Constituting Old Age in Early Modern English Literature, by By (author) Christopher Martin

By By (author) Christopher Martin

How did Shakespeare and his contemporaries, whose works mark the final sector century of Elizabeth I's reign as one of many richest moments in all of English literature, regard and signify outdated age? used to be past due existence noticeable basically as a time of withdrawal and instruction for dying, as students and historians have usually maintained? during this publication, Christopher Martin examines how, opposite to rece...

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Additional info for Constituting Old Age in Early Modern English Literature, from Queen Elizabeth to 'King Lear' (Massachusetts Studies in Early Modern Culture) (Paperback) - Common

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At which curteous urbanitie of the Lacedemonians, when al the people in token of praise clapped their hands with many acclamations gratulatory, one of the Ambassadours brake out in these words & sayd, that the Athenians knew wel what was honest & vertuous, but to do it they would not. (fol. 47v–48) The tale ends up betraying that an awareness of how one should regard old age need not compel a culture, even one so archetypally “civilized” as Athens, to practice this ideal. The only assurances, as Cato had asserted in his comment on Appius, rest in a vigorous self-protective aggression.

In so doing, I establish how, up to the time of her death, Elizabeth maintained a complicated sense of struggle with—if not mastery over—the means whereby she could prompt others to regard her constitution, something ultimately as significant as the thorny matter of her gender. Given the traumatic close calls she had known from the time of her infancy down through the Edwardian and Marian years, the new queen may well have regarded herself as living on borrowed time. 11 As the reign drew on, fears over the queen’s fragility intensified proportionately.

Cicero’s Cato structures the extended discourse that comprises the De senectute around a series of responses to what he defines as the four principal 24 Chapter One causae behind a prevailing disdain for old age. First, there is the general belief that in senescence “a man is impeached and hindered from taking in hand any function or charge in the common wealth,” quod avocet a rebus gerendis—a significant fear, given the civic-minded ethos of republican Rome, where one’s very identity was so intimately tied to public function.

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