- Sederi: Yearbook of the Spanish and Portuguese Society for English Renaissance Studies
Sederi’s 2010 Yearbook presents an impressive offering of articles, which reflect a wide range of interests and critical methodologies, and meets the highest critical standards. Space limits the number I may review, but I [End Page 250] am very impressed with range and standards throughout. English is used consistently for essays, scholarly (philological) notes, and book reviews – Sederi’s Portuguese and Spanish being reserved for abstracts, though English, and even French, are used in some cases.
This issue’s excellent material has been drawn from both Iberian and foreign contributors, including one of exceptional international renown: Professor Andrew Gurr, who adds to his famous publications an impressive article, titled ‘Baubles on the Water: Sea Travel in Shakespeare’s Time’, which presents a convincing case that ‘the London playing companies’ probably used ‘coastal shipping for their travels’ to carry personnel and ‘expensive costumes and properties’, rather than travelling along poor roads (p. 63). Gurr adds that performance records of the Admiral’s company, which toured with Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus in 1590 and 1591, strongly suggest that the players did not use roads, since town records sometimes show that they played in ‘different ports on successive days’, with such swiftness, that they might even have used their coastal transport to sleep on as well as for transport of their numbers and their properties’ (p. 63).
Another notable article, ‘Macbeth and the Passions’ “Proper Stuff ”’ by Zenón Luis Martínez discusses ‘early modern conceptions and representations of the passions in relation to issues of self-knowledge, in texts ranging from Renaissance psychology to Shakespearean tragedy’ (p. 71). Martínez grounds his study on the Christian–humanist work of such philosophers as Valencianborn Juan Luis Vives, and the English Thomas Wright and Sir John Davies, among others. He describes the individual ‘Christian humanist’ quest for ‘self-knowledge’, as ‘a high ethical aspiration of the rational soul, whose search for truth comprised the elucidation of processes originating in the human mind and body, and conditioning action and behaviour’ (p. 74). In these terms, Martínez examines Macbeth’s place within Shakespeare’s oeuvre, and in the context of humanist self-knowledge – specifically, how Shakespeare, through the multiple acts of deceit, including self-deception, in Macbeth, illustrated how the individual’s desire for truth can miscarry. Thus, Martínez underlines that, for Shakespeare – as the play Macbeth strongly implies – ‘poetry and the theatre’, are both ‘arts of feigning’, which originated in ‘the art of the rhetorician … emphasiz[ing] the many fissures found in the process of self-awareness’ (p. 81). Macbeth’s proud ‘belief’ in his self-possession, for instance, is consistently undermined, and exposed, by the play’s continual focus on the hero’s ‘loss of temper’, as shown by the hero’s ‘very first encounter with the Weird Sisters’ (p. 86).
Another outstanding contribution is R. Scott Fraser’s scholarly essay in the ‘Notes’ section, ‘“The King has killed his heart”: The Death of Falstaff [End Page 251] in Henry V’, which examines ‘references to the heart in both 1 and 2Henry IV and Henry V, as a means of exploring the symbolic relationship between Falstaff and Henry in the latter play’ (p. 145). The essay carefully traces the appearance, in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, of the expression ‘heart’s ease’, connected to expressions involving the heart, and to the figure of Falstaff – though Fraser argues, in fact, that the precise expression also appears in two Falstaff-free plays: Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. The phrase and related discourse, was, therefore, apparently, attached not to a given character, per se, but a professional actor/stage persona, associated with the performer who played him: Will Kemp.
But, of course, through repetition – what Fraser calls ‘an iterative process’ (p. 146) – Falstaff will have, indeed, have come to be identified with the heart, so that, as Fraser underlines, by the rejection scene in 2Henry IV, Falstaff...