Colleen McClintock May 9th 2010 137 Take Home Final Stephen Schillinger
1. A perfect starting point to illustrate the important role of paratext in the early modern drama would be to look at the prologue of “The Roaring Girl.” Inside of this prologue Middleton and Dekker do a wonderful job of making it certain to their audience that this play is not intended to be a display of an every-day roaring girl. They describe common roaring girls such who stay out all night getting drunk in taverns and who prostitute themselves in the day and advertises it loudly with their voices. They address the type of roaring girl who spends all of her husband’s money, but say that out of all of these three, the roaring girl of the play, is like none. Rather on lines 25 – 26 that “she flies with wings more lofty”; Moll Cutpurse is a roaring girl with a purpose, which the reading sees is perversely true throughout the play. Thus the play is not set out to make out this roaring girl to seem like a pitiable character. Quite to the contrary, lines 7 – 12 specifically state that the very subject of the roaring girl in the play is meant to be laughed at and seen in a comical, because “Tragic passion and such grave stuff is this day out of fashion.” Quite certainly, when looking at the second official title page that was printed when this play first came out, one may notice that indeed Moll Cutpurse is not the average day roaring girl, never mind woman. She does not look like a sloppy bar fly or a spendthrift wife and she most certainly does not look like a prostitute. She has a proud, upright stance and broad, masculine features. She does not appear to have any long, flowing hair of slight feminine features to speak of; actually her facial expression looks fairly harsh and mean. She is smoking a pipe, wielding a sword and wearing all of the clothes of a standard gentleman. Roaring girls, though deviant creatures, are still known to be female nonetheless.
Equally interesting and important is the epilogue of Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus.” The first few lines say, “Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight/ And burned is Apollo’s laurel bough that sometime grew within this learned man” (1 – 3). The overall debate about the play and about Doctor Faustus himself is why he never repented and saved his soul. At any point along his twenty four year path towards hell Faustus could have repented and still studied along the path of intellect that he loved which is evidenced by the above lines of the prologue. However, the prologue calls on the reader to regard his “hellish fall” and notice that man should only wonder at such things as the secrets of life and death, heaven and hell. Many have wondered whether it was heaven or hells doing that sent Faustus into hell. It seems to be strongly supported by the last line in the epilogue that heaven in fact was the one that cast Faustus down into hell. It suggest that man is not meant to know every single way of the world and when he crosses that boundary he must pay with his life and soul, because heaven does not permit it. An interesting addition to the “’Tis Pity She’s a Whore” in the Norton Anthology is the note “To My Friend The Author” by Thomas Ellice. Ellice’s small note covers the subject of Annabella in the play and gives her lavish praises which would usually seem unfit for an incestuous, adulterous woman. However, Ellice goes so far as to even compare Annabella to the goddess Athena, and describes her as Athena herself dressed in Annabella’s clothes, disguised as her. This seems to be some paratext for the play which sheds some light on the title of the play and what it means. In fact, if Ellice’s sentiments are widespread, it truly is a pity that Annabella is characterized inside of the unrighteous acts that she did, because he motives of love and devotion behind them, as well as her mental strength and intellect, make her a gem of a
character. The very fact of this makes the message of incest and adultery in the play very morally unclear. 3. Both in Arden of Faversham and Edward II the main female characters of Alice and Isabel are wives who are miserably trapped inside of their marriages and also oppressed by their marriages. The women are similar because they act upon this frustrating oppression by eventually rendezvousing with another lover in the play. Their lover is someone who is close to their husbands in affiliation and who is of lower social rank than each woman. In addition to this, the two women plan a murder plot with both of their lovers and, after their husbands are murdered, have their lovers take their place both socially and politically. However, we must ask ourselves as readers why Alice was driven to Mosby and Isabel was driven to Mortimer, and they were driven to the ultimatum of murder in the end? What could have made these two women do this. Another common theme in the play seems to be the incompetence of the main men in the play, being Arden and King Edward, in respect to their wives. Arden is always leaving to go on trips to London with his right-hand man Franklin, letting Alice to fend for herself and tend to the household. It is true that women were traditionally meant to temporarily take the financial place of the man while he was away on business, but Arden does this to an excessive degree. Likewise, King Edward II has completely let go of his duty as head of the household, never mind â€œkingâ€? of his land. Edward would much prefer to run off with Gaveston, his male lover, and leave the queen alone without a king, and without a leader of the household commonwealth. Edward even requests to his earls that he and Gaveston be left to go away to live solitarily in a remote corner of Great Britain and that the earls can take power over the land.
This is an important matter not just in the plays themselves but in the early modern period in general. There was a set hierarchy in the commonwealth of the house. The man/husband of the house was supposed to be the ruler and the keeper of everything. He was supposed to provide to the family and dictate what happens so that there was some sense of order. The wife was subjected to his orders as well as another leader of the household, so when Arden and Edward leave everyone in the community of their household to their own defenses, the strict hierarchy is shut down and their wives specifically are put into a compromised position. However, it is still interesting that the author of Arden of Faversham and Christopher Marlowe with Edward II had the wives turn to the decision of murder as a solution to the incompetence of their husbands. The unhappiness/lack of love in their marriages is yet another oppressing element, but this hardly warrants murder. This characterization of the two women could easily have been an attempt by both men to equalize the folly of men and women in the period, and to characterize the changing dynamics of marriage around the turn of the 16th century, though this would be an extreme way to do that. Perhaps it is also to simply characterize the folly of women in general as it was perceived in the early modern period, for if the women were to have turned out as the heroes in the play the structure of heroism would have been unorthodox for the time period. Women consistently held exceptionally tragic roles in a drama or acted as a source of ignorant humor in a comedy. 4. In Arden of Faversham the representation of economy plays an enormous part in the outcome of Arden’s death. Apart from Arden’s folly as the head of the household and of husband to Alice he fails to act as a respectable landlord to his tenants. In scene 1.1 Alice speaks with one of Arden’s tenants, Greene, who tells Alice and indirectly tells the audience that Arden “doth [him] wrong to wring [him] of what little land [he] had” (1.1 472). By Arden signing letter patents by
the King to “generally intitle” land to himself, and therefore cut off all former grants to his tenants, Arden completely robs his tenants of the land that they subsist off of. In doing this Arden is able to gain considerably more money for himself, even if it means casting others down into poverty. Another of Arden’s tenants, Reede, is infuriated by Arden’s complete lack of mercy for his tenants. Reede swears vengeance upon Arden, saying “My coming to you was about the plot of ground which wrongfully you detain from me” (5.13 12 – 13). Reede tells Arden that even though the plot of land was small and meager he was still able to support and feed his family off of it. He ends up begging and cursing Arden, at which Arden scoffs and sends Reede away. This treatment has much to do with the construction of the play, with the joining or Alice and the tenants to murder Arden. Many people are against Arden and thus out to kill him. The irony in this is that after Arden is killed he ends up being buried in the very plot of land that he took from Greene, a symbolic move to show what greedy economics does for people in the time period. A different but equally pressing type of greed is found in the character of Sir Alexander Wengrave in The Roaring Girl. The whole construction of the play is based around the fact that Sebastian Wengrave wants to marry Mary Fitzallard but his father forbids it because of his greed for money. This has to do more with the economics of marriage than anything, but nevertheless it is still economically tied. Mary’s dowry is a total of five-thousand marks, which is a huge sum of money to begin with, but it seems that Alexander Wengrave would only want more. As Sebastian tells Mary and the audience Sir Alexander claimed Mary to be “a beggar’s heir” (1.1 88). When we first meet Sir Alexander in the play, he is showing off his lavish house to a horde of his so-called admirers. The furniture, walls, ceiling, and tapestries are all exquisite and elaborate almost to the point of gaudiness. Wengrave is a man of luxury and thus a man of
greed. However, he is also a man of reputation and so, in order to overcome his greediness, Sebastian pretends to dote upon Moll Cutpurse, “a creature so strange in quality, a whole city takes note of her name and person” (1.1 101 – 102). Perhaps the play which we have read that is most heavily set inside of the context of greed, wealth and economics is Volpone. The character of Volpone himself is entrenched inside of the pretense of money. He has nothing else to speak of. He does not have a family or any friends; even Mosca his servant turns out to be unfaithful to him. However, because he does not have any family, when he dies he must leave his money and wealth (the source of which we never truly learn) to someone. This is where the faking of his death comes in. While Volpone is on his fake death bed many different men come to him bearing gifts and grief. The characters of Voltore, Corbaccio, and Corvino all bring him expensive gems, plates and jewels as a somewhat indirect bribe for his will. This is such a perverse act in itself because after Volpone “dies,” these things will all just come back to whichever heir her chooses. However, Volpone puts up this front specifically to gain these treasures. This is the economics of death which is so very inherent inside of Volpone as well as inside of the societal structure of the early modern period. 5. The early modern English theater was such a pool of cultural and social diversity during its peak time period. The theater was originally something closely aligned with the lower class society of London which is demonstrated by the fact that all theaters were first located on the outskirts of the city. Because the theaters themselves were outside of the walls of the city they were thus outside of the jurisdiction of the politics of London and therefore were allowed (somewhat) free reign. These conditions were prime for deviance. However, as London began to grow, it spilled over the outer wall of the city and the poorer communities began to develop literally around the theaters. The theaters at first were filled with commonplace audiences of
lower-class people and so the stories that were presented inside of the theaters were not constrained by politics, society, religion, etc. What play is more fitting to talk about deviance than The Roaring Girl? The idea of a roaring girl in general would have been a well known deviance in the theater audience already, but Middleton and Dekker took the liberties of taking it one step further and using the actual historical character of Mary Frith to create this play. Mary Frith, being the original Moll Cutpurse, was an entirely original character all her own, dressing as a man and engaging in masculine activities of the time. However, Mary Frith was still a prostitute and thus still a female sexualized being. Middleton and Dekker took the important measure of making Moll in the play not a prostitute. This is important because it served to make her character even more deviant; she was a woman, but this was only known through knowledge of her person and not by anything of her own doing. It makes sense that Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker would write a play like this because of the changing social and cultural dynamics of the early modern time period in England. As time progressed a more diverse crowd began to show up in the theaters and the performances were no longer just attended by the lower-class. The fact that the deviant acts inside of the plays were becoming more appealing to the general population of England speaks to the emergence of an open mind set in England at the turn of the 16th century. Deviance in these plays also serves to challenge the traditional moral fibers of British society of the early modern period by setting the acts of deviance inside of the context of a difficult situation. â€˜Tis Pity Sheâ€™s A Whore is a great example of this because it is true the Giovanni and Annabella engage in incest and Annabella is unfaithful to her husband, but the fact of the matter is that, aside from Annabella and Giovanniâ€™s father and a few of the suitors themselves, everyone recognizes that not one of the three suitors for Annabella is good for her in
any way. However, even Bergetto, one of her own potential suitors, realizes that he is not good for Annabella and Annabella is not right for him either. He is a perverse, dim-witted character. Likewise Grimaldi is ill-fitted for Annabella; he is a hot-tempered, homicidal person. Soranzo may be the least suited for Annabella, which is ironic because he is the one she ends up with. He attempts to woo her with a sweet temperament, but inside he is lusty and cunning; nothing like he presents himself externally. The other thing which is set inside of deviance in the play is the idea of religion. The religious folly of the play is that the character of the friar serves as the voice of reason against Giovanni and Annabellaâ€™s incestual romance, yet Grimaldi is pardoned from murder by the Cardinal under the same exact religious law. This is a confusing element in the play because homicide and incest are equally damnable acts in the bible, but one is extremely condemned in the play while the other is let go. When looking at this the audience must realize that the play serves to call religion of the period into question and serves to test its legitimacy. This is a pure example of the purpose of deviance in the early modern English dramas, because it tests the social, religious and even political constructs of culture and society, which is what the theater meant to do in the early modern period.