By Mark Breitenberg
To fresh reports of Renaissance subjectivity, worried Masculinity in Early smooth England contributes the argument that masculinity is necessarily apprehensive and risky in cultures that distribute strength and authority in line with patriarchal prerogatives. Drawing from present arguments in feminism, cultural experiences, historicism, psychoanalysis and homosexual experiences, Mark Breitenberg explores the dialectic of wish and nervousness in masculine subjectivity within the paintings of a variety of writers, together with Shakespeare, Bacon, Burton, and the ladies writers of the "querelles des femmes" debate, particularly Jane Anger. Breitenberg discusses jealousy and cuckoldry anxiousness, hetero and homoerotic hope, humoural psychology, anatomical distinction, cross-dressing and the assumption of honor and popularity. He strains masculine nervousness either as an indication of ideological contradiction and, satirically, as a efficient strength within the perpetuation of Western patriarchal platforms.
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Additional info for Anxious Masculinity in Early Modern England
This normative presence and function of melancholy in the body is capable of becoming a disease - indeed, in many discussions it is always on the brink - if the humour becomes abnormal or unnatural in quantity or quality. English writers use a variety of terms to describe melancholy as a disease, including unnatural melancholy, melancholy adust or black choler; Burton generally refers to it simply as melancholy, as I shall also do here. 3 The potential causes of melancholy are so broad, derived from so many natural, everyday bodily functions and human experiences, that it is not inaccurate to say that melancholy becomes the overarching term for anything imbalanced or excessive - whatever is not normal.
46 The gross injustice of this double standard was surely apparent to the women who suffered from it. "47 A similar preoccupation with the supposed link between the dangers of women's infidelity and social unrest shows up in the increased visibility of accusations against scolds or domineering wives in this period. Before "the middle of the sixteenth century," Underdown points out, "the authorities do not seem to have been particularly concerned with them" [scolds] . . "48 At the same time, evidence of a deeper anxiety toward women perceived as insubordinate can be found in a variety of rituals that were intended to ridicule dominated or cuckolded husbands and to punish their "unruly" wives.
More often than not, the female protagonist is punished for her transgression: she functions as the scapegoat whose degradation restores the normative order, still by most people construed as the nuclear family, the man on top, women's sexuality properly under control. Hollywood could find enough of these plots in Jacobean drama to last well into the next century were it not so seemingly determined to portray contemporary life as if it had no history. 34 Anxious masculinity in early modern England The primary focus of this book is, of course, a culture and historical period radically different from the present.