“What words, what looks, what wonders?”: Language and Spectacle in the Theatre of George Peele

  • Inga-Stina Ewbank

Abstract

The title of this paper contains one of the more unrecognizable quotations of the conference; but I take heart when I am asked (as I have been) whether it refers to Shakespeare’s Marina, or to T. S. Eliot’s.1 Such guesses help to confirm my feeling that there is, at times, in the theatrical art of George Peele a peculiar quality of wonder and, though that is not my main concern, that this makes him very occasionally anticipate certain Shakespearian moments. This “wonder” — Peele’s version of admiratio2 — is, I believe, produced by some notable combinations of visual and verbal effects. The quotation, then, is offered as a paradigm of the quest I propose: for it is a quest, rather than a thesis, and the most important part of the quotation is the question mark. What is the relationship between language and spectacle in the theatre of Peele?

Keywords

Burning Mercury Manifold Schizophrenia Smoke 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The Dramatic Works of George Peele, general editor Charles Tyler Prouty (New Haven, Conn., 1952, 1961 and 1970).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. V. Cunningham, Woe or Wonder: The Emotional Effect of Shakespearean Tragedy (Denver, Colorado, 1951), esp. chapter IV.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Glynne Wickham, Early English Stages, I (London, 1959), C310.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    John M. Manly, Specimens of the Pre-Shakespearean Drama, I (Dover Publications reprint, N.Y., 1967), p. xx.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    W. W. Greg, Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements (Oxford, 1922), p. 32.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Dieter Mehl, “Visual and Rhetorical Imagery in Shakespeare’s Plays,” in Essays and Studies (1972), p. 95.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    Ibid., p. 13; and see Elisabeth Kunoth-Leifels, Über die Darstellungen der “Bathseba im Bade”: Studien zur Geschichte des Bildthemas 4. bis 17. Jahrhundert (Essen, 1962).Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Elizabeth Holmes, in Aspects of Elizabethan Imagery (Oxford, 1929), p. 16,Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    See Robert Speaight, William Poel and the Elizabethan Revival (London, 1954), pp. 266–68.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. R. B. McKerrow (London, 1904–10), III, 323.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    Holinshed (1587), quoted from The Life and Minor Works of George Peele (vol. 1 of the Yale edition), p. 61.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    D. M. Bergeron, English Civic Pageantry, 1580–1642 (London, 1972).Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    John Dover Wilson’s introduction to his New Shakespeare edition of Titus Andronicus (Cambridge, 1948), p. xxix.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Ben Jonson: The Complete Masques, ed. Stephen Orgel (New Haven, Conn., 1969), pp. 253–54.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Peter Saccio, in The Court Comedies of John Lyly (Princeton, New Jersey, 1969), p. 16,Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    G. K. Hunter, John Lyly: The Humanist as Courtier (London, 1962), p. 155.Google Scholar
  17. 25.
    Andrew von Hendy, “The Triumph of Chastity: Form and Meaning in The Arraignment of Paris” Renaissance Drama, n.s. I (1968), 87–101:Google Scholar
  18. Henry G. Lesnick, “The Structural Significance of Myth and Flattery in Peele’s Arraignment of Paris ” SP, 65 (1968), 163–71.Google Scholar
  19. 27.
    Enid Welsford complains, in The Court Masque (Cambridge, 1927), p. 281.Google Scholar
  20. 32.
    P. H. Cheffaud, George Peele (Paris, 1913), esp. p. 131;Google Scholar
  21. H. D. Sykes, “Peele’s Borrowings from Du Bartas,” NQ, CXLVII (1924), 349–51, 368–9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inga-Stina Ewbank

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