Constituting Old Age in Early Modern English Literature, from Queen Elizabeth to King Lear
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Over the course of this project’s leisurely evolution, I have enjoyed numerous opportunities to air my ideas as they took shape. My thanks to the various organizing committees of the 2003 “Elizabeth R” quatercentenary conference, the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, the John Donne Society conference, and the Boston University Lectures in...
1. Age, Agency, and Early Modern Constitutions
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This book explores the radical, perhaps unparalleled, experience of subjectivity that old age obliges, through a survey of literary and political expression during roughly the last quarter-century of Elizabeth I’s reign. At root, the complex psychological tensions that this material discloses are themselves encapsulated in the folk wisdom...
2: Elizabeth I's Politics of Longevity
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Robert Devereux’s execution for high treason in February 1601 marked the culmination—for better or for worse—of a grand generational conflict that had taken shape over the 1590s. However questionable Essex’s capabilities or designs may appear in historical hindsight, the thirty-three-year-old earl embodied the restlessness of...
3. Out to Pasture: The Bucolic Elder in Spenser, Sidney, and Their Heirs
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When he comes to prescribe a regimen of care for the elderly in the second book of his De vita, Marsilio Ficino prefaces his instructions with an advisory. “Those who have already completed their forty-ninth year and are nearing their fiftieth,” he suggests, “should reflect that young people are signified by Venus, while old...
4. Sexuality and Senescence in Late Elizabethan Poetry: "Old Strange Thinges"
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When crafting his Affectionate Shepheard, Richard Barnfield drew upon no less popular a text than Geffrey Whitney’s Choice of Emblems of 1586 as a source for his interpolated account of how, when Death and Cupid unwittingly take up one another’s quivers, youth begins to die as old men “dote.” Although Barnfield’s application...
5. "Confin'd to Exhibition": King Lear through the Spectacles of Age
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As a folkloric topos, the provider’s reversion to the status of ptōchós or “beggar” takes many forms. One of these, the pseudo-historical narrative of the British King Leir, lent the Sonnets’ author raw material for what we often regard as his greatest tragedy. Acutely sensitive to this threat of diminution, Shakespeare’s royal character reflexively stages...
Epilogue: Figures of Retire
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From a certain vantage point, Shakespeare’s great tragedy of old age can be (and largely has been) seen as bearing out the grim conclusion drawn by Simone de Beauvoir at one turn in her pathbreaking study The Coming of Age: “Whether we like it or not, in the end we submit to the outsider’s point of view...
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About the Author, Back Cover
Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 3 illus.
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Massachusetts Studies in Early Modern Culture