MSA at MLA, 2014

Papers in the session were devoted to the turbulent times in which Marlowe embarked on his career as a playwright and poet and his relationship to the larger theatrical and literary milieu of the late 1580s and early 1590s

364. Christopher Marlowe and Vulnerable Times

Program arranged by the Marlowe Society of America

Friday, 10 January 2014

3.30-4.45 p.m., Northwestern-Ohio State, Chicago Marriott

Presiding: M. L. Stapleton, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

1. “Players and Playbooks on the Move in Vulnerable Times,” Roslyn L. Knutson, University of Arkansas, Little Rock

Christopher Marlowe entered the public theatrical marketplace just as major changes were taking place with the leading companies in that business. His own affiliation with companies has sufficient consensus among scholars to be considered fact, but the same cannot be said of the location of players and playbooks. As the marketplace responded to vulnerabilities of the times—i.e., deaths of players and patrons, newly-built venues, entering and exiting playwrights—the leadership across competitive companies and their stock of playbooks also responded. This presentation will address the adaptation of players and playbooks to fluctuations in the commercial environment in Marlowe’s time.

2. “The 1580s and Vulnerability,” Mary Hill Cole, Mary Baldwin College

The execution of Anne Boleyn for adultery and incest, as well as a series of Parliamentary Acts of Succession and Henry VIII’s will, left Queen Elizabeth besmirched, bastardized, and vulnerable.¬† Historians have debated whether Elizabeth ever acted to reassert her legitimacy, or whether her coronation and her monarchy itself created a de facto legitimacy. I argue that Elizabeth tried to reclaim the impression of legitimacy in ways that typified her personal monarchy. By examining the acts of her first Parliament that delineated her changing legal status since her birth, I argue that while Elizabeth did not directly erase the stigma of her bastardy, she found ways to reconstitute her family and claim a virtual legitimacy. The byzantine nature of her situation led her to employ tortured ambiguities in pursuit of a recognized¬† legitimacy that ultimately remained beyond her reach. Her failure to erase the stain of bastardy affected her monarchy and left her vulnerable to plots, military threats, and succession crises that wracked England through the 1580s.

3. “The Representation of Vulnerability in Marlowe’s Edward II,” William Casey Caldwell, Northwestern University

I will be asking whether there is a sense in which we can say that there is a particularly Marlovian mode of representing vulnerability. My paper will divide into two parts. In the first, I provide a brief historicizing sketch of early modern emotions and affect, concluding with a consideration of emotional or “affective vulnerability” in an early modern context. In the second part, I turn to a consideration of Marlowe’s Edward II, applying the sketch of early modern affect I have developed. My aim will be to show that, while Marlowe’s own representation of affective vulnerability is continuous with its general form I draw in the first part of my paper, his staging of vulnerability critically diverges from it in the context of power and the destruction of the self. I conclude, however, that pairing affective vulnerability with the destruction of the self in a play like Edward II does not retroactively assign vulnerability a negative value for Marlowe.