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

By Jane Kingsley-Smith

Cupid grew to become a well-liked determine within the literary and visible tradition of post-Reformation England. He served to articulate and debate the hot Protestant conception of hope, 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 girl rule: Elizabeth I's encounters with Cupid have been a very important characteristic of her image-construction and adjusted subtly all through her reign. masking a wide selection of fabric resembling work, logos and jewelry, yet focusing frequently on poetry and drama, together with works through Sidney, Shakespeare, Marlowe and Spenser, Kingsley-Smith illuminates the Protestant fight to classify and keep watch over wish and the ways that Cupid disrupted this strategy. An unique viewpoint on early smooth wish, the publication will entice someone attracted to the literature, drama, gender politics and paintings background of the English Renaissance.

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Indeed, Sidney can be seen to have adopted various Protestant identities throughout his life. His early education was notably Calvinist, and he was capable of virulent anti-Catholic sentiments in his private correspondence as well as in the ‘Letter … to Queen Elizabeth, Touching Her Marriage to Monsieur’ ().  His defence of an emotional response to the sacraments, asserting the value of man’s visual sense (‘As the Word enters the ears to strike the heart, so the rite itself enters through the eyes to move the heart’), seems likely to have appealed to Sidney the poet.

Despite insisting on the spiritual equality of men and women, Protestantism contributed to a ‘resurgence of patriarchalism’ which emphasized the political and religious consequences of any challenge to male authority, resulting in greater limitations being imposed on female desire and sexual transgression. Cupid acted as an agent of this patriarchalism, not only in penetrating the woman with his dart (thereby proving her need to be mastered) but by demonstrating the shameful emasculation of men who submitted to female power.

The epithets that degraded him in the early modern period – ‘vain’, ‘wanton’, ‘idle’ – were also liberally applied to the works of man’s imagination. Moreover, Cupid’s increasing familiarity as the subject of Renaissance emblems and engravings, and his own manipulation of beauty in order to produce desire, further identified him with the methods of ‘Idolatrie’. Thus, Cupid became both a figure for the repudiation of art and the means of its vindication, encouraging greater self-reflexivity in Protestant poets and acting as muse to their self-defence.

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