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Reviews455 Reviews Raphael Falco. Charismatic Authority in Early Modern English Tragedy. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. Pp. ? + 233. $39.95 Any book whose first chapter invites heavy underlining must be either smart or impenetrable. This one is smart, and quite ambitious. The "Introduction " to Charismatic Authority in Early Modern English Tragedy identifies its approach as interdisciplinary (ix). More specifically, it matches literary texts with sociological theory, in particular that ofMax Weber, to describe the paradoxical phenomenon ofcharismatic authority. Falco insists that literary analysis drives his discussion, and he is right. Charismatic Authority never just applies sociological concepts to the texts, but at the same time, it does not shy away from hard concepts and, when appropriate, discipline-specific language. Without fail, this combination makes for an athletic, but satisfying, reading experience. Falco begins by remarking on how the last twenty years ofwork on early modern subjectivity has produced a false evolutionary model for subjectivity, an "either/or" narrative of historical change that posits a discontinuous self beneath the "continuous interiority" ofliberal humanism. The phenomenon of charisma challengeseither/orthinkingbecausecharismatic authorityis a "shared experience" (12). Falco's explanation of charisma in his "Introduction" depends on a series of paradoxes. What he calls "systemic mutuality" (7, 18) involves a leader whose power borders on the divine and who achieves high status by being exceptional. The charismatic leader has unbounded agency, which relieves his followers of the need for making choices. The charismatic leader therefore undermines the status quo, but introduces in their place new normalizing structures. This process Weber calls the "routinization" of charisma . Leader and followers are locked in an economy ofmutual dependence, but according to yet another paradoxical twist in the argument, the first casualty of this mutuality is the charismatic hero himself. The idealization of the leader's mission "reifies it, occluding the individual at its center" (17). That is, the hero loses his position to a symbolic version of himself. Chapter 1, "Revolution to Routinization," examines both parts of Tamburlaine the Great as a limit case, a study in "pure charisma." Beginning 456Comparative Drama with Helen Gardner's observation that Tamburlaine's magic over other people wanes in Part 2, Falco offers a fresh view of the play's quirks that explains in a theoretically sound way not only Tamburlaine's quixotic behavior, but also the sometimes astonishing responses ofothers to him. In his ambitious quest for an earthly crown, Tamburlaine manipulates masterfully the "processes of disorder" (29) through his physical stature and his extraordinary desire. Attracting followers through a shared but suppressed libidinal desire, Tamburlaine establishes a monarchy based on "the charismatic quality ofhonor rather than hereditary kingship" (30). Tamburlaine's problems start when he marries Zenocrate and bureaucratizes the egalitarian and irrational grounds of group dependence. The homosocial bonds between Tamburlaine and his followers, which were guaranteed by his own sexual asceticism, are strained. "The formation ofcharismatic groups depends in varying degrees on the erotic undercurrent that binds members to leader," Falco writes: "as long as erotic needs remain activated but unrealized, regardless ofwhether they are homosexual or heterosexual in objective, they can act as the glue binding a group together" (37). Zenocrates's passion for Tamburlaine puts an end to all that, so that in Part 2 we find Tamburlaine becoming trapped by his own charismatic symbols . He slips into mistaking symbolic means for ends, so that his later exploits , such as burning the town where Zenocrate died, neither solidify the group nor advance his empire. No longer a messiah, Tamburlaine replicates the very authorities he had supplanted so that his rhetoric begins to ring hollow . His charisma, in Weber's terms, has become routinized. As a result, Tamburlaine finds himself betrayed by both family and friends and his attempts to guarantee the succession of his charismatic power through lineal descent ends ambiguously, with the death ofeffeminate Calyphas and the succession of Amyras, his eldest son. Chapter 2, "Charismas in Conflict," gives a surprising new twist to wellworn comparisons between Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke in the first play ofShakespeare's second tetralogy. Falco focuses not so much on Bolingbroke's personal charisma, a topic that has received much attention under other labels...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 455-458
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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