Allegories of exile: The alienated self in Shakespeare, Webster, Crashaw, and Milton
Madson, Christopher John
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"Allegories of Exile" examines various poetic representations of characters and communities forced to negotiate their identity once confronted with the threat of exile – be it social, economic, political, or in some cases physical – in the works of William Shakespeare, John Webster, Richard Crashaw, and John Milton. In each chapter subjects once integral to London's landscape are pushed to, or outside, the social periphery as a result of their having threatened the state's health, political stability, or sanctioned church. These communities include: the syphilitic market-class informing Shakespeare's Measure for Measure ; the female political community surrounding Queen Anne, as thematized in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi ; the dispersed High Churchmen central to Richard Crashaw's poetry; and the disenfranchised Puritan communities informing Milton's Paradise Lost . The question then is how do early modern subjects living in and around London negotiate their identities and their voices once denied access to the social or ideological structures that originally defined them? Throughout each of these works isolated poetic characters respond to their condition by performing subversive demonstrations with, and in some cases on, their bodies. Each creates a language of resistance that draws from the same allegories and tropes used to define the subject as other. From syphilitic infections to a scatological journey through the bowels of Chaos, erupted sores and bleeding wounds form discourses that poetically refocus the politics of bodily exile onto the body politic. While various forms of embodiment threaten the state and are subject to exile in each author's works, the characters examined viscerally appropriate bodily rhetoric to construct new subjectivities. In negotiating with defining social institutions these characters move toward new forms of self-definition and self-understanding.