Jacobean Revenge Tragedy and the Politics of Virtue

Jacobean Revenge Tragedy and the Politics of Virtue

Jacobean Revenge Tragedy and the Politics of Virtue

Jacobean Revenge Tragedy and the Politics of Virtue

Synopsis

"The Maid's Tragedy, The Second Maid's Tragedy, Valentinian, and The Duchess of Malfi appeared on the English stage at a time when disenchantment with King James and nostalgia for Queen Elizabeth cast doubt on the traditional analogy between maleness and authority. In their sensational portrayal of politics and sex, these revenge tragedies challenge the dogmas of patriarchalism and absolutism on which James based his rule. Focusing initially on the first three plays, Eileen Allman examines the genre's resident tyrants, revengers, androgynous heroes, and virtuous heroines." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Cultural materialist and new historicist critics have persuasively argued the premise that no text is separable from the culture that creates it and that is, in turn, created by it; that, further, a text’s readers are equally implicated in the historical moment of their reading. Criticism, they maintain, is not and has never been a transcendent aesthetic practice. Where the only absolute truth is the truth that no truth is absolute, all criticism is political, and the critic, obliged to acknowledge the biases and thwarts of any reading, is free to use that reading in the service of a contemporary political agenda.

Current feminist scholarship in Renaissance studies has been profoundly influenced by materialist/historicist tenets and methods. Early feminist attempts to link the past to the present tended to ignore or to blur historical distinction: such studies have since been repudiated for building on theoretically unchallenged assumptions. Feminist scholarship of early modern England has now largely adopted the practice of concentrating on the specificity of the historical moment, examining all texts that provide information about women’s lives within the cultural context in which they were lived. These studies have uncovered a rich vein of factual and speculative material, with the result that texts gone stale from generations of critical exposure are again vital, while others once underrated or ignored are valued and foregrounded. Nonetheless, the linking of past to present remains a dubious venture. No matter how many texts are available for study, we cannot ignore the accidental quality of history’s leavings. Even if we were able to access all human, and even nonhuman, consciousnesses and generalize from that totality—I imagine some transhistorical, transpecies computer (God?)—the result would not necessarily be anything more than an infinite number of fragments interpreted in an infinite number of ways by temporally compromised readers.

Dilemma: If we posit a human faculty that transcends the historical moment and reaches across time and space to others possessing that same faculty, we are in danger of underestimating . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.