«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 ...»
players are not where they should be either and arc seen to usurp the identities of kings, statesmen and priests, thus transgressing the limits of social hierarchy. If the actor is playing a banished man, forcibly expelled from his 'proper' place and role, this sense of displacement is intensified.
Perhaps what the spectacle of the banished man daringly reveals is the contingency of identity and of place. The audience would have accepted the convention of an unlocalised stage upon which various different settings would be projected. Nevertheless, the absence of any physical demarcation between actors and audience, between illusion and reality, brought attention to the audience's participation in the creative process. It was something playwrights themselves advertised in their exhortations to the audience to 'Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts' (Henry V Prologue, 23). The playing of banishment often explicitly invokes the subjective power of man to transform his experience of the world. One of the best examples of this occurs in Thomas Middleton's The Second Maiden's Tragedy (1611). At the beginning of the play, the Tyrant has already dispossessed Govianus of his kingdom when he proceeds to woo his Lady. Govianus considers her loss to outweigh that of the realm, scorning literal banishment when he believes himself to be exiled from her heart. Yet when the Lady refuses
the Tyrant, the positions of king and exile are reversed. The Tyrant reflects:
114 The Second Maiden's Tragedy ed. by Anne Lancashire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978).
The act of rewriting that we have explored in this chapter, whereby exile becomes a religious vocation, a journey of discovery or a sacrifice for one's art, is dramatised on the English Renaissance stage, is even performed as theatre itself. The exile was a recognisable dramatic role according to John Webster's character 'Of an Excellent Actor' (1615). Of the actor's
versatility, Webster writes:
All men have beene of his occupation: and indeed, what hee doth fainedly that doe others essentially: this day one plaies a Monarch, the next a private person. Heere one Acts a Tyrant, on the morow an Exile: A Parasite this man to night, to morow a Precisian, and so of divers others. 115 In Munday's The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington, the protagonist, newly exiled, identifies himself as the actor. For Marion's sake, Huntington denies that he is banished. His grief was 'counterfeit', part of a spectacle to entertain the guests at their banquet, one of the 'comic sports, or tragic stately plays,/ We use to recreate the feasted guests'. 116 When Marion
remains unconvinced he urges:
When the guests are brought in, Huntington plays the tragedy of his own banishment before those who are responsible. By dramatising his fate, he takes command of it, before redefining himself as Robin Hood. Thus his exile becomes a providential narrative for England.
Similarly, in King Lear, Edgar's transformation into the archetypal outcast Poor Tom dramatises his condition whilst allowing him some distance from it. This first role gives 115 See the third edition of Sir Thomas Overbury's Characters first published 1613. Webster's addition is reprinted in The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 4, 257-8, 258.
' 16 R. Dodsley's A Select Collection of Old English Plays ( 1744) 4th ed. by W. Carew Hazlirt (London: Reeves & Turner, 1874), vol. 8, 1.3, pi 14.
Edgar the confidence to create other guises through which he will increasingly take control of his own fate and that of the other characters. Once again this exile is perceived within some larger context. For Lear, it is symbolic of humanity itself.
In this study I will consider Shakespeare's writing and rewriting of exile in the context of various classical and contemporary, dramatic and historical banishments. As a plot device in contemporary drama, exile appears in pastoral comedy, history plays and tragedy with regularity and with some consistency. Pastoral comedy based on the Greek romance or English chivalric literature will often feature the exile of a young man or woman whose wanderings result in their reconciliation with lost parents, siblings, or with a lover (The Thracian Wonder (1599), The Maid's Metamorphosis (1600), John Day's Humour out of Breath (1608)). Some of these exiles will be the offspring of a deposed potentate and exile recurs frequently in the cycle of usurpation presented by the history plays (The Wounds of Civil War by Thomas Lodge (1588), Robert Greene's Alphonsus. King of Aragon (1587), Robert Daborne's The Poor Man's Comfort (1617)). Finally, banishment recurs frequently in tragedy, and particularly revenge tragedy, as a punishment or a motive for revenge (Marston's Antonio's Revenge and The Malcontent, Dekker's Lust's Dominion (1600), Webster's The Duchess of Malfi). [l7 This breadth of plays means that the crimes for which banishment is imposed vary widely. To commit murder or adultery, to harbour a murderer or degrade the honour of knighthood and to withhold filial love may all result in one's exile. 118 117 In his Defence of Poetry, Lodge refers to exile as a subject for tragedy. See Elizabethan Critical Essays, vol.
118 See respectively Lodovico in Webster's The White Devil, the Duchess in Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy ( 1606), Brishio in.-I Knacke to Knowe an Honest Man (anon. 1594'), Fastolf in / Henry 17(1590), and Cordelia in King Lear.
This study will focus on seven of Shakespeare's plays that feature the literal proclamation of banishment. In Romeo and Juliet (1594-6), I focus upon the tragic power of the word 'banished' and the lovers' attachment to Verona which renders them more susceptible to that word. The idea of banishment as peripeteia, and the exile's attempts to redefine himself in the steps of Ovid's Tristia, will be explored in the chapter on Richard II (1595). My study of Henry IV Parts One and Two (c. 1597) will take in a number of contexts in which Falstaff s banishment may be defined, in particular the morality tradition and the contemporary antitheatrical debate. An exploration of pastoral exile will shape the interpretation of As You Like It (1599) and of King Lear (1605), the latter being also concerned with contemporary attitudes towards the division of kingdoms. Plutarch's definition of ostracism and Senecan and Ciceronian ideas of constancy will inform the chapter on Coriolanus (1608). Finally, in The Tempest (1611), I will examine Prospero's position in the light of the Aristotelian maxim that the exile is either a beast or a god, and with reference to contemporary ideas about magicians and colonialists.
It has not been possible within the scope of this study to examine Shakespeare's use of banishment in its entirety. Hence, I have concentrated on enforced rather than voluntary exile.
As we have seen, this distinction is a negligible one but it serves my purposes in narrowing the field of study to the exclusion of Pericles, Love 's Labour's Lost, and Macbeth. Perhaps the most obvious omission is a detailed study of Cymbeline. On banishment in the late plays, I would direct the reader to my study of pastoral exile in chapter five, to Leah Marcus' chapter on Cymbeline in Puzzling Shakespeare and to G. K. Hunter's essay 'Shakespeare's Last Tragic Heroes'. 119 Other exiles whom I may seem to have ignored but who fall outside the parameters of this study include Cressida, whose return to her origins does not bear the stigma of exile, and Hamlet whose journey to England is not represented as exile though it is clearly enforced. 120 Banishment is Shakespeare's challenge to the integrity and imagination of his characters.
They are deprived of state-sanctioned roles, thrust beyond familiar limits and denuded of their names. This is not only a prelude to all kinds of drama but to some consideration of what part the mind plays in the creation of identity and of place.
119 Leah S. Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and its Discontents (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1988), G. K. Hunter, 'Shakespeare's Last Tragic Heroes', Dramatic Identities and Cultural Tradition: Studies in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries: Critical Essays by G. K.
Hunter (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1978), 251-69. See also the PhD thesis by Minerva H. Neiditz 'Banishment: Separation and Loss in the Later Plays of Shakespeare'. University of Connecticut, 1974.
120 Other characters for whom a case might be made are the brothers in The Comedy of Errors, Antony in Antony and Cleopatra and Perdita in The Winter's Tale. Intriguingly, Desdemona pleads with Othello for banishment rather than death, 5.2.85.
In Words That Matter: Linguistic Perception in Renaissance English, Judith H. Anderson begins her study of the complex substantiality of language by recounting an episode in Bk 4 of Francois Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagrnel. Whilst out at sea. Pantagruel hears voices and is told that they are the sounds of a battle fought there during the previous winter which are only now thawing out. Pantagruel takes handfuls of frozen words and observes their
colour, texture and sound:
Rabelais [...] explores the fact that human language has not simply intelligible substance but also material dimensions, whether as vox, voice or sound; as a spatial object, the frozen speech of printed or written record; as the virtual stand-in for its referent, the thing itself; or as a medium of exchange, a tender between lovers, and, in the instance of lawyers, a venal commodity. 1 Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy acutely concerned with the substantiality of words. The protagonists reject 'airy' words in the search for those that 'matter7. This distinction does not depend on their spoken or written form. For Mercutio and Juliet, the printed words of Petrarchism. further substantiated by poetic convention, are absurdly intangible. The 'airy' word is a commonplace, that is, transient, trivial, depersonalising. It is the speech of the marketplace, of the 'ancient quarrel' and of Petrarchan love poetry. It is a language that expresses only the speaker's commitment to society and cannot express the individual or make him known. Words that matter individuate the speaker but they also have a performative power. They lead to action of some kind. The most powerful word in the play is 'banished'. Not only does this word facilitate the tragic conclusion, it is also the site of a 1 Words That Matter (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1996), 19.
linguistic crisis from which Romeo and Juliet never recover. The lovers have disparaged language in the privacy of the orchard but the word 'banished 7 forces them to recognise that they have been defined and can be destroyed by language. Romeo and Juliet imagine themselves stabbed, poisoned, and decapitated by words. They lose their linguistic power and with it their ability to survive banishment.
In The Art of Pronuntiation (1617) Robert Robinson contrasts the gross substance and the durability of written language with the ephemerality of the spoken word: 'though the voice be a more lively kind of speech, yet in respect it is but onely a sleight accident made of so light a substance as the ayre, so it is no sooner uttered but it is dissolved...".2 It is not merely its composition of air but of human breath that ensures the transience of speech. Each inspiration must be quickly succeeded by another whilst the whole span of man's breathing life may be perceived as relatively short. Speech may thus serve as a reminder of human mortality.3 But Shakespeare and his contemporaries had also inherited a definition of 'vox', the voiced sound of language, as material formed from the striking of air. The medieval grammarian, Priscian, attributed to the voice height, width, and length, all properties of matter.4 The substance that Romeo and Juliet imagines for language is not only material but living and capable of action. There are numerous and varied expressions of this concept in Renaissance England. Neoplatonism depended on the association between words and things to the extent 2 See The Phonetic Writings of Robert Robinson ed. E. J. Dobson (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), 1Jane Donavverth makes this general point: 'When they considered speech as voice, Renaissance men saw reflected in it human limitations: speech is accidental, of slight substance, not inherently significant, filled with
life only for the briefest moment', Shakespeare and the Sixteenth-Century Study of Language (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1984), 18.
4 Ibid., 16-7.
that words had the power to perform natural magic. The lingering superstition about cursing conceived of the efficacy of certain speech acts to perform vengeance on the possessions or body of the offender. This belief in the power of words to heal and to destroy may ultimately derive from the concept of the Divine Word. This in turn filtered down to the Pope and his priests, to the King and his ministers. 5 Moreover, the rhetoric taught in schools was founded on the performative power of language. The rhetorician is able to '"move", "bewitch", "fascinate", "ravish"', or "possess" his listeners', implying that 'poetry, and hence rhetoric, is an aspect of magic'. 6 In Romeo and Juliet, it is the Prince's word of banishment that releases the fatal power of language upon the protagonists. Hence, the play explores the paradox that language can be composed of breath and yet material, transient to the ear but permanent in its effect on human flesh. Romeo and Juliet begins with a scene of violence derived from the trivial word. The Capulet servants have deliberately sought a fight with Abram, a Montague, in a comically brief exchange of words. Abram merely has to say 'You lie' and the swords are drawn. This is
the point that the Prince will make in his speech: