«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
After the dissemination of Plato's works in Latin translation the expulsion of the poets from the Republic became notorious, and generated both further attacks on poetry in the Platonic mode and abundant defences. 94 The Republic justifies the banishment of the artist on three basic charges. Firstly, art, in particular poetry, is seen to misrepresent gods and heroes. Socrates' objections are partly based on the danger of such slanderous lies and partly on the greater evil posed by the poet's questioning of authority and of social and divine justice.95 The audience's identification with the protagonists of poetry and drama may also be a form of moral corruption. Anger, effeminacy, lechery or inconstancy may all be learned through the empathy inspired by representative art.96 Related to this is the possibility that acting erodes civic identity. The multiplicity of roles the actor adopts contradicts one of the basic tenets of Socrates' ideal state, that each man has one function to perform for the benefit of all and only one. Acting itself has no utilitarian value at all. Finally, art is said to distract man from the study of philosophy. In Socrates' famous cave simile, the philosopher has a responsibility to teach men to recognise the shadows on the cave wall for what they are. The poet offers only further representations of those shadows and leads man further into the cave.
95 Plato's Republic tr. by Desmond Lee (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987). 2nd ed., 135. as quoted in chapter 4 on Henry IV Parts One and Two.
96 Ibid., 153.
97 It is not that Socrates will not sanction any lies about the state. He recommends a particular foundation myth as a way of generating a sense of patriotism in society. However, such story-telling must always be in the control of the guardian class. The Republic, 131, 181.
These three points may all be found at the heart of Renaissance anti-theatrical literature. 98 In The Schoole of Abuse (1579 rep. 1587), Stephen Gosson describes the Circean temptations of poetry and its ability to 'tume reasonable creatures into brute beastes1. Plato is his authority
from the beginning:
No marveyle though Plato shut them out of his Schoole, and banished them quite from his common wealth, as effeminate writers, unprofitable members, and utter enimies to vertue."
In order to defend themselves from the philosopher's curse, some early modem English apologists sought to challenge the authority of Plato or to reinterpret the Republic. To undermine Gosson's argument in The Schoole ofAbuse, Thomas Lodge attacks Plato, perhaps recognising him as a kind of ghost writer to that work.
Where Gosson had argued that poets labour over what is worthless, Lodge suggests that philosophy is equally useless and ' fantastical!':
Your Plato in midst of his presisnes wrought that absurditie that never may be redd in Poets, to make a yearthly creature to beare the person of the creator, and a corruptible substance an incomprehensible God! for, determining of the principall causes of all thinges, a made them naughte els but an Idea, which if it be conferred wyth the truth, his sentence will savour of Inscience. 100 Another way of rewriting Plato in defence of poetry was to define him as a poet. Sidney's
Defence of Poesy approaches the philosopher with trepidation:
98 On the polemicists' debt to Plato see The War Against Poetry by Russell Fraser (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), 102-12.
99 Markets ofBawdrie: The Dramatic Criticism of Stephen Gosson ed. by Arthur F. Kinney (Salzburg:
Universitat Salzburg, 1974), 69-120, 77.
100 ^ Defence of Poetry (1579) in Elizabethan Critical Essays, vol. 1, 61-86, 67. The OED defines 'Inscience1 as 'want of knowledge, ignorance'.
But now indeed my burden is great; now Plato's name is laid upon me, whom, I must confess, of all philosophers I have ever esteemed most worthy of reverence, and with good reason: since of all philosophers he is the most poetical. 101 Sidney deals with the Platonic exile of the poet in a number of ways. He argues that philosophers are inherently jealous of poets since the latter are the true creators of philosophy.
He points out that the ancient world banished philosophers as well as poets. Like Lodge, Sidney refutes some unrelated aspect of Plato's philosophy, specifically his ideas about the place of women and homosexuality in the ideal state. Nevertheless, his principal defence is the argument that Plato banished poets for misleading the people with what even the pagan would consider blasphemous portrayals of divinity. Sidney denies that Plato intended to condemn poetry per se but suggests that he has been misunderstood, perhaps deliberately. He quotes Julius Scaliger who described Plato as one, 'Qua authoritate barbari quidam atque hispidi abuti velint adpoetas e republica exigendos\ "whose authority certain barbarous and uncouth men seek to use to banish poets from the commonwealth'. 102 Sidney states that the proposal of banishment was intended to defend poetry: 'So as Plato, banishing the abuse, not the thing, not banishing it. but giving due honour unto it, shall be our patron, and not our adversary' I03 This argument for banishing the abuse in order to save true poetry informs a crusade to banish the poetaster, hi The Anatomie of Absurditie (1589), Nashe condemns the ignorance that 101 The Defence of Poesy in Sir Philip Sidney ed. by Katherine Duncan-Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 238.
l()- Translated by Katherine Duncan-Jones in Sir Philip Sidney, 384.
103 Ibid., 239.
characterises much contemporary poetry and makes the true poet ashamed to write. Of the
poetaster he writes:
Such kind of Poets were they that Plato excluded from his Common wealth and Augustine banished ex civitate Dei, which the Romans derided, and the Lacedaemonians scorned, who wold not suffer one of Archilocus bookes to remaine in their Countrey: and amisse it were not, if these which meddle with the Arte they knowe not were bequethed to Bridwell, there to learne a new occupation... 104 Nashe had personal experience of banishment as the fate of the dramatist. However, Plato's dictum might have been realised more commonly in the fate of the player. In Histriomastix (1599), Marston dramatises the banishment of a group of players and their poetaster. It is the sixth act of the play and England is ruled by Poverty. The players cannot pay their tavern debts or their taxes and the Constable tells them that it is his job to 'banish idle fellowes out o'th'land'. The players are duly dispatched despite their protests that they are patronised by Sir Oliver Owlet. 105 The definition of itinerant players as social outcasts was formalised in Elizabethan law by the Vagabond act of 1572 which ordered vagrants and beggars to be whipped and sent back to their parishes of origin for employment. Among these were included 'juglers, pedlars, tynkers, and pety chapmen [...] fencers, bearewardes, comon players in enterludes. and minstrels...'. The player who could not prove that he performed under the auspices of a wealthy patron would be subject to this law. The Act of 1597 included banishment among its redressive measures. Any rogue who was declared dangerous or irredeemable was to be 'banished the realm or adjudged to the galleys'. Marston s players cannot prove their patronage and fall victim to this legislation.
104 The Anatomie ofAbsurditie in Elizabethan Critical Essays, vol. 1, 321-37. 328. See also William Vaughan in The Golden Grove (1600) who argues that 'many of our English rimers and ballet-makers deserve for their baudy sonnets and amorous allurements to bee banished...', Elizabethan Critical Essays, vol. 2, 325-6, 326.
105 Histriomastix in The Plays of John Marston ed. by H. Harvey Wood (Edinburgh and London: Oliver & Bovd, 1939), 3 vols., vol. 3,299.
The theatre itself had been under threat of expulsion from London. Before the battle between city and stage was really under way. the prohibition on playing in the city during times of plague was already referred to as banishment. 106 This metaphor was also employed to describe the theatre's removal from the city to the Liberties following the Lord Mayor's ordinance of 1574. That the Mayor was perceived to have succeeded in banishing playing from the city, through later measures if not this act, 107 is suggested in a petition of November
1596. The residents of the Blackfriars were protesting against the erection of Burbage's
theatre there and remonstrated that:
all players being banished by the Lord Mayor from playing within the city by reason of the great inconveniences and ill rule that followeth them, they now think to plant themselves in liberties. 108 The authorities were similarly seen to threaten banishment in 'An Act of Common Counsel for releafe of the poore... Article 62', c. 1582, referred to in a letter thought to have been written two years later. This letter describes how previous attempts to suppress the stage had failed to have any effect. Hence, there are no enterludes allowed in London in open spectacle but in private howses onely at marriages or such like, w'ch may suffise. and sute is apointed to be made that they may be likewise banished in place adioyning. Since that time and namely upon the ruine at Parise garden, sute was made to my S'rs to 106 In 1572, Harrison records that 'plays were banished for a time out of London, lest the resort unto them should engender a plague, or rather disperse it, being already begonne', Harrison's Description of England in Shakespere 's Youth: 2nd and 3riJ Books of his Description ofBritaine (1577) repr. by E. K. Chambers in The Elizabethan Stage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923. repr. 1961), 4 vols., vol. 1. 281. On the expulsion of the theatre due to plague see Leeds Barroll, Politics, Plague and Shakespeare's Theater.
107 Chambers suggests that the edict prohibiting all playing within the city which had been dated 1577 is more likely to have been written c. 1580-3, The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 1, 283.
108 The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 1, 297-8.
banishe playes wholly in the places nere London, according to the said law, letters were obtained from my S'rs to banishe them on the sabbat daies. 109 That players were expelled and playhouses 'suppressed' seems to be confirmed by Richard Rawlidge's A Monster Lately Found Out (1628) though performances probably continued in the Liberties and inn yards of the city. 110 Finally, in 1597 an order was issued for the expulsion of plays within three miles of the city during the summer and for the demolition of theatres in the same area. Although plays appear to have ceased for a time there was no such suppression.
It is difficult to say how seriously we should take the 'banishment' of the theatre. Clearly, this metaphor of prohibition and persecution served the arguments of both sides. E. K. Chambers and Virginia Gildersleeve have convincingly argued that the removal to the Liberties was voluntary and in the best interests of the companies.
Rather than being forced out by the act of 1574, Chambers suggests:
the players seem to have come to the conclusion that it would be better to be independent, as far as possible, of the risks attaching to this discretion. They turned to the easier conditions afforded by the lax county government of the suburbs.''' This pattern of rewriting a voluntary exile as a more dramatic forced exit should by now seem very familiar. Moreover, the providential ending that we have seen appended to this banishment continues. Steven Mullaney's absorbing study of the English Renaissance stage 109 From a transcript of Lansdowne MS 20, no II, reproduced in Government Regulation of the Elizabethan Drama by Virginia Gildersleeve (New York: Burt Franklin, 1961), 172-3.
110 Government Regulation, 175.
1 ' [ The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 1, 284, Government Regulation, 158.
depends upon the place it occupied topologically in London. He assumes not only that the
stage was banished but that this banishment was in a sense Platonic:
For the student of Western culture, the playhouses of Elizabethan London can precipitate an uncanny sense of cultural deja vu. In the place of the Elizabethan stage, we find the place prescribed for the mimetic arts by Plato when he banished drama from the Republic. A figurative banishment from an ideal republic, to be sure; but history at times reveals an acute capacity for literalizing the metaphors of its past. In exiling drama from his ideal polis, Plato did not intend to be taken quite so literally, by his readers or by history.
But he did intend to codify a vagrancy - a vagabondage, in Elizabethan terms
- which he regarded as constitutive of drama and poetry. 112 This extract is relevant to our study in a number of ways. Mullaney refers to the stage as banished without recognising any of the contemporary applications of that metaphor to its plight. Nor does he allude to the role of Plato in anti-theatrical literature, as if the parallel with Platonic banishment had not been perceived at this time. Furthermore, Mullaney, like Sidney, tries to rewrite Plato's banishment of the artist to suggest that he was actually facilitating the arts. Considering the stage's marginality as the precondition for its greatness, Mullaney examines Henry IV, Measure for Measure, Macbeth and Pericles in the context of this subversive standpoint. Once again, Shakespeare's work is seen as the product of exile, though this time it is not the poet but the theatre for which he writes that is 'banished'.
The dramatisation of banishment on the English Renaissance stage may have reflected the marginal experience of attending the theatre. Anti-theatrical tracts often lamented the fact that the audience to a play was not where it should be: not only outside civic jurisdiction where the brothels and lazar houses stood, but absenting itself from work or from church. 113 The 1 ' - The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Michigan: University- of Michigan Press, 1995), 56.
113 Jean E. Howard discusses this anxiety about displacement, as revealed particularly in Northbrooke's Treatise, in The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 23-8, especially 27.