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The Politics of Fairylore in Early Modern English Literature [*].

This essay argues that Stuart fairy poetry rooted in Shakespeare's innovative representation of tiny, consumeristic fairies, attempts to indigenize new forms of elite material display. Rather than the fairies of popular tradition or courtly mythography, Stuart poets depict miniaturized Mabs and Oberons who are notable for their wardrobes, banquets, coaches, and the decor of their palaces. The fairy poetry of William Browne, Michael Drayton, and Robert Herrick must be interpreted not as playful escapism, but as a self-consciously politicized literary mode which reveals these writers' deep ambivalence toward elite culture -- and toward their own artistic role within that culture.

The great strength of new historicist scholarship has been its focus on structures of ideology and social practice which may seem utterly foreign -- and negligible -- to us. Of late, this project has been extended to an examination of the relationship between literature and material culture in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: Steven Mullaney has argued that Elizabethans collected bizarre objects in order to "rehearse" and thus dramaturgically efface "strange cultures" (48), Douglas Bruster has explored playwrights' preoccupation with commodification and ownership, and Patricia Fumerton and Jeffrey Knapp have each analyzed some of the important roles played by early modern ornaments and "trifles." Despite these provocative new assessments of cultural history, however, scholars have not reevaluated one of the most ostentatiously materialistic literary modes produced in Stuart England: fairy poetry.

In contrast to our own disregard for the subject, former generations of literary critics hailed the early modern era in England as "our great period of fairy literature." [1] Shakespeare's depictions of fairies were analyzed by scholars earlier this century as a watershed in the literary representation of folklore which greatly influenced subsequent portrayals of the fairy world. [2] From the 1620s through the 1640s, poets drew upon Shakespeare's innovative description of a miniature fairy queen in Romeo and Juliet and lavished attention on the wardrobes, coaches, banquets, and palace decor of tiny fairy monarchs. Earlier literary historians remarked upon this phenomenon only to lament it, accusing writers like Drayton and Herrick of extinguishing traditional fairy beliefs: "no spirits with the blackest reputation or the most wicked proclivities . . . could continue a real existence when they were repeatedly appearing on the pages of poems in which they were being continually dressed in diminutive garments a nd fed infinitesimal baked insects." [3]

In this essay, I shall reexamine the significance of the early modern English vogue for fairy literature, focusing on fairy poetry written during the Stuart period. I shall place particular emphasis on a facet of this literary mode previously cited -- and slighted -- as a hallmark of its frivolousness: its overriding preoccupation with tiny things. In Stuart fairy poetry, I shall contend, we find writers attempting to indigenize a new form of material display rooted in the unsettled socioeconomic conditions of nascent capitalism. English fairylore was traditionally bound up with normative concepts of a precapiralist social formation; thus, as England shifted from a rural, household-based mode of production to an urban, commercial, and increasingly mercantile economy, fairylore became a particularly apt vehicle for mystifying the profound socioeconomic changes of the early modern period. Shakespeare's revision of fairylore in Romeo and Juliet, I shall demonstrate, embodied a new awareness of this social and economic turmoil, and Stuart writers in turn recognized and exploited the ideological charge of Shakespeare's miniaturized fairy world. Rather than interpreting Stuart fairy verse as an escapist "poetic game," [4] I shall argue that we need to recognize that this literary mode was self-consciously topical and politicized, and that the relentless attention to miniaturized physical objects which characterizes Stuart fairy poetry signifies seventeenth-century writers' deep ambivalence towards their own production of elite culture in a time of great social, economic, and political upheaval.


Stuart writers inherited a richly diverse body of fairy literature. By the late Elizabethan period, "various strands of classical, romance, and folk mythology had become inextricably intertwined in stories pertaining to fairies, elves, nymphs, and sprites." [5] Nonetheless, we may distinguish three main categories of fairylore represented in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literary works: popular fairy beliefs, courtly mythography, and Shakespearean miniaturization. All three types of depictions of fairies were underwritten by specific ideologies of social order. Both folkloric and courtly representations of fairies were rooted in visions of an unchanging, precapitalist society: traditional fairylore depicted agrarian householders whose well-being depended upon their attention to domestic duties, while the evocation of "Faeryland" by courtly writers was designed to legitimize an hereditary aristocracy. In both these strands of fairy literature, economic exchange was depicted as something magical, and the f airies were portrayed as agents of precapitalist economic transactions. The advent of commercial capitalism made such representations increasingly problematic, however, and Shakespeare's depiction of the fairy queen as a tiny aristocrat engaged in conspicuous consumption revealed the distance between the precapitalist world of folklore and courtly myth, and the market-driven turmoil of early modern London.

Tudor and Stuart writers treated popular fairylore as a manifestation of a residual folk culture, ascribing fairy beliefs either to the past or to the lower orders of society. [6] A group of evil spirits -- Robert Burton classified them as "Terrestrial devils" (1.192) -- who were governed by a monarchy, the fairies of popular tradition were creatures of a rural, domestic economy: they parasitized human households to gain bath water and food, and punished householders who did not maintain impeccable standards of hygiene. In one of his versified pieces of folklore, Robert Herrick warns,

If ye will with Mab find grace,

Set each Platter in his place:

Rake the Fier up, and get

Water in, ere Sun be set.

Wash your Pailes, and dense your Dairies;

Sluts are loathsome to the Fairies:

Sweep your house: Who doth not so,

Mab will pinch her by the toe. [7]

The fairies were also thought to substitute sickly fairy offspring for healthy human babies: according to George Puttenham, nurses believed "that the Fayries use to steale the fairest children out of their cradles, and put other ill favoured in their places, which they called changelings, or Elfs" (173). At the same time, however, the interaction of the fairies and humans could become mutually beneficial, for the fairies might help with chores or financially reward diligent householders: "in former times," Burton reports, people hoped that "with sweeping their houses, and setting of a pail of clean water, good victuals, and the like, and then they should not be pinched, but find money in their shoes, and be fortunate in their enterprises" (1.193). In Foucauldian terms, this body of folklore served to regulate personal behavior in an era prior to systematic surveillance: the fairies punished delinquent householders, rewarded cleanliness, and ensured attentive care for new infants. [8]

Courtly fairylore, despite its contrasting focus on members of the aristocracy, presented an equally conservative vision of a time-honored social order. Drawing on medieval romances, writers complimented Elizabeth and her successors by portraying them as "faery" monarchs. Enshrined by Edmund Spenser, the allegory of England as "Faeryland" constructed the members of the Tudor dynasty as descended from native British -- "faery" -- lineage. According to Spenser's mythical genealogy in the second book of The Faerie Queene (Canto 10, Stanzas 70-76), "the mightie Oberon" (Henry VIII) was succeeded by Gloriana (Elizabeth I). In representing Elizabeth and her father as "faery" sovereigns, Spenser portrayed their rule as "the return, through the Welsh house of Tudor, of the old British line to the throne of England, now long occupied by strangers." [9] Similarly, in the masque Oberon, the Faery Prince, performed in 1611, Ben Jonson represented Prince Henry as a second Oberon to emphasize the prince's "Britishness" an d his legitimate descent from the Tudors. [10] The fairies of courtly literature were thus depicted as a class of indigenous beings who transcended the quotidian cream-and-sixpence preoccupations of their folkloric counterparts: near the end of Obern, Jonson enjoins the courtly masquers to continue dancing lest it appear "that [they] have no more worth / Then the course, and countrey Faery, / That doth haunt the harth, or dairy." [11] While the fairies of folk tradition complemented the workaday existence of commoners, courtly fairylore elevated the aristocracy into a realm of mythical origins superior to popular culture.

The distinction between elite and "course" fairies tended to collapse in situations involving economic exchange, however. The coins dispensed to good housekeepers were just tokens of the wealth the fairies were thought to command. According to folklore, ordinary people could aspire to new wealth not by engaging in protocapitalist trade or commerce, but rather by fulfilling their humble social roles: in Eastward Ho, the impoverished Gertrude pins her hopes on the fairies' ability to "do miracles, and bring ladies money," and vows, "I'll sweep the chamber soon at night, and set a dish of water o' the hearth. A fairy may come, and bring a pearl or a diamond." [12] Despite their elite context, the fairies of courtly entertainment could likewise traffic in jewels and luxury goods. As one literary historian has acerbically remarked, fairies were regularly deployed by "shrewd courtiers who wished to present gifts to Elizabeth and her successor without laying themselves liable to a suspicion of bribery." [13] In an entertainment performed at Woodstock in 1575, the "Queen of the Fayry" brought a gift to Elizabeth "which was a goune for her Majestie of greate price, whereon the imbroderer had bestowed the summe of his conning"; in 1578, the entertainments for Elizabeth at Hengrave Hall included "a shew representing the Phayries" in which "a rich jewell was presented to the Queenes Highnesse"; fourteen years later, Elizabeth was greeted at Quarrendon by a "Damsell of the Queene of Fayries" bearing a "Cupido in gould and stone"; after Elizabeth's death, when the new royal family entered England they were entertained by a masque at Althorp in which Mab, Queen of the Fairies, presented a jewel to Queen Anne. [14] Thus the fairylore of royal compliment, despite its genealogical pretensions, was readily ensnarled with folkloric visions of miraculous wealth as writers attempted to mystify the economics of courtly behavior.

In the early modern period, the portrayal of the fairies as participants in noncapitalist economic transactions thus informed both popular and courtly English fairylore: the fairies were vehicles of non-commercial acquisition, magically bestowing gifts upon deserving mortals. Accounts of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century fraud underline this traditional association of fairies and economic exchange, but also reveal a heightened sense of disjunction between the rural, household economy assumed by folklore and the dynamics of a developing urban market society. In The Alchemist, Face and Subtle persuade the gullible Dapper that he is "Allied to the Queen of Fairy" and that if "He'll throw away all worldly pelf, about him," the Fairy Queen "may chance / To leave him three or four hundred chests of treasure, / And some twelve thousand acres of Fairyland." [15] Jonson modelled this scam on contemporary confidence games: in 1595, a London woman was convicted for gulling clients who paid to meet the Queen of the Fair ies, while in 1609-1610, Sir Anthony Ashley and his brother were arraigned for trying to swindle a rich young dupe out of his money in exchange for marrying him to the Queen of Fairies. [16] These incidents of early modern con-artistry suggest that fairy beliefs were still tenable well into the seventeenth century; more importantly, for my purposes, the gulls in these confidence games demonstrate how one might attempt to superimpose the precapitalist economic relations implicit in traditional fairylore on a market society. Dapper and his ilk misunderstand the structure of commercial exchange: they commodify the traditional interaction of the fairies and humans by attempting to buy the favor of the Fairy Queen, yet they also persist in conceptualizing financial gain not as the product of market relations, but as the result of ingratiating oneself with evil spirits. Thus the dupes try to align the structure of appeasement and reward found in traditional fairy beliefs with urban commodity relations; the trickste rs, by contrast, recognize and manipulate the gap separating the economics of folklore from urban commerce.

Shakespeare's innovative depictions of fairies similarly placed new forms of economic exchange within an ostensibly folkloric narrative. In A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet, written during the mid-1590s, Shakespeare radically transformed traditional fairylore, both by representing fairies as physically diminutive and by rooting their behavior in a new socioeconomic context. In virtually all accounts of the folkloric English fairies which predate these plays, the fairies are described as being the size of small humans. The members of the fairy retinue of A Midsummer Night's Dream would, of course, have appeared onstage as human-sized, yet their very names and Shakespeare's descriptions of their activities suggest that the audience views magnified versions of tiny creatures: Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed, and their colleagues "creep into acorn-cups" (2.1.31), make coats out of bats' wings (2.2.4-5), and fashion candles from the "waxen thighs" of bumblebees (3.1.168-9). [17] Shakespeare pays homage to the rural origins of his fairies by connecting them with a natural landscape; moreover, by blessing the marriage beds at the conclusion of the play, Titania, Oberon, and their followers exhibit the fairies' traditional preoccupation with domestic order. At the same time, however, Shakespeare subtly connects the fairies with a world of commerce and material display far removed from an agrarian household economy. It matters that the child over whom Oberon and Titania wage a custody battle is specifically identified as an Indian boy. As Titania explains her claim to the child, her speech to Oberon is suffused with images of trade:

The fairy land buys not the child of me.

His mother was a vot'ress of my order,

And in the spiced Indian air, by night,

Full often hath she gossip'd by my side,

And sat with me on Neptune's yellow sands,

Marking th' embarked traders on the flood;

When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive

And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;

Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait,

Following (her womb then rich with my young squire)

Would imitate, and sail upon the land

To fetch me trifles, and return again,

As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.

But she, being mortal, of that boy did die,

And for her sake do I rear up her boy;

And for her sake I will not part with him.


In this passage, Titania evokes a mercantile economy only to reject it: she describes how she and her votaress parodied the behavior of merchants and their trading vessels, and she staunchly refuses to engage in such commercial activity herself -- "The fairy land buys not the child of me." Yet, as Margo Hendricks has recently argued, Oberon's determination to possess the Indian boy is rooted in emerging ideologies of mercantilism and elite display: "Like the growing number of non-European (particularly African) children who were imported into England to serve as badges of status for England's aristocracy, the 'changeling boy' is desired as an exotic emblem of Oberon's worldly authority." [18] Thus in A Midsummer Night's Dream we find a partially realized impulse to miniaturize the fairies and associate them with new commercial practices.

Shakespeare's innovative representation of the physical stature and economic associations of the fairies becomes even more striking in Romeo and Juliet. In Mercutio's speech about Queen Mab, Shakespeare removes his fairy queen from a household economy and, by heightening the miniaturized quality of the fairies, emphasizes the distance between the agrarian society assumed by folklore and the social relations engendered by nascent capitalism in late Elizabethan London. Whereas the fairy monarchs in A Midsummer Night's Dream are the size of human adults -- Titania and Oberon have, respectively, had extramarital affairs with Theseus and Hippolyra -- in Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare miniaturizes the fairy queen herself. Shakespeare does not attempt to represent Mab onstage, but instead describes her: his inability to embody Mab indicates how far removed she is from the fairies of folklore or courtly mythography. Mab's stature is associated with jewellery signifying urban status -- she "comes / In shape no bigger t han an agot-stone / On the forefinger of an alderman" (1.4.54-56) -- and rather than accessorizing cowslips, Mab transforms natural objects into fashionable urban transportation:

Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut,

Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,

Time out a' mind the fairies' coachmakers.

Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,

The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,

Her traces of the smallest spider web,

Her collars of the moonshine's wat'ry beams,

Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,

Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,

Not half so big as a round little worm

Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid.


Shakespeare mentions a slovenly maidservant, but she is not pinched into orderliness; instead, the by-product of her indolence -- the worms which proverbially grew in the fingers of lazy girls -- serves merely as an object for comparison. The traditional connection between fairies and a domestic economy has become attenuated.

As the bearer of pleasant dreams, Mab affects minds preoccupied with thoughts of monetary profit. She drives her bizarre coach "O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on cur'sies straight; / O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees" (1.4.72-73), and

Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,

And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;

And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail

Tickling a parson's nose as 'a lies asleep,

Then he dreams of another benefice.


Although she is, as in folklore, linked with financial gain, Shakespeare's Mab is a fairy queen for the Elizabethan urban jungle, an accomplice of greed and worldly ambition far removed from the hearths and dairies of rural domestic production. No sixpences in shoes here: Mab races through a world of avaricious professionals, not householders for whom a coin is a windfall.

By emphasizing Mab's coach, Shakespeare firmly associates his fairy queen with a new cultural phenomenon spawned by changing social and economic conditions: conspicuous consumption. Since the Middle Ages, the extravagant display of hospitality had been constructed as an assertion of nobility in England, and while this code of elite generosity persisted well into the seventeenth century, consumption also began to assume different forms and serve new social purposes in the early modern period. With the centralization of the monarchy, aristocrats seeking royal preferment were impelled to engage in competitive exhibitions of status through the ostentatious display of their wealth. [19] New patterns of consumption were further catalyzed by the emergence of commercial capitalism: as non-gentlemen armed with fortunes newly acquired through trade or commerce bought the accoutrements of gentility, members of the hereditary landed elite tried to distinguish themselves from the mushrooming nouveaux riches. [20] Under t hese conditions of political, social, and economic change, conspicuous consumption became a prominent feature of early modern English culture. Because Elizabeth I (and, to a lesser extent, James I and Charles I) expected elaborate accommodation and entertainment at the homes of great land-owners, a building boom of "prodigy houses" began which continued into the 1630s. [21] The innovative external features of a country house, such as "a deliberately contrived symmetry or a vast expanse of window," bespoke the up-to-date landowner's prosperity, as did "intense decorative richness" within a house, causing homeowners to install glorious riots of carved over-mantels and screens, ornamental plasterwork, stencilled panelling, elaborate friezes, heraldic glass, portraits, tapestries, painted cloths, and needlework. [22] Since luxurious hospitality had become a competitive sport, meals turned into showcases for exotic foods and rarefied cookery, [23] while fashionable garments were likewise exhibited as signs of stat us. [24]

As part of this "frenzied competition in ostentation," coaches, "lavishly adorned with gilding without and silks and satins within," were perceived as "formidable new status symbols." [25] In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare thus depicts the queen of the fairies as a cutting-edge consumer who flaunts her aristocratic status by displaying her newfangled mode of transportation. By drawing upon the time-honored association of fairies with wealth and economic exchange, Shakespeare indigenizes Elizabethan conspicuous consumption: he places a new form of material display catalyzed by political and socioeconomic change within a traditional narrative of a precapitalist social order. At the same time, however, the writer's distinctive emphasis upon miniaturized physicality emphasizes the gap between folk beliefs and Shakespeare's self-conscious reworking of traditional fairylore. As Susan Stewart suggests, miniatures necessarily draw attention to their status as objects, suggesting "use, implementation, and contextualization" (54). By miniaturizing the fairy queen, Shakespeare underlines his own artifice and implicitly represents fairylore as a cultural object available for manipulation. Moreover, if we are to recognize Mab's coach as an item of conspicuous consumption, the objects which constitute her status symbol -- spiders' legs, grasshoppers' wings, a cricket's bone -- figure such display as a collection of detritus. The final effect of Mercutio's description of Mab is complicated, then, for while it mystifies the nature of conspicuous consumption, Shakespeare's miniaturized, fragmentary physicality also reveals the artistic labor involved in the process of mystification, and seems to satirize elite material display as a grotesquely parasitic activity.


By associating his miniaturized fairy queen with the material practices of a shifting social order, Shakespeare created an ideologically unstable new vision of the fairy world which oscillated uneasily between timeless folklore and contemporary change, between mystification and parody. The inherent ambivalence of Shakespeare's portrayal of Queen Mab made it particularly attractive to seventeenth-century writers who were trying to formulate their own contradictory perspectives on an increasingly tumultuous society. Both Spenserian and Cavalier poets appropriated Shakespeare's distinctive treatment of fairylore, ironically aligning it with the courtly myth of the TudorStuart "faery" monarchs. By creating miniaturized representations of elite conspicuous consumption, however, these writers simultaneously indicted their own practice as producers of Jacobean and Caroline culture.

In the 1620s and 1630s, Shakespeare's portrayal of Queen Mab reappeared in the work of the Spenserian poets William Browne and Michael Drayton. For the Spenserians, the Elizabethan era, the English countryside, and the "initial warlike phase of Charles's reign" were imbued with righteousness, while James I and his court were thoroughly corrupt. [26] Thus Browne's Britannia's Pastorals is filled with lamentations for the fate of Protestantism, nostalgia for Elizabethan animosity toward Spain, and idealization of the rural landscape. Books 1 and 2 of Britannia's Pastorals, published in 1613 and 1616 respectively, exhibit Browne's heavy debt to The Faerie Queene and the first part of Drayton's Poly-Olbion; in book 3, however, Browne combines his usual pastoral critique of James' policies with the miniaturized fairy-world of Romeo and Juliet.

After James' plans for a match between Prince Charles and the Spanish Infanta collapsed in 1623, England was gripped by heightened antipathy towards Spain, and Browne returned to Britannia's Pastorals in 1624 to champion Protestant militancy. [27] In book 3, the shepherd-hero Celadyne (the disgruntled Browne in pastoral disguise) comes across another mournful shepherd and follows him into a cave. After they have compared their respective cases of melancholy, the unnamed shepherd leads Celadyne to view "the faeries' court," located within "A trim feate roome, about a fathome wide, / As much in height, and twice as much in length" (2:144). [28] In the previous two books of Britannia's Pastorals, Browne occasionally refers to folkloric fairies who dance in meadows, teach birds how to build nests, and "pinch those Maids that had not swept their shelves" (1:109, 66). Browne abandons this arcadian fairylore in book 3, however, and instead develops Shakespeare's depiction of Queen Mab.

Early in Browne's account of the diminutive King Oberon and his court, the poet describes the "rich hangings" which cover the walls of the fairy banquet-hall:

In them was wrought the love of their great king,

His triumphs, dances, sports, and revelling:

And learned Spenser, on a little hill

Curiously wroughte, laye, as he tun'de his quill.


By placing Spenser in the scene as an onlooker, Browne associates his tiny fairy king with the "mightie Oberon" celebrated in The Faerie Queene -- we are to understand the ensuing episode within the context of Tudor-Stuart mythography. The presence of Spenser as a motif in a piece of tapestry establishes an ironic perspective on the world inhabited by Browne's Jacobean Oberon, however: the revered poet, transformed into a piece of miniaturized decor, has been diminished and frozen into silence, unable to convert his "tuned" quill into a call for Protestant activism.

The description which follows exhibits features central to Stuart fairy poetry. The shepherds watch Oberon at a feast, and Browne describes in great detail Oberon's clothes and the linens, dishes, silverware, and food displayed for the occasion. Fairy haute cuisine, we learn, requires the dismemberment of a wide range of invertebrates and small mammals:

The first dishes were

In white brothe boylde, a crammed grashopper;

A pismire roasted whole; five crayfish eggs;

The udder of a mouse; two hornetts leggs;

In steed of olyves, cleanly pickl'd sloes;

Then of a batt were serv'd the petty-toes;

Three fleas in souse; a criquet from the bryne;

And of a dormouse, last, a lusty chyne.


As Katharine Briggs observes of Oberon's food, "It is all cooked and served up in the correctest manner, a Jacobean banquet in miniature" (63). Browne clarifies the significance of his fairy menu when he interrupts his account of Oberon's menu to attack Spanish "bragadochio" (2:147):

Tell me, thou grandi, Spaines magnifico,

Could'st thou ere intertayne a monarch soe,

Without exhausting most thy rents and fees,

Tolde by a hundred thowsand marvedies,

That bragging poore accompt?


By taunting the pretentious "magnifico" that he could never match the grandeur of Oberon's table, Browne uses the fairy banquet to satirize the inadequacies of the Spanish court, specifically denigrating Spanish attempts to impress Charles at Madrid in 1623. [29] Browne thus portrays English conspicuous consumption as a standard unattainable by lesser nations, and the contextualizing of such display within a description of a Tudor-Stuart fairy monarch emphasizes the innate "Britishness" of this culinary superiority. Yet Browne's attitude toward the fairy banquet is ambivalent. On the one hand, Browne seems to exhibit nationalistic pride in English accomplishments in the field of conspicuous consumption. On the other hand, the grotesque quality of Oberon's food is undeniable: if Spanish cuisine is inferior to a diet of insects and mouse udders, it must be unspeakably disgusting. As in Shakespeare's depiction of Mab, the miniaturized, fragmented materiality of Browne's fairyland seems inherently parodic.

Later in book 3, Browne explicitly satirizes James I through his description of King Oberon. After dinner, the fairy monarch regales his "nobles" with a lengthy discussion of "hawkes and sporte" (2:147). (The hawkes are actually "wagtayles," while squirrels, weasels, rats, and rabbits serve as the king's "coursers.") James' aristocratic love of hunting was notorious: he spent about four months out of the year pursuing hare and deer, catching larks, and hawking. [30] While Browne thus mocks the king's preoccupation with sport, he also declares conversation about such a trivial pastime preferable to the slanders of those who "Dare checke brave Grin vill and such sonnes of warre" (2:149). Here, Browne extols military action against Spain, chiding contemporaries who slighted the bravery of Sir Richard Grenville, [31] an Elizabethan naval commander who died when his ship fought alone against the Spanish fleet in 1591:

Were it nor better that you did apply

Your meate, unlaught at of the standers by?

Or (like the faierye king) talke of your horse,

Or such as you, for want of something worse.


In his depiction of the fairy banquet in book 3 of Britannia's Pastorals, Browne alternately satirizes the Spanish, James, and pacifist factions at court. To accomplish this multifaceted task, Browne sometimes straightforwardly lampoons James, yet at other times he establishes James' behavior as a lesser evil (in comparison to that of the lily-livered detractors of Grenville) or as a matter of national pride (when he declares that English culinary display cannot be matched by pretentious Spaniards). The contradictory ideological associations of Shakespeare's miniaturized fairyland allow Browne to waver between approbation and censure: he indigenizes aristocratic conspicuous consumption as a peculiarly English accomplishment, yet he simultaneously implies that the proud heritage of the English "faery" monarchs has been ludicrously diminished in the person of James I.

Shakespeare's miniaturized fairy-world also reappears in the poetry of Michael Drayton. [32][ As Kathleen Tillotson has observed, "It is Mercutio's] speech, with its precise and practical specification of minuteness, that is the true parent not only of Nimphidia, but of the fairy wedding in The Muses Elizium." [33] In Nimphidia, published in Drayton's collection The Battle of Agincourt in 1627, the poet presents a mock romance-epic which describes the jealous rage of the tiny fairy-king, Oberon, when he discovers that his wife, Queen Mab, has been having an affair with the diminutive knight Pigwiggen. Oberon seeks vengeance and, at the climax of the poem, he prepares for hand-to-hand combat with Pigwiggen. Before any blood can be spilled, however, Proserpina intervenes and forces the adversaries to drink amnesia-inducing Lethe water; Oberon and Pigwiggen promptly forget their quarrel and go off to a feast together. [34] The fairies' diminutive stature and their fragmentary built environment evoke Romeo and Juliet: Drayton's Mab rides in a snail-shell chariot drawn by gnats, and the fairy palace is an amalgam of bodily fragments, with spiders' legs mortared together for walls, cats' eyes used as windows, and bat-skins transformed into shingles (3:126). [35] In Nimphidia, miniaturization is the basis of Dra yton's mock-heroic method -- Oberon is funny because he is tiny, a bellicose monarch who uses a beetle's head for a helmet and a hornet's sting for a rapier (3:140).

Appearing in a volume which alternately celebrates bygone English militarism and satirizes James and his court, Nimphidia seems intended as a comic indictment of Jacobean decadence: Drayton's "puisant King of Fayrie land" (3:132) is a travesty of the "mightie Oberon" celebrated by Spenser and Jonson. Yet Drayton returns to the miniaturized fairy mode in The Muses Elizium (1630), a set of pastoral eclogues which approvingly depicts the court of Charles I as "the Poets Paradice" (3:251). The Eighth Nimphall describes the preparations for the marriage of the diminutive nymph Tita to "the noblest of the Fayry" (3:309). The poem expresses an overriding concern with social status and material display and, like book 3 of Britannia's Pastorals, emphasizes the elite practice of conspicuous consumption. As soon as Tita's friends learn that her fiance bears "a most ancient name," they become obsessed that Tita's wedding must be suitably grand:

let us provide

The Ornaments to fit our Bryde,

For they knowing she doth come

From us in Elizium,

Queene Mab will looke she should be drest

In those attyres we thinke our best,

Therefore some curious things lets give her,

E'r to her Spouse we her deliver.


Most of the poem catalogues the jewellery and clothing with which Tita shall be adorned. Like Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, Drayton naturalizes conspicuous consumption, both by ascribing the practice to creatures associated with England's folkloric past, and by representing luxury goods as products of nature: Tita shall have dewdrops for earrings, an elaborate headdress made of insect wings and bits of feathers, a dress fashioned from floral leaves and petals, lady-bird buskins, and a train created from a snakeskin (3:310-12).

Although in the Eighth Nimphall Drayton celebrates Charles I's court as Elizium, his fairy epithalamium simultaneously registers ambivalence toward aristocratic Caroline culture. As established by Shakespeare, I have suggested, tiny fairies were figures of contradiction and inherent mockery, allied with a mythic and folkloric past, yet also firmly ensconced within contemporary practices of material display that were rendered absurd when miniaturized. In The Muses Elizium, the tiny stature of the fairies and the fragmentary, excrescent quality of Tita's clothing seem to parody the vision of a decorous, hierarchical society promoted by the Stuart epithalamium. [36] If Drayton's Nimphidia represents the Jacobean degradation of nationalism and valor, the miniaturized conspicuous consumption of his Eighth Nimphall implicitly suggests that the social rituals of the Caroline court have become ludicrously attenuated.

Like Drayton's Eighth Nimphall and the third book of Browne's Britannia's Pastorals, Robert Herrick's poems about Oberon firmly associate miniaturized fairies with the contemporary practice of conspicuous consumption. In his trilogy of verses about the tiny fairy king, Herrick describes Oberon's extravagant lifestyle, the elaborate food he eats, and the ornate decor of his home and chapel. Verbal echoes and stylistic similarities suggest that Browne, Drayton, and Herrick were familiar with each other's fairy poetry; all we know for certain, however, is that by the beginning of the reign of Charles I, Herrick was also describing the lifestyles of the rich and diminutive. [37] The presence of miniaturized fairies in Hesperides, Herrick's collection of verse published in 1648, should immediately raise questions about the political stance of the work. Unlike Browne or Drayton, Herrick has usually been seen by scholars as a staunch supporter of the Stuart monarchy, and indeed in Hesperides politically charged epi grams and occasional poems about the royal family and the civil war express an "extreme royalist attitude," while Herrick poems of rural festivity and many of his devotional verses promote an overtly Laudian brand of Anglicanism. [38] Yet, as Ann Baynes Coiro has demonstrated, the politics of Hesperides are neither simple nor straightforward, as much of Herrick's poetry engages in "an ironic questioning of Stuart ideals" (9). Although they have been virtually ignored in new historicist analyses of Herrick, I would argue that the fairy poems of Hesperides provide further evidence of the complexity of Herrick's political views.

In "The Fairie Temple: or, Oberons Chappell" Herrick's use of the fairy mode registers ambivalence toward Laudian ceremonialism. Some aspects of Herrick's depiction of fairy worship seem to emphasize the innate English-ness of Laudian Anglican ritual and thus legitimize the high-church practices excoriated by the Puritans. [39] In proper ceremonialist fashion the tiny fairy priest "lowly to the Altar bows" (93, 136), the altar being separated from the congregation by "neat Railes" (92, 91) and covered with a "Dam-asked" cloth (91, 63), while the fairies' vestments -- "curious Copes and Surplices / Of cleanest Cobweb" (92, 98-99) -- further indicate their allegiance to ceremonialism. The fairies' use of a "Book of Canons," a "Book of Articles," and a "Book of Homilies" (92, 78-82) also suggests that Oberon's chapel is a Laudian sanctuary. At the same time, however, Herrick's diction of ridicule, combined with the tiny stature of the fairies, seems designed to mock the ceremonialism he depicts. The temple is d ecorated with "fine Fripperie" (90.3.21) made of detritus: insects serve as venerated statues in niches; the altar is actually "a little Transverce bone" (91, 57) covered by an apple-skin; and the psalters are "Grac't with the Trout-flies curious wings, / Which serve for watched Ribbanings" (92, 72-73). The personnel of Oberon's chapel likewise seem ludicrous: the officiating clergyman is a "little-Puppet-Priest" who "squeaks" at the congregation (91, 39-40) and who, instead of a bishop's mitre, wears "the Silk-worms shed / (Like a Turks Turbant on his head)" (93, 137-38).

It has been argued that in "The Fairie Temple," Herrick "uses diminution as a satiric technique to 'reduce' hyperbolic Puritan accusations against Anglican ritual by rendering them amusing." [40] Yet the satiric intention of Herrick's poem is difficult to pin down. On the one hand, as Leah Marcus has observed, by ascribing Laudian practices to the indigenous inhabitants of England, the fairies, Herrick implicitly validates ceremonialism as an ancient, thoroughly British tradition (1979, 64). Yet the diminutive fairies of "Oberons Chappell" clearly trace their origin not to folklore but to the literary tradition inaugurated by Shakespeare's Mab, and as in Drayton's epithalamium for Tita, Herrick's miniaturized fairies seem to parody the very rituals they are portrayed as upholding. Herrick's depiction of tiny ceremonialist fairies thus undercuts the Laudian orthodoxy which he champions elsewhere in Hesperides.

The meticulous, static description found in other Stuart fairy poems becomes most eerie in Herrick's verses about Oberon's lifestyle. In "Oberons Feast," Herrick presents an elaborate smorgasbord reminiscent of the fairy banquet nationalistically admired by William Browne: Herrick's Oberon samples such delicacies as butterflies' antennae, "Beards of Mice, a Newt's stew'd thigh, / A bloated Earewig, and a Flie" (119.1.26, 37-38). It is in "Oberons Palace," however, that the miniaturized, heterogeneous physicality of Stuart fairy poetry reaches a fantastic extreme as Herrick provides a guided tour of a tiny grand home:

Throughout that Brave Mosaick yard

Those Picks or Diamonds in the Card:

With peeps of Harts, of Club and Spade

Are here most neatly inter-laid.

Many a Counter, many a Die,

Half rotten, and without an eye,

Lies here abouts; and for to pave

The excellency of this Cave,

Squirrils and childrens teeth late shed,

Are neatly here enchequered

With brownest Toadstones, and the Gum

That shines upon the blewer Plum.

(166, 47-58)

Herrick's description of Oberon' palace evokes the hodgepodge of embellished surfaces characteristic of a Stuart country house. Like seventeenth-century virtuosi, Oberon and his queen, Mab, have accumulated a collection of strange objects which they display as part of their palace's richly textured decor. [41] While Herrick thus portrays the fairy palace as an embodiment of elite conspicuous consumption, he also emphasizes the continuity between his tiny Oberon and the fairies of folklore by rooting the fairy king's architectural grandeur in exchanges with human beings. Rather than trafficking in cream or human babies, however, Herrick's s monarchs participate in a trade in rubbish and bodily excrescences: the fairies' ornamental paving materials include "The nails faln off by Whit-flawes" and "those warts, / Which we to others (from our selves) / Sell, and brought hither by the Elves" (166, 59-62), while "The tempting Mole, stoln from the neck / Of the shie Virgin, seems to deck / The holy Entrance" (166, 6 3-65). Queen Mab's bedclothes are fashioned from "the Caule / That doth the Infants face enthrall, / When it is born" (167, 90-92), and the palace is festooned with

Of shifted Snake: enfreez'd throughout

the blew skin

With eyes of Peacocks Trains, & Trout-

flies curious wings; and these among

Those silver-pence, that cut the tongue

Of the red infant, neatly hung.

(166, 66-71)

In "Oberons Palace," Herrick depicts the fabric of his fairy palace as an artful exhibition of fragments, transforming the fairies' traditional association with cleanliness and domestic order into an architecture of painstakingly arranged detritus. If Herrick thus attempts to represent Stuart conspicuous consumption as an innately traditional phenomenon, he simultaneously stresses the unsettling, grotesque quality of the miniaturized world the fairies create for themselves, estranging rather than naturalizing elite material display. [42]

In a brilliant analysis of Herrick's depiction of the human body, Michael C. Schoenfeldt has argued that in Hesperides, disgusting physicality is "class-specific," that Herrick creates characters notable for their bodily filth in order "to designate the lower stratum of the social body." [43] Certainly many of the figures in Hesperides who are preoccupied with the waste and excrescences of their own bodies are plebeian: Cob "clouts his shooes" with the parings of his thumbnails (226.5); Madam Ursly makes jewellery from teeth and "Cornes, pickt from her eares and toes" (232.4); Fone, Herrick suggests, uses his whiskers in lieu of birch-twigs to beat his students (39.2); and Ralph hoards his nail-parings, warts, and corns "To make a lustie-gellie for his broth" (299.4). Herrick's trilogy about Oberon, however, deconstructs the social boundaries established in the grotesque epigrams of Hesperides. In his poems about the miniaturized fairy world, the nauseating physicality which Herrick elsewhere ascribes to com moners becomes bound up with elite practices: Oberon and Mab collect and display teeth, moles, fingernails, and warts, while their priest, wearing a discarded cocoon on his head, presides over a church filled with garbage. The presence of the Oberon trilogy within Hesperides thus should complicate our assessment of the political valence of Herrick's book as a whole. In Herrick's poems about diminutive fairies, the "active royalism" [44] of his panegyric mode and the Laudianism of his devotional and festive verses are mocked. By including his Oberon poems in Hesperides, Herrick allows us to see that his parodic figures of Stuart authority -- both king and cleric -- have parasitically constructed fragile, disgusting environments of rubbish. Although they behave as if they inhabit a golden world of elite display and dignified religious ritual, Herrick's tiny fairies are, in fact, no more exalted or admirable than the revolting likes of Madam Ursly.


In the early modern period, the English fairies were steeped in associations with Britain's precapitalist past. Fairylore thus afforded writers -- and conartists -- a potentially mystifying template to superimpose upon the emergent symptoms of social and economic change. With its underlying narrative of indigenous aristocrats who enforce social mores and its connections with courtly compliment, fairylore was also a particularly apt vehicle for representing elite Elizabethan and Stuart culture. In their portrayals of fairies as conspicuous consumers, seventeenth-century writers followed Shakespeare to naturalize the elaborate feasts, clothing, and houses of the genteel: by using figures associated with traditional folklore, Stuart poets attempted to obfuscate the conditions of social mobility and economic change which underpinned the contemporary pursuit of luxurious display. Yet the strange, fragmented physicality of this miniaturized fairy-world, most emphasized in Herrick's Oberon poems, seems inherently pa rodic and tends to undercut elite social practice. Patricia Fumerton has argued that in early modern England, aristocratic selfhood was rooted in "its experience of the fragmentary, peripheral, and ornamental" (172); through their depictions of tiny fairy monarchs, Browne, Drayton, and Herrick uneasily contemplate such a phenomenon. In Britannia's Pastorals and Nimphidia, Browne and Drayton exploit the ideological instability of the fairy mode to register their ambivalence toward Stuart culture, their sense that a proud national heritage had been obscured and degraded by James' pusillanimity. In The Muses Elizium, when Drayton returns to the fairy mode to celebrate a ritual of social order, he cannot help but accentuate the gulf separating the rarefied Caroline court from popular culture. Likewise, although not overtly grinding satirical axes against Charles I or Laudian Anglicanism, the fairy poems of Herrick nonetheless parody high culture and the high church.

Rather than mindless frivolity, the miniaturized fairies of Jacobean and Caroline literature bespeak writers' unsettled perspective on their rapidly changing society, and on their artistic role within that society. The Stuart fairy mode represents the production of elite culture as a fundamentally parasitic activity, and the authors' own scavenging of traditional materials parallels the diminutive fairies' artful creation of worlds of detritus. The distinctive fragmented physicality of seventeenth-century fairy poems thus tropes the very cultural conditions which gave rise to this literary mode in early modern England. Rather than a retreat into a golden dream-world unrelated to "reality," Stuart fairy poetry attempts to represent a changing culture in traditional terms -- and, in its failures to mythologize contested beliefs and social practices, exposes the difficulties of such a project.

(*.) Part of the research for this article was supported by an award from the University of Kansas General Research Fund.

(1.) Briggs, 6.

(2.) For early twentieth-century accounts of A Midsummer Night's Dream as a groundbreaking depiction of fairies, see Latham, 176-96; Delattre, 111-19; and Nutt, 2-6. Holmer remarks on the originality of Shakespeare's depiction of Queen Mab in Romeo and Juliet (1995, 63-64); otherwise, contemporary critics generally ignore the significance of Shakespeare's portrayal of the fairies, exceptions being Blount and Sagar.

(3.) Latham, 201-02.

(4.) Oram, 17.

(5.) Hamilton, et al., 295.

(6.) Reginald Scot tells his readers in The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) that "your grandam's maids" were afraid of the fairies; yet in 1621, Edward Fairfax, in "A Discourse of Witchcraft," laments the continued existence of fairy-beliefs "rooted in the opinion of the vulgar," and John Aubrey, commenting even later in the seventeenth century in Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme, maintains that when he was a child "country people" still believed in the fairies (Scot qtd. in Delattre, 64; Fairfax qtd. in Latham, 31; Aubrey qtd. in Thomas, 725-6).

(7.) Herrick, 201.2. I have followed L. C. Martin's format for parenthetical references to Herrick's poems: i.e., (page number, number of poem on page. line numbers). The continuation of a poem begun on a preceding page is referred to by page number and line numbers: i.e., (page number, line numbers). Poems quoted in their entirety are referred to by (page number.number of poem on page). As this poem indicates, Stuart poets could depict the fairies in accordance with traditional folklore; their decisions to work within a miniaturized, parodic mode were thus conscious and, I shall argue, politically charged.

(8.) As Thomas observes, the early modern belief in fairy changelings also provided an explanation for mental defects in children (732); in addition, see Eberly.

(9.) Greenlaw, 116.

(10.) On Prince Henry as Oberon, see Parry 74-75; and Williamson, 95-102.

(11.) Jonson, 1925-1952, 7:355.

(12.) Chapman, Johnson, and Marston, 5.1.88-92.

(13.) Latham, 143.

(14.) Qtd. in Cunliffe, 98-99; Nichols, 2:215; Lyly, 1:454-55; Jonson, 1925-1952, 7:125.

(15.) Jonson, 1991, 1.2.126, 3.5.17, 5.4.53-55

(16.) Thomas, 732-33; Sisson.

(17.) The folklorist Katharine Briggs has argued that the size of Shakespeare's fairies is not unprecedented, maintaining that later popular accounts of tiny fairies must bespeak the influence of a folkloric rather than a literary tradition (12-13). Briggs' argument was convincingly anticipated and countered by Latham, and most scholars agree with Latham that Shakespeare created a new and lasting vision of physically diminutive fairies (see note 2). Robert Weimann ignores the significant ways in which Shakespeare changes folklore, listing the fairies of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet as examples of Shakespeare's uncritical adoption of "native English lower mythology" (192); my reading of these plays thus calls into question Weimann's argument that Shakespeare's dramas reflect the "relative homogeneity" of late sixteenth-century English culture (186).

(18.) Hendricks, 54. The figure of Oberon was associated with foreign lands in earlier works such as Huon de Bordeaux; however, as Hendricks remarks, India became a focus of the development of new ideologies of race and commerce as international trade and travel became more common in the early modern period (48).

(19.) On early modern elite material display, see Goldthwaite, esp. 243-55; Heal and Holmes, 282-306; McCracken, 11-28; Smuts; and Stone, 547-86.

(20.) On socioeconomic change, see also Fisher and Thirsk; on concepts of social rank, see Cressy.

(21.) Heal and Holmes, 297-98; Summerson, 58-59, 75.

(22.) Airs, 4; Mowl, 129.

(23.) In 1621, Lord Hay organized a feast which required the labor of 100 cooks to prepare 1,600 dishes. This culinary extravaganza cost [pound]3,300, including [pound]500 for sweetmeats and [pound]300 for ambergris (Stone, 561). Lord Hay also developed, the ante-supper as a theatrical demonstration of his wealth and eminence: "The manner of which was, to have the board covered at the first entrance of the Chests with dishes as high as a tall man could well reach, filled with the choicest and dearest viands Sea or Land could afford: And all this once seen, and having feasted the eyes of the Invited, was in a manner thrown away, and fresh set on to the same height, having only this advantage of the other, that it was hot" (qtd. in Akrigg, 163-4).

(24.) When the second Earl of Salisbury was installed as a Knight of the Garter in 1625, he paid [pound]976 for his clothing, of which [pound]120 was spent on gold and silver lace and buttons, and [pound]350 on embroidery; the actual material for his costume was worth [pound]247 (Stone, 565). Under Charles I, the Crown came to spend [pound]300,000 per year on household and wardrobe costs (Beier and Finlay, 14). In 1626, Charles bought 513 pairs of boots, shoes, slippers, and overshoes, and spent more than [pound]80 on "'one pincke coloured silke chamlett suite and cloake raced in rich workes cutt with and upon skiecoloure florence taffeta laced with CXLII yards of pincke coloure in graine embroidered lace, the suite lyned with changeable taffeta and the cloake with rich skie coloure plush turned up'" (qtd. in Stone, 563).

(25.) Stone, 583, 566.

(26.) Norbrook, 222.

(27.) 0n the dating of Britannia's Pastorals, see Holmer, 1976. Browne did not publish book 3, apparently because censorship was tightened in 1624 (Norbrook, 221).

(28.) Citations for Browne refer to volume number and page numbers.

(29.) It seems that Browne is attacking the former ambassador to England, Count Gondomar, in the guise of the fraudulent "magnifico." Although Gondomar had returned to Spain in 1622, his name still served as a lightning rod for anti-Spanish sentiment. Middleton's political satire A Game at Chess (1624) and Browne's poem "A Sigh from Oxford" (1624-1625) likewise attack the absent Gondomar. On the topical references in the third book of Britannia's Pastorals see Holmer, 1976, and Brown and Piva, 397-401; on Gondomar as bogeyman in Jacobean England, see Wright.

(30.) Akrigg, 159-61.

(31.) 0n assessments of Grenville in the 1620s, see Holmer, 1976, 350-55.

(32.) The third book of Britannia's Pasrorals was not published until the nineteenth century, and it is impossible to establish a chronological chain ofinfluence among the writers of Stuart fairy poetry

(33.) Drayton, 5:203; Tillotson is identified as the author of these comments on p. xxxii. Drayton's use of miniaturization in the mock-epic Nimphidia might also call to mind Spenser's Muiopotmos; however, Spenser depicted the antics of small insects, not fairies, and in his account of the strife between a tiny Mab and Oberon, Drayton clearly draws directly on Mercutio's speech in Romeo and Juliet.

(34.) The collection in which Nimphidia appears also contains a series of satires lambasting the decadence of the Jacobean court and "The Battle of Agincourt," a jingoistic narrative apparently intended to gain support for the Duke of Buckingham's expedition to the Isle of Rhe. Scholars disagree about Drayton's political stance after the death of James I. Brink views Drayton as "one of the two or three most 'anti-establishment' poets of his age" (135), an assessment shared by Hardin, who analyzes Drayton as "one of the few articulate spokesmen for the Country at a time when virtually all the worthwhile English poetry belongs to the ambience of Court and City" (132). More recently, however. Cogswell has argued convincingly that with the accession of Charles I, Drayton's scorn "shifted from the crown to the people, who seemed unwilling to shoulder the burdens of what Drayton regarded as a righteous foreign war" (228). Cogswell's interpretation accords with Norbrook's assessment of the relationship between the Spenserian poets and Stuart politics (Norbrook, 195-234).

(35.) Citations for Drayton refer to volume number and page numbers.

(36.) In her brief comments on Drayton's Eighth Nimphall, Heather Dubrow suggests that the poem is rooted in a preoccupation, typical of the Stuart epithalamium, with social order; she does not consider how the participants' status as fairies may complicate Drayton's use of the genre (61-62, 127, 145).

(37.) In a manuscript poem dated 1626, Mildmay Fane, later the Earl of Westmorland, addresses Herrick from Mereworth Castle, Fane's country house in Kent: "I tooke for compagnion / Downe with me your Obberon / Wher he hunted and had sport / Which though it did come farr short / Of your soft welcomes he's content / To pass it o're in merriment / And what fortune for him slewe / Heer he sends some on't to you" (qtd. Cain, 315). Fane is apparently responding to an early version of Herrick's Oberon trilogy, as was Sir Simeon Steward in "A Description of the King of Fayries Clothes, brought to him on New-yeares day in the morning, 1626, by his Queenes Chambermaids" (in Delattre, 203-205). Steward's virtuoso catalogue of closely observed textures portrays the fairy monarch as a miniature fashion plate. It seems that the poems by Steward and Herrick were popular, for versions of them survive in a significant number of manuscripts, and Steward's poem was republished in later miscellanies (Farmer, 68-70; Delattre, 21 9). Moorman notes that "Oberons Feast" and "Oberons Palace" were among Herrick's poems which "circulated most widely in manuscript" (xix).

(38.) Summers. 1978, 172. Under Archbishop William Laud's program of reform, the Anglican Church rejected the doctrine of predestination and emphasized the sacraments, ceremonialism, and the holiday pastimes advocated in the Book of Sports. For a brief, cogent analysis of Laudianism, see Foster. Studies of the Laudian elements of Hesperides include Guibbory; Marcus, 1986; and Summers. 1994.

(39.) In using the term "Puritan," I follow Underdown's definition of Puritanism as "the set of beliefs held by people who wished to emphasize more strongly the Calvinist heritage of the Church of England; to elevate preaching and scripture above sacraments and rituals, the notions of the calling, the elect, the 'saint,' the distinctive virtue of the divinely predestined minority, above the equal worth of all sinful Christians" (41). When Hesperides was published in 1648, of course, Laud had been executed, the Directory of Public Worship had been imposed, and Herrick himself had been ejected from his living at Dean Prior. According to folklore, the fairies had no public worship (Briggs, 66-67).

(40.) Holmer, 1981, 40.

(41.) 0n virtuoso collecting as an indicator of wealth and leisure, see Houghton.

(42.) The bits of playing cards, counters, and dice which embellish Oberon's courtyard link the diminutive monarch to the contemporary elite craze for gambling; on Stuart gambling, see Stone, 567-72. For a structuralist analysis of the decor of Herrick's Oberon poems, see Schwenger. Woodward, arguing that an epithalamial structure underlies Herrick's fairy poems, suggests that the grotesque physicality of "Oberons Palace" bespeaks Herrick's vision of a "universal order" which encompasses even "things that from a limited perspective seem to deny or work against the beauty of creation" (283).

(43.) Schoenfeldt 131, 134. Schoenfeldt does not consider Herrick's fairy poems in his analysis of physiciality in Hesperides.

(44.) Loxlety, 231.


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Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Jun 22, 2000
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