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Courteous farewells in Spenser and Shakespeare
Patricia Wareh

This book ends by exploring how the conclusions of The Book of the Courtier, the 1590 and 1596 Faerie Queene, and The Tempest offer opportunities to both approach and challenge readers and audiences. These are moments, I argue, when readers and audiences are called on to recognize the special power that their own investment—their pleasure, their judgment—in poems and plays has to render these works meaningful, and to decide how they will position themselves with relation to the text. While much of the book focuses on parallels between Spenser and Shakespeare, here I suggest a divergence as Spenserian rupture contrasts with Shakespearean collaboration. At the same time, as both authors offer choices about how to relate to their works, they show their fundamental recognition of readers’ and audiences’ agency.

in Courteous exchanges
Blood, gold, and outward shows in Nennio, Spenser’s Book of Courtesy, and The Merchant of Venice
Patricia Wareh

This chapter explores the relationships between Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Book 6 of The Faerie Queene, and the dialogue Nennio, or a Treatise on Nobility. In Nennio, the characters’ debate about whether nobility of blood or nobility of mind is superior concludes with a relatively straightforward victory for nobility of mind. But Spenser’s poem requires more complicated reactions of its readers, as the knight of Courtesy’s competitions in generosity with the lowly shepherds he encounters have differing outcomes. I demonstrate that, in contrast both to Nennio and to his own commendatory sonnet, Spenser’s concern throughout his treatment of courtesy in The Faerie Queene is not to direct his readers toward a particular view of nobility, but to train their judgments in understanding the complexity of courtesy in action. Interpreting the characters’ competitions in courtesy and the audience’s judgment in The Merchant of Venice, I show that Bassanio’s “impromptu” speech in praise of the lead casket is an example of sprezzatura that has significant implications for the play’s treatment of the conflict between courteous and mercantile systems of exchange. While with one voice the play suggests the obvious superiority of the Christian aristocrats, it also offers readers the tools to question the nature of inherited nobility and to critique the pernicious view that gentility runs in the blood.

in Courteous exchanges
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Spenser’s and Shakespeare’s gentle dialogues with readers and audiences
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Courteous Exchanges traces how Spenser’s and Shakespeare’s explorations of courtesy—a social practice that encouraged a hypersensitivity to artful self-presentation—provided a vocabulary and forum to comment on their own literary practices and for readers and audiences to reflect on the constructed nature of both texts and aristocratic identity. This book argues that Shakespeare owes Spenser a more extensive debt than has generally been acknowledged. At the same time, I suggest a broader congruity in how readers and audiences engaged with literary and theatrical works in early modern England. My work establishes courtesy as a generative model that allows for a range of responses to literary and theatrical works, while also attending to the ways it both supports and critiques systems of privilege. My contribution considers courtesy’s special role in constructing Renaissance readers and playgoers who recognized their overlapping roles as judges of texts and people. Spenser and Shakespeare both depict and enact paradoxical courtesy, I argue, educating readers and audiences to reflect explicitly on how poetry and theater mediate pressing social and cultural issues. In examining their own reactions to a literary text, Renaissance readers and audiences, I argue, developed habits of thought that encouraged them to evaluate their responses to the cultural fiction of inherited gentility and the social performance of courtesy that supported it.

Patricia Wareh

This chapter contributes to the ongoing question of Shakespeare’s debts to Spenser, arguing that Spenser’s Phedon episode in Faerie Queene 2.4 is a more important source for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing than previously recognized. By setting Shakespeare’s comedy alongside a tragic event in Spenser’s poem (in which the suspicion of adultery leads to murder rather than an apparently happy ending, as it does in Shakespeare), I show how Shakespeare and Spenser deviate from other versions of the tale, notably Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, in their emphasis on courteous theatricality over heroic action. Both texts, I establish, reveal the costs of maintaining the appearance of masculine honor in a culture obsessed with impersonation, especially the danger that substance will be replaced with verbal self-presentation. The movement from action to words contained in Spenser’s narrative leaves significant traces in Shakespeare’s play as it too registers the loss of authenticity that afflicts its characters.

in Courteous exchanges
Patricia Wareh

This chapter shows how Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier spurs reflection about the relationships between reading, performance, and character formation, arguing that the dialogue’s interwoven vocabulary of print and performance informs readers’ experiences of considering critically the relationship between literary and social performances. The Courtier encourages its readers not only to observe the debate, but to observe themselves, becoming both actor and spectator through their speculative readings of the text. I consider both Castiglione’s original text and the editions printed in England in order to demonstrate that the material form of the book as well as its thematic discussions encouraged readers to immerse themselves in the dialogue as they tested out the possibilities of different mental positions. Involving readers in its explorations while also offering them agency to direct their own experiences of it, Castiglione’s dialogue in its various editions facilitates both pleasurable instruction and metacritical reflection and critique. Readers’ practice in courtesy as they experience the text involves juggling multiple perspectives, as reflected in both the content and the format of the book; this practice also provides an ideal training for the overlapping tasks of reading Spenser and reading and watching Shakespeare.

in Courteous exchanges
Spenser’s and Shakespeare’s gentle dialogues with readers and audiences
Patricia Wareh

The book’s introduction emphasizes the interconnections between poetry and performance in Renaissance English literature. Pointing out how Spenser makes use of theatrical metaphors and Shakespeare makes use of print metaphors, it next considers the overlap between Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poetry and Thomas Heywood’s Apology for Actors. It argues that both works share the assumption that poetry and theater have the ability to mold the characters of readers and spectators through their reactions to texts and plays. It further argues that Renaissance reading and playgoing practices empowered interpreters of both poems and plays to develop their own assessments of texts even as these texts were designed to work changes upon them. The judgment of readers and audiences defined books and plays, then, and also defined readers and audiences themselves. The introduction concludes with an overview of the book’s remaining chapters.

in Courteous exchanges
Readers and audiences of The Faerie Queene and The Winter’s Tale
Patricia Wareh

In this chapter I demonstrate how both Spenser and Shakespeare show the difficulty of establishing noble identity by pointing toward their own authorial roles as fiction-makers, spurring readers and audiences to recognize how their own responses to the text render it meaningful. Taking as my focus two recognition scenes when an apparently rustic young woman (Pastorella in The Faerie Queene, Perdita in The Winter’s Tale) is recognized to be of noble birth, I examine how both authors insist on the obvious fictionality of their work. Spenser’s and Shakespeare’s texts reject the hidden art of sprezzatura and instead make use of metapoetry and metatheater, directly drawing attention to and commenting on the fictional nature of the stories they create. Even as recognition scenes emphasize the fictional nature of the text through their use of highly conventional archetypes that are acknowledged as such, they also denaturalize gentle identity by prompting readers and audiences to connect texts’ literary performances and aristocratic role-playing in the wider society. The metapoetic and metatheatrical moments in The Faerie Queene and The Winter’s Tale encourage both explicit reflection on the authors’ self-conscious artistry and a critical examination of social fictions.

in Courteous exchanges
Patricia Wareh

This chapter considers how both Spenser and Shakespeare explore how instruction itself can be courteous, a topic that Roger Ascham also treats in his Schoolmaster. I assert that Spenser and Shakespeare both draw from and rework Castiglione’s and Ascham’s models of courteous pedagogy rooted in pleasure, though in different ways. My reading of selected passages from The Faerie Queene and Love’s Labour’s Lost sheds light on how these texts both reflect on and elicit reader and audience awareness of the complexity of courteous instruction. In the case of Spenser, I explore how The Faerie Queene explicitly points to the educational process by presenting models of instruction both by potentially coercive precept and by more pleasurable example, thus inviting readers to consider what is at stake in the difference between the two. I am especially attentive to how Spenser’s poem represents theatrical moments of education. Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost also involves readers and audiences in thinking about how they are both reflected in and different from its inset audiences. Yet if Castiglione’s text asserts that the courtier’s pleasing social performances and recreation cohere with his moral role as educator of the prince, Shakespeare’s play shows the frequent incompatibility of pedagogy and pleasure. Castiglione’s idealistic model is undermined for comic effect in Shakespeare’s satire of humanist education; at the same time, the play sends up the epic aspirations of a poem like Spenser’s in its presentation of the Nine Worthies.

in Courteous exchanges
Venereal disease, myth and reading as a protective practice in eighteenth-century Britain
Declan Kavanagh

In The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748), Tobias Smollett reveals how undergoing treatment for a sexually transmitted infection in the eighteenth century was often enmeshed with ruinous personal experiences of economic and social precarity. Placing herself in ‘the hands of an advertising doctor’, as Roderick Random describes Miss Williams’s experience, has led to financial and social ruin as well as near vagrancy, the advertising doctor being nothing more than a ‘rapacious quack’. Suspicion towards medical treatment, particularly men’s distrust of venereal disease treatments or ‘cures’, is well documented beyond the fictive in the eighteenth century. James Boswell, writing in his London Journal (1762–63), famously described his own anxiety at being ‘under the hands’ of his doctor. In this chapter, I examine how eighteenth-century men, both real and fictional, navigated the perils of myth and misinformation in their various accounts of venereal disease and its (mis)treatments. Applying a queer and disability studies approach that focuses on Smollett’s Roderick Random and Boswell’s London Journal, while also utilising medical accounts of disease and its treatment by Daniel Turner and William Buchan, I show how the act of reading itself could become a protective practice for men when dealing with the lues venerea. As this chapter explores, in eighteenth-century accounts of sexual infection, men are encouraged to take venereal matters literally into their own hands in order to protect their corporeal and reputational selves.

in Myth and (mis)information
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Allan Ingram

The Afterword discusses the difference between ‘misinformation’ and ‘ignorance’, and uses these terms in order to draw together the several strands of enquiry within the collection, together with their conclusions, and to indicate some of the implications for the present time.

in Myth and (mis)information