Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Gale H. Carrithers, Jr
While critics have much analyzed the idea of time, they have left largely unchronicled an important Renaissance conception. Time the destroyer or devourer and time the creator or revealer of truth are familiar early modern tropes. But the inversion of this power structure--humanity not controlled by but controlling time--was equally pervasive. Especially apparent are inversions in which time is acted upon as an instrument objectified for use and abuse. Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Donne all explore this notion of time as controllable instrument, alternately condemning or glorifying time's debasement, enfeeblement, subjugation, and manipulation. For Marlowe, the control of time manifests itself in a series of mythic rituals, so that time is not only dismissed but violently done away with. His protagonists paradoxically both imitate and subordinate time. Similarly, in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice characters vie for supremacy over time even as they embody certain avatars of time: Fortune and Hope. Portia and Shylock ultimately suggest Shakespeare's ambivalence over an important corollary of the control of time: the control of others through time. Jonson more visibly derides those who would control time. In his masque Time Vindicated, time is whipped by the figure of Chronomastix, while in The Alchemist, Jonson's "venture tripartite" revere time as little as they do their parade of dupes. Alternately, Donne's Devotions demonstrates that time can be used to transcend time itself. Time in the Devotions appears natural and unnatural both, and Donne embraces time only to voyage beyond it into contemplation and experience of the eternal. These works emblematize broader cultural concerns that reveal the control, objectification, and even commodification of time. The first use of the time bomb in 1585, for instance, uniquely transforms time into a weapon, just as the growing preponderance of clocks and watches echo the changes in time from an abstraction beyond the scope human power to a concrete, personal possession. Finally, these reconfigurations of time remain potent influences on modern conceptions of time. Modern worries that respect for the inviolability of time has grown dangerously passe owe their genesis to these developments in the Renaissance.
Brown, Eric C., "The Control of Time in Renaissance England: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, and Donne." (1998). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 6656.