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Topicality and conceptual blending: Titus Andronicus and the case of William Hacket.

In this essay, which combines historicism and cognitive criticism, I identify a previously unnoticed topical allusion in Titus Andronicus; the allusion then serves as my illustrative case-study in a cognitive account of topicality. As a historicist, I present evidence suggesting the probable topical intentions and reception of two passages from Titus. As a cognitivist, I analyze my account in terms of conceptual blending theory. We stand to gain, I argue, by understanding topical identifications wherever they may emerge--in an author's mind, an actor's, or those of audiences and/or later critics--as conceptual blends.

Critics of literature and the other arts commonly understand "topicality" as a kind of meaning that presumes an interpreter's familiarity with particular, publicly reported events or controversies, to which an imaginative work alludes more or less implicitly. I should like to suggest that for historicist critics concerned with topical interpretation, conceptual blending theory offers at least two major advantages.

First, cognitivism entails a pragmatic approach to semantics, uninhibited either by the old-fashioned assumption that authorial intention alone defines true meaning, or by its contrary extreme, the post-structuralist position that authorship is a mere fiction (to which some historicist criticism has been excessively prone). The value of cognitive theory for critics who embrace historicist insights, but who seek a plausible account of the author's role in the production of meaning(s), has already been emphasized, notably by Mary Thomas Crane (2001, 34-35 passim); Crane's work has contributed, along with that of other recent critics, to the project of developing a cognitive historicist criticism (Spolsky 2003, 162-68; Richardson and Steen 2002, 5; Richardson 2004, 23-25, with references). Cognitive historicist critics admit the contingency of literary reception upon indefinitely variable conditions, and the multiplicity of possible responses to a text, yet they do not conclude from this that authorial intentions are of no concern to audiences or to critics. Audiences can make informed hypotheses as to an author's probable intentions. Critics, by studying and analyzing historical records with attention to cultural and individual circumstances of cognition, may infer a work's probable receptions(s) in the minds of a given audience.

Second, conceptual blending theory draws our attention particularly to the metaphoricity of topical identities, and hence to their capacity for aesthetic novelty, which literary critics in general have neglected. The theory of blends emphasizes the innovative aspect of all cognitive activity, in so far as it involves acts of metaphorical identification. It can, I believe, help us to reintegrate the study of topical allusion within a poetics that respects the values of creativity, novelty and wonder as central to literary interest.

Topical Allusion and Conceptual Blending

Blending theory was developed by Mark Turner; it has been described and advanced, most recently, by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner (2002) and Patrick Colm Hogan (2003). (1) In a conceptual blend, "two or more inputs or input spaces ... project some properties to a blended space," producing "an emergent structure that results from the combination" (Hogan 2003, 107-08). Blending is often exemplified in explicit metaphorical statements of identity, such as "Juliet is the sun" (91, 100). Here a simple linguistic identification with the logical structure A = B, representing the emergence of a blend in the mind/brain of a speaker or author, in turn prompts the hearer's or reader's mind/brain to conceptualize a blend of its own, finding appropriate "matches" in memory and building "correspondences" to construct the blended space. According to chief proponents of the theory, the blends emergent in such projections are not mere associative permutations of discrete elements accessed from memory, but are, rather, essentially novel "imaginative achievements" (Fauconnier and Turner 2002, 19).

I propose that in a cognitive act of topical identification, what emerges in the mind of an author or an audience member--or in that, much later, of a historicist critic--is a conceptual blend like any other. This topical blend, though, is commonly prompted not by a statement of identity but rather by an implicit topical allusion. Allusions ordinarily differ from explicit metaphorical statements in that an allusion does not take the linguistic form of a predication (A = B). Instead, in paradigmatic cases of topical allusion, such predications of identity are left up to the members of an audience or readership. (2) To date, general accounts of blending theory have sometimes touched on instances of topical allusion, but without especially calling attention to its distinctive qualities. (3) In fact, a complication of the blending scenario would seem to be entailed by the fact that an audience, if it is to respond as intended to a topical allusion, must infer what the work itself leaves more or less implicit.

Since topical identities are left unstated in most topical allusions, the emergence of such identities in audiences' minds patently depends upon contingencies of reception--more so than do blends prompted by explicit predications of identity. Authors of topical allusions are able to predict that particular circumstances will favor certain responses over others. In so far as members of a text's intended audience inhabit an author's historical community, their experiences will more or less approximate the author's; hence, they will probably share some similar structures in memory. Such audience members, responding to the activation of particular ingredient concepts or "input spaces," will probably access memories resembling those prompted by the like inputs in the author's own mind. These are the conceptual structures to which, we may say, the author intended a text to prompt access. Regardless, it must be noted that any topical identifications that emerge in the minds of audiences do so as conceptual blends--no matter how like, or unlike, they may be to any or all of the blends that have previously emerged in the minds of authors.

Blending theory is consistent with the presumption that authors are agents, with minds and intentions. However, it also accommodates the view of reception as an event that occurs differently in different minds, with their own intentional, complex, and more or less variable responses. In Fauconnier and Turner's theory, our minds employ multiple frames to create blended spaces (2002, 150ff.). Assuming this to be true, then a successful topical allusion probably must prompt highly specific spaces in memory that are already framed, in the minds of a given audience, by certain more general concepts including one that we might call something like "currently (or recently) topical matters," or "public controversy, rumor and report." Both the more specific memories and these less specific, framing concepts are likely to have structures that are similar enough in different individuals to be regarded as "common" or "shared"--provided that we take these terms to refer to a gradient, not an exact resemblance between conceptual spaces in different minds. (4) At the same time, the gamut of other concepts that frame these "same" or shared memories in various minds is sure to vary considerably, causing diversely blended outputs in response to the inputs prompted by the text.

Any specific memories that a topical allusion prompts in our minds will likely be framed, not only by the specific memories of the topical matters alluded to (as well as by more general framing concepts such as "topical matters"), but also by other conceptual structures, differing more or less from those that framed the corresponding memories in the author's mind. Therefore, blends that an author never intended at all are quite likely to emerge in the minds of his or her audiences. We might doubt further whether authorial intentions are ever univocal, or fully coordinated; probably they never are. Even in an audience composed of the author's intimate acquaintances, topical allusions are likely to prompt the emergence of a variety of blended identities corresponding closely to the author's intentions in some, but not all respects.

"News from Heaven": Titus 4.3 and the Uprising of William Hacket

Before I begin my topical reading, I should note that Titus Andronicus, like other Shakespearean texts, defies interpretation as the result of any simple or easily defined set of authorial intentions. Indeed, it is quite probably the work of multiple authors; recent scholarship has suggested that Shakespeare most likely wrote Titus with a collaborator, George Peele. (5) Considerable uncertainty exists, therefore, with respect to the attribution of individual portions of the text. My argument, however, does not rest on the identity of the play's author(s). Both Shakespeare and Peele worked in London during the early 1590s; therefore, both could have alluded to matters of topical interest within that milieu.

The portion of Titus with which I am concerned starts with the "archery scene" in 4.3. Early in this scene, the aggrieved Titus sues the heavens for justice, launching his petitions into the sky on volleys of arrows. His friends conclude from this that he has gone mad (4.3.25-30). (6)

Shortly thereafter, a "Clown," or common yokel, makes the first of two brief appearances in Titus. When the Clown first walks on stage, Titus seems to infer that the newcomer must be a divine messenger, answering his recent petitions:</p> <pre> Enter the Clown with a basket and two pigeons in it. Titus: News, news, from heaven! Marcus, the post is come. Sirrah, what tidings? Have you any letters?

Shall I have justice? What says Jupiter? Clown: Ho, the gibbet-maker? He says that he hath taken them down again, for the man must not be hanged till the next week. Titus: But what says Jupiter, I ask thee? Clown: Alas, sir, I know not Jubiter, I never drank with him in all my life. (4.3.76SD-85) </pre> <p>In the unique Folger Shakespeare Library quarto of Titus, Q1 (1594), it is the Clown, rather than Titus, who is assigned the two lines beginning with "News, news, from heaven!" and ending with "Have you any letters?" Modern scholars have accepted the later reassignment of these lines to Titus in the second quarto (Q2) and Folio (F) texts. (7)

Whether it was Titus or the Clown who was originally meant to say, "News, news, from heaven!" the line probably would have activated an early audience's memories of an incident that had scandalized London on July 16, 1591. (8) On the morning of that day, a pair of "respectable puritan gentlemen" named Henry Arthington and Edmund Coppinger had drawn attention throughout the city, making bold proclamations against the Elizabethan regime and attracting a crowd of listeners wherever they went (Walsham 1998, 27). According to our fullest contemporary narrative of the incident, a hostile account by Richard Cosin, Arthington and Coppinger claimed to be bringing their fellow Londoners "newes from heaven, of exceeding great mercie" (1592, 55-56; my emphasis). (9)

I have been unable to find any exact contemporary parallel for Cosin's phrase "newes from heaven" outside the present passage from Titus. Even if Arthington and Coppinger did not speak these words verbatim--which Cosin's account seems to suggest they did--the fact that they appeared in this published record of the incident strongly suggests that the line from the play is a topical allusion. By following Cosin's version of events to its end, we shall find that the story is evoked as well by other particulars in Titus, confirming the likelihood of an intentional allusion to the events of July, 1591.

Cosin tells us that the "news," which Arthington and Coppinger brought to the inhabitants of London, was "that Christ Jesus was come"--as He had personally informed them--" with his Fanne in his hand to judge the earth." Consciously echoing John the Baptist, the two men went through the city crying, "Repent England, Repent" (1592, 55-6). (10) When they were hindered in Cheapside by a "throng and preasse of people," the self-styled prophets "got them up into an emptie cart which stoode there, and ... reading something out of a paper, went more particularly ouer the office and calling" of their new messiah, a man named William Hacket (1592, 56).

Arthington and Coppinger explained to the people, first, how William Hacket "represented Christ, by partaking a part of his glorified body, by his principall spirit, and by the office of severing the good from the bad ... and of bringing in that Discipline ... which they [i.e., presbyterian Calvinists] meane by the terme of Reformation and the holy cause" (1592, 56). Concerning themselves, as opposed to Hacket, they claimed "that they were two prophets, the one of Mercy, the other of Judgement, sent and extraordinarily called by God to assist him in this great worke, and were witnesses of these things ... affirming that all that beleeved them not, were condemned body and soule."

According to Cosin (who wrote from the standpoint of the established church and state), the two men also predicted an apocalyptic day of judgment and urged a revolt:</p> <pre> This judgement [of God] against London ... was that men should there kill and massacre one another, as Butchers doe kill swyne, all the day long, and no man should take compassion of them. There was then and there further delivered by them, or by the one of them, that Hacket was King of Europe, and so ought to be obeyed and taken, and that all Kings must holde of him, and that the Queenes Majestie had forfaited her Crowne, and was worthie to be deprived. (Cosin 1592, 56-57) </pre> <p>Soon "all was in a buzze" throughout London, and officials acted swiftly. Before the day's end, William Hacket was found and imprisoned alongside Arthington, who persisted in venerating him. Coppinger, also in jail, "beganne ... to behave himselfe as a man distracted of his wits" (1592, 59-61).

Twelve days later, after his trial and sentencing for treason, William Hacket was hanged in Cheapside. The hanging took place before an "incredible multitude ... the like whereof at no assemblie in memorie hath beene seene" (Cosin 1592, 71). Hacket's "heart was taken foorth, and shewed out openly to the people, for a most detestable, blasphemous traytors heart." His prophets would meet different, yet equally exemplary ends. "The next day ... Coppinger, having wilfully abstained from meate (as is said) seven or eight daies together, died in Bridewell" (1592, 72). Arthington, on the other hand, "being reserved to penitence, seriously repented, setting forth a booke thereof," as William Camden wrote in his Annales (Camden 1635, 403). Through public repentance, Arthington was able to save his life as well as his soul. (11)

In the passage from Titus quoted above, Elizbethan audiences would have found more than one occasion for topical identification with memories of the Hacket affair. First, as we have seen, the Clown refers to hangings after mishearing the word "Jupiter" as "gibbet-maker." Assuming that the phrase "news, from heaven!" had already activated memories of Arthington and Coppinger's prophetic mission, then this reference would prompt access to further memories of Hacket's execution, which Cosin claimed was unprecedentedly well-attended. Second, we may note a correspondence between the representation of Titus as mad or "distract" in this scene (4.3.26), and Cosin's account of the imprisoned Coppinger as "distracted of his wits" (see above). (12) Third, there are the apocalyptic contents of Hacket's message, framed by concepts of vengeful, violent justice much like those prompted by Titus and other revenge tragedies. In this connection, it is to be noted that the name of Shakespeare's protagonist had already primed for access the specific concept of God's wrath and judgment. Historically, Titus Vespasianus was the Roman general whose soldiers had sacked the Temple at Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Christians had long interpreted this event as a divine punishment of Jerusalem and the Jews (Moschovakis 2002, 473ff.).

So far I have addressed only memories that audiences might have accessed within the first few moments after the Clown's appearance on stage. In the succeeding portion of the play, we find that the phrase "gibbet-maker" also foreshadows the Clown's own untimely end, an event that will extend the Hacket allusion still further and will add to its topical and political complexity.

At the end of his first exchange with Titus in 4.3.77ff., the Clown announces that he is on his way to present a suit to the Emperor Saturninus. Titus now acts on a sudden inspiration. He writes a letter to the Emperor, his hated enemy, and inside it he secretly wraps a knife. He gives the wrapped parcel to the Clown, telling him it contains a "supplication" that is sure, he says, to make the Emperor grant the Clown's suit (4.3.108). In the next scene (4.4), the Clown, innocently trusting Titus, presents the package to the Emperor. When Saturninus has opened the package, discovering the knife, and has read the letter silently to himself, he condemns the contents as a "proud mock" to his imperial dignity (4.4.57), and orders his attendants to "hang" the Clown "presently" (4.4.44).

The order given for the Clown's summary execution at Titus 4.4.44 might not appear particularly allusive in itself, hanging having been a common punishment; (13) however, the additional details of the offending petition and knife may well have prompted audiences to access specific memories of the Hacket incident. Arthington, after his arrest, was found to possess a "writing in his sleeue," which he identified as an "Epistle to the Queene" that until now "shee woulde not receiue ... and therefore shee was (hee sayde) no longer Queene" (Cosin 1592, 58). (14) As for the knife carried by a subject into a monarch's presence, this input space was already framed in early modern minds by concepts of regicide and tyrannicide. Apart from the fact that knives were conventionally depicted as instruments of assassination, a particular knife had figured in one of the more sensational passages in Hacket's history. At Hacket's trial, the crown presented evidence that he had once thrust a "bodkin or yron instrument" through a portrait of the Queen, pricking it in the very heart--a deed that might be thought magically efficacious, and that was defined in English law as a treasonable act (1592, 61). (15)

The juxtaposition of the letter, the knife, and the Clown's trip to the scaffold in the quoted scenes from Titus suggests a deliberate sequence of allusions, designed to promote a sustained process of blending between inputs from the stage (or text) and from memories of the Hacket episode. It is significant, moreover, that the scenes prompt our minds to frame the concept of "news" with that of Titus's subversive quest for justice, and the concept of written petitions with that of executed traitors. As a critic once noted, the phrase "news from heaven" in Titus is "an echo of the news motif" common in Elizabethan popular culture (Talbert 1963, 54). (16) Authorities often feared the "news" spread by popular rumor, suspecting it as a medium of seditious incitement. (17) In England, both seditious writing and seditious speaking had been "capital offences without benefit of clergy" since 1581 (Fox 2000, 337). (18) It was reported of Arthington and Coppinger that, during their seditious performance in Cheapside, they had publicly "prayed that God would strike down the lord chancellor, Christopher Hatton, and the archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift" (Walsham 1998, 28). (19)

Here again, the concept of religiously motivated appeals to God for judgment and intervention in political affairs, today termed "providentialism," seems likely to have framed the memories accessed by early audiences responding to the Clown scenes. Certainly the phrase "news from heaven" would have primed for access the concept of Christian revelation, or traditionally "the good news" (Greek evangelion). Clearly, it was this conceptual space that Arthington and Coppinger had meant to prompt by introducing their tale as "newes ... of mercie," inviting hearers to blend the concepts of Hacket's message and claim to prophetic authority with that of Christ's gospel.

Another textual input from the Clown scenes in Titus might have prompted memories of claims to Christian martyrdom, claims that were often made by--or on behalf of--early modern dissidents who lost their lives to state authorities. When the Clown finds himself in the presence of the Emperor, he greets his sovereign with a Christian-like salutation: "God and St. Stephen/ Give you good even" (4.4.42). Saint Stephen was known as the first Christian martyr (Acts 6-7). The invocation of his name would have primed for access the framing concept, "martyrdom," (20) which audiences might then activate in response to the Emperor's order for the execution of the Clown. After all, the Clown in Titus is apparently an innocent character, his only crime being to have borne, unwittingly, another man's seditious message.

Some historicists have suggested that the Clown's mention of Saint Stephen invites us to view his condemnation by Saturninus, in the ensuing scene, as an implicit indictment of religious persecution. (21) However, we should note that the name of Saint Stephen alone need not have prompted early audiences to frame the input space "Clown" with the concept "Christian"--not, at least, with the concept "true Christian." On the contrary, given the likelihood that these scenes had already activated memories of William Hacket and his disciples, some blends that emerged in response to them may well have been framed by a concept of "false Christians," or even of "anti-Christ." Consider Richard Hooker's damning portrait of the Munster Anabaptists, from the preface to his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1593):</p> <pre> If any such Prophet or man of God did suffer by order of law condigne and deserued punishment; were it for felony rebellion, murder, or what else, the people (so strangely were their hearts inchanted) as though blessed S. Stephen had beene againe martyred, did lament that God tooke away his most deere seruants from them. (Hooker 1593, 41; my emphasis) (22) </pre> <p>Hooker's irony, here leveled against the misdirected religious sympathies of the dissenters, prompts readers to frame their concepts of the Anabaptists with that of "enchantment," or foolish fascination (not to mention the concepts of sin and disorder implied in "felony, rebellion, murder, or what else"). Likewise, the Clown's role in Titus as a gullible political naif could have prompted audiences to frame memories of Hacket's cause, or even of Barrow's and Greenwood's, with the concepts of folly and delusion.

Finally, in order to account for the range of possible responses to such foolish spectacles in a play like Titus, we must attend to the conceptual domain of comedy. Comedy is the chief genre of the Clown's performance, even though his end is not happy but violent. When he meets his death, it is as a consequence of the "proud mock" aimed at a cruel, arbitrary monarch by a seeming madman, though conveyed by the Clown himself. In the minds of early audiences, responses to this sequence of inputs were probably framed by a widely shared concept blending the concepts of comedy and transgression: a blend that for our purposes we may term "comic dissidence."

As many historians and historicist critics have shown, mockery was often employed by opponents of the political and ecclesiastical order in early modern England. Some mocked clownishly as a way of masking or coding their complaints, in order to avoid censorship or evade accountability. Others boldly used wit to make their charges more pointed and telling. The most audacious mocked power openly and outrageously, in the spirit of what New Historicists and cultural materialists (following Bakhtin) have termed "carnivalesque" inversion. Such public transgressions frequently met with public punishments, designed to seem as grotesque and revolting to human nature as the crimes themselves were supposed to have been.

While not all comedy on early modern stages was topical or political, the mixture of clowning with depictions of tyranny and violence in Titus may well have prompted early audiences to access recent memories of public critique and controversy. In 1594, the year of the tragedy's first recorded performance, memories exemplifying comic dissidence were readily accessible to Londoners (even if we set aside the exemplar of William Hacket, with his highly carnivalesque career). (23) During the later 1580s a scandalous series of publications, pseudonymously ascribed to "Martin Marprelate," had employed satire to attack the alleged remnants of Roman Catholicism in the Elizabethan church. The texts combined ridicule with harsh vituperation, in the tradition of early Protestant polemic. Theatrical companies had capitalized on the Marprelate phenomenon by developing a genre of anti-Martinist farce, in which risible characters representing the anti-prelatical "Martin" were subjected to violent abuse and even death (Talbert 1963, 54-55, 22). (24)

The Elizabethan regime reacted to the mockery of "Marprelate" by prohibiting all theatrical representations of controversial matters, even those by writers who ostensibly wrote against the dissenters. (25) Besides provoking this backlash against topical farce on London stages, the Marprelate affair also occasioned an official assault on dissenting clergy. In May, 1591, Star Chamber had begun its prosecution of nine Presbyterian ministers, on multiple charges including that of "seditiously denying the royal supremacy" (Williams 1995, 343-44). This was a major offensive against the community of the Calvinist "godly," among whom both Arthington and Coppinger had associated before adopting Hacket's apocalyptic cause. The state's crackdown on puritans may account for another likely instance of topicality in the Clown scenes. As Jina Politi has shown, the Clown's report concerning "the gibbet-maker" probably alludes to the fate of the prominent Protestant separatists Henry Barrow and John Greenwood, who were hanged for sedition in March, 1593. Shakespeare's Clown mentions a hanging that has been deferred for one week (4.3.82-83); the executions of Barrow and Greenwood, similarly, took place after a week's delay (1991, 54-5). (26)

The "gibbet-maker" line, then, prompted audiences to access memories of sober and serious, as well as outrageously comic dissidence. The probability that the line may have been meant to allude to the Presbyterian reformers, Barrow and Greenwood, does not diminish the likelihood of its simultaneous reception in 1594 (or even later) as an allusion to Hacket. (27) Presumably, many members of a London audience might readily have accessed memories of both incidents in response to the Clown's words. Indeed, ecclesiastical officials had sought to benefit from the Hacket incident by encouraging English subjects to frame all expressions of radical nonconformity, along with Hacket's, as exempla of the same generic concepts of transgression, perversion, monstrosity, and absurdity. (28) For members of an early audience who thought this way, the memories of Hacket, Arthington and Coppinger themselves may have stood as prototypical exemplars of the concept "radical religious dissent." (29) At the very least, it seems likely that in responding to the Clown scenes, many members of an audience in the early 1590s would have accessed memories of executed dissenters such as Barrow and Greenwood, and with them the framing concept of "nonconformity" or "separatism."

Members of the Clown scenes' earliest audiences probably accessed memories of "Martin Marprelate," with his radical Protestant clowning, and of consequent efforts to enforce submission to the church and state. It seems extremely likely, then, that early audiences of Titus also activated a framing concept that was somewhat more specific than "comic dissidence": one that might be termed "comic religious dissidence." Moreover, they were probably intended by the play's author, or authors, to access these concepts.

Topical Intentions, Blending, and the Contingency of Reception

As I have noted already, authors can and do anticipate responses to their work. Often there is some resemblance between an audience's actual responses and those that an author anticipates. When we identify a topical allusion, we are not only accessing certain specific memories and their framing concepts in our minds, but also inferring an author's intention that a given textual input will have prompted these input spaces. In the previous section I described some, though scarcely all, of the topical frames within which the Clown scenes could have prompted conceptual blending in the minds of early audiences. The evidence suggesting that these frames may well have been accessed, by some if not all audience members, suggests in turn that the author(s) expected the scenes to prompt access to them, and intended the emergence of particular sorts of blend in response.

Why, though, should these particular topical allusions--to William Hacket, treason prosecutions, and religious nonconformity--have been made in the Clown scenes? If there is any sort of critical reading that presumes authorial intentions to be explicable, and worth explaining from the standpoint of literary interest, it is a topical reading. To identify topical allusions without proposing their possible motivations would be a quaint historical exercise. True, some Shakespearean criticism produced within the established idioms of the New Historicism may seem to evade questions of intentionality. Invoking terms such as "tension," "circulation," and "resonance," recent writers have deferred (perhaps too much) to the principle that poetic meaning is never made ex nihilo by individual authors, but is like a palimpsest composed of overlapping, intersecting and competing cultural discourses. A cognitive critic, however, makes claims about the past emergence of particular mental representations, which, historically, can only have existed in individual minds and brains. Of course--without documentary proof for any given account of an author's intention, or a work's reception by members of its intended audience--the cognitive critic is obliged to qualify these hypotheses as probabilities.

Using historical evidence, I have been building a case that the line, "News, news, from heaven!" prompted audiences to identify the Clown with several real Elizabethan figures: probably with William Hacket, perhaps with his prophets, and possibly also (though less directly) with Henry Barrow and John Greenwood. Put in cognitive terms, I am hypothesizing that the minds of some early audience members or readers probably blended certain inputs from the play with specific concepts in memory. If I am right, then Shakespeare and/or the other author(s) of Titus intended the emergence of a blended space--let us call it "Hacket-Clown"--framed by concepts such as "folly," "gullibility," "blasphemous messianic pretensions," and "apocalypticism," as well as "comic religious dissidence" with its own framing concepts: "comedy," "religion," and "dissidence."

The author(s) of the Clown scenes, then, probably intended the emergence of a blended space in which a conceptual structure framed by "dissidence" was also framed by "folly." Surely, we might think, such a blend could only have been meant to promote habits of cognitive inference that consistently identified these two, and that modern critics would therefore call ideologically conservative. And yet, the fact that clowns in Shakespeare's earlier plays are associated not only with low social status, but with challenges to hierarchy and authority both within and outside of the theater (Crane 2001, 67ff.), may suggest a less politically complacent reading, especially in light of the fact that the Clown in Titus may well have been played by a popularly admired figure, Will Kemp. (30) The concept "Hacket-Clown" may then have been framed by memories accessed specifically in response to the play's depiction of a poor and humble commoner, an innocent haplessly caught between two feuding noblemen, who, moreover, was being represented by a familiar and well-loved performer. In this scenario, the blended concept could not be framed by the concept "traitor" without also being framed, in many minds, by that of "sympathetic victim." The play's Clown is abused, exploited, offhandedly and tyrannically sent to his death, by men whom the laws have made his masters. We might speculate that the Clown scenes were meant to prompt a blended concept of the radical religious dissenter, not merely as foolish, but also as comparatively innocuous--in stark contrast to the inveterate oppression of the general population by a callous nobility. (31)

What does seem safe to say is that in 1594, the topical blended identity (TBI) that I have called "Hacket-Clown" was likely framed by specific conceptual structures along the lines of: "folly and gullibility expressed in comic religious dissidence, blasphemous messianic pretensions, apocalypticism, and treason." At the same time, this very TBI was probably also framed by some such concept as "humble, innocent commoners abused by the great," perhaps even by a concept approximating our "scapegoat;" for it is possible, after all, that some minds may have framed the blend with the concept of "Christian martyrdom," in response to the prompting of the prototype "Saint Stephen." As a cognitive critic considers the ways in which late Elizabethan minds could have framed the TBI "Hacket-Clown," how might he or she explain the possibility that this blend was framed simultaneously by concepts that are so apparently difficult to reconcile?

Why should our "Hacket-Clown" be framable on the one hand by concepts such as "blasphemous messianic pretensions" and "treason," and on the other, by "common subjects abused by the great" or even "Christian martyrdom?" We might suppose, first, that this potential dissonance testifies to ambivalent intentions on the part of the play's author(s). Alternatively, we may suppose that it was meant to impart a deliberate obscurity to the allusion--that is, that the concepts were prompted intentionally to allow multiple, mutually contradictory inferences concerning authorial intention, for whatever reasons. Finally, it might be possible to develop a cognitive-critical version of the argument, familiar from New Historicist and cultural materialist criticism, that all texts invite audiences to engage in such widely divergent political and ideological habits of inference, and thereby to reveal a culture's underlying "fissures" or "contradictions."

Whichever of these solutions we pursue, the potential ambiguity of the TBI "Hacket-Clown" with respect to a range of early modern English conceptual structures in the domains of religious and political ideology should not surprise us. Historicists have sometimes, though not always seen Shakespearean representations of resistance and rebellion as capable of prompting politically complex responses, of exploiting and inspiring mixed sympathies. (32) We must note, too, that authors in London during the 1590s had selfish reasons to provide for the possible emergence of conservatively framed responses to a text, irrespective of any more subversive acts of cognition that they might also have meant it to prompt. As we have seen, to present unambiguously controversial plays on the stage in the early 1590s was indeed folly, at least as seen in relation to a writer's material self-interest. "Religious dissent connoted Anabaptism.... Munster, and communism," as one writer observes. "For the dramatist, the safest way with religion was to leave it alone" (Heinemann 1990, 169). Shakespeare did not take the "safest way;" yet recent historicist work suggests that throughout his career, he seems to have taken care, for the most part, to make his topical religious allusions capable of prompting more than one sort of response, thereby providing against any possible accusation of unorthodoxy (Marotti 2003).

The minds of Shakespeare's contemporaries are finally far from transparent to us, and they must have framed even the most seemingly ubiquitous concepts in many divergent ways. When we, as historicist critics, study the meanings of works that they produced and consumed, we ourselves attempt to framed these concepts much as they might have framed them, blending spaces like those that Shakespeare's early audiences could have blended in their minds. Such complex conceptual structures as the ones that I have been trying to frame anew, through my own blending of inputs from the text of Titus and from other documents and historical accounts, must be particularly susceptible to the partiality that characterizes all acts of metaphorical concept-mapping (Kovecses 2002, 79-92), as well as to the innumerable contingencies that affect cognition as such. Getting from an explicit metaphorical statement of identity to the analogy that it implies is, from the standpoint of conceptual metaphor theory, a complicated enough business (Steen 1999); and in the case of a topical allusion, which presumes that audiences on their own will infer and supply specific inputs and framing concepts, there is finally no telling just how much "rich additional knowledge" (Kovecses 2002, 228) an individual audience member might bring to bear from various, readily accessible source domains. The diversity of individual minds' conceptual structures, and the possibilities for variable blending that this diversity creates, must greatly complicate any attempt at a thorough critical account of hypothetically likely responses to any given topical allusion in Shakespeare. In fact, for such a project even a full-length monograph would scarcely suffice. And yet, the inevitable diversity of these responses need not drive the cognitive historicist to despair. It is only necessary to acknowledge at every turn that blends emerge contingently, and that the conformity of any individual's response (not excepting my own) to an author's intentions may be achieved in a relative, but never an absolute degree.

The Metaphoricity of Topical Blends: Conceptualizing Novelty

As I make these points in favor of cognitivism, I bear in mind some challenges that have been mounted in recent years to the project of applying conceptual blending theory in literary-critical contexts. Since conceptual blending theory is in part characterizable as a view based on the pervasiveness of metaphor in cognition, (33) it may be wondered whether literary critics, who are already used to discussing and analyzing metaphors, have any real need for cognitivist models and terms in order to account for them. According to one skeptical critic, "the key consideration must be whether or not the new perspective actually causes specifiable elements to show up differently than before" (Jackson 2002, 164). My use of blending theory here does, indeed, share much with older ways of understanding metaphor. Still, I shall hope to have shown how blending theory helps us to reframe our concept of topicality, if only in one crucial way. The critical feature of topicality that blending theory reveals, and that has not "shown up" before under previous theories, is simply that topical identifications are metaphors.

The importance of metaphoricity in topical allusions has not been addressed, to my knowledge, by any poetic theory. Topicality in literary criticism is sometimes misnamed "allegory," in a special and frequently pejorative sense that has been opposed to metaphor--or at least to the creative use of metaphor--and that is therefore regarded as uninteresting by critics working in a Romantic tradition. Shakespearean critics, especially historicists, have discussed topicality and related theoretical problems, but never in the context of a theory of metaphor. (34) Asked to produce an example of Shakespeare's use of metaphor, most of us are likely, I think, to come up with some such line as "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!" Most of us would be far less ready to cite a topical allusion, such as Oberon's line "a fair vestal, throned by the west" (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 2.1.158), which alludes to Queen Elizabeth I, as an instance of Shakespearean metaphor.

Let me pause to consider the example of Oberon's topical allusion to Queen Elizabeth. On a superficial level, we may fail to recognize this passage immediately as an instance of metaphor because of the comparative ease of understanding Oberon's words "literally;" (35) unlike Romeo's identification of Juliet as the sun, Oberon's "fair vestal" may not be too difficult to imagine as part of a "literal" account of events in the fanciful world of A Midsummer Night's Dream (even though it might seem somewhat improbable that a pagan priestess should be enthroned in any circumstances). Upon further consideration, however, the historically informed student of A Midsummer Night's Dream will conclude that the words "vestal, throned" were originally an allusion, and that audiences were in all probability meant to make identification with England's "virgin Queen." (36) This identification of the terms "vestal" and "Elizabeth I" in response to Oberon's allusion cannot be regarded as literal. Still, historicist critics have not been inclined to analyze the structure of such allusions in terms of metaphoricity.

Blending theory not only gives us a new theoretical vocabulary in which to discuss probable responses to a topical allusion, but actually helps us to recognize the essential creativity of responses that generate novel conceptual spaces, spaces structured by concepts which an audience has not previously been in the habit of blending. (37) Before the composition of Midsummer, the concept "vestal" was commonly framed (in the mind of anyone who knew the term) by the generic concepts "pagan" and "priest," as well as by those of "female" and "virgin." Oberon's "vestal, throned" does not merely prompt access to the specific concept "virgin Queen," which we already identify with Queen Elizabeth; it results in the even more specific blend, "virgin pagan priestess Queen Elizabeth," which differs from any conceptual space that we yet possess.

Such blended identities as "virgin pagan priestess Queen Elizabeth" should be understood as double-scope conceptual integration networks, described by Fauconnier and Turner, in which "sharp differences offer the possibility of rich clashes" and thus "offer challenges to the imagination" (131). (38) This characterization can be applied even more forcefully to the TBI "Hacket-Clown," a possible hypothetical structure of which may now be fully denoted: "foolish, humble, common, messianic, blasphemous, comic religious dissident Hacket, a clown invoking the first Christian martyr and victimized with gullible Arthington and Coppinger, abused by the great, hanged as a traitor." Whatever particular variation of this blend was intended by the author(s) of Titus, its specificity and novelty endow it with an interest that is not just historical, but aesthetic.

Conclusion: Cognitivism and Historicism

Cognitive historicists make plausible, hypothetical inferences about the past emergence of blended representations in minds that no longer exist, the contents of which are largely if not entirely lost to time. In the study of Shakespeare's plays, such inferences can seem especially tenuous because of the lack of explicit statements of authorial intention, and because of a paucity of documents even purporting to record the early reception of his plays. As I have emphasized throughout this study, responses to performances are sure to have varied widely, not only across a range of spatially and temporally disparate audiences, but among the many minds that comprise a single audience. Without direct testimony, we cannot know positively that a text or performance prompted a given response in the minds of its author(s) or early audiences, much less that it was intended to do so.

This situation has troubled historicist critics of Shakespeare on occasion. It also may encourage resistance to historicist criticism from deconstructionists and allied skeptics, who would point out that, being so far from being confident in these matters, Shakespeareans cannot pretend to anything like certain knowledge about other minds. Cognitive historicists, however, need only affirm that their claims--including, at times, topical identifications--probably resemble blends that emerged in the minds of past authors, audiences, and readers. Our own minds may well blend conceptual spaces resembling those that emerged in the milieu of a text's first reception, despite variations in accordance with our differently structured memories. To increase the degree and probability of such a resemblance is the critic's first object in undertaking historical study. By the same token, we must constantly acknowledge the contingency of our own responses, and the relativity or gradience of their approximation to authorial intentions, as well as to the early reception of a text that was produced centuries ago and in cultural circumstances that differed greatly from our own. For many years, hermeneutic theory has been saying no less. Cognitive theory can help us to discern and describe these hermeneutic boundaries of historicist interpretation, and for that matter, of historical discourse itself. Even the most single-mindedly positivistic historical scholar accesses many concepts that would never have emerged in the mind or brain of Shakespeare, Peele, or any member of an Elizabethan audience. For example, many of the conceptual spaces most familiar to modern students of English history, such as "Anglican orthodoxy" or "religious dissidence," may be thought to share some, but by no means all of their structure with concepts that emerged in late sixteenth-century English minds. The terms of historical understanding themselves emerge only because a historian's own mind/brain--like that of a poet, a literary critic, or anybody else--is a complex blender.

To this extent, cognitivism can explain and justify our own, often nagging sense that there is a large element of rhetoric, or poetry, in the work of historicist criticism even at its most rigorous. Conceptual blending theory, in particular, affirms the inevitable creativity of historicists' efforts to blend concepts resembling the likely intentions of past authors and the probable responses of early audiences, if never perfectly, yet as nearly as might be hoped. However, a time may arrive when many Shakespeareans begin to call for a mitigation of historicist aims and a return to "presentist" criticism. Such a criticism would, in its own way, rely heavily on topical identifications to generate readings of Shakespeare; it would seek above all to identify the objects of present interest in early modern texts, without restricting the grounds of acceptable interest to those respected by historians and biographers. Should such a shift occur, then the critic's task will become all the more explicitly inventive, and in this case the theory of conceptual blends will be of special use in rendering the metaphorical procedures of "presentist" interpretation transparent and accessible to the judgments of readers; after all, for a cognitivist there is no fundamental difference between the processes of historical explanation and those of rhetorical persuasion and poetic imagination. For the present, however, there is enough in the prospect of a rigorously developed cognitive historicism to attract historicist Shakespearean critics. The present critical climate ought to be hospitable to our pursuit of conclusions that are admittedly hypothetical and probabilistic, and are to this degree imaginative and creative, yet are no more speculative or fantastic than the limits of historical evidence--and the nature of our cognitive apparatus--require them to be.


(1) Some other recent discussions of blending theory (including considerations of its relationship to, and compatibility with, older theories of conceptual metaphor) may be found in Grady, et al. (1999), Coulson and Oakley (2000), and Kovecses (2002). I should like to thank Patrick Colm Hogan and Ellen Spolsky, as well as the anonymous readers for this issue of College Literature, for their encouragement and for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this essay.

(2) Occasionally, topical blends do emerge in response to explicit statements of metaphorical identity (A = B). This can be seen to happen when some member of an audience or readership--or, at times, the author--openly articulates the topical identification for others, publicly asserting it in the text or a paratextual gloss. Blends prompted by such explicit topical identifications should be comparatively consistent and predictable within a given audience, even across different individuals.

(3) See, e.g., Coulson and Oakley (2000, 175-76, 194-95), Kovecses (2002, 231), Fauconnier and Turner (2002, 303-05).

(4) My appeal to the concept of gradient cognitive resemblance, and hence, approximate rather than exact epistemological correspondences as a basis for discussions of literary and cultural meaning, is indebted to the work of Ellen Spolsky (e.g., Spolsky [2003, 170f.]) and F. Elizabeth Hart (2001). Both have persuasively advocated a kind of pragmatism as a way of philosophically grounding future work in cognitive criticism.

(5) See Merriam (1998, 305; citing previous authorship studies by MacDonald P. Jackson and Brian Boyd) and Vickers (2003).

(6) Except where otherwise stated, all textual passages, act and scene divisions from Titus Andronicus are reproduced as they appear in Jonathan Bate's Third Arden edition (Bate 1995). Citations of "Bate 1995" by page number, with no title listed, refer to the introductory matter in this edition; citations of "Bate 1995" by act, scene and line number (with "l.n.") refer to Bate's line notes.

(7) Modern editors reassign the two lines to Titus according to the readings of both Q2 (1600) and F, the First Folio (1623); see Bate (1995, 4.3.77 l.n.) It seems to me just as reasonable, though by no means necessary, to assume that the first sentence was assigned correctly to the Clown (whereas Titus's portion of the speech began at the word "Marcus"). To keep the scope of this case study within convenient limits, I shall discuss this problematic line exclusively with reference to information that remains consistent across both readings.

(8) The exact date of Titus is debatable, and beyond the compass of this essay. However, it should be noted that if a topical allusion to events of late July, 1591 was intended, then this must be considered a terminus post quem for the composition of the Clown scenes--or, at least of the text of these scenes as we have it in Q1 (1594). This need not imply that the episode did not exist in a different form before July 1591, much less that the play was not conceived in any version before then. Nor does it entail a date of composition immediately following July 1591, since it is readily conceivable that the events of that month were topical again as late as 1593, when the separatists Barrow and Greenwood were put to death (see below). See further Bate (1995, 69-79; esp. 72ff., 78). However, for an argument that Q1 derives from a version of the play that was written not later than 1592, cf. Farley-Hills (2000) and cf. Honigmann (1998) for an even earlier timetable (59ff).

(9) I have lightly edited accidentals (substituting "v" for "u," and vice versa, and modernizing archaic punctuation) in this and subsequent quotations from early modern texts (other than Shakespeare). For the "polemical" design of Cosin's narrative, cf. Walsham (1998, 30).

(10) For John the Baptist's words cf. Mat. 3:2, 12, Luke 3:17.

(11) Arthington's repentance was entitled The seduction of Arthington by Hacket especiallie (London, 1592, as cited in Walsham [1998, 28 n.1]).

(12) It may be wondered whether most audience members were inclined to view the historical Hacket himself as a true madman, or merely as a paragon of arrogance and self-conceit, whose motives could be classified together with lesser examples of unregenerate human pride. This question in fact became controversial, as Presbyterians insisted on Hacket's insanity in order to distance his notorious blasphemies from their own reasons for disputing church policy. On the other side, representatives of the establishment insisted that Hacket was not mad, but was rather a prototypical exponent of radical separatism. In later centuries, accounts written from an Anglican perspective came to depict Hackett as mad, reflecting the increasing emphasis of the church on rationality in contrast to the dissenters' "enthusiasm" (Walsham [1998, 52-58, 60-65]).

(13) For a historicist account of this context and its implications for the Clown subplot, see Barker (1994).

(14) Coppinger, too, was a prolific writer of "unsolicited messages and letters" to leading English presbyterians, who were later hard pressed to dissociate themselves from his cause (Walsham 1998, 32).

(15) Cf. Walsham (1998, 43).

(16) Cf. also Talbert (1963, 21).

(17) On the frequent association of news with sedition, cf. Fox (2000, ch. 7; esp. 337f.). Subversive speech was taken as seriously as, and was often of a piece with subversive writing; as we have seen, the case against Arthington and Coppinger made a point of their having read their heresies publicly "out of a paper." A few days before the performance in Cheapside, Arthington had penned an apocalyptic "Prophecie of Iudgements against England" (Cosin 1592, 38). Hacket and his apostles actually had distributed insurrectionary literature on the night preceding their arrest (Walsham 1998, 29-30).

(18) See also Fox (2000, 338 n. citing 23 Elizabeth, c. 2 and Roger B. Manning, "The Origin of the Doctrine of Sedition," Albion 12 [1980]: 99-121).

(19) A "third privy councillor denounced by Coppinger and Arthington was probably Thomas Saville, Lord Buckhurst" (Walsham 1998, 28 n.1).

(20) On "priming," see Hogan (2003, 47-48). In a lexical-processing account, this term basically refers to what a conceptual-blending theorist might describe as two actions: that of prompting access to specific memories, and that of making other specific concepts, with the same default frames, ready for access.

(21) See Hunt (1988, 206 and 217 n.22 citing Leslie Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare [New York: Stein and Day, 1972], 178-79); Taylor (1999), Miola (2001, 34). The first recorded performance of Titus in 1594 occurred less than a month after the Christmas season and associated feast days, in particular Saint Stephen's Day and Innocent's Day, which may conceivably suggest a link between the church calendar and the Clown's invocation of the saint. Interestingly, the texts set by the Elizabethan Prayer Book for the feasts of St. Stephen's and Innocents' Days contain a further parallel with Titus. The Clown salutes Titus with a conventional blessing, saying "God be with you, sir" (4.3.119); in the Prayer Book, the collect for St. Stephen's Day, December 26th, was "Graunt us, O Lord, to learne to love our enemies, by the example of thy Martir sainct Stephen who praied for his persecutours" (Prayer-Book 62).

(22) The passage appears near the conclusion to Hooker, "A Preface. To them that seeke (as they tearme it) the reformation of Lawes, and orders Ecclesiasticall, in the Church of England," in Hooker (1593, 3-45).

(23) For a New Historicist discussion of Hacket in this context, cf. Breight (1989).

(24) Interestingly, one of the puritans caricatured in the anti-Martinist performances was Giles Wigginton, who also played a significant role in Cosin's expose of the social and religious background to the Hacket conspiracy. See Thomas Nashe, Works, ed. Ronald B. McKerrow with corrections and supplementary notes by F. P. Wilson, 5 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), 1:83, as cited in Gurr (1996, 147), and Walsham (1998).

(25) In 1589, the Privy Council drafted a plan for a scaled-up system of censorship (though this does not seem to have taken effect), and London's mayor temporarily suppressed performances by the Lord Admiral's and Strange's Men. See Streitberger (1997, 346), White (1997, 142-43), Dutton (1997, 295-96), and cf. Poole (2000, 30). The Lord Admiral's Men and Strange's Men were to merge in 1590, and later, in 1594, would contribute several players to Shakespeare's newly formed Chamberlain's Men; see Gurr (1992, 34). Among Strange's Men in the year 1593 was the famous Will Kemp, who, interestingly, may have played the Clown in Titus--since Strange's company is listed on the title page of Titus (Q1) as one of three that had been involved in performances of the play. On Shakespeare's relationship to Martinist satire, see further Poole 2000, 32ff.

(26) Politi speculates that the "cruel fate" of the Clown himself may be relevant to debates about Shakespeare's "attitude towards the Puritans" (1991, 54-55). However, Politi does not elaborate further on the question of the authorial intentions that might have motivated such a seemingly casual allusion to the punishment of religious nonconformists. For a readable narrative account of the history of Barrow and Greenwood, see McGrath (1967, 307ff). I would like to thank both Richard Brucher and Douglas Bruster for individually calling my attention to Politi's argument, as cited in Bate (1995, 77); my familiarity with Politi's findings made me look twice at Hacket's case in connection with Titus.

(27) I avoid speculation about the date or dates of the composition of the Clown scenes, or about the implications of dating for my argument, since, like the dating of the play as a whole, this is a question about which we can say little with confidence (see note 8 above).

(28) See note 12 above.

(29) On prototypes see Hogan (2003, 45-46).

(30) See note 25 above.

(31) Titus is one of Shakespeare's proudest and most selfish tragic aristocrats, being ultimately to blame for much if not all of his own suffering. I must pass over the suggestive fact that in these scenes, the mad Titus presents a spectacle of greater folly than the Clown's--as well as the possibility, particularly interesting here, that Titus (rather than the Clown) may have been meant to utter the phrase, "news, from heaven!"

(32) Crane has emphasized the congeniality of such complex versions of historicist interpretation to cognitive formulation (2001, 71).

(33) See, e.g., Fauconnier and Turner (2002, 11-15).

(34) For a historicist approach to topicality that persuasively asserts its legitimate position among the subjects of literary study, see Marcus (1988). To cognitive critics, the term "allegory" notably lacks the diminishing connotations that it acquired in post-structuralist criticism, perhaps because of the fact that relevant examples have been adduced by cognitivists familiar with the imaginative richness of medieval and early modern allegory; see, e.g., Spolsky (2003, with references).

(35) I put the terms "literal" and "literally" in scare quotes because of their debatable relevance to blending theory. Fauconnier and Turner suggest that if the term denotes anything at all, it can mean only "a plausible default in minimally specified contexts" (2002, 69). On the other hand, as this deceptively large concession implies, there are senses in which a cognitive theorist might want to use the term--perhaps with reference to defaults resulting from universal constraints, or else gradiently, to signify a comparatively high degree of routinization in repeated procedural schemata. On the problematic implications of any distinction between "metaphorical" and "literal" in cognition, even on an "information transfer" account, see Hogan (2003, 91).

(36) In the terms supplied by cognitive poetics, one might say that this identification is predicated on a deictic shift, perhaps a compositional shift (Stockwell 2002, 55) related to allusive conventions in courtly comedy.

(37) On novelty as a subject for cognitive critical investigation, cf. Spolsky (2001, 192-93) and for remarks on novelty and blending, cf. Richardson (2004, 6).

(38) See further Fauconnier and Turner (2002, 249-67).

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Nicholas R. Moschovakis is a visiting assistant professor of English at Reed College, and is the editor of Macbeth: New Critical Essays (2006). He is presently working on a book-length manuscript, Shakespeare's Allusiveness.
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