Borders maritime in early modern drama and the English geopolitical imagination, 1575-1625
MetadataShow full item record
“Borders Maritime” explores how the English imagined maritime geography, politics, and culture from 1575 to 1625. As a zone that is neither land nor sea, the maritime needed to be developed, demarcated, navigated, and policed in order for England to take her place on the international stage as the Empire by the end of the seventeenth century. To do so, traditional forms of sovereignty founded on the land needed to be reimagined from a different elemental perspective, that of the sea. The model of sovereignty inherited from political theology—anthropocentric, legalistic, and religious—is here transformed into a maritime political ecology—nonhuman, imaginative, and elemental. Recent criticism of the development of modern sovereignty out of the middle ages has found ways to displace the biological basis for the definition of life and reach further into the networked world. This includes forms of life such as pirates and power lines, territories and tidal zones. The move to define the maritime likewise requires including unfamiliar forms of life and active natures. It requires acting on the water, thinking like a whirlpool, imagining waves, and navigating islands. The fifty years under consideration here mark this turn from the land to the sea in the English geopolitical imagination. Since the maritime is a border, an especially destructive and deconstructive one, drama provides an especially suitable vehicle in its own borderline nature—fiction performed in real space with real elements. This dissertation analyzes how the Elizabethan estate entertainments at Kenilworth and Elvetham, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet , the Jacobean court masques by Ben Jonson, Samuel Daniels, and Francis Beaumont, and John Fletcher’s tragicomedies The Island Princess and The Sea Voyage perform elemental sovereignty and stage the political ecologies of early modern England.