Scholarship, Sacrifice, and Subjectivity
Debora Kuller Shuger
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS
Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1994 The Regents of the University of California
Violence, Subjectivity, and Manhood
The rhetoric of identification in Calvinist passion narratives requires the reader to introject both the normative cultural personae (the knight and the obedient child) and the more disturbing and problematic figures of the torturer and the agonized Christ, to recognize them as voices of the self. The lines of identification are not grounded in a single antetype but criss-
crossed and entangled so that the self finally occupies all narrative positions. The reader, like Christ, endures persecution, but the reader also resembles the Jews, whose penalty for killing Christ is to be—like Christ—killed; the reader participates in the Crucifixion and hence must also be crucified. The persecutors thirst for blood; the Father strikes his Son and then revenges his death on the Jews; the Son returns as a wrathful judge; the reader eagerly anticipates the destruction of Christ's enemies. Christ is bruised, humiliated, shamed—like the elect and like the Jews. The kaleidoscopic regress produced by these cross-identifications is the narrative counterpart to the self-divided, decentered psyche, a psyche mirrored in the similarly kaleidoscopic sequence of images used to portray the chimerical Christ.
This complex and conflictual Christian subjectivity differs profoundly from prior conceptualizations of ideal selfhood. As Erasmus points out, the dominant cultural models of the self from late antiquity through the Middle Ages are the Catholic martyr and Stoic sage, both of whom embody what might be called a "monothelite" ideal—an undeviating singleness of will and purpose, a limpid simplicity of intention. Erasmus, however, seems openly uncomfortable with the hagiographic model of personality, finding it unreal and inhuman. Calvin also largely abandoned this model. As William J. Bouwsma notes, the ruthless self-examination Calvinism demanded splits the self "into observer and observed, audience and actor, neither capable of natural and spontaneous behavior.... He was driven back to theatricality even by his effort to escape it." In both Erasmus and Calvin, the chimerical self, with its conflicting wills and internal divisions, replaces the integral subjectivities of martyr and sage, although, interestingly, all three cultural types are produced by violence. The chimerical self, one should stress, is not a late version of the psychomachia—the interior battleground between the virtues and vices; as the Disputatiuncula makes clear, the chimerical self originates in Christology, not ethics. Like the martyr and the sage, it therefore lays claim to an ideal cultural value. The struggling and suffering Christ replaces the tranquil martyr as the prototype (and antetype) of the sanctified personality.
Erasmus's Christ still belongs to the late medieval representations of the Man of Sorrows, whose terror and anguish do not lessen his inextinguishable love; in fact, they render him more lovely, since they reveal the extent of his sacrifice. The Calvinist Christ seems more troubling. The images of impotent victim, frightened child, vengeful judge, and rebellious
son—images of abjection and violence—possess a tragic darkness. The implied reader is likewise a disturbing presence, both guilty and victimized, a torturer and tortured. One hesitates to call the Calvinist Christ an ideal figure; he is rather a persona of the end myth, in which the characters who traditionally embodied objective cultural values become instead symbols of inner conflict and contradiction.
The cultural import of this end myth can be approached by noting the structure and circulation of its images. Whether portraying inner, psychological divisions or relations between separate figures, these images tend to occur in twos, organized by the binary alternatives of impotence and power. With respect to Christ, the two principal image pairs articulate, first, the duality of Christ himself as the hurt, forsaken child and as the conqueror triumphing over both personified (death, sin) and historical (the Jews) enemies and, second, the opposition between the hideously tormented Christ and his torturers. The inner split between victim and knight replicates the objective contrast between victim and tormentor insofar as the antithesis of weakness and power structures both. This double set of opposing images encodes an ambivalence about violence. On the one hand, violence manifests itself as cruelty, as the demonic. But its victim seems curiously repellent; in the Calvinist passion narratives, the suffering Christ is grotesque, frightened, weak, unable even to wipe off the blood and spit running down his face, groveling wormlike on the ground in his terrified desolation. The narratives betray a revulsion from this pathetic passivity; the figure of the victim keeps slipping toward contrasting images of strength and self-assertion: the knight, the apocalyptic avenger, the child trampling on the Father. The victim, that is, slips toward the torturer—and the torturer toward the victim, since those who crucified Christ will be destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem. The brief images of Christ as eroticized ephebe that surface during the torture scenes further complicate the presentation of violence with hints of a sadistic interest in the mangled body of the beautiful youth, as though the revulsion from the pathetic enclosed an attraction toward the pathic.
A similar metamorphic circulation of violence involves the reader, who belongs among the innocently suffering elect and who gloats over the sufferings of Christ's enemies but who also, finally, is one of the torturers and complicit in the Crucifixion. The passion narratives by Breton and Nashe describe Christ as a mother pelican feeding her young with her own blood—a traditional emblem of self-giving love—but they focus on the baby birds, the fledglings who tear out the bowels and womb (the terms are Nashe's) of their parent like Lear's "pelican daughters." The image
of maternal sacrifice, rewritten as filial ingratitude, emblematizes the guilty awareness of one's own cruelty. It sketches in miniature the shift from the pathos of the late medieval passions to the problematic violence of the Calvinist narratives. The sacrificial pelican, like the martyr, recedes, displaced by vicious little birds and the perhaps equally discomforting images of the hurt and humiliated child. The narratives offer only two positions: one is either a victim or violent. And these positions turn out to be interchangeable. Moreover, attempts at self-control fail to halt the oscillations of violence and victimization, since the effort to repress one's own impulses toward cruelty itself requires violence and hence merely internalizes the dialectic of the torturer and tortured rather than resolving it; the reader avenges his complicity in the Crucifixion by becoming the victim of his own violence.
What is this story about? Thomas Wilson's Art of Rhetoric translates fortitudo , the virtue involved in inflicting and enduring pain, as manhood. Renaissance usage generally overlaps notions of violence and masculinity. Their entanglement in the passion narratives seems fairly evident, inasmuch as the problematics of violence are rendered through sequential images of male figures: knight, child, judge, soldier, priest, father, son, and so forth. The texts represent violence primarily in terms of masculine identity rather than social conflict, references to economic or political motives being minimal. The self-divisions and cross-identifications that take place under the sign of the scapegoat—the site of social and supernatural violence—present a deeply disturbed vision of Christian manhood.
Thus, in the Calvinist passion narratives, violence releases neither the triumphant energies of the spirit (the martyr) nor, generally, the heroic splendor of the undaunted will (the warrior). Instead, one gets the frightened Christ, whose body is exquisitely tender "as beeing shaped of Virgin-substance without commixture of the male nature." Erasmus similarly suggests that Christ's "female" temperament might provide a physiological explanation for his terror, people with "cold, scanty blood ... [and] thinned spirits"—characteristics of female bodies—being more likely to show fear than those of hotter constitutions (1274). Questions about Christ's "femaleness" occur in a more overtly anxious form in Calvin, who several times feels impelled to deny that Christ had an "effeminate mind"—a curious protest. It is clear in each case that "female or "effeminate" does not connote "swishy" but belongs to a complex of notions relating to cowardice and the inability to withstand pain. In this sense, Christ's agony raises obvious questions about his manhood.
It is not just his "female" terror. Almost all the images of Christ carry suggestions of male inadequacy. The sole exception occurs in the depiction of Christ as a young knight battling evil personifications while the Father looks on approvingly—an allegorical picture of safe violence. But this image only throws into relief the troubling representations of the passive and terrified Christ, of the wrathful Father unmanning his Son, and the various other scenes of brutality, weakness, and unallegorical suffering. The agonized Christ seems a peculiarly Renaissance nightmare of emasculation, of the loss of power, autonomy, strength, and status. Conversely, the figures who possess the power to hurt are frighteningly sadistic. The texts portray male strength almost exclusively as the capacity to inflict pain on human bodies in a crescendo of violence stretching from the flagellation to the destruction of Jerusalem. "If it be man's work I'll do't," says the Captain in King Lear . And then he strangles the Christlike Cordelia.
The narratives likewise assail the manhood of the reader, demanding that he confess his guilt, apologize, and submit—forcing him into the position of a bad child—and at the same time encouraging fantasies of revenge, the pleasures of anticipating other people's pain. The excruciatingly contradictory images of male abjection and cruelty structuring the narrative function rhetorically as emblems of masculine selfhood. The texts insist that the reader perceive these figures as psychological projections of his own malice and impotence.
The catastrophic representations of male identity in the Calvinist passion narratives do not seem to be anomalous. Rather, one may view them as mythic versions of a larger crisis of manhood that leaves its traces throughout the characteristic discourses of the period. Perhaps crisis is the wrong word for something more like a convulsive shudder running through a culture, a conceptual disturbance that never achieves direct articulation but is obliquely apprehended through the distortions effected in a society's symbolic forms. One notes the tendency for Renaissance versions of the morality play and the prodigal son story—both male Bildungsfabeln —to take tragic form. A diffuse anxiety about manhood also hangs over the plots of Shakespeare's major tragedies, especially Hamlet, Coriolanus, Othello, Lear, and Macbeth . The first three climax in the protagonist's catastrophic attempt violently to assert his own masculinity: a son proving himself to his oedipal father, another son entangled in the fantasies of a domineering mother, a husband destroying his castrating wife. Lear is, of course, about fathers and children, about the terrible vulnerability of old men. Fears of being unmanned, cowardly, cuckolded, and soft suffuse the plays. Renaissance erotic literature likewise tells of male
insufficiency. Astrophel ends up alone on a deserted road at night cursing ridiculously into the empty air. The romantic aspirations of Petrarch, Wyatt, and Troilus also miscarry badly. Even the single extant sixteenth-century English pornographic poem, Nashe's Choice of Valentines , does not record the triumph of the patriarchal phallus but a humiliating episode where the man first cannot perform and then finishes so quickly that his partner is left to solace herself with an artificial surrogate.
The Christian Petrarchist
And in any case lette us take heede howe daungerous a thynge it is to make Christe Jesus weepe.
John Stockwood, "A very fruitful and necessary sermon of the destruction of Jerusalem"
The agonies of Christian manhood intimated in the Calvinist passion narratives just discussed surface unmistakably in the strangest of the Renaissance retellings of Christ's final suffering: Thomas Nashe's Christs Teares over Jerusalem , written during the plague of 1593 right after Nashe had finished The Unfortunate Traveler . Students of Nashe have found the work puzzling: Charles Nicholl considers it evidence of an incipient nervous breakdown; Jonathan Crewe raises the possibility that the whole thing may be a blasphemous parody. I cannot dismiss either opinion out of hand, but neither do I think they explain very much. Although the first part of Christs Teares relates an episode immediately prior to the Crucifixion, it is, in fact, a passion narrative—a meditation on Christ's suffering and death—thematically and structurally very close to the Calvinist passions. Any historically plausible interpretation of this piece has to take into account its relation to these orthodox compositions.
The work has three sections. The first develops an extended prosopopoeia in which Christ struggles with his own impending death and the subsequent fall of the city that rejected him; the second describes the siege of Jerusalem in grisly detail, including the infamous episode in which a famished mother eats her son; the third anatomizes London's sins, threatening her with the fate of Jerusalem if she does not repent. Nashe's focus on the causal link between the Passion and the destruction of Jerusalem (and London) immediately connects this work to the Calvinist narratives, but I want to bracket that link for the time being and focus on the first section.
Nashe's Christ suffers the unbearable sorrows of unreciprocated affection. He is passionately in love with Jerusalem; he longs to "engraspe" her walls "in myne amorous enfoldment." He woos her, promising to "bee to thee all in all, thy riches, thy strength, thine honour, thy Patron, thy
provider" (32). Standing beside the Temple, he bursts out, "O let mee embrace thee while thou yet standest," and he bends to cover its "Alablaster out-side"—so like Desdemona's "monumental alabaster" —with "scalding sighes & dimming kisses" (51). There are echoes here of the ancient allegorical reading of Canticles as the story of Christ's rapturous love for his church. But this Christ is not the comely youth of Canticles: his "eyebals" have shrunken to "pinnes-heads with weeping"; "black and cindry (like Smithes-water) are those excrements that source downe my cheekes, and farre more sluttish then the uglie oous of the channell" (36). He claims to have beaten his hands against his breast so often while praying for his beloved that they have been reduced to a withered, bony pulp (37). These descriptions resemble the flagellation scenes in the Calvinist passion narratives; it is the same vision of the deformed, battered, abject Christ, although now tormented by erotic melancholy rather than whips and nails.
The allegorical romance begins to remind one of unpleasant high-school episodes. The pitifully ugly young man prostrates himself before an amazed female, begging,
Relieve my languor ... Glance but halfe a kind looke at mee, though thou canst not resolve to love me; by halfe a looke my love may steale into thine eyes unlookt for.... I have kneel'd, wept bitterly, lift up myne handes, hunge upon her, and vowed never to let her goe, til shee consented to retire herselfe into my tuition, & aunswerd pleasingly to my petition. (55–56)
She, not surprisingly, disdainfully refuses these groveling entreaties. The personified city resembles Wyatt's mistresses: cold, deceitful, and contemptuous of gentle men. Nashe captures both her scornful malice and Christ's unmasculine tenderness in a strange image where she bites his breasts rather than sucking them (53)—a pelican lady. Christ tries to hold her, but when she sees Satan, "she will touch him, he stretcheth not out his hande to her, but she breaketh violently from mee, to runne ravishtlie into his rugged armes" (22). The crucial word in this sentence is, of course, "rugged." Nashe's Petrarchan Lady, like Spenser's Lucifera—both incarnations of the evil city—turns out to be a "gorgious strumpet" (16) whose beauty conceals her inner syphilitic contamination (51).
In despair, Christ pleads with his Father for her, but "(enrag'd) hee hath bid me out of his sight, chyd me, rebukt me" (57). This is the wrathful Father of the Calvinist passion narratives. Disgusted with his puling Son, who will not stop pining after a woman who despises him, the Father thrusts Christ away, ordering him to "let mee alone, that I may wreake myne anger on her and consume her" (57).
Christ's love turns to violence as well. Like Wyatt's embittered Petrarchist, this tender, passive male avenges his spurned affection by attacking (verbally and physically) the beloved. Nashe astonishingly compares him to the hero of Marlowe's Tamburlaine , published only three years before Christs Teares . Emulating Tamburlaine, Christ first offers "the Jewes the White-flagge of forgivenesse and remission, and the Red-flag of shedding his Blood for them, [and] when these two might not take effect ... the Black-flagge of confusion and desolation" (20). Christ struggles one final time to make Jerusalem relent, but in the end he turns away with the futile warning, "Save thy selfe as well as thou mayst, for I have forsaken thee; to desolation have I resigned thee" (59). Christ cannot save his beloved; rather, he causes her destruction, since the city falls as punishment for the Crucifixion. He knows this. He is aware that, although he became man "to the end that Hell (not Jerusalem ) might perish," nevertheless his coming to Jerusalem has "opend & enwidened Hell mouth, to swallow thee and devoure thee" (29).
Christs Teares thus relates the failure of redemption. Christ himself recognizes the failure: "I must be slaughtered for thee, & yet worke no salvation for thee" (35). His speeches alternate between threatening Jerusalem if she does not respond and pleading with his Father or with no one in particular that somehow his death might finally prove redemptive:
Not a nayle that takes hold of me, but I wil (expresly) enjoyne it to take hold of her deflectings and errors. Death, (as ever thou hopest at my hands to have thy Commission enlarged,) when thou killest me, kill her iniquities also.... Forgyve them, Lord, they forget what they doe. (53–54)
But, of course, the cycle of violence does not break off, and the second part of Christs Teares recounts the ghastly end of the city.
Christ does not gloat over her destruction. As he contemplates her "divastation," he feels "some essentiall parte of my life seemeth to forsake me and droppe from mee" (51). One's sense of Christ's sacrificial agony—of how much his love costs—increases as he moves toward his murderous resolution, as if his love only fully manifests itself in his anguish over killing what he cherishes; one thinks of Othello's explanation: "This sorrow's heavenly, / It strikes where it doth love." In Nashe, as in Shakespeare, the intermingling of cruelty and caritas gives these scenes a deep and unusual pathos. In the end both Christ and Jerusalem stand confronting each other frozen in a tableau of endless sorrow, where "for ever I must mourne what thou for ever must suffer" (45).
Christs Teares reproduces the dialectic of the torturer and the tortured characteristic of the Calvinist passion narratives, only making more explicit their connection between the myth of the agonized avenger and issues of manhood by braiding the Petrarchan narrative of male erotic failure into the Calvinist story of political and paternal torture. These motifs, as the uncanny echoes of Christ's liebestod in Othello suggest, are not confined to a specifically religious discourse but pervade the characteristic products of the Renaissance imagination: tragedy and Petrarchan lyric as well as the eroticized violence of late Renaissance religious art.
In a general way, one can account for the disturbing configurations of manhood in the passion narratives by locating them in what Jean Delumeau has termed the Renaissance culture of sin and fear. Although Delumeau does not deal with masculinity per se, he views the morbidly authoritarian and sadistic piety suffusing Renaissance Christianity as the result of violence, particularly religious violence, and, as we have seen, violence and manhood during this period belong to a single conceptual field. Hence, the endless ugly violence recorded in the passion narratives can be read as a projection of the religious strife tearing apart the social fabric of the sixteenth century. Marlowe's Massacre at Paris thus links the catastrophic aftermath of the Reformation to the crisis of manhood with its dialectic of torturer and tortured; the play's Protestants are either helpless victims of prelatical malice or, in Coligny's case, no less cruel than their Romanist adversaries. As in the passion narratives, both villains and heroes deconstruct into interchangeable victims and avengers.
Delumeau, however, focuses primarily on the Roman Catholic societies of the European continent. In the Calvinist milieus of England, Holland, and Geneva one may hypothesize a more specific cultural context for the troubled conceptualization of manhood, a context that has less to do with particular events than with changes in a culture's symbolic resources, its stock of available images for interpreting and representing social ideals. In northern Europe during the sixteenth century, Erasmian humanism and Protestantism conjointly discredited the two principal medieval types of Christian manhood: the monk and the knight. It is not difficult to hypothesize that the total or partial loss of the ancient ideal images of masculine identity—of idealized social roles based on the renunciation or mystification of violence—produced, for a time, a sort of shuddering uncertainty about "man's work," about man's violence.
Students of English literature, who know their monks from Chaucer, tend to overlook this ideal type of silent, chaste, and obedient manhood, while the recent fascination with Western phallocentric individualism
makes it difficult to recognize how prominently the celibate, unarmed, cenobitic male figures among the culture heroes of premodern European civilization. But before the sixteenth century, the gentle, compassionate virgin is a figure of ideal masculinity. The lowly and merciful Christ of the medieval passions derives from this vision of maternal manhood. In the Calvinist equivalents, however, Christ typifies not saintly monks but the persecuted elect. He is an exemplar less of supernatural charity than of victimage, a type less of ideal masculinity than of the historical dialectic implicating the Reformation in the interminable violence lacerating the Christian social order. The traditional, monastic constructions of male identity, symbolized by the gentle Jesus, disappear from Protestant culture along with the monks themselves, replaced by more ambivalent and contradictory representations that betray the loss of a compelling vision of Christian manhood.
Erasmian humanism, the humanism of the young Calvin, distrusted contemplative celibacy, but it detested the aristocratic warrior culture of medieval Christendom. Although Calvinism proved more successful in abolishing monks than humanism was in eradicating knights, the Erasmian demystification of warfare tended to desecrate the chivalric ideal of manhood—the dominant cultural image of secular virtu —in much the same way that the Reformation erased the monastic vision of male excellence. Norbert Elias's description of the civilizing process is illuminating here because it links this critique of the warrior aristocracy with the increasing "regulation of the whole instinctual and affective life," with the emphases on self-restraint and self-control characteristic of humanist pedagogy as well as Calvinist ethics. Thus, Delumeau argues that humanism's hostility to the culture of violence encouraged an "excessively constraining education," one designed to quash all expressions of aggressiveness and sexuality, producing a pandemic of obsessional neurosis in which
the repression of aggressiveness, compounding that of sexuality, exalted the passive virtues of obedience and humility beyond all reasonable limits. As a result, there was a simultaneous turning against both one's self—the bad conscience and sickly scruples—and other sinners.... The simultaneous presence of self-denied hatred and love accentuated by the very denial ... consume the subject in a ceaseless inner struggle.
Although retrospective psychiatry presents its own theoretical problems, the description captures the ambivalence pervading the Calvinist passion narratives.
It is not, therefore, altogether surprising that the problematic manhood of these texts recurs, although in a less acute form, in the sixteenth-century humanist (and Protestant) romance. The harsh punitive father who condemns his son to death reappears in the final book of Sidney's Arcadia , a work permeated by contradictory and ambivalent constructions of both chivalric violence and Christian passivity. The endless jousts, tourneys, combats, battles, and general mayhem of the New Arcadia cast ironic shadows over the old warrior ethos. While Pyrocles and Musidorus initially defeat some villains and restore social harmony, the final flashback episodes of the Arcadia , in Richard McCoy's words, depict "chaotic conflict, heroic inadequacy, and vulnerable subordination to fortune." But if knightly prowess fails to make the world safe for timocracy, neither can the passive virtues of patient suffering and meek resignation—virtues exemplified by Sidney's heroines—provide an acceptable basis for male self-fashioning. As McCoy notes, "Sexual distinctions are maintained with schematic precision, for the heroes' virility precludes subjection 'to each unworthy misery.'" Here, as in the passion narratives, there is no unproblematic manhood: the wise, disinterested judge turns out to be rigidly legalistic and authoritarian; the idealistic young knights are compromised by their self-destructive, immature romanticism.
In Sidney, Basilius's resurrection prevents romance from darkening into tragedy. In the passion narratives, the end point of the story shifts from the Resurrection to the fall of Jerusalem, replacing triumphant closure with the cyclic repetitions of violence. These portray a more drastic version of failed manhood, of failed Christian manhood, in which there is (except in the occasional Christus Victor scenes) no clean violence, no compassionate strength, no gentle fathers or virile sons. Instead, the Calvinist passion narratives, including Christs Teares , stage a scapegoat ritual in which the grotesque and terrible figures of oppressor and oppressed first polarize and then merge into a single figure. They construct a new male subjectivity, one formed not by identifying with ideal types—the rhetorical mode of the medieval passions—but by internalizing the whole drama , by restaging the Crucifixion in the theatrical subject. The end myth produces and mirrors a conflictual, decentered, and chimerical manhood.
The Civitas Mulierum
Jerusalem is both Lady and City. At the same time that the Calvinist passion narratives register anxieties concerning the (male) subject, they also intimate forebodings about society, particularly urban society. The texts, that is, construct myths of social (dis)order in which the Passion leads to
the fall, thus inverting the divine comedy of Christian history. The imbrication of sacrificial agony and civic tragedy emerges most distinctly in Nashe. While all the Calvinist passion narratives link the Crucifixion to the fall of Jerusalem, in Christs Teares the relation between Christ and the city occupies the thematic center, governing the text's triple interlocked structure.
Beginning in the first section, the agonized Christ seems strangely akin to the devastated capital. Thus, Nashe appropriates the conventional iconographic symbols of Christ to describe the ruined city; she becomes, for example, a "Pellican in the Wildernesse, that ... hath her bowels unnaturally torne out by her young ones" (57–58). The desolate city, destroyed by "those whom thou most expectest love of" (58), begins to resemble the forsaken Christ. In the second part, which describes the siege of Jerusalem, the parallels between Savior and city thicken and complicate. The scene in which Miriam, the starving mother, cannibalizes her only son is explicitly presented as a mimesis of the Crucifixion. Miriam reflects:
God will have pitty of thee [her child], and (perhaps) pittie Jerusalem for thee. He surely wil melt in remorse, and wither uppe the hand of hys wrath, when in his eares it shall be clamored, how the desolation hee hath layde on Jerusalem hath compelled a tender-starved Mother to kill and eate her onely sonne. And yet his owne onely chyld, Christ Jesus , (as deere to him as thou to mee, my sonne) he sent into the World to be crucified. (73–74)
Here the eucharistic sacrifice prefigures the cannibal feast, but if Christ resembles the slain child, he also impersonates the murderous mother, who kills what she loves. Miriam's anguish over her son sounds very like Christ's ominous sorrowing; she tells the boy, "I am thy Mother and must desire for thee: I love thee more then thou canst thy selfe.... At one stroke (even as these words were in speaking) she beheaded him" (74–75). Like the Father, Miriam kills her son; like Christ, she destroys her beloved; like Jerusalem, who bites Christ's breasts instead of sucking them, she sinks her teeth into the child's "two round teat-like cheeks" (76). The bizarre comparison of infant cheeks to breasts seems deliberately to hearken back to the earlier image of a woman devouring the feminized male. These intratextual cross-identifications construct the mother—and hence the city—as a narrative counterpart to the reader who replays the Crucifixion within himself. The fall of Jerusalem, imaged in Miriam's descent into savagery, not only results from the Passion but reenacts it, and, as Nashe warns in the third section of Christs Teares , London will stage it once again if it (or she) does not repent (80). As in the other Calvinist passion narratives,
a logic of repetition displaces the theology of sacrificial substitution, but now at the level of civic history.
The narrative progression in Nashe from Christ to Jerusalem to London, together with the implication common to all the Calvinist passions that the fall of Jerusalem recapitulates and avenges Christ's torment, suggest that these texts encode some sort of anxiety about cities. An unarticulated association of ideas draws the city into the representational matrix of the Crucifixion, into the mythic center of Renaissance culture. The texts' dark fascination with urban catastrophe lends support to Bouwsma's claim that the shift from an agrarian to an urban society lies behind the pervasive and unfocused anxieties darkening the interior landscape of the Renaissance. The dirt and greed of the early modern city, its encouragement of social mobility, predatory individualism, and material accumulation—all these eroded the symbolic and social orders of medieval cosmology, eroded the traditional "conceptual boundaries which were reflected in the structures of life as well as thought."
Bouwsma's thesis is too broad to explain the cultural logic connecting Jerusalem to cities in general or civic tragedy to the Crucifixion. What elicits the anxiety of urbanization, and why does it become attached to the passion narrative? One can approach these questions by comparing Christs Teares with two slightly later accounts of sacked cities: Thomas Deloney's Canaans Calamitie (1618) and the anonymous play A Larum for London . Like Nashe's lurid homily, Deloney's poem deals with the siege of Jerusalem. A Larum for London , printed in 1602 but probably first performed between 1594 and 1600, depicts Antwerp's capitulation to the Hapsburg army—an event symbolically linked to the Crucifixion and its aftermath first because Protestant ideology viewed Spanish soldiers as latter-day incarnations of Christ's tormentors but also because Jerusalem and Antwerp—and London—shared a certain family resemblance. Thus, for Nashe, London mirrors Jerusalem, but it is also the new Antwerp, since "after the destruction of Antwerpe ," pride "embarkedst for England ," for "riche London " (81). The texts occupy the same discursive ambit because Jerusalem, Antwerp, and London are successive local embodiments of a single conceptual schema.
Hence, the same iconographic pattern informs all three works, and it is this pattern, drawn from both biblical and Classical sources, that explicates the relation between urbanization and the passion narratives. In Deloney and the Larum , as in Nashe, sexual politics allegorizes urban catastrophe. The doomed city is thus imagined as a delicate, proud, and splendid lady.
The Spanish captain in the Larum justifies the surprise attack on Antwerp to one of his confederates:
What patient eye can looke upon yond Turrets,
And see the beauty of that flower of Europe ,
And in't [sic ] be ravisht with the sight of her?
O she is amorous as the wanton ayre,
And must be Courted: from het [sic ] nostrils comes
A breath, as sweete as the Arabian spice.
Her garments are imbrodered with pure golde;
And every part so rich and sumptuous,
As Indias not to be compar'd to her;
She must be Courted, mary her selfe invites,
And beckons us unto her sportfull bed.
The gorgeous lady who seems to invite erotic conquest is the prosperous city, the paragon of urban capitalism (as Antwerp was in the early sixteenth century). Nashe and Deloney similarly stress the "daintinesse and delicasie" of Jerusalem before the sack: her "sweet daintie gardens," "pleasant bowers," "pompe and pride," "delight and pleasure." The proud, Petrarchan she-city, an urban "bower of earthly blisse," images a civilization "glutted with to much wealth and plentie."
The excesses of capitalism, not surprisingly, precipitate its decline and fall. The prosperous citizens of Antwerp become "us'd to soft effeminate silkes, / And their nice mindes set all on dalliance; / Which makes them fat for slaughter, fit for spoile." The sack becomes a rape, where the Spanish soldiers or Tamburlaine-like Christ defiles the proud lady. Nashe thus has Christ mentally undress Jerusalem: "The resplendent eye-outbraving buildings of your Temple (like a Drum) shal be ungirt & unbraced: the soule of it, which is the (fore-named) Sanctum sanctorum , cleane shall be strypt and unclothed" (49). Death also violates the secret recesses of the urban female body; Nashe describes to London matrons how toads will "engender them young" in "the jelly of your decayed eyes" and "in theyr hollowe Caves ... shelly Snayles shall keepe house" (139). In these works, rape is, in any case, the allegorical equivalent of murder, since the soldiers "court" Jerusalem and Antwerp by killing their inhabitants. The Spanish captain's eagerness to "attempt" the city in the "heate of vallour" similarly conflates sexual and military violence.
As the siege (or "rape") proceeds, the fancy, delicate she-city succumbs to male savagery. The Larum thus depicts the Spaniards who conquer Antwerp as negative images of its soft burghers: cruel, virile, ruthless, strong.
Alva, the Spanish general, commands his soldiers to "spare neither widdow, matron, nor young maide, / Gray-bearded Fathers, nor the babe that suckes." In Christs Teares , the rebels who take over Jerusalem in its final days use the Temple as a slaughter house, until finally its silver portals seem "slimie flood-gates for thicke jellied gore to sluce out by" (66). As the famine engulfs Jerusalem, civilization collapses into a Hobbesian nightmare in which
the Father stole from the Sonne, and oftentimes tore the meate out of his mouth; the Sonne could scarce refraine from byting out his Fathers throateboule, when he saw him swallow downe a bitte that he dyde for. The Mother lurcht from them both; her young weaned Children (famisht for want of nourishment) fastned theyr sharpe edged gums on her fingers, and would not let them goe till shee pluckt the morsell out of her owne mawe to put into theyrs. (70)
Deloney describes how the effeminate Jews, who before had eaten "sugred Junkets" in gold and silver dishes, end up "gnawing the stones" and "lick[ing] ... vomit." These cities, softened by luxury, sink into bestial degradation. In the end, they become military outposts of the Roman or Spanish empire, prizes for strong men.
These urban apocalypses imply a conceptual link between economic prosperity and the decomposition of manhood into effeminacy or brutality. Like the Calvinist passion narratives, they are structured by the gendered antithesis of weakness and power. The passion narratives seem almost obsessively fascinated by the fall of Jerusalem precisely because the early modern city—at once cruel and soft—threatened the cultural symbolization of male identity. Their representation of the Crucifixion gives symbolic form to the anxieties of the urban male, anxieties more directly voiced in the related stories of soft, effeminate cities destroyed by ruthless warriors. The crisis of manhood takes place in cities because this secular, bourgeois environment had little use for the traditional ideal types of masculinity: the monk and the knight again. The final section of Christs Teares , a lively satire on London's crafty, decadent, and emasculated urban personae, associates the city with two interrelated vices: the decline of Christian virtues, particularly faith and charity; and the corruption of young aristocrats, tricked by urban parasites to fritter away their ancestral property. Charity, faith, and inherited land—the socio-iconographic attributes of the monk and the knight—decay in this civic landscape populated by usurers and merchants, courtiers and courtesans. Divine violence impends over the epicene city. Nashe presents London with the alterna-
tives of submitting to the penal law of the Father, already operative in the plague infesting the city, or being wiped out at his command by more virile and rugged men. One way or another, the cruel, delicate lady must yield—the lady who at once personifies her soft male citizens and darkly mirrors Nashe's impotent and murderous Christ.
Christ's agony provides the primary symbol for early modern speculation on selfhood and society. The tortured and torturing males who supply the dramatis personae of the Crucifixion—the brutal soldiers, abject lover, frightened child, submissive son, wrathful father, apocalyptic avenger, agonized murderer, grotesque victim, politic priests—also haunt the interior landscape of the Puritan automachia and the (actual or anticipated) historical denouement of the secular city. The story that had embodied a civilization's ideals also serves to encode its discontents. Biblical interpretation thus germinates, in the form of myth, the two obsessive themes of the postmedieval West: psychological fragmentation and socioeconomic decadence, themes heavy with gendered anxieties about violence and weakness.