The Semiotic Universe of Jacobean Tragedy
Chapter III: Virtuous heroines and the world of the carnivalesque.
Virtuous heroines and the world of the carnivalesque.
Beaumont and Fletcher’ Thierry and Theodoret and John Marston’s Sophonisba strongly emphasize the asset of virginal female incorruptibility only to subject it to the influence of an equally intense and possibly stronger subversive power which offers an alternative to the stereotyped virtue. Although the mutinous actions are apparently associated with the menacing figures which constitute foils to the pure heroines, the association of the principled female characters with the unruly women cannot be missed. The most perplexing is the fact that the carnivalesque element of riotous insubordination is to be found in the most prohibitively self-controlled characters who at the same time serve as the moral centres of the plays.
In both cases, the subversive aspect of femininity is strongly associated with nature and physicality which constitute the driving forces of the “second world, a second life outside officialdom” (Bakhtin 1968: 6). Bakhtin’s theory of the carnival grotesque elucidates some of the possible meanings behind the characters’ actions and sheds light on the mutual correspondences between the plays’ apparently incongruous figures. At the same time, such approach directs the readers’ / spectators’ attention to the discrepancy between the controlled world of prearranged ceremony associated with sterile “virtue” and the ambiguous component of the carnivalesque which, despite the possible first impression to the contrary, is not always unfavourably connotated. ← 105 | 106 →
Thierry and Theodoret by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Double semiosis of...
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