Literature

Cupid in Early Modern Literature and Culture by Jane Kingsley-Smith

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By Jane Kingsley-Smith

Cupid grew to become a favored determine within the literary and visible tradition of post-Reformation England. He served to articulate and debate the recent Protestant idea of wish, inspiring a depressing model of affection tragedy within which Cupid kills. yet he was once additionally implicated in different controversies, because the item of idolatrous, Catholic worship and as an adversary to woman rule: Elizabeth I's encounters with Cupid have been an important function of her image-construction and adjusted subtly all through her reign. overlaying a wide selection of fabric comparable to work, logos and jewelry, yet focusing ordinarily on poetry and drama, together with works by means of Sidney, Shakespeare, Marlowe and Spenser, Kingsley-Smith illuminates the Protestant fight to classify and keep an eye on hope and the ways that Cupid disrupted this strategy. An unique viewpoint on early smooth hope, the booklet will attract someone drawn to the literature, drama, gender politics and artwork historical past of the English Renaissance.

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Additional resources for Cupid in Early Modern Literature and Culture

Sample text

Let him control his impulses and not be borne headlong into copulation.  It is from this perception of the irresistibility and destructiveness of desire that a tragic English Cupid would emerge. In general, there is a correlation between the new visibility of Cupid in early modern literature and the ‘overproduction’ of love-discourses that characterized the Renaissance. In The French Academie, Primaudaye justifies his inclusion of a chapter entitled ‘Of the affection of love, of the nature, kindes and object of it …’ by pointing out man’s confusion: For being, as we must needes be during this life, subiect unto, and tossed on every side with an infinite numer [sic] of strange passions, if they be unknowne unto us, we cannot discerne amongst a multitude of contrarie opinions, which of them is soundest, every one of them pretending some shew of good & of truth.

Hence, he was required to differentiate between lawful and unlawful loves, passions that originate in heaven and hell, those that inculcate virtue and those that degrade. And yet, as we have seen, Cupid’s ambivalent iconography, as well as his own pleasure in disguise, meant that he was a figure for the very elusiveness of desire that made such distinctions necessary. Indeed, this study will argue that Cupid would more often succeed in challenging the dominant Protestant ideology of love, exposing its cruelties and inconsistencies, than in upholding the requisite distinctions.

Yet he was also capable of undermining such polarities. Chapter  examines the careers of three elite women – Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I and Lady Mary Wroth – who found their public identity defined by their relationship to Cupid but who developed their own literary and performative strategies of defiance. These range from appropriating Cupid’s arrows, to redefining him in Christian and Neoplatonic terms, to replacing him with a new image of female Desire. In Chapter , an examination of Kyd’s Soliman and Perseda, Sharpham’s Cupid ’s Whirligig and Middleton’s The Nice Valour reveals Cupid threatening effeminacy, sodomy and even castration to excessively desiring men.

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