By Mark Breitenberg
To contemporary stories of Renaissance subjectivity, apprehensive Masculinity in Early smooth England contributes the argument that masculinity is necessarily worried and unstable in cultures that distribute strength and authority in line with patriarchal prerogatives. Drawing from present arguments in feminism, cultural experiences, historicism, psychoanalysis and homosexual experiences, Mark Breitenberg explores the dialectic of wish and anxiousness in masculine subjectivity within the paintings of quite a lot of writers, together with Shakespeare, Bacon, Burton, and the ladies writers of the "querelles des femmes" debate, particularly Jane Anger. Breitenberg discusses jealousy and cuckoldry anxiousness, hetero and homoerotic hope, humoural psychology, anatomical distinction, cross-dressing and the assumption of honor and recognition. He strains masculine nervousness either as an indication of ideological contradiction and, satirically, as a effective strength within the perpetuation of Western patriarchal structures.
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Extra resources for Anxious Masculinity in Early Modern England
First, on the level of the individual, humoural psychology assumes an essential sameness among the materials that make up the psyche; the considerable differences (including gender and forms of sexual desire) among individuals are the result of degrees and propensities of the same materials, or humours. Partly this is because the fluids that comprise the body are fungible; that is, they are transformable from one to another, as in the belief that semen derives from blood. 4 This means that in theory everyone has the potential to possess or enact the entire spectrum of human characteristics and desires that derive from the balance (or imbalance) of fluids in the body.
The recurrence of Shakespeare may be explained by my own training and by his cultural predominance, but also by my admission (as in some critical circles it would have to be) that Shakespeare's imaginative examinations of masculinity are usually more complex and more subtle than that of any of his contemporaries, or at least that they more richly manifest his culture's anxieties about gender and sexuality. Indeed, I Introduction 29 once imagined that if somehow Iago and Emilia could find it in themselves to co-write a book, little in the following pages would be left to say.
Along with the fear of cuckoldry, sexual jealousy will have made many appearances in the book before this final chapter - it is easily the most pervasive masculine anxiety of the early modern period and it is either an overt or disguised anxiety in all the texts I discuss. In this chapter, Shakespeare's extraordinary anatomy of masculinity in Othello is threaded through a variety of non-literary texts treatises, popular pamphlets, religious tracts - in order to demonstrate once again that masculine anxiety (in this chapter from male sexual jealousy) is endemic to early modern patriarchy - symptomatic of its "normal" operations rather than an aberration or unfortunate disease.