Between Nations: Shakespeare, Spenser, Marvell, and the Question of Britain

Stanford University Press, 01.12.1997 - 232 Seiten
Fusing historiography with literary criticism, Between Nations produces an array of unexpected readings of early modern texts. Starting from the premise that England has never been able to emerge or define itself in isolation from its neighbors on the British Isles, this book places Renaissance England and its literature at a meeting of English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh histories.

It ranges from the late sixteenth through the late seventeenth centuries and deals with the "reigns" of three monarchs and one regicide those of Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II, and Oliver Cromwell. However, it shifts the domain they ruled from the customary center into interactions between England and the other British polities. The author argues that England was able to develop into what we call a "nation" only in and by means of its relations with the other proto-"nations" that often it was also suppressing.

Among the authors who served one or more of the four English rulers are Shakespeare, Spenser, and Marvell, who are studied here in the way they responded to the complexities of British history that encompassed their "nation." They not only participated in nation building/destroying, but their works are shown often to be meditations on that process and their own roles in the process.

In Henry V, for example, Shakespeare both produces a vision of an ideal Britain and inscribes into his play the voices of various British peoples that are meant to be subsumed. Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland, which is often taken as an anti-Gaelic screed, is more plausibly seen as a text compounded of heterogeneous cultural influences, many of them originating from within Ireland. The complexity of the text reflects Spenser's own situation as a colonial official exiled from one British nation, England, to another, Ireland. In "An Horation Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland," Marvell explicitly considers the consequences of a campaign that historians have called the "War of the Three Kingdoms." In that, and in a later poem, "The Loyal Scot," Marvell emerges as a shrewd commentator on the British politics of his day. Throughout, the book demonstrates that historical readings of this period's English literary works can be as multivalent and multicentric as the British history that produced them.

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Seite 43 - And you, good yeomen, Whose limbs were made in England, show us here The mettle of your pasture; let us swear That you are worth your breeding— which I doubt not; For there is none of you so mean and base That hath not noble lustre in your eyes. I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game's afoot: Follow your spirit; and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!
Seite 150 - He had of wiser art: Where, twining subtile fears with hope, He wove a net of such a scope That Charles himself might chase To Carisbrook's narrow case ; That thence the royal actor borne, The tragic scaffold might adorn.
Seite 50 - I cannot blame him : at my nativity, The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes, Of burning cressets ° ; and, at my birth, The frame and huge foundation of the earth Shak'd like a coward.
Seite 87 - ... whomsoever they find to be most licentious of life, most bold and lawless in his doings, most dangerous and desperate in all parts of disobedience and rebellious disposition, him they set up and glorify in their rhythms, him they praise to the people, and to young men make an example to follow.
Seite 67 - O'Brien, I saw an old woman, which was his foster-mother, take up his head whilst he was quartered and suck up all the blood that ran thereout, saying that the earth was not worthy to drink it, and therewith also steeped her face and breast and tore her hair, crying out and shrieking most terribly.
Seite 179 - An extensive aggregate of persons, so closely associated with each other by common descent, language or history, as to form a distinct race or people, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite territory.
Seite 62 - In the modern conception, state sovereignty is fully, flatly, and evenly operative over each square centimetre of a legally demarcated territory. But in the older imagining, where states were defined by centres, borders were porous and indistinct, and sovereignties faded imperceptibly into one another.
Seite 100 - It is a rule of right unwritten, but delivered by tradition from one to another, in which oftentimes there appeareth great show of equity, in determining the right between party and party, but in many things repugning quite both to God's law and man's...

Über den Autor (1997)

David J. Baker is Associate Professor of English at the University of Hawaii.

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