  6. CHAPTER TWO A Long and Lively Antithesis
    (pp. 49-66)

    John Foxe did not live to experience the full pressure of the crisis mentality that permeated his nation during the final decade and a half of Tudor reign. Having died in 1587, when the Armada’s approach remained yet a rumor, he did not witness the variety of ways in which the reformation of national memory that constituted his life’s work would be effected. While it is true that Foxe had believed that “the Lord began to work for his Church, not with sword and target … but with printing, writing and reading … so that either the pope must abolish...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Thomas Kyd’s Tragedy of “the Spains”
    (pp. 67-96)

    Philip ii’s assumption of the Portuguese throne in 1580 sent shockwaves through a Europe embroiled in a military and ideological struggle that would not exhaust itself until well into the next century. Suddenly, the balance of power had swung, perhaps decisively, in the direction of the Spanish Hapsburgs and their allies. The English and the French especially feared what a united Iberia might be able to accomplish, which accounts for their uncharacteristic cooperation in the attempt to prop up the “native” pretender, Dom Antonio of Avis, the Prior of Crato, in his rather futile attempts to claim the Portuguese crown...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Marlowe Among the Machevills
    (pp. 97-134)

    No other elizabethan play explores and exploits English attitudes toward ethnic outsiders so thoroughly as The famouse tragedie of the Riche Jewe of Malta (c. 1589–91).¹ Projecting England’s nascent colonialist and mercantilist desires into the Mediterranean, Marlowe unfolds a tableau of early modern anxieties concerning the reflexive effects of empire’s outward energies on the inner lives of its subjects. By embodying contemporary fears about “impurities” of ethos and ethnos, his representation draws upon a range of contemporary discourses in order to picture a Maltese community that resembles Elizabethan England as much as it does the island evoked in its...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Shakespeare’s Comical History
    (pp. 135-167)

    If comedy can represent a kind of history, history, in turn, may be conceived as a kind of comedy.¹ Although his full title has not generated substantial critical comment, Shakespeare marked The Comical History of the Merchant of Venice, or Otherwise Called the Jew of Venice in terms of this generic crossing. In this seminal Elizabethan drama we are led (even as we watch Bassanio being led) to see the condition of the society it represents as being, in Hayden White’s phrase, “purer, saner, and healthier,” as a result of the onstage conflict we witness;² the play’s discordant elements, represented...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Othello’s Spanish Spirits: Or, Un-sainting James
    (pp. 168-206)

    It was said of Venice during the sixteenth century, “If you are curious to see men from every part of the earth, each dressed his own different way, go to St. Mark’s square or the Rialto and you will find all manner of persons.”¹ Even as Shakespeare was turning his dramatic eye toward the commercial republic, “when Antwerp and many other ‘world markets’ were suffering from political disruptions, when Jewish refugees drew to Venice trade from the Levant and Balkans, and when the boom of its textile industries reached new heights,” cosmopolitan Venetian merchants were operating “in Sweden and, extensively,...

  11. Afterword: A Natural Enemy
    (pp. 207-216)

    Like so much of Shakespeare’s dramatic achievement, Othello: The Moor of Venice transcends the historical context in which it was born. Othello’s poetry, its characterizations, even its farcical structure, rise above the ethnopoetics in which Shakespeare indulged his early Jacobean audience. We do not need to know that the mud being slung as the play opens has something to do with the typical (or typological) animus “the Spaniard” harbored toward “the Moor,” nor must we recall the moment of James I’s Spanish Peace and the many relationships and connections that continued to link England with Spain, even during the most...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 217-262)
    (pp. 263-290)
  14. Index
    (pp. 291-300)
    (pp. 301-303)