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Broken English and Broken Irish: Nation, Language, and the Optic of Power in Shakespeare's Histories

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Neill, Michael University of Auckland

[T]he English have always governed Ireland not as a conquered people by the sword and the conqueror's law, but as a province united upon marriage.…

Fynes Moryson, "The Commonwealth of Ireland"

So be there 'twixt your kingdoms such a   spousal, That never may ill office, or fell jealousy, Which troubles oft the bed of blessed marriage, Thrust in between the paction of these   kingdoms, To make divorce of their incorporate league.…      William Shakespeare, Henry V, 5.2.362-66

[T]he husbandman must first break the land, before it be made capable of good seed: and when it is thoroughly broken and manured, if he do not forthwith cast good seed into it, it will grow wild again, and bear nothing but weeds. So a barbarous country must be first broken by a war, before it will be capable of good government.…

Sir John Davis, A Discovery of the True Causes why Ireland was never entirely Subdued

Things thus succeeding according to English desires so that none now remained able to resist their power, nevertheless they did not cease to rage against … all the conquered people, in such fierce and savage fashions as can scarce be heard or told without horror. For in the towns, forts, and villages they seized many who had up to this survived, and … drove all without distinction of age, sex, rank or deserts into old barns and setting them on fire destroyed those shut up therein. But if any of the victims attempted to break out, the surrounding enemy either drove them back into the fire or cut them off with the sword. When they came across a few persons either wandering abroad or lying at home, they at their pleasure shot them with muskets, or ran them through with swords. Some they hung on trees by the wayside or on gallows, amongst whom was sometimes seen the cruel spectacle of mothers hanging on crosses, the little ones still lying or crying on their breasts, strangled in their hair and hanging from this new fashioned halter; and other children wherever met or found it was an amusement and sport to toss in the air with spears or lances, or to pin them to the ground, or dash them against the rocks, with other atrocities of this sort, because if they were suffered to live they would one day be rebelly papists.

Peter Lombard, The Irish War of Defense, 1598-1600

Were now the general of our gracious Empress, As in good time he may, from Ireland coming, Bringing rebellion broached on his sword, How many would the peaceful city quit, To welcome him!      William Shakespeare, Henry V, 5.Cho.30-34'

"No man or woman," writes the Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o in an incautious moment, "can choose their biological nationality."2 The phrase "biological nationality" sounds especially odd in the mouth of a professing Marxist; and, now that even "race" has been deconstructed as an effect of ideology,3 it is not easy to see how "nationality" can be defended as "biological." For that very reason, however, Ng g 's slip is all the more revealing, exposing the deep essentialism that infects our thinking about such matters. Nations, as Benedict Anderson has famously reminded us, are"imagined communities,"4 thing that get thought up; yet, in the teeth of reason and history, we persist in experiencing these fictions as natural, things to which we are native, like fish to the sea. And if nationality seems to be somehow "in the blood," nationhood has come to be imagined as equally essential—as much the ordained form of civil...

(This entire section contains 17092 words.)

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society as thepolis was for the Greeks. People may argue about the proper boundaries of the nation—about its geographical, political, cultural, linguistic, or racial constitution—but there is seldom any doubt in the minds of the disputants that such boundaries really exist or that (after due process of "ethnic cleansing") they can be established and placed beyond dispute.

When, in the course of this century's first great anticolonialist revolution, Irish patriots sang "A Nation Once Again," they celebrated the "renaissance" of something that in the strict sense was being born for the first time—though the roots of their belief in Irish "nationhood" can be traced back to the sixteenth century and the earliest systematic attempt to absorb Ireland into the English body politic.5 In fact the idea of Irish nationhood (as Irish cultural historians have increasingly begun to recognize) was as much the product of English imperial ambition as any of the later anti-imperial nationalisms that succeeded it in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and elsewhere.6 Moreover, since nationality can only be imagined as a dimension of difference—something that sets one apart from what one is not—it goes without saying that Ireland played an equally crucial part in the determination of English identity, functioning as the indispensable anvil upon which the notion of Englishness was violently hammered out. Indeed it might be argued that the struggle in Ireland, or its equivalent, was a prerequisite for the idea of an English national body politic in principle separable from the body of the monarch—the idea of the nation, that is, as a "commonwealth" with an essential and permanent existence distinct from the king's estate and determined by something other than the dynastic accidents that fixed the boundaries of feudal kingdoms—an idea of extraordinary consequence for the whole course of the seventeenth century.7 It was the Irish "wilderness" that bounded the English garden, Irish "barbarity" that defined English civility, Irish papistry and "superstition" that warranted English religion; it was Irish "lawlessness" that demonstrated the superiority of English law, and Irish "wandering" that defined the settled and centered nature of English society.

Yet if the Irish were essential to the formation of English identity, they also threatened it. For in the English mind, Ireland constituted not merely a defining limit but a dangerously porous boundary, a potential conduit of papal subversion—which the tenaciously held Irish conviction of their own Spanish origins did nothing to allay.8 Thus while the ideology of national difference required that the Irish be kept at a distance and stigmatized as a barbaric Other, the practicalities of English policy more and more pressingly required that Ireland be absorbed within the boundaries of the nation-state. As the site of England's first true war of colonial conquest, Ireland became both a proving ground for methods of "plantation" that would later be applied in Virginia and elsewhere, and a forcing house for the enabling discourses of racial and cultural difference on which successful colonization would depend.9 Yet justification of the conquest meant that Ireland had also to be redefined as a recalcitrant part of the nation, an errant province to be "subdued" rather than a foreign land to be subjugated. The effect of this peculiarly tense contradiction was to produce a significant shift in English attitudes toward Ireland over the course of the sixteenth century.

Metamorphosis, degeneration, and the tropes of Irish difference

Some aspects of this shift have been described in a recent article by Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass. Their essay rightly stresses the importance of the historical ethnography of Irish barbarism developed by sixteenth-century English polemicists, an ethnography that vindicated plantation as the imposition of English civility upon a savage people. More than that, Jones and Stallybrass argue, the new ethnography helped to produce a paradigmatic transformation in English policy toward the native Irish from one of gradual assimilation to one of conquest and terror. For them this shift is exemplified by the contrast between the stance of the 1537 "Act for the English Order, Habit and Language," with its insistence that "the King's true subjects, inhabiting this land of Ireland," compose "wholly together one body," and the attitude of such texts as Spenser's View of the Present State of Ireland with its emphasis on "the absolute difference between English and Irish."10

I would argue that the actual process was a little less straightforward than they make it appear, in that assimilationist rhetoric by no means disappeared in the 1590s. Indeed as late as 1594, Richard Beacon could approvingly quote the 1537 statute as an example of the measures by which the English had sought to eradicate the superficial "difference of laws, religion, habit, and language, which by the eye deceiveth the multitude, and persuadeth them that they be of sundry sorts, nations, and countries, when they be wholly together but one body";11 and Spenser himself, through his spokesman Irenius, wishes (even as he proposes the destruction of the barbarians by deliberate mass starvation) "to bring [the English colonists and the native Irish] to be one people, and to put away the dislikeful concept both of the one and the other."12 Moreover, Spenser's notion of "one people" was at least theoretically more comprehensive than the 1537 act's "one body," since the latter properly applied only to "the King's subjects within this land"—a term that did not then extend to that great majority of native Irish who declined formal allegiance to the English monarchy.13 It was not until four years later that these Irish, in a move that somewhat recalls the papal apportionment of New World natives to Spain and Portugal half a century before, were formally reclassified as subjects of the English crown.14 Under this act (Statue of 33 Henry VIII), passed by the Dublin parliament in 1541, the English monarch was transformed from "Lord" to "King" of Ireland, while the recalcitrant Celts outside the Pale, who had formerly been described as "the King's Irish enemies," foreigners with whom English colonists were forbidden to intermarry,15 were now to be included among "the King's Irish subjects" and summoned to obedience. It is difficult to over-estimate the significance of this statute for the subsequent direction of Irish affairs, for it marks the point at which wholesale incorporation of the native Irish into the body politic defined by English settlement became, for the first time, legally enunciated policy. Under this new dispensation a systematic war of subjugation could be presented not as the aggressive conquest of an alien people but as a defensive operation designed to secure the good order of the realm against rebels.

Thus, far from the sixteenth century's witnessing a shift from a discourse of assimilation to one of absolute difference, it appears to have been the Tudors, who, in a fashion characteristic of their centralizing ambitions, made assimilation a policy. Jones and Stallybrass are right, of course, to emphasize the increasingly venomous tone with which Elizabethan and Jacobean polemicists harped on the barbarous otherness of the Irish. But it is at least arguable that such attitudes represented a reaction to the policies of assimilation and incorporation rather than a move away from them. Indeed, the more writers insisted on the need to subsume the Irish in the body of the nation, the more anxious those very writers became about signs of Irish resistance—an anomaly that some of them came to think could only be effaced by a more or less genocidal eradication of the native Irish. For these propagandists Irish difference was something that simply ought not to exist; it was an unnatural aberration that the English were morally bound to extirpate. The most extreme form of this contradiction can be found in the writings of Spenser, who is at once among the more sympathetic and well-informed English observers of Irish culture and among the most extreme advocates of its destruction by "the sword."

Difference of a sort had been the steady theme of medieval accounts of Ireland with their stress on the country's estranging distance from the normative center.16 From Giraldus Cambrensis to Caxton, this "last of all the islands in the West" (as Caxton called it) had been alternately stigmatized as barbarous and marveled at as a site of Mandevillean wonders; it was both an island of saints and miracles, a snake-free demiparadise filled with "great abundance of honey, milk, wine and vineyards," and a topsy-turvy "land of Ire."17 But as medieval fables were displaced by a ruthlessly imperialist ethnography, the tropes of difference were tellingly reinflected. While Caxton had imagined Ireland as a quaint mundus inversus where, for example, "many men pass water sitting down, and many women do it standing up,"18 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers, faced with the realities of Irish cultural difference, discovered in it a perverse determination to do everything by opposites only to spite the English. Fynes Moryson declared that he had

heard twenty absurd things practiced by them, only because they would be contrary to us.… Our women, riding on horseback behind men, sit with their faces towards the left arm of the man, but the Irish women sit on the contrary side, with their faces to the right arm. Our horses draw carts and like things with traces of ropes or leather, or with iron chains, but they fasten them by a withe to the tails of their horses, and to the rumps when the tails be pulled off, which had been forbidden by laws, yet could never be altered. We live in cleanly houses; they in cabins or smoky cottages. Our chief husbandry is in tillage; they despise the plough, and where they are forced to use it for necessity, do all things about it clean contrary to us. To conclude, they abhor from all things that agree with English civility.19

Similarly, for Spenser, Irish adherence to Catholicism amounts to nothing more than an obstinate assertion of difference:

[M]ost of the Irish are so far from understanding of the popish religion as they are of the protestants' profession, and yet do they hate it, though unknown, even for the very hatred which they have of the English and their government.20

Where medieval commentators superstitiously recorded the ability of Irish "bedlams.… to transform themselves into the likenesses of hares, in order to milk their neighbors' cattle and steal their milk,"21 in later texts such as John Derricke's Image of Irelande the subhuman nature of the Irish is figured in metaphors of bestial metamorphosis, recalling the vicious transformations of Spenser's Malengin: they are "beasts," "swine," "foxes," "boars," "bears," "toads," "crocodiles," "ravening hungry dogs," "wolves," and "monsters,"22 creatures whom Captain Josias Bodley describes as "a most vile race of men—if it be at all allowable to call them 'men' who live upon grass, and are foxes in their disposition and wolves in their actions."23 Indeed their very claim to speech—the faculty that traditionally distinguished men from beasts and allowed them to associate in political communities—is compromised by the barbarity of their utterance. Their language is such that "if no such tongue were in the world, I think it would never be missed either for pleasure or necessity";24 and their most characteristic mode of expression is in shrieks and cries, sounds "which savor greatly of Scythian … barbarism, as their lamentations at their burials, with despairful outcries, and immoderate wailings," or in the babylonical confusion known as the Irish hubbub or hubbuboo—Spenser's "terrible yell and hubbub, as if heaven and earth would have gone together which is the very image of the Irish hubbub."25 Characteristically, where the civilized world is imagined as called into being by the Apollonian power of language, Irish bards are the conjurers of chaos, alluring their hearers

not to the love of religion and civil manners, but to outrages, robberies, living as outlaws, and contempt of the magistrates' and the King's laws. Alas! how unlike unto Orpheus, who, with his sweet harp and wholesome precepts of poetry, labored to reduce the rude and barbarous people from living in woods to dwell civilly in towns and cities, and from wild riot to moral conversation.26

By the very fact of their dwelling beyond the so-called "Pale" (the area of traditional English control centered at Dublin), and especially in the bogs, woods, and mountains to which the English drove them, the Irish confirmed their essential inhumanity: in Aristotelian terms they were not members of the polis—barbarians therefore, or denizens of the wild, falling short of the fully human. Accordingly they were presented as fundamentally uncivil, incurably "prone to tumults and commotions," and effectually lawless, having only the Brehon Law—a code that to English eyes appeared hopelessly irregular, Fynes Moryson remarking that, although "in some things [it] had a smack of equity, [yet] in some others it was clean contrary to all divine and human laws."27 Under this code, according to Davies, they lived "little better than Cannibals, who do hunt one another; and he that hath most strength and swiftness, doth eat and devour all his fellows."28 They inhabited, it seemed, something resembling a Hobbesian state of nature; for unless men are "contained in duty with fear of law," Spenser believed, they are reduced to a state in which "no man should enjoy any thing, every man's hand would be against another." In contradistinction to this restless and hopelessly fluid condition, "laws ought to be like to stony tables, plain stead-fast and immovable."29 The role of the English was thus to do for the Irish what the Romans and the Normans had done for England's own wild ancestors—that is, to draw them inside the immovable sphere of law and civility.

The Irish, however, seemed stubbornly resistant to such fixing and containment; worse, in an unnatural reversal of the project of civilizing incorporation, they repeatedly seduced unwary colonists into degenerate imitation of their own barbarous ways. Degeneration (like "going native" in a later period) was the great nightmare of early modern colonial policy, obsessively brooded over in the writing of the period. The adoption of Irish manners, costume, and speech by the descendants of the original Norman invaders, the so-called "Old English," was construed as profoundly threatening to the deeply entrenched notions of "native [inherent] virtue" on which the idea of the nation in large part depended. To the sixteenth-century colonists (the so-called "New English") and their supporters in England, it rendered the degenerates "barbarous and bastardlike," in Spenser's words—"much more lawless and licentious than the very wild Irish."30 What was especially disturbing was the speed with which such metamorphoses could occur: Sir John Davies writes that the Old English settlers had been so rapdily "Irished" that "within less time than the age of a man, they had no marks or differences left amongst them of that noble nation, from which they were descended. For … they did not only forget the English language, and scorn the use thereof, but grew to be ashamed of their very English names … and took Irish surnames and nicknames," becoming "mere Irish in their language, names, apparel."31 Thus Ireland, whose people, according to John Derricke, were "sprung from MacSwyne, a barbarous offspring, which may be perceived by their hoggish fashion,"32 comes to be figured as Circe's island, where men are transformed to the basest of animals. Here, according to Holinshed's Chronicles, "the very English of birth, [through being] conversant with the savage sort of that people, become degenerate, and, as though they had tasted of Circe's poisoned cup, are quite altered."33 To Davies, similarly, the Old English appear "degenerate and metamorphosed … like those who had drunk of Circe's Cup"; and Derricke warns the new settlers against the seductions of Irish nymphs, who are capable of transforming "honest" men "from boars to bears."34

While commentators were occasionally tempted to attribute such transformations to some malign influence of the soil—Moryson noting how "horses, cows, and sheep transported out of England into Ireland do each race and breeding decline worse and worse"35—the generally accepted explanation had much more disturbing implications, suggesting a human kinship in corruption, against which culture provided only the frailest of protections. As Spenser puts it, degeneration occurs not because "[it] is the nature of the country to alter a man's manners" but because the English, like all fallen mortals, are fatally susceptible to the lure of license and disorder. The great threat of Irish "manners and customs," according to Moryson, is that they "give great liberty to all men's lives, and absolute power to great men over the inferiors, both which men naturally affect";36 and in Spenser's account, since "it is the nature of all men to love liberty," as soon as the English settlers are removed from the "restraints" and "sharp penalties" that keep them "under a straight rule of duty and obedience" at home, "they become flat libertines and fall to flat licentiousness."37 The Irish, that is to say, figure in the English imagination (rather like the Africans of Conrad's Heart of Darkness) as incarnations of "the wild man within," sinisterly seductive embodiments of the barbaric, uncultivated state to which all men, given the chance, will instinctively return. As a result, a text such as The Faerie Queene can regard the extirpation of the natives as a moral duty exactly congruent with the other great moral quests of the poem.

English garden, Irish wilderness: staging national difference

If the material I have so far cited belongs overwhelmingly to the realm of polemic, this is because (with the notable exception of Spenser's "cloudily enwrapped" allegory) the English enterprise in Ireland seems, at first sight anyway, to have had remarkably little impact on imaginative literature. In the theater Shirley's St. Patrick for Ireland (1639) carefully confined itself to the mythical past, and only in a few scenes of the anonymous Famous History of Captain Thomas Stukely (1605) were the Irish wars actually brought onto the stage38—though they were given a sort of fantastical existence in the courtly fantasies of Jonson's Irish Masque at Court. Given the amount of political, military, and intellectual energy it absorbed, and the moneys it consumed,39 Ireland can seem to constitute (along with, significantly, the New World) one of the great and unexplained lacunae in the drama of the period. But, as Joel Altaian, David Baker, and Christoper Highley have recently shown, it is possible, by practicing a variety of what Edward Said calls "contrapuntal analysis," to give voice to an Ireland that is "silent or [only] marginally present" in this writing.40 Predictably, this shadowy presence is most strongly registered in such works as history plays, which contemporaries like Nashe and Heywood identified as playing a key role in the articulation and activation of patriotic sentiment; and I want to argue that in Shakespeare's history plays, Ireland functions as a recurrent point-of-reference—the crucial implied term in an unstable dialectic of national self-definition.

Thus, to take a well-known example, the garden scenes of 1 and 2 Henry VI and Richard II are inadequately explained simply as figurations of the conventional political trope that represents England as the idealized Garden of Plenty, Gaunt's Edenic demiparadise. A contrapuntal approach would seek to read them (together with the plays' insistent horticultural imagery) against the discourse of plantation that licenses Richard II's Irish war as it licensed Elizabeth's.41 Similarly in Henry V, a play full of conscious allusion to the Irish wars,42 Burgundy's lament for France—the "best garden of the world," which now lies "Corrupting in it[s] own fertility" and so choked with "hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burs" that it turns to "wildness," savagery, "And every thing that seems unnatural" (5.2.36-62)—echoes numerous descriptions of Ireland as a fertile earthly paradise turned to wilderness by the barbarity of its own inhabitants;43 and Henry's function as the correcting "scythe" (1. 50) or "the coulter … That should deracinate such savagery" (11. 46-47), mirrors the civilizing mission attributed to Elizabeth's generals by contemporary propagandists.

The expropriation of Irish land (like that of Virginian "Indians"), the displanting of native weeds and the planting of "good" English stock, was expressly justified on the grounds that the Irish, as a wandering, pastoral people, unaccustomed to "proper" notions of ownership and inheritance, failed to cultivate the territory they inhabited. In the propaganda of Beacon, Spenser, Davies, and others, they are represented as an idle and essentially masterless crew,44 owing allegiance only to the loose networks of the sept and the unstable succession of tanistic chieftains—victims of a dysfunctional system that "makes all their possessions uncertain, and brings confusion, barbarism, and incivility."45 Seen as equally lacking any fixed center of authority, any fixed abode, or any fixed means of support, they are imagined as fundamentally unsettled and disorderly—a mere "heap of Irish nations," in Spenser's words, "which there lie huddled together, without any to overrule them or keep them in duty."46 Of necessity, therefore, the Irish landscape is typed as the very opposite of the English garden-state, Ireland's wildness embodying the barbarous and chaotic nature of its inhabitants and their society. Gardening may be a metaphor for policy, but horticulture also stands for culture; and for Davies the Irish indifference to horticulture is the very sign of their rootless mode of existence. "For though the Irishry be a nation of great antiquity," he observes,

… yet (which is strange to be related) they did never build any houses of brick or stone.… Neither did any of them, in all this time, plant any gardens or orchards, enclose or improve their lands, live together in settled villages or towns, nor made any provision for posterity; which, being against all common sense and reason, must needs be imputed to those unreasonable customs, which made their estates so uncertain and transitory in their possessions.47

The energetic English insistence on surveying, mapping, and shiring, and on reducing wilderness to the ordered topography of gardens, orchards, parks, ploughlands, and townlands48 had its obvious practical value, but it functioned equally powerfully as a symbolic translation of the colonized landscape—an Englishing of Ireland, whose meaning the Irish understood so well that in the rebellion of 1641 (according to the commentator Gerald Boate) they sought to "extinguish the memory of [the New English] and of all civility and good things by them introduced amongst that wild nation" by venting particular rage against houses, gardens, enclosures, orchards, and hedges.49 In this context it can be no accident that in 2 Henry VI the scene of Cade's foray into Alexander Iden's tranquil garden (4.10) is immediately followed by the invasion of "YORK and his army of Irish" (5.1.SD); nor that the crisis of order in Richard II's "sea-wall'd garden" should be precipitated by the king's absence in Ireland, in those wild lands that lie beyond what the Gardener's Man pregnantly describes as "the compass of a pale" (3.4.40).50

The nationalist trope of England as a fortified hortus conclusus recurs in Cymbeline, where the Queen speaks of Britain as "Neptune's park, ribb'd and pal'd in / With [rocks] unscalable and roaring waters" (3.1.19-20); and it is punningly elaborated in King John, when Austria undertakes to force submission on "that pale, that whitefac'd shore, / Whose foot spurns back the ocean's roaring tides / And coops from other lands her islanders" (2.1.23-25). A counterpointed reading would inevitably be attentive to the recurrence of "pale," with its inescapable Irish resonance, and its double sense of an exclusive limit and a defensive barrier. No term better encapsulates the anxious bifurcation of Tudor propaganda with its simultaneous stress on defiant separateness and besieged vulner-ability; and the ambivalence of "pale" is matched by that of the sea for which it often stands. The other face of Gaunt's "silver sea, / Which serves … [his island] in the office of a wall" (Richard II, 2.1.46-47), is the "sea of blood" by which the Talbots are overwhelmed in 1 Henry VI (4.7.14); for if Gaunt's England is protectively "bound in with the triumphant sea," the nature of that triumph is always ambiguous, since the defensive moat is all too easily reconfigured as the very engine of "the envious siege / Of wat'ry Neptune," a sign of the aggressive "envy of less happier lands" (RII, 2.1.61-63 and 49). Yet at a deeper level the destructive and preservative seas are one and the same, since the English are never more triumphantly themselves than when threatened with dissolution in a scene of hostile otherness, like Henry V's "poor condemned English" at Agincourt (4.Cho.22) or Talbot's doomed army at Bordeaux, "park'd and bounded in a pale, / A little herd of England's timorous deer, / Maz'd with a yelping kennel of French curs" (1 Henry VI, 4.2.45-47). It is as if the Dublin Pale, with its precariously floating boundaries, always under pressure from the surrounding Irish Wild, were imagined as an epitome of the besieged English nation. England is always discovered elsewhere, defined by the encounter with the Other.

It might be argued, however, that the deliberate blurring of aggression and defense in 1 Henry VI, which represents a war of foreign subjugation as an attack on a small and vulnerable island, is ironically undercut by the detail in the action which shows the besieging English as suddenly themselves besieged. By the same token, in Richard II, Gaunt's cartographic lyricism can be seen to expose other contradictions in the construction of English nationhood. Even as it maps his country as a little world unto itself, his troping of the favorite Virgilian tag, "divisos ab orbe Britannos, " is confused by the fact that it is not "Britain" but "England" that is the subject of his panegyric. On the margins of the play (and of Richard's realm) are barbarous speakers of foreign tongues, unreliable Welsh and treacherous Irish, who do not properly belong to the English nation, and whose anomalous nature highlights the difference between the haphazardly inclusive medieval "kingdom," its boundaries defined by feudal allegiance, and the culturally exclusive "nation." However much the emerging nation-state may have liked to appropriate the legendary past of "Britain," the remnants of its Celtic world posed extraordinary problems of classification. These peoples might be imagined either as a more or less recalcitrant part of the nation, like Richard's Irish "rebels" inviting the chastisement of their natural lord (1.4.38), or as an invading enemy, wild intruders in the gardenstate whom it is the king's duty to "supplant" (2.1.156). Or, like the dangerously incorporated Goths of Titus Andronicus, they could even stand for all those inner forces that threaten to tempt a "civil" people back into a condition of wild and licentious barbarity.51 Their speech most the characteristic their intractability.

"Native breath": language and national identity

Benedict Anderson is no doubt right to insist that language has rarely (if ever) been accepted as a sufficient defining condition of nationality; but its exceptional capacity for mobilizing the sense of extended community on which the new nation-state would come to depend was first properly understood in the sixteenth century. At the dawn of the new age in 1492, the Spanish grammarian Antonio de Nebrija offered his pioneering Gramatica Castellana to Queen Isabella in terms that were to be echoed a century later by English successors—dictionary-makers like Robert Cawdrey, and even theater propagandists like Thomas Heywood.52 For Nebrija, language, which in a famous phrase he called "the mate of Empire," was the essential instrument of political unity. The Castilian tongue had already served to "[gather and join] the scattered bits and pieces of Spain … into one single kingdom"; and his own work would further "enhance our Nation" by fixing and consolidating the language so as to ensure that the founding myth of the Reconquest would remain accessible to all succeeding generations, binding the nation together through time as well as across space: "Unless the like of this be done in our language," he warned, "in vain your Majesty's chroniclers and historians shall… praise the memory of your undyingly praise-worthy deeds.… [E]ither the remembrance of your feats will fade with the language, or it will roam abroad among aliens, unable to settle, lacking a home." Language, then, constituted a kind of home and, at the same time, an essential instrument of settlement.53 But as his metaphors suggest, Nebrija's idea of settlement involved something more than mere stabilization. For him, rather than serving to define a preexisting national home, language, as it "followed our soldiers whom we sent to rule abroad," became the very agent by which the boundaries of the nation were renegotiated: "After your Majesty shall have placed her yoke [on] many barbarians who speak outlandish tongues, by your victory these shall stand in need not only of laws that always victors give the vanquished, but also of our language."54

The complex anachronisms of a play such as Richard II are especially eloquent about how far the notion of language as a kind of "home" had taken root in late sixteenth-century England. What it means to be "a true-born Englishman" (1.3.309) is defined in ways that can scarcely have been available to the actual personages represented in the play. If Gaunt's patriotic oratory is ultimately dependent on developments in sixteenth-century mapmaking,55 and if the legalist arguments of York and Boling-broke are unthinkable without the burgeoning of Tudor constitutional theory and debate, then the linguistic romanticism of Mowbray is equally an expression of the Elizabethan preoccupation with what Spenser called "the kingdom of our own language."56 For Mowbray the pain of banishment is most acutely imagined as expulsion from a community of English speakers, an enforced geographical translation that will render him infantile and speechless:

The language I have learnt these forty years, My native English, now I must forgo, And now my tongue's use is to me no more Than an unstringed viol or a harp, Or like a cunning instrument cas'd up, Or being open, put into his hands That knows no touch to tune the harmony.… I am too old to fawn upon a nurse, Too far in years to be a pupil now. What is thy sentence then but speechless death, Which robs my tongue from breathing native   breath?                                  (1.3.159-73)

Mowbray's English is "native" in a double sense: it is both that into which he is born and that which defines (and is defined by) the "nation" to which he belongs. By the same token, for the rhetorician George Puttenham, a tongue is only fit to be dignified with the name "language" when it becomes the recognized domain of a nation: "after a speech is fully fashioned to the common understanding, and accepted by consent of a whole country and nation, it is called a language."57 For the Tudor and Stuart inventors of the "English nation," however, it was precisely in that "consent of a whole country" that the most intractable difficulties lay. For what precisely constituted the "whole country" was by no means clear.

In this context the role of Glendower in1 Henry IV nicely illustrates the marginal and ambivalent status of the Celtic peoples, as well as the anxieties aroused by their refractory speech. The Welsh leader is first described by Westmerland in the opening scene as an external menace to the nation, an "irregular and wild" barbarian, whose "rude hands" are held responsible for the "beastly shameless transformation" performed on the corpses of Mortimer's English troops by the "unnatural" Welshwomen (1.1.40-46). But when he appears in person, it is as a kind of troublesome insider, the ally and father-in-law of Mortimer, conspiring to divide the kingdom with his English co-mates in rebellion. In this very capacity, however, he incarnates the threat of a more insidious kind of "transformation," such as the "degenerate" Old English in Ireland were supposed to have undergone. Like the most execrated of Elizabeth's Irish enemies, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, who was raised in the Sidney household, Glendower can boast to Hotspur: "I can speak English, lord, as well as you, / For I was train'd up in the English court" (3.1.119-20);58 but the language of his own court is Welsh, a tongue that Hotspur invites the audience to hear as barbarian gabble: "I think there's no man speaks better Welsh. … I had rather hear Lady, my brach, howl in Irish [than the lady sing in Welsh]" (11. 49, 236 [my emphases]). We should notice that this interlude in Glendower's court, where Mortimer's bride sings and then talks to him in Welsh, is the only scene in Shakespeare where a character is made to utter words that are as entirely inaccessible to the audience as to most of the characters onstage; and for all the affecting pathos of her singing, Elizabethan audiences must have felt an unnerving cultural undertow in the spectacle of the warlike Mortimer yielding to a foreign enchantress. The lady "[charms his] blood with pleasing heaviness" (1.215), in what he himself tellingly figures as an act of linguistic submission:

But I will never be a truant, love, Till I have learn'd thy language, for thy tongue Makes Welsh as sweet as ditties highly penn'd, Sung by a fair queen in a summer's bow'r, With ravishing division, to her lute.                                               (11. 204-8)

Repeating in eroticized form the castration implied in the Welsh women's "beastly … transformation" of the English corpses,59 the spectacle significantly resembles that of the disarmed Verdant lying in the lap of the enchantress Acrasia in Spenser's Bower of Bliss. In the Bower, as on Circe's island, men were transformed into beasts, simultaneously stripped of humanity and of phallic power; and in Glendower's court Mortimer surrenders both his Englishness and his martial masculinity in a scene of degeneration that renders inevitable his effacement from the subsequent action of the play.

Degeneration was typically exposed as linguistic corruption: observing, like Nebrija, that "communion or difference of language hath always been observed a special motive to unite or alienate the mind of all nations," Fynes Moryson lamented the failure of the English to follow the example of "the wise Romans, [who] as they enlarged their conquests, so did they spread their language"; instead, those whom he called the "English-Irish" had fallen into a perverse "community of language" with the "mere Irish." Since such "unnatural" community involved a falling away from the laws of kind, its processes were often explained (as in the Circe trope) in significantly gendered terms.60 Degeneration was repeatedly said to result from intermarrying and fostering with the "mere Irish" and from the linguistic contagion that such intimate contact with their women must entail. To Spenser it seemed flatly "unnatural that any people should love another's language more than their own … for it hath been ever the use of the conqueror to despise the language of the conquered, and to force him by all means to learn his." To behave otherwise betrayed a "devilish dislike of their own natural country, as that they would be ashamed of her name, and bite of her dug from which they sucked life." All this, however (mother-tongue being, almost literally, a kind of mother's milk), was the inevitable consequence of mingling with the Irish, since children bred out of Irish mothers, or fostered by Irish nurses, must "draw into themselves together with their suck even the nature and disposition of their nurses; for the mind followeth much the temperature of the body, and also the words are the image of the mind, so as they proceeding from the mind, the mind must needs be affected with the words—so that the speech being Irish, the heart must needs be Irish.… how can such matching but bring forth an evil race?"61

If one solution, that notoriously favored by Spenser, amounted to genocide, an alternative was to find means of drawing the Irish instead within the colonizers' linguistic pale. "Since Ireland is full of her own nation," declares Spenser's Irenius in a moment of uncharacteristic mildness, "that may not be rooted out, and somewhat stored with English already (and more to be), I think it best, by an union of manners and conformity of minds, to bring them to be one people, and to put away the dislikeful concept both of the one and the other … by translating of them, and scattering them in small numbers amongst the English … to bring them by daily conversation unto better liking of each other."62 This indeed was the policy that Sir John Davies would later claim was so successfully pursued in Ulster, where

his Majesty did not utterly exclude the natives out of this plantation with a purpose to root them out—as the Irish were excluded out of the first English colonies—but made a mixed plantation of British and Irish, that they might grow up together in one nation. Only, the Irish were in some places transplanted from the woods and mountains into the plains and open countries, that being removed (like wild fruit trees) they might grow the milder and bear the better and sweeter fruit.

Not the least radical consequence of such a physical translation, according to Davies, was that it would induce the Irish to "send their children to schools, especially to learn the English language: so as we may conceive an hope that the next generation will in tongue and heart, and every way else, become English; so as there will be no difference or distinction but the Irish Sea betwixt us … [and] Ireland (which heretofore might properly be called the Land of Ire … ) will from henceforth prove a Land of Peace and Concord." In this seemingly benign (but one-sided) "mingling" of peoples, a double alienation was involved—one requiring that the native Irish be translated first out of their own lands to become tenants of the English settlers, and then out of their own language to become denizens of the invaders' tongue. But what would result, Davies believed, was a miraculous harmony to replace the disordered hubbub of Irish division: "The strings of this Irish harp, which the civil magistrate doth finger, are all in tune … and make a good harmony in this commonweal."63

Translating the Irish: the tongues of Henry V

Just such a harmony is figured in the Shakespeare play where the perplexities of language, nationhood, and translation are most uneasily foregrounded, Henry V. Here Exeter's Ciceronian commonplace of "government" as a system of orchestration, in which "high, and low, and lower, / Put into parts, doth keep consent, / Congreeing in a full and natural close, / Like music" (1.2.180-83),64 is given a striking linguistic twist in the final scene, where Henry professes to hear in Katherine's "broken English" a "broken music" that echoes the harmonious part-song of his kingdom (5.2.243-44). Played by a "broken consort," made up of instruments from different "families," broken music seems an especially apt metaphor for the national voice that Henry, with the aid of the play's patriotic rhetoric, seeks to "corroborate" from its babel of "fracted" tongues.

In this sense Henry's enterprise replicates the triumphant role that Thomas Heywood was to ascribe to the theater itself: not only did its staging of historical dramas serve to weld the nation together by "[instructing] such as cannot read in the discovery of all our English chronicles"; but theater had a crucial unifying function in helping to reform the inchoate babble of a bastard tongue into a true national language, so that "our English tongue, which hath been the most harsh, uneven, and broken language of the world, part Dutch, part Irish, Saxon, Scotch, Welsh, and indeed a gallimaufry of many, but perfect in none, is now by this secondary means of playing, continually refined … so that in process, from the most rude and unpolished tongue, it is grown to a most perfect and composed language, and many excellent works and elaborate poems writ in the same, that many Nations grow enamored of our tongue (before despised)."65 The soldiers whom Henry, harping on their recollection of English chronicles (3.1.17-23), urges to prove their national legitimacy by "closfing] the wall up with … English dead" (1.2 [my emphasis]) prove when we meet them to be just such a bastard "gallimaufry of many," a volatile mixture of English, Irish, Welsh, and Scots, whose desire to cut throats is as likely to be vented on one another as on the French. The most dangerous of them, predictably, is the irascible Captain Macmorris, an "Irishman" whose hybrid surname (a Gallicized version of Fitzmaurice) and savage temper reveal him as an exemplar of that "bastardlike" degeneracy to which English conquerors were prone in the "Land of Ire," and whose broken English preeminently figures the disorder that may befall a nation made up of what Nebrija called "scattered bits and pieces." Small wonder that the very mention of the word "nation" is enough to send Macmorris spiraling off into a frenzy of incoherence: " … my nation? What ish my nation? Ish a villian, and a basterd, and a knave, and a rascal. What ish my nation? Who talks of my nation?" (3.2.122-24).66 The Gaels, after all, as Caxton insisted, were a heteroclite people, whose language was devised by their eponymous ancestor Gaitelus, "who could speak many languages after the diversification of languages at the Tower of [Babel]," and who invented their tongue, calling it '"Gaitelaf,' signifying a language assembled from all languages and tongues."67 There are more breaches than one at Harfleur into which those bodies that death honors with English "brotherhood" must be thrown; and though Macmoris and Fluellen both nominally speak English, their propensity to "mistake each other" (11. 134-35) is as great as if each were confined to the kingdom of his own language. The fate of the wild Macmorris, who has driven his mine so deep under the walls of Englishness that it indeed threatens to "blow up the town," is to be extirpated from the play—a fate that should not surprise us in a work whose Fifth Chrous compares Henry's French conquests to Essex's expected triumph in Ireland.68 But the alternative strategy of translation and incorporation is exemplified in the case of his fellow pioneer, Fluellen, who is received into full membership of the English nation (rather as Henry's common soldiers are allegedly to be "gentled" by their presence at Agincourt [4.3.63]). This is accomplished first by the king's graceful acknowledgment of his own natal Welshness (4.7.105), and then by the purgative chastisement of Pistol in a fashion which asserts that the "native garb" of Welsh-English is after all no more than the cover for an Englishness paradoxically more essential than Pistol's "counterfeit" chauvinism:

GOWER … You thought, because he could not speak English in the native garb, he could not therefore handle an English cudgel. You find it otherwise, and henceforth let a Welsh correction teach you a good English condition.


To be Welsh or Scots (or perhaps even Irish) is to be a subspecies of English; and to speak a dialect of English is to reveal an English heart (in a play where, as Henry insists, "a good heart … is the sun and the moon" [5.2.162-63]). What is being passed off through this act of translation—in the guise of a national generosity that expands the idea of genus (or gens) to displace Spenser's "dislikeful concept … of the one and the other"—is an act of aggressive assimilation that the subsequent course of Empire would make only too familiar. Through a typically dishonest paradox, Englishness is presented as characterized by a relaxed inclusiveness that operates equally in the realms of rank and culture; while Frenchness (the truly not-English) is defined by its arrogant insistence on difference, its loathing of inappropriate mixture, and its disdain for the English as a "barbarous people.… but bastard Normans, Norman bastards" (3.5.4-10).69

Yet, as we have seen, the play struggles to suggest how even Frenchness might be subsumed in the English imperium—figuring Katherine's "broken English" not as the broken-hearted and confused speech of the country that Henry threatened to "break … all to pieces" (1.2.225) but as the "broken music" of a French heart that may soon be Englished: "if you will love me soundly with your French heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your English tongue.… Therefore … break thy mind to me in broken English" (5.2.104-6 and 244-46). "[T]he husbandman must first break the land, before it be made capable of good seed," wrote Sir John Davies; "So a barbarous country must be first broken by a war, before it will be capable of good government." Henry's wooing offers itself as just such an exhibition of good husbandry, and language is the field on which it is displayed.

Given that theatrical convention normally dictated that the speech of foreigners (even when comically "broken") be transparent to English ears, it is remarkable that Shakespeare should have placed at the very center of Henry V a scene of translation which foregrounds for the first time the fact that these "two mighty monarchies, / Whose high, upreared, and abutting fronts / The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder" (l.Cho.20-22) as if in naturally ordained enmity, actually speak different languages. In Act 3, scene 4, which immediately follows the surrender of Harfleur and the opening of her gates to the invader, the French princess begins the process of Englishing her own body, starting with the hand (a metonymy for marriage) and ending (by an accident of translation—metaphorically if not properly) in the middle region with "Le foot [foutre] … et le count [gown]" (1. 51). What Katherine's blazoned body stands for in this "litany of dismemberment"70 will have been perfectly apparent to an audience accustomed to think of conquest in gendered metaphor. (We may recall Raleigh's now infamous description of Guiana as "a country that hath yet her maidenhead.")71 But here, as in Elizabeth's projection of her own virgin body as a figure for the inviolate kingdom, the metaphoric translation is reversed. The effect of such a literalization, arguably, is to draw attention to the operation of nation-building and empire on actual women's bodies—the way in which from the sack of Troy to the rape of Bosnia the completeness of conquest has habitually been expressed in acts of sexual possession:

What is't to me, when you yourselves are cause, If your pure maidens fall into the hand Of hot and forcing violation? …in a moment look to see The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand Defile the locks of your shrill-shriking daughters.…                                              (3.3.19-35)

The point is reiterated in a ruthless final scene—a scene of national "spousal" (5.2.362), whose sly appropriation of comic convention is fittingly mediated by its recollections of Petruchio's conquest of another Kate.

The language of this final scene troubled Dr. Johnson, who expressed his incomprehension that "Shakespeare now gives the King nearly such a character as he made him formerly ridicule in Hotspur."72 But (as Katherine's remark about "the tongues of men being full of deceits" suggests) all Henry's "speaking … plain soldier" is by no means as plain as he pretends. As much "false French" as it is "true English" (to use his own terms), more bluff than genuine bluffness, his transformation into blunt "King Harry" is another consciously contrived linguistic performance to add to the Archbishop's admiring list (1.1.38ff.)—one whose calculated naïveté allows him ("most truly-falsely") to translate Katherine to his own purposes, converting her to "the better Englishwoman" in the process. Though it is customarily played for its superficial charm, this scene (with its echoes of Pistol's humiliation) is quite explicitly a scene of enforcement in which, as Altaian puts it, "rape is sanctioned … civilly, ceremoniously."73 In it the conquering wooer deploys his "will" and "shall" as peremptorily as any Tamburlaine:

KATHERINE Dat is as it shall please de roi mon pere.

KING HENRY Nay it will please him well, Kate. It shall please him.

(5.2.247-48 [my emphases])

"My royal cousin," asks Burgundy, "teach you our princess English?" And Henry's reply is perfectly nuanced: "I would have her learn, my fair cousin, how perfectly I love her, and that is good English" (11. 281-84 [my emphases]). The bawdy transports of the conqueror's wooing make entirely plain what is at stake in the "possession" of this princess, what it means to "move [her] in French" (11. 181 and 186)—or rather to translate Katherine into English "Kate":

I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it. I will have it all mine; and, Kate, when France is mine … , you are mine.… [S]o the maid that stood in the way for my wish shall show me the way to my will.

(11.173-76, 327-28)

'No tongue, all eyes, be silent"

The hybrid nation, ruled over by "a boy, half-French, half-English," that Henry plans to found through an "incorporate league" in which "English may as French, French Englishmen, / Receive each other" (5.2.207-8, 366-68) is only the mask for an incorporation that means to be as violent and absolute as that which "the general of our gracious Empress" (5.Cho.30) was about to initiate across the Irish sea. There, in Sir John Davies's fond expectation, "the next generation [would] in tongue and heart, and every way else, become English; so as there [would] be no difference or distinction but the Irish Sea betwixt us."74 Thus broken, the "Land of Ire" would "prove a Land of Peace and Concord," sounding its broken music in consort with the civil magistrate's sympathetically appropriated Irish harp. Yet details of Shakespeare's play notoriously resist the carefully orchestrated nuptial harmony of its ending: the hesitant, elliptical syntax of the Fifth Chorus's prophecy of Irish conquest (11. 29-35), and the Epilogue's world-weary awareness of the imminent disintegration of Henry's hybrid empire are reminders that the voice of official history can no more answer Macmorris's ire than it can stamp out the subversive dialect of Eastcheap. Indeed the arbitrary suppression of Macmorris only serves to draw attention to the uneasy marginal presence of Ireland as that which both defines and calls into question the idea of England.

Nor are the tongues of Macmorris and of Pistol's crew the only ones to be silenced in the play; for after the one-sided linguistic duel that claims to break the French princess to the discipline of "broken English," Katherine's mouth, too, is conclusively "stopped" by the kiss of possession which signals the end of her speaking part (5.2.272-79), and she is conspicuously denied any part in the political maneuvering that establishes the conditions of her marriage. Moreover, just as the princess is finally rendered speechless by Henry's victorious speech, so she is rendered sightless by his conquering optic: for the blindness playfully associated with the king's "love" is symbolically transferred to Katherine's "naked seeing self (defenseless and stripped of disguises) by the "perspective" that renders her body no more than a cipher for the "maiden cities" on which his desire is fixed (11. 293-324).

To recognize the power of the colonizer's "perspective" to transform and possess the body of a conquered territory, we have only to think of Luke Gernon's unashamed erotic blazoning of the map of Ireland (c. 1620):

It was my chance once … to see a map of Europe, and it was described in the lineaments of a naked woman.… I dare not set down how every country was placed, lest I should misplace them, but one was in her forehead, another on her right breast, another on her left, others in her arms, others on her thighs, and France with a pope was in her placket. In such a form will I represent our Ireland.…

This Nymph of Ireland is at all points like a young wench that hath the green-sickness for want of occupying. She is very fair of visage, and hath a smooth skin of tender grass.… Her flesh is of a soft and delicate mould of earth, and her blue veins trailing through every part of her like rivulets. She hath one master vein called the Shannon, which passeth quite through her.… She hath three other veins called the sisters, the Sewer [Suir], the Noyer [Nore], and the Barrow, which, rising at one spring, trail through her middle parts, and join together in their going out. Her bones are of polished marble.

… Her breasts are round hillocks of milk-yielding grass, and that so fertile, that they contend with the valleys. And betwixt her legs (for Ireland is full of havens), she hath an open harbor, but not much frequented. She hath had goodly tresses of hair, arboribusque comae, but the iron mills, like a sharptoothed comb, have knotted and polled her much, and in her champion parts she hath not so much as will cover her nakedness.… It is now since she was drawn out of the womb of rebellion about sixteen years—by'rlady, nineteen—and yet she wants a husband, she is not embraced, she is not hedged and ditched, there is no quickset put into her.75

The necessity of hedging, ditching, and quicksetting by the royal husbandman is a theme already familiar from Davies; but even more important in Gernon's salacious cartography is the idea of stripping naked the prostrate body of Ireland and laying her open to the conqueror's gaze. The Nymph figured here in such anatomic detail is apparently without eyes, but unseen others' eyes are fixed on every part of her. While the language of this passage has much in common with (say) Raleigh's excited vision of Guiana, the full suggestiveness of its penetrative stare becomes apparent only in the context of anxieties about the tricksy invisibility of the Irish which were fundamental to the English way of construing Irish resistance to English authority. The Irish were credited with a perfidious talent for concealment that was associated with the irregularity of native attire on the one hand and with the topographical peculiarities of their wilderness habitation on the other. To bring the wild Irish into the orbit of English power, Sir John Davies insisted, it was first necessary to bring them into view.

Indeed if Ireland figures in the staging of English history as marginal but insistent, just out of sight but rarely out of mind, always present but never quite apprehensible, this is perhaps not merely because Irish policy was regarded as a dangerously contentious matter, for it corresponds as well to an obsessive preoccupation with the "crafty … shifts"76 and elusiveness of the Irish—their frustrating ability to evade the controlling optic of English law and military power. This obession makes comprehensible what might otherwise seem a disproportionate concentration on the subversive potential of the notorious garment known as the "Irish mantle" (or "rug") and the shaggy forelock called the "glib"77—fashions that are together punningly identified with innate barbarity in Richard II's description of the Irish as "rough, rug-headed kerns."78 (For a 1581 representatin of an Irish mantle, see cover illustration; see also ) Of course the persistence of traditional attire constituted both a defiant assertion of national difference and an implicit affront to the conventions of dress by which early modern society exhibited its hierarchy of place—what Keith Thomas has called the "vestimentary system." For these reasons mantles and glibs were read as powerful statements of a wandering people's disorderly resistance to placement. But this effect was enormously and sinisterly enhanced by the way in which they seemed to grant their wearers the invisibility of an almost impenetrable disguise.

According to Fynes Moryson, for example, "the nourishing of long hair (vulgarly called glibs) which hangs down to the shoulders, hiding the face," ensured that "a male-factor may easily escape with his face covered therewith," while the all-enveloping mantle could serve "as a cabin for an outlaw in the woods, a bed for a rebel, and a cloak for a theif."79 Under this garment, according to Spenser, the wild Irishman

covereth himself from the wrath of heaven, from the offense of the earth, and from the sight of men.… Likewise for a rebel it is serviceable, for in his war that he maketh (if at least it deserve the name of war) when he still flieth from his foe and lurketh in the thick woods and strait passages, waiting for advantages, it is his bed, yea and almost all his household stuff. For the wood is his house against all weathers, and his mantle is his cave to sleep in.… [U]nder it he can cleanly convey any fit pillage … and when he goeth abroad in the night on freebooting, it is his best and surest friend.… And, when all is done, he can in his mantle pass through any town or company, being close-hooded over his head as he useth, from knowledge of any to whom he is endangered, armed without suspicion of any.80

Spenser's desire to "forbid all mantles" and glibs81 had been anticipated by (among others) the legislators of 1537 and by Sir William Herbert, who proposed to enforce the statute against mantles on the grounds that

[t]he mantle serving unto the Irish as to a hedgehog his skin, or to a snail her shell, for a garment by day and a house by night, it maketh them, with the continual use of it, more apt and able to live and lie out in the bogs and woods, where this mantle serveth them for a mattress and a bush for a bedstead; and thereby they are less addicted to a loyal, dutiful, and civil life.82

It is this same "uncouth vestment" that enables the foul Irish enchanter Malengin to perform his baffling meta-morphoses (including transformation "into a hedgehog"83) in Spenser's allegorized account of the "slights, juggling feats, legerdermain, mysteries … guile, malice … [and] feigned semblance" that characterized guerrilla tactics in Munster. Typically associated with a landscape whose caves, bogs, bushes, thick woods, and strait passages are themselves dangerously concealing, mantles become at once the instrument and symbol of evasive native resistance to the organizing "view" of the colonizer. "So soon as they [are] out of sight," Spenser insists, the Irish invariably "shake off their bridles and begin to colt it licentiously … , for the Irishman … fears the government no longer than he is within sight or reach."84 The Irish, Moryson remarks, are "a crafty and subtle nation";85 and hostility to the mantle reflects not merely the practical frustrations of a regular military force faced with an enemy that constantly melts into the hostile wilderness but even more profound anxieties about the inscrutable otherness of subject peoples.

The dis-covery, laying open, and display of what has been treacherously disguised or concealed, the penetrative power of surveillance, the organizing power of eyesight, epitomized in the topographic regulation of surveying and mapping—these are among the master tropes of the process by which the colonizers will endeavor to relocate Ireland within the body of the English nation. In Spenser's significantly named View, the map with its power of envisaging the landscape becomes a vital adjunct of military conquest;86 while the subsequent maintenance of control over the wayward natives will equally depend on ocular power, through reinstitution of the system of neighborly espionage by which King Alfred had contrived to place the once barbarous English "within the compass of duty and obedience":

no one bad person could stir, but that he was straight taken hold of by those of his own tithing and their borough-holder, who, being his neighbors or next kinsman, was privy to all his ways and looked narrowly unto his life.87

In Book 5 of the Faerie Queene, Talus is described as "that same iron man which could reveal / All hidden crimes," reminding us that he represents not merely the ruthless force on which the maintenance of civil order depends but the power of Justice to thresh out hidden falsehood and to unfold the truth.88 In Davies's Discovery the project of bringing the Irish within the pale of the law is once again represented as dependent on ocular control. According to his analysis, the failure of Norman plantation resulted from a fundamental topographic miscalculation that allowed the Irish to slip out of view, while exposing the conquerors themselves to the malign gaze of their adversaries:

[T]hey sat down, and erected their castles and habitations in the plains and open countries, where they found most fruitful and profitable lands, and turned the Irish into the woods and mountains—which, as they were proper places for outlaws and thieves, so were they their natural castles and fortifications; thither they drave their preys and stealths; there they lurked, and lay in wait to do mischief. These fast places they kept unknown by making the ways and entries thereunto impassable; there they kept their creaghts or herds of cattle, living by the milk of the cow, without husbandry or tillage; there they increased and multiplied unto infinite numbers by promiscuous generation among themselves; there they made their assemblies and conspiracies without discovery. But they discovered the weakness of the English dwelling in the open plains, and thereupon made their sallies and retreats with great advantage. Whereas … if the English had builded their castles and towns in those places of fastness, and had driven the Irish into the plains and open countries, where they might have had an eye and observation upon them, the Irish had been easily kept in order, and in short time reclaimed from their wildness; there they would have used tillage, dwelt together in townships, learned mechanical arts and sciences.… and the ways and passages throughout Ireland would have been as clear and open as they are in England at this day.89

The great triumph of Mountjoy's policy, as Davies saw it, was to have opened "a passage" for "the law and her ministers … among them," so that

all their places of fastness have been discovered and laid open; all their paces [passes] cleared; and notice taken of every person that is able to do either good or hurt… not only how they live and what they do, but it is foreseen what they purpose or intend to do. Insomuch as Tyrone hath been heard to complain that he had so many eyes watching over him as he could not drink a full carouse of sack but the state was advertised thereof within a few hours after.… For the under-sheriffs and bayliffs errant are better guides and spies in time of peace than any were found in the time of war.90

This process of bringing the Irish under the purview of English justice has

reclaimed [them] from their wildness, caused them to cut off their glibs and long hair; to convert their mantles into cloaks; to conform themselves to the manner of England in all their behavior and outward forms.… as we may conceive an hope that the next generation will, in tongue and heart and every way else, become English, so as there will be no difference or distinction but the Irish Sea betwixt us.91

The translation that Davies imagined was duly enacted for the edification of the English court in Jonson's Irish Masque (1613-14), where the Englishing of the king's Irish subjects is figured (through a properly tamed version of Tamburlaine's un-shepherding) as a stripping away of the refractory marks of wildness, exposing the masquers to the penetrating and recuperative eye of the royal sun. In Jonson's program the wild Irish dancers (already rendered half-civil by their role as loyal "footmen" of the king) and their rough bagpipe music are made to give way to a group of Irish "Gentlemen" who dance to "a solemn music of harps"; the Gentlemen's dance in turn is interrupted by "a civil Gentleman of the nation," who ushers in a reformed bard, whose song, performed "to two harps," exactly mimics the music of Davies's civil magistrate, except that here the broken music of part-song is converted to unison. As he sings, the Gentlemen let fall their mantles to reveal the "masquing apparel" of English courtiers,92 a metamorphosis that is expressly effected by the power of the royal gaze:

Bow both your heads at once, and hearts: Obedience doth not well in parts. It is but standing in his eye, You'll feel yourselves changed by and by … 'Tis done by this; your slough let fall, And come forth new-born creatures all.

So breaks the sun earth's rugged chains, Wherein rude winter bound her veins … So naked trees get crisped heads, And colored coats the roughest meads, And all get vigor, youth, and spright, That are but looked on by his light.93

As a performance of national incorporation, Jonson's masque leaves a little to be desired; and the element of wish-fulfillment in his fantasy of effortless royal power is especially difficult to ignore in the light of the circumstances that produced it—the presence in London of a delegation of discontented Old English Catholics who, having opposed the installation of Sir John Davies as speaker of the Irish Parliament, now wished to effect a change in James's Irish plicies.94 But we can find a much more potent and menacing demonstration of the same ideas in a work that dates from the very end of Elizabeth's reign. The Rainbow Portrait …, the last of a series of great royal icons in which the queen identified the idea of the nation with the display of her own royal body, is a frightening assertion of a royal power so absolute that it can absorb the very signs of barbarism into its scheme of civilizing control. The emblematic reversal it performs exactly corresponds to that envisaged by Davies when he asserted that whereas "heretofore the neglect of the law made the English degenerate and become Irish … , now, on the other side, the execution of the law, doth make the Irish grow civil and become English."95 Here, in a portrait whose program, Roy Strong has suggested (on the basis of its strong resemblances to the Hymns to Astraea), might "actually [have been] drawn up for the painter by Davies" himself,96 Elizabeth is shown in what the historian of her wardrobe has identified as a particularly luxurious version of the notorious Irish mantle,97 worked in rich stuff and elaborately painted with images of eyes and ears. In a move that boldly appropriates the most threatening of all images of degeneration, it is now the queen who assumes the Irish cloak of insorutability, here emblazoned, however, with the signs of her all-seeing power—the familiar iconography of Ragione di Stato, as Ripa had described her: "She is represented in a garment … woven with eyes and ears to symbolise her jealous hold over her dominion, and her desire to have the eyes and ears of spies, the better to judge her own plans and those of others."98 On Elizabeth's sleeve is a great jewel in the form of a serpent, symbolizing Wisdom, or that Machiavellian providence whose powers of discovery are embodied in the "provision" of Prospero's art (The Tempest, 1.2.28) and celebrated by Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida as a justification for his spying on Achilles: "The providence that's in a watchful state … Finds bottom in th'uncomprehensive depth, / Keeps place with thought, and almost, like the gods, / Do thoughts unveil in their dumb cradles" (3.3.196-200). On one level, then, the queen resembles a stylized version of Shakespeare's Henry V, shrouded in Erpingham's cloak to spy on his own subjects, or the provident monarch who sits in traitors' bosoms and by "interception" makes "discovery" of "all that they intend" (2.2.6-7 and 162); but on another, Elizabeth's elaborate bridal coiffure establishes a correspondence with Henry's climactic wedding to the double kingdom of "French Englishmen." Copied from the "Sponsa Thessaloniciensis" in Boissard's Habitus variarum orbis gentium (1581),99 her bridal locks present her as the spouse of her kingdom; and the punning motto displayed above the rainbow of peace in her right hand identifies her symbolic nuptials quite specifically with the conquest of Ireland: Non sine sole Iris—"there is no Rainbow without the Sun," but also (since Iris was one of the ancient names for Ireland cited by Camden from Diodorus Siculus)100 "there is no Ireland without her queen." It is the illuminating beams of Elizabeth's royal power and providence, that is to say, which have burst through the "fogs and mists" in which Ireland was notoriously shrouded,101 to dispel the clouds of war and convert the Land of Ire into the Garden of Hope and Peace, whose flowers decorate her elaborately embroidered jacket.

The Rainbow portrait, which Roy Strong has conjecturally linked to the last great spectacle of Elizabeth's reign, her visit to Robert Cecil at Hatfield in December 1602, needs to be recognized as an occasional work with a political agenda no less particular than that of other great royal portraits—such as the Armada Portrait of fourteen years earlier or Henry V itself, in which Annabel Patterson has discovered "yet another symbolic portrait of [Elizabeth]."102 Anticipating Mountjoy's imminent defeat of the most powerful and obstinate of the Irish rebels, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone,103 and hence the final subjugation of Ireland, the painting's appropriation of one of the great symbols of cultural difference to symbolize the incorporation of a conquered people into the body of the English nation-state is a chilling reminder of what it meant to be subjected to the inquisitorial "perspective" of monarchical power—what Claudius calls the "cheer and comfort" of his eye (Hamlet, 1.2.116).

Stephen Greenblatt has argued that Henry V exhibits a form of royal power that depends above all "upon its privileged visibility"; in the absence of a highly developed bureaucracy and police, he maintains, such power cannot yet "dream … of a panopticon in which the most intimate secrets are open to the view of an invisible authority."104 Yet it was something closely resembling this dream of panoptic control that Davies dreamed of establishing in Ireland; and the Elizabeth of the Rainbow Portrait, Argus-eyed and mantled in symbolic invisibility, seems perfectly designed to install this fantasy in the minds of potentially dissident subjects. It is the same fantasy that we can see played out in the effortless exposure of Cambridge and his fellow conspirators in Act 2 of Henry V ("Their faults are open" [2.2.142]) and again in Act 4's reminders of "What watch the King keeps to maintain the peace" (4.1.283), where Henry's "liberal eye" with its "largess universal, like the sun" (4.Cho.43-44), comically dispels the clouds of popular "treason" (4.8.21). Shakespeare, however, suggests the limits of solar omnipotence through Williams's surly refusal of the king's gold ("I will none of your money" [1.67]); and in the quarrel between this recalcitrant English soldier, with his oddly Welsh-sounding name, and the loyal Welsh-Englishman Fluellen, the play comes close to restaging the crisis of nationality provoked by Macmorris.

Like Henry V's achievement of "the world's best garden," Elizabeth's plantation of the Irish wilderness and her creation of a nation of "Irish Englishmen" was an equivocal success—in a way that makes Shakespeare's ambiguous endorsement of Irish/French adventure in his Epilogue seem oddly prophetic. Not even Mountjoy's careful manipulation of the truth could altogether suppress the irony of the queen's death on the eve of O'Neill's submission; and that irony may stand for another, even more far-reaching. For the very actions that had been designed to redefine and stabilize the uncertain boundaries of the English nation had only succeeded in generating among the warring Irish septs an idea of nationhood which three hundred years of colonial occupation would utterly fail to eradicate. Skeptical historians may be quite correct in supposing that O'Neill's patriotic appeals to the sanctity of "native soil" and his denunciations of a state in which "we Irishmen are exiled and made bond-slaves to a strange and foreign prince"105 were as much a tactical contrivance as the more systematic nationalism fostered by the Tudor monarchy across the Irish sea. But, especially in the hands of his contemporary and chronicler, Peter Lombard, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, they helped (like the dangerously free-floating rhetoric of Englishness in Shakespeare's own histories) to create a myth of nationhood whose consequences would prove incalculable: "I call God to witness," declares Lombard's earl to the English negotiators at Dungannon,

that neither was it ambition, nor any other unlawful desire, as you would persuade and palm off upon the world, but… the intolerable oppression and servitude of the whole of my country [patria]. A passionate desire to liberate it was the first stimulus which urged me to make this war.… and [I] now confirm with an oath before you, that the sword which I have drawn for the liberty of my native land I shall never sheath until all heresy and schism has been expelled from every corner of Ireland.106


1 The five epigraphs that open this essay are quoted from the following sources: Illustrations of Irish History and Topography, Mainly of the Seventeenth Century, C. Litton Falkiner (London, 1904), 272; The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al. (Boston, 1974); A Discovery of the True Causes why Ireland was never entirely Subdued (London, 1612), 4-5; and The Irish War of Defense, 1598-1600, ed. and trans. Matthew J. Byrne (Dublin, 1903), 15-17 (my emphasis). Quotations of Fynes Moryson have all been drawn from Falkiner, who reprints three sections of Moryson's Itinerary, "The Description of Ireland," 214-32; "The Commonwealth of Ireland," 233-309; and "The Manners and Customs of Ireland," 310-25. Only the first of these was included in the 1617 edition of Moryson's travelogue; the latter two did not appear in print until 1903. All quotations of Shakespeare follow the Riverside edition, with Evans's square brackets removed to avoid confusion with my own bracketed interpolations. Throughout the essay, spelling and punctuation of quotations have been modernized.

2Decolonising the Mind (London, 1986), 1.

3 For a scientifically well-informed and philosophically acute account of the biological vacuousness of racialist doctrine, see Anthony Appiah, "Illusions of Race" in his In My Father's House (New York, 1992), 28-46.

4 See Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London, 1991). Anderson's is probably the best recent account of the genesis of the national idea, though by its insistence on nationalism as a post-Enlightenment phenomenon, it seriously underestimates, in my view, the development of nationalist ideology in early modern England.

5 For a useful discussion of protonationalist sentiment in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Irish texts, especially bardic poetry, see Bernadette Cunningham, "Native Culture and Political Change in Ireland, 1580-1640" in Ciaran Brady and Raymond Gillespie, eds., Natives and Newcomers: Essays on the Making of Irish Colonial Society 1534-1641 (Dublin, 1986), 148-70.

6 See, for example, David Cairns and Shaun Richards, Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism and Culture (Manchester, UK, 1988), and the important symposium published by the Field Day Theatre Company, Ireland's Field Day (Dublin, 1985).

7 Four entries in the OED (occurring under commonweal, sb.2, and commonwealth, sb.2 and 3) suggest that a significant, but fiercely contested shift in the meaning of the word commonwealth (or commonweal) was taking place during the sixteenth century. Lord Berners in 1534 can imagine it only as a name for the kind of state with which he is familiar—a polity "Of divers men, and one lorde, is composed a common welth"; by contrast Sir Thomas Elyot (in The Boke named the Governour [1531]) is at pains to distinguish the commonweal from the state proper: "There may appear like diversity to be in English between a public weal and a commonweal, as should be in Latin between Res publica and Res plebeia." By 1577, Sir Thomas Smith offers a definition that looks forward to the political language of the English Revolution: "a society … of a multitude of free men, collected together, and united by common accord and covenants among themselves" (The common-welth of England [1589]); while for Raleigh (in Maxims of State [1618]) it defines an unambiguously republican or democratic society: "A Commonwealth is the swerving or depravation of a Free, or popular State, or the Government of the whole Multitude of the base and poorer Sort, without respect of the other Orders."

8 On the supposed Spanish origins of the Irish, see, e.g., Edmund Spenser, A View of the Present State of Ireland (1596), ed. W. L. Renwick (London, 1934), 56-59; and William Camden, Britain, or A chorographicall description of… England, Scotland, and Ireland… (London, 1610), 64.

9 See Nicholas Canny, "Ireland as Terra Florida" and "The Theory and Practice of Acculturation: Ireland in a Colonial Context" in Kingdom and Colony: Ireland in the Atlantic World, 1560-1800 (Baltimore, 1988), 1-29 and 31-68; Canny, The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland: A Pattern Established (New York, 1976), 122-33; and David Stannard, American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World (New York, 1992), 98-99 and 223-25.

10 "Dismantling Irena: The Sexualizing of Ireland in Early Modern England" in Andrew Parker et al., eds., Nationalisms and Sexualities (New York, 1992), 157-71, esp. 158.

11Solon his Folly, or A Politic Discourse, touching the Reformation of commonweals conquered, declined or corrupted (Oxford, 1594), 94.

12 Spenser, 197.

13 On the distinction between "the King's Irish subjects" and "the King's Irish enemies," see, e.g., Davies, 102-13.

14 For a seventeenth-century discussion of the significance of the 1541 act, see Davies, 242-47. See also

15 Davies cites the Statutes of Kilkenny and Statute 10 of Henry VII, both of which forbade mixed marriages and the practice of mixed fostering as "high treason," arguing that "as long as these laws were put in ure [use] and execution, this land continued in prosperity and honor" (211-14, esp. 214).

16 See, e.g., Caxton, The Description of Britain: A Modern Rendering, ed. Marie Collins (New York, 1988); "Note, what with all these and other marvels and wonders, that new ones often occur at the outermost limits of the world, as if Nature were amusing herself in private with greater license in the most distant regions, than in public near the centre of the world" (162).

17 Caxton, 151. Cf. also Barnabe Rich, A New Description of Ireland (London, 1610), 6 and 25. For a discussion of the trope of Ireland as Earthly Paradise, see Jonathan Gil Harris, "Food Beyond the Pale: Ireland, Forbidden Fruit, and the Ravenous Body Politic" in "The Incontinent Body Politic: Authority and the Boundaries of Organic Political Metaphor in the English Renaissance" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Sussex, 1990), 53-104.

18 Caxton, 161.

19 Moryson, "Commonwealth," 263; cf. his "Manners and Customs," 322.

20 Spenser, 208.

21 Caxton, 161.

22The Image of Irelande with A Discoverie of Woodkarne, ed. David B. Quinn (1581; rpt. Belfast, 1985), 9, 11, 183, 188, 191, 192, 197, 200, 201, and 203. Spenser cites Camden's view that stories of Irish werewolves merely demonstrate the prevalence of lycanthropy among the Irish but at the same time avers that "some of the Irish do use to make the wolf their gossip" (77).

23 "An Account of a Journey of Captain Josias Bodley into Lecale, in Ulster, in the year 1602-3," quoted here from Falkiner, 328-44, esp. 329.

24 Moryson, "Manners and Customs," 317.

25 Spenser, 72 and 70. Cf. also Rich, 8. Apparently deriving from the Irish war-cry abu, the term was subsequently applied to the incomprehensible shouts of both Africans and Amerindians (OED, "hubbub"). OED quotes W. Watreman's Fardle Facions (London, 1555): "[The Icthiophagi of Afrike] flocke together to go drincke … shouting as they go with an yrishe whobub", and cites Spelman's Relation of Virginia in John Smith's Workes (London, 1613) on an Indian "whoopubb."

26 Moryson, "Commonwealth," 247-48. Cf. also Spenser, 95. Ben Jonson's Irish Masque at Court offers a flattering variation on the trope of Irish bard-as-anarch, in the form of a reformed bard, loyal to James I, whose closing song literally reduces the wild Irish dancers to civility by conjuring away their mantles to "discover their masquing apparel"; see page 28 of this essay.

27 "Commonwealth," 223 and 273.

28 Davies, 168.

29 Spenser, View, 5 and 44. Compare the characterization of Talus, the agent of Justice, in Spenser's Faerie Queene as "immovable, resistless, without end" (quoted here from The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser, ed. J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt [London, 1948], Bk. 5, canto 1, st. 12, 1. 7 [my emphasis]; all subsequent citations of FQ refer to this edition); and the well-known woodcut from John Case's Sphaera Civitatis (London, 1588) which shows Iustitia Immobilis as the axeltree of Elizabeth's concentric political universe.…

30 Spenser, View, 86 and 82.

31 Davies, 182 and 212-13.

32 Derricke, 11. Indeed Derricke even argues that the Irish, whom he repeatedly calls "monsters," are worse than the wildest beasts, since beasts at least can be tamed, whereas the Irish will invariably revert to their wildness:

Yea though they were in court trained up,   and years there lived ten, Yet do they look to shaking bogs,   scarce proving honest men. And whenas they have gained the bogs,   such virtue hath that ground, That they are worse than wildest kern,   and more in sin abound.                                                (187)

33 John Hooker in Raphael Holinshed, The Second Volume of Chronicles: Containing the Description, Conquest, Inhabitation, and Troblesome Estate Of Ireland (London, 1586), 69. The Second Volume was first published in the 1587 edition, though its own title page bears the date 1586.

34 Davies, 182; Derricke, 183.

35 Moryson, "Manners and Customs," 310. Spenser's View similarly begins by addressing the possibility that the problems of Ireland "proceed from the very Genius of the soil … or that [God] reserveth her in this unquiet state still, for some secret scourge which shall by her come unto England" (3), while in 1582 Lodowick Bryskett was of the opinion that "the secret Judgment of God hangeth over this soil, that causeth all the best endeavors of those that labor the reformation thereof to come to naught" (cited in the commentary to View, 252).

36 Moryson, "Manners and Customs," 310.

37 Spenser, View, 196. Spenser is particularly offended by the Irish love of "liberty and natural freedom, which in their madness they affect" (17). Fynes Moryson lists five causes of the Old English "alienation from us and application to the mere Irish": Roman religion ("The grand cause"); profit from the "barbarous laws and customs of the Irish, by tyrannical oppression of the poor people under them" (described a "predominant [cause], though in a lower degree"); marriage and fostering with the Irish; "community of apparel"; and "community of language." Moryson is especially concerned to stress "the [well-known] power of these last three causes to corrupt the manners and faith of any nation.… These outward signs … being the touchstones of the inward affection" ("Commonwealth," 260-62).

38 The author (or authors) of this latter work seems to have had some Irish experience, since a number of the Irish scenes are written in brogue interlaced with reasonably accurate Gaelic; but the representation of the Irish as "savage slaves" and "naked savages" is unremittingly propagandist. A familiar sign of their barbarity is their appetite for decapitating their enemies—though decapitation was of course routinely practiced by the English, not least in Ireland. Indeed the only heads actuary displayed in the play prove to be those of the Irish rebel Shane O'Neill and his secretary; but responsibility for this English barbarism is characteristically displaced onto the Irish auxiliaries Alexander Oge and Mack Gilliam Busk. For a disturbing account of English practice, see Thomas Churchyard, Churchyarde 's Choice, a General Rehearsal of Wars (London, 1579): Churchyard describes how Sir Humphrey Gilbert used to line up "the heads of all those … which were killed in the day [to create] a lane of heads which he used ad terrorem, the dead feeling nothing the more pains thereby; and yet did it bring great terror to the people when they saw the heads of their dead fathers, brothers, children, kinsfolk and friends lie on the ground before their faces, as they came to speak with the said colonel" (quoted in Canny, The Elizabethan Conquest of Ireland, 122). yet Moryson denounces the Irish for "mangling the bodies of their dead enemies, but never believing them to be fully dead till they have cut off their heads" ("Commonwealth," 288).

39 See Joel B. Altman, "'Vile Participation': The Amplification of Violence in the Theater of Henry V,'" SQ 42 (1991): 1-32, esp. 8-13; Altman cites figures that show Elizabeth expending nearly two million pounds on her ten-year campaign against Tyrone (1593-1603)—more than she spent on nearly twenty years of fighting in France and the Low Countries (1585-1603).

40Culture and Imperialism (New York, 1993), 66; Altman, passim; J. Baker, "'Wildehirissheman': Colonialist Representation in Shakespeare's Henry V, " English Literary Renaissance 22 (1992): 37-61; Christopher Highley, "Wales, Ireland, and 1 Henry IV, " Renaissance Drama n.s. 21 (1990): 91-114.

41 Compare the sardonic punning of Antonio and Sebastian on Gonzalo's projected "plantation of this isle" in The Tempest: "He'd sow't with nettle-seed.… Or docks, or mallows" (2.1.144-45).

42 For a list of the many details that reveal Shakespeare's "preoccupation with Irish affairs" in Henry V, see Gary Taylor, ed., Henry V (Oxford, 1984), 8. For further useful discussion of the play's bearing on Irish affairs, see Philip Edwards, Threshold of a Nation (Cambridge, 1979), 75-78; and Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield, "History and ideology: the instance of Henry V" in Alternative Shakespeares, John Drakakis, ed. (London, 1985), 206-27.

43 Burgundy's description of the unkempt French hedgerows resembling "prisoners wildly overgrown with hair" (1. 43) may even deliberately recall contemporary illustrations of "wild Irish" captives with their notoriously shaggy forelocks (or "glibs"); see pages 24-25 of this essay.

44 On the wandering, uncentered life of the Irish, see Spenser, View, 67-69 and 206; Davies, 117-18, 160-61, and 167-71; Moryson, "The Description of Ireland," 222 and 231 ; and Holinshed, "The Description of Ireland," 68. Beacon argues the desirability of instituting in Ireland a law such as that imposed by the Romans on the conquered Macedonians, prescribing capital punishment for "such as should wander and travel from province to province, or should change their habitation, or contract affinities, or use merchandise with those of other provinces" (95-96). For discussion of the Elizabethan association of Irish Placelessness with the notorious wandering habits of "masterless men," thought to be so destabilizing to the English commonweal, see D. B. Quinn, The Elizabethans and the Irish (Ithaca, NY, 1966), 32 and 126; and Mihoko Suzuki, "Gender, Class, and the Social Order in Late Elizabethan Drama," Theatre Journal 44 (1992): 31-45, esp. 33, n. 7.

45 Davies, 118. Davies seems to have believed, following the teachings of Machiavelli, that confirmation of individual property rights by the English law would distract the Irish people from rebellious notions—a view that had been even more bluntly articulated by another lawyer, Thomas Beacon, in Solon his Folly, for whom the best way of suppressing the Irish "desire [of their] former liberty" was to satisfy their wish "to possess that which is their own freely and securely; so as, enjoying the same, they have attained the end of their desires, and rest for the most part contented with the government" (79).

46View, 171.

47 Davies, 169-70.

48 See, e.g., Spenser, View, 166-67; and Davies, 122-23, 163-65, and 170-71.

49 Gerald Boate, Ireland's Natural History (London, 1652), 89-98, quoted in Canny, "Identity Formation in Ireland" in Canny and Pagden, eds., 195.

50 It is conceivable that the play's Irish dimension may have been one of the things that commended it to the Essex plotters in 1601. Given Essex's conviction that his failure in Ireland was due to the parsimony of the queen's support, a play that featured the deposition of a monarch after a mistaken venture in Ireland may have seemed especially germane to their cause.

51 Degeneration, Spenser argues, reveals the "bad minds of them who having been brought up at home under a strait rule of duty and obedience … so soon as they come thither, where they see law so slackly tended … they grow more loose and careless of their duty, as it is the nature of all men to love liberty, so they become flat libertines and fall to flat licentiousness" (View, 196 [my emphasis]); once outside the pale of culture, it is plain, everyone will discover himself or herself a woodkern under the skin.

52 See Heywood's Apology for Actors (London, 1612); and Robert Cawdrey's epistle "To the Reader" of his pioneering English dictionary, A Table Alphabetical (London, 1604), which urges the need to avoid "outlandish English" and "foreign apparel" and to "use altogether one manner of language" in the interests of national unity.

53 On the role of language in colonization, see Stephen Greenblatt, "Learning to Curse: Aspects of Linguistic Colonialism in the Sixteenth Century" in Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture (New York, 1990), 16-39.

54 From the dedication to Elio Antonio de Nebrija, Gramatica Castellana (Salamanca, 1492); I am grateful to Ivan Illich for generously supplying me with a copy of his manuscript translation.

55 For a rich account of the role of cartography and chorography in shaping the national identity of early modern England, see Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago and London, 1992), chap. 3, "The Land Speaks," 105-47.

56 Spenser's phrase appears in a 1580 letter to Gabriel Harvey and is quoted here from Helgerson (1). Helgerson's book also gives extensive attention to the promotion of vernacular literature and to theorizing of the Common Law as agencies of national self-consciousness: see his introduction, "The Kingdom of Our Own Language," 1-18; chap. 1, "Two Versions of Gothic," 19-62; and chap. 2, "Writing the Law," 63-104.

57The Arte of English Poesie, ed. Gladys Doidge Willcock and Alice Walker (Cambridge, 1936), 144 (my emphasis).

58 For an argument that persuasively associates Tyrone and Glendower and gives evidence of suspected Welsh support for Tyrone's rising at the time the play was first performed, see Highley.

59 The symbolic parallel is explored by Highley, 104-5. Highley remarks that "since England's Celtic borderlands could be cognitively mapped along one axis as symbolically continuous and interchangeable, it follows that in their wider provenance the castrating energies of … Shakespeare's Welshwomen evoke the dangers of Celtic women generally" (101-2).

60 See Jones and Stallybrass in Parker, ed., 163-64.

61 Spenser, View, 84, 86, and 88-89 (my emphasis).

62 Spenser, View, 197.

63 Davies, 281-82 and 272.

64 Taylor in his edition of Henry V (see n. 42) cites the relevant passage from Cicero's De Republica.

65 Heywood, sig. F3. Henry's metadramatic anticipation of a "history" that "shall with full mouth / Speak freely of our acts," overwhelming the "tongueless mouth" of oblivion (HV, 1.2.230-32), emphasizes how closely the project of nation-building, for Shakespeare, as for Nebrija and Heywood, is entwined with that of forging a language.

66 Philip Edwards has argued that, far from objecting to an imagined slur on the Irish nation (as is usually supposed), Macmorris resents the imputation that he is a member of a separate Irish nation at all. It seems to me virtually impossible to determine exactly what he means, and that his inarticulacy on the topic of nationality is precisely Shakespeare's point.

67 Caxton, 154.

68 See the essays by Airman and Baker. Altman even speaks of England's antagonists in the play as "French-cum-Irish" (19). For an argument that the choruses were an addition to the play (made after the publication of the quarto text from which they are missing), and that Mountjoy, rather than Essex, is the subject of Shakespeare's encomium, see Warren D. Smith, "The Henry V Choruses in the First Folio," JEGP 53 (1954): 38-57. If Smith is right, then the prominence given to the French herald Montjoy must have developed an unexpected complimentary resonance in the revised version.

69 The French preoccupation with difference is equally apparent in the Dauphin's anxiety that Frenchwomen "will give / Their bodies to the lust of English youth, / To new store France with bastard warriors" (3.5.29-31) and in the preoccupation with hierarchy apparent in Montjoy's extreme anxiety about the indifference of death, and the need

To sort our nobles from our common men— For many of our princes, woe the while, Lie drowned and soaked in mercenary blood, So do our vulgar drench their peasant limbs In blood of princes.


Even the Black Prince's conquests are punningly figured as a defacement of the proper "patterns" of Frenchness, established by "God and by French fathers," by the "seed" of that "mount[ant] sire," Edward III (2.4.57-61).

70 The phrase is Airman's; he notes how this episode, "however charmingly presented as a language lesson, lingers in the imagination to foster ever-expanding fantasies of vulnerability and savage projection" (18).

71 For a dazzling analysis of the ideological functioning of this trope, see Louis A. Montrose, "The Work of Gender in the Discourse of Discovery," Representations 33 (1991): 1-41.

72 Quoted from Arthur Sherbo, ed., Johnson on Shakespeare in The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, 16 vols. (New Haven, 1958-90), 8:565.

73 Airman, 31.

74 Writing in about 1629, the Old English pamphleteer (and follower of Davies) John Cusacke speaks as though Davies's ideal were already an accomplished fact, urging Charles I to confirm its practice, so that "all the natives of Ireland may from their form of subjection to English government be by your Majesty declared to be Englishmen by their national appellation and Irishmen by their legal denomination … as perfect members of the English colony in Ireland, and free denizens of England" (Folger MS G.A. 10, fol. 174). Cusacke's is, however, an eccentric and marginal voice. I am grateful to Linda Levy Peck for drawing this passage to my attention.

75A Discourse of Ireland, quoted from Falkiner, ed., 348-62, esp. 349-50. For a parodic version of the woman's body as map, in which Ireland is revealingly associated with the hidden parts, see The Comedy of Errors, where Dromio describes Nell the kitchen maid as "spherical, like a globe; I could find out countries in her.… Ireland.… , sir, in her buttocks, I found it out by the bogs" (3.2.114-18).

76 Davies, 177. Like Davies, Moryson associated the Irish with the tricksy slaves of Roman New Comedy, writing of them as "subtle temporizers" whose "shifting devices" recall "crafty Davus in the comedy" ("Manners and Customs," 315-16). Davies's perception that such behavior was a direct consequence of their conquered state provides an interesting gloss not only on the Irishman-as-Davus but on the equivalent modern stereotype of the comic but fundamentally untrustworthy "paddy": "this Oppression did of force and necessity make the Irish a crafty people; for such as are oppressed and live in slavery are ever put to their shifts.… And therefore in the old comedies of Plautus and Terence, the Bondslave doth always act the cunning and crafty part" (177).

77 On Irish "slipperiness" and the "ability to disappear" associated with native costume, see Jones and Stallybrass in Parker, ed., 165-66.

78 "Rug-headed" is usually glossed as referring to the unkempt locks of the Irish, but "rug" (etymologically connected to rough) is the usual English synonym for mantle—as for example in Jonson's Irish Masque at Court (1. 146). See also

79 Moryson, "Commonwealth," 261. Moryson is partly dependent on a passage in Spenser's View: "[the mantle] is a fit house for an outlaw, a meet bed for a rebel, and [an] apt cloak for a thief, [who] wandering in waste places far from the danger of law maketh his mantle his house" (67). The closeness of his paraphrase makes it plain that he had read Spenser's tract (which was denied publication until 1633) in manuscript.

80View, 66-68. This passage has been dismissed by the historian Ciaran Brady as "some curious, but I suspect not altogether serious remarks concerning the pernicious effects of native dress and hair-style"; see "Spenser's Irish Crisis: Humanism and Experience in the 1590s," Past and Present 111 (1983): 17-49, esp. 28. But the seriousness of such compilants is vouched for by repeated administrative attempts to suppress native costume. The surprising indifference of historians to such cultural material is indicated by the fact that mantles are not even indexed in the authoritative New History of Ireland.

81View, 69-70.

82 Entry in Calendar of State Papers Ireland (1589, 144.57.ii): "A note of such reasons as moved Sir W. Herbert to put the statute in execution against Irish habits."

83 Spenser, Faerie Queene, Bk. 5, canto 9, st. 18, 1. 5.

84View, 9 and 171. The preoccupation with the optics of power apparent in Spenser and Davies is equally apparent in the illustrative program of John Derricke's suggestively titled A Notable Discouery … of the Wilde men in Ireland, properly called Woodkarne, appended to his Image of Irelande. Woodcuts 1-5, showing the "actions … exercises … [and rebellion]" of the kern, and woodcut 11, showing the plight of the defeated Turlough O'Neill, are executed in a rough, primitive style appropriate to their subject, while woodcuts 6-10 and 12, celebrating the triumph of Sir Henry Sidney over the barbarians, make use of a much more sophisticated Renaissance idiom, the conspicuous symmetry and regularity of whose designs embody the reforming power of the colonizers' vision.

85 "Commonwealth," 237.

86 On the practical and ideological significance of mapping in Irish conquest and colonization, see Bruce Avery, "Mapping the Irish Other: Spenser's View of the Present State of Ireland, " ELH 57 (1990): 263-79; and Mercedes Maroto Camino's trenchant critique of his arguments in her so-far unpublished "Methinks I see an evil lurking unespied."

87View, 186.

88 Canto 12, st. 26, 11. 5-6; see also

89 Davies, 163.

90 Davies, 268.

91 Davies, 268-69.

92 David Lindley ("Embarrassing Ben: The Masques for Frances Howard," ELR 16 [1986]: 343-59) suggests that this detail may even have been inspired by Davies's vision in the Discovery of a civilized Irish nation "convert[ing] their mantles into cloaks" (353); see also For further comment on the absurdity of this masque's "comfortable colonial optimism," see Lisa Jardine, '"Mastering the Uncouth': Gabriel Harvey, Edmund Spenser and the English Experience in Ireland" in New Perspectives on Renaissance Thought: Essays in the History of Science, Education and Philosophy in Memory of C. B. Schmitt, J. Henry and S. Sutton, eds. (London, 1990), 68-82, esp. 68-72.

93Ben Jonson: The Complete Works, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols. (Oxford, 1925-52), 7:404-5 (my emphasis). The stage direction requiring the Gentlemen to "let fall their mantles" during this song points up the puns on "rough" and "rugged"; while Jonson's reference to earth as bound in "rude winter" plays on Camden's claim that "Some derive Hibernia from Hiberno tempore, that is, from the Winter season" (61).

94 See Lindley, 351-53. Ironically, even as the masque was performed, one of their number, Sir William Talbot, lay in the Fleet, awaiting his Star Chamber trial for refusing to declare for the king rather than the Pope (352).

95 Davies, 269.

96 Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (London, 1977), 50.

97 Janet Arnold, Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (Leeds, UK, 1988), 81.

98 See also Frances A. Yates's otherwise useful iconographic analysis of the painting mistakenly interprets folds on the garment as mouths and accordingly misreads its "ears, eyes and tongues" as symbols of Fame; see Astraea: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Centry (London, 1975), 217. Cesare Ripa, Iconologia, quoted in Arnold, Queen's Wardrobe, 81.

99 Arnold, Queen's Wardrobe, 82; and "Jane Lambarde's Mantle," 65.

100 The identification of Iris with an idealized Ireland is worth meditating in the context of her appearance in the marriage masque of The Tempest—Paul Brown, especially, has noted analogies between Ireland and Prospero's Island, highlighting resemblances between Caliban and the Wild Irish, in '"This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine': The Tempest and the Discourse of Colonialism" in Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, J. Dollimore and A. Sinfield, eds., (CITY, 1985), 48-71.

101 See, e.g., Barnabe Rich: "Ireland is wonderfully inclined to fogs & mists, & given to very much rain" (5); and Moryson: "The land of Ireland is … open to winds and floods of rain, and so fenny it hath bogs on the very tops of the mountains.… Our mariners observe the sailing into Ireland to be more dangerous, not only because many tides meeting makes the sea apt to swell upon any storm, but especially because they ever find the coast of Ireland covered with mists, whereas the coast of England is commonly clear to be seen far off ("Description of Ireland," 220).

102 For a discussion comparing the quarto Henry V to the Rainbow Portrait, see Annabel Patterson, "Back by Popular Demand: The Two Versions of Henry V, " RenD n.s. 19 (1988): 29-62, esp. 46-47.

103 In the late summer of 1602, Mountjoy had fought a triumphant campaign in Ulster which achieved a symbolic climax in his destruction of the O'Neill coronation stone at Tullahogue. Elizabeth's anticipation of final success is indicated by a letter written to the lord lieutenant in her own hand on 2 September, expressing her joy "that so good event hath followed so troublesome endeavors, laborious cares, and heedful travels" (quoted in John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, 4 vols. [London, 1823], 3:596).

104 "invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and its Sub-version, Henry IV and Henry V" in Dollimore and Sinfield, eds., 18-47, esp. 44.

105 Quoted from Philip Edwards, 79.

106 Lombard in Byrne, ed., 40-41.

Source: "Broken English and Broken Irish: Nation, Language, and the Optic of Power in Shakespeare's Histories," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 1, Spring, 1994, pp. 1-32.


Breaking the Illusion of Being: Shakespeare and the Performance of Self


Compounding Errors