Studies in English Literature, 1500 - 1900 01-01-2002
Pastoral, temperance, and the unitary self in Wroth's Urania
Byline: Sandy, Amelia Zurcher
Publication Date: 01-01-2002
Mary Wroth's Urania is usually described as a "pastoral romance," but there has been little attention given to that qualifying adjective other than to say that Wroth's work is a reworking of Philip Sidney's (at least partly) pastoral Arcadia. Wroth's deployment of pastoral is certainly in part an answer to Arcadia's one oft-noted example is her decision to open the romance with a declaration of presence by a shepherdess with the same name as she whose absence is lamented so eloquently by Strephon and Claius in the opening of the New Arcadia-but Urania's exploration of pastoral as a narrative tool is also firmly rooted in Jacobean theories of pastoral and tragicomedy. In this essay, I want to read Urania's pastoralism not as a gesture of nostalgia for a dying Elizabethan mode, but instead as an intervention in what critics and historians have recently been demonstrating to be a thriving Stuart debate about the scope and abilities of pastoral.2 Wroth's romance proposes its version of pastoral temperance as a way for women in particular to embrace an ideal of constancy that allows for both rigor and openness to the flux of experience, and for pastoral itself, in a sometimes hostile climate, to maintain some of its time-honored virtues.
It is a critical commonplace that pastoral is fundamentally about people who have one foot in the pastoral world and one foot in another, and thus are at once both implicated in, and separate from, the place from which they speak. Pastoral as an adjective may describe an entirely bucolic scene, but pastoral as a literary form also implies the presence of some figure, even if only the narrator, who does not entirely participate in its cultural logic, and therefore has a perspective in some way dual. This idea extends back to Virgil's poet in exile, but the paradox of simultaneous implication and alienation seems to be felt with particular force in the Renaissance. Jacopo Sannazaro's Arcadia offers its readers an insight that it presents as part ironic joke and part secret-that some of the rhetorical forms and techniques that seem most suited to the life of shepherds in the countryside actually originate in the highly artificial world of the city. What interests Sidney, in his own version of Arcadia, is not so much the literary as the social implications of this pastoral idea. The later Arcadia takes for granted Sannazaro's blurring of the boundaries between natural and artificial, but it wonders, probably partly in response to contemporary criticism about pastoral's decorum, how real shepherds can produce sophisticated literary forms-- how pastoral figures can at once be of the countryside and above it.3 In the first few pages of Wroth's romance, the character Urania makes the quintessential pastoral move of turning herself from actual into metaphorical shepherdess, remarking that she "delighted before to tend a little Flocke," but now that she has learned she is a foundling "am I troubled how to rule mine owne thoughts. 114 When she learns that her real parents are not shepherds, Urania changes from herder of sheep to herder of thoughts, maintaining pastoral ways of thinking even as she leaves literal pastoral action behind. This shift into metaphor signals a bifurcation in identity that at least at this moment Urania perceives as a loss. Upon discovering that she is a foundling, Urania relinquishes both parents and place; no longer subject to the rule of these definers of identity, she in turn cannot rule, herd toward a single end, the thoughts that should properly be her own subjects. Urania is here what Paul Alpers calls a "representative pastoral figure" not only because she figures her thoughts as sheep, not even because she is both of and not of her pastoral world, but because she has taken the division between her identity and its genealogy into her consciousness, where her thoughts exhibit that peculiarly pastoral trait of simultaneous belonging to and alienation from what she would call her self.5
This self-conscious doubleness is at the heart of pastoral, but it is also the reason that the genre has invited moral judgments from its readers as few other Renaissance genres have. In The Faerie Queene, to cite one well-known example, Edmund Spenser presents Pastorella imprisoned by brigands in what Annabel Patterson calls "ethical obscurity," in a cave in which flickering candles "delt / A doubtfull sense of things. 116 Trying to persuade her captors to leniency, "She thought it best, for shadow to pretend / Some shew of fauour, by him gracing small," thus using her capacity to feign for pure political expediency, and perhaps also betraying pastoral as particularly susceptible to corruption by power.' Even Sidney's Arcadia suspects that pastoral may be the handmaid of political expedience: Musidorus explicitly puts on pastoral guise for "free access," not only to his love but also, of course, to Basilius's throne, and his near rape of Pamela in the Old Arcadia leads the reader to wonder whether his professed love for Pamela is really the motivation behind his marital ambitions.' In all of these examples pastoral figures an anxiety about the potential split between politics and belief, action and identity. Urania's perception of a gap between who she is and where she finds herself turns here into an omnipresent potential for duplicity, a threat that to be divided may inevitably lead to bad faith.
Curiously, this Renaissance anxiety about pastoral's doubleness is replicated in modern criticism. It is frequently said that pastoral is about "suspension," of the decision between two alternatives and often of the time and change that would make decision necessary.9 This observation, basically an extension of the same doubleness I have been describing, then leads to the conclusion that pastoral is morally irresponsible because it is an escape from the real world (or, in generic terms, of the laws of epic or tragedy). Most careful readers understand that pastoral's self-consciousness protects it from being naive, but they then make what often seems like the only other possible conclusion about a form so interested in doubleness, that it must be sentimental and duplicitous.10 The long critical tradition, beginning with William Empson's extremely influential Some Versions of Pastoral and running through Kenneth Burke and Raymond Williams, viewing pastoral as an attempt to hide real rural labor and significant class resentment behind aristocratic convention, works at least partly according to this logic. Critics who want to defend pastoral thus usually find themselves denying doubleness and arguing, as both Louis Montrose and Alpers do in important revisionary work, for a pastoral that is in one way or another unitary. So Alpers writes, for example, that truly pastoral characters must submit to "the limited power of action" of real shepherds, and that correspondingly pastoral can achieve "expressive clarity, loveliness, and coherence" only "at the cost of autonomous utterance, full expression, and direct dramatic representation."12 Similarly, Montrose holds that "if the [pastoral] poet's task was to celebrate, the critic's task is to understand the uses of celebration."13 Both argue for a version of pastoral strictly circumscribed, for Alpers by the shepherd's lack of autonomy, and for Montrose by the absence of self-consciousness, which he ascribes, instead, to the critic. Yet as Judith Haber argues, this move itself might be seen as a version of pastoral, in that the distance from pastoral that Montrose claims as critic is also the basis of his claim for his own ideological purity. Since Montrose underestimates Renaissance pastoral's "fundamental self-contradictoriness" and "self-consciousness," he does not see that the position of judicious distance he is adopting is one that pastoral has already written for him. 14 To try to "rescue" pastoral by arguing that its simplicity is its main virtue, Haber shows, is to condescend to the form, to fail to understand that even as it celebrates, before the critic ever arrives on the scene, pastoral is already fundamentally self-critical.
This general anxiety about what might be called pastoral irony is at least part of the reason, recent New Historicist arguments suggest, that James I's increasingly absolutist court entertainments try to make pastoral increasingly monovocal. Over the decade from 16 10, pastoral settings in court masques shift their function from metaphor for the court to source for royal authority, communicating ever more strongly that the king's power flows from nature. Stephen Orgel, Martin Butler, and others argue that pastoral fails here to live up to what Butler calls its "possibilities for dialectic,"15 and this reading is consistent with larger arguments from such critics as Patterson and Anthony Low that in the Stuart period pastoral essentially dies in England, subsumed by the new interest in land use that Low calls the "georgic revolution."16 Against this landscape, Urania's deployment of pastoral looks like a double anomaly, both for existing at all and because it not only holds on to pastoral's traditional double view but insists that double vision can produce moral enlightenment. Near the end of Urania, the Venetian knight calls Great Brittany "this blessed Realme, the flower of peace, beauty, honour, venue, happinesse, and most of Shepheardesses" (p. 654). He is biasedhe nurses a violent, unrequited passion for a shepherdess-but his judgment that England is above all a place of pastoral women is the starting point for this essay's examination of Stuart pastoral as a serious literary form still alive and capable of more than royal propaganda.
I open my account of pastoral in Urania with a story that illustrates elliptically but vividly the power the romance accords to pastoral figures. Near the end of the second book, a group of shipwrecked ladies happens upon a stone theater that Pamphilia is determined to enter despite warnings from her more sensible cousin Urania that she fears "an inchantment." When the ladies venture onto the "Throne" at the center of the theater, "instantly the sweetest musicke, and most inchanting harmony of voyces, so overruld their sences, as they thought no more of any thing." The gate of the theater locks behind them, and they sit enraptured before visions of their true loves "smiling, and joying in them" (p. 373). Love here is a delusion that hides its own operation, that causes its victims to become insensible to their plight, and it is not limited to those unhappy lovers, such as Pamphilia, who might seem particularly vulnerable. Over the next few weeks many lords and ladies attempt to rescue the trapped ladies, but all are subsumed into the enchantment themselves until most of the romance's plot lines have converged at this impasse. What finally liberates the romance's characters is the arrival onto the scene of pastoral, which brings each lover back to consciousness of herself. When the shepherdess/princess Veralinda opens the gate and touches the lovers with a rod, each realizes that her happy private vision is false. At once the throne vanishes, and in its place appears a pillar of gold with a book hanging on it. Veralinda and Urania together open the book, and find in it their own parallel stories of being stolen from their kingdoms as young princesses and raised as shepherdesses. Pastoral in this allegory has the powerful ability to counter what the narrator calls "flattering love" (p. 373) of the self-love as a kind of indulgence not only of desire but of the self uncritically acquiescing to it-which produces stasis and insensibility in its victims. In order to make sense of this power, we need to look more closely at Urania's development of the ideas that this episode allegorizes. What are the delusions that passion creates, and why is pastoral so effective at countering them? Or, to ask the question in different terms, what stalls plot and its agents in the romance, and what in pastoral is able to start it again?
The character Pamphilia, the central Wroth figure in Wroth's roman et clef, develops a much-noted strategy of constancy above all in Urania, fiercely pledging herself to maintain her own passion no matter how fickle her beloved Amphilanthus proves. The advantages of this strategy for Pamphilia are many: she turns the achievement of a traditional feminine virtue into a heroic process of trial and purification; she settles her loyalty on her own virtue, as an object more worthy than her inconstant lover; and she outdoes everyone else in the romance in her singlemindedness, which is clearly meant to be read as admirable. 17 Her unwavering passion, says the narrator, is "not like the small come that yeelds forth many staulks, and many eares of wheat out of one," but "one in truth, and being as come from one rote, or graine of matchlesse worth, brought forth but one flower, whose delicacy, and goodnesse was in it selfe" (p. 317). This unitariness, so extreme that it cannot be described except by itself, tends toward the ideal of an identity not derived from attachment, and it accounts for the fact that Pamphilia is the worthiest lady (and the only sustained character to be queen in her own right) in the romance. But if Pamphilia here embodies Montrose's vision of pastoral as a mode whose subjects are free from self-doubt and divided consciousness, her predicament within the romance's plot diagnoses some of the costs of this kind of purity. Pamphilia finds herself in a terrible stasis; her entire identity is caught up in her love, and when it is thwarted she has nothing else to fall back on. Because in seeking to maintain her status as a virtuous woman she cannot command her lover's fidelity, she is then left with only two choices: she can enter the kind of delusion described in the enchantment, in which she sits transfixed by a false vision, unable to liberate herself or her story from her overwhelming desire, or she can fall into private despair.
When she does become so overwhelmed that she finds herself unable to rule or even to speak, on two separate occasions, it is the pastoral Urania who "[sees] her passion, and the assurance of her end if thus she continued," and manages to persuade her that even if she will not alter her love, she must alter her behavior (p. 467). "Thus did the divine Urania againe by her excellent wit conquer," concludes the narrator after the second of these episodes, making sure that we understand the real cause of Pamphilia's recovery (p. 471). As a kind of pastoral principle, Urania liberates Pamphilia from a notion of constancy tending toward stagnation, pushing her toward a duality of action and belief-she may function in the world despite her despair-that in fact sustains constancy, by allowing its subjects a place larger than its narrow scope. If for Urania the move into pastoral doubleness was a distressing predicament, for Pamphilia, in this later stage of the romance's argument, it has become also a liberation, a way to mediate and thus to temper the power of monomania.
In its customary style, Urania provides amplification of Pamphilia's diagnosis with another queen figure, one whom we are meant to see both as distinct from and as on a continuum with Pamphilia. Nerena, "absolute lady" (p. 192) of an island and seduced by her power into the kind of hubris Pamphilia would never succumb to, falls in love with a prince and takes a "Knightlike ... search in hand" to find him (p. 194). Soon she gets lost in the woods, where she must fight off a love-crazed shepherd before growing properly humble by being reduced to eating nuts and seeds in solitude. The episode's humor, some of the sharpest in the romance, comes from the confrontation between the shepherd Alanius's pastoral expectations and insights and Nerena's obliviousness to them, "her wit lying another way," in the narrator's dry phrase (p. 200). In sharp contrast to Urania's other noble characters, who speak readily and courteously to the shepherds and shepherdesses they meet in the countryside, Nerena will have nothing to do with Alanius. When he first approaches her she calls him "villaine" (p. 197), which means tenant farmer or serf, and indicates that she is ignorant of the current pastoral distinction that shepherds, unlike most rural people, are free men, owners of their sheep. 18 Believing in his madness that the haughty Nerena must be a goddess of the woods, Alanius resolves "to have her in her owne shape out of those [court] vestures," and he enacts a kind of reverse metamorphosis in which he strips her to petticoat and stockings, rolling them down so they can "serve for buskins" (pp. 197, 198). The next morning he is convinced that she is the nymph Arethusa, "having taken againe [her] owne shape, and resumd [her] naturall body from that Metamorphosis" (p. 200), and he begs her to help him gain his love. Nerena, however, refuses to join the pastoral play. "Never having heard of any such thing as a Metamorphosis," she insists that she is a princess and may not be approached (p. 200). As she stands in her new clothes she "almost hat[es] herself in this estate," and when she comes to a spring, "the picture of her owne selfe did so amaze her, as she would not goe so neere unto her metamorphos'd figure" (p. 198). Unlike Milton's Eve a few decades later, in her narcissistic selflove Nerena refuses to gaze at her reflection, and in Wroth this mistake is at the heart of all her problems. Like Pamphilia, at the opening of her story, Nerena cannot accept a split in herself between feeling and action. Unlike Pamphilia, however, she refuses to deflect her desire from her beloved to an abstracted virtue, and Alanius's disciplining of her thus follows a predictable logic: he forces on her an outrageous pastoral double, a parody of her royal identity. As we would expect, she is too proud to accept parody or to see the value of a double, and so she remains alone in the woods, her quest stalled and her kingdom lost. Along with the imprisoned ladies in the second enchantment, she is so focused on her own desires that she is unable to get any distance from herself, to step back and look at herself through the slightly alienated eyes that pastoral offers. Nerena's comic fear of an alternate self suggests the value of fluidity in social roles and helps explain the power of pastoral as social corrective. That she cannot see herself as ridiculous indicates not only that Nerena is a snob, but also that she is ignorant of a literary convention that has the power to do her moral good.
When Pamphilia goes into groves and woods, she goes to lament, and to write passionate poetry. Veralinda, Urania, and Alanius tell us that this move is not truly pastoral, that pastoral's function is instead to temper overmastering passion. To be unitary, to pledge oneself to absolute constancy to one lover, is admirable, but for women, who are not supposed to be the agents in love, it also begins to risk arrogance, as the example of Nerena suggests. Pastoral's offer of self-consciousness, put forward in the figure of another version of the self set slightly apart, mitigates that risk, at least for those who want to be virtuous, by opening up a space between the self and passion, and thus diverting the threat that passionate Pamphilia (and by implication, the passionate Wroth that she figures) might seem to pose. The pastoral Urania (who, by another useful enchantment, is the only woman lover in the romance to switch lovers and maintain her virtue) provides Pamphilia with a way to change and not to change at once, to maintain her constancy and at the same time mediate its constricting focus on the self. Pastoral's role as a rebuke to arrogance and self-indulgence probably explains why most often in Urania the pastoral landscapes are not delightful and pleasurable, as the tradition dictates, but harsh and trying. The lady Pastora, for instance, presumably an embodiment of what Urania considers pastoral to be, lives in solitude on a "Rocke as hard as her fortune, and as white as her faith" (p. 421), a "sad and desolate" place to which she has sailed because she has been jilted by her lover (p. 415). In her old life, when she was still called Silvarina, she was an "ill example," says the narrator, "that a woman who could contemne all passions, must yet be such a slave to one, and one that slavishly used her" (p. 419). Now that she has come to her solitary island and taken on her new identity, she has greater control over her feelings. When her lover happens to wash up on her island with a new paramour after a storm at sea, Pastora finds that "the storme of her torment [has] passed" likewise, and "thus without passion, but with true friendship they parted, who could not in times pass'd have said farewell but in teares" (p. 420). Pastora bears her name not because she herds sheep or lives in a place of great natural beauty or bounty, but because she has shed the violence of her passion and taken on a new identity. The barrenness of her island, rather than undercutting her pastoral life, enhances it, because it helps promote in her an emotional austerity that fosters temperance. While Nerena had been caught in one of the classic paradoxes of Renaissance tyranny, imprisoned by her own arrogance, in Pastora's story, the embrace of external limitations produces a kind of perverse freedom, an indifference to the passion that makes Pamphilia at once so productive and so dangerous. 19 Pastoral here, in other words, externalizes the internal prison of self-absorption in the same way that Nerena's alienated reflection might have if she had let it, distancing and thus disciplining desire. Peter Lindenbaum, in his study of antipastoral sentiment in the Renaissance, repeats a familiar criticism of pastoral in his complaint that it cannot be the site of real grief and pain, that it dilutes strong emotion to the strength of mere sentiment.10 In Urania this dilution of emotion becomes precisely pastoral's point. By countering passion with discipline, whether internal (constancy as an end in itself, as for Pamphilia) or external (a harsh pastoral landscape, as for Pastora), the romance sidesteps what it defines as the constriction of selfindulgence, gesturing toward a duality that might not necessarily be duplicitous.
It is precisely pastoral's ability to move its lovers out of static passion, so clearly allegorized in the theater enchantment, that makes it possible for the romance to have a plot, and this belies recent critical pronouncements of the incompatibility between pastoral and narrative. Haber argues that romance "best represents the problems and the possibilities [of pastoral] for poets of the English Renaissance" and that "the general movement towards narrative" in the English Renaissance "is most fully realized in the romance."21 In her discussion of individual narrative romances, however, pastoral repeatedly fails to carry out its central work of suspension precisely because narrative's forward motion through time is too strong. Sidney's Arcadia, for instance, works to find both "a passion that is past time" and "a pastime that is effective"-or, in other terms, "a union of the lyric and the dramatic . stasis and motion"22--but it fails because of a "formal" problem, its inability to achieve a truly suspended pastime.21 Ultimately, I think, all narrative must fail Haber's pastoral test, because her version of pastoral actually requires not that stasis and motion "unify" but that stasis fight motion to the death in order to achieve, as Haber says, "a lyric moment that will last forever."24 Alpers also disqualifies most narrative from being pastoral by his definition of pastoral character as always already completely constituted. When "real" pastoral shepherds, says Alpers, recount their histories, they understand those situations as unchanging: "in telling what has happened to them, they define what they are," matching action to identity and precluding any split in consciousness. In contrast, Alpers concludes, when characters "[represent] their lives as part of ongoing and as yet uncompleted actions," then neither they nor their narratives are pastoral.25 Like Haber, Alpers sees pastoral as an essentially static form. His sense that pastoral is a way of delivering narration in retrospect does hold true in Urania-one of the purposes of the second enchantment is to verify and publish stories that have already happened elsewhere, such as the pastoral accounts of Urania's and Veralinda's childhoods as shepherds. But the enchantment's pastoral characters also have the ability to liberate the lovers from their emblematic representations, from the paralyzed state in which, in Alpers's words, "what has happened to them . .. [is] what they are."26 Perhaps what the second enchantment represents is an effort to free pastoral from a constriction that is as much narrative as psychological, to imagine a mode that allows not only Alpers's "loveliness" but also the freedom of plot yet to come.
Having suggested this large claim, however, in pastoral fashion I want to temper it. As it is for Nerena and Pastora, pastoral in Urania is often about the discipline of deprivation. The term "pastora" in Wroth, used several times in reference to ladies who dress up to attempt the second enchantment, is parallel to but distinct from "shepherdess," apparently implying a similar retreat from the accoutrements of court life, but with greater isolation and more difficult living conditions. If pastoral offers its characters a story yet to come, it is a story whose possibilities are severely circumscribed by Urania's anxiety that passion will always veer to one extreme or the other unless held in check. Alpers awards Melibee the distinction of being the one truly pastoral character in The Faerie Queene, because he has been at court and chooses powerlessness, the shepherd's lack of "strength relative to world."2" But Urania labors to show the opposite, that pastoral frankness and persuasiveness are gifts of fate. Wroth's pastoral characters have more agency than Alpers would credit them with, but they do not have the power to choose pastoral in the first place. Many ladies put on shepherdess or pastora costumes to fill the requirement of the second enchantment for "the sweetest and loveliest creature, that poore habits had disguised greatnesse in" (p. 373), but all fail because their disguises are "forced" (p. 412). That Urania's and Veralinda's pastoral habits are not forced can only be because they have worn them longer, and because they did not have the choice to put them on. Despite what Alpers says, this seems to me consistent with pastoral in general, in which the models for change, metamorphosis and natural mutability, rarely have anything to do with human will or choice but bow instead to necessity. Perhaps, in this context, Urania's efforts to make pastoral characters and scenes one of its engines of narrative are marred by internal contradiction-or perhaps pastoral, like the narrator's well-noted fragmenting of the Wroth figure into multiple personae, is a cover, a way to embrace change and avow constancy at the same time.
Urania's insistence on temperance as the cardinal virtue of pastoral fits neatly in the context of the seventeenth-century connection between pastoral and the new form of tragicomedy. Modeled on Torquato Tasso's 1580 Aminta (the first English translation was published in 1591, in The Countess ofPembroke's Ivychurch, by Abraham Fraunce) and Giovanni Guarini's IL Pastor Fido (1590) (anonymous English translation published in 1602), plays such as Samuel Daniel's The Queen's Arcadia (1606) and Hymen's Triumph (1615), John Fletcher's famous failure, The Faithful Shepherdess (16 10), and perhaps scores more coterie productions such as Wroth's Love's Victory (162?) set the new mixed form of tragicomedy in a pastoral landscape peopled by nymphs, shepherds, and satyrs. The link between pastoral and tragicomedy is so strong that the title page of Ben Jonson's Works (1616) presents the figure of Tragicomedy flanked by a satyr and a shepherd. Several critics have pointed out the connection between pastoral drama and the dialogic pastoral eclogue that preceded it, but few have tried to account for what Joseph Loewenstein calls the "persistent if apparently peculiar alliance" between pastoral and tragicomedy.28 The best known description of Renaissance tragicomedy in England is Fletcher's, in his preface to the published edition of The Faithful Shepherdess, which defines the form by the genres it is not: "it wants deaths, which is inough to make it no tragedie, yet brings some neere it, which is inough to make it no comedie. "29 Guarini makes explicit one of the implicit binary pairs in this definition when he compares tragicomedy to Plato's Republic in his Compendium of Tragicomic Poetry, observing that both mix "noble and the base" and wondering, "Why cannot poetry make the mixture, if politics can do it?"30 As James Yoch notes, for Guarini the goal of both poetic and political mixture was temperance, a word repeated throughout Guarini's commentary. His new mixed form, by finding a middle course between "the excesses of tragic melancholy and comic relaxation," was to teach both self-moderation, a neostoic avoidance of extremes "in order to endure gracefully," and also political tolerance, "a friendly harmony" between classes.31 (Of course, as a form for apprentices, who had not yet reached mastery of tragic emotions, pastoral was usually also understood not to temper grand passion, as I am arguing, but to eschew it altogether, for the simple reason that apprentices lacked the capability to master it.) But pastoral's strongest link to tragicomic temperance is probably its mingling of social classes. As tragicomedy mixes the low and high of comedy and tragedy, and of the commoners and nobles who populate them, so pastoral mixes humble shepherds with exalted aristocrats, and thus participates in tragicomedy's production of a temperate self and a temperate state. Urania adapts pastoral temperance to its own particular ends, as I have argued, but perhaps in claiming temperance to be the central contribution of pastoral, the romance is also taking part in a larger Jacobean redefinition of the mode.
If Urania's efforts to make temperance a worthy end of pastoral, rather than merely evidence of the form's apprentice affiliations, owe a debt to the new mixed form of tragicomedy, the romance also sets on pastoral mixture a crucial limitation that opens a distance between tragicomic temperance and its own version of the virtue. Pastoral romance before Wroth, as I have suggested, is somewhat nervous about the decorum of its social mixture, and poses its possibilities and virtues as an open question. Urania, in contrast, closes the problem down, dispensing with real mixture by turning all of its pastoral characters into refugee nobles. Gaspar Gil Polo's continuation of George of Montemayor's Diana assures its aristocratic readers that the beautiful "quavers" and "conceits" in shepherdess Diana's voice "rather seemed to be fetcht from some majesticall court, then knowen in the homely countrey," and accounts for this by the wonderful power of love, which is "able to make the simplest Shepherds discourse of high and learned matters."32 Montemayor himself, however, is not so sure; in the first part of Diana there is an odd scene in which the noble Felicia opines that "persons of valour and dignitie, are ... better lovers, then those of baser condition and estate," then is compelled, because she does not want to give the shepherd Sylvanus, her guest, "anie occasion of discontent," to recant, saying instead that the best lovers need only good judgment, quick wit, and "thought tending to high and stately things." Sylvanus proclaims himself "satisfied" that she does not "take valour and vertue to be onely in noble personages," but the reader, aware as Sylvanus is not that she has offered the correction at least partly out of courtesy, cannot be as certain about what she thinks, nor who comes out on top in the debate.33 Sidney's Arcadia comes down more firmly on the side of "persons of valour and dignitie," insisting, as I noted before, that Arcadian shepherds own their sheep and suggesting that the pseudo-"stranger shepherds" are better poets than those who really herd sheep for a living.34 But in the third eclogues of both Arcadian Philisides also sings the fable of the beasts, a parable against tyranny that takes the part not only of "the nobler beasts" but also of the "smallest birds, and meanest herd."35 Philisides may be a would-be peer in disguise, but part of the pastoral work of that disguise is to point toward the same fluidity in social roles that so threatened Nerena, and thus to suggest, at least, the virtues of fellow feeling among rich and poor.
In Urania, in contrast, not only the pastoral speakers but almost every shepherdess and shepherd, every forester, every nymph bathing in a pastoral brook comes originally from the court. Urania, Veralinda, Pastora, Mirasilva, and Liana are all royalty or court ladies. Amphilanthus plays "the Shepheard knight" (p. 167), and the "Forrest Nimph" (p. 340) and lover that Amphilanthus and Polarchus encounter are actually part of the entourage of their king, who out of love for a "Lady living in a Forrest, and wholy affecting that life," urged his entire court to take "the estates of Forresters on them" (p. 344). Even the simple shepherds who raised Urania are descendants of Pantaleria, an "ancient worthie Lord" who "having receiv'd some discontent in his owne Countrie . came hither... having ever since in great quiet and pleasure remained here; himselfe and all the rest taking the manner and life of shepheards upon them" (p. 22). This story of nobility taking on pastoral weeds, repeated almost compulsively in Urania, declines even to consider the problems raised by real shepherds in a courtly form, and it means that pastoral in the romance cannot have the old Empsonian goal of fostering a "beautiful relation between rich and poor."36 When Urania's pastoral presents the lives of "`simple,' low people" to "refined wealthy people," to use Empson's terms, it does so to show not that these people are like us, as Empson would have it, but rather that these people are us, at least these particular people-which is a move with dramatically different implications.37 In Empson's version of pastoral, poets and other courtly observers look at the rural poor and see reflections of themselves, and this false but reassuring vision convinces them that they are united with country laborers in a coherent community. In Urania, pastoral observers make no pretense of looking at real rural people but cut right to the work of finding their own reflections. I am not suggesting that Urania demystifies Renaissance pastoral-in fact, that the romance seems to take for granted that pastoral's purpose is to reflect the self suggests that for Renaissance readers there may have been little to demystify. Rather, Urania locates entirely within the self the pastoral drama that before had taken place at least partly between the self and others. Wroth's romance understands temperance to be a goal not for the community, nor for the individual in relation to a community, so much as for the individual in and of herself, as she struggles to bring her unruly passions into line with what her culture has deemed feminine virtue. As it reconfigures a form that, in Alpers's words, is dependent on "convening," on the sublimation of individual desires and motives into the consensus of the group, to express instead an ideal of individual self-mastery and temperance, Urania shows us that despite the proliferation in it of lords and ladies and their stories, Wroth's work is not really interested in community-in the bonding together of those with shared experiences, or in any kind of collective action-but in the construction of the individual by herself, independent of all but her passions.311 Urania is usually read as celebrating, both thematically and formally, a tightly knit and non-hierarchical community among women.39 I would argue, however, that the romance's exploitation of pastoral suggests the opposite. That human beings must live with others is seen in Urania not as leading to a set of problems that must be solved but as a predicament that cannot be avoided, and rather than trying to promote productive interaction, the romance imagines ways to emerge unscathed and inviolate. Perhaps, in this context, pastoral is attractive to Wroth precisely because it is also, despite what Alpers says, not about convening, because people who own their own sheep and fight no wars are disengaged enough from others that they can actually take the opportunity to investigate their own reflections.
I An exception is Naomi J. Miller, "Engendering Discourse: Women's Voices in Wroth's Urania and Shakespeare's Plays," in Reading Mary Wroth: Representing Alternatives in Early Modern England, ed. Miller and Gary Waller (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1991), pp. 154-72.
2 See, for instance, Martin Butler, "Ben Jonson's Pan's Anniversary and the Politics of Early Stuart Pastoral," ELR 22, 3 (Autumn 1992): 369-404; Jane Tylus, "Jacobean Poetry and Lyric Disappointment," in Soliciting Interpretation: Literary Theory and Seventeenth-Century English Poetry, ed. Elizabeth D. Harvey and Katharine Eisaman Maus (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 174-98; and James J. Yoch, "The Renaissance Dramatization of Temperance: The Italian Revival of Tragicomedy and The Faithful Shepherdess," in Renaissance Tragicomedy: Explorations in Genre and Politics, ed. Nancy Klein Maguire (New York: AMS Press, 1987), pp. 115-38.
3 Philip Sidney's solution is to delineate very clearly the gap between "real" rustics and pastoral-hence the large amount of space his Arcadia spends ridiculing Dametas, Miso, and Mopsa-and to elevate what he calls in the Old Arcadia "stranger shepherds," mysterious men (Philisides, Strephon, and Claius among them) who do not quite fit into any of Arcadia's social worlds and thus manage to bridge the gap between noble and base (The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia [The Old Arcadia], ed. Jean Robertson [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973], p. 245). Paul Alpers points out Sidney's use of the term "stranger shepherds" in What Is Pastoral? (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 119. Peter Lindenbaum calls these men "literary shepherds" and suggests they mediate between the heroic and rural worlds (Changing Landscapes: Anti-Pastoral Sentiment in the English Renaissance [Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1986], p. 30). Lindenbaum tries, unsuccessfully I think, to distinguish the literariness of these shepherds from that of the native-born Arcadians. Sidney's term better suggests the distinction, which as even Lindenbaum acknowledges is one of class: the stranger shepherds are also part of court culture (p. 90).
' Mary Wroth, The First Part of The Countess of Montgomery's Urania, ed. Josephine A. Roberts (Binghamton: State Univ. of New York, Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1995), p. 16. All subsequent citations will be to this edition and will appear parenthetically in the text according to page number.
5 See Alpers, chap. 4, pp. 137-84.
s Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton (New York: Longman, 1977), book 6, canto 10, stanza 42; Annabel Patterson, Pastoral and Ideology: Virgil to Valery (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1987), p. 131.
7 Spenser, 6.11.6. "Sidney, p. 105.
9 For an overview of the use of the term to describe pastoral, see Judith Haber, Pastoral and the Poetics of Self-Contradiction (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994).
10 For a representative example of these two views, see Ralph Nash's introduction to his translation of Jacopo Sannazaro's Arcadia and Piscato
rial Eclogues (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1966); David Kalstone, "The Transformation of Arcadia: Sannazaro and Sir Philip Sidney," Comparative Literature 15, 3 (Summer 1963): 234-49; and S. K. Heninger Jr., "The Renaissance Perversion of Pastoral," JHI 22, 2 (April-June 1961): 254-61.
II William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral (London: Chatto and Windus, 1950); Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1969); Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973); Louis Adrian Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds: The Politics of Elizabethan Pastoral Form," ELH 50, 3 (Fall 1983): 415-59, and Montrose, "`Eliza, Queene of shepheardes,' and the Pastoral of Power," ELR 10, 2 (Spring 1980): 153-82. 1 am indebted for this very quick genealogy of pastoral criticism to reviews in Montrose, "Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," pp. 415-21; and Alpers, pp. 8-43.
"Alpers, p. 87.
11 Quoted in Haber, p. 3.
11 Haber, p. 2. Interestingly, in his own survey of recent criticism of Renaissance pastoral, Montrose suggests that "in an increasingly technocratic academy and society . . . the study of pastoral may have become a metapastoral version of pastoral" ("Of Gentlemen and Shepherds," p. 415).
"Butler, p. 395. Also see Orgel, The Illusion of Power (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1975), pp. 49-55.
"Anthony Low, The Georgic Revolution (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1985).
11 On Pamphilia's constancy, see Elaine V. Beilin, "Heroic Virtue: Mary Wroth's Urania and Pamphilia to Amphilanthus," in Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 208-46; and Mary Ellen Lamb, "The Heroics of Constancy in Mary Wroth's Countess of Montgomery's Urania," in Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1990), pp. 142-93, esp. 163-7.
"I OED, 2d edn., s.v. "villaine," la: peasant occupier or cultivator. The Arcadian eclogues are of high quality because Arcadian shepherds "were not such base shepherds as we commonly make account of, but the very owners of the sheep themselves, which in that thrifty world the substantiallest men would employ their whole care upon" (Sidney, p. 56). See also John Fletcher, preface to The Faithful Shepherdess (16 10): "Understand therefore a pastorall to be a representation of shepheards and shephearddesses, with their actions and passions, which must be such as may agree with their natures... But you are ever to remember Shepherds to be such, as all the ancient Poets and moderne of understanding have receaved them: that is, as the owners of flockes and not hyerlings" (The Faithful Shepherdess by John Fletcher: A Critical Edition, ed. Florence Ada Kirk [New York: Garland Publishing, 1980], p. 15). Wroth notes numerous times that Urania's shepherds and foresters are court refugees or descendants of them (see for example pp. 246-7, 344, 570). All of these assertions are in part answers to a concern that pastoral, as a noble form about ignoble people, lacks decorum; see Bernard Weinberg, A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961), 2:1074-105.
19 In Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance, Rebecca Bushnell discusses the Platonic connection between
tyranny and excessive desire and the Renaissance "commonplace" that offering the tyrant a reflected image of himself may present a cure for tyranny ([Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press,, p. 1).
11 This discussion is primarily in reference to Sincero's wish to return to Arcadia, at the end of Sannazaro's Arcadia, when he learns that his mistress has died. So pastoral poetry, says Lindenbaum, is "to deal primarily... with lamenting and with unhappy emotion but with bearable or supportable unhappiness," not harsh death (p. 11).
11 Haber, p. 53. 11 Haber, p. 67. 11 Haber, p. 88. 24 Haber, p. 67. 11 Wipers, p. 352. 26 Ibid.
27 Alpers, p. 185.
28 Joseph Loewenstein, "Guarini and the Presence of Genre," in Renaissance Tragicomedy: Explorations in Genre and Politics, pp. 33-55, 33. For the link between pastoral drama and the dialogic pastoral eclogue, see for instance Barbara K. Lewalski, "Mary Wroth's Love's Victory and Pastoral Tragicomedy," in Reading Mary Wroth, pp. 88-108, 89-91.
19 Fletcher, "To the Reader," in The Faithful Shepherdess, pp. 15-6. 30 Quoted in Yoch, p. 115.
" Yoch, p. 117.
12 Gaspar Gil Polo, Enamoured Diana, in A Critical Edition of Yong's Translation of George of Montemayor's Diana and Gil Polo's Enamoured Diana, ed. Judith M. Kennedy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), pp. 243-418, 290. This work was first published in Spain in 1564, and translated into English by Bartholomew Yong, as was Diana; it appeared as the second and third parts of Diana in 1598.
33 George of Montemayor, Diana, in A Critical Edition of Yong's Translation, pp. 1-242, 137.
3 For a helpful comparison of the love poetry of Lalus, a "real" shepherd, and Dorus, who is of course Musidorus, see Lindenbaum, pp. 28-30.
35 Sidney, pp. 258-9. 36 Empson, p. 196. 17 Empson, p. 195.
38 Alpers, p. 80. Alpers argues that pastoral is so conventional a form because it takes convening as its reason for being: "as opposed to epic and tragedy, with their ideas of heroic autonomy and isolation, it takes human life to be inherently a matter of common plights and common pleasures" (p. 93).
19 See for example Naomi J. Miller, "'Not Much to Be Marked': Narrative of the Woman's Part in Lady Mary Wroth's Urania," SEL 29, 1 (Winter 1989): 121-37; Lewalski; and Lamb, esp. pp. 172-6.
Amelia Zurcher Sandy, assistant professor of English at Marquette University, is completing a book on allegory, gender, and the ethics of agency in seventeenth-century English prose romance.
Copyright Studies in English Literature c/o Rice University Winter 2002