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Fletcher's Satire of Caratach in Bonduca Ronald J. Boling Marco Mincoff once argued that for Fletcher "the soldier is the embodiment of all the virtues,"1 particularly courage, integrity , and truthfulness. Such characters as Caratach in Bonduca and Aecius in Valentinian assert moral authority in their playworlds . Paul D. Green views the hypermasculine Caratach as patently superior to Queen Bonduca and her daughters because he champions the Roman attitudes and values the play endorses: "In the context of the play, 'woman' suggests irrationality, thoughtlessness, and violence," whereas "to be a 'man' is to be reasonable and honorable in the Roman mode."2 Simon Shepherd deems Caratach "the only Briton who is truly just and chivalrous ."3 Sharon Macdonald claims Caratach represents King James and flatteringly mirrors the king's misogynistic views.4 John Curran characterizes Bonduca as "bloodthirsty, irrational, and childishly irrelevant," praising Caratach as "high-minded."s More recently Jodi Mikalachki asserts that the "distinction between Caractacus's manly romanitas and Boadicea's female savagery became a standard feature of early modern accounts of Roman Britain."6 Caractacus is "a figure of exemplary manliness"7 who "wins unqualified historiographical praise,"8 whereas Boadicea represents, as late as Milton, '"the rankest note of Barbarism '"9 which must be purged in order for Britain to join Rome in the masculine project of civilization. Mikalachki argues that "Fletcher seems to have followed this pattern in composing his drama Bonduca,"10 claiming that "Because she defied Caratach's order to return to her spinning wheel and instead meddled in the affairs of men, Bonduca is made to bear full responsibility for the Britons' eventual defeat."11 Mikalachki here paraphrases Caratach's own words, but the passive "is made" is imprecise; Caratach blames Bonduca for the British loss, but does the play? In assuming that the play endorses the values and perspective of Caratach, these views miss Fletcher's dramatic techniques that everywhere undermine Caratach and ultimately repudiate him. 390 RonaldJ. Boling391 All of these views follow the critical commonplace that Beaumont and Fletcher are, as Coleridge put it, "servile jure divino Royalists," mouthpieces for male royalist orthodoxy. Philip J. Finkelpearl has decisively challenged this assumption. He argues that "political criticism ofcourt and king was a central urge in the most important plays of Beaumont and Fletcher," and adds that Fletcher "adhered to the same attitudes and convictions when writing alone."12 Finkelpearl's interpretation of Aecius in Valentinian is germane to my reading of Caratach. Although Aecius' defense of absolute monarchy "is so extensive and fervent that he is generally taken as a mouthpiece for Fletcher's political philosophy,"13 Finkelpearl contends that "Fletcher also depicts the noble general as a narrow fanatic,"14 his unquestioning obedience to royalty "an honorable quirk."15 Responding to Aecius's fanatically obedient suicide, Finkelpearl remarks, "The way ofthe unresisting saint is impressive but inhumane."16 Andrew Hickman, refuting Green's reading of Bonduca in detail, has made part of my argument about Caratach. By overtly criticizing British behavior, especially Bonduca's, Fletcher challenges his audience's "alertness to the play's implicit anti-Roman values," for as the play unfolds the Romans prove "consistently but unobtrusively guilty of the dishonorable conduct for which Caratach reprimands his own side";17 the Romans simply do not abide by the "Roman" ideal Caratach espouses. Hickman contrasts Caratach's feeding and release of captured Roman starvelings in 2.3 with the later Roman strategy of starving the British fugitives Caratach and the boy Prince Hengo. The corporal Judas, of course, violates Roman honor, yet the officers "Junius, Curius, and Decius are equally dishonorable in seeking devious victory."18 The Britons conversely are militarily "hampered by Caratach's strident principle ofhonor."19 Hickman catalogues the play's poetic imagery to rebut Green's claim that overall it puts the British in a negative light. He also argues that the play does not privilege a manly Roman suicide (Penyus) over an hysterical female one (Bonduca and her daughters), concluding that the play does not oppose "the tradition of praise for Bonduca as a national heroine."20 Hickman doubts Caratach's authority in the play: "perhaps above all Caratach is not true...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 390-406
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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