Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture


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The Sound of the Shakespeare's / Early Modern English Language (The Tragedie of Hamlet, & etc)

Figure 6. We define "geographical" topics as ones where the words that have the highest probability of occurring together include place names Egypt, Ethiopia, Poland, etc , topographical terms island, desert, cape, etc , and technical navigational language anchor, boat, sail, etc. Topics on trade and resources are defined by materials like "tree," "rice," "grain," and "wheat.

In other words, it seems clear that geography, trade, and location-specific topics, as much as skin color, sexuality, or religion, shaped the perception of Moorish identity and the likely reception of Othello. Indeed, if a play about Moors evoked "hot button" issues in the England of when Othello was probably first performed, these topic models imply that trade and geography would have rivaled religion and bodily difference as the most characteristic linguistic markers of those plays.

Indeed, when we turn to the LDA topics that include the first two editions of Othello figure seven , we surprisingly find that the play, in quarto and folio, occurs almost exclusively in "geographical" topics, rather than in topics on sexuality, the passions, or the body.

In fact, Figure 7.

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Othello is a captain, he sets sail for Cyprus, and, according to the LDA algorithm's probabilistic modeling, the play's language has the highest likelihood of sharing common language with technical texts on navigation, global space, discovery, and trade. Indeed, here Othello begins to look like a true outlier, since at the document level, Othello 's plaiting together of geographical, naval, and militaristic language aligns it more closely with technical texts, travel guides, news sheets, and corantos than with contemporary plays, literary romances, or the kinds of cultural ethnographies sometimes offered up in sermons and polemical tracts.

Figure eight shows LDA topics on geography and landscape that find a shared vocabulary linking Shakespeare's Othello and Samuel Purchas' famous text on global travel, Purchas his Pilgrimes , alongside texts on "cosmographie," surveying, and chorography. Even more unexpectedly, the converse also holds true: the early publications of Othello are not part of the cluster of dramatic and literary texts, like Lust's Dominion and even Shakespeare's earlier play Titus Andronicus , which contribute to topics on the passions, female sexuality, and religion figure nine.

Figure 9.


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To verify the findings of our LDA tests, our word2vec analysis shown below shows word-level semantic relationships without taking documents into account. We used cosine similarity to measure the distance between word vectors, and then principal component analysis PCA to flatten the high dimensional space into a three-dimensional projection. Word nodes that are closer in the vector space have a higher probability of occurring in the same semantic context, while more distant words have a lower probability of occurring together. Based on this word-level analysis figure ten , we can see that the discourse of "Moores" in the EEBO corpus from through exhibits precisely the same naval, mercantile, and geographically diverse vocabulary, including words such as "ships," "seas," "trade," "fleete," "marchants," "traffique," "indias," and "marchandize", as we have seen in the document-level analysis of the LDA topics containing Othello alongside texts on global travel and shipping.

Figure Based on the LDA models' alignment of Othello with a navigational discourse, and the word2vec models' identification of the keyword "Moor" with the same naval and trade vocabulary, our results suggest that at the time of its initial publication Othello participated in the early "Moor" discourse on a geographical, navigational, and naval register that was at least as coherent as the terrain of politics, religion, or the body.

These geographical topics reveal that the very notion of "geography" in the period is complicated, with two distinct models of England's worldview coming into focus, one marked by European places, and the other by global spaces. First, a strong trend defines a proximate vision of European place that maps neatly onto the political and religious fault lines of a familiar continental Renaissance.

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Less familiar is a second tier of geographical topics characterized by an "equinoctial" imagination of Moors that is markedly more technical than the cultural conflicts described by the first tranche of European topics. Here we find clusters of words related to space and climate. The recurring and most peculiar word in this series of topics across date ranges is "equinoctial," which suggests "a state of equal day and night" as in the annual vernal equinox but was used in the Renaissance as a spatial and not calendrical category. Heavily discussed in debates about the "equinoctial circle," or as Milton puts it in Book 10 of Paradise Lost , the "Equinoctial Rode" served as a stable spatial reference point marking the celestial or terrestrial equator.

Constructing Monsters in Shakespeare's Drama and Early Modern Culture

The equator was termed "equinoctial" intuitively because, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, when the sun shines upon it, "nights and days are of equal length in all parts of the world. Far from being a purely abstract cartographical calculation, however, these topics refer to a range of concrete place names to anchor the representation of the globe: "Africa," Asia," "Ethiopian," "Canton," "China," "Italian," "India," "Portugal," "Benin," "Peru," Malabar," "Persia," "Albania," "America," and "Florida" are all specific locations populating this grid of global space.

What's significant here is that the cartographical discourse of equinoctial lines, poles, and zones explodes outwards from the narrow confines of the local European topics on the "Moor. A word2vec evaluation of the semantic range of "equinoctial" in the EEBO corpus from to demonstrates an analogous geographical vocabulary of spatial markers and a diversity of global place names, as seen in figure thirteen.

The terms of these global topics also differ substantially, shifting from a historical register of European political and cultural conflict to the more technical vocabulary of how space can be theorized and organized in a mathematical way. Climate rather than ethno-religious conflict binds the disparate geographies of the "equinoctial" topics together.

The repetition of the words "clime," "zone," "heat," "cold" and "torrida" describes a logic of climatological zones and bands as the tissue binding the wide range of otherwise unrelated regions in the New World, Europe, Africa, and Asia into a cohesive spatial amalgam. We see this reasoning in familiar texts such as Thomas Hariot's Briefe and True Report , which claims that Virginia is a worthy place to explore and populate, since it shares the "nature of the climate, being answerable to the Iland of Japan , the land of China, Persia, Jury , the Ilandes of Cyprus and Candy , the South parts of Greece, Italy , and Spaine , and of many other notable and famous countreis.

Here of if it be planted and ordered as in Persia" and "will rise as great profite in time to the Virginians, as there of doth now to the Persians, Turkes, Italians and Spaniards. The underlying logic of these geographical topics is not "race" understood as a function of the body's physiology, and taken as a whole the language of skin color and anatomical difference exists faintly.

The "equinoctial" definition of space in England's nascent globalism is not limited to the promise of a region's flora; "complexion" and "temper" also appear as dominant terms in this range of geographical topics. Mary Floyd-Wilson's work on "geohumoralism" and ethnicity in the Renaissance gives us a useful means to understand the link between geography, complexion, and temper, specifically as these terms relate to the depiction of Moors in early English texts. In our topics, the "complexions" and "tempers" associated with a given climate or location move beyond the plane of the body, physiology, ethnicity, and skin color.

Embedded in a network of cartographical concepts, "complexion" and "temper" serve as geographical terms in the Renaissance mind, and thus the "equinoctial" imagination helped define the idea of race as a spatially inflected formation.

In the Renaissance mind, then, the "equinoctial" imagination helped define the idea of race in a fundamentally spatial way because "complexion" and "temper" were shaped by the geography of a specific place. Using word2vec in figure fourteen to examine EEBO from to at the word level demonstrates that "complexion" defines a phenotype modulated by "physicke," "constitution," "melancholy," "tempers," and the "temperature" of the local environment, far more than an immutable genotype. And indeed, a word embedding of "complexion" after the publication of the play figure fifteen shows that Othello himself comes to contribute to the very definition of the idea, in a closer relationship with "tempers," "appetites," and "affections," than the vocabulary of "blackness.

In the topics and word embeddings where it appears, "complexion" gestures toward its Latin root complectere, indicating a pre-modern idea of race as the plaiting or intertwining of many variables, including landscape, latitude, climate, and local flora and fauna, in a way that is made legible by the humoral body. See for example, figure sixteen, below, where the proximity of "black," "Indian," "white," "complexion" might incline us to read this as a cluster of words about the body:. Indeed, some of the texts composing this cluster seem, at first glance, to exhibit the crudest kind of racial essentialism, as is the case in Pietro Martire d'Anghiera's The history of travayle in the West and East Indies, which argues that men differ in skin color not because of differences in weather or temperature, but because "God hath so ordeyned it.

Racial difference offers "further occasions to Philosophers to searche the seccretes of nature, and complexions of men, with the novelties of the newe worlde. Our algorithm associates Othello more strongly with this global perspective than with more purely local concerns or racial verities. But why does complexion in Othello look so different from most other contemporary plays that include passages about Moors? Why does it, in fact, look so different even from itself? Zooming in on the distinctions between the Quarto and Folio by running LDA on the pre corpus, we begin to see that all the aspects of Othello that set it apart from other "Moor" plays are more pronounced in Quarto than in Folio.

Although both printings of the play occur together in many LDA runs, the Quarto seems to be much more of its moment in this sense and less engaged with the ethnographic discourse that comes to define "the Moor" generally and Othello in particular across the long span of English literary history represented by the entire EEBO corpus. These topics take us back to a fairly familiar understanding of race in the play, in which difference is corporeal, demonized, and associated with England's Catholic rivals.

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As we shall see later, this in fact becomes the dominant way of seeing the play in its longer reception history. To get a sense of the difference, once again, between these topics and the ones where we do find the Quarto, here is an example of an earlier topic that includes the first printing:. This trade-oriented topic, with terms like "spice," "ship," "Holland," and "ware," couldn't be more different from the topics that include the Folio.

To understand the gap, we can pivot to the network of printers and publishers that first brought Othello to London's bookstalls in Quarto nearly twenty years after its first performance. Here, we can begin to get a better idea of how the play's complex temper and its particular global engagements may have helped make it a vendible commodity in , in ways that have become more difficult to see in the following years. Scholars have shed a good deal of ink wondering how they gained access to the play and whether it brings us closer or takes us further from Shakespeare's intended text.

By using Shakeosphere to explore the connections between the people and texts related to these works, we can begin to get a sense of their place in the publication networks that produced them.

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First, it quickly becomes clear that literary and dramatic texts were somewhat outside the norm for either the printer or publisher. On the network map below, we have highlighted Okes, Walkley, and Shakespeare, as well as the large node in the center, Bernard Alsop. Please subscribe or login to access full text content. If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code. For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs , and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.

All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. Oxford Handbooks Online. Publications Pages Publications Pages. The set pamphlet texts will all be available in the free course handbook electronically also on Blackboard. If you want to read some of them, though, before the course begins, most can only be accessed through EEBO Early English Books Online which can be accessed through the library databases.

You will need to buy the play-texts marked with an asterisk below. Demonic possession. Magic and magicians. Criticism and context. Fuller bibliographies will be available week by week, but here is a guide to getting started.


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  5. You will not want to read everything here! Pick what is most appropriate for your interests and your chosen essay topic. You will probably want to get the books from the library rather than buying them. Don't forget also to check out the fuller, week by week bibliographies. History, culture, society. James A. Religion and the supernatural. Cheap print. Narrating the supernatural. Marion Gibson, 'Understanding Witchcraft? Accusers' Stories in Print in Early.

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    Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture
    Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture
    Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture
    Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture
    Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture Constructing Monsters in Shakespearean Drama and Early Modern Culture
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