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REVIEWS Renaissance Drama, New Series XIV: Relations and lnfiuences, ed. Leonard Barkan. Evanston : Northwestern University Press, 1983. Pp. x + 196. $24.95. Although various standard approaches are used in the seven essays that comprise this volume, the concept of mimetic rivalry is basic to three of them. Each essayist does place his author in a literary and pos­ sibly social context, but I do not find that these essays particularly "raise new questions or embody fresh approaches to perennial problems" as the Editorial Note indicates (p. v:). The essays are arranged chronologically by subject, beginning with Machiavelli and ending with Jonson, and so it is perhaps fortuitous that the best essay in the selection comes first. Ronald L. Martinez's ''The Pharmacy of Machiavelli: Roman Lucre­ tia in Marulragola" links Livy's history of the rape of Lucretia with Machiavelli's play. Martinez summarizes his argument in the following terms: "After consideration of some general aspects of Machiavelli's use of Livy's text, the first part" of the essay consists of a "description of the principal parallels between Livy's history and Mandragola," parallels that underline the "differences for Machiavelli between the heroic civic virtue of the Romans and the corruption of the civic body in early cinquecento Florence." Part two of the essay "examines the function of ritual action in the two texts. In Livy's narrative, the episode of Lucretia and Brutus functions as an etiological fable: Lucretia's suicide makes her the sacri­ ficial victim, the pharmakos whose destruction is instrumental in precipi­ tating the expulsion of the tyrants and establishing the Roman republic." Machiavelli's play is also "an etiology of a new community," but, in contrast to Livy's, one founded "on the rational calculation of private advantage" and "on acquisitiveness." The final part of the essay discusses "the potent, ambiguous medicine mandragola from the perspective of Lucretia herself as the pharmakon that purges Rome from the disease of tyranny." The "ambiguous function of mandragola is the play's principal link to the sacrifici,al economy operating in Livy's account of Lucretia's suicide" (pp. 9-10) . In his argument, Martinez moves convincingly from solid parallels between history and play to a symbolic reading of both. The argument is built on a full panoply of primary and secondary reading (though the footnotes are misnumbered on pages 2 and 3 ) , and I consider it a solid achievement in scholarship and interpretation. On one point, however, I would like to suggest an alternative reading. Martinez identifies Machia­ velli's Lucrezia as a "figure of Nature and Fortune" (p. 4 1 ) , but given his argument, she could more easily be seen to stand for Florence, Florence seduced by self-interest and thus lost to ancient virtue, Florence taken over by a corrupt society. 270 Reviews 271 J. W. Robinson's "The Art and Meaning of Gammer Gurton's Needle" links the play to Ralph Roister Doister, Jack Juggler, The Two Angry Women of Abingdon, and others, contending that ''the play is richer in meaning than is normally thought." In fact, the playwright uses concepts of "both proverbial and biblical folly." Moreover, the play is built on a series of "proverbs and parables," a method that can be seen "in a number of other Tudor plays." (This idea is worthy of further explora­ tion.) Robinson concludes that "the dramatic art" of this play "is rich, complex, and Chaucerian, in a modest way, and its meaning profound" (pp. 47-49) . The profound meaning seems to be that the citizens of Gammer's village are "mean and uncharitable" because they are not more liberal in giving Diccon food and drink, and that they are easily "diverted by what is really nothing from more reasonable and Godly ways" (pp. 76-77) . I must be forgiven for not finding this "meaning" very profound. To me, it is a commonplace of religious literature that recurrently enjoins charity and proper attention. One of the chief problems with this essay is the tendency to make serious out of game. Robinson uses comic lines to support serious con­ clusions, conclusions that these lines simply will not support when considered in context. For example, Robinson quotes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 270-274
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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