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Reviewed by:
  • Privacy in the Age of Shakespeare by Ronald Huebert
  • Frank Swannack
Huebert, Ronald, Privacy in the Age of Shakespeare, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2016; cloth; pp. 352; 11 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. CA $65.00; ISBN 9781442647916.

Ronald Huebert begins the introduction with Sir John Harington's The Prayse of Private Life. He argues Harington's prose treatise reveals that privacy has renewed importance in 'the age of Shakespeare', which he defines as the period 1516–1667 (p. 4). This range refers to Sir Thomas More's challenge to privacy in Utopia, and John Milton's spiritual privacy in Paradise Lost.

In Chapter 1, Huebert investigates what privacy means to Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Huebert finds a dichotomy between private and public spaces. He examines the invasion of private thoughts through overhearing Hamlet's soliloquies, and of space such as Ophelia's closet. In Twelfth Night, Huebert analyses the anxiety of misinterpreting the inner self, in particular, Olivia's veil and Malvolio's attempt to protect his privacy from Feste, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Chapter 2 charts a spiritual interiority for both Protestants and Catholics. Huebert examines the prayer closet to argue that the dichotomies of 'Protestant and Catholic, male and female, body and soul' are dissolved(p. 61). He shows this through a close analysis of Christ's agony in the garden, and the spiritual allegory positing Christian souls as Christ's bride. The chapter ends with an investigation of John Saltmarsh's private devotions. Saltmarsh privileges the soul to the point where his flesh is superfluous to private spiritual needs.

Chapter 3 focuses on voyeurism. Through the story of Diana and Actaeon in Ovid's Metamorphoses and the History of Susanna in the Apocrypha, Huebert demonstrates how the male voyeur's intrusion of female privacy ends in his death. After examining poetic striptease, Huebert delivers an inspired reading of Much Ado About Nothing. He argues persuasively that Claudio is a voyeur through the way he observes and discusses Hero. Huebert reads Beatrice's passionate command to Benedick to kill Claudio as following the same pattern.

Chapter 4 has an experimental, even voyeuristic, tone as Huebert analyses commonplace books. His fascinating rationale is that texts in manuscript form reveal more of the private self than their published counterparts. These less well known works capture a sense of undisturbed private thoughts, as they are not shaped by a history of critical reading in the public domain.

With Chapter 5, Huebert investigates whether early modern men and women share a similar understanding of privacy. Lady Anne Clifford's diary reveals a woman who endured a privacy of isolation. Her husband is frequently absent and, when at home, he often retreats into his private study. In contrast to her husband, Clifford's reading of literature and needlework are constantly monitored and interrupted. In a diary by John Ramsey, he is always on the [End Page 217] move and rarely with his family. He only mentions one of his eight children. Huebert concludes that early modern women occupy a shadowy exposed privacy, while men enjoy travelling and private meditative retreats.

Chapter 6 examines utopic privacy. In More's Utopia, Huebert discovers an exposed society where privacy is seen as encouraging abusive practices. He then examines Adam and Eve's bower in Milton's Paradise Lost. The Garden of Eden allows intimate privacy for a sexual relationship free from the sin of voyeurism.

Chapter 7 investigates if privacy protected early modern heterodoxy. Christopher Marlowe's Edward II reveals the king's desire for privacy to spend time alone with Piers Gaveston. Huebert then examines how Galileo's discovery of a heliocentric universe led to enforced privacy. John Donne's Roman Catholic background and public position as Anglican priest are scrutinized. His poetry published posthumously reveals he considered God's love universal, not subject to affiliation. Huebert establishes that early modern privacy meant cooperating superficially with authority through textual ambiguity.

Chapter 8 examines privacy in Andrew Marvell's poetry and prose. Huebert argues that Marvell needed privacy for his dubious erotic tastes, though he finds complexity in Marvell's poetry he terms 'the grammar of supposition and surmise...


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