Mourning and Misogyny: Hamlet, The Revenger's Tragedy, and the Final Progress of Elizabeth I, 1600-1607

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Steven Mullaney, University of Michigan


In 1597, André Hurault, Sieur De Maisse and Ambassador Extraordinary from Henri IV, noted that although the English people still professed love for their aging queen, the sentiments of the nobility were such that "the English would never again submit to the rule of a woman."1 There may have been more coincidence between high and low opinion than de Maisse thought. On the evening of Elizabeth's death six years later, the streets of London were lit by festive bonfires and punctuated by cries of "We have a king!"2 The advent of an orderly and Protestant succession does not in itself account for such a celebratory spirit; in fact, it was a significant transformation in the body politic, a reincorporation and regendering of monarchy, that was being heralded. Rather than a seamless transition of power reminding all the populace that the corporate body of the monarch was immortal, unchanging, and unaltered by the demise of a particular sovereign, the death of Elizabeth marked a breach in the body politic as much as a continuation of it, and one that could be figured, at least by some, as a welcome discontinuity. The queen is dead—long live the king.

There were extensive and sincere eulogies, to be sure, heartfelt expressions of grief over the passing of Elizabeth, but during the last years of her reign the "political misogynism of the early years"3 had also resurfaced strongly throughout her court and beyond its confines. It would not take many years of Jacobean rule to complicate the desire for a male sovereign, of course. As Christopher Haigh has noted, an idealized portrait of Elizabeth as a shrewd ruler and capable strategist emerged gradually over the first decade of James's reign, oftentimes in the form of a "coded commentary" on the defects of that reign.4 But the recuperation and even reinvention of such a queen—Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, who had reigned for a remarkable span of forty-five years—seems a more complicated cultural process than Haigh's pragmatic account suggests. It is this process of accommodation and revision, marked as it is by an uncertain economy between mourning and misogyny, that I wish to examine here; I am interested not only in Elizabeth herself but also in the complex and ambivalent affective process that her death allows us to glimpse—a process that might be called mourning under the sign of patriarchy. Indeed, the possibility I wish to entertain is that, for the Renaissance, (male) mourning is sometimes difficult to dissociate from misogyny: that misogyny may in fact be an integral part of the mourning process when the lost object or ideal being processed is a woman, especially but not exclusively when that woman is a queen of England, too.

Human emotions are no more free from historical and cultural construction than are genders or ideologies or gestures; that is to say, emotions and other forms of human affect have a history, or rather histories, since the differences traced by cultural historians, historical psychologists, and anthropologists must be charted along specific cultural, regional, communal, and geopolitical axes as well as temporal ones.5 When dealing with a contemporaneous or "living" culture, however, affective life is relatively accessible: an anthropologist may not only be able to discriminate between a wink and a blink (to use Clifford Geertz's famous example)6 but may also be able to postulate with some success, through interviews with informants, the "structures of feeling" that invest ostensibly common or shared human emotions with cultural difference.7 But when fieldwork is limited to archival interrogations of past cultures, an impassable interpretive aporia is soon reached, such that the analysis of even public and recorded expressions of emotions is difficult and fraught with uncertainty—an uncertainty that increases considerably, needless to say, when one moves from the domain of gestures or externalized behavior to the domain of feeling. For example, we know—thanks in part to Jean de Léry's proto-ethnological account of his voyage to Brazil—that when a sixteenth-century Tupinamba covered his or her face and wept, it was in a ritualized gesture of welcome. But we do not and, in this instance, can never know what emotions were thereby expressed: whether it was joy, or humility, or proleptic sorrow (since any arrival foreshadows departure), or some combination of these and other affective registers that was both felt and conveyed—conveyed, at least, when the party being welcomed was another Tupinamba, well-schooled in his or her own cultural codes, rather than a Frenchman.8

Beyond such general caveats, it should also be noted that both mourning and misogyny, considered individually, pose interpretive challenges specific to late-sixteenth-century English culture. Misogyny presents an interpretive embarrassment of riches: it is everywhere, unabashed in its articulation and so overdetermined in its cultural roots that individual instances sometimes seem emotionally underdetermined, rote and uninflected expressions of what would go without saying if it weren't said so often.9 By contrast, articulated expressions of grief are far less common. Private personal diaries, in which one would expect to find subjective emotional responses recorded, are themselves rare in the period; the expressions of individual grief which do exist can easily strike the modern reader as remote and unfeeling, leading even so astute a student of the past as Lawrence Stone to confuse historical and cultural difference with absence and to declare that major bereavements were not felt as such in the period, since "in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries interpersonal relations were at best cold and at worst hostile."10 For any inquiry into the entanglement or interaction of such forms of affect,11 Elizabeth clearly provides a salutary and strategic methodological focus, as a woman who so fully commanded the political life of the nation and for such an extensive period that she also inscribed herself deeply in the cultural imagination of Renaissance England. The final progress of Elizabeth—the cultural processing of her age, in both senses of that term—was completed long after her funeral procession took place but begun some years before it, when her aging body first announced the proximity of her last days; it was enacted not in the streets of London or in the provinces but in the political unconscious, and to catch a glimpse of it we have to broaden our field of inquiry beyond the traditional resources of political history—journals and letters written before and after the queen's death, or the histories of Greville and Camden—and turn, among other places, to the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage. It has often been remarked that the resurgent political misogyny of Elizabeth's court in the 1590s coincided with a dramatic increase, as it were, of misogyny onstage; in the years after her death, as recent studies have also begun to detail, the popular stage manifested an acute and complex investment in the imaginary reworking and resolution of Elizabeth's reign.12 But my own recourse to the popular theater is not solely motivated by such topical resonances. For anyone concerned, as I am here, with the cultural construction of emotions and other forms of affect, the popular stage represents a unique historical resource, and one whose significance in its own time cannot be limited to the passive role of merely recording or reflecting early modern structures of feeling.

The symbolic economy of English culture (by which I refer not just to official efforts to manage and maintain dominant systems of belief but to the entire repertoire of cultural representations and practices, official and unofficial, that shaped the political, social, and psychological subject and defined his or her place in the cultural hierarchy) underwent a significant and radical transformation in the sixteenth century. The English Reformation itself was hardly a tidy affair, marked as it was by the succession of no less than five official state religions, each claiming the status of unrivaled and absolute truth, and all within the space of a single generation; one of the results was to displace and destabilize the very notion of the orthodox or the absolute, producing a skeptical if not cynical relativism evident, in court records, even among the lower classes.13 During the same period, individuals commanded an increasingly greater access to heterodox ideas and ideologies, aided as they were by the rapid expansion of print culture and by what we think was a slow yet steady rise in literacy. But contemporary fears of an increasingly informed and hence more autonomous subject were focused not only on those who could read, and with good reason; as Tessa Watt has recently reminded us, the boundary between oral and literate cultures in the period was highly permeable, such that ideas and ideologies were disseminated not only by direct and unmediated access to a printed text but also by diverse processes of re-presentation and representation, in official and unofficial forums ranging from the pulpit to the tavern.14 In the case of sixteenth-century London, however, what the debate over literacy obscures is a much more explosive expansion of the symbolic economy—the one produced by the fiercely contested emergence and rapid institutionalization of the popular stage.

The controversy provoked by the popular theater was largely ideological and political rather than aesthetic, and the reasons for this are relatively clear. Public drama was not customarily graced with the status of literature or, less anachronistically, of poesy. More important, in an age when the domain in which knowledge was produced and circulated was still a relatively contained system, any significant expansion of that domain, any significant difference in the degree to which ideas and attitudes could be disseminated, threatened to become a difference in kind as well—to alter the structure of knowledge by redefining its boundaries, to force a transition from a relatively limited and closed symbolic system to a more radically open economy of knowledge and representation. That the emerging institution in question was, at best, quasi-illicit only exacerbated the dilemma of its emergence. Combatted throughout its history by the city, licensed but hardly controlled by the court, the Elizabethan public theater emerged from and appropriated a place within the fissures and contradictions of the cultural landscape;15 although it rapidly became, in Jean Howard's words, "one of the chief ideological apparatuses of Elizabethan society,"16 it was neither the product nor the organ of the state but rather the result of a historically determined collusion between artisanal entrepreneurs and a socially diverse and astoundingly large audience. And unlike other expansions of the discursive domain in the period, literacy was not the price of admission to the theater,17 a fact which gave the stage a currency and accessibility rivaled only by the pulpit, which it threatened to eclipse.

Unlike the pulpit, of course, the stage was an affective rather than a didactic forum; the ideas and ideologies, stories and histories real (whatever that might mean) and imaginary that it made available, and hence appropriable, for a significant portion of the population were also dramatically embodied, and by modes of theatrical representation that were themselves significant departures from English dramatic tradition.18 The shift away from the morality tradition and its abstract personification of statesof-being and toward the particular, discursive, and theatrical embodiment of affective characters demanded and produced new powers of identification, projection, and apprehension in audiences, altering the threshold not only of dramatic representation but also of self-representation, not only of the fictional construction of character but also of the social construction of the self.19 As a forum for the representation, solicitation, shaping, and enacting of affect in various forms, for both the reflection and, I would argue, the reformation of emotions and their economies, the popular stage of early modern England was a unique contemporaneous force. It may well have participated in what many before me, from Weber and Elias to Foucault, have posited as a fundamental reshaping of the political, social, and psychological subject during this period; it certainly served as a prominent affective arena in which significant cultural traumas and highly ambivalent events, such as the death of Elizabeth, could be directly or indirectly addressed, symbolically enacted, and brought to partial and imaginary resolution.

As I noted above, misogyny is generally on the rise in the drama of late Elizabethan and early Jacobean years, but it intersects with mourning in certain plays and genres more fully and forcefully than in others. Revenge tragedy has long been recognized, on the one hand, for the speed with which it becomes virtually synonymous with stage misogyny20 and, on the other, for its generic and sometimes profound investment in recognizably Renaissance processes of mourning—revenge, after all, is the private response to socially unaccommodated grief—but typically mourning and misogyny have been considered in isolation from one another, in separate studies and only insofar as they duplicate Renaissance habits of thought articulated elsewhere, in medical or philosophical discourse. Yet it is in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean revenge tragedy that the aging and posthumous body of Elizabeth is most fully engaged and problematized, in an apprehensive interplay of mourning and misogyny, revisionary desire and aggression, idealization and travesty. Remarking on a process of sovereign incorporation more literal than the psychic one that Freud describes in "Mourning and Melancholia," Hamlet notes that even "a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar" (4.3.30-3l);21 he does so from within a play that infuses a new undercurrent into the subgenre to which it belongs. From 1600 to 1607—from Shakespeare's Hamlet, that is to say, to Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy22—the various bodies of the queen go a progress, if not through the guts of a beggar then through the visceral responses of those slightly better off, who could afford the price of admission to experience, in the popular theater, the very age and body of her time.


In 1600 the Virgin Queen was sixty-eight years old, and contemporaneous accounts of her appearance detail the degree to which she was showing her age. In that same year, however, the Rainbow Portrait was issued, placing in circulation a new image of an unaging and youthful Gloriana. Yet the contradiction between the age inscribed on the queen's body and the highly sexualized aura generated by the cult of Elizabeth over the years and reinvoked in such late portraits was more complexly wrought than any distinction between reality and image can encompass; presenting or representing her body—"showing her age," to recall my own colloquial expression in a fuller register—necessitated a full and overdetermined embodiment of this sovereign contradiction. Although prospects of childbearing and marriage were long past and a Protestant successor was waiting in the wings, the aging of Elizabeth during the last decade of her reign was still a highly fraught political, physical, and symbolic issue, as she herself well knew.

"I think not to die so soon," Elizabeth told the French ambassador in 1597, " … and am not so old as they think."23 De Maisse had already recorded, in journal entries from previous audiences, some of Elizabeth's efforts to counter what "they think," to embody in her age an alluring and captivating appeal:

She was strangely attired in a dress of silver cloth, white and crimson. … She kept the front of her dress open, and one could see the whole of her bosom [gorge], and passing low, and often she would open the front of this robe with her hands as if she was too hot. … Her bosom [or throat; gorge]24 is somewhat wrinkled as well as {one can see for} the collar that she wears round her neck [col], but lower down her flesh is exceeding white and delicate, so far as one could see.

As for her face, it is and appears to be very aged. It is long and thin, and her teeth are very yellow and unequal, compared with what they were formerly. … Many of them are missing so that one cannot understand her easily when she speaks quickly. Her figure is fair and tall and graceful in whatever she does. … 25

The queen's behavior was apparently not exceptional; in an entry that records a subsequent audience de Maisse tells us

[S]he was clad in a dress of black taffeta. … She had a petticoat of white damask, girdled, and open in front, as was also her chemise, in such a manner that she often opened this dress and one could see all her belly, and even to her navel [tout l'estomac jusques au nombril] 26 … When she raises her head she has a trick of putting both hands on her gown and opening it insomuch that all her belly can be seen.27

As Louis Montrose has noted in detail, Elizabeth's display of her bosom was a complex register of cultural and sumptuary symbolism, signifying her status as a maiden and as a nurturing and bountiful mother, a "virgin-mother—part Madonna, part Ephesian Diana," whose "conspicuous self-displays were also a kind of erotic provocation."28 In private the signs of age in the queen's face were apparently left unobscured by cosmetics, heightening the incongruity between advanced age ("her face … is … very aged … long and thin") and the exposed bosom of a maiden ("lower down her flesh is exceeding white and delicate"). In the public domain this incongruity was lessened and mystified to a certain degree by the circulation of painted images of the unaging sovereign body, but even here the line between image and reality, idealized portrait and the physical lineaments of age, is difficult to draw. Anthony Rivers, a Jesuit priest, reported that at Christmas celebrations in 1600, Elizabeth was painted "in some places near half an inch thick."29 The queen was painted on canvases more than one; she was herself one of those canvases, a painted image no less than the Rainbow Portrait was.

Of course few outside the court saw either the Rainbow Portrait or the queen's holiday face, but it would be a mistake to conclude from this that Elizabeth's erotic displays and painted selves were either inconsequential or mere vanity, given all that was at stake in the sovereign aura. They were efforts to imbue the aging natural body of the monarch with the ageless aura of the body politic, which, as Marie Axton notes, "was supposed to be contained within the natural body of the Queen."30 Elizabeth's attempt to reinvest her final years with the erotic dynamics of courtship and desire—with the dynamics of Petrarchan romance that had so fully informed her earlier reign31—was an effort to close the gap or internal fissure that was, in the 1590s, increasingly apparent between the queen's two bodies. It was an ambivalent enterprise at best, especially where cosmetic portraiture or face-painting was concerned, as Thomas Tuke's "Treatise against Painting" makes clear. According to Tuke, the painted woman, like the monarch, has two bodies; but the painted woman is an idolatrous and even curiously transvestite parody of the incorporated monarchical body, one that violates categories of gender and grammar as well as prerogatives of divine creation:

She is a creature that has need to be twice defined. … [T]hough she be the creature of God, as she is a woman, yet is she her own creatress, as a picture. Indeed a plain woman is but half a painted woman, who is both a substantive and an adjective, and yet not of the neuter gender: but a feminine as well consorting with a masculine, as ivy with an ash.32

Tuke and other commentators also describe the poisonous effects of the mercury-based cosmetics used in the period; as Laurie A. Finke has noted, such descriptions serve as both medical warnings and ideologically potent metaphorical images, vividly registering "all the horrors, both visual and olfactory, of [a] putrefying corpse."33 In such treatises a cosmetically enhanced visage figures as a sign not of sexual allure but of the skull beneath the skin—or rather, sexual allure and the skull are combined in a conundrum that is the aging female body, for in a period that linguistically coded sexual climax as a form of death, "dying" the face introduces a third register to the common Renaissance pun. The painted lady does not disguise death or obscure the skull beneath her painted flesh; she is a memento mori herself, without need of demystification.

Even aside from the necessity to paint "near half an inch thick," however, the erotic dynamics of Elizabethan rule had always entailed a certain ambivalence and danger, involving as they did the construction of an ambiguous desire for the queen, not as monarch but as woman. An incident in 1600 documents Elizabeth's continuing success, even in her later years, in thus constructing her success' desires, and illustrates some of the danger involved as well. On 3 June of that year, Elizabeth's secretary, William Waad, wrote to Cecil concerning the antic disposition of one Abraham Edwardes, a "Kentish man born, and … a mariner," who first came to Waad's attention when he sent "so passionate a letter to her Majesty" and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned "for drawing his dagger in the presence chamber." Rather than charging Edwardes with attempted regicide, Waad counselled his removal to Bedlam Hospital, noting that "the fellow is greatly distracted, and seems rather to be transported with a humour of love, than any purpose to attempt anything against her Majesty."34

Waad provides a curiously one-dimensional, even proto-Freudian interpretation of the scene. Edwardes's display of love in the form of a drawn dagger seems at least to combine sexual and other potential forms of physical aggression and violence; whatever the case, his act was in itself a violation of the queen's presence, and one that is tempting to relate to Hamlet's audience with another queen, when he needs to remind himself to use verbal rather than physical violence in Gertrude's chamber: "I will speak daggers to her, but use none" (3.2.387). It is relatively certain that some version of Hamlet was being presented onstage by 1600, and the play may have made its first appearance as early as 1598 or 1599, so topical allusion in the usual sense of the phrase is not at issue. Juxtaposed with Hamlet's royal audience, however, Edwardes's "humour of love" does allow us to see the queen—Elizabeth or Gertrude—through period eyes, shifting critical focus from the long-romanticized melancholy of the Dane to the aging yet erotic body of the queen, and in a manner that supplements recent suggestions that Hamlet is a play keenly aware of its late Elizabethan status, in which the impending transfer of power "from one monarch to another had to be rethought in view of the aging body of the queen."35


Cecil seems to have adhered to Waad's advice: Abraham Edwardes was not prosecuted as an attempted regicide, despite appearances and the ease with which a case against him could have been made, but was instead confined as an antic lover, overly receptive to the queen's graces. Hamlet may serve to condition our surprise at such peculiar and lenient treatment. In the play Hamlet's own role as an antic lover is debunked rather than confirmed by the crown, but regicide is similarly displaced from his and our attention by the eroticized and aging figure of the queen. Mourning for a dead king, even revenge, is displaced or at least overlaid and complicated by misogyny toward a queen who is too vital, whose sexuality transgresses both her age and her brief tenure as widow.

Hamlet's first appearance onstage sets the pattern. Isolated by the mourning clothes he refuses to abandon and more aggressively distanced from the court by his barbed comments and asides (and perhaps by his stage position as well),36 Hamlet styles his grief as that which "passes show":

Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not 'seems'.
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc'd breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,

That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play;
But I have that within which passes show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

What you see is what you get: surface and depth, appearance and reality, stage posture and being coincide and cohere fully in a proclamation of sincerity that marks all around him as theatrical dissemblers. When alone onstage, however, Hamlet immediately reveals that all is not as it seems:37

Fie on't, ah fie, 'tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead—nay, not so much, not

Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet within a month—
Let me not think on't—Frailty, thy name is
  woman. …
                                       (11. 135-46)

Grief over his father's death is overlaid and supplanted by obsessive disgust over what has failed to die, here figured as the unweeded garden of Gertrude's sexual appetite, the incestuous "dexterity" of the queen (1. 157) which indeed occupies the core of Hamlet's being and "denote[s him] truly," as a generalized sign of the bestial inconstancy of all womankind. Like son, like father: at the first mention of his "seeming-virtuous queen," the Ghost forgets his purpose and digresses upon Gertrude's lust and lewdness, her taste for "garbage"; and it is only the morning air that reminds him that his time is short, and that he has yet to inform Hamlet of the details of Claudius's crime. The vengeful charge of the Ghost itself focuses not on the past crime of regicide but on the ongoing sexual transgression: "Let not the royal bed of Denmark be / A couch for luxury and damned incest" (1.5.82-83). Even in the later Mousetrap scene, Claudius is hardly the observed of all observers; throughout the Player Queen and King's prologue, Hamlet's attention is for Gertrude alone, this part of the Mousetrap functioning clearly to catch the conscience not of the king but of the queen.

This obsessive concern with Gertrude is hardly news; a long history of oedipal readings begins here, typically effacing the sovereign cast of Hamlet's obsessive misogyny—Gertrude as queen—by an exclusive focus on the domestic scene, viewing the play as one more family romance—Gertrude as mother—only incidentally staged in terms of state hierarchies and monarchical sexuality. Performances governed by this critical tradition often portray Gertrude as a young queen, sometimes played by an actress who is, if anything, younger than the actor playing Hamlet. Quite recently, however, critics have suggested that the aging widowed queen of the play resonates strongly with the aging virgin queen on the throne. As Peter Erickson has remarked, "Gertrude represents the convergence of three issues—sexuality, aging … , and succession—that produced a sense of contradiction, even breakdown, in the cult of Elizabeth in the final years of her reign. … The latent cultural fantasy in Hamlet is that Queen Gertrude functions as a degraded figure of Queen Elizabeth."38 What I earlier called the conundrum of the aging female body, with its overdetermined registers of sexuality and death, unites the two monarchs. Aspects of the two that might seem to distinguish them—Gertrude's status, for example, as both widow and mother—also contribute to the association of royal bodies when viewed in a sixteenth-century context. Elizabeth styled herself, of course, as the sovereign mother of her subjects; she also presided over a period in which widows occupied an increasingly anomalous and threatening position, whether they remarried or remained single. As independent yet marriageable women, they recovered the one position of power available to most women in early modern patriarchal society—the social space on the threshold of marital alliance which Elizabeth had occupied so masterfully throughout her reign-but this time without parental strictures and often with enhanced economic power as well, derived from the estates inherited from their husbands. Remarriage might seem to resolve the threat posed by female independence, bringing the woman back into the fold of patriarchal hegemony, but, as Barbara J. Todd has demonstrated, in the later part of the sixteenth century the reverse was true: remarriage raised fears of greater independence, and of a kind where economic and sexual hierarchies are difficult to disentangle. After about 1570, wills began to restrict widows' access to inherited estates if they remarried, and the economic grounds for such restrictions are often overlaid with sexual anxieties. "The remarriage of any widow," as Todd puts it, "confronted every man with the threatening prospect of his own death and the entry of another into his place."39

Gertrude's transgression is not merely against her first husband, however. What distracts Hamlet from his almost blunted purpose is Gertrude's aging sexuality, conceived at times as a contradiction in terms, at times as a violation of her own body akin in its unnaturalness to a rebellion in the body politic: hers is a passion that "canst mutine in a matron's bones" (3.4.83), at once unimaginable and yet impossible not to imagine and visualize in graphic detail. At her age the queen's sovereignty should extend to and rule over such desires—"You cannot call it love; for at your age / The heyday in the blood is tame" (11. 68-69)—and if not, such passion is a mutineer, a traitor, a figure of "rebellious hell." The heyday in Gertrude's blood can be denigrated but cannot be exorcised from Hamlet's mind or her matron's bones or her chamber, where she lives "In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, / Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love / Over the nasty sty!" (11. 92-94).

Where modern productions sometimes efface the transgression of aging sexuality, the stage apparatus of the Elizabethan theater would have necessarily heightened the incongruity and contradiction embodied in Gertrude's figure. Gertrude is verbally inscribed with a sexuality that, according to Hamlet, transgresses the sovereign and aging body of the queen; onstage such a transgression would have been at once refigured and reproduced as a contradiction between the object and means of theatrical representation, the aging but sexually marked discursive body of the queen given its theatrical embodiment not by means of verisimilitude but by means of a homologous, highly sexualized contradiction of a different order.40 On the Elizabethan stage the skull beneath the painted skin, the mutineer in the matron's bones, would be represented not by an aging actress but by a boy, whose sexual register onstage and in the acting company was also ambivalently marked, differently but equally overdetermined, and to a considerable extent indecipherable from our own historical vantage point.41

According to Freud, melancholy is produced by an incapacity to acknowledge or properly mourn death; distinguishing between Freud's nearly synonymous use of the terms incorporation and introjection to describe the mourning process, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok have defined incorporation as the sign of this interminable mourning.42 The temporizing process of incorporation intervenes, as Jacques Derrida explains, whenever introjection is blocked or fails for whatever reason:

Sealing the loss of the object, but also marking the refusal to mourn, such a maneuver is foreign to and actually opposed to the process of introjection. I pretend to keep the dead alive, intact, safe (save) inside me, but it is only in order to refuse, in a necessarily equivocal way, to love the dead as a living part of me, dead save in me, through the process of introjection, as happens in so-called normal mourning.43

Even if we accept such terms as relevant for other times and cultures—and some such distinction between resolved and irresolvable mourning does seem valid, whether for a play like Hamlet or for even more distant cultural contexts—we must still historicize them. For example, English culture in the last half of the sixteenth century witnessed an intense Protestant campaign against both the expression of grief and the expression of comfort or condolence toward those in mourning. As G. W. Pigman has shown, sixteenth-century treatises on mourning regard grief as a sign of "irrationality, weakness, inadequate self-control, and impiety"44—the latter succinctly registered in Jonson's "Of Death":

He that feares death, or mournes it, in the iust,
Shewes of the resurrection little trust.45

Manuals on grief and bereavement counseled angry remonstration against the bereaved rather than sympathy or comfort, producing an ideologically charged cultural climate whose ramifications are difficult to determine with any rigor but which should at least condition modern critical responses to the maimed rites of mourning in a play such as Hamlet.46 The degree to which such strictures affected how people felt grief in the period is of course uncertain; for a brief period of time, however, they clearly altered the decorum of bereavement, casting a moralizing and religiously charged pall over traditionally available expressions of grief, whether public rites or private rituals and practices. The result for Elizabethan England may well have been a higher ratio of socially induced melancholy, in Abraham and Torok's revised sense of that term, fostering a psychic culture of incorporation rather than introjection.47

Hamlet's melancholy, however, is of an entirely different order: produced as much by Gertrude's sexual vitality as by his father's death, it is the result not of an interminable or encrypted mourning but of a "prevented" mourning in the rhetorical sense of the ter—a mourning before the fact, over a vitality that one wants to be or imagines or finally produces as past and dead. It is an all-too-fully proleptic mourning,48 and misogyny is the sign of this prolepsis: a response to what should be dead but isn't, an aggressive and often counter-productive effort to resolve this dilemma. What is sexually vital in the aging queen becomes variously figured as its opposite, a sign of death. The Player Queen presents one aspect of this sign, and in doing so clarifies the degree to which Gertrude's sexual desire and behavior do not merely distract Hamlet from his ostensible object of mourning—the former king—but are fully folded into it as an emblem of death to the male order of state and marital hierarchies. "A second time I kill my husband dead, / When second husband kisses me in bed" (3.2.179-80). Twice in the play, Hamlet himself configures signs of female sexuality-in-age as memento mori, registering not vitality but corruption and death. To Ophelia, whose youth presumably belies the need for cosmetics, he castigates painted women as transgressive and presumptuous usurpers of divine creation ("God hath given you one face and you make yourselves another" [3.1.144-46]); in the graveyard scene Yorick's skull prompts not a reflection on human or even male mortality but a triumphant reading and declaration of female mortality: "Now get you to my lady's chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come" (5.1.186-89).

Although a commonplace of Renaissance misogyny, Hamlet's move from Yorick's skull to that of the painted lady is also a great deal more. It is the last instance of the pattern I briefly outlined earlier, in which an obsessive misogyny displaces or supplants grief over a male figure, and as such it marks a significant moment in the gynophobia of the play. After this moment Gertrude is no longer vilified and villainized for her sexual transgression but is instead represented as the victim of Claudius's pandering lust:

He that hath kill'd my king and whor'd my

Popp'd in between th'election and my hopes,
Thrown out his angle for my proper life …
                          (5.2.64-66; my emphasis)

The change is a dramatic one: grammatical object rather than subject, victim rather than sexually transgressive agent, Gertrude no longer precipitates a misogynistic digression; she is no longer the source of obsessive concern that displaces revenge but instead has become one among several motives for revenge. This is not, it should be noted, the only difference in the Hamlet we encounter in Act 5; he reveals a new and calm assurance in the working of divine providence as well, a transformation that has sometimes been ascribed to what happens offstage, characterized as a sea-change produced by the fortuitous events onboard the ship bound for England. The muting of misogyny cannot be so ascribed, but may be located in the graveyard scene itself.

Why should the proleptic death of "my lady," Hamlet's or Shakespeare's painted queen, be figured into a moment of mourning for a court jester? What partial resolution of misogyny is enacted by such a complex and composite figure? In a play where mourning is characteristically prolonged or disrupted by prematurely foreshortened or "maimed" rites, Hamlet's encounter with Yorick's skull provides a subtle if economical glimpse of successful mourning in action, of what Abraham and Torok define as introjection rather than incorporation. Hamlet's caustic and easy cynicism over the leveling effect of death earlier in the scene, when the bones tossed up by the gravedigger are anonymous, ceases when Yorick's skull surfaces and is named. The thing Hamlet holds in his hand recalls and makes present in his mind the living figure, the vital memory from his childhood, even though the two Yoricks register at first as sheer contradiction, and what is alive in memory and imagination seems reduced to this, the decayed skull, in a moment of visceral revulsion:

Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a thousand times, and now—how abhorred in my imagination it is. My gorge rises at it.


Successful mourning requires a resolution of the contradiction between what is still vital in the memory and what is dead; rather than deny or avoid the contradiction, Hamlet heightens it by projecting the living memory onto the skull, lips onto the death's head, and exacerbates his revulsion by planting an imaginary (recollected) kill on the grotesque, composite overlay. He then shifts from commentary to direct address:

Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chop-fallen?

(11. 183-86)

The Yorick in Hamlet's mind would have mocked his own death, even his own death's head; that was, after all, his profession. The Yorick in Hamlet's hand is somber, serious, "grinning" but "quite chop-fallen." The moment of direct address, however, is also the moment of full introjection of that which is vital, making the living memory not only a part of Hamlet but also the part he now plays, literally in the face of death; the memory is made present not only in mind but also in body and behavior, embodied and given voice and new life onstage, as Hamlet becomes Yorick, the jester mocking his own grinning.

Why such a moment is interrupted by Hamlet's final piece of misogyny, and with such a satisfied and resolute tone, is unclear unless we press the peculiarities of the scene further. The exhumation of Yorick's skull is accompanied by a curious exhumation of the past as well, a precise but perplexing concatenation of dates—not only the odd concurrence of Hamlet's birth, Fortinbras senior's death, and the sexton's entrance into his profession but also the number of years Yorick has lain in the grave—that has drawn critical attention largely because it identifies Hamlet as thirty years of age, and we all want him to be younger than that. But Hamlet's present age is hardly the final equation the scene produces; Yorick's tenure in the grave, twenty-three years, dates instead a specific moment in the past, Hamlet's age when Yorick died, and it is hardly an insignificant number. Seven was not only the canonical age of reason. In the Renaissance it was also the age of transition from childhood to youth, and from a culturally ungendered to a culturally gendered world: it was the breeching age, when the smocks in which children of both sexes were dressed gave way to gender-specific clothing, and boys were passed "out of the hands of women" and into "the hands of men."49 The reference is highly veiled, to say the least, enough so as to raise suspicions of an overly imaginative critical ingenuity at work—were it not for the fact that, a decade later, The Winter's Tale repeats and confirms this aspect of Shakespeare's gestational lexicon:

Looking on the lines
Of my boy's face, methoughts I did recoil
Twenty-three years, and saw myself unbreech'd
In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled,
Lest it should bite its master, and so prove
(As [ornament] oft does) too dangerous.

Hamlet is not the only Shakespearean male who, in a moment of sexual and gender crisis, looks back to recall himself unbreeched. Here the speaker is Leontes, already in the throes of his developing jealousy, and he reproduces the chronology exactly: he too recoils exactly twenty-three years to remember an early modern version of a pre-oedipal phase.

If the confrontation with Yorick's skull produces the one clear instance of successful mourning in the play, then more than Yorick's death is being mourned. What Hamlet holds in his hand is no mere memento mori; it is also, perhaps preeminently, a memento of passage into the world that he, like Leontes, is now dismayed by.51 Passage into the gendered world of sexuality, the world the aging queen refuses to pass beyond, is also being mourned and perhaps even effaced for the moment, when Hamlet returns to Yorick's time and finds there a world where his own gendered identity has not yet been produced, so that signs of adult sexuality—especially in women—can be misrecognized, transvalued, and even laid to rest. "[L]et her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come. Make her laugh at that" (5.1.187-89).

Recently Judith Butler has suggested that Freud's account of the formation of gender identity in The Ego and the Id needs to be read alongside his comments on melancholy. Freudian gender identity, according to Butler, is itself a melancholic structure formed around a taboo against homosexuality which precedes the heterosexual incest taboo:

Gender identification is a kind of melancholia in which the sex of the prohibited object is internalized as a prohibition. … If the melancholic answer to the loss of the same-sexed object is to incorporate and, indeed, to become that object through the construction of the ego ideal, then gender identity appears primarily to be the internalization of a prohibition that proves to be formative of identity.52

For the Victorian age and its aftermath—the period responsible for the invention of homosexuality and its taboo—Butler's revisionary reading is both apt and brilliant." But we are only beginning to recover some sense of earlier economies of sexual practices and cultural prohibitions, and we know next to nothing about the psychological strictures of early childhood in the Renaissance. Despite the fact that its psychological resonances are lost to us, however, the rite of passage known as the breeching age may well have constituted a significant moment of gender formation, analogous—at least insofar as it marks a transition into a more rigidly gendered world—to Butler's melancholic structure. Historically specific, officially and culturally inscribed, the breeching age would have represented a moment crucial not to the early or primary formation of the psychological subject (whatever that might mean in the early modern period) but to the gendered codification of the cultural and political subject. For boys and girls it meant the adoption of gendered clothing; for boys, unlike girls, it meant passing "out of the hands of women" and into "the hands of men": moving out of a period when full dependency upon women was culturally maintained as the norm and into male and patriarchal adulthood.

Historically speaking, the more rigidly hierarchical the system of patriarchy, the more rabid and chronic are its expressions of misogyny. They are of course more fully, explicitly, and officially licensed, but the reasons are structural as well. The patriarchal hierarchy of early modern England was grounded in an explicit and officially promulgated ideology of male supremacy and autonomy. As Janet Adelman has recently shown, however, such autonomy was everywhere contradicted by inescapable and everyday signs of male dependency on women;54 some of the more virulent outbreaks of misogyny in the Renaissance are aggressive expressions of this contradiction, and I would include here the affective conflation of mourning and misogyny I have been tracing. In some respects such a conflation should not surprise us. Rage or anger are common components of grief in many cultures,55 most often directed toward the deceased when the survivor's dependence on that figure is greatest—and most virulent when such dependency is itself a source of ambivalence. In a rigidly hierarchical patriarchy like Renaissance England, the death of an influential woman (whether proleptically or posthumously mourned) would mark the fullest encounter with such ambivalence, when male autonomy would be exposed, in grief itself, as male dependency—as one of the fundamental contradictions of patriarchal society.

If Hamlet could indeed regress beyond the breeching age he would resolve the contradiction, but only by abandoning the patriarchal mystifications of male autonomy and by embracing full dependency upon women. Other than for a brief moment of imaginary resolution, of course, such a regression is impossible. In the scene that follows his encounter with Yorick's skull, Hamlet does indeed embrace his own dependency in an unprecedented and surprising manner, placing his fate in the hands of a special providence, but the divinity that shapes his end is the Christian god, the ultimate patriarch. Like other Shakespearean males, Hamlet achieves a partial if suicidal resolution of the contradictions of patriarchy by constructing a world that is not so much ungendered as free from gender differentiation—a world that is all male.56


"That woman is all male," Vindice declares in The Revenger's Tragedy "whom none can enter" (2.1.111).57 Elizabeth, of course, styled herself as a bit of both, acknowledging that she had "the body of a weak and feeble woman, but … the heart and stomach of a king";58 after her death, however, Cecil would complain that she had been "more than a man, and, in troth, sometime less than a woman,"59 and Ben Jonson would ascribe her lifelong status as the Virgin Queen to a membrane so tough that no man could, indeed, enter her.60 Elsewhere in The Revenger's Tragedy, the Elizabethan register of misogyny is less veiled. An encyclopedic compendium of motifs, roles, and plots from the revenge tradition—enough so that modern editors may be wrong to punctuate the title as a singular possessive—the play also serves as a dramatized interpretation of the Elizabethan undertones I have been tracing in Hamlet, making explicit and clarifying the degree to which the partially resolved cycles of mourning and misogyny in the earlier play functioned as a processing of Elizabeth herself, the aging sexuality of the Virgin Queen recast in the degraded figure of the sovereign and remarried widow.

The play opens, as it were, in the graveyard scene of Hamlet: a long-delayed revenger stands onstage, musing on mortality and his own grief, a skull in his hand. Al-though Vindice too has lost a father and blames the lecherous Duke for that death as well, the current object of his mourning and motive for revenge, inexplicably put off for some nine years, is a woman who out of love for him spurned the Duke's advances and was poisoned for her refusal. Hers is in fact the skull that he holds, although he will withhold the name until the opportune moment. Vindice begins by addressing this as-yet-anonymous skull as an icon of the purity and chastity his lover died to preserve, but it quickly becomes a curiously ambivalent icon for contemplation, meditation, and revenge. Viewing the "ragged imperfections" and "unsightly rings" of the skull, Vindice recalls and imaginatively reinvests the "face / So far beyond the artificial shine / Of any woman's bought complexion" (1.1.20-22), but the dichotomy between true and painted beauty, the chaste virgin and (all other) cosmetically enhanced sirens, does not hold for long. Seeking terms appropriate for praising her chaste beauty and beautiful chastity, Vindice cannot master such culturally charged oxymorons without recasting them as contradictions. So beautiful was she, he continues as if in praise, that she could do what painted beauties could not: provoke desire in men otherwise inaccessible to sexual allure, so that

… the uprightest man (if such there be,
That sin but seven times a day) broke custom
And made up eight with looking after her;
O she was able to ha' made a usurer's son
Melt all his patrimony in a kiss.
                                         (11. 23-27)

As Peter Stallybrass has noted, Vindice's praise undoes and contradicts itself in the process of enunciation, finally making it clear that it is only in death that she is truly "beyond the artificial shine," only as a skull that her "memory [can] be reconstituted outside the realm of bought complexions."61 Clear to us, at any rate, for one of the remarkable aspects of this opening speech is its unbroken air of praise, as if Vindice at this point were entirely deaf to the entanglements of his own mourning and misogyny.

Such deafness is especially striking in Vindice, who can easily make Hamlet sound like a proto-feminist. Women in general he defines as intrinsically permeable bodies, subject to what might be called a fully recursive incontinence: they let everything in (that woman is all male—i.e., no woman at all—whom none can enter) and they let everything out. Women's bodies and hence their characters are commonly described as "leaky vessels" in the period, as Gail Kern Paster has shown,62 but Vindice brings to this commonplace a freshness verging on obscenity at one point in the play when, disguised as a mercenary malcontent, he offers to procure his own sister for the Duke's son Lussurioso (presumably the only way to gain the inner circle at court). Asked simply if he knows how to keep a secret, Vindice responds:

                                 My lord!
Secret? I ne'er had that disease o'th' mother,
I praise my father. Why are men made close
But to keep thoughts in best? I grant you this,
Tell but some woman a secret over night,
Your doctor may find it in the urinal i'th'

Modern editors are particularly chary in their glosses on these lines, reluctant to articulate Vindice's gross economy of tongue and genitalia, seeds planted in the ear and elsewhere, in a leaky vessel that cannot help but "piss away" whatever is sécreted (or secréted) within it.

When the skull returns to the stage in Act 3, Vindice has applied cosmetics to it and supplied it with a shawl; his "chaste lover" is thus costumed as a whore, her death's grin smeared with poison, for the pièce de résistance of Vindice's revenge will be to let the Duke be undone by his own lust, visited upon the courtesan Vindice has promised to supply him. Fully reconstituted in the realm of bought complexions, his lover can also now be named: she proves to be none other than Gloriana, the namesake of Elizabeth's idealized royal persona. In 1607, of course, Middleton could afford a more explicit topicality; Elizabeth had been dead for some four years, and her absence from the throne allowed for more license in theatrical representation, supplying Middleton an objective correlative not so much lacking as politically unavailable in Shakespeare's play. It is in this scene that Vindice most strongly recalls Hamlet in the graveyard, but where Hamlet reinvested Yorick with flesh in his imagination—"Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft"—Vindice literalizes this process to produce a theatrically viable spectacle:

             Here's an eye,
Able to tempt a great man—to serve God;
A pretty hanging lip, that has forgot now to
Methinks this mouth should make a swearer
  tremble. …

Within the confines of the play, making his chaste lover the vehicle of her own revenge means subjecting her to the fate she died to avoid: she is the painted lady, the courtesan, the whore; unlike Hamlet's imagined and recollected kiss, hers will be literalized, the kiss she refused the Duke in life will be granted him in death, with Vindice playing the panderer. The ideal lover and the painted lady are one, and both are revealed to be fully male constructions: I will paint her an inch thick, for she was always destined to come to this. Vindice himself paints the woman—whether an inch, or half an inch thick—who in life was beyond the artificial shine, and his mourning for her now resolves itself into a quite conscious misogynistic regard:

And now methinks I could e'en chide myself
For doting on her beauty, though her death
Shall be reveng'd after no common action.—
Does the silkworm expend her yellow labors
For thee? for thee does she undo herself?
Are lordships sold to maintain ladyships
For the poor benefit of a bewitching minute?

Vindice's revenge of his dead lover has become a literal travesty of her chastity, a revenge enacted upon her in the name of mourning.

As the skull of Gloriana, the travesty extends to Elizabeth as well. During her reign, however, Elizabeth was the primary actor in the cult of Gloriana and actively appropriated Petrarchan poetics to construct the desire of her subjects. Vindice's travesty turns those poetics upon the memory of Elizabeth in a radical sense, returning her to the traditional status of the Petrarchan lady by making her so fully the object rather than the actor or subject of male desire. Gloriana is a "property" (3.5.100), a stage prop; not even the overdetermined sexuality of the boy-actor can peep through this representation of sovereign sexuality fully mastered and fully violated. The violation may not be the final act in the long process of misogynistic mourning for Elizabeth, but it is arguably a climactic one; the only good woman may be a dead woman in Hamlet, but The Revenger's Tragedy does not even offer this posthumous recovery. In the travesty of Gloriana, the dead queen is proved "all woman" at last, not only entered by the duke's tongue as he kisses her "like a slobbering Dutchman" (1. 62) but also possessed and mastered by Vindice, who thus proves himself all male, not at all dependent upon or in the hands of women.

But this resolution of one of patriarchy's fundamental contradictions, through such an extreme reassertion of gender difference, cannot hold either. In most revenge plays the revenger's actions gradually obscure the difference between themselves and the typically lecherous murderers they oppose, and Vindice follows suit in this regard, announcing at the end of the play that there is "one enemy left alive. … ' Tis time to die, when we are ourselves our foes" (5.3.107-8). First, however, he undoes himself by undoing the sheer differentiation between the closed body and world of men and the porous and leaky realm of womankind. At play's end he has not only succeeded in his revenge on the Duke but has also managed to produce the deaths of all the Duke's sons and much of the court as well, and has managed to make it look as though they slaughtered one another. The Duke's death has remained a mystery, but here Vindice cannot keep his mouth shut; proud of his accomplishments, he cannot keep his own secret and even squeals on his brother and sometime accomplice as well:

'Twas somewhat witty carried though we say it:
'Twas we two murder'd him.
                                                (11. 96-97)

Although one of the people avenged by Vindice in the course of the play was the wife of the good lord Antonio, who killed herself after being raped by the Duke's youngest son, the good lord summarily orders both brothers carted off for execution. Vindice ends the play as the leaky vessel he thought to distinguish himself from, dribbling away his secret, his carefully constructed maleness, and his life.

Such a dénouement is so uncharacteristic of theatrical misogyny in the period and so explicit that it allows one to entertain, at least, the possibility that Middleton conceived this play with all its excesses not as yet another, and in many ways culminating, instance of stage misogyny but as a critique and critical examination of the tradition. Even so, the elaborate travesty of Gloriana remains one of the few things not undone in the process. Other heads brought on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage register a visual pun, recalling the scaffold of execution by overlaying it upon the scaffold of theatrical representation; Middleton achieves an overlaid meaning no less spectacular but of a different order, by making Vindice so fully possess the skull of Gloriana—the maidenhead, according to the implicit logic of his pun, of the Virgin Queen herself.


1A journal of all that was accomplished by Monsieur de Maisse Ambassador in England from King Henri IV to Queen Elizabeth Anno Domini 1597, trans, and ed. G. B. Harrison and R. A. Jones (London, 1931), 12.

2 Quoted from Christopher Haigh, Elizabeth I (London, 1988), 162.

3 Haigh, 166.

4 Haigh, 167.

5 On the history and culturally specific construction of emotion, see especially Norbert Elias, The History of Manners (1939), Volume 1 of The Civilizing Process, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York, 1978); Michelle Z. Rosaldo, "Toward an anthropology of self and feeling" in Culture theory: essays on mind, self and emotion, Richard A. Shweder and Robert A. Levine, eds. (Cambridge, 1984), 137-57; Catherine A. Lutz, Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll & Their Challenge to Western Theory (Chicago and London, 1988); and Emotion and Social Change: Toward a New Psychohistory, Carol Z. Stearns and Peter N. Stearns, eds. (New York and London, 1988). I have also benefited immensely from discussions with Michael MacDonald on this topic, and from his own study of Protestant despair, titled "The Fearefull Estate of Francis Spira: Narrative, Identity, and Emotion in Early Modern England," Journal of British Studies 31 (1992): 32-61.

6 "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture" in The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), 3-30, esp. 6-7.

7 See, for example, Renato I. Rosaldo, "Grief and a Headhunter's Rage: On the Cultural Force of Emotions" in Text, Play, and Story: The Construction and Reconstruction of Self and Society, Edward M. Bruner, ed. (Washington, 1984), 178-95. I have borrowed the phrase "structures of feeling" from Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford, 1977), 128-35.

8 On the Tupinamba greeting, see Jean de Léry, History of a Voyage … , trans. Janet Whatley (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1989), 164.

9 For historical approaches to misogyny, see Katharine M. Rogers, The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature (Seattle, WA, 1966); and R. Howard Bloch, Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love (Chicago, 1991). In a powerful recent essay, Valerie Wayne analyzes Renaissance misogynies as forms of "residual" ideology: oftentimes embodied in a single character who is criticized or denigrated by others, misogynistic discourse is superficially called into question at the same time it is kept alive and put to use by the dominant culture; see "Historical Differences: Misogyny and Othello" in The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, Valerie Wayne, ed. (Ithaca, NY, 1991), 153-80.

10The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (New York, 1977), 99. Although in other respects Stone's theory of the rise of "affective individualism" illuminates useful and suggestive ground, in the case of bereavement it only resembles a genuine history of emotion, amounting in fact to a progressive history of the present: if the past didn't feel or express itself as we do, then it must not have felt at all. For historians' critiques of Stone, see reviews by Keith Thomas, Times Literary Supplement (21 October 1977): 1227; Christopher Hill, "Sex, Marriage, and the Family in England," Economic History Review 31 (1978): 450-63, esp. 462; and David S. Berkowitz, Renaissance Quarterly 32 (1979): 396-405. Michael MacDonald also addresses the shortcomings of Stone's view when he chronicles the prevalence of bereavement among Napier's patients in Mystical Bedlam: Madness, Anxiety, and Healing in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1981), 77-78 and 103-4.

11 Juliana Schiesari examines melancholia, grief, and misogyny in The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca, NY, and London, 1992). In her otherwise excellent study, however, she tends to treat melancholia and mourning as if they were relatively synonymous and interchangeable terms in the sixteenth century. In addition, she fails to note that grief, in terms of both feeling and expression, was an emotion of some controversy in English Protestantism. As G. W. Pigman has shown in Grief and English Renaissance Elegy (Cambridge, 1985), grief was one of the "natural" human emotions that radical Protestants sought to reform and even eradicate from properly Christian psyches. Philosophical and religious treatises stigmatized grief as un-Christian, a sign of sinful disregard for providence, to be met not with sympathy but with hostile and even angry "consolation"; unlike the Continental material that Schiesari surveys, such efforts at ideological proscription were not focused on women alone but on all Protestants, regardless of gender.

As Pigman notes, such strictures against grief were at once short-lived and unsuccessful, but were vehement enough to suggest just the opposite of Stone's conclusion—a prevalence rather than an absence of such "un-Christian" feelings of bereavement.

12 On Measure for Measure as a displacement and regendering of Elizabethan monarchy, see Leonard Tennenhouse, "Representing Power: Measure for Measure in its Time," Genre 15 (1982): 139-56; and more generally on the Duke's manipulation of Isabella, see my own The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Chicago, 1988), 88-115. Figures of female autonomy and power are more radically apprehended in Macbeth, violently and systematically eradicated in the play's effort to imagine a male world fully independent of women. For impressive treatments of this aspect of the play, see Harry Berger, Jr., "The Early Scenes of Macbeth: Preface to a New Interpretation," English Literary History 47 (1980): 1-31; "Text Against Performance in Shakespeare: The Example of Macbeth," Genre 15 (1982): 49-80; and Janet Adelman, "'Born of Woman': Fantasies of Maternal Power in Macbeth" in Cannibals, Witches, and Divorce: Estranging the Renaissance, Marjorie Garber, ed. (Baltimore, 1987), 90-121.

13 For example, in 1577 a tailor from Finchingfield named William Binkes declared, "What manner of religion we have here in England I know not, for the preachers now do preach their own inventions and fantasies, and therefore I will not believe any of them" (quoted in F. G. Emmison, Elizabethan Life: Disorder [Colchester, UK, 1970], 46).

14Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550-1640 (Cambridge, 1991), 7-8.

15 For a more extended discussion, see The Place of the Stage, 1-59.

16 "Renaissance antitheatricality and the politics of gender and rank in Much Ado About Nothing" in Shakespeare Reproduced: The text in history and ideology, Jean E. Howard and Marion F. O'Connor, eds. (New York and London, 1987), 163-87, esp. 164.

17 Of course, drama was also part of print culture; those plays published, whether with or without the participation of authors and the companies who claimed exclusive acting rights to them, enjoyed circulation beyond various venues of performance, and over time as well as space (surviving publications in all their variants providing, except for a few dozen dramatic manuscripts, our only direct access to the dramatic repertory of the times).

The contemporaneous impact of the drama performed by London companies beyond its immediate audience is difficult to assess but cannot be automatically discounted. It is difficult to speak of the "national" character of any aspect of the production and circulation of knowledge in the period, and this is true of printed books as well. Plays and players traveled beyond the city both in terms of performing venues and circulation in printed form. Furthermore, audiences traveled as well, in the case of the higher social strata coming from and going to the city with some regularity. Given the fluidity of the boundary between oral and print cultures, we should assume at least some second-hand dissemination of ideas and experiences, by oral description and narration, whether deriving from plays or printed works. Elizabethan and Jacobean drama also "traveled" beyond the boundaries of England. Foreign travelers frequently remarked upon the Elizabethan stage, providing sketches of stages and playhouses and descriptions of individual plays; English companies also traveled abroad, sometimes to establish a seasonal or permanent venue. In 1600, for example, traveling English players built a replica of the Fortune theater in Gdansk, where English companies performed English plays, apparently of recent London vintage, until 1650; see Jerzy Limon, Gentlemen of a Company: English Players in Central and Eastern Europe, 1590-1660 (Cambridge, 1985).

18 For an excellent speculation on the significance of this shift, see Louis Adrian Montrose, "The Purpose of Playing: Reflections on a Shakespearean Anthropology," Helios, n.s. 7 (1980): 51-74.

19 On this topic, see The Place of the Stage, 88-115.

20The Spanish Tragedy (1587), traditionally regarded as the play that initiated the subgenre on the Elizabethan stage, is almost entirely free of the misogynistic set pieces that will become a generic requirement in the next decade; the passages added to the play in 1602, however, are typically gynophobic, as in Hieronimo's remark that children merely "serve / To ballace these light creatures we call women" (ed. Charles T. Prouty [Arlington Heights, IL, 1951], 4.4.7-8).

21 This and all subsequent quotations of Hamlet follow the Arden edition, ed. Harold Jenkins (London and New York, 1982).

22 Although the play has been traditionally attributed to Cyril Tourneur, I am persuaded by recent arguments that Middleton is in fact the likely author. For a survey of the issue, see the introduction to Thomas Middleton, The Revenger's Tragedy: A Facsimile of the 1607/8 Quarto, ed. MacD. P. Jackson (Rutherford, NJ, 1983).

23 De Maisse, 82.

24 I agree with Lisa Jardine that, given the immediate context, "'gorge' here surely means 'throat' rather than 'bosom'"; see her essay "'Why should he call her whore?': Deformation and Desdemona's Case" in Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation, Margaret Trudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner, eds. (Urbana and Chicago, 1991), 124-53, esp. 146, n. 13. Jardine's correction, it should be noted, is based not on de Maisse's text but on extracts reprinted in L. A. Prevost-Paradol, élisabeth et Henri IV (1595-1598): Ambassade de Hurault de Maisse en Angleterre au sujet de la paix de Vervins (Paris, 1855), 151, n. 1.

25 De Maisse, 25-26, quoted in Louis Adrian Montrose, "'Shaping Fantasies': Figurations of Gender and Power in Elizabethan Culture" in Representing the English Renaissance, Stephen Greenblatt, ed. (Berkeley, 1988), 31-64, esp. 33-34. I am deeply indebted to this essay for initially drawing my attention to de Maisse's Journal.

26 Quoted in Prevost-Paradol, 155, n. 2. Jardine suggests that in this instance such "gestures of revealing" may expose a stomacher rather than flesh itself (147, n. 14).

27 De Maisse, 36-37.

28 Montrose, "Shaping Fantasies," 34. In the essay cited in note 24 above, Lisa Jardine suggests that the air of erotic provocation stems not from Elizabeth's behavior but from de Maisse's text alone: "The 'erotic provocation' belongs … to the text … not to the event (that is, to any of the Queen's many public appearances)." In a footnote, however, she shifts the blame to Harrison and Jones as translators: "In fact, it turns out to belong to the twentieth-century English translation … far more than to the original French" (130 and 147, n. 15 [my emphasis]). Jardine forgets here that she has not consulted the "original French" either, but this is a minor problem in relation to the other questions raised by her assertions.

Having corrected one translation of gorge as "bosom" when the context clearly requires "throat" (see note 24, above), Jardine seems to imply that all references to an exposed bosom or to Elizabeth's repeated gestures with her clothing—opening an outer robe to reveal whatever lies beneath—are also called into question. Such details are, however, quite explicit in the Prevost-Paradol extracts. She also assigns a number of psychological attributes to de Maisse (when blaming erotic provocation on him rather than on Harrison and Jones) for which there is no textual support. Although she asserts that we should "take note of Hurault de Maisse's difficulty with the breach of decorum (in his terms) of a woman of Elizabeth's age receiving him with anything other than a gown which entirely concealed her body" (147, n. 15 [my emphasis]), she cites no evidence of such a difficulty; the terms, as far as I can see, are hers rather than de Maisse's. Jardine says that de Maisse responds in "unseemly terms" (131) to this "breach"; I can find no "unseemly terms" in his account, and Jardine cites none. She says that a "preoccupation with visible flesh" (131) shapes de Maisse's description (contradicting, by the way, her assertion that this is largely the mistranslation of Harrison and Jones); but de Maisse is preoccupied with all details of Elizabeth's appearance and behavior in his audiences with her (hence the oftentimes confusing welter of detail about her clothing, even when, as in the fourth audience, she is wearing a high-necked gown revealing no flesh below her chin). Jardine asserts that the richness of Elizabeth's dress "reinforces [de Maisse's] anxiety about 'whoredom'" (130), for which she cites German and Italian associations of finery with prostitution—but nothing from de Maisse that supports such an association in the context of his diary or his attitude toward a monarch.

I dwell on these points because the claims and assumptions of Jardine's essay can easily seem (as they did on my own first reading) to be more firmly grounded in a sound textual basis than is in fact the case. On careful review I find both her representation of de Maisse and the use she puts it to—a critique of Louis Montrose's reading of the Journal—both problematic and curiously overdetermined.

29 Quoted from Harold Jenkins's Arden edition of Hamlet, 554.

30The Queen's Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession (London, 1977), 12, with Axton's italics removed.

31 On the cultural dynamics of Elizabeth's reign, including her appropriation of Petrarchan conventions, see Louis Adrian Montrose, "'Eliza, Queene of shepheardes,' and the Pastoral of Power," English Literary Renaissance 10 (1980): 153-82; and "Gifts and Reasons: The Contexts of Peele's Araygnement of Paris," ELH 47 (1980): 433-61.

32 "A Treatise against Painting … " (1616), reprinted in Blood and Knavery: A Collection of English Renaissance Pamphlets and Ballads of Crime and Sin, ed. Joseph H. Marshburn and Alan R. Velie (Rutherford, NJ, 1973), 176-93, esp. 188.

33 "Painting Women: Images of Femininity in Jacobean Tragedy," Theatre Journal 36 (1984): 357-70, esp. 364. For a related essay, see Shirley Nelson Garner, "'Let Her Paint an Inch Thick': Painted Ladies in Renaissance Drama and Society," Renaissance Drama n.s. 20 (1989): 123-39; and for an admirable recent examination of the topic, see Frances E. Dolan, "Taking the Pencil out of God's Hand: Art, Nature, and the Face-Painting Debate in Early Modern England," PMLA 108 (1993): 224-39.

34Calendar of the Manuscripts of … The Marquis of Salisbury, 18 vols. (London, 1904), 10:172-73, quoted from Montrose, "Shaping Fantasies," 54. Waad refers to previous correspondence with Cecil concerning Edwardes which does not appear in the Calendar, and which I have been thus far unable to locate.

35 Leonard Tennenhouse, Power on Display: The politics of Shakespeare's genres (New York and London, 1986), 85. For other recent assessments of the crisis of monarchical representation embodied in the play, see Annabel Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Oxford, 1989), 13-31 and 93-119; and Robert Weimann, "Mimesis in Hamlet" in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory, Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman, eds. (New York and London, 1985), 275-91.

36 On the significance of stage position, see Robert Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function, ed. Robert Schwartz (Baltimore, 1978), 73-84 and 224-36.

37 Curiously, Francis Barker takes Hamlet at his word and regards his claim to have "that within which passes show" as an early or premature gesture toward a "deep" subjectivity of the kind that will be produced in the bourgeois individual of a later age; see Barker's comments on this scene in The Tremulous Private Body: Essays on Subjection (London and New York, 1984), 35-37.

38Rewriting Shakespeare, Rewriting Ourselves (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1991), 83 and 86. For a related emphasis on the centrality of Gertrude's age and its Elizabethan topicality, see Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare's Plays, Hamlet to The Tempest (New York and London, 1992), 11-37. Jacqueline Rose offers a useful critique of psychoanalytic approaches in "Hamlet—the Mona Lisa of Literature," Critical Quarterly 28 (1986): 35-49.

39 "The remarrying widow: a stereotype reconsidered" in Women in English Society 1500-1800, Mary Prior, ed. (London and New York, 1985), 54-92, esp. 55. Todd's excellent study also provides a context for Shakespeare's will, with the specific disposition of his "second-best bed" to his widow, as well as for the Player Queen's remarks on remarriage. In his Advice to a Son, Ralegh felt called on to stipulate that "if {thy wife} love again let her not enjoy her second love in the same bed wherein she loved thee" (quoted from Todd, 73). Hamlet Jr.'s emphasis on Gertrude's "incestuous sheets" and Hamlet Sr.'s remarks on the "royal bed of Denmark" suggest that the untimeliness of the king's death was an outrage because it prevented him from setting his estate as well as his soul in order, by drawing up a properly patriarchal will—one that would have deprived Gertrude of the "royal" and presumably best bed.

40 For a suggestive discussion of the gap between the object and means of theatrical representation, see Robert Weimann, "Bifold Authority in Shakespeare's Theatre," Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988): 401-17.

41 For recent critical assessments of English transvestite companies in relation to Renaissance constructions of sexuality, see in particular Stephen Orgel, "Nobody's Perfect: Or Why Did the English Stage Take Boys for Women?" South Atlantic Quarterly 88 (1989): 7-29; Laura Levine, "Men in Women's Clothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization from 1579 to 1642," Criticism 28 (1986): 121-43; Jean E. Howard, "Crossdressing, The Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England," SQ 39 (1988): 418-40; Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1988), 66-93; and Mary Beth Rose, "Women in Men's Clothing: Apparel and Social Stability in The Roaring Girl," ELR 14 (1984): 367-91.

42 For Freud's essay, "Mourning and Melancholia," see The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. James Strachey, 19 vols. (London, 1957), 14:243-58; for their revision of Freud's discussion of incorporation and introjection, see Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, "Introjection—Incorporation: Mourning or Melancholia" in Psychoanalysis in France, Serge Lebovici and Daniel Widlöcher, eds. (New York, 1980), 3-16, esp. 13-14; and The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonymy, trans. Nicholas Rand (Minneapolis, 1986), passim.

43"Fors: The Anglish Words of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok," trans. Barbara Johnson, foreword to The Wolf Man's Magic Word, xi-xlvii, esp. xvi-xvii.

44 Pigman, 2. See note 11, above.

45 Quoted from Pigman, 1.

46 Arthur Kirsch, for example, attempts to register the emotional undercurrents of Hamlet's plight in 1.2 by invoking a universal, transhistorical commonsense: "What a person who is grieving needs, of course, is not the consolation of words, even words which are true, but sympathy" ("Hamlet's Grief," ELH 48 [1982]: 17-36, esp. 20). Neither sympathy nor even the "consolation of words" was the prescribed attitude toward grief in the period; Kirsch's "of course" lodges his comment in a world quite removed from that of Hamlet.

47 Michael MacDonald's study of the incidence of unresolved bereavement among Napier's patients would seem to support such speculation; see Mystical Bedlam, 103-4 and 158-60.

48 Modern psychology recognizes "anticipatory mourning" in various contexts, but in the literature I have surveyed, the phrase seems not to include the aggressive desire—the wish, rather than the sorrowful anticipation, that someone will die—that marks Hamlet's attitude toward Gertrude's sexuality. See Barbara Oberhofer Dane, "Anticipatory Mourning of Middle-Aged Parents of Adult Children with AIDS," Families in Society 72 (1991): 108-15; and Gilead Nachmani, "The Difficult Patient or the Difficult Dyad: On Mourning the Death of a Parent Who Has Not Died," Contemporary Psychoanalysis 28 (1992): 524-51.

49 David Hunt, Parents and Children in History: The Psychology of Family Life in Early Modern France (New York and London, 1970), 183. On the skirted gowns worn by children of both sexes and the "breeching" age, see Phillis Cunnington and Anne Buck, Children's Costume in England: From the Fourteenth to the end of the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1965), 38, 52, 54, and 71; and Philippe Ariès, Centuries of Childhood, trans. Robert Baldick (London, 1962), 57-58. Ariès asks of this practice a slightly misleading question: "Why, in order to distinguish the boy from the man, was he made to look like the girl who was not distinguished from the woman?" (58). The girl was, first of all, distinguished from the woman, her costume shifting to adult style at around the same age; what is more, we do not know enough to assume that boys in skirts "looked like … girl[s]" to early modern eyes. Despite what registers as extreme effeminacy to us (see, for instance, the portraits of Charles I's sons in Cunnington and Buck), we presume too much when we assume we know how the costume was gendered—female, male, androgynous, or neuter. How the practice relates to Renaissance single-sex theories also remains to be answered but may be a relevant issue.

On the significance of children's clothing, I am also indebted to discussions with Amanda Bailey and the extensive research she has conducted for the dissertation she is writing, titled "London is Burning: Sartorial Signification On and Off the Early Modern Stage."

50 Quotations of Shakespeare plays other than Hamlet follow the Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston, 1974).

51 Hamlet's anxiety over sexuality is global rather than specific; as Valerie Traub notes, "for Hamlet … all sex is unnatural"; see her illuminating essay on Shakespearean translations of sexually vital women into dead or static objects, "Jewels, Statues, and Corpses: Containment of Female Erotic Power in Shakespeare's Plays," Shakespeare Studies 20 (1988): 215-38, esp. 218.

52 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York and London, 1990), 63.

53 For the nineteenth-century invention of homosexuality, see especially David M. Halperin, One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: And Other Essays on Greek Love (New York, 1990). For a recent and subtle revision of Halperin relevant to Renaissance constructions of sexuality, see Jonathan Goldberg, Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Stanford, 1992).

54 Adelman, Suffocating Mothers, 130-46.

55 Illongot males, for example, process loss and rage by headhunting, participating in a psychic ritual that apparently succeeds (at least for Illongot males) in purging both grief and rage; see Renato I. Rosaldo in Bruner, ed., 178-95. On the cultural specificity of even so apparently universal an emotion as anger, see Robert C. Solomon, "Getting angry: the Jamesian theory of emotion in anthropology" in Shweder and Levine, eds., 238-54.

56 See Adelman, Suffocating Mothers, passim.

57 This and subsequent quotations of Middleton's play follow the Regents Renaissance Drama edition (attributed to Cyril Tourneur), ed. Lawrence J. Ross (Lincoln, NE, 1966).

58 Quoted from Montrose, "Shaping Fantasies," 47.

59 Montrose, "Shaping Fantasies," 48.

60 See The Complete Works of Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford, 1925-52), 1:142.

61 "Reading the Body: The Revenger's Tragedy and the Jacobean Theater of Consumption," RenD n.s. 18 (1987): 121-48, esp. 132.

62 "Leaky Vessels: The Incontinent Women of City Comedy," RenD n.s. 18 (1987): 43-65.

Source: "Mourning and Misogyny: Hamlet, The Revenger's Tragedy, and the Final Progress of Elizabeth I, 1600-1607," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 2, Summer, 1994, pp. 139-62.

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