Shakespeare’s Belly

Shakespeare’s Belly Carnival and the Morality Tradition


Shakespeare’s Belly. Carnival and the Morality Tradition. Interludes and morality plays. Who?: originally performed by clergy, later servants or wandering players and paid for by aristocratic patrons Where?: indoors – halls of great households, inns - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Transcript of Shakespeare’s Belly

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Shakespeare’s BellyCarnival and the Morality Tradition

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Interludes and morality plays

Who?: originally performed by clergy, later servants or wandering players and paid for by aristocratic patrons

Where?: indoors – halls of great households, inns

When?: in between courses at household feasts and banquets – interlude literally means ‘in-between play’

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Interludes and morality plays

Morality plays

Allegorical: not directly dramatising Bible stories

‘Everyman’ figure, Virtues and Vices:Performers cast in Vice roles were often expected to ad-lib (Wiles 2005: 4-5);The Vice would wear a motley coat and carry a wooden dagger.

Mankind was performed during the winter festive season, c. 1470, probably for an aristocratic banquet somewhere in East Anglia (though it could have been performed in an inn).

Audience includes seated ‘sovereigns’ and standing ‘brothers’.

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The Medieval Hall

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MankindAll the characters in morality drama appeal directly to the audience, offering advice, injunctions, suggestions etc.

The opening speech sets up Mercy as the voice of moral authority:

MERCY. Mercy is my name, that mourneth for your offence.Divert not yourselves in time of temptation,That ye may be acceptable to God at your going hence. (18-20)

On the other hand, Mischief, as David Wiles puts it, ‘is at once the villain, whom the audience learn to shun, and the welcome game-maker who makes the play possible’ (2005: 1-2):

MISCHIEF. I say, sir! I am come hither to make you game;Yet, bade ye me not go out in the devil’s name,And I will abide. (68-70)

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Mankind: body vs. soulMANKIND. My name is Mankind. I have my composition

Of a body and of a soul, of condition contrary.Betwixt the twain is a great division;He that should be subject, now he hath the victory. (193-6)

MERCY. Distemper not your brain with good ale, nor with wine!Measure is treasure: I forbid you not the use;Measure yourself ever! Beware of excess! (235-7)

TITIVILLUS. Arise, and avent thee! Nature compels!MANKIND. I will into thi[s] yard, sovereigns! and come again soon;

For dread of the colic, and eke of the stone,I will go do that needs must be done;My beads shall be here for whomsoever will else. (561-5)

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Mankind: Vices‘In other early interludes written for professional troupes we find that the Vices are venial rather than deadly sins. They offer man a life of holiday pleasures. Pride is paired with Riot in Youth. Lust-and-liking and Folly in Mundus et Infans set up carnivalesque freedom as an alternative to ecclesiastical discipline.’ (Wiles 2005: 3)

New Guise, Nought and Now-a-Days as entertainers: dancers, singers, practical jokers and play-actors

Mixture of scatological humour and blasphemy:

NOW-A-DAYS. I pray you heartily, worshipful clerk!To have this English made in Latin: ‘I have eaten a dishful of curds,And I have shitten your mouth full of turds.’

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Mankind: dramaturgy of sinning and redemption

NOW-A-DAYS (to Mercy). When ye will, go forth your way! Men have little dainty of your playBecause ye make no sport. (265-7)

Inversion of authority: mock Latin, parodic version of law court

Platea dimension: local and topical references

Audience participation: first the blasphemous Christmas carol, then payment to see Titivillus

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Mankind: dramaturgy of sinning and redemption

TITIVILLUS. And ever ye did, for me keep now your silence!Not a word! I charge you, pain of forty pence!A pr[et]ty game shall be showed you ere ye go hence. (590-2)

Breaking complicity: the Vices’ cruelty becomes clear by the end of the play as they gleefully help Mankind to kill himself.

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Henry IV as morality drama

The morality play as model for the story of the young Henry V was already implicit in the earlier drama The Famous Victories of Henry V (printed c. 1594).

Shakespeare follows this pattern to some extent…

KING HENRY. …Therefore, friends,As far as to the sepulchre of Christ – Whose soldier now, under whose blessed crossWe are impressed and engaged to fight – Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,Whose arms were moulded in their mothers’ wombTo chase these pagans in those holy fieldsOver whose acres walked those blessed feetWhich fourteen hundred years ago were nailed,For our advantage, on the bitter cross. (1.1.18-27)

PRINCE HARRY. For my part, I may speak it to my shame,I have a truant been to chivalry. (5.1.93-4)

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Falstaff as VicePRINCE HARRY. …that reverend Vice,

that grey Iniquity, that father Ruffian, that Vanity in Years… (2.5.458-9)

LORD CHIEF JUSTICE. You follow the young prince up and down, like his ill angel. (Part Two, 1.2.150-1)

Bardolph as junior Vice?

Francois Laroque describes Falstaff as ‘Shakespeare’s most extraordinary clown and expert in all tricks – carnivalesque jokes, theatrical ad-libbing, bibulous word games or superb comic monologues to obfuscate his lies or cover his bad faith’ (2002: 70).

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Falstaff as VicePRINCE HARRY. Pray God you have not

murdered some of them.FALSTAFF. Nay, that’s past praying for. I have

peppered two of them. Two I am sure I have paid – two rogues in buckram suits. I tell thee what, Hal, if I tell thee a lie, spit in my face, call me horse. Thou knowest my old ward – here I lay, and thus I bore my point. Four rogues in buckram let drive at me.

PRINCE HARRY. What, four? Thou saidst but two even now.

FALSTAFF. Four, Hal, I told thee four.POINS. Ay, ay, he said four.FALSTAFF. These four came all afront, and

mainly thrust at me. I made me no more ado, but took all their seven points in my target, thus. (2.5.174-86)

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Inversion of moralityPRINCE HARRY. I see a good amendment of life in thee, from

praying to purse-taking.FALSTAFF. Why, Hal, ’tis my vocation, Hal. ’Tis no sin for a man to

labour in his vocation. (1.2.104-5)

FALSTAFF. Company, villainous company, hath been the spoil of me.BARDOLPH. Sir John, you are so fretful, you cannot live long.FALSTAFF. Why, there is it: come sing me a bawdy song, make me

merry. I was as virtuously given as a gentleman need to be; virtuous enough: swore little, diced not – above seven times a week, went to a bawdy-house once in a quarter – of an hour, paid money that I borrowed – three of four times; lived well and in good compass: and now I live out of all order, out of all compass. (3.3.9-19)

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Falstaff as improviser and game-maker

‘Shall we have a play extempore?’ (2.5.282-3)

PRINCE HARRY. Do thou stand for my father, and examine me upon the particulars of my life.

FALSTAFF. Shall I? Content. This chair shall be my state, this dagger my sceptre, and this cushion my crown.

PRINCE HARRY. Thy state is taken for a joined-stool, thy golden sceptre for a leaden dagger, and thy precious rich crown for a pitiful bald crown. (2.5.379-85)

Falstaff improvises in iambic pentameter (2.5.395-401)

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Carnival and Lent (Pieter Bruegel, 1559)

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Carnival and Lent (Pieter Bruegel, 1559)

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Falstaff as embodiment of Carnival

Falstaff as ‘All-hallown summer’ (1.2.157), a ‘roasted Manningtree ox’ (2.5.458), ‘Martlemas’ (Part Two, 2.2.86), ‘wassail candle’ (Part Two, 1.2.145).

Social status: both a knight and a pickpocket

Anachronistic identity: ruffs, sack, playhouse, Pistol

Linguistic play: ‘If manhood, good manhood, be not forgot upon the face of the earth, then am I a shotten herring’ (2.5.128-9); ‘If I fought not with fifty of them, I am a bunch of radish’ (2.5.187).

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Carnival and the Elizabethan stage

David Wiles:‘The Elizabethan theatre stood at a point of transition between the modern concept of theatre as part of a leisure industry and the medieval or pre-urban concept of drama as part of an inversionary or carnivalesque mode of living life.’ (2005: xii)

Theatres in the Elizabethan period were distinctly carnivalesque spaces, as Bristol argues:

‘Theatre occupies a marginal space as well as a marginal time. This is pragmatically true of the earliest Elizabethan playhouses, which were situated outside the formal jurisdiction of the city authorities, although they remained de facto an integral part of the city’s economic activity.’ (1983: 648)

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Carnival and the Elizabethan stage

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Carnival and the Elizabethan stage

Stubbes equated theatre with carnival:‘… some spend the Sabbath day (for the most part) in frequenting of bawdy stage-plays and interludes, in maintaining Lords of Misrule (for so they call a certain kind of play which they use), May games, church-ales, feasts, and wakes: in piping, dancing, dicing, carding, bowling, tennis-playing: in bear-baiting, cock-fighting, hawking, hunting, and such like; … whereby the Lord God is dishonoured, his Sabbath violated, his word neglected, his sacraments contemned, and his people marvellously corrupted and carried away from true virtue and godliness.’ (Stubbes, Anatomie of Abuses)

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The Saturnalian pattern

Barber considers ‘the tendency for Elizabethan comedy to be a saturnalia, rather than to represent saturnalian experience’ (1972: 36).

Northrop Frye (‘The Argument of Comedy’, 1948): ‘…the action of the comedy begins in a world represented as a normal world, moves into the green world, goes into a metamorphosis there in which the comic resolution is achieved, and returns to the normal world.’ (Palmer 1984: 80)

(Is A Midsummer Night’s Dream ‘closed off’ in this sense? Is Henry IV?)

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Audience complicityFalstaff’s direct address: Kempe’s stand-up?

‘There’s honour for you’ (5.3.32-3).

As with the medieval Vice, the dark side of Falstaff’s moral ambivalence becomes clearer as the play progresses:

PRINCE HARRY. I did never see such pitiful rascals.FALSTAFF. Tut, tut, good enough to toss, food for powder, food for

powder. They’ll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men. (4.2.64-7)

FALSTAFF. I have led my ragamuffins where they are peppered; there’s not three of my hundred and fifty left alive, and they are for the town’s end, to beg during life. (5.3.35-8)

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Audience complicityPRINCE HARRY. Why, thou owest God a death.Exit FALSTAFF. ’Tis not due yet. I would be loath to pay him before his day.

What need I be so forward with him that calls not on me? Well, ’tis no matter; honour pricks me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? How then? Can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is honour? A word. What is in that word ‘honour’? What is that ‘honour’? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. ’Tis insensible, then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I’ll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon. And so ends my catechism. (5.1.126-40)

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Audience complicityBut Harry gets there first!

PRINCE HARRY. I know you all, and will awhile upholdThe unyoked humour of your idleness.Yet herein will I imitate the sun,Who doth permit the base contagious cloudsTo smother up his beauty from the world,That, when he please again to be himself,Being wanted, he may be more wondered atBy breaking through the foul and ugly mistsOf vapours that did seem to strangle him.[…]I’ll so offend to make offence a skill,Redeeming time when men think least I will. (1.2. 192-214)

Indeed, at the end, his father tells him: ‘Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion, / And showed thou mak’st some tender of my life, / In this fair rescue thou hast brought to me’ (5.4.46-9).

PRINCE HARRY. I shall hereafter, my thrice-gracious lord, / Be more myself. (3.2.92-3)

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Complicating the morality reading

KING HENRY. I’ll make a voyage to the Holy LandTo wash the blood off from my guilty hand. (Richard II, 5.6.49-50)

KING HENRY. My blood hath been too cold and temperate,Unapt to stir at these indignities,And you have found me; for accordinglyYou tread upon my patience. But be sureI will from henceforth rather be myself,Mighty and to be feared, than my condition,Which hath been smooth as oil, soft as young down,And therefore lost that title of respectWhich the proud soul ne’er pays but to the proud. (1.3.1-9)

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Complicating the morality reading

KING HENRY. And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,And dressed myself in such humilityThat I did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts,Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,Even in the presence of the crowned King.Thus did I keep my person fresh and new,My presence, like a robe pontifical – Ne’er seen but wondered at – and so my state,Seldom but sumptuous, showed like a feastAnd won by rareness such solemnity. (3.2.50-9)

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Hotspur’s morality play

HOTSPUR. Shall it for shame be spoken in these days,Or fill up chronicles in time to come,That men of your nobility and powerDid gage them both in an unjust behalf,As both of you, God pardon it, have done:To put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose,An plant this thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke?And shall it in more shame be further spokenThat you are fooled, discarded and shook offBy him for whom these shames ye underwent?No; yet time serves wherein you may redeemYour banished honours, and restore yourselvesInto the good thoughts of the world again… (1.3.168-80)

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Falstaff as figure of pathos?

KING HENRY V. I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers.How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!I have long dreamt of such a kind of man,So surfeit-swelled, so old and so profane;But being awake, I do despise my dream.Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace.Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gapeFor thee thrice wider than for other men. (Part Two, 5.5.45-52)

Hal verbally (and perhaps literally) ‘kills’ Falstaff by stripping him of his festive timelessness and locating him within (towards the end of) a human lifespan.

Double-meaning of ‘old’: ‘Old Jack Falstaff’ is enduring, established, always renewed, representative of ‘all the world’; ‘old man’ is near death.

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Henry IV as saturnalia?C. L. Barber:

‘The implications of the saturnalian attitude are more drastically and inclusively expressed here than anywhere else, because here misrule is presented along with rule and along with the tensions that challenge rule. Shakespeare dramatizes not only holiday but also the need for holiday and the need to limit holiday.’ (1972: 192)

PRINCE HARRY. If all the year were playing holidays, / To sport would be as tedious as to work (1.2.201-2)

PRINCE HARRY. What, is it a time to jest and dally now? (5.3.55) 

‘My own view… is that the dynamic relation of comedy and serious action is saturnalian rather than satiric, that the misrule works, through the whole dramatic rhythm, to consolidate rule.’ (Barber 1972: 205)

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Henry IV as saturnalia?For Terry Eagleton, carnival is

a licensed affair in every sense, a permissible rupture of hegemony, a contained popular blow-off as disturbing and relatively ineffectual as a revolutionary work of art (1981: 148).

In this version of carnival, argues Baz Kershaw, the prevailing order is strengthened, for at the end of the carnivalesque day the revellers return to a living whose rules are set by the dominant ideologies, with energies dissipated and their sense of the liberality of the regime re-animated. The temporary transgression of a hierarchical normality is a strategy for reinforcing it in the long run. (1992: 73)

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Henry IV as subversive?

Play-acting as means of adopting other identities – and their accompanying world-views…

‘All spectators perceived in this environment that their own identities and moral codes existed in relation to opposites and alternatives. No one mode of organizing experience … had any overriding validity, any fixed hierarchical precedence, within the physical ambit of the playhouse.’ (Wiles 2005: 93)

Everything in relief; mockery not so much invalidation as recontextualisation of a particular set of values?

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Henry IV as subversive?

For Bakhtin, carnival offers something very different: ‘the chance to have a new outlook on the world, to realize the relative nature of all that exists, and to enter a completely new order of things’ (1965: 34).

‘Carnival with all its images, indecencies, and curses affirms the people’s immortal, indestructible character. In the world of carnival the awareness of the people’s immortality is combined with the realization that established authority and truth are relative.’ (Bakhtin 1965: 256)

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ReferencesBakhtin, M. (1965) Rabelais and His World, trans. H. Iswolsky, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Barber, C. L. (1972) Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy: A Study of Form and its Relation to Social Custom, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bristol, M. D. (1983) ‘Carnival and the Institutions of Theatre in Elizabethan England’, ELH, 50: 4, 637-654.

Eagleton, T. (1986) William Shakespeare, London: Basil Blackwell.

Gurr, A. (2002) Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London (2nd ed.), Cambridge: C. U. P.

Kershaw, B. (1992) The Politics of Performance: Radical theatre as cultural intervention, London: Routledge.

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ReferencesLaroque, F. (2002) ‘Popular Festivity’ in Leggatt, A. [ed.] The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy, Cambridge: C. U. P., pp. 64-78.

Palmer, D. J [ed.] (1984) Comedy: Developments in Criticism, London: Macmillan.

Rackin, P. (1991) Stages of History: Shakespeare’s English Chronicles, London: Routledge.

Weimann, R. (1987) Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function, Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wiles, D. (2005) Shakespeare’s Clown: Actor and Text in the Elizabethan Playhouse, Cambridge: C. U. P.