The two early modern meanings of the word ‘stranger’ (someone one does not know; a foreigner) have become separated in modern English. This article looks at attitudes to the ‘stranger’ both as pathetic victim and as someone outside Anglophone language and culture, with special reference to the arrival of a Scottish king and his followers in 1603–04. Horatio’s ‘wondrous strange’ (here, referring to the apparent ubiquity of the Ghost’s voice) is as metatheatrical as Hamlet’s later jokey comment on ‘this fellow in the cellarage’. The language of ‘wonder’, a particularly Jacobean phenomenon, suggests that intense artistic experiences, like experiences of shock and horror, can make the spectator or listener – as Milton put it – ‘marble with too much conceiving’.
Foreignness and Wonder in Jacobean London
Joachim Frenk and Lena Steveker
The prologue of Thomas Heywood’s tragicomedy The English Traveller, which was first performed around 1627 and first printed in 1633, seeks to focus the minds of its audience on what is to follow on stage:
A Strange Play you are like to haue, for know, We use no Drum, nor Trumpet, nor Dumbe shew; No Combate, Marriage, not so much to day, As Song, Dance, Masque, to bumbaste out a play: […] (The English Traveller, n.p.)
From the 1620s to the 1630s, John Ford revisited Shakespeare and made him strange. ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore inverts Romeo and Juliet by making its core relationship endogamous rather than exogamous. Perkin Warbeck is a sequel to Richard III, but undoes its original by telling a story fundamentally incompatible with Shakespeare’s. The Lover’s Melancholy echoes both Twelfth Night and King Lear, collapsing the distinction between comedy and tragedy. Above all, Ford reworks Othello, which lies behind the plots of four of his plays. The estranging effect produced by these reshapings is underlined by Perkin Warbeck’s subtitle ‘A Strange Truth’ and the word ‘strange’ appears forty-nine times in his plays. Ford uses familiar Shakespearean stories to highlight the strangeness of the stories which he himself tells.
Strangeness, Law(s) and Genre in The Double Marriage and The Unnatural Combat
This article analyses the pirate figures in The Double Marriage (1619–22) and The Unnatural Combat (1624–26) by delineating the crucial role of strangeness in the depiction of piracy on the one hand and the generic status of these plays on the other. In both texts, the main pirate figure moves from strange outsider to morally upright anti-hero. Strangeness (and with it, piracy) thus serves to question and undermine the stability of the social status quo. Strangeness and unnaturalness also inherently affect the generic status of both plays. In The Unnatural Combat, a revenge plot becomes obsolete with the death of one of the protagonists; and The Double Marriage becomes strange in its undermining of generic expectations, generating a tragicomic plot and at least three different revenge plots.
Rivets and The Hanney Brooch By Giles Watson
John Fletcher’s The Island Princess
I consider ‘strangeness’ as a performative phenomenon directly related to the experimental multiperspectivity of the early Stuart stage. As such, it is not a quality ascribed to individual characters, but the norm ruling interactions between them: all characters are strangers to each other. This constellation drives theatrical agon and suspense, turning spectators into privileged witnesses to an all-encompassing strangeness of which characters are often unaware. This theatrical take on strangeness supplements and potentially undercuts contextual and thematic explanations of the early modern stage’s fascination with the odd and exotic. Thus in John Fletcher’s The Island Princess (1621), the conflict between Christianity and Islam ostensibly depicted in this tragicomedy is challenged, if not superseded, by a more existential and ubiquitous notion of strangeness at the play’s core.
Shakespeare’s Debt to Spenserian Strangeness
Strangeness occurs in many places and in a variety of forms in Shakespeare, but nowhere more compellingly than in The Tempest. This late, ‘magical’ play distinguishes itself by its depiction of the bizarre and the unusual in terms both of character and incident. In this article, I argue that, in deploying and developing his understanding of the strange, Shakespeare takes his cue to a degree from The Faerie Queene of Edmund Spenser, whose allegorical method also employs the odd and the unfamiliar. Spenser’s epic poem was published in three separate editions in the course of Shakespeare’s writing career: at its beginning in 1590 (the first three books), again in 1596 (six books), and in 1609, a year or two before the composition of The Tempest.
Strange Spectacles in the Plays of Thomas Goffe
This article explores the role of the strange and spectacular in early modern dramatic (re)presentations of the Islamic world by discussing two sixteenth-century tragedies by Thomas Goffe that engage with Turkish dynastic history. No longer employing the fantastical elements used in medieval literature to mark the East as a spectacular space, Goffe presents a vision of Turkish otherness based on a new (mundane) notion of strangeness that relies on the staging of ‘unnaturally’ excessive behaviour and strangely hyperbolic passions. This strategy emphasises the supposed antagonistic alterity of the Muslim other. However, it also (inadvertently) undermines conventional Ottoman stereotypes by offering points of (emotional) contact and recognition between the audience and the Turkish characters on stage.
The Jacobean Intersections of Revenge and the Strange
Katherine M. Graham
In Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, we learn that a revenger must be ‘strange-disposed’ or ‘strange-composed’ (1.1.86/96), and in Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s The Maid’s Tragedy the vengeful Amintor claims ‘what a strange thing am I’ (2.1.298). In these utterances, the speakers tie their desires for vengeance into their affective state. As both plays progress, however, the evocations of strangeness shift, moving from an association with the revenger to an association with the act of revenge itself. In working to unpack the interrelationships between the revenger, the strangeness of their affective experience and the strangeness of the act of revenge itself, this article considers what questions these plays ask regarding the tension between embodiment and disembodiment in the act of revenge.
A Conversation on Adorno, Baudrillard, Braidotti and Marcuse
Siphiwe I. Dube
This article provides an analysis of the way in which contemporary forms of intelligence discourse (Jean Baudrillard), in similar fashion to political art (Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse), function by delimiting critical thought. The intelligence discourse critiqued is extolled through things such as progressive intelligence acquisition (Flynn effect) and the supposed indispensability of Democratic reason (Hélène Landemore), amongst other qualities. In support of its argument, the article focusses specifically on Baudrillard’s analysis of the notion of the intelligence of evil, as well as on the Frankfurt School’s critique of massification. However, the article also notes limitations in these thinkers’ recovery and defence of critical thought in response to the delimitation posed by intelligence and massification, and argues for Rosi Braidotti’s evaluation of thought as nomadic as a necessary corrective.