Rhetorics of identity from Shakespeare to Milton
This thesis deals primarily with Renaissance tragedy and with Milton's Paradise Lost. It is structured around three main Sections each of which identifies a dominant theme in the drama/poetry of the period 1580-1670 and considers the way in which it is utilised in order to express or represent what was arguably the most pressing concern of the age - the concept of individual identity, or 'selfhood'. Section One takes as its theme 'death', or more specifically 'death scenes'. It considers the way in which the battle for what I have chosen to term 'directional control' in the death scenes of both playhouse and scaffold shapes the symbiotic relationship between the two, and can be viewed as a vital component in the rhetoric of identity which emerges from plays such as Shakespeare's Macbeth, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Webster's Duchess of Malfi, and scaffold texts of the period. Section Two deals with the remaining Shakespearean mature tragedies - Hamlet and King Lear - as well as with Marlowe's Dr Faustus. It takes as its focal point the viability - or otherwise - of the 'interiorised contexts' which such plays construct. This Section contends that these (relative) microcosmic interiors are, in fact, limited by the 'absolute' of death. The third and final Section of the thesis consequently addresses the implications, for the contextualised self, of removing this limiting factor. The text which lends itself most naturally to this is Paradise Lost, and Section Three concludes by placing Milton's epic alongside a small selection of contemporaneous poetry by Traherne.