The Fey Beauty of A Midsummer Night's Dream: a Shakespearean comedy in its courtly context.
The generic description of the court comedy as an allegorical form of drama began well over a century and a half ago. Dissatisfaction with the findings only expanded the types of allegories allowed. N. J. Halpin's 1843 essay Oberon's Vision in A Midsummer Night's Dream, itself a response to Warburton's gloss on "the little western flower" in act 1, scene 2, of A Midsummer Night's Dream, popularized the practice of searching for references to Elizabethan courtiers in Elizabethan court comedy. (3) The methodology became an identifying marker of Lyly studies when R. Warwick Bond continued the process of finding equivalences in his 1902 multivolume edition of John Lyly's works. (4) Despite Bond's use of Halpin's methodology to discuss Endimion, Bond disagreed with Halpin's identifications of Eumenides, Corsites, Panelion and Zontes, Tellus, Semele, and Bagoa, and had doubts about Floscula. (5) Dissatisfaction with contentious identifications that could never be confirmed led G. K. Hunter in his 1962 book John Lyly: The Humanist as Courtier to adopt a more flexible approach. Reasoning that "the court play often approximated to the court masque," (6) Hunter quoted Francis Bacon's "Of Masques and Triumphs" to prove "court plays were an occasion for court spectacle," (7) and adopted synchretic and evolutionary reasoning to conclude, "what the humanists did was convert the old fertility figures into classical deities or court-of-love abstractions. (8) Hunter's evolutionary theory of religion licensed him to treat several other allegorical senses beyond the topical; the court drama remained courtly so long as all of these meanings could be centered around the Queen.
Hunter's book encouraged later critics to describe the court comedy as analogous to the morality play--a genre of debate between personifications of abstractions. David Bevington's 1966 essay "John Lyly and Queen Elizabeth: Royal Flattery in Campaspe and Sapho and Phao" provided a model of rhetorical structure in which a refutation of the topical historical equivalence preceded a shift into a discussion of how the comedy induced an allegorical mode of thinking in the Queen. (9) Peter Saccio's 1969 book, The Court Comedies of John Lyly: A Study in Allegorical Dramaturgy, sought to clarify that Lyly's comedies were not allegorical per se, but rather material for exegesis, invoking a "mode of literary operation, a stimulation of the larger senses of meaning from the literal sense of the play." (10) In defining court comedy as an allegorical genre in which the "thematic interest predominates over the mimetic interest," (11) Saccio, like Hunter before him, extended his analysis of John Lyly to characterize all comedies performed at court. This trend was given the color of historical fact in John Weld's 1975 book, Meaning in Comedy, which imagined an unbroken linear continuum from exegetical treatments of Classical literature, figurative treatments of the Bible, morality play psychomachia, and semantic complexity of far-fetched metaphors discovered in Elizabethan court comedy. To justify his allegoresis without validating it with reception evidence, Weld followed his claim that "Renaissance mythology ... was dense with potential significance" with the parenthetical conclusion, "(Surely the statement needs no defense and illustration at this late date), and for spectators educated in the lore of the mythographers other meanings can be postulated." (12) Such apologies licensed exegesis. In his discussion of Endimion, C. C. Gannon invoked Neoplatonic ideas of the soul to imagine the play as an allegory of the soul's union with the body and its attraction to the divine. (13) Celebrating Endimion as an enigma because scholars could not pinpoint its correspondences allowed Robert Knapp to contextnalize its scenes with emblem books and thereby pronounce that "Endimion's private history must reenact the history of mankind." So imagined, the play as a whole becomes, to our surprise, "a vision of the ultimate reformed society; it shadows a New Jerusalem on earth." (14)
Turning away from biblical exegesis and emblem books as the means to understand court comedy, critics exploring festive themes adopted an approach more grounded in seasonal time. Northrop Frye's seasonal approach to genre pervades this style of reasoning. (15) Because seasonal rather than historical time established the most important temporal context, critics were encouraged to see the metaphors, mythology, and dance in court comedy as generically comparable to the masque, which might be performed in another year on the same occasion, despite the masque's emphasis on aristocratic disguisings. The shift allowed the mythological comedy and the masque to be compared solely as vehicles of emotional manipulation: the masque's transparency of characters that made it a ceremony of aristocratic homage was lost in the comparison. Northrop Frye's 1976 essay, "Romance and Masque," characterized the stage romance a "people's masque" that opposed two worlds to each other, and, in the manner of the masque, brought the action to a harmonious concord. (16) Marie Axton's 1977 essay "The Tudor Mask and Elizabethan Court Drama" discussed the mythological pattern of Lyly's Endimion in relation to masques from the Henrician period, insisting that "because critics have insisted upon equating Cynthia's courtiers with historical people, the play's pattern has been obscured." (17) The focus on seasonal time allowed Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz to treat John Lyly's Midas as an allegory of Epiphany, (18) while the focus on happy endings allowed Eugene M. Waith to title his article "The English Masque and the Functions of Comedy" without ever making a distinction between the two courtly genres. (19)
Today, the supposed similarity between masques and comedies inflects the way literary history is taught. Lloyd Davis in 1995 imagined that "Lyly's work forms a midpoint between sixteenth-century disguisings and seventeenth-century masques, adopting allegorical patterns of praise and mythological celebration that later authors would imitate and develop." (20) Objectively considered, however, the paradigm only sustains itself by normalizing to the genre of court comedy masque-like conventions (21) and explaining away negative evidence. Because the non-masque-like court comedies Measure for Measure or The Merchant of Venice do not satisfy the existing genre description, they are described as "Problem Comedies" and thus dismissed as generic abberrations.
The limited utility of the seasonal approaches to Renaissance literature led critics back to the search for the historical context of court comedy. For some, this renewal of interest in historical context has meant greater attention to the whole body of work of the playwright. In his 1992 review of Lyly criticism from 1969 to 1990, Kevin J. Donavan seems disappointed that "Most recent critics ... examine either the plays or the narratives, rarely both." (22) Others have paid greater attention to the courtly milieu: so Alvin Kernan reminds readers Shakespeare's Jacobean court plays were played at court when certain issues were in the air. (23)
Unfortunately, a third group has interpreted the call for historical context as an invitation to renew the search for topical allegory. In some manner, the inheritance is direct. Derek Alwes has searched for self-portraits in Lyly's works, grounding his interest on Fleay's 1892 identification of Lyly as Diogenes. (24) But the influence of Foucault leads others to credit the imprecision of equivalences to circumstances of repression in early modern England. Respect for the historical record has suffered: In 1991, M. C. Bradbrook justified the hunt for aristocrats in court comedy on the grounds that court remedies were designed to be imprecise so as to satirize without being censored, yet there is no evidence that censorship was a problem. (25) In his discussion of Endimion, Alexander Leggatt acknowledged Lyly's prologue to the play disqualifies that topical correspondence was intended, but overruled it to identify Cynthia as Elizabeth, Tellus as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Endymion as Leicester or Oxford, again crediting the Elizabethan Muse of political censorship for his inability to distinguish for certain which character signified whom. (26) A similar rhetorical strategy has permitted Richard Dutton to dismiss Samuel Daniel's assertion that Philotas was not intended to recall the Earl of Essex as "totally Disingenuous,.... since a systematic comparison between the play and its historical sources [i.e., supposed correspondences of characters to courtiers] puts it virtually beyond dispute that Daniel had intended such an analogy." (27)
For the most part, Shakespeare scholars have resisted a return to this form of contextualization. In 1994, the actor Charles Boyle cataloged unflattering correspondences between characters and courtiers discovered over the years in Shakespeare's plays to marvel at the Bard's ability to satirize the court. (28) But his attempt has generated few followers other than Richard Dutton. Instead, there has been a critical backlash designed to insulate Shakespeare's drama from having to be read as courtly. The logic of gate receipts has led Annabel Patterson and Erica Sheen to contend that Shakespeare wrote primarily for the public theater. (29) Alexander Leggatt has excluded mention of the theory of court comedy's referential nature in the Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy, (30) a choice that seems designed to ensure that Shakespeare's comedies will not be discussed as courtly. More directly to the point is Leggatt's chapter on Dream in his Introduction to English Renaissance Comedy, which pronounces,
When we think of the play's original performance it is best to think not of an elegant occasion with a courtly audience in a candle-lit hall but of a normal normal afternoon in an outdoor playhouse,... [because] Shakespeare was not, in the first instance, an entertainer to the court or gentry but a working professional playwright ... [who] wrote for the paying public. (31)
We can only call Leggatt's assertion unsubstantiated if we neglect that it follows closely on the heels of Louis Montrose's more elaborate analysis of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The printing of Montrose's article by three different presses in three different time zones in a span of just four years in the late 1990s signals American scholars across the country enthusiastically embraced Montrose's finding and sought to disseminate it widely.
Certainly there are elements of Montrose's proof that literary historicans can admire. Montrose is right to challenge the "finding" that A Midsummer Night's Dream is courtly simply because its triple wedding and a dance of the fairies resembles an aristocratic masque. He is also right to point out that no external evidence exists that Dream graced the wedding feast of the Earl of Derby and the Lady Elizabeth Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford and Granddaughter of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Master of the Wards and Lord Treasurer of England, as some have declared, (32) or that Dream was staged on February 19, 1596, at the wedding of Thomas Berkeley to Lady Elizabeth Carey, the granddaughter of Henry Carey, first Lord Hundson, Lord Chamberlain after 1585 and Shakespeare's dramatic patron after 1594. (33)
Nonetheless, the historical record remains unequivocal on several more important points. First, Dream was written by William Shakespeare, a Lord Chamberlain's Man, who was required by law to perform his plays at court. Second, during the 1580s and 1590s, the monarch and the Privy Council kept the public theaters open as rehearsal spaces for such plays in the face of strong opposition from London magistrates. Third, Dream was published a year after the Globe's construction, a fact that suggests the Lord Chamberlain's men were attempting to reclaim some of the play's lost value after the change in public theater venue rendered this comedy obsolete. Fourth, Dream was performed at court before Prince Henry on January 1, 1603/4, demonstrating unequivocally its suitability for performance before a chaste prince.
The signature flaw of Montrose's argument disqualifying Dream as court comedy, however, is that it depends upon the long-standing assumption that the fable of court comedy always preserves a complimentary figuration of Elizabeth. Montrose reasons that as Elizabeth would not have been complimented to see herself represented as Theseus or Hippolyta or Oberon or the Fairy Queen, then "Shakespeare's ostensibly courtly wedding play is neither focused upon the Queen nor structurally dependent upon her actual presence or her intervention in the action." The only possible conclusion that can be reached is that Dream was never intended for court performance in the first place. (34) And if Dream were not written for court performance, then generalizing from the particular argues, "the dramaturgical and ideological matrix of Shakespearean drama was located not in the royal court but in the professional playhouse." (35)
In limiting his review of plays to George Peele's Arraignment of Paris, John Lyly's Endymion and Ben Jonson's Cynthia's Revels to justify his heuristic, Montrose neglects discussions of Elizabethan performances where critics reveal problems with the means of flattery that Montrose imagines universal in entertainments for the court. Theodora Jankowski has recorded significant difficulty in turning the supposed equivalence of Elizabeth and Sapho in John Lyly's Sapho and Phao into an unqualified compliment to Elizabeth. (36) Remarking on Lyly's The Woman in the Moon and Lyly's other pastorals, Anne Lancashire has contended that Lyly composed flattering drama that "in supreme compliment to the Queen present[ed] a Golden present in contrast to a Golden past." (37) Douglas Peterson discusses the fable of Lyly's Campaspe as if it were as historically grounded and mimetically oriented a recreation as Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV. (38) Helen Cooper has pointed out that "one of the greatest differences between drama and royal entertainment or masque lies in the interpretation given to the acting area and its relationship to the audience," to emphasize the point that the acting space in a court comedy was always different from Elizabeth's court while the space of the masque embraced the audience. (39) And Ulrich Suerbaum's analysis of the Elvetham Entertainment demonstrates that court entertainments often established fictional mechanisms to praise the Queen as herself, so that in these entertainments, "her identity is that of Elisa, Albion's Queen," and thus distinct from a legendary figure. (40) As these entertainments compliment Elizabeth as herself in contrast to rather than in equivalence with the characters of the fable, Dream would not have been so unsuitably complimentary, for it publishes the foolish lechery of the Fairy Queen in a way that highlights Elizabeth's chastity and thereby grants her greater dignity than the legendary figures of the mythological past.
The means of particularizing this contrast to Elizabeth in A Midsummer Night's Dream obviously lies in Oberon's account of Cupid's arrow, lines long recognized as alluding to the 1591 Elvetham Entertainment. (41) Like his setting of the play in ancient Greece, Shakespeare's allusion to the Elvetham entertainment locates the Chaste Elizabeth safely, temporally, and geographically beyond this flawed world of classical Athens. Montrose's use of roman a clef heuristics to deem this scene unsuitably flattering is a self-immolating argument, for the style of interpretation that he would apply to disqualify Dream as courtly originated in 1843 out of R. H. Halpin's discussion of Warburton's remarks on this very scene.
In his eagerness to declare that Dream is not structurally dependent on Elizabeth's presence, Montrose fails to notice that Oberon's courteous reference to the Elvetham Entertainment does more than position Elizabeth's dignity safely outside the comic action. Rather, the passage weaves this allusion into allusions to at least two other court entertainments, both of which the Queen attended: the first was the Earl of Oxford's 1581 presentation in which it was reported to Elizabeth that Cupid kept firing at and missing Vesta's bird who was nested in the Tree of the Sun; (42) the second was John Lyly's Sapho and Phao, performed at court on Shrove Tuesday either on 27 February 1582 or on 3 March 1584, at which time Elizabeth witnessed Sapho twice wounded by Cupid's bolts. (43) It is implausible that someone who did not follow the affairs of the court for at least a decade before Dream was performed would have recognized the triple allusion as easily as the Queen. And it is even more implausible to imagine that this invocation of his sovereign's past experience crept into Shakespeare's play by accident while he was thinking about entertaining the groundlings.
As it offers allusive testimony to specific dangers Elizabeth avoided, Oberon's vision encourages us to rethink how court comedies by Lyly and Shakespeare praised the English Queen. In the past decade, how Sapho and Phao complimented Elizabeth has emerged as a problem of Lyly studies. It was once held almost unanimously that Sapho corresponded to Elizabeth and Phao to Alencon, but both Theodora Jankowski and David Bevington admit they struggle to determine how equating Elizabeth to Sapho might have been complimentary to Elizabeth. (44) In addition, David Bevington has found that honoring the correspondence of Phao to Alencon would have given Lyly only three weeks to write and rehearse the play, if, as Bond contends, it were written for a 1582 performance. Bevington cites these difficulties to justify discussing the play as an allegory of love. The allusions in Oberon's vision demonstrate that our options are not so limited. In Shakespeare's mind, Sapho was not intended to be equivalent to Elizabeth; rather, when the Fairy King positions Cupid's arrow in relation to the "vot'ress," he identifies Lyly's Sapho as Elizabeth's foil. What this finding means is that the court comedies of Shakespeare and his contemporaries did not require their audiences to seek out secret correspondences or engage in abstract exegesis: but rather, in contrast to masques, Elizabethan court comedies staged fables about places geographically and temporally distant from England such that love-wounded characters from these other courts who resembled Elizabeth in position, power, and other qualities might serve as foils to her more perfect self seated upon the stage. (45) By means of establishing contrasts with these legendary persons of other times, these plays complimented Elizabeth as a Virgin Elisa, the "imperial vot'ress" throned in the west, more perfect in herself than any figuration in a masque might make her.
In this finding we have a consolation and a caution. On the one hand, we can be confident that recognizing the compliment in Elizabethan court comedy only depended upon an audience being logical: the compliment emerged once the audience acknowledged a historical or spatial distance between the monarch and her foils. In establishing these characters as lesser foils, the court comedy flattered by contrast like tragedy or history. And the historical record confirms that informed audiences in Shakespeare's day, including an audience of Shakespeare's own imagining in The Taming of the Shrew, introduced the "pleasant comedy" as "a kind of history" to their less well-informed contemporaries. (46) In 1591, an Italian character in John Florio's Second Frutes said that there were no English comedies or tragedies but only histories without any decorum. (47) A bit earlier, Sir Philip Sidney admonished the stage for obeying the rules of history and not poetry, (48) and in 1612, John Taylor described a play as a "brief epitome of time." (49)
On the other hand, we must acknowledge that the comedic episode was drawn from an historical continuum that the audience had the responsibility to recall before we consider how it advised on policy. Those holding with Gary Schmigdall that "courtly art was obliged to reach happy conclusions" (50) are guaranteed to miss the point. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy for Thomas Heywood was that "comedies begin in trouble and end in peace; [while] tragedies begin in calmes, and end in tempest." (51) While Heywood's paraphrase of Donatus imagines a starting and an ending place for comedy's staged action, it does not demand that the peace is projected into the future. Rather, the play starts at one point in time and ends at another, but nothing is to say that the happiness the characters achieve at play's end is, in fact, an admirable, true, or enduring one. The liberty from dramatic unity implicit in imagining a comedy as a form of history thus demanded the Renaissance audience consider very closely the nature of the happy ending. The logic of the genre required courtly audiences to consider whether or not the happy endings that the characters embrace were belied by history itself.
Such a device of false closure we find dramatized in Dante's Commedia, specifically in Inferno, canto 5, where Francesca tells Dante how reading the Romance of Lancelot was a Galeotto for herself and Paolo. As Mary Carruthers has aptly pointed out, simply reading the next sentence would have warned the lovers not to act as they did. (52) Francesca's folly and lust--the first a species of the second in Aquinan thought (53)--are underscored by her closing the book too soon: the suspension of the senses does not affect the informed reader, however, who already knows the rest of the story and is prepared to reason teleologically from the consequences of the illicit love affair. In Aquinan terms, Francesca sees the part as the whole and judges the book accordingly. In contrast, the initiate reader knows the part as a part and, combining the media of narrative and memory, supplies knowledge from the memory where the narrative is incomplete. (54)
The aesthetic of false closure quickly traveled north into English narrative poetry. Chaucer's Knight's Tale explores exactly this sort of irony in the arranged marriage between Emily and Palamon. Line A 1200, in which the Knight lets slip that Theseus followed Perithous to Hell, invokes the two friends' nefarious bachelor's agreement to steal each other a bride. (55) From Theseus's perspective, the damnable adventure would have been entirely unnecessary had not the suicidal lust and false accusation of Phaedra, Theseus's second wife, cost the Duke his wife and son. Had Theseus chosen a more chaste second bride, perhaps one not from the isle of Crete, he would have avoided this misfortune. Attention to the oddly placed allusion to the hell-bound Theseus invites an informed audience to think of the Amazon Emily's marriage teleologically. Then the happy ending inevitably dissolves: the soon-to-be-widowed Theseus's expedient decision to compel the Amazon princess to marry Palamon not only constitutes a politicking against the gods but is grounded on a too-confident assessment of his own future that played an important part in the degeneracy of his own house. Teleologically understood, the nuptials of Palamon to the Amazon princess in violation of the Trial by Ordeal thus becomes an occasion of future regret for the Athenian Duke.
This aesthetic of false closure also found its way into England's urban religious drama. In the Wakefield Mactacio Abel, Garcio's optimistic call to the audience to come join Cain's new society ought produce head-shaking pity, for the schematic of Augustine's City of God differentiates the unholy City of Cain from the Blessed City of Abel. Within the atmosphere of Christian surveillance, any other reaction demands that audience member's reeducation.
In Elizabeth's reign, stage comedies honoring the aesthetic of false closure were written to honor the Queen's intelligence. Richard Edwards's Palamon and Arcite and Damon and Pythias introduced the genre of historically ironic tragical comedy to the royal audience. G. K. Hunter declares
the 1566 Palamon and Arcite might serve as a paradigm of almost everything a court play could hope for: a tale of princely behavior in Theseus, a glimpse of glamour of antiquity, an intervention by the gods, a formal debate before a moderator (Saturn in this case), a compliment to the sovereign, lavish spectacle, a tournament between knights, even (presumably) 'whining poetry.'" (56)
Hunter neglects to mention that its episodic nature and its ironic conclusion dramatize on the Elizabethan court stage the courtly literature of the fourteenth century. Staged in two parts before the Queen on 2 and 4 September 1566, at Christ Church, Oxford, the lost play Palamon and Arcite derived ultimately from Chaucer's Knight's Tale. (57) As Sir Thomas Elyot offered the example of Theseus tormented in hell as a powerful memorial to train students to abhor tyranny and the dissolute life, (58) well-trained aristocrats ought to have been already prepared to see Theseus's willfully irreverent and self-confident arrangement of the Amazon princess's marriage in the Knight's Tale as Theseus's tragic mistake.
Perotheus's intervention in Palemon's escape had been dropped in Edwards's play; (59) however, Perithous's behavior at the funeral pyre served an important role of alienating the original audience from full empathy with the Athenian Duke. So intense were the judgments contrary to Perithous's actions, in fact, that when the actor playing Perithous prepared to toss into the fire King Edward's rich cloak, one spectator protested aloud to the playwright to stop the action and tried to restrain the actor's arm. In her commentary after the play, Queen Elizabeth recognized that the actor knew his role. Whether this royal cloak belonged to Elizabeth's half brother or the Confessor, as suggested by Thomas Twine whose father played in the drama, (60) the irreverence of burning it suggested that Theseus's maintenance of friendship with Perithous was grounded on a lack of concern for the value of property and a disrespect for royal authority not suitable in a Christian realm.
To characterize Theseus's tragic error as the sin of lust and make him contrast better with the chaste Elizabeth, Edwards added a historical foil for Theseus in Lycurgus: according to Aristotle, Lycurgus brought back from Crete the constitution that prepared Sparta to establish the thassalocracy that rendered Athens a subordinate state. (61) The presence of Lycurgus in Palamon's train suggests a national rather than a personal tragedy derived less from the Duke of Athens's travels to Crete than from Theseus's lecherous aims upon arriving. Edwards's alteration of his source thus transforms the future damnation of the incontinent Theseus and the fate of Athens's subordination to Sparta into a compliment to the governance of the chaste Elizabeth who was seated upon the stage. (62)
Palamon and Arcite was the latter of two historically informed tragical comedies that we know Edwards wrote specifically for a performance before Elizabeth. The first was Damon and Pythias, probably the "tragedy" the Revels accounts record the Children of the Royal Chapel played before Elizabeth at Christmas, 1564-65. (63) Certainly, by the time Palamon and Arcite was played at Oxford, Damon and Pithias was already known to some Oxford scholars who made a comparison between the two plays at one of Palamon's dress rehearsals. (64) The poetic prologue included in Damon and Pythias's posthumous publication in 1571 both advertised more broadly the new genre of tragical comedy and placed emphasis on the new genre's inherently historical nature. This prologue probably was included in the play's first performances, for at its revival in 1568 at Merton College, Oxford, this play is recorded as "tragico-moediam Damonis et Pythiae Anglice, praesentibus Magistris, Baccalaureis, et alijs domesticis cure nonullis extraneis." (65) In the illuminating prologue to Damon and Pithias, Edwards twice called his work "a tragical comedy," the first time insisting upon the historical verifiability of its plot (66) and the second time urging the audience to place the action of the drama squarely in the Syracusan court of Dionysius the Tyrant. (67)
Modern critics have limited their discussion of the Syracusan history in Damon and Pithias to commentary on a single source, an anecdote about friendship appearing in Cicero's De officiis, book 10: (68)
They say that Damon and Phintias, of the Pythagorean school, enjoyed such ideally perfect friendship, that when the tyrant Dionysius had appointed appointed a day for the execution of one of them, and the one who had been condemned to death requested a few days' respite for the purpose of putting his loved ones in the care of friend, the other became surety for his appearance, with his understanding that if his friend did not return, he himself should be put to death. And when the friend returned on the third day appointed, the tyrant in admiration for their faithfulness begged that they would enrol him as a third partner in their friendship. (69)
Because of the obvious similarities, Damon and Pithias is accounted a homosocial romantic comedy in which the reciprocal loyalty of the friends ends the tyranny of Dionysius's court. (70) However, there are some subtle differences between Cicero's exemplum and Damon and Pithias that compromise this hypothesis of optimism. First, Edwards's second title character's name is Pithias or Pythias, not Phintias. The name change is significant, for in Cicero's De Officiis itself, Pythius of Syracuse was a moneylender who cheated a Roman to believe that a piece of land bordered the best site for fishing in the country; the man he cheated could do nothing, for the criminal code had no statutes forbidding fraud.
A second difference is that the play specifies the friends' non-Syracusan origins while the anecdote does not. Giving the two friends an Athenian nationality and a Cretan servant highlights the question of their own truthfulness. The ethnicity of the characters develops the theme of courtly honesty that is central to the play's construction. (71) According to Plato's Epistle 7, two dear friends from Athens certainly did appear in Dionysius's court. These two friends Plato leaves unnamed, describing only their friendship, which
derived not from philosophy but from the ordinary companionship out of which most friendships spring and which comes from mutual entertaining and sharing in religion and mystic ceremonies. (72)
As names serve as a guide to religious affiliation, association in pagan mysteries appears a creditable origin for Damon's and Pithias's acquaintance. As daemon is the Greek word for spirit and pythia the title of Apollo's priestess inspired by that spirit, the names also suggest their intimacy is preserved by a religious if not a physical bond.
Historical contextualization of the friendship is a third distinction. Fast friends and good men in Syracuse did not necessarily equate, and these two anonymous Athenian friends achieved everlasting infamy in Plato's report. Most notoriously, close Athenian friends united by religious bonds served as conspiratorial assassins against Dionysius's chief courtier Dion, a philosopher himself and one of Plato's closest friends. According to Plato, these two friends accompanied Dion from Athens on his return to Syracuse, and only after Dion overthrew the Syracusian tyrant did they conspire to take his life. (73)
With historical validity so emphasized in the prologue to the play, Dion's obvious absence from the Syracusian court argues the courtier was in exile preparing to usurp the throne. Viewed within the larger history, the Tyrant's reversal of judgment in the drama made Syracuse no more secure. By threatening Damon and Pythias and then releasing the knowledgeable one on bail, Dionysius may have permitted Dion to gather intelligence. By mercifully granting reprieve and seeking out the conspirators' friendship, Dionysius may have prepared them to turn on Dion. However, by forcing into exile the flattering courtier Carisophus, Dionysius may nonetheless have served to furnish well-informed, well-connected allies for Dion's usurping force. In short, Dionysius's vacillation between opposing policies made way for his own deposition, his deposer's assassination, and ongoing civil war in Syracuse. Certainly, the audience's judgment of the comedy against history explains best why both Lord Burghley and the Master of the Revels adopted a pessimistic outlook on Damon and Pythias's conclusion and named the play a "tragedy," (74) though its tragedy is not readily apparent if unity of plot is assumed.
All courtiers should have been able to achieve the ironic understanding. Within the educational theory of the court, both Cicero's De Officiis and Plato's Epistles were highly valued as moral correctives. In a letter to Edward Denny on moral reading, Sir Philip Sidney urged, "[L]et Tully be for that matter your foundation, next to the foundation of scripture." (75) Sir Thomas Elyot had described the works of Plato in general as a means to season judgment, (76) and Elizabeth's tutor, Roger Ascham, singled out Plato's Epistles to Dionysius as the most effective of "the Godly medicines agaynst the poyson of vayne pleasure," whether Circe's enchantments or licentious vice. (77)
Nonetheless, it cannot be expected that everyone in the audience would have had the inclination to recall this context during the play. Edwards's plays thus would have divided its audience into groups of wise and naive knowers. That Renaissance drama came to differentiate its audiences into groups of wise and naive knowers is certainly borne out by the historical record. From 1599 to 1613, at least thirty-five plays out of eighty-four published with prologues or epilogues warn their audiences to use their "judgment," up from five of perhaps forty dating back to 1587. Leo Salingar, interpreting these statistics, claims that such "'[j]udgment' required knowledge and understanding; in other words, classical learning." (78) In permitting such audience differentiation, Edwards's plays played to Elizabeth's vanity. Roger Ascham, Jan van der Noot, Sir Thomas North and others had complimented Elizabeth in print for her knowledge of classical languages and literatures. (79) Euripides had described Theseus's downfall in his play, Hippolytus, as had Seneca in a play of the same name, both of which the Queen's tutor had highly praised. And just as judgment of Perotheus at the end of the performance of Palamon and Arcite allowed Elizabeth to demonstrate that she was classical learned, so her gravity at the end of Damon and Pithias would have signaled that her knowledge of classical philosophy exceeded the erudition of those courtiers who were more optimistic.
Such victories were politically useful, for they allowed Elizabeth to demonstrate her purveyance. On the topic "Of the pourveyance of a kynge," Aristotle in Robert Copland's 1528 translation of the Secreta Secretorum counsels Alexander, "It behoveth that a wyse kynge thynke often of thynges to come that he may provide for suche thinges as may be contrary to hym." (80) Anticipating disaster in the future of the comedy when others thought the future promised prosperity permitted Elizabeth's grim expression at the end of the comedy to serve as evidence of her greater wisdom.
Praise of Edwards's drama long outlived his active influence as Master of the Chapel Royal, and for a full generation after his death his work was still accounted among the best. The longevity of this reputation might seem disproportionate to the size of Edwards's corpus of works since only Damon and Pythias survives him, (81) and no plays other than Palamon and Arcite and Damon and Pythias are known for certain to have come from his hand. Yet it seems that it was exactly the recasting of courtly comedy as a form of history that made Edwards his reputation. In a poetic epitaph written upon Edwards's death, Thomas Twine named only Damon and Pythias and Palamon and Arcite in claiming Edwards had written drama that was suitable for princes' ears. In his Art of English Poesy of 1589, George Puttenham, too, singled out comedy and interlude in his praise of Edwards's greatness. (82) And despite the slimness of Edwards's surviving canon, so enduring was Edwards's influence that in Palladis Tamia (1598) Francis Meres catalogued Edwards among "the best for Comedy," including Edwards on a slate of more recent playwrights though Edwards had been dead for thirty years. (83)
Elizabeth's praise of Richard Edwards motivated other dramatists to adopt his aesthetic. At least two successors were to wheedle out different particularities that brought about the downfall of Theseus's house. Printed in 1591, William Gager's Megara and his interpolations in Seneca's Hippolytus credited Megara's curse upon Theseus the true cause of Hippolytus's end, a curse whose effectiveness Cupid agreed to disguise by inflaming Phaedra with lust. (84) A Midsummer Night's Dream was the first of Shakespeare's two contributions to the English tradition of Thesean tragical comedy. Both the subject matter of the play and attention to its conclusion argue Shakespeare wrote it with Elizabeth chiefly in mind.
In general, critics have treated the relevant action of A Midsummer Night's Dream as having ended with Puck's apology. (85) Genre critics point specifically to the communal spirit of optimism the play's conclusion fosters in the imagination to reserve for A Mid-summer Night's Dream a special place among Shakespeare's comedies. A Midsummer Night's Dream has been called Shakespeare's "first comic masterpiece." (86) his most happy comedy, (87) his most perfect comedy, (88) and, by a recent reviewer of all the criticism, "one of his best-loved comedies." (89) Reviewers have concluded that "A Midsummer Night's Dream is almost always successful and funny, at least intermittently, in the theatre," (90) and scholars, comparing the play's structure to the Renaissance madrigal, have declared that "[s]uch a coalescence forms the narrative and thematic foundation upon which A Midsummer Night's Dream is built." (91) This penchant to create happiness in its audience and its supposed perfection of structure have even colored the second world of Shakespeare's drama green, for myth critics, pleased with the progress of the play, have described the fairies' chaotic process of sorting out disorder as both paradigmatic and exemplary for the way Shakespeare's comedies achieve comic resolution both in the ordering of the action and in the psyche of the spectators. (92)
Certainly, since 1960, more hard-edged productions have encouraged modern-day critics to be more judgmental. (93) Today's scholars are troubled by suspicions that the Athenian court scenes celebrate the traffic in women, (94) that interactions in the glorified fairy world are cruelly contentious, (95) that performances of the artisan scenes in the Elizabethan period had relevance to contemporaneous social unrest, (96) that performances in the past were part of English colonial discourse, (97) and that productions of the play even today perpetuate the racial agenda on which the British empire was founded. (98) However, such disaffection builds its foundation on political orientation rather than generic description. Consequently, contradictory assumptions so haunt its foundations as a corpus that the accumulation of disenchanted responses can never really emerge as a legitimate counter-consensus even though A Midsummer Night's Dream may be acknowledged a problem play. If the mirthful conclusion of Shakespeare's play is self-serving, for instance, interested only in legitimatizing the theater by hiding its commercialism, (99) then the conclusion must still be mirthful; the final dance cannot, as another critic writes, draw the happiness of the ending into cynicism by revealing for all to see the class- and gender-based underpinnings of the performance. (100) Likewise, if "Shakespeare's comedy continues the racial discourses constituted by travel narratives that represented India as a 'territory to be conquered and occupied,' displaying its peoples as 'rich trifles' to sate the European appetite for exotic novelty, " (101) then Shakespeare must have wanted his audience to identify with and respect the fairies. Yet no member of Shakespeare's audience would choose empathy with Titania's court as Kott describes it, "consisting of old men and women, toothless and shaking, their mouths wet with saliva, who sniggering procure a monster for their mistress," (102) a vision of the fairies more appropriate to Mistress Quickly's torment of Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor than of the boys with un-broken voices who Kott himself, in a later queered reading of the play, claims probably played these parts. (103) Published in a series over time, one politicized critique then another may render the play's progression ugly, yet when considered together, each disheartening treatment bursts on the incisiveness of another's reasoning.
As a consequence, as the number of political critiques of the play has grown, so too has grown in some circles the suspicion that disaffection with the play's happiness can only emerge from the over-determined, if not anachronistic pursuit of a scholar's own political agenda. (104) Invulnerable to sustained attack, the very structure of the play mandates that political meanings ought to be downplayed, say defenders of Dream's happy ending. Echoing critics of previous generations, they highlight the admirable way that the tangled skein of four different plot lines are pulled apart and rewoven into a single celebratory moment. (105) They note how beautifully the celebration is concluded with the reuniting of Oberon and Titania, who appear unexpectedly to offer a charm of protection against future misfortune. They bear witness that the charm Oberon and Titania offer seems almost sacramental. (106) And they contend this concord at play's end allows Shakespeare's theater to transcend the cosmically petty concerns--whether of gender or race or imperialism--and bear witness to larger elemental harmonies. (107)
Politically oriented criticism has been disparaged in the process. Genre critics have contended that dissatisfaction with A Midsummer Night's Dream lies only in the misguided soul that has allowed political correctness to crush her perspective and sense of humor. (108) Likewise, scholars who have appreciated how "Shakespeare fused a number of disparate elements together to form an admirably balanced unity" seem doomed to snipe that "some post-Kottian" critics, "trying to appropriate [Dream] for politico-social ideology," upset this balance by publishing criticism that "exemplifies all the vices of misdescription," including "incompleteness, ahistoricity, suppression, exaggeration, and ethnocentricity." (109) Genre criticism has thus declared Dream irrelevant to Shakespeare's political agenda.
This opinion needs to be revised. Written with the knowledge of Elizabeth's experience of Palamon and Arcite and her understanding of fairy romance, the happy ending of A Midsummer Night's Dream was designed to collapse under Elizabeth's scrutiny. In Dream as in The Knight's Tale, Theseus sanctions a multiple marriage against the will of a noblewoman's father, and the double marriage limits his options when Hippolyta dies. Empathy with the noble Theseus and the Athenian court and insightful, detailed attention focused sharply on the way the play's conclusion intersects with the larger history actually reverses the entire emotional momentum of the play, creating a disappointment so profound that the audience feels compelled to search out Shakespeare's political intentions to assuage their feelings of loss. As it disabuses those who pretend to know, the play becomes an example of peirastic rhetoric. Its sinking disappointment arises immediately from a single, arresting realization: there is in Theseus's future no "talismanic field dew," no "magic circle that keeps life's adversities at a safe remove." (110) On the contrary: knowledge of Theseus's fate argues the fairy blessing rendered Theseus's bride-bed fey and doomed his bride, himself, their son and the city to suffer irreversible heart-wrenching catastrophe.
Against the legendary framework of the well-known story of Theseus, Oberon's benediction marks an ominous occasion, a turning point between comic potential and disaster. Oberon's benediction has not usually been seen as ominous largely because scholars have appreciated the blessing's pleasant shape and neglected the charm's effects. The fairy charm adopts much the style of the benediction at the end of a church service, a ritual language of departure that produces in the audience a general warmth of good feeling that flows naturally from the intensity and the poetic grace of Oberon's fairy song:
Now, until the break of day, Through this house each fairy stray. To the best bride bed will we, Which by us shall blessed be; And the issue their create, Ever shall be fortunate. So shall all the couples three Ever true in loving be; And the blots of Nature's hand Shall not in their issue stand; Never mole, hare-lip, nor scar, Nor mark prodigious, such as are Despised in nativity, Shall upon their children be. With this field-dew consecrate, Every fairy take his gait, And each several chamber bless, Through the palace, with sweet peace, And the owner of it blest Ever shall in safety rest. (111)
Neatly ordered, pleasantly delivered, the Fairy King's final song would secure a deep abiding love between the couples, would offer protection from harm specifically for the ruler of the province, and would wish beauty upon the Duke's unborn child--such blessings as we might wish ourselves upon our dearest friends and family, such blessings as we might wish to receive ourselves upon our wedding nights.
To convey this message more effectively, or so it would seem, the fairies wrap their wishes in a weft of ceremonial allusion that colors the word "fortunate" with "good fortune." Oberon expresses his generosity toward the couple in a religious language of baptism, marital fidelity, and ecclesiastical consecration. Thus, it seems, as James Calderwood declares, "their dancing traces a magic circle that keeps life's adversaries at a safe remove, and their song reflects the harmonies of married life restored in fairyland and newly wrought in Athens." (112) The echoes of sacrament that convey these sentiments of benevolence give the fairy charm the flavor of a beneficial magic or a closing hymn offered out of sincere majestic generosity by the governing spirit of nature and his fairy congregation, who "use song and dance to master the natural order and providentially bless the newlyweds and their issue." (113)
Teleological reasoning, however, identifies all sacramental allusion here as seeming. For as Peter Holland has recently pointed out, the blessing of beauty is too well pointed, too well directed, toward the fruits of the best bride bed: "Hippolytus is the hidden threat to the play's ending, the unborn child whose implicit silence is undermining," Holland pronounces, with not a little dread in his tone: "Once remembered, Hippolytus doggedly refuses to be forgotten." (114) Holland suggests that the proper response is to regret Hippolytus's birth and wish him away unborn. However, as it was the mixed blessing of such fey beauty that led Hippolytus to his death, it seems most likely that Shakespeare wanted the words spoken by the fairy train to be thought of as a haunted charm.
Remembering the larger frame of Athenian history cannot but undermine the learned audience's optimistic feelings horrifically, but the emotional momentum of the play's resolution offers powerful inducements to forget. Here lies another way the courtly comedy served political ends, for in the atmosphere of surveillance in the court theater, the monarch's purveyance might be seem all the more extraordinary if a play whose emotional momentum toward closure induced amnesia in even the most knowledgeable of non-royal hearers. Review of the criticism on Dream clarifies that Shakespeare's play has often had this effect. Anne Barton has contended that "the children summoned up Oberon extend the comedy into the future, counter-acting the artificial finality which always threatens to diminish happy endings." (115) D'Orsay Pearson imagines that the only irony Elizabethans would have caught by remembering Hippolytus is that Theseus himself worked against the blessing of the fairies. (116) James Calderwood imagines the allusion to Theseus simply highlights the theme of stepmothers in the play. (117) Northrop Frye and James Andreas claim these ducal characters are simply names Shakespeare lifted from Chaucer's Knight's Tale (as if that tale of misfortune were not equally haunted by allusion to Theseus' tragic story); (118) Douglas Freake claims that "the play is a comic version of the Theseus myth;" (119) and Louis Montrose declares that "it is this lurid mythological subtext of unchecked, violent and polymorphous desire that the play text's dominant discourse seeks to contain." (120)
Such strategies of argumentation attempt to forestall further contemplation of this so-called happy ending because the larger flame outside the action of the play seems so irrelevant to the plot. There is so much confusion between the lovers, so much distraction with the entertainments, so much delight in the fairies' speech that the future trials of Theseus and Hippolyta and their child are forgotten in rendering the larger cacophony harmonious. At the time of the blessing especially, the larger frame is deliberately downplayed. Neither Theseus nor Hippolyta have been addressed by name for some several hundred lines before the fairies' final entrance. As the mechanicals enact the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, the staged court of Athens and the play's true audience become temporally, spatially, and ontologically aligned as watchers of a performance they may make fun of and enjoy. While recent performances of Dream on the proscenium stage and film adaptations may induce audiences to empathize most naturally with the mechanicals, (121) in the uncut play in a court theater, the connection between fictional and real audiences would have been more difficult to resist, for sumptuousness of dress would have allowed Theseus and his courtiers to be thought of as the same class. With the effacement of distance between knowledge, time, and space comes the sense that the court onstage has become just like the audience, or the audience like them--the distinction less important than the obfuscation of historical, geographical, and theatrical boundaries that draws the courtiers of Athens into our time and space and removes them, according to our emotions, from their own specific mythological time.
In inducing such forgetfulness in empathetic spectators, the play circumscribed a circle of the elite around the queen. Her response to Palamon and Arcite, which she and her court had witnessed nearly thirty years earlier, indicates Elizabeth would not have needed the reminder in Thomas North's Plutarch Lives, a book dedicated to her in 1579, to recall the death of Theseus's son. (122) Dream's celebration of Elizabeth's purveyance was all the more certain because, as Louis Montrose has already detailed, Elizabeth had worked hard to establish a cult of Cynthia in her court. (123) In Hippolytus's own account of his dismembering in Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Goddess Cynthia, one of Elizabeth's court personae, had played a salvational role.
According to Ovid's version of the Hippolytus story, the young man while driving his chariot had been distracted at the circumstances of his wrongful banishment and "did not at all dismay" at seeing the bull from the sea. His horses became afraid and drew him onto the rocks. Here the guiltless man underwent what is reminiscent of a traitor's death of being broken at the wheel, drawn and quartered. In his own words, he reports:
Then from the Charyot I was snacht, the bridles beeing cast About my limbes. Yee myght have seene my sinewes sticking faste Uppon the stub; my gutts drawen out alyve; my members, part Still left uppon the stump, and part foorth harryed with the cart: The crasshing of my broken bones; and with what passing peyne I breathed out my weery ghoste. There did not whole remayne One peece of all my corce by which yee myghte discerne as tho What lump or part it was. For all was wound from toppe too to. (124)
While beauty was the cause of this young man's banishment and death, the intervention of Cynthia was the reason Aesculapius brought the dead Hippolytus back to life. But Cynthia's blessings did not end with Hippolytus's resurrection:
Then Cynthia (least this gift of hers myght woorke me greater spyght) Thicke clowds did round about mee cast. And too thentent I myght Bee saufe myself, and harmelessely appeere too others syght, Shee made mee old. And for my face, shee left it in such plyght, That none can knowe mee by my looke. (Metamorphoses 15:600-604)
After saving Hippolytus from death, Cynthia renamed him Virbie, "twice-man," and ensured his safety by giving him the gift of ugliness, which the reborn son of Theseus repaid with undying loyalty. So he says,
From that time foorth within this wood I keepe my residence, As of the meaner Goddes, a God of small magnificence. And heere I hyde mee underneathe my sovereine Ladyes wing, Obeying humbly too her hest in every kind of thing. (Metamorphoses 15:610-13)
With the Queen's previous experience of Palamon and Arcite, her reputation for classical learning, her antipathy to sexual license, her anxiety about conception, and her cult of Cynthia privileged so precisely, we cannot imagine that Elizabeth would have allowed the tragic outcome of the final blessing of A Midsummer Night's Dream to pass unnoted. (125)
In transforming comic potential into tragedy, Dream operated as a peirastic argument to offer counsel on domestic policy. In Dream, the metamorphosis of a pleasant sounding blessing into a terrible curse conveyed a set of political messages, all of which argued against church reforms ongoing in England. Given Theseus's ironic disavowal of the fairies' existence, no doubt Elizabeth's first thought would have been that it was the group of fairies who spoke it who rendered the blessing fey. Past critics have discussed Shakespeare's faeries as uncharacteristically different from the dangerous fairies of legend. In this vein, C. L. Barber has written,
the faeries do, it is true, show all the main characteristics of faeries in popular belief: they appear in the forest, at midnight, and leave at sunrise; they take children, dance in ringlets. But, as I have remarked already, their whole quality is drastically different from that of the faeries "of the villagery," creatures who, as Dr. Minor White Latham has pointed out, were dangerous to meddle with, large enough to harm, often malicious, sometime the consorts of witches. (126)
Elaborating on Latham's work, Barber declares,
Professor Latham's excellent study points out in detail how Shakespeare, in keeping such features of popular superstition as, say, the taking of changelings, entirely alters the emphasis, so as to make the fairies either harmless or benign. (127)
But Latham and Barber assume, like J. O. Halliwell, the compiler of Illustrations of the Fairy Mythology of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Shakespeare Society, that "Spenser was contented with the fairies of romance; but Shakespeare founded his elfin world on the prettiest of people's traditions." (128) The dichotomy between Spenser and Shakespeare established in Halliwell's remarks still govern the study of Shakespeare's fairies today. (129) Contextualizing the play only with Ovid and English folklore, Ronald F. Miller finds the fairies an intriguing mystery. (130) Marjorie Swarm has argued that aside from Shakespeare's own contribution, there existed in England only a popular tradition of mischievous agrarian fairies and a courtly mythography of fairies "designed to legitimize an hereditary aristocracy." (131) Wendy Wall imagines that in the sixteenth-century, fairies began to be associated with benevolent figures of domestic life. (132) Mary Ellen Lamb has gone so far as to say that the "shared use of fairy allusions" drawn from the popular tradition in Dream shows Shakespeare employing subversive strategies by "revealing a community of interpreters centered in groups marginalized from established modes of power," that nonetheless transforms the popular superstition into "the image desired by a dominant group: no longer coarse, no longer dangerous, no longer a significant threat to established social institutions because it is separate." (133) And so benign do Shakespeare's fairies seem in comparison to popular fairies in other cultures that Keith Sagar has suggested that Shakespeare himself was not Christian. (134)
In mischaracterizing the literary heritage on which Shakespeare draws, such interpretations predispose us to ignore the danger of the final blessing, misidentify Shakespeare's primary audience and thereby distort the historical record. Even a casual glance at the place of fairies in medieval courtly literature demonstrates a well-developed literary tradition in which the eldritch beauty of fairy monarchs led aristocrats and human monarchs to embrace tragic fates or dynastic change.
For Chaucer, the fairy kingdom was equivalent to the classical Hades. Chaucer's Merchant's Tale named the fairy king Pluto and the Fairy queen Proserpina; and his Wife of Bath equated fairy men with the incubus of elder days. The tradition of court romance before and since upheld the association of the Good People with the dead. The Romance of King Orfeo locates amputated corpses in their realm; there, the equivalent of Eurydice is found. Thomas and the Fairy Queen situates the kingdom in the mouth of Hell; there, the fairy queen speaks knowingly of the devil's purposes and the dooms of Englishmen and Scots. In Huon of Bourdeaux, Gerames warns Huon against crossing Oberon's path on his trip to Babilon; on the journey, the Fairy Queen persuades Oberon to arrange for a more subtle destruction than sudden death. In The Adventures of Sir Gawen, Sir Gawen must travel through a hellish tunnel before arriving in fairy land; there, he is baptized with Hecate's dew.
Halliwell may say that "the fairies of Launfal, or Orfeo, are not the fairies of Shakespeare," (135) but even the medieval romances he assembled invoked fairy monarchs to highlight the dangerous lure of fay beauty. In Sir Launfal, attraction to the Fairy Queen cost Launfal the goodwill of Arthur and his life and Arthur the respect of his Barons. In King Orfeo, desire for his beautiful wife taken by the fairies cost Orfeo his kingdom for a time; his recovery of his dead wife Merodis resulted in dynastic change. In Thomas and the Fairy Queen, the beautiful Fairy Queen's prophecy of war to come cost Thomas his hope in a happy life among men; it is not difficult to imagine him committing suicide at the conclusion. In Huon of Bordeaux, Oberon's beauty was so disarming, Huon wanted to seek him out, though he knew Oberon would destroy him, and he willingly gave up his wife and daughter when Oberon put him in the position of having to oppose Arthur. And in The Adventures of Sir Gawen, the contrast between the ugliness of the passage to the fairy land and the beauty of the fairy kingdom persuaded Gawen to abandon his baptism in Christ. (136)
Marcus Gheerhaert the Younger's 1592 portrait of Elizabeth as the Fairy Queen should be considered a logical extension of this tradition. In alluding to the tradition of the Faerie Queen, the portrait configured Alencon's death on June 16, 1584 into a compliment to Elizabeth's own fey beauty: attractive but unattainable, England's queen was committed to chastity, beyond normal mortals' reach, beyond the age of providing heirs. Dream simply extended the British romance tradition of fey beauty into classical myth. And in interweaving the danger of fairies in the romance tradition and the fate of Hippolytus, Shakespeare appears to have agreed with Edmund Spenser's Epithalamion, a roughly contemporaneous work about a Midsummer wedding, that though the wedding should echo to the woods, it was wise to keep the Pouk away.
Among traditional customs that had this end in mind was the Roman Catholic custom of bridal lustration. As C. L. Barber has written,
It was customary for the clergy, at least in important marriages, to bless the bed and bridal couple with holy water. The benediction included exorcism, in the Manual for the use of Salisbury a prayer to protect them from what Spenser called "evill sprights" and "things that be not" (ad omnibus fantasmaticis illusionibus). (137)
Barber surmises that this custom was an ecclesiastical adaptation of a more primitive bridal lustration, thus explaining Shakespeare's thoughts that the customs are quite pleasantly adopted by the fairies. Actually, the point Shakespeare makes in Dream is that the Christian ceremony and the fairy charm oppose each other as much as Gawen's annointing with Hecat's dew, for the exorcism included in the prelate's blessing was designed to distance the Pouk and the faeries from the marriage's consummation. So Chaucer signals in the Wife of Bath's Tale:
But now can no man see non elves mo, For the grete charite and the preiers Of limitours and of other povre frers That serchen every land and every streme, As thikke as motes in the sonne berne, Blissing halles, chambres, kichenes, and boures, Citees and burghes, castles highe and toures, Thropes and bernes, shepenes and dairies, This maketh that there be no fairies. (138)
As logical as A Midsummer Night's Dream seems as evidentiary support for the practice of exorcism at marriage, Dream does not commit Shakespeare fully to this position. Rather, Dream allows another explanation for the ironic outcome of the blessing--that this blessing was offered at an unholy time. In the farce that is the lovers' scene in the forest, Shakespeare shows that the senses of the fairies themselves are subject to the same laws of time and space that afflict the senses of mortals. Puck, while sweeping the stage before the entrance of Oberon and Titania, defines the time of blessing as ominous by cataloging a series of events which create an atmosphere of gloom, if not impending death:
Now the hungry lion roars And the wolf behowls the moon; ... Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud, Puts the wretch that lies in woe In remembrance of a shroud. Now it is the time of night That the graves, all gaping wide, Every one lets forth his sprite, In the church-way paths to glide. (5.1.371-82)
This association of the evening with man-eating predators, the wolf howling at the moon, the screech owl portending death, and the dead rising to life makes Midsummer Night itself a haunted moment, and so it was perceived in Elizabethan times. Yet Barber writes that
It seems unlikely that the title's characterization of the dream, "a midsummer night's dream," implies association with the specific custom of Midsummer Eve, the shortest night of the year, except as "midsummer night" would carry suggestions of a magic time. The observance of Midsummer Eve in England centered on building bonfires or "bonefires," of which there is nothing in Shakespeare's play. (139)
Barber's assertions to the contrary, contributing to the sounds and sights of this haunted Midsummer Eve are those objective correlatives of human sleep and dreaming. Puck rises with the dead "Whilst the heavy ploughman snores, / All with heavy task foredone" (V.i.373-74) and enters the house where "[n]ow the wasted brands do glow" (5.1.375). To us, the plowman asleep and the fire dying may seem neutral, indeed natural metaphors of inactivity after a hard day's work--but in Shakespeare's time, these lines suggested a failure to observe Midsummer Eve with traditional ceremonial rites.
Such ceremonies were under attack by Puritan reformers in the Elizabethan period. (140) Protestants like Reginald Scot, who in his 1584 The Discoverie of Witchcraft called Robin Goodfellow a creature of fancy and fable, also characterized the belief in sprites, fairies, and Robin Goodfellow that informed such ceremonies as
a wretched and cowardlie infidelitie, [that], since the preaching of the Gospell, is in part forgotten: and doutles, the rest of those illusions will in short time (by Gods grace) be detected and vanish away. (141)
For such Protestants as these who held with Theseus, such rites of Midsummer Eve, or the eve of Saints Philip and Jacob, and May Eve, or the eve of St. John the Baptist, traditional occasions for nighttime revels, were holdovers from pagan times, from times of lesser reason. Consequently, both Midsummer's and May Day had been denied permission in Edward VI's 1552 Act for the Keeping of Holy Days and Fasting Days to be two-day festivals. (142) If Dream did not insist that the bonfires of St. John's effectively deterred the Puck, it at least characterized the suspension of this ritual on May Day or Midsummer Night as a stillness as foreboding as the keening of a screeching owl.
By supporting a popular festival, Shakespeare was not abandoning his elite knowledge base. Indeed,
until the middle of the sixteenth century, Midsummer day was marked with bonfires, including some sponsored by the crown. Henry VII regularly paid ten shillings from his privy purse towards the midsummer bonfire on June 23 or 24, but the custom disappeared under his successors. Barnaby Googe in 1570 was among those who attacked the St. John's Day bonfires and floral garlands of midsummer as popish relics. Suppressing them was part of the task of the reformist bishops. (143)
The London Midsummer Watch, "the most famous of its kind," had been banned in 1539, and in 1540, Henry VIII made the last payment for the Midsummer Bonfire in his hall. (144) It was the Protestant position that the traditional festivals, of which the Midsummer Watch was one, were based on pagan ceremonies. Reviewing Edwardian legislation, David Cressy writes,
Strict Protestants found no authority for the church calendar in scripture, and regarded all days "of like holiness." They acknowledged the power of custom, however, and were willing to authorize an expanded list of holidays, provided that these days drew their special potency from "the discretion of the rulers and ministers" rather than the timeless will of God. (145)
However, those who went to service or prayed on their own on June 13 (Midsummer Day as it occurred in nature) as the Queen did every morning, would have been directed to the scriptural text of Mark 13:35-73 in the Geneva Bible,
Watch, therefore, (for ye knowe not when the master of the house will come, at even, or at midnight, at the cocke crowinge, or in the dawning, leest if he come suddenly, hee should finde you sleeping. And those things that I say unto you, I say unto all men, Watch. (146)
While the Common Prayer service on June 13 uses scripture to remind Christians to "watch," Puck's reference to burnt out brands and sleeping plowmen argues a lack of vigilance on this particular night. Indeed, the spiritual lesson of A Midsummer Night's Dream would have resonated quite poignantly on June 13, the day of the summer solstice, for in the morning, the churchgoing audience would have heard about false prophets and false Christs, who deceive the elect themselves (Mark 13:22) and listened to predictions that "the brother shall deliver the brother to death, and the father the sonne, and the children shall rise against the parents and cause them to die" (Mark 13:12), while in the evening of the same day, they would have heard the promise of punishment God reserved for the wicked, that
God will lay up the sorrow of the father for his children: when he rewardeth him, he shall know it. His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drinke of the wrath of the Almightie. For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his moneths is cut off? (Job 21:19-21)
A performance on the day of Midsummer as it occurred in nature would have underscored powerfully for the Queen, a Bible-reading classicist, Theseus's fault in failing to keep watch. One suspects that from the name and topic of the play, that Shakespeare would have had several days eliminated from the calendar, for Ovid's Fasti commemorates that Hippolytus's tragic fate and restoration to life occurred on 20 June when 1 January was identical to the winter solstice. (147)
Yet neither Puck nor Theseus nor the play itself restricted the time of fairy haunting only to Midsummer night. There is considerable confusion about the actual date of the final blessing because the calendar is interpreted two different ways, "one popular (it is Midsummer) the other aristocratic (it is May Day)." (148) From this confusion of times, C. L. Barber has said that the rites of May are simply proverbial for particular festive practices. (149) Francoise Laroque has claimed that "the point is to use festivity as a means of abolishing continuous time altogether," (150) while David Wiles, believing like Barber that "there are no direct references in A Midsummer Night's Dream to the principle rite of Midsummer, the burning of a bonfire," claims that "Midsummer is significant in Shakespeare's play not for its ceremonial but for its status as a turning point." (151) Shakespeare's royal audience would have been less confused. Elizabeth knew the problems of dating in ancient Greece stemmed from inaccuracy of the ancient Greek calendar. In her denial of Philip II's fourfold request to leave Belgium undefended, to return the booty Drake plundered, to rebuild the monasteries Henry VIII destroyed and to make the Pope the head of the English Church, Elizabeth quoted a Latin proverb.
Ad Grecas fient isthaec mandata calendas. When Greeks do measure moneths by the moon Then, Spanish Philip, thy will shall be done. (152)
Dream invited Elizabeth to see the proverbial inaccuracy of the Greek calendar as analogous to calendar regression in Elizabethan England, for the backward movement of the Julian Calendar had generated such confusion about the dating of Midsummer Night in England that the almanacs printed in the Book of Common Prayer clearly labeled that St. John's festival of Midsummer fell on 23/24 June and "solstitium aesti.," the summer solstice, fell on June 13. (153)
While the Midsummer date the play stages remains somewhat confused, Dream gives us reason to believe that Shakespeare would have favored a date determined by the position of the astral bodies, for fairy time is marked most clearly by a moonrise after midnight. The almanac declares the presence of a moon that night, yet the mechanicals' play, ending before midnight, has to rely on an impromptu Man in the Moon with lantern, dog and a bush because the moon has not yet risen. Only after midnight does it rise to lead into Theseus's hall these creatures of the semidarkness whom Puck identifies as lunar:
And we fairies, that do run By the triple Hecat's team From the presence of the sun, Following darkness like a dream, Now are frolic. (V.i.383-87)
Thus, another way to read the profaning of the blessing is that it was offered at an auspicious moon, or an auspicious phase of the moon, or a late rising moon, and thus the blessing of beauty goes awry.
There are over thirty references to the moon and its cycles in A Midsummer Night's Dream, many of which are associated with growth and diminuition. (154) The aphasal lunar cause of the blessing's going awry also resonates well with what the fairies tell us of the workings of this world. Titania describes the effects of Oberon's jealousy after Midsummer and the importance of the pale moon in effecting rheumatic diseases, while Oberon speaks of the power of the watery moon over the fiery shaft of Cupid's arrow, aimed at "a fair vestal, throned by [the] west" (II.i.258). Here Shakespeare particularized his argument about the moon to Elizabeth's understanding, for the passage alludes to The Honourable Entertainement given to the Queenes Maiestie in Progresse, at Elvetham in Hampshire, By the right Honourable the Earle of Herteford, 1591 (London, John Wolfe, 1591). On the first day, September 20, Elizabeth is rendered lunar by a poet/soothsayer who calls her, "that English Nimph, in face and shape / Resembling some great Goddesse, and whose beames / Doe sprinkle heav'n with unacquainted light." The second day, Nereus "the prophet of the Sea" and his train approach her and continue the comparison, "Faire Cinthia the wide Oceans Empresse." Later, the sea nymphs ask, "What second sun hath Raies so bright, / To cause this unacquainted light? / Tis faire Elisees matchless grace / Who with her beames doth blesse the place." The fourth day's entertainment recounts the Speech of the Fairy Queene to her Maiestie," at which Auberon is present. Shakespeare's Oberon, a witness to Elizabeth's presence, recounts a natural moon protected the Vestal from the darts of love, a marked contrast to Lyly's Sappho. Thus Shakespeare's Dream undermines the metaphor of Elizabeth as the Moon on Earth: he uses The Elvetham Entertainment's own characters of Auberon and the Fairy Queen, and Lyly's Sappho to suggest how much Elizabeth herself depended upon the special grace of the astronomical moon to avoid the wounds that threatened her sanity. (155)
Such lunar flights of fancy had important theological implications in Shakespeare's time, for the insistence in Elizabethan England that specific moons or phases of the moon in nature might indeed be more holy than others was implicitly considered by the English Church a point of false belief. The Christian calendar depended chiefly on the appearance of the paschal moon, the first full moon after the vernal equinox, and the English Church of Shakespeare's day had chosen to interpret this celestial event according to an inaccurate calendar rather than according to its occurrence in nature.
According to the Nicene Council of 325, Easter was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the appearance of the spring full moon so long as the spring full moon did not rise the night before. A festival of light, the spring full moon represented the first time in nature that there was celestial light for twenty-four hours. Indeed, song birds, usually asleep at night, can be heard singing all night long during the appearance of this moon.
Because of the importance of the paschal moon as it was observed in nature, in early Christian times, Easter was determined by scanning the heavens. The Nicene Council of 325, attempting to simplify matters, fixed the date of the vernal equinox at March 21. (156) Unbeknownst to them, however, the Julian Calendar was slightly inaccurate. The almanac affixed to the front of The Book of Common Prayer agreed with the Julian calendar in declaring that "the yeere of the Sunne ... hath 365 dayes and a quarter." (157) Over the centuries, this slight inaccuracy grew into days. The consequence was that the true vernal equinox (measured as the time that the sun moved into Aries) arrived consistently earlier in March than the twenty-first. In his Treatise on the Astrolabe, Geoffrey Chaucer "fond the point of my reule in the bordure upon the firste degre of Aries, a litel within the degre" in "the yeer of oure Lord 1391, the 12 day of March at midday," (158) nine days earlier than the vernal equinox used to calculate Easter.
There were two approaches to this problem. The first was to leave the calendar the way it was and let it continue to move backward. The implicit logic of this practice was that the calendar was more important as a customary schedule than as a measurement of natural time. Preserving the customary schedule assumed, of course, both that the paschal moon was not important in and of itself as a vehicle of grace in nature, and that the cycle of prayer offered by the church was as sacred to God, Who existed in all times and places, independently of whether it was anchored on the Easter of nature or the Easter of the Julian Calendar.
However, there was a problem with preserving custom this way, for in past times, the Church had treated the celebration of Easter when the moon was out of phase as a mark of heresy and schism. In his Ecclesiastical Histories of the English People, Bede reports that one of the chief controversies to be settled at the Council in Whitby between the Roman Church and the Irish Church was the means of calculating Easter, and the different dates of Easter had become visibile differences between the Roman and the Orthodox churches as well. Protest against the Roman Church's means of calculating Easter because of adherence to a backward-moving calendar specifically began to appear in Western literature in the fourteenth century. In Inferno 29, Dante, for instance, represents Pope Nicholas III headfirst in a baptismal font (a sacrament once always performed on Easter), overanticipating the arrival of Pope Boniface and complaining that the writing had lied to him by many years.
The visitations of the Black Death challenged the Church to resolve the problem of the calendar. Twentieth-century studies of the plague have often characterized Roman Catholic theology as an accomplice in the devastation. Naming the Black Death as Plague, we often read, the Church encouraged self-flagellation and its oppression, massacres of Jews and Arabs, (159) and a cult of Purgatory that had no tradition in scripture from which the Roman Catholic Church profited. (160) Medieval churchmen are accused of handicapping the scientific investigation of the disease by trying to keep the physicians in a secondary role. (161) At the same time, the sacraments of penitential rites and extreme unction encouraged men of learning to hazard their lives in consoling those infected, resulting in a disproportionate drain of intellectual power across Europe that might have been galvanized to combat the crisis. (162) Thus, for some, the questioning of Church ideas during the Reformation has seemed the initial step toward the advancement of modern science. (163)
Less often are we told that until the appearance of the plague, there was no public health care system other than the Church, and fear of Purgatory often financed the hospitals in which doctors cared for the sick and accumulated their observations. Utopians, including those as dedicated to the church as Thomas More, were able to conceive a system of public health care independent of the church, (164) but it fell to lay authorities to institute the most promising quarantine measures they understood to combat the crisis. Some of these might resemble Reformation--like the 1630 Venetian legislation to remove the homeless poor from the vicinity of Saint Mark's and quarantine them in an island monastery (165) and the elimination of religious processions combining rich and poor (166)--but they had the full support of Church authorities, for better or worse. Secular authorities punished dissent: even Queen Elizabeth found some Protestant enthusiasts so intolerant of quarantine to prevent the spread of infection that the imprisonment of preachers appeared the only answer. (167) The international reach of the Church and its use of Latin encouraged this information to be communicated beyond national lines, one reason that the devastation in Europe was nowhere near as great as in Muslim parts of the world after 1450. (168)
Knowing as we do that the bacillus was spread by the rat flea, the Churchmen's hypothesis that the plague originated in an airborne miasma from God (169) when Saturn, conjucted with Mars and Venus (170) or a comet and a rainbow coincided (171) may seem a tragic miscalculation. Yet unlike the unfalsifiable medical hypotheses of the time, this astronomical hypothesis so emphasized ocular investigation that its methodology developed the instruments of its eventual correction. The relationship between plague and rat fleas was not discovered until after Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur had identified the infectious cause of anthrax in 1876 and 1877 with a microscope. Siba Siburo Kitasato, Alexander Yersin, and Paul Lewis Simond applied the same methodology to bubonic plague. (172) Advancement in medicine thus depended as much on optics as medical insight. As magnifying devices were employed most dramatically in the Renaissance as a means to study the stars, the controversy about the arrangement of the universe, oddly enough, did contribute to the discovery of the cure for plague.
The Gregorian Reform of the calendar demonstrates the Church's commitment to improving public health via better astronomy. The logic of coordinating the rhythms of the Easter season to match the appearance of paschal moon had a scientifically empirical foundation, for the actual power of the celestial moon over the earth and the generation of life had long been known. Bede's The Reckoning of Time was a reputable source on the importance of lunar events. According to Bede, among the things which occur by moonlight are the laying of the dew which is laid heavier under a full moon. As the moon waxes and wanes, so too diminish in concert with her the elements and those things associated with them, like the humid brains of sea animals and the inner parts of trees. Shipwrights, according to Bede, take care to fell trees between the fifteenth day of the moon and the twenty-second, just as they are careful to fell trees after the summer solstice. As with trees, so with the conception of living things. Bede quotes the sixteenth book of the Hexaemeron, where Basil, the Bishop of Cesarea, confirms the ideas associated with the moon's diminishing, saying,
For I think that in the generation of animals and in anything else which the earth produces, formation is conferred in no small degree by the changes of the moon. When she grows old, their bodies seem weaker and empty, and when she waxes, they are whole and full; for in a hidden fashion she pours a certain humour, mixed with warmth, into their parts. (173)
In accordance with Bede's understanding, Elizabethan aristocrats calculated the positioning of the moon for nuptials so as to consumate the marriage when the moon was waxing. Shakespeare appears to think this practice wise. For Theseus and Hippolyta, it was more than "bad luck to have the [wedding] ceremony before the new moon is growing in the sky," (174) for the positioning of the moon at the faeries' entrance indicates they slept together before this time--perhaps another reason Hippolytus was doomed.
The same lunar science that governed the scheduling of weddings suggested that ignoring the positioning of the moon was perilous for the Christian world. Because of the backward progress of the vernal equinox, the Church was likely to celebrate Easter with the paschal moon out of phase. Court literature as early as the fourteenth century, ostensibly told by those fleeing the plague, include damning references to the backward-moving calendar. Chaucer's horologue beginning the Canterbury Tales does not say "at Easter" but refers to Easter in a roundabout way by establishing the season and describing the running of the sap, the singing of birds all night, and the elimination of disease. Boccaccio's Decameron, Emilia relates a story to the nine others who have fled from plague-ravaged Florence about a married woman who promises to give her love to another man only when he shows her a garden blooming in January. Only by black magic is this task accomplished, such means serving as an indictment of the pretenses at holiness of the backward-moving calendar that would eventually effect the same result. (175)
Studies of the Gregorian reform do not look back toward Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer perhaps because it was not until 1503 when the Church celebrated Easter according to the wrong moon altogether that the Church began to concern herself with the issues these fourteenth-century court intellectuals expressed. In 1514, Andreas Stiborius and G. Tannstetter in De Romani Calendari Correctione Consilium in Florrentissimo Studio Veinnensi Austriae conscriptum & aeditum urged the reader to remember that God placed His throne in the heavens, and made the sun and the moon the true signs for His worship.
Verum nec rite nomen sanctificationis summi dei nostri collaudabimus, nec in manu mirabilium operum suorum recte gloriari possumus, nisi istud sacrae sanctae festivitatis perceptum sub comminatae maledictionis formidine adamussim, tueamur obseruamusque. (176) However, neither shall we praise together with right ceremonies of the highest sanctification the name of our God, nor have we been able to glory properly in the hand of His wondrous works, except we look out for and observe that rule of the sacred holy festival I became enamoured of beneath the terror of a threatened curse.
The danger of incorrect observance was implicit. Because of the adherence to an inaccurate calendar, the Roman Church was moving away from God and the blessings of His wondrous works and approaching instead His curses.
By Shakespeare's day, the controversy about the calendar was flesh in everyone's mind, for the discordance between the natural and customary paschal moon had recently effected a remarkable change. In 1582 Gregory XIII, pope from 1572 to 1585, demanded Roman Catholic countries subtract ten days from the month of October to bring March 21 into better alignment with the observable vernal equinox. He also adjusted the approximation of the year, allowing that three centuries out of four would not have an intercalendary day added to February. Likewise, Gregory reformed the lunar calendar so as to bring the celebration of Easter in line again with the appearance of the paschal moon in nature, initiating a nineteen-year lunar calendar with its first year 1577. Naturally, the punishment for resisting this change was excommunication. (177)
Nonetheless, the papal bull was observed as written only in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain, though France, Luxembourg, Holland, Zeeland, Brabant, Limburg and the southern provinces (now parts of Belgium) postponed the adjustment only until December. The year 1583 saw Austria, some of the Catholic states in Germany, and Groningen adopt the Gregorian calendar, but progress was neither abrupt nor certain. In the summer of 1584, Groningen returned to the Julian calendar, while Bohemia and Moravia reformed their calendar after the Christmas season. Hungary did not change its calendar until 1587. Some Catholic cantons of Switzerland adopted the Gregorian calendar as late as 1597. Mainland Nova Scotia changed in 1605, and Prussia delayed calendar reform until 1610. (178) As might be expected from the irregular progress of these changes, defense of calendar reform continued through the 1580s and 1590s. The Jesuit Christopher Clavius undertook a refutation of Michael Maestlin in 1588, demonstrating that the Reformed calendar offered a far better approximation of the tropical year than the Julian calendar: even if the true vernal equinox did not always fall on March 21, it always fell between March 19 and March 23, which are hardly objectionable deviations, from his point of view, considering that at Christ's crucifixion, the vernal equinox fell on March 25. (179) In 1595, Clavius was again pressed to defend the Gregorian calendar, this time against the accusation that the Roman Church now celebrated Easter in accordance with the quartodecimian heretics who celebrated Easter on Nisan 14, the day of the Jewish passover. (180)
In England, Elizabeth wanted to adopt the Gregorian calendar, but the Church authorities resisted the change. (181) The deviation of the calendars was well-known, outlined in a table in William Farmer's 1587 Almanack and inflecting histories of Julius Caesar, the last great calendar reformer. (182) But adherence to the Julian calendar became a point of nationalistic pride and a means to distinguish Protestant churches even further from the Papists--and especially the wisdom of this particular pope who had proposed the deposition of Elizabeth. The Anglican style of calendar reform, centering around the elimination the Saints' Days that cluttered up the work year and the introduction of nationalistic festivals, accentuated this philosophy of time. (183) England and Scotland were joined in their observance of the Julian Calendar by Denmark, Sweden, the Protestant states of Germany and the Netherlands, and the Protestant cantons of Switzerland at least until 1700. (184) Thus Shakespeare and Cervantes may be said to have died on the same date but different days. And so the Anglican calendar, with no real grounding in the rhythms of sun or moon, remained in Shakespeare's day (in fact, until 1752) the timepiece for the Book of Common Prayer, such that its symbolic resonance as a statement of resistance against the Papists prompted a popular clamor that eighteenth-century commentators described as rioting when Parliament saw fit to make the change. (185)
Steve Sohmer has remarked that Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet encouraged informed audiences to note discordances in the calendar. (186) A Midsummer Night's Dream suggested to its informed audiences that the backward-moving calendar might bring about the plague. In 1593, Simon Kellwaye, discussing the "warnings of the plague to come," wrote,
Avicen a noble Physition saith, that when wee see the naturall course of the ayre, and seasons of the yeere to be altered, as when the springe time is colde clowdie, and drie, the harvest time stormie and tempestuous, the mornings and evenings, to be very colde, and at noone extreame hote, these doe foreshew the plague to come. (187)
When Titania upbraids Oberon for his contrary behavior, she highlights by analogy the real influence of the positioning of the planets in bringing about disease and simultaneously alludes to the real effect a backward-moving calendar might have:
Therefore the moon, (the governess of floods), Pale in her anger, washes all the air, That rheumatic diseases do abound. And through this distemperature, we see The season's alter: hoary-headed frosts Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose And on old Hiems' chinne and icy crown An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds Is, as in mockery set; the spring the summer, The chiding autumn, angry winter, change Their wonted liveries; and the mazed world, By their increase, not knows not which is which. (2.1.103-14)
Discussing the effect of fairy anger on the "mazed world," this well-meaning but perhaps not-quite-self-aware sublunary creature identifies a disagreement among her kind as the cause of men's misfortune. However, she simultaneously alludes to the astral science and medical thinking of the time and thereby upbraids the analogous world-upside-down of Elizabethan nature that adherence to the backward-moving Julian calendar preserved. With the appearance of the fairies, this argument is intertwined in an argument to preserve festive practices, for Shakespeare lays the blame for plague visitations partly on the purge of the traditional calendar. After suppressing bonfires in the 1540s for religious reasons, Elizabethan magistrates in the 1590s were being charged to start them up again for reasons of public health: to prevent the plague's spreading in towns where the infection had already entered, Kellwaye held it a wise practice for magistrates "there to cause fires to be made in the streets every morning and evening, and if some frankinscence, pitch or some other sweete thing be burnt there in, it will be much better." (188) The blessing of fey beauty at Dream's conclusion suggests that Gregorian calendar reform, midsummer festivals and the most up-to-date medical science dovetail almost perfectly into practical equivalents for the improvement of public health.
The operation of false closure in A Midsummer Night's Dream conveys its political agenda so exactly that it begs the question as to whether other comedies argued with similar precision once the monarch's knowledge of the historical past had determined their conclusions specious. In showing that Shakespeare, following the example of Richard Edwards, played to Elizabeth's vanity about her knowledge--her experience of other entertainments, her classical learning, her memory of fey beauty in court romance, and her understanding of the calendar debates--the promise this analysis offers is a methodology to determine how some Renaissance comedies argued politics when they played at court.
Scholars interested in recovering the political importance of court comedy must recognize that detailing allusion to historical narratives beyond the staged action may very well constitute the enabling first step. Jim Sharpe points out in his review of writing history from below that "[t]he microhistorial approach favoured by anthropological models can easily obscure the more general problem of where power is located in society as a whole and the nature of its operation." (189) Whether we are fascinated by the scheduling of court weddings or the contemporaneous rioting of dissatisfied artisans, the rhetorical approach to court comedy requires we take this caution to heart, for the political understanding of Dream cannot be divorced from the analysis of the cultural literacy that allowed its intended audience to fully appreciate the tragedy pending at its close. As inattention to Hippolytus and assumptions about popular fairies have denied us this understanding, it seems difficult to conclude that the court performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream would have encouraged free dissent. Rather, performed in an atmosphere of surveillance, the play would have defined a verifiable dividing line between the elite and the less well-informed. The consequent penalties of shame and the rewards of comprehension depended upon negotiating a field of knowledge in which Elizabeth had already displayed her mastery. The threat of watching eyes and whispering tongues comparing one courtier's response to another's should have organized each courtier's political thinking around a high center at whose focal point was Elizabeth, whether she were present at the performance or not.
(1.) E. R. Curtius, "Poetry and Rhetoric," European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, tr. Willard Trask (New York: Pantheon, 1953; Princeton: Princeton University Press, paperback, 1953; seventh printing 1990), 145-66.
(2.) Kent Cartwright, "The Confusions of Gallathea: John Lyly as Popular Dramatist," Comparative Drama 32.2 (Summer 1998): 207-39, bases his discussion of Lyly as a popular playwright on the supposition that court comedy is a static intellectual debate.
(3.) N. J. Halpin, Oberon's Vision in the Midsummer-Night's Dream, compared with Lille's Endymion, Shakespeare Society Publications 16 (London, 1843); reprinted in Shakespeare Society of London Publications 14 (Nendeln, Lichtenstein: Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1966).
(4.) The Complete Works of John Ly]y, 3 vols, ed. R. Warwick Bond, M.A. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902).
(5.) "A Key to the Cast," ibid., 10.
(6.) G. K. Hunter, John Lyly: The Humanist as Courtier (London: Routledge, 1962), 114.
(7.) Ibid., 167.
(8.) Ibid., 114.
(9.) David Bevinton, "John Lyly and Queen Elizabeth: Royal Flattery in Compaspe and Sapho and Phao," Renaissance Papers (1966): 57-67.
(10.) Peter Saccio, The Court Comedies of John Lyly: A Study in Allegorical Dramaturgy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 11.
(11.) Ibid., 4.
(12.) John Weld, Meaning in Comedy: Studies in Elizabethan Romantic Comedy (Albany: SUNY Press, 1975), 123.
(13.) C. C. Gannon, "Lyly's Endimion: From Myth to Allegory," English Literary Renaissance 6 (1976): 220-43.
(14.) Robert Knapp, "The Monarchy of Love in Lyly's Endimion," Modern Philology 73 (1976): 353-67, esp. 363.
(15.) Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957). The first paperback edition was 1971; the third printing was 1973.
(16.) Northrop Frye, "Romance and Masque," Spiritus Mundi (1976), reprinted 11-39 in Shakespeare's Romances Reconsidered, ed. Carol McGinnis Kay and Henry E. Jacobs, (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1978), 30.
(17.) Marie Axton, "The Tudor Mask and Elizabethan Court Drama," 24-47 in English Drama: Forms and Development: Essays in Honour of Muriel Clara Bradbrook ed. Marie Axton and Raymond Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 46.
(18.) Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, "John Lyly's Midas: An Allegory of Epiphany" Studies in Medieval Culture 12 (1978): 133-39.
(19.) Eugene M. Waith, "The English Masque and the Functions of Comedy" in The Elizabethan Theatre VIII: Papers Given at the Eighth International Conference on Elizabethan Theatre held at the University of Waterloo, 1979, ed. G. R. Hibbard (Port Credit: P. D. Meany, 1982), 144-63.
(20.) Lloyd Davis, "Praise and Presence in Elizabethan and Jacobean Court Drama," AUMLA 83 (May 1995): 3.
(21.) Leah Scragg, "Shakespeare, Lyly and Ovid: the Influence of Gallathea on A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare Studies 20 (1977): 125-34. Leah Scragg saw thematic patterning on metamorphosis and love key conceptual links that show the influence of Lyly's Endimion on A Midsummer Night's Dream. David Lindley, "Music, Masque and Meaning in The Tempest" 46-59 in The Court Masque, ed. David Lindley (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 46, described The Tempest as "the play that most insistently echoes the manner of the masque" because of its use of music and the symbolic power of that music when contextualized by Neoplatonic theory. David Wiles, Shakespeare's Almanac: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Marriage, and the Elizabethan Calendar (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993), 48, has claimed Dream is like a masque simply because it has the figures of Theseus and the Amazons in it, and these figures also appeared in a masque of 1579 and Shakespeare's tragedy, Timon of Athens.
(22.) Kevin J. Donavan, "Recent Studies in John Lyly" English Literary Renaissance 22.3 (Fall 1992): 446.
(23.) Alvin Keman, Shakespeare the King's Playwright, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).
(24.) Derek Alwes, "'I would faine serve'": John Lyly's Career at Court" Comparative Drama 34.4 (Winter 2000-2001): 399-421.
(25.) M. C. Bradbrook, "Courtier and Courtesy: Castiglione, Lyly and Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona" for instance, 161-78 in Theatre of the English and Italian Renaissance, ed. J. R. Mulryne and Margaret Shewring, (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991).
(26.) Alexander Leggatt, Introduction to English Renaissance Comedy (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 19.
(27.) Richard Dutton, Licensing, Censorship and Authorship in Early Modern England (New York: Palgrave, 2000), xiv.
(28.) Charles Boyle, "Bitter Fruit: Troilus and Cressida in Queen Elizabeth's Court" Elizabethan Review 2.2 (Fall 1994): 11-18.
(29.) Annabel Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 3. Erica Sheen, "'The Agent for his Master': Political Service and Professional Liberty in Cymbeline," in The Politics of Tragicomedy: Shakespeare and After, 74.
(30.) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy, ed. Alexander Leggatt, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) has chapters on "The Theories of Comedy" and "Elizabethan Comedy," neither of which is concerned with the approach that usually governs scholarship on Lyly's plays.
(31.) Leggat, "Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream," 46-69 in An Introduction to English Renaissance Comedy, 46.
(32.) G. V. P. Akrigg, Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1968), 240-41.
(33.) James Calderwood, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), xvi. David Wiles, Shakespeare's Almanac: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Marriage, and the Elizabethan Calendar (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993), 171.
(34.) Louis Montrose, The Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 161.
(35.) Montrose, The Purpose of Playing, 176. See also Louis Montrose, "A Kingdom of Shadows," 216-40 in Dorothea Kehler, ed. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Critical Essays (New York and London: Garland, 1998), 227. Originally published in The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576-1640, David L. Smith, et al., eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
(36.) Theodore Jankowski, "The Subversion of Flattery: The Queen's Body in John Lyly's Sapho and Phao" Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 5 (1991): 69-86.
(37.) Anne Lancashire, "John Lyly and Pastoral Entertainment," Elizabethan Theatre 8, ed. G. B. Hibbard, 22-50, esp. 31.
(38.) Douglas Peterson, "Lyly, Greene, and Shakespeare and the recreation of Princes," Shakespeare Studies 20 (1988): 67-88.
(39.) Helen Cooper, "Location and Meaning in Masque, Morality and Royal Entertainment," 135-46 in The Court Masque, ed. David Lindley (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 135.
(40.) Ulrich Suerbanm, "Performing Royalty. The Entertainment at Elvetham and the Cult of Elisa," 53-64 in Word and Action in Drama: Studies in Honour of Hans-furgen Diller on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 1994), p. 62.
(41.) N. J. Halpin, Oberon's Vision, makes a good case for the 1575 Kenilworth entertainment put on by the Earl of Leicester; however, Oberon was not in attendance there.
(42.) See Lisa Hopkins, Elizabeth I and Her Court, (London: Vision Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), 164.
(43.) Bevington, "Introduction," pp. 150-52, derives these dates by triangulation with the 1584 title page, which lists the play as performed by a combined troupe of the Chapel Children and Saint Paul's on Strove Tuesday before the Queen, and the Revel's accounts of payment to Lily.
(44.) Theodora Jankowski, "The Subversion of Flattery: The Queen's Body in John Lyly's Sapho and Phao" Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 5 (1991): 69-86. David Bevington, "Introduction to Sappho and Phao," in John Lyly, Campaspe & Sappho and Phao, ed. G. K. Hunter and David Bevington (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 166. We must imagine Professor Bevington arrived at his reevaluation of the complimentary nature of the play independently, for, though Professor Bevington serves on the editorial board of Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, he does not cite Jankowksi's opinion about the play.
(45.) Hunter refers to the Queen's "canopied and stepped-up throne--where she could be seen and where she herself could hear." He also makes reference to the occasion of James's visit to Christ Church where the king's position had to be moved from the point of best perspective so that he could be seen. See Hunter, John Lyly, 105-6. The fact has been made public elsewhere by Boas, Keith Sagar, and Alvin Kernan. Yet it does not appear in Montrose's analysis.
(46.) William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, 110-42 in Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), Induction 2,130 and 141. All citations from Shakespeare's works will be from the Riverside edition and cited in the text.
(47.) Quoted by Hugh M. Richmond, "Shakespeare's Verismo and the Italian Popular Tradition," 179-203 in Theatre of the English and Italian Renaissance, ed. J. R. Mulryne and Margaret Shewring (London: Macmillan, 1991), 179.
(48.) Philip Sidney, Defence of Poesy, in Sir Philip Sidney: A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 244.
(49.) John Taylor, "To my approved good friend Thomas Heywood," part of the front matter of Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors (London, 1612), 12.
(50.) Gary Schmigdall, Shakespeare and the Courtly Aesthetic (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1981), 145.
(51.) Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors from the Edition of 1612 (London: reprinted for the Shakespeare Society, 1841), 49.
(52.) For a full analysis of this canto, see Mary Carruthers's excellent discussion of the ethics of reading in The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990: repr., 1994), 185-88.
(53.) Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1920), part 1. q. 17, art. 2.
(54.) Ibid., part 1, q. 85 art. 3, rep. obj. 3.
(55.) The Knight invokes the memory of what "olde bookes sayn" about Theseus's and Perotheus's friendship; that he misrepresents the motive for their self-damnation as, "So wel th3y lovede, as olde bookes sayn, / That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle, / His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle," does not compromise the external reality of the history to which he refers but rather characterizes the Knight as an untrustworthy narrator. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), p. 41, lines A 1198-1200.
(56.) Hunter, John Lyly, 113.
(57.) E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923), 3:311.
(58.) Elyot, The Boke named the Governour, writes, "How shall he [the child] abhorre tyranny, fraude and avarice, whan he doth se the paynes of Duke Theseus, Prometheus, Sisiphus and such othere tourmented for their dissolute and vicious lyvying" (1:65). The parallelism suggests Theseus served as the paragon of tyranny. 59. See W. Y. Durand, "Palemon and Arcyte, Progne, Marcus Geminus, and the Theatre in which they were Acted, as described by John Bereblock (1566)," PMLA 20 (1905): 502-28, for a translation of several accounts of the performances in 1566.
(60.) See John R. Elliott, Jr., "Queen Elizabeth at Oxford: New Light on the Royal Plays of 1566," ELR 18 (1988): 218-29, esp. 220-23, for various accounts of the Queen's response to Palamon and Arcite, including an evaluation of the Twine transcription printed by Wood in comparison with contemporaneous remarks recorded by another actor, Miles Windsor. Elliott believes the cloak was part of the clothing once worn by Edward VI that was given by Elizabeth to Oxford for the 1566 plays (223 n.11). However, in the period of renewed iconoclasm following Elizabeth's accession, the Queen's witnessing of the burning of a relic of the Confessor (though by the eventually damned Perithous) would have been an action Oxford Protestants might have found politically useful in urging the eradication of the cults of the saints. The Queen's remarks about the actor who played Perithous knowing his part thus would have served to limit the interpretability of the event to an action committed by a damnable character.
(61.) Aristotle, Politics, tr. Ernest Barker (Oxford: Clarendon-Press, 1946; 1952), book 2, chapter 10.
(62.) F. S. Boas, University Drama in the Tudor Age (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1914), disagrees with Durand's translation of John Beremond's Latin, saying that at Oxford 1566, "a canopied chair was arranged on the stage in full view of the audience" (100). This makes stage seating for the Queen a regular practice at the universities, for in 1564 in Cambridge, Matthew Stokys, the University Registrary, records that a railed ramp built from the choir door allowed the Queen to progress to the stage. See Boas, University Drama, 92.
(63.) Richard Edwards, Damon and Pythias, collected in W. Carew Hazlitt, ed., A Select Collection of Old Plays, originally published by Robert Dudley in the Year 1744, fourth edition (London: Reeves and Turner, 1874), 8-9.
(64.) See Boas, University Drama, 100-01.
(65.) Ibid., 158.
(66.) Richard Edwards, Damon and Pythias, 12-13:
A rare ensample of friendship true, it is not legend lie But a thing once done indeed, as histories do descry, which done of yore in long time past, yet present shall be here Even as it were in doing now, so lively it shall appear. Lo, here in Syracuse th'ancient town, which once the Romans won, Here Dionysius palace, within whose court this thing most strange was done Which matter mixed with mirth and care, a just name to apply, As seems most fit, we have it termed a tragical comedy.
(67.) Richard Edwards, Damon and Pythias, 13.
Werein talking of courtly toys, we do protest this flat, We talk of Dionysius's court, we mean no court but that: And that we do so mean, who wisely calleth to mind The time, the place, the author, here most plainly shall it find. Lo this I speak for our defence, lest of others we should be shent: But worthy audience, we you pray, take things as they be meant; Whose upright judgment we do crave with heedful ear and eye To hear the cause and see th' effect of this new tragical comedy.
(68.) Peter Happe, "Damon and Pithias by Richard Edwards at Shakespeare's Globe," Medieval English Theatre 18 (1996): 161.
(69.) Cicero, De Officiis, tr. Walter Miller, Loeb Classical Library 21 (Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press, 1913; 1997), 313.
(70.) Optimism at the conclusion is based on confidence in Dionysius's admiration for the friends' self-sacrificing example: J. E. Kramer, "Damon and Pithias: an Apology for Art" ELH 35 (1968), writes that "Dionysius is transformed from tyrant to benign monarch as a result of this pageant of perfect friendship" (479). More enthusiastically, Allan Holaday, "Shakespeare, Richard Edwards, and the Virtues Reconciled" JEGP 66 (1967): 200-206, concludes, "Syracuse becomes a shadow of the New Jerusalem, a place governed by friendship and blessed by that celestial harmony that, as Lorenzo tells Jessica [in The Merchant of Venice] 'is in immortal souls'" (206-5).
(71.) See Andrew James Hartley, "The Color of 'Honesty': Ethics and Courtly Pragmatism in Damon and Pithias," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 11 (1999): 88-113, for an excellent discussion of the conflation of friendship with loyalty to the monarch as the central problem of the play.
(72.) Plato, "Epistle 7" in Plato IX: Timaeus, Critias, Cleitophon, Menexius, Epistles, trans. R. G. Bury, Loeb Classical Library 234 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 507.
(73.) Plato's Epistle 7 mentions two true unnamed friends who come to the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius's court who were linked by their membership in the Greek religious mysteries. The membership of these friends is suggested by their names, Damon a version of the Green Daemon, or spirit, Pythias the plural of the title of Apollo's prophetess. The presence of these persons in the court leads not only to Dionysius's overthrow by Dion, one of his courtiers and a close friend of Plato, but to the assassination of Dion himself. It is not surprising that Lord Burghley had read Plato's Epistle 7 and was able to place the play appropriately in its tragical context, for not only was Lord Burghley accounted an extraordinarily learned man by no less than the Queen's classical language tutor, Robert Ascham, but this specific epistle is an important political text which explains some of Plato's ideas about governance.
(74.) Hazlitt, A Select Collection, 7.
(75.) Sir Philip Sidney, "To my wellbeloved friend Mr Edward Denny," Letter 8, in Sir Philip Sidney, Collected Works, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 289.
(76.) "But above all other, the warkes of Plato wolde be most studiously radde whan the iudgment of a man is come to perfection, and by the other studies is instructed in the fourme of speakynge that philosophers used." Elyot, The Boke named the Governour, 1: 93.
(77.) "Plato ..., that divine Philosopher, hath many Godly medicines agaynst the poyson of vayne pleasure, in many places," wrote Roger Ascham, the Queen's tutor, "but specially in his Epistles to Dionysius the tyrant of Sicilie." Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster, in English Works, ed. William Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904), 228.
(78.) Leo Salingar, "Jacobean Playwrights and 'Judicious' Spectators," Renaissance Drama n.s., 22 (1991): 209-10.
(79.) Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster (1570) (Menston, [York]: Scolar Press, 1967), boasts of Elizabeth's achievements: "Yea, I beleve that beside her perfit readines, in Latin, Italian, French, & Spanish, she readeth here now at Windsore more Greeke every day than some Prebendarie of this Chirch doth read Latin in a whole weeke" (H1). Ascham's letters praising the queen's facility with classical languages were read in the grammar schools. See T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespere's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke, 2 vols. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944), 1:259-84, on the full extent of Elizabeth's knowledge of these matters and the flattery she nonetheless reaped.
(80.) Aristotle, Secretum Secretorum, tr. Robert Copland (London, 1528) Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Amsterdam and New York: Da Capo Press, 1970), C1.
(81.) For critics unaware of the play's concluding irony, Edwards's reputation has been a mystery. Felix Schelling, Elizabethan Drama, 1558-1642 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1959), writes that Damon and Pithias "scarsely seems to warrant the contemporary estimate of Puttenham that Edwards was among 'the most commended writers in our English poesy for comedie and interlude" (1:113). Similarly, F. S. Boas, University Drama, underestimates Edwards's work, claiming "the plays [including Palamon and Arcite] presented before Elizabeth break no new ground" (183).
(82.) George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, ed. Gladys Dodge Wilcock and Alice Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936), 63.
(83.) Hazlitt, A Select Collection, 8.
(84.) See F. S. Boas, University Drama, 198, for an account of the particularities of the interpolations.
(85.) D'Orsay Pearson's neglected study referencing the irony of Theseus's end is a notable exception, though this too is somewhat imprecise about the nature of the irony and the cause of Theseus's misfortune. See D'Orsay W. Pearson, "'Unkinde' Theseus: A Study in Renaissance Mythography," English Literary Renaissance 4 (1974): 276-98.
(86.) C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and its Relation to Social Custom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959, second printing 1972), 11.
(87.) Gareth Lloyd Evans, The Upstart Crow, remarking on the play's unifying "patina of optimism," sums up: "In the long run, A Midsummer Night's Dream, written at a time when his career was beginning to glow with success, is perhaps Shakespeare's happiest, most concordant, play" (134).
(88.) Hardin Craig, An Interpretation of Shakespeare (New York: Dryden, 1948), 35.
(89.) Dorothea Kehler, "A Bibliographic Survey of the Criticism," 3-76, in Kehler, ed., 3.
(90.) David Bevington, "Singing in the Rain," Shakespeare Quarterly 41 (1990): 499-502, on Kenneth Brannagh's 1990 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Stratford. Bevington only concedes that "[d]irectors can ruin it, of course, but they have to work at doing so" to prepare his criticism that "Brannagh does come close to ruining the scenes centered around Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon and Titania, and Puck (all of which adds up to a substantial part of the play), but elsewhere the production is generally delightful and amusing" (500).
(91.) Janey Gallicani Casey, "'Hounds and Echo in Conjunction': Musical Structure in A Midsummer Night's Dream," Studies in the Humanities 21 (1994): 42.
(92.) Northrop Frye, The Myth of Deliverance: Reflections on Shakespeare's Problem Comedies (Toronto; Buffalo; London: University of Toronto Press, 1984), 74. Frye's treatment resonates harmoniously with C. L. Barber's remarks that that the pattern of feeling and awareness that Shakespeare derived from the summer holidays and expressed in MND became Shakespeare's "dominant mode of organization in subsequent comedies until the problem plays" (11-12). In a parallel vein, building on but rarely citing Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment, a study that claims the violence of fairy tales is purgative of the child's troubling feelings, psychoanalytic critics have even naturalized Dream's psychic healing powers. Vicki Shahly Hartman, "A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Gentle Concord to the Oedipal Problem," American Imago 40 (1983): 355-69, characterizes the progress into the woods as "[t]he fairy tale part of the play" that, like the "real world" of Athens, "also opens with an oedipal scene" (356) to conclude that Dream is "refreshingly optimistic concerning man's ability to answer the discord between societal restrictions and instinctual impulse with a 'dream'; to discover in his own imaginatively reconstructed childhood 'a gentle concord'; and--to hell with noble motives--to be happy" (368). Likewise, James Calderwood, "A Midsummer Night's Dream: Anamorphism and Theseus' Dream," Shakespeare Quarterly 42 (1991): 409-30, interpreting the doubling in the forest of Theseus and Titania as the subconscious means by which Theseus relaxes rigid patriarchical controls, has written that fairyland itself "brings about the corrective realignments among the lovers that prepare for the multiple-marriage finale" (410).
(93.) Jan Kott's "Titania and the Ass's Head" took a highly sexuallized view of the faeries and influenced several disturbing productions, among which were Peter Brooks's famous 1970 Royal Shakespeare Theatre production and the 1968 Ariane Mnouchkine directed, Theatre du Soleil performed Le Songe d'une Nuit de ete. For a review of the latter see Ann Friden, "A Review of Le Songe d'une Nuit de ete," Shakespeare Around the Globe: A Guide to Notable Postwar Revivals, ed. Samuel L. Leiter (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 482-83, reprinted in A Midsummer Night's Dream: Critical Essays, ed. Dorothea Kehler (New York and London: Garland, 1998), 401-2.
(94.) See David Marshall, "Exchanging Visions: Reading A Midsummer Night's Dream," 87-115, in Harold Bloom, ed., William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Modern Critical Interpretations (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987), esp. 91,101,112. See also Shirley Nelson Garner, "Jack Shall Have Jill / Nought shall go ill," in Kehler, ed., A Midsummer Night's Dream: Critical Essays, 127-43, who writes,
The end of A Midsummer Night's Dream is as fully joyous as the conclusion of any of Shakespeare's comedies.... The prospect of love, peace, safety, prosperity is as promising as it ever will be. The cost of this harmony, however, is the restoration of the patriarchical hierarchy, so threatened at the beginning of the play.
(95.) David Daniel, "Shakespeare and the Traditions of Comedy," 101-21 in The Cambridge Companion of Shakespeare, ed. Stanley Wells (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986; reprinted 1987), writes, "the fairy world, verbally ablaze with warfare and mischief, is anything but sweet" (109).
(96.) Annabel Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 56 ff.
(97.) See Gary Jay Williams, "The Scenic Language of Empire: A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1816," Theatre Survey 34 (1993): 47-59, for a discussion of nineteenth-century productions in relation to British colonial discourse.
(98.) Reviewing the place of the Indian boy in the play, Margo Hendricks, "'Obscured by Dreams': Race, Empire and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare Quarterly 47 (1996): 37-60, has argued that "Shakespeare's comedy continues the racial discourses constituted by travel narratives that represented India as a 'territory to be conquered and occupied,'" and from this has determined that "productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream may be destined to rehearse endlessly a racial fantasy engendered as part of imperialist ideology" (59-60).
(99.) Paul Yachnin, "The Politics of Theatrical Mirth: A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Mad World My Masters, and Measure for Measure," Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 51-66, for instance, declares that A Midsummer Night's Dream exemplifies the "Elizabethan claim.., for the theater's role as a unifying and gentrifying influence," a "locus of public mirth" that Jacobean comedy city comedy subjected to "a savage and hilarious critique" (53).
(100.) Skiles Howard, "Hands, Feet and Bottoms: Decentering the Cosmic Dance in A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993): 325-42, illustrating the class status of the dances in Dream, has contended that the aristocratic dance of the faeries is "not intended to create a timeless image of community, an imaginary unity based either on the cosmic dance or the medieval round," but to permit its beholder to understand better the social construction of rank and gender (342).
(101.) Hendricks, "'Obscured by Dreams': Race, Empire and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream," 59.
(102.) Kott, "Titania and the Ass's Head," 227.
(103.) See Jan Kott, "Bottom and the Boys," New Theatre Quarterly 9.36 (1993): 307-15, esp. 310.
(104.) Some aesthetes have simply dismissed politicized performances of the play as perverse misreadings. "The mode for what was termed 'sharp satire' in both television and stage entertainments of the mid-1960s affected other productions," writes Gareth Lloyd Evans in The Upstart Crow: "The fairy world became mocking," Evans continues, "the lovers were 'modernized' by a studied avoidance of cadence in speaking, and by a glib assumption of contemporary gestures. In varying degrees, the play was used, as it were, to guy itself" (128). Other defenders of the play's happy ending have dismissed interest in the social problems in A Midsummer Night's Dream in the same way the comic George Carlin has dealt with the proverbial half a glass of water--by admitting the glass is too big. "Of course, when critics are as sensitively attuned as we are today to 'political bias' (race, gender, species, nation, ethnicity, religion, etc.)," writes James Calderwood in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare [New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992], "it is questionable whether the happy ending of any Shakespearean comedy can escape scrutiny" (xxiv-xxv).
(105.) Craig, An Interpretation of Shakespeare, 35; Casey, "Hounds and Echo in Conjunction," 37.
(106.) Sagar, "A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Marriage of Heaven and Hell," 43; Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, 139.
(107.) Jane K. Brown's Neoplatonic interpretation of the play, "Discordia Concors: On the Order of A Midsummer Night's Dream," Modern Language Quarterly 48 (1987): 20-41, offers an extreme example of the gulf between politically aware criticism and the defense of the comedy's happy ending: more than once, she refers to the "Afric boy" (sic) (26-27) as the object of two different kinds of love, and she concludes that "Truth is both transcendant and immanent in A Midsummer Night's Dream and because it is unproblematically everywhere, the play embodies a kind of universal order, the concord of all discord" (41).
(108.) Calderwood, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare, goes on to say, "A major danger in writing 'politically conscious' criticism of A Midsummer Night's Dream is that the critic may discover in himself a capacity to ferret out sins that borders on genius but that also belies the spirit of comedy and militates Malvolio-like against life's cakes and ale" (xxv).
(109.) So Brian Vickers, Appropriating Shakespeare (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 427-29, has responded to the reading of the artisans' play in light of the Oxfordshire riots of 1596 and midsummer disturbances of 1595 in Annabel Patterson's Shakespeare and the Popular Voice. As Vickers himself uses his critique of Patterson as the foundation for a jeremaid against all recent politically oriented Shakespeare criticism, it seems fair to make his own remarks emblematic of the more conservative "silent majority" he alludes to.
(110.) James Calderwood in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), 94, expresses this optimistic sentiment.
(111.) William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), V.i.401-20. All subsequent citations from A Midsummer Night's Dream will be listed by act, scene, and line number in the text of the essay.
(112.) Calderwood, A Midsummer Night's Dream, 44.
(113.) Robert L. Reid, "The Fairy Queen: Gloriana or Titania?" Upstart Crow 13 (1993): 25.
(114.) Peter Holland, "Theseus' Shadows in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare Survey 47 (1994): 139-51, esp. 145.
(115.) Anne Barton, "The Synthesizing Impulse of A Midsummer Night's Dream," 7-13 in Harold Bloom, ed., William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Modern Critical Interpretations (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987), 12.
(116.) See Pearson, "'Unkinde' Theseus," 276-98.
(117.) Calderwood, A Midsummer Night's Dream, 5.
(118.) Northrop Frye, Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, ed. Robert Sandier (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), writes, "A Midsummer Night's Dream seems to be one of the relatively few plays that Shakespeare made up himself, without much help from sources. Two sources he did use were tragic stories that are turned into farce here. One was the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid, which the Quince company is attempting to tell, and which is used for more than just the Quince play. The other was Chaucer's Knight's Tale, from which Shakespeare evidently took the names of Theseus, Hippolyta and Philostrate, and which is a gorgeous but very sombre story of the fatal rivalry of two men over a woman" (41). James Andreas, "Remythologizing The Knight's Tale: A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Noble Kinsmen," Shakespeare Yearbook 2 (1991): 4967, discusses Dream and Kinsmen as demythologized adaptations of the Chaucerian source, Dream bringing in the fairies from The Merchant's Tale but granting them a kind of humanity.
(119.) Douglas Freake, "A Midsummer Night's Dream as a Comic Version of the Theseus Myth," 259-74 in A Midsummer Night's Dream: Critical Essays, ed. Dorothea Kehler (New York and London: Garland, 1998), 272.
(120.) Louise Montrose, The Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 147-48.
(121.) The effect of pulling the artisans forward is transparent in Kenneth Brannagh's productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the stage and Kevin Kline's production for the screen. In the 1990 performances of the Renaissance Theatre Company in Los Angeles, Brannagh's production of Dream, noted for its mechanicals' scene, cut out many of Theseus's lines, including his generous speech regarding clerks that wins our hearts. See Thomas W. Russell III, "The Renaissance Theatre Company in Los Angeles, 1990" Shakespeare Quarterly 41 (1990): 502-7. Kevin Kline's 1998 screen production of Dream distorted the play even more in this direction. Bottom translated seemed less burro than borracho, as Kline's fuzzy ears and beard never let the viewer forget he was a "sweet-faced man." As Bottom is hardly the "Enter Piramus with the Asse head" spoken of in F1, his fellow mechanicals' fear of him seems, well, wrong. To make the Athenian court's laughter seem wrong, too--or at least politically incorrect--Kline added the jeering response to the mechanicals in the marketplace as they were rehearsing, another textual distortion, followed by the cruel laughter as red wine spilled from above to ruin Bottom's white suit. To deepen our empathy for the mechanicals even more, Kline gave Bottom a scene out of J. D. Salinger's "A Good Day for Bananafish" in which Bottom, the disappointed dreamer, went home to a wife who did not understand him. These additions beg the question: if an actor as talented and versatile as Kevin Kline cannot generate the kind of empathy for Bottom contemporary criticism assumes natural to the play without altering the script that Shakespeare wrote, then what textual authority does this depth of empathy have?
(122.) Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, trans. Thomas North (London, 1579; Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare Head Press, 1928), 35-36.
(123.) Montrose, The Purpose of Playing, 156-63.
(124.) See Shakespeare's Ovid, book 15, lines 585-92.
(125.) The saving of Hippolytus may have been a contemporaneous trope of royal mercy, for James in the glossary to his Essays of a Prentise says Neptune, not Cynthia, urged Aescelapius to restore Theseus's son to life. James, as later masques indicate, was often addressed as Oceanus, a divine ruler of the sea, and his investment in this metaphor would have allowed him to see through the comedy's specious conclusion as easily had Elizabeth before him.
(126.) C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and its Relation to Social Custom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959, second printing 1972), 144.
(127.) Ibid., 144, n. 20.
(128.) J. O. Halliwell, Fairy Mythology of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare Society 26 (London, 1845); reprinted in Shakespeare Society of London Publications 14 (Nendeln, Lichtenstein: Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1966), xiii. Halliwell credited the Life of Robin Goodfellow, "The most important, indeed the most valuable illustration we have of the Midsummer Night's Dream," encouraging later readers to believe it "had most likely been seen by Shakespeare in some form or another," though the tract was published twelve years after his death. See Halliwell, 120.
(129.) See also Robert Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 192-96, who insists the fairies are drawn from folklore.
(130.) Roland F. Miller, "A Midsummer Night's Dream: The Fairies, Bottom, and the Mystery of Things," Shakespeare Quarterly 26 (1975): 254-68.
(131.) Marjorie Swann, "The Politics of Fairylore in Early Modern England," Renaissance Quarterly 53.2 (2000): 451.
(132.) Wendy Wall, "Why Does Puck Sweep?: Fairylore, Merry Wives and Social Struggle," Shakespeare Quarterly 52.1 (2001): 73-75.
(133.) Mary Ellen Lamb, "Taken by the Fairies: Fairy Practices and the Production of Popular Culture in A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare Quarterly 51.3 (Fall 2000): p. 279 & p. 309.
(134.) Keith Sagar, "A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Marriage of Heaven and Hell," Critical Survey 7 (1995): 34-43, esp. 36-37.
(135.) Halliwell, Illustrations, xii.
(136.) The Romance of Launfal, Romance of King Orfeo, Thomas and the Fairy Queen, The Adventures of Sir Gawen, and Huon of Bourdeaux are collected in Halliwell, Illustrations, 1-119. Of the textual sources, only the chapbook in which The Adventures of Sr Gawen is contained postdates the publication of Dream, though the anonymous author describes his source as dating back to a manuscript from the time of Henry VIII. For association with "fairy" and Hades in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, see The Riverside Chaucer, p. 166, lines E 2227-2235 and E 2316 where the Merchant's Pluto and Proserpina are identified as King and Queen of "Fayereye." In addition, Arthur's court in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight calls Green Knight a fairy and elf explicitly in lines 240 and 681. In the second instance, the court blames Arthur's arrogance for yielding to the game. The Green Knight identifies himself as a vassal of Morgan le Fay, called "Morgan the Goddess," who bewitched him to bewilder Arthur's court and bring Guinevere to her death in lines 2444-60. See The Complete Works of the Pearl Poet, ed. Malcolm Andrew et al., tr. Casey Finch (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 220, 240, and 318.
(137.) Barber, 139.
(138.) Halliwell cites this passage, pp. xii-xiii, disavowing the relevance of the Arthurian tradition to Dream. Cf. Chaucer, The Wife of Bath's Tale in The Riverside Chaucer, pp. 116-17, lines D 865-72.
(139.) Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, 123.
(140.) See Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994).
(141.) Reginald Scott, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), book 7, chapter 15, pages 152-53, reprinted in Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, ed. Geoffrey Bullough (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 1: 397.
(142.) David Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989), 7.
(143.) Cressy, Bonfires and Bells, 26.
(144.) See Ronald Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year 1400-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 76.
(145.) Cressy, Bonfires and Bells, 6.
(146.) Almanacs and Bibles referenced here are The Booke of Common Prayer with the Pslater or Psalmes of David [STC 2171] (London: Deputies of Christopher Barker, 1596), Alv. c.f. The Bible (London: C. Barker, 1583); The Bible (London: Deputies of Christopher Barker, 1589-92), Alv. The 1583, 1596 and 1598 versions appear identical in this regard.
(147.) See Ovid, Fasti, tr. Betty Rose Nagle (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995), Book 6, c. lines 739-63 and book 1,161-70.
(148.) Francois Laroque, Shakespeare's Festive World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 229.
(149.) Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy, 120-23.
(150.) Laroqne, Shakespeare's Festive World, 230.
(151.) Wiles, Shakespeare's Almanack, 103.
(152.) Elizabeth I, "Verse Exchange between Queen Elizabeth and King Philip of Spain, circa Spring 1588," Poem 13 in Elizabeth I, Collected Works, ed. Leah Marcus, et al. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 410.
(153.) The Booke of Common Prayer with the Psalter or Psalmes of David [STC 2171] (London: Deputies of Christopher Barker, 1596), alv. c.f. The Bible (London: C. Barker, 1583); The Bible (London: Deputies of Christopher Barker, 1589-92), Alv. The 1583, 1596 and 1598 versions appear identical in this regard.
(154.) Jean Pironon, "Les structures imaginaires euphemisantes dans A Midsummer Night's Dream," Etudes Anglaises 50 (1997): 259-69, takes a formalist approach to these references.
(155.) The Honourable Entertainement given to the Queenes Maiestie in Progresse, at Elvetham in Hampshire, By the right Honourable the Earle of Herteford, 1591 (London, John Wolfe, 1591), in John Lyly, The Complete Works, ed. R. W. Bond (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902), 1:431-52.
(156.) For a more complete history of the calendar, see Malcolm Freiberg, "Going Gregorian, 1582-1752: A Summary View" The Catholic Historical Review 86.1 (January 2000): 1-19.
(157.) The Booke of Common Prayer 1596, Alv. Cf. The Bible 1583, 1596 and 1598, Alv.
(158.) Geoffrey Chaucer, A Treatise on the Astrolabe, part 2, section 1, lines 5-15, in The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed., ed. Larry Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 669.
(159.) Philip Ziegler, The Black Death (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1969; 1971), 84-109.
(160.) Stephen Greenblatt, Hamlet in Purgatory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), esp. 60-61. On the culture of greed plague established among the parish clergy, see Zeigler, The Black Death, 259-63.
(161.) Ziegler, The Black Death, 70.
(162.) Anna Montgomery Campbell, The Black Death and Men of Learning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1931).
(163.) David Herlihy, The Black Death and the Transformation of the West (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997); see also Raymond A. Anselment, The Realms of Apollo: Literature and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1995), esp. 23-42.
(164.) Rebecca Totaro, "English Plague and New World Promise," Utopia Studies 10.1 (1999): 1-12, esp. 4-6.
(165.) Brian Pullan, "Plague and Perceptions of the Poor in Early Modern England," 101-23 in Epidemics and Ideas; Essays on the Historical Perception of Pestilence, ed. Terence Ranger and Paul Slack (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), esp. 101-7.
(166.) Sheldon Watts, Epidemics and History: Disease, Power and Imperialism (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 17.
(167.) J. Leeds Barroll, Politics, Plague and Shakespeare's Theater: The Stuart Years (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 96, reports that when Henock Clapham argued in three 1603 quartos, including An Epistle Discoursing upon the Present Pestilence (London, 1603) [STC 5339] that people ought to break quarantine to meet in Church because plague was a punishment for sin, the civic authorities had him imprisoned for nine months to keep him from preaching.
(168.) Watts, Epidemics and History, 1-39.
(169.) See Barroll, Politics, Plague and Shakespeare's Theater, 94-95, on the logical convergence of miasma and the climate in which the plague-bearing flea propagates. Paul Slack, The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England (London: Routledge, 1985), 23-50, explained how attitudes and actions at once encouraged prophylactic measures without denying the effectiveness of divine aid.
(170.) See Anna Montgomery Campbell, The Black Death and Men of Learning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1931), 37-50; cf. Slack, Impact, 26-29.
(171.) On the artistic manifestations of astronomical causes, see Christine M. Boeckl, Images of Plague and Pestilence: Iconography and Iconology Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 53 (Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University Press, 2000), 46-47, 96, and 190n.179.
(172.) See Watts, Epidemics and History, 4-5.
(173.) Bede, The Reckoning of Time, tr. Faith Wallis, Translated Texts for Historians 29 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999), 80.
(174.) Harry Guest, "Aspects of the Dream: Shakespeare, Purcell and Britten," Shakespeare Yearbook 4 (1994): 198.
(175.) "The Question of Menedon" of Giovanni Boccaccio's Il Filocolo (IV Quistione 4) collected in Chaucer: Sources and Backgrounds, ed. Robert P. Miller, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 121-35, is a parallel version of this tale. Elaborating on the means of the magic, Menedon relates that the magician succeeds at the task by praying to most high Hecate and mounting in a dragon chariot exactly like Medea's. In fashioning this tale into his Franklin's Tale, Chaucer indicates he understands the implicit connection between the black magic in his source and calendar reform: his magician is a clerk who fashions a tidal chart, quite obviously a record of the moon's phases and an acknowledgment of its power over the sea.
As this implies, Chaucer was one of England's early calendar reform champions. The University of Paris had said that the plague had arisen because of a conjunction of Saturn and Mars, and it was just such a conjunction, misread by Theseus, that Chaucer represents as the celestial cause of another sort of disaster in The Knight's Tale. Yet the miscalculation of Easter, too, appears to have figured in his thoughts. Just as in the Treatise on the Astrolabe, he made us aware he understood the early appearance of the sun in Aries, so too he alludes obliquely to its danger. In The Parliament of Fowles, after having Scipio speak to him of the doctrine of celestial harmony (lines 57-70), the dreamer imagines himself faced with a choice between two inscribed gates:
"Thorgh me men gon into that blysful place Of hertes hele and dedly woundes cure; Thorgh me men gon unto the welle of grace, There grene and lusty May shal evere endure. This is the way to al good aventure. Be glad, thow redere, and thy sorwe of-caste; Al open am I--passe in, and sped thee faste!" "Thorgh me men gon," than spak other side, "Unto the mortal strokes of the spere Of which Disdayne and Daunger is the gyde, Ther nevere tre shal fruyt ne leves bere. This strem yow ledeth to the sorweful were There as the fish in prysoun is al drye; Th'eschewing is only the remedye!" (Riverside Chaucer, 387:127-40).
The first where "grene and lusty May shal evere endure" points to a belief that grace, health, and bliss are the results of maintaining a calendar aligned with the seasons of nature. As a gate, the other might just as well be a piece of parchment, writ in "vers of gold and blak" like the inaccurate Easter calendars with their Golden numbers and Dominical letters. Reinforcing this argument is the fable of the dream vision, which represents the lesser birds preventing the tercel eagles from mating on St. Valentine's Day with their squawking after the sun went down. As such birds are very sensitive to light, such squawking after sunset is a natural impossibility unless the paschal moon came early.
(176.) Andreas Stiborius and G. Tannstetter, De Romani Calendari Correctione Consilium in Florrentissimo Studio (Vienna, 1514) sig. A3.
(177.) See Roman Catholic Church, Commissio ad kalendarii emendationem, Kalendarium Gregorianum Perpetuum (Venice, 1582), A2-A4.
(178.) For a summary of the changes, see Claus Tondering et al., Calendopaedia: "The Gregorian Calendar" http://www.geocities.com/calendopaedia/gregory.htm, examined December 12, 2002.
(179.) Christopher Clavius, S.J., Novi Calendarii Romani Apologia, adversus Michaelem Maestlinum Gaeppongensem in Tubingensi Academia Mathematicum, tribus libris explicata (Rome, 1588), 77-81.
(180.) Christopher Clavius, S.J., Iosephi Scaligeri Elenchus, et Castigatio Calendarii Gregoriani (Rome, 1595), 48-50. Coincidentally, Clavius's refutation was prompted, according to the author himself, when a very learned man "ad me misit Iosephi Scaligeri de Hippolyti Episcopi Canone Paschali."
(181.) Both Malcolm Freiberg, "Going Gregorian, 1582-1752: A Summary View," The Catholic Historical Review 86.1 (January 2000): 1-19, esp. 4, and Steve Sohmer, Shakespeare's Mystery Play: The Opening of the Globe Theatre 1599 (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1999), 20, refer to Elizabeth's correspondence with Archbishop Edward Grindal to approve the new calendar and Grindal's imposition of unacceptable conditions on such a reform.
(182.) Sohmer, Shakespeare's Mystery Play, 21, cites sig. C2r of William Farmer's 1587 almanack. An underlying premise of Sohmer's book is that discussion of Julius Caesar as a calendar reformer in Renaissance texts underscored that the calendar he established needed reforming once again.
(183.) David Wiles writes in Shakespeare's Almanack:
In Reformation England, the suppressing of Saints' Days (always excepting the patriotic St. George's Day) was central to Protestant strategy. The reinstatement of traditional feast days was part of the strategy adopted by the early Stuarts to combat puritanism. As a substitute for Catholic feasts, monarchical feasts were set up such as Elizabeth's Accession Day and Bonfire night on November 5th. The city used the Lord Mayor's show to vaunt an authority independent of the Crown. All parties manipulated the calendar to their own ends. (xiv)
(184.) For a summary of the changes, see Claus Tondering et al., Calendopaedia: "The Gregorian Calendar" http://www.geocities.com/calendopaedia/gregory.htm, examined December 12, 2002.
(185.) See Freiberg, "Going Gregorian" for a full review of the religious tensions that accompanied the British changes to the Gregorian calendar and led up to the riots. Robert Poole, "Making Up For Lost Time," History Today 49.12 (December 1999): 40-46, suggests eighteenth-century historians have made too much of the Calendar Riots for classist and narratological reasons. In an earlier article, Poole explained that the clamor against the change arose from the resultant confusion about the dating of popular festivals. See Robert Poole, "'Give us our Eleven Days': Calendar Reform in Eighteenth-Century England," Past and Present 149 (November 1995): 95-139.
(186.) Sohmer, Shakespeare's Mystery Play, esp. 17-25, 77-88, 197-247.
(187.) Simon Kellwaye, A Defensative agaynst the Plague (London: John Windett, 1593) [STC 14917], sig. 2.
(188.) Ibid., sig. 13v.
(189.) Jim Sharpe, "History from Below," 25-42 in New Perspectives on Historical Writing, 2nd ed., ed. Peter Burke (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), 33.
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