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Some versions of proprietary, persistent, large-scale popular fiction.

Elizabethan epics ride to the rescue of the beleaguered floppy comicbook:

One would expect this to come naturally to the Elizabethans because their taste must partly have been formed on those huge romances which run on as great tapestries of incident without changing or even much stressing character, and are echoed in the Arcadia and Færy Queen; any one incident may be interesting, but the interest of their connection must depend on a sort of play of judgment between varieties of the same situation. Thus there is a lady in the Arcadia, unnamed, who induces the king her husband to suspect of treason the prince her stepson; a magnificent paragraph explains all the devices by which this was achieved. Twenty folio pages later, after some one has told another story, the knights come to the castle of a queen called Andromana, who tries to seduce them and finally allows them to joust for the pleasure of watching, by which means they escape. It is with pleasure and some interest that one finds, on considering who her relations are, that this is the same lady, but it is quite unimportant; in both parts she is only developed enough to fill the situation. Bianca in Women Beware Women is treated very like this, only more surprisingly; she is first the poor man’s modest wife, then the Duke’s grandiose and ruthless mistress; the idea of “development” is irrelevant to her. Nor is this crude or even unlifelike; it is the tragic idea of the play. She had chosen love in a cottage and could stick to it, but once seduced by the Duke she was sure to become a different person; what is “developed” is a side of her that she had suppressed till then altogether. The system of “construction by scenes” which allows of so sharp an effect clearly makes the scenes, the incidents, stand out as objects in themselves, to be compared even when they are not connected.

—William Empson, “Double Plots

  1. Aaron Strange    Jan 24, 10:28 PM    #

    A production of “Women Beware Women” just closed in NYC. It was phenomenal. Middleton was a strong playwright overshadowed by his mentor (Shakespeare). His female characters are close kin to Lady MacB.

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