With specific reference to particular texts

With specific mention to peculiar texts see the ways in which some of the issues prominent in the Romantic period are reflected in its play ( e.g. imaginativeness, nature, revolution, individuality, liberty etc )

As George Ross Ridge suggests in hisThe Hero in French Romantic Literature( 1959 ) , “Romanticism is the point of going in modern literature” ( Ross Ridge, 1959: p.1 ) and as such can be seen as announcing from a clip of tremendous societal and political flux, stand foring besides a similar going in the psychological science of the person and the wider society.

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In this essay I would wish to look at this impression as it displayed in three of the era’s play: Horace Walpole’sThe Mysterious Mother( 1768, 2000 ) , Robert Southey’sWat Tyler( 1794, 2000 ) and Lord Byron’sThe Two Foscari( 1821: 2000 ) . These peculiar dramas, I think, are examples of the Romantic involvement in both the internal infinite of psychosexuality and the external passion for political relations and impressions of single freedom. As we shall see, in the Romantic imaginativeness these two thoughts were closely linked, what George Ross Ridge footings as being “personally involved in the spirit of the age” ( Ross Ridge, 1959: p.2 ) ; the sexual and the radical thrust being symbiotically co-joined in an aesthetic jubilation of being.

Horace Walpole’s dramaThe Myserious Motherwas considered by Henry Beers ( 1899 ) as being “more absurd than horrible” [ 1 ] ( Beers, 1899: p.241 ) and, as Baines and Burns point out in their Introductory essay to the Oxford edition:

“Coleridge called it ‘the most disgustful, abhorrent, despicable composing that of all time came from the manus of adult male. No 1 with a flicker of manfulness, of which Horace Walpole had none, could hold written it” [ 2 ]

However, a modern-day, Post-Freudian reading of the drama reveals some singular penetrations in the text that, as Walpole himself asserted in the play’s Postscript, suggest comparings with both Sophocles and Euripides ( Walpole, 2000: p.65 ) .

The narration of Walpole’s play weaves a complex web of interrelated strains that converge in the last scene. It is a drama really much about the maintaining of secrets and the jobs that arise from fraudulence, particularly as it relates to morality and psychosexual evildoing. The cardinal character of Edmund exists as the fulcrum between the two portrayals of early Romantic muliebrity, the double star that is studied so adroitly in Mario Praz’sThe Romantic Agony( 1970 ) , dwelling of, on the one manus, the inaccessible beauty in the pretense of Adeliza and the figure of evil sexual pleasance, the Countess.

Through the cardinal motive of incest, both of these figures of muliebrity become inaccessible, a clear form for the Romantic castrated psychosexual sense ; the rapture of ‘la belle doll sans merci’ ( Praz, 1970: p.97 ) that was so much a portion of the Romantic imaginativeness.

The character of Edmund is an everyman both in the Eighteenth century sense of being trapped by his ain desires and besides in a extremely 20th century sense through being trapped in an unsolved Oedipal trigon that threatens the stableness of non merely his ain psychological science but the socio-politics of his state:

“Edmund: Am I non Narbonne’s prince? Who shall govern here

But Narbonne? Have I sapped my country’s Torahs,

Or played the autocrat? Who shall ostracize me?

Am I a poltroon knight? ” [ 3 ]

In this scene Walpole smartly equates Edmund’s unconscious Oedipal state of affairs with the political relations of Narbonne, the shade of his male parent is the unobserved factor in both and, in fact, the full drama as the Countess’ feelings towards her hubby and looking hate of her boy is shown to be a mask for her true Oedipal desires. Edmund’s words at the terminal of Act III have a Freudian border to them that elevates the drama above the merely absurd or the “disgusting” :

“Edmund: …Why so adored the memory of my male parent,

And so abhorred the presence of the boy?

But now, and to thy eyes I seemed my male parent –

At least for that resemblance-sake embracing me” [ 4 ]

This reflects, I think, a critical strain in the Romantic imaginativeness, that of the unachievable and tragic passion, what M.H. Abrams described as a province in which “man remains ineluctably conditioned by passion and by opportunity and decease and mutability” ( Abrams, 1973: p.306 ) . We see, possibly in Walpole’s play the beginnings of this desire for both idealism and evildoing of hitherto accepted boundaries, a desire that would attest itself non merely psychologically but politically every bit good.

Walpole’s play explores the dangers of pent-up cognition and the horrors of innate desires that would, over one hundred old ages subsequently, be given acceptance as an look of the unconscious. The Countess’ declarations at the terminal of the drama give a voice to phantasmatic cardinal frights about the nature of incest and familial gender:

“Edmund: Incest! Good celestial spheres!

Countess: Yes, thou devoted victim! Let thy blood

Curdle to lapidate! Hell circumvents thee! ” [ 5 ]

Walpole shows here the same captivation for crude psychological science that is displayed in hisThe Castle of Otranto( Walpole, 1986 ) and that was to organize the footing of the Gothic novel ( Napier, 1987 ) .

Robert Southey’sWat Tylerconcerns itself with the inquiring of 19th century socio-economic and political boundaries and boundary lines. Tyler himself is more a symbol of an idealised Christ-like societal scruples than a realistic portrayal of early working category rebellion, as this infusion shows:

“Tyler: And shall non these, through immature, and Hale, and happy,

Look on with sorrow to the future hr?

Shall non reflection toxicant all their pleasances?

When I – the honest, staid, hard-working Tyler –

Toil through the long class of the summer’s day.” [ 6 ]

Southey, as Geoffrey Carnall writes, was a protagonist of Jacobinism but held ethical scruples as to the force employed by the Gallic revolutionists [ 7 ] and it is this that we glean from the drama, as revolution is assorted inextricably with spiritualty and compassion. The ideals of Tyler are doubtless based in the Kantian impressions of single freedoms and Enlightenment political constructs as contained, for case, in Thomas Paine’sThe Right of Man( Paine, 1984 ) who asserted the right of every adult male to freedom and autonomy:

“Men are born, and ever go on, free and equal in regard of their rights. Civil differentiations, hence, can be founded merely on public utility.” [ 8 ]

The hitherto accepted boundary lines of category and the Godhead right of the nobility can be seen to be questioned in Southey’s drama, as both Wat Tyler and John Ball are portrayed as cogent, facile political minds who are sacrificed ( once more in Christ-like manner ) by the agents of socio-political power. John Ball’s last address of the drama, for case, shows both socio-political and scriptural imagination:

“John Ball: The Destined hr must come,

When it shall blaze with sun-surpassing luster,

And the dark mists of bias and falsity

Slice in its strong radiance. Flattery’s incense

No more shall shadow round the gore-dyed throne ;

That alter of subjugation, fed with rites,

More barbarian than the priests of Moloch taught.” [ 9 ]

This apocryphal decision to the drama suggests Southey’s grasp that the society he found himself in was undergoing alteration and redefinition. Unlike, say Shelley’s univocal political staunchness as shown in verse forms such asThe Mask of Anarchy( Shelley, 1944 ) andWork force of England( Shelley, 1944 ) or dramas such asPrometheus Unbound( Shelley, 1944 ) or even the early sonnets of Wordsworth on the Gallic Revolution ( Wordsworth, 1994 ) , Southey’s trade name of conservative political exegesis produced an wholly more complex and religious work, that fuses personal faith with national economic sciences.

Writing of the Romantic creative persons in hisCulture and Society 1780-1950, Raymond Williams asserts the importance of the mutualism of art, psychological science and political relations in Romantic literature:

“Under force per unit area, art became a symbolic abstraction for a whole scope of general human experience: a valuable abstraction, because so great art has therefore ultimate power.” [ 10 ]

Nowhere is this mutualism more obvious than in Byron’s dramaThe Two Foscari, a play about both psychosexual passion and political idealism.

As Baines and Burns point out in their Introductory essay, the stoping of the Venetian imperium was of peculiar involvement to the Romantic poets because, in 1797, Napoleon had “occupied Venice and received the surrender of the last doge” ( Baines and Burns, 2000: p.xxviii ) . Byron displays the same political sense as Southey in the characters of Francis and Jacopo Foscari, as we are witness to non so much a representation of Medieval Venice as a symbolic reading of the importance of political stability. The scenes between Jacopo and Marina, nevertheless, for case in Act III remind us non of the political relations of Southey but the passion of the early parts of Walpole:

“Marina: How are those worn limbs? Alas!

Why do I inquire? Thy paleness-

Jacopo: Ti’s the joy of seeing thee once more so shortly, and so

Without anticipation, has sent the blood

Back to my bosom, and left my cheques like thine” [ 11 ]

Here we arrive at what is, possibly, the bosom of the Romantic imaginativeness. At this point in the play, at least, Jacopo Foscari exists at the Centre of a web of political and psychosexual meaning. He is, at one time, the idealistic lover and the victim of political destiny, being a combination of both Walpole’s Edmund and Southey’s Wat Tyler. The outstanding issues of the 19th century that centered around the Gallic revolution and Kantian averments of the importance of single experience in aesthetics and judgement ( Kant, 1972 ; Scruton, 2001 ) found artistic look in non merely the verse forms and novels but the dramas of the English Romantic motion.

As we have seen, all three of these dramas represent differing, although related, issues and leitmotiv of the Romantic epoch. As Raymond Williams asserts, in some senses we must near texts like these in the mode in which they were composed ; with an grasp of the interconnectivity and complexness of the human experience. The gender of Walpole’sThe Mysterious Mother, for case, with its figure of speechs and images of incest must be viewed in the same visible radiation as Southey’s category and socio-economic exegesis ; both in their manner represent a evildoing, a forcing dorsum of boundaries, a willingness and desire to oppugn the bing position quo.

Of class, many Romantic poets sought to make this non merely in their art but in their life besides. The figure of Byron, as Peter Quennell asserts in his lifeByron: The Old ages of Fame( 1974 ) was every bit much a romantic concept as the figure of Edmund or Jacopo Foscari and it is this, possibly, the outgrowth of the creative person as bearer of political orientation, both aesthetic and political, both psychological and societal, that we witness most in the era’s literature.

Plants Cited

Abrams, M.H ( 1973 ) ,Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature, London: Norton.

Baines, Paul and Burns, Edward ( explosive detection systems ) ( 2000 ) ,Introductory Essay, published inFive Romantic Plaies, 1768-1821, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beers, Henry ( 1899 ) ,A History of Romanticism in the Eighteen Century, London: Holt and Company.

Byron, Lord ( 2000 ) ,The Two Foscari, published in Baines and Burns.

Carnall, Geoffrey ( 1960 ) ,Robert Southey and His Age: The Development of the Conservative Mind, London: Clarendon Press.

Kant, Emmanuel ( 1972 ) ,The Critique of Practical Reason, London: William Benton.

Paine, Thomas ( 1984 ) ,The Rights of Man, London: Penguin.

Praz, Mario ( 1970 ) ,The Romantic Agony, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Quennell, Peter ( 1974 ) ,Byron: The Old ages of Fame and Byron in Italy, London: Collins.

Ross Ridge, George ( 1959 ) ,The Hero in French Romantic Literature, Georgia: University of Georgia Press.

Scrutton, Roger ( 2001 ) ,Kant, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe ( 1944 ) ,The Collected Works, London: Dent.

Southey, Robert ( 2000 ) ,Wat Tyler, published in Baines and Burns.

Walpole, Horace ( 1986 ) ,The Castle of Otranto, published in Fairclough, Peter ( erectile dysfunction ) ,Three Gothic Novels, London: Penguin.

Walpole, Horace, ( 2000 ) ,The Mysterious Mother, published in Baines and Burns.

Williams, Raymond ( 1963 ) ,Culture and Society, 1780-1950, London: Penguin.

Wordsworth, William ( 1994 ) ,The Poetical Works, London: Wordsworth.


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