By Amelia A. Zurcher
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Extra resources for Seventeenth-Century English Romance: Allegory, Ethics, and Politics
To dissemble one’s desire by hitching it to someone else’s, by way of a brilliant sleight of hand on Sidney’s part, is to separate oneself slightly from it, to loosen its hold and thus open a space for rational calculation that is at the same time—paradoxically, according to an old humanist ideology that puts reason and cupiditas on either side of a great divide—self-interested. And this is just the space of politic agency. The self-interested agent as Sidney imagines him is acquisitive but not quite passionate, liberated from grand providential design and also, by his dissembling, from the passions of others, which are now instrumental but never governing.
The second response might seem at ﬁrst even more naïve: here, narrator and characters alike rejected Sidney’s double view, taking on the ethical problems attendant on self-interest directly, as matters of explicit thematic concern, and with great sincerity. This move to an open investigation of self-interest and politic irony set up the wide-ranging and complex consideration of interest in midcentury romance; it can be traced most explicitly in Wroth’s Urania, which at moments reads almost like a direct commentary on Sidney’s ideas.
George Puttenham’s The Arte of English Poesie, ﬁrst published in 1589, was not nearly as sanguine about its courtiers’ intentions. ”14 “The Courtly ﬁgure Allegoria,” says Puttenham, is when we speake one thing and thinke another, and that our wordes and our meanings meete not. The use of this ﬁgure is so large, and his vertue of so great efﬁcacie as it is supposed no man can pleasantly utter and perswade without it, but in effect is sure never or very seldome to thrive and prosper in the world, that cannot skilfully put in ure [sic], in somuch as not onely every common Courtier, but also the gravest 34 Seventeenth-Century English Romance Counsellour, yea and the most noble and wisest Prince of them all are many times enforced to use it, by example (say they) of the great Emperour who had it usually in his mouth to say, Qui nescit dissimulare nescit regnare.
Seventeenth-Century English Romance: Allegory, Ethics, and Politics by Amelia A. Zurcher