Navigation – Plan du site

Plotting and Edification in Shakespeare and Wotton

Roy Eriksen
p. 117-130

Résumés

Un examen approfondi de la construction rhétorique des tirades dans 2 Henry iv et Coriolanus révèle que Shakespeare façonnait ses tirades, et en particulier celles des protagonistes, en accord avec une rhétorique qui les renforce à l’aide de répétitions verbales judicieusement placées. Ce faisant, sa pratique coïncide avec les idéaux humanistes de composition et avec la rhétorique figurative que Marlowe utilise dans ses pièces. Ce genre de disposition est un trait typique de la pratique de composition élisabéthaine. The Elements of Architecture (1624) de Henry Wotton apparaît aujourd’hui comme une attaque d’arrière-garde de l’esthétique italienne du xvie et du début du xviie siècle, lorsque Wotton était ambassadeur de Jacques ier à Venise, ainsi qu’une défense des idéaux de sa jeunesse. Plutôt que de rentrer à Londres avec un ouvrage faisant l’éloge de la nouveauté des formes artistiques italiennes, il critique du point de vue moral le goût baroque naissant et privilégie les formes artistiques fonctionnelles et civiques du xve siècle. La forme adaptée au contenu et à la fonction est l’idéal d’un art qui se fonde sur le dessein intérieur plutôt que sur l’ornement excessif. Ce sont aussi les idéaux de la poétique élisabéthaine partagés par Wills et Sidney. L’œuvre de Wotton est à bien des égards archaïque, mais comme les tirades dans Coriolanus elle préserve une esthétique élisabéthaine qui suggère comment Shakespeare fut inspiré par la première Renaissance italienne, tout en gardant à l’esprit les récents apports poétiques et stylistiques, comme on peut le voir dans 2 Henry iv.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1  Henry Wotton, The Elements of Architecture, ed. Fredrick Hard (University Park, Penn.: Penn State (...)

1To what extent was Shakespeare influenced by Italian aesthetic theory and practice? I will here briefly consider this tall question with reference to The Elements of Architecture (1624) of Henry Wotton (1568–1639),1 a rare survey of Late Renaissance architecture and art, and to the dramatist treatment of plotting and ornament in 2 Henry iv and Coriolanus. When turning in his treatise to Alberti’s De re aedificatoria (1452) and to the poetics of Sir Philip Sidney, a lodestar during Wotton’s formative years in Oxford and London, that Wotton – I would argue – remains loyal to an Elizabethan aesthetic inspired by Early Renaissance ideals of utilitas and edification.

  • 2  Most recently in “Shakespeare and the Art of Plotting,” in The Building in the text. Alberti to Sh (...)

2Elizabethan poetics stresses the crucial role of design (lineamenta) and plotting to a useful end. Thus John Shute, Richard Wills, John Dee, George Gascoigne, George Puttenham, and Sir Philip Sidney emphasise the importance of using a mental model (Idea) and the architectonics of poetry, and Shakespeare similarly voices the same ideas and practices them in his plotting of speeches, poems, and whole plays, though with an awareness of recent developments in poetics and style. Although few today would reject that he was influenced by Italian aesthetic theory and practice, problems arise, however, when establishing with certainty what he had read and actually did use in his own art. His capacity to see new possibilities in and transform the works of others was formidable and its fruits substantial. On other occasions I proposed some solutions to the first question,2 arguing that Shakespeare inventively used the poetry of Petrarch, Tasso, and Bruno in his poetry and drama. But the problems of his relationship to his Italian predecessors and contemporaries also concern both general aesthetic principles as well as the nuts and bolts of composition and style. Why do for instance so many English writers use architectural imagery when describing and writing poetry, and, conversely, why do English writers on architecture discuss architecture as texts? Shakespeare is one example of the first category, Wotton is an example of the second. As regards aesthetic theory the question is more difficult because Shakespeare left us no poetic treatise, I therefore wish to limit myself to examine his use of terminology as an induction to his practice, approaching the problem in relation to The Elements of Architecture.

  • 3  The Elements of Architecture, Introduction, xvii.
  • 4  Christopher Hollis, Eton. A History (London: Hollis and Carter, 1960). Wotton’s biography is found (...)

3Wotton’s sophisticated understanding of Anglo-Italian relations was perhaps unsurpassed in his day.3 Still, it is not what Wotton learnt about and criticized in Italian culture while being ambassador to Venice that interests me, but the aesthetic “mental set” he brought with him to Italy. In his critique Wotton remains loyal to Elizabethan ideals and his detailed discussions provide an insight into humanist poetics and language policy during the final decades of Elizabeth’s reign. Born in 1568, Wotton was the approximate contemporary of Shakespeare and Marlowe. He studied at Oxford where he befriended John Donne. He was a poet in his own right and in 1586 wrote a no longer extant tragedy, Tancredo, based on Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, showing his interest in drama. From 1588 onwards he spent his time between travels in Europe and brief stays at home, becoming secretary of political affairs to Essex in 1596. In 1601 he gained the confidence of James vi and in 1604 he was appointed Ambassador to Venice, an office he held for many years. He finally returned to England in 1624 and shortly thereafter was appointed Provost of Eton.4

  • 5  “Ars Combinatoria: Marlowe’s Humanist Poetics,” in Richard Marienstrass (ed.), Shakespeare. Variat (...)
  • 6  See Richard Wilson’s article in this volume and my “‘Un Certo Amoroso Martire’: Shakespeare’s ‘The (...)
  • 7  Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago: University of (...)
  • 8  “Ars Combinatoria: Marlowe’s Humanist Poetics,” 120: “his goal is not to fortify the mind, to secu (...)
  • 9  Mark Rose, Shakespearean Design (Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard University Press, 1972).

4Although Shakespeare did not have the educational background of Wotton or the brilliant and reckless Marlowe, he was greatly influenced in his early plays by Marlowe’s topomorphical speech design, which critics have tended to overlook in their focus on the “mighty line.”5 Despite the variety of genres, themes, styles, and characters in Shakespeare’s work we would be hard put to term him a subversive writer, although we know how far he went in pro-Catholic manoeuvring in All’s Well That Ends Well and in a poem like “The Phoenix and the Turtle.”6 Even in its Marlovian beginnings his work in the theatre possesses great legitimising power in an inclusiveness that was consonant with the formation of English nationhood,7 being characterized by increasing naturalness and realism. In contrast, Marlowe’s self-conscious style produced speeches, which in their playful and provocative aesthetic often challenged the immediate aims of edification, which should be explained as a result of his patrons being close to the Elizabethan power elite.8 The persuasive force of Marlowe’s characters could be said to illustrate that dissociation of the surface from the core that is typical of Mannerism and its imposing stress on surface movement and frontality. Despite the differences, though, both authors exemplify how Elizabethan poetics stresses the crucial role of design (lineamenta) and plotting, creating an architectonics of poetry in their plotting of speeches, poems, and whole plays. It suffices to recall the structure of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Hero and Leander, and Shakespeare’s 2 and 3 Henry vi, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, and Coriolanus – being examples of what Mark Rose termed Shakespearean Design (1972).9

  • 10  See my analysis in “The Lineament of Influence: Alberti and the Elizabethans,” in Gunnar Sorelius (...)

5It is indeed remarkable that Elizabethan poets and theorists should have paid far more attention to Italian rhetorically-based architectural theory, than writers on architecture. Thus Lord Bardolph’s masterfully patterned and allegorical speech in 2 Henry iv (i.iii.35-62) contains a concentration of architectural terms that is unrivalled in any Elizabethan treatise.10 Notice the concentration on terms relating to the building of a house: “plot of situation,” “figure of the house,” “erection,” “survey,” “model,” “offices,” and “foundation” in the following extract:

When we mean to build,
We first survey the plot, then draw the model,
And when we see the figure of the house,
Then must we rate the cost of the erection,
Which if we find outweighs ability,
What do we then, but draw anew the model
In fewer offices, or at last desist
To build at all? Much more, in this great work
(Which is almost to pluck a kingdom down
And set another up) should we survey
The plot of situation and the model,
Consent upon a sure foundation,
Question surveyors, know our own estate,
How able such a work to undergo,
To weigh against his opposite; or else
We fortify in paper and in figures… (42–57)

  • 11  For a close analysis of the symmetrical structure of the speech and its biblical source, see The B (...)
  • 12  George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589), eds. G. Walker and A.Wilcock (Camridge: Cambr (...)
  • 13  “Yes, if this present quality of war -…
    Lives so in hope, as in an early spring
    We see th’ appearing
    (...)

6The terms are part of an embedded structure of resumed words, which is clearly mannerist in the articulated architecture of its repetitions in a way which corresponds to Vasari’s ideal of “ordine con più ornamento.”11 Moreover, the speech is adorned by “mixt allegoria”12 in which the rebels plan to depose the King is aligned with a building process and the dangers of war itself to the vicissitudes of the seasons.13

  • 14  Maurice Howard, “Classicism and Civic Architecture,” 29-50; Paula Henderson, “The Loggia in Tudor (...)
  • 15  Per Palme, Triumph of Peace. A Study of the Whitehall Banqueting House (Uppsala: Almquist & Wickse (...)
  • 16  At one point in his treatise Wotton comes close to mentioning Jones’s new edifice; this is when he (...)
  • 17  A. W. Johnson, Ben Jonson: Poetry and Architecture (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994).
  • 18  Ibid., 18.

7To find a reasoned English presentation of a general theory of architectural design we have to wait until Wotton’s Elements of Architecture, which appeared shortly after he had seen the building that afforded the first major example, in England, of an Italian Renaissance architectural style on a large scale: Inigo Jones’s Palladian Banqueting House from 1622. There were earlier examples of Renaissance styles present in Tudor and Early Stuart England, as Maurice Howard, Paula Henderson,14 and Nigel Llewellyn have pointed out, but the Banqueting House was “undoubtedly the most important, and the most extensive, single building project undertaken by the early Stuarts.”15 Jones’s architectural language of form must have constituted a shockingly physical manifestation of foreignness in a milieu of familiar native forms, although the facade was appropriately toned down compared to its grander interior.16 Its impact has been compared to that later made by the Crystal Palace. Wotton captures this moment in the history of style, relating developments of contemporary Italian style to the Elizabethan mental set of his formative years. His treatise is the second work to respond to Jones’s innovative edifice, the first being Timber: or; Discoveries (1623) by Ben Jonson, whose intimate knowledge of architectural principles has been discussed by A. W. Johnson.17 There are, he argues, obvious similarities between the treatises of Jonson and Wotton, both being “equally concerned that aesthetics should have an ethical base.”18

  • 19  S. K. Heninger, Jr., Spenser and Sidney: The Poet as Maker (University Park, London: Pennsylvania (...)
  • 20  Lorna Hutson, Thomas Nashe in Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 38-54.

8Indeed, Wotton’s terminology shows the humanist formation of his thinking. Like Leon Battista Alberti who in the De re aedificatoria, De pictura and the moral dialogues stressed the necessity to strive for utility, Wotton, too, worked to reform man. Sidney, Puttenham and Daniel’s poetics and rhetoric drew substantially on the same ideas of utility and profit as had been developed in Italy during the fifteenth century.19 Therefore the use of discursive strategies to gain preferment and personal and moral profit was an important element in Elizabethan education. It was firmly believed that it was possible to transfer successful “grammars of action” from one field of intellectual and social activity to another and it was believed too that such “replotting” would lead to higher degrees of utility. In this discursive field, rhetoric and its application in classical literature and contemporary poetry were seen as instruments for economic and ethical change.20

  • 21  Inigo Jones was highly conscious of his choices and in The Roman Sketchbook he chastises architect (...)
  • 22  Cf. Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry, ed. Geoffrey Shepherd, (1965; reprint Manchester: Ma (...)

9The status of Jones’s Banqueting House is ambiguous in this context, as it is both foreign import and a native product, and we note that Wotton and Jonson never mention the building;21 a telling silence, indeed. The Banqueting House gave to architecture a foreign face that was more than the English horizon of expectation could easily accept. Like Sidney and Gascoigne before him, Wotton thought that the “fore-conceit” or the idea was the most important initial phase in any architectural work.22 As a good teacher, Wotton wrote his book so as to enable his readers to judge for themselves what constitutes good and ethically sound architecture:

And true it is indeed that the Marble Monuments & Memories of well deseruing Men, wherewith the very high wayes were strewed on each side was not a bare and transitory entertainement of the Eye, or onely a gentle deception of Time, to the Trauailer: But had also a secret and strong Influence, euen into the aduancement of the Monarchie, by continuall representation of vertuous examples; so as in that point ART became a piece of State. (106-107)

10Art is a nation-building activity, but did Jones’s building lead to “the aduancement of the Monarchie?” In accordance with the rhetorical and social function of architecture, Wotton as a matter of course analyses the art as a kind of rhetorical or discursive practice. Just as rhetoric is directed towards delivery, so does architecture aim at function:

In Architecture as in all other operatiue arts, the end must direct the Operation. The end is to build well. Well building hath three Conditions: Commoditie, Firmeness, and Delight.

  • 23  This is apparent when Wotton criticises the “six Considerations” by which to judge a building as p (...)

11The terse style no doubt reflects a conscious choice, and we recognize the close resemblance to the first sentence of Petrus Ramus in The Logicke: “The end of logic is to reason well” as it reads in the English translation. Like Alberti, Wotton desires to surpass Vitruvius, criticizing his obscure style and many barbarisms. The implication is that Wotton’s translatio is the superior one.23

12Wotton is considerably more systematic than his English predecessors in his treatment of the architecture and he knowingly distances himself from the style and methods of Italian prose writers. A particular target is the influential figure of Vasari:

There were two ways to be deliuered; the one Historical, by description of the principall works, performed already by Giorgio Vasari in the liues of Architects: The other Logicall, by casting the rules and cautions of this Art into some comportable Methode: not onely as the shortest and most Elementall; but indeed as the soundest.

  • 24  On the relation of Alberti to the Elizabethans, see Roy Eriksen, “The Lineaments of Influence: Alb (...)
  • 25  John Onians explains that this was «a choice which of course had vast importance in conditioning “ (...)
  • 26  An Apology for Poetry, 101.
  • 27  A comparable phrase is found earlier in The Elements, as well, where the role of the architect is (...)

13Yet, Wotton does not rely on the study of texts only, but is remarkable for combining attention to theoretical treatises with a study of actual buildings. In arguing the dependence of architectural theory on logic and its freedom from stylistic excesses, Wotton aligns himself with a tradition in Elizabethan poetics that depends directly on Alberti’s theories of architecture.24 In The Elements, this dependence is seen in the Albertian division of the work into two main parts: five books consider opus and four books ornamentum and pulchritudo.25 He also alludes to Sidney’s Apology; thus the famous phrase that “the skill of each artificer standeth in Idea or fore-conceit of the work,”26 finds an echo in Wotton’s phrase “a neat and full expression of the first Idea or Designement… doe more belong to the Artificer…” (118).27 Then, too, he offers a compliment to “our euer memorable Sir Philip Sidney, (whose Wit was in truth the very rule of Congruity)” (120), presumably as an attempt to align himself with the esteemed representative of a powerful group at Court.

  • 28  Timber, or Discoveries, 43.
  • 29  The Sermons of John Donne, ed. Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter, (Berkeley: University of Ca (...)
  • 30  See The Building in the text, “Carmen Pulcherrimum: Latin Paraclausithyra and the Period as an Aes (...)

14In view of these declarations, it comes as no surprise that Wotton should have chosen to shape his own work in accordance with High Renaissance compositional ideals. For his division of the treatise into two parts not only echoes the example set by Alberti, but its opening and concluding topoi have been distributed in conformity with the ideal of concinnitas that Wotton finds meet in all art and architecture. Thus he rounds off his treatise in the same way that he began and according to the rule stated by Ben Jonson: “Our composition must be more accurate in the beginning and the end than in the midst…”28 His compositional technique is in perfect agreement with the aesthetic ideal based on the classical period. Unlike Donne, he may not have read the world allegorically as “the whole house and frame of nature,”29 but he, too, organises his text so that it becomes a highly framed cosmos.30

15We trace Wotton’s desire to design his text most clearly in his use of balanced inversions, as when he proposes his method of architectural criticism. We recall that he tells the critic to “runne backewardes,” through the elements of architectural composition:

from the Ornaments (which first allure the Eye) to the more essentiall Members, till at last hee be able to forme his Conclusion, that the Worke is Commodious, Firme, and Delightfull, which (as I said in the beginning) are the three capitall Conditions required in good Buildings…” (116)

16By thus arguing that “the Methode of censuring is contrary to the Methode of composing” (116), Wotton manages to displays his wit by giving to his theory the inner design of a macro-chiasmus.

17By rejecting the allegorical method and by relying on a structural proportioning of his work in keeping with its inherent natural order of topics, Wotton alludes to the structural principles of an Albertian or a Palladian building. Alberti may reveal a stronger inclination to treat textual patterning allegorically, just as we find a greater dependence on verbal ornament in Vasari, but the differences between Alberti, Vasari and Wotton in this respect are differences of degree rather than of essence. Today we know that the use of proportioning and abstract designs in poetry and prose alike appears to have been a practice embraced equally by Antiquity and the Renaissance.

  • 31  The sober prose style of Wotton is not the only expression of this attitude: another good example (...)
  • 32  He describes it “In truth a sound piece of good Art, where the Materials being but ordinary stone, (...)

18The chief focus of attention is the disputed theory of ornament. Wotton himself favours moderation to the exclusion of an adorned style.31 Like a true classicist he praises order and utility, and issues warnings against experiment and excess. When he exemplifies what he considers to be good architecture, he mentions neither Palladio nor Jones, but turns to one of Palladio’s sources of inspiration: The Benedictine abbey of Santa Giustina (1521-1560) by Giorgio de Valle built in accordance with the new humanist principles introduced by Brunelleschi, Alberti, and Bramante.32 It is a building lacking “garnishment” but which can excite the viewer by its right proportions. The use of words like “sound”, “good” and “ordinary” underlines the author’s decided preference for uniformity as opposed to variation and multiplicity – stylistic features typical of Mannerism and Baroque, “Uniformitie” is a principle that Wotton values highly because so closely connected with “Utilitie” and an economical use of resources. The strong emphasis on utility makes him reject even the most valued geometrical forms of the High Renaissance, the circle and the sphere.

  • 33  Wotton elevates the Italian formula for how a work ought to be executed to a criterion employed to (...)

19A will to moderation and likewise a will to achieve a rational compromise between beauty and utility runs through all of Wotton’s deliberations. Thus he turns himself into a spokesman for the pragmatic aestheticism summarised in the Italian phrase una Fabrica ben raccolta (“a well-assembled work”), where utility and “apt Coherence” coexist. Ornament should belong to the work as part of its nature and as an extension of its structure and character.33

20Towards the end of his treatise Wotton outlines the basis for an architectural criticism, as promised in the Preface. He strives for accountability, wanting the readers to be able by themselves to verify the soundness of his knowledge and method in practical criticism. He therefore presents a method by means of which one may assess finsihed buidings, or “some methodicall direction how to censure Fabriques alreadie raised.”

21His approach in reality is consistently a rhetorical one, since architecture is treated as a composed text subjected to analysis and commentary being “an extemporall habite” (115) shared with the orator. The analytical tools of rhetoric and logic point the way to architectural criticism in the modern sense of the word.

22“For this Allegoricall review may be driuen as farre as any Wit will, that is at leasure” (117), and leisure, we know, is not always profitable. Behind the reference to a wit involved in far-reaching allegorical pursuits, we detect Ascham’s distinction between quick wits and grave wits. Wotton is not carried away by fancy and poetic licence, but belongs to the “grave” wits who work in a logically composed vernacular and to the benefit of his country. In this manner, Wotton signals that he is more “profitable” than Vasari and that his style possesses greater clarity than Vitruvius, and in his critique of contemporary aesthetic practice in Italy relies on critical concepts drawn from the rhetorical treatises of Antiquity and the 15th- and 16th century. In keeping with his view as a humanist educator and a nation-builder, he “edifies” with ideas and words, and in so doing provided examples of what he took to be prodigal or profitable building. In this respect, his work is a “time capsule” embodying the Elizabethan project that had shaped his mental set and as such it both marks the passing of the Elizabethan moment and serves as a key to Late Elizabethan aesthetics.

  • 34  Of course, the dominance of the Marlovian hero in his plays gives most of the patterned speeches e (...)

23How, then, does Shakespeare’s rhetoric relate to the ideals described by Wotton? In principle, the dramatist uses “garnishment” more sparingly and has fewer holistically patterned speeches, than e.g. does Marlowe,34 adjusting speech structure to character and function. In 1 Henry iv, characters who are in a position of power utter themselves in speeches framed according to the formula of judiciously placed ornaments in a lineamentum (or design). Consider for instance when Hotspur is objecting to the King’s accusation against Mortimer in Act i. Hotspur is here speaking from a position of strength and in passionate defence of his friend’s reputation. Hence his speech is of the kind that we recognize in Tamburlaine, that is, full of “persuasions more pathetical.” The 20-line speech (i.iv.92-111) has been given a strongly marked frame, consisting of the repeated words (Revolted Mortimer and Mortimer… slandered with revolt). The balanced pattern of the main body of the speech is strengthened by the use of embedded rhyme-words (wounds – bank vs. bank – wounds) around the central description of equal battle: “Three times they breathed, and three times did they drink / Upon agreement of swift Severn’s flood” (101-102). Thus Shakespeare gives a architectural design by repeated words to the account of a situation involving two noble and equal combattants, who in the end make a truce. In the same play, however, the allegorical rhetoric of Glendower is mocked and deprived of its structural underpinnings when the romantic and playful warrior Hotspur, taunts him. In fact, the debate between Hotspur and Glendower in Act iii, scene ii could be said to illustrate rhetoric’s relation to reality. As the play progresses towards the catastrophe and the defeat of the rebels, the verbally framed speeches are almost exclusively reserved for Hal, the builder of the new nation, and of course, King Henry. We note, moreover, that the play does not merely move away from allegory, which is the mode characteristic of Lord Bardolph and Glendower, there is also a notable paucity of extra-syntactic global patterning in the language of Hotspur and Glendower. This is especially true in the second half of the play, when it is clear that they are facing defeat. The absence of strong “architectural” support for their hyperbolic rhetoric, thus suggests that Shakespeare pays close attention to the function of his characters’ language both in relation to their ethos and place within the plot mechanics. There is in other words no connection between outward and inward in their speeches, their ability to perform does not match their high-blown words.

  • 35  See The Tragedy of Coriolanus, ed. Reuben Brower (New York: Signet Classic, 1966).

24In Coriolanus,35 the speeches that reveal inner design and power are distributed according to a similar formula. Examples of this pairing of power and speech design are legion in Shakespeare’s play. If we briefly survey the speech patterns of the five main characters with a view to their altering positions within the power-play, Coriolanus, Volumnia, Menenius, Cominius, and Aufidius, we note interesting patterns. Menenius who has an important role in the two first acts, particularly (i.i and ii.ii) starts out with a number of patterned speeches in his successful persuasion of the unruly Plebeians, In the final act, however, his persuasive force has dwindled and so has the patterning of his language. His is stuck in old-fashioned allegory and proverbs, belonging rhetorically to the tribe of Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet.

  • 36  The basis of this stylometric analysis was published in The Forme of Faustus Fortunes (1987), 207- (...)

25Among the other Romans, Cominius is an ineffectual speaker and unimpressive; Shakespeare attributes to him only two patterned speeches, whereas Aufidius, the main rival in the battlefield, is given six such speeches, the three most elaborate ones occurring when he plots against Coriolanus in Act iv. The Plebeians, Coriolanus’s main enemies in Rome, share seven patterned speeches, comprising only 42 lines, compared to the protagonist’s 13. Somewhat surprisingly he has relatively few extended speeches that reveal complexity of composition. Only his speeches at ii.iii.117-136, iv.v.69-105, and v.iii.8-37 possess marked extra-syntactic patterns. The final, elaborate speeches in the play (v.iii.94-124 and v.iii.131-182) are given to Volumnia whose maternal authority sends Coriolanus to his death when she succeeds in persuading him from attacking Rome. The few examples of speeches adduced here would seem to suggest a totally eclectic approach to speech structure, but if we consider the statistics, the picture emerges of a dramatist that makes highly personal and equilibrated stylistic choices.36

  • 37  The speech elaborates on Luke xiv, 20-30 (in the Vulgate), which displays a dense texture of paral (...)

26In both 2 Henry iv and Coriolanus, then, it is the rhetoric of Realpolitik and logic that conquers, not the unrealistic and ineffectual language of dreamers and pedants. Without pressing my point too far, Shakespeare’s practice in these tragedies testifies to his adherence to an aesthetic that favours unity of purpose and action, as well as speech without unnecessary “garnishment.” Ornaments are to be placed “upon a sure foundation.” Regardless of his mastery of architectural terminology, Lord Bardolph – for lack of a just cause – presents a wishful allegory that fails in edification, “using the names of men instead of men” and leaving the rebellion as “waste for churlish winter’s tyranny” (i.iii.62). Implicitly, Lord Bardolph’s eleborate speech37 is a masterpiece of irony: he cannot use the Bible to justify treason.

  • 38  Wotton returned from the Continent to England in 1594 and entered the Middle Temple in 1595, thus (...)

27In his outspoken critique of Italian practice and implicit censure of Inigo Jones, Wotton shows his loyalty to the poetics of the England that he left for Italy.38 Familiarity with architectural terminology and its underlying aesthetics of Humanist origin was characteristic of the leading poets and theorists of his formative years and remained a conservative Elizabethan stance against the excesses of new-fangled Continental styles. The Elements of Architecture holds in nuce the central concepts of this aesthetics, giving a reasoned summary of the kind of poetics we find in Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare was, indeed, influenced by Italian aesthetics, but to a lesser extent by that of his Italian contemporaries than by that of the previous generations of Italian poets and thinkers.

Haut de page

Notes

1  Henry Wotton, The Elements of Architecture, ed. Fredrick Hard (University Park, Penn.: Penn State Press, 1968). Hard gives a well-informed account of Wotton’s life and career in the Introduction,

2  Most recently in “Shakespeare and the Art of Plotting,” in The Building in the text. Alberti to Shakespeare and Milton (University Park, Penn.: Penn State Press, 2001).

3  The Elements of Architecture, Introduction, xvii.

4  Christopher Hollis, Eton. A History (London: Hollis and Carter, 1960). Wotton’s biography is found on p. 77–89.

5  “Ars Combinatoria: Marlowe’s Humanist Poetics,” in Richard Marienstrass (ed.), Shakespeare. Variations sur la lettre, le mètre et la mesure (Paris: Société Shakespeare Francais, 1996), 111-126 and The Forme of Faustus Fortunes (Oslo and Atlantic Highlands, Conn.: Solum and Humanities, 1987).

6  See Richard Wilson’s article in this volume and my “‘Un Certo Amoroso Martire’: Shakespeare’s ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ and Giordano Bruno’s De gli eroici furori (1585)”, Spenser Studies ii (1980), 193-215.

7  Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

8  “Ars Combinatoria: Marlowe’s Humanist Poetics,” 120: “his goal is not to fortify the mind, to secure spiritual tranquillity, nor gather knowledge for the greater good of the body politic.”

9  Mark Rose, Shakespearean Design (Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard University Press, 1972).

10  See my analysis in “The Lineament of Influence: Alberti and the Elizabethans,” in Gunnar Sorelius et al., Cultural Exchange Between European Nations During the Renaissance (Uppsala: Almquist & Wicksell, 1996) and The Building in the text (2001).

11  For a close analysis of the symmetrical structure of the speech and its biblical source, see The Building in the text, 1-9.

12  George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589), eds. G. Walker and A.Wilcock (Camridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936), 191-193.

13  “Yes, if this present quality of war -…
Lives so in hope, as in an early spring
We see th’ appearing buds; which to prove fruit
Hope gives not so much warrant as despair
That frosts will bite them.” (37; 39–42)

Accordingly, Lord Bardolph uses the expressions “to pluck a kingdom down” (49) and “churlish winter’s tyranny” (62) which are in line with the seasonal imagery.

14  Maurice Howard, “Classicism and Civic Architecture,” 29-50; Paula Henderson, “The Loggia in Tudor and Early Stuart England: The Adaption and Function of Classical Form,” 109-146; and Nigel Llewellyn, “‘Pliny is a weyghtye witnesse’: The Classical Reference in Post-Reformation Funeral Monuments,” 147-162, in Lucy Ghent (ed.), Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996).

15  Per Palme, Triumph of Peace. A Study of the Whitehall Banqueting House (Uppsala: Almquist & Wicksell, 1956), 3.

16  At one point in his treatise Wotton comes close to mentioning Jones’s new edifice; this is when he discusses the use of decorative painting: “Lastly, that there bee as properly bestowed for their quality, as fitly for their grace: that is, chearefull Paintings in Feasting and Banquetting Roomes; Grauer Stories in Galleries, Land schips, and Boscage, and such wilde workes in open Tarraces…” (99-100). See also the discussion of inward and outward in relation to Jones by Elisabeth Jordan, “Inigo Jones: The Architecture of Poetry,” Renaissance Quarterly (1991), 280-319.

17  A. W. Johnson, Ben Jonson: Poetry and Architecture (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994).

18  Ibid., 18.

19  S. K. Heninger, Jr., Spenser and Sidney: The Poet as Maker (University Park, London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989).

20  Lorna Hutson, Thomas Nashe in Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 38-54.

21  Inigo Jones was highly conscious of his choices and in The Roman Sketchbook he chastises architects like Michelagnolo for paying undue attention to ornaments on the facades of buildings. As for Jonson’s silence it is easy to understand his resentment when we recall that he in actual fact had advocated the similar ideas already in 1604. Per Palme observes that “[t]he Vitruvian principle of organic wholeness [was] first publicly applied to a work of architecture,” when Ben Jonson in 1604 described Stephen Harrison’s triumphal arch at Fenchurch Street; “Ut Architectura Poesis,” in Nils Gösta Sandblad (ed.), Idea and Form (Stockholm: Almquist & Wicksell, 1959), 104.

22  Cf. Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry, ed. Geoffrey Shepherd, (1965; reprint Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1973), 64-66, and George Gascoigne, “Certaine notes concerning the making of verse in English,” ed. Gregory Smith, Elizabethan Critical Essays, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1904), 1: 46-57 (§ 6: 49). His argument concerning “the Platforme of Inuention” echoes Vitruvius, De Architettura, vi.v.472.

23  This is apparent when Wotton criticises the “six Considerations” by which to judge a building as proposed by Vitruvius in Book ii of the De architecturaOrdinatio, Dispositio, Eurythmia, Symmetria, Decor, and Distribution – “Whereof (in my conceit) wee may spare him the first two; for as farre as I can perceiue, either by his Interpreters, or by his own Text (which in that very place, where perchance he should be clearest, is of all other the Clowdiest) hee meaneth nothing by Ordination, but a well setling of the Modell or Scale of the whole Worke” (118).

24  On the relation of Alberti to the Elizabethans, see Roy Eriksen, “The Lineaments of Influence: Alberti and the Elizabethans,” in Gunnar Sorelius and Michael Srigley (eds.), Cultural Exchange Between European Nations During the Renaissance (Uppsala: University of Uppsala Press, 1994), and above, p. 118.

25  John Onians explains that this was «a choice which of course had vast importance in conditioning “the future history of architecture and architectural theory.” See his “Alberti and Filarete,” Journal of the Courtauld and Warburg Institute, xxxiv (1971), 97-114.

26  An Apology for Poetry, 101.

27  A comparable phrase is found earlier in The Elements, as well, where the role of the architect is described: “whose glory doth more consist, in the Designement and Idea of the whole Worke…” (12).

28  Timber, or Discoveries, 43.

29  The Sermons of John Donne, ed. Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), 8: 220.

30  See The Building in the text, “Carmen Pulcherrimum: Latin Paraclausithyra and the Period as an Aesthetic Ideal,” 25-47; 156-160.

31  The sober prose style of Wotton is not the only expression of this attitude: another good example is the poem “Character of a Happy Life” (1614), written in imitation of Horace.

32  He describes it “In truth a sound piece of good Art, where the Materials being but ordinary stone, without any garnishment of sculpture doe yet ravishe the Beholder, (and hee knowes not how) by inner design – a secret Harmony in the Proportions.” (Elements, 12); Deborah Howard, The Architectural History of Venice (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1981), 165-66.

33  Wotton elevates the Italian formula for how a work ought to be executed to a criterion employed to assess it: he renders the phrase: con diligenza, con studio, con amore freely and in accordance with his utilitarian preferences as “with ordinary diligence, with learned diligence, and with loving diligence.” Provided these qualities be present, the work is by necessity “well designed” (78).

34  Of course, the dominance of the Marlovian hero in his plays gives most of the patterned speeches e.g. to Tamburlaine, Faustus, etc.

35  See The Tragedy of Coriolanus, ed. Reuben Brower (New York: Signet Classic, 1966).

36  The basis of this stylometric analysis was published in The Forme of Faustus Fortunes (1987), 207-26. The present figures are cited from “Rhetorical Shaping of Segments in Coriolanus,” unpublished ms. 1989; 2004, 10 p.

37  The speech elaborates on Luke xiv, 20-30 (in the Vulgate), which displays a dense texture of parallelisms – “ne posteaquam posuerit fundamentum et non potuerit perficere” and “quia hic homo coepit aedificare et non potuit consumare” – devices which are common in New Testament proverbial wisdom.

38  Wotton returned from the Continent to England in 1594 and entered the Middle Temple in 1595, thus keeping in touch with the London scene and developments in taste back home during frequent visits until 1604.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Roy Eriksen, « Plotting and Edification in Shakespeare and Wotton », Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare, 22 | 2005, 117-130.

Référence électronique

Roy Eriksen, « Plotting and Edification in Shakespeare and Wotton », Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare [En ligne], 22 | 2005, mis en ligne le 30 novembre 2006, consulté le 21 septembre 2014. URL : http://shakespeare.revues.org/748

Haut de page

Auteur

Roy Eriksen

Professor of English Renaissance Literature and Culture, Adger University College, Norway. He has held positions in the Universities of Oslo, Bergen, the Istituto di Norvegia in Roma (1997-2000), and been attached to Magdalene College, Cambridge (1982-83), Harvard University, Firenze (1990-91, 1994), and École des Hautes Études, Paris (2001). He publishes in English and Italian Renaissance Literary Studies, including architectural history and theory (1400-1700). He has published The Forme of Faustus Fortunes (Humanities, 1987), The Building on the Text (Penn, 2001), and edited Contexts of Pre-Novel Narrative (Mouton/De Gruyter, 1994) and Form and the Arts (Rome: Kappa, 2003). Recent articles treat Webster, Browning, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Vasari. He currently works on Roman Quattrocento Urbanism and organizes a programme on Early Modern Urban Culture.

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

© SFS

Haut de page
  • Logo Société Française Shakespeare
  • Logo Shakespeare 450
  • Revues.org