Thomas Cartelli
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‘Aspice spectator sic me docuere parentes’
Aesthetico-political misprision in Derricke’s A Discoverie of Woodkarne
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In Drama, Performance, and Polity in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland (2000), Alan Fletcher offers the possibility of variant readings of a provocative section of one of John Derricke’s more notorious woodcuts. Though Fletcher does not expressly claim that the behavior of the two bare-bummed kerns in the lower right corner of the third plate of Derricke’s Discoverie is designedly flatulent rather than excremental, his exhaustive knowledge of the varied ensemble of entertainments on offer in early modern Irish banquet settings leads him to qualify the grosser form of negative ethnic stereotyping in which Derricke may be engaging. In the process of rebalancing the bias of uncivil defecators in favor of slightly more civil braigetori, this chapter explores more broadly Derricke’s strategic acts of misrepresentation which operate both on the level of idealization (of Sir Henry Sidney and his fellow Englishmen) and of demonization (of the Irish): aesthetic determinations that appeal to already ethnocentrically established English values of religious and cultural superiority, on the one hand, while promoting or intensifying the application of those values to the English reader’s understanding of Ireland and the native Irish, on the other.

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