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|Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 Wntr 2006 v46 i1 p1(26)|
The erotic politics of grief in Surrey's "so crewell prison". Lines, Candace
Grief and mourning are central to the poetic career of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Surrey's elegies for dead male friends are his best-known poems and the object of most Surrey scholarship. "Even critics ... who are unsympathetic to Surrey's mode of poetry find it possible to praise his elegiac pieces," notes Walter R. Davis, due to their "intense personal feeling." (1) "So crewell prison," in which Surrey mourns the death of his boyhood friend Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, is commonly seen as the most "intense," and certainly the most personal, of Surrey's elegies. This intensity, which sharply contrasts with the smooth conventionality of Surrey's Petrarchan love poems, proposes itself all too readily as a fissure in the normally impeccable surface of Surrey's self-presentation--a crack through which truth flows. It would be a mistake, however, to see Surrey's poetic grief as a privileged site of access to an unmediated, artless subjectivity. Surrey's grief, however deeply he may have felt it, is both artful and political. "So crewell prison" incorporates grief, nostalgia, and eroticism into Surrey's larger project of self-fashioning and self-assertion as an honorable yet semidispossessed nobleman and knight, as a member of a threatened, perhaps dying chivalric order. The poem participates in what Thomas More called "[k]ynges games, as it were stage playes, and for the more part plaied vpon scafoldes." (2) "So crewell prison," like much of Surrey's life and work, is a prop in the theater of power.
Power, in "So crewell prison," is imbued with eroticism to a degree that might mask the poem's politics. In recent years, the poem's erotic representations of male friendship and intimacy have become visible, thanks largely to the development of queer theory and criticism. The result of this new visibility has, however, been fairly limited: critical focus on and debate over Surrey's own erotic desires. (3) Although this acknowledgement of literary homoeroticism, a kind of critical "outing" of a text and perhaps its author, is significant, it should be the beginning rather than the end of analysis. To read the erotic as a terminal point requiring no further critical attention is to assume an absolute isolation of eroticism and sexuality from larger social and political structures. Yet the foundational work on sexuality in recent decades, notably that of Michel Foucault and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, has argued the impossibility of separating the erotic and the social. (4) For the early modern period, Alan Bray has analyzed the inextricability of male homoeroticism from structures of authority, while Alan Stewart, pointing out "the confused ubiquity of sodomy within humanistically informed patronage relationships," has sought to move the homoerotic from the margins to the center of analysis. (5) Accordingly, one aim of this essay is to relocate the erotics of "So crewell prison" within early modern structures of power and authority, in which the display of intimacy between men always also displays influence, patronage, and power. (6) The poem places itself on a fluid and rather fraught boundary between the acceptable and the transgressive, in both erotics and politics, in ways that reward tracing out in detail.
The youthful friendship between Surrey and Richmond that "So crewell prison" memorializes had every reason to be close. The two teenage boys lived together from 1530 until around early 1535 at Windsor and, in 1532-33, as guests at the court of Francis I. (7) This arrangement, while fostering an emotional bond, was itself rooted in politics. Surrey's father, the Duke of Norfolk, seems to have engineered it in a manner not unlike the making of a dynastic marriage, and with the same keen eye to the relationship's potential advantages. (8) In December 1529, Norfolk invited the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys to dinner and showed him a Latin letter written by the twelve-year-old Surrey, taking pains to emphasize the value of Surrey's precocity as a tool for alliance making. Norfolk said, according to Chapuys, "The King has entrusted to me the education of his bastard son, the Duke of Richmond, of whom my own son may become in time preceptor and tutor (incitateur), that he may attain both knowledge and virtue, so that a friendship thus cemented promises ... to be very strong and firm; and will be further consolidated by alliance; for the King wishes the Duke to marry one of my daughters." (9)
This conversation occurred shortly after Thomas Wolsey's fall and Norfolk's consequent return to the center of power. The alliances Norfolk mentioned were part of an attempt to join the Howards as closely as possible to the Tudors: two months earlier, Chapuys had written to Charles V, The Holy Roman Emperor, of a plan (supposedly sponsored by Anne Boleyn, whose mother was a Howard) to marry Surrey to the princess Mary. (10) Although this scheme collapsed, Richmond was married to Surrey's sister Mary Howard in late 1533. All of this took place in a context of extreme uncertainty about the succession: the marriage occurred after Anne Boleyn gave birth to the princess Elizabeth instead of Henry VIII's hoped-for legitimate son. Richmond, although illegitimate, was during his lifetime the king's only son. Since 1525, when the boy was ceremoniously granted the titles of Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond and Somerset, it had been apparent that the king "had in mind the possibility of making FitzRoy heir to the throne." (11) The advantages of cementing a "very strong and firm" friendship between the Howard heir and the likely royal heir are obvious, especially since the Howards had been relatively eclipsed in power during Wolsey's administration. Thus the love that Surrey, in "So crewell prison," claims existed between himself and Richmond was not in any sense detached from political concerns; it originated in Howard alliance politics and marked their success. (12)
Of course, "So crewell prison" also marks their failure. Richmond's death in 1536 (with his marriage to Mary Howard unconsummated and therefore childless) meant that this aspect of the Howard/Tudor alliance was in ruins. And Surrey seems to have mourned his friend deeply; a year later, in a 12 July 1537 letter to Thomas Cromwell, Norfolk describes Surrey as debilitated by grief, largely, though perhaps not exclusively, on Richmond's account: "I do perceyve my Sone of Surrey is very weke, his nature ronnyng from hym habundauntlie. He was in that case a great perte of the last yere and as he shewed me cam to hym for thought of my lord of Richmond. And nowe I thinke is comme agayne by somme other thought." (13) Certainly by mid-1537 there were plenty of additional causes for grief. Besides Richmond's death, the year 1536 saw one of the frequent Howard falls from royal favor. Anne Boleyn was executed, the Seymour family rose, Surrey's uncle Thomas Howard was imprisoned for his illicit marriage to Lady Margaret Douglas, the king's niece, and the conservative Pilgrimage of Grace uprising cast Norfolk's and Surrey's loyalties into doubt. (14) For a brief period in the summer of 1537, Surrey was probably imprisoned in Windsor Castle; "So crewell prison" seems to date from that imprisonment. (15)
The elegy at first seems not so much a lament for a person as for a place, Windsor Castle (an emphasis made particularly clear in Richard Tottel's Songes and Sonettes, where the poem is titled "Prisoned in windsor, he recounteth his pleasure there passed"). (16) The spatial ambiguity of Windsor Castle--the site of royal power, of Surrey's golden and hopeful adolescence, and of Surrey's imprisonment--initiates, as I will explore further below, an important pattern of reversals and transformations of space. Windsor is also, of course, assigned significance because it is the home of Surrey's friendship with Richmond, as outlined in the opening stanza:</p> <pre> So crewell prison howe could betyde, alas, As prowde Wyndsour, where I in lust and joye With a kinges soon my childishe yeres did passe, In greater feast then Priams sonnes of Troye. (17) </pre> <p>Although Richmond is the poem's central figure from this point on, he is never named. Instead, his already status-marked surname, Fitzroy (the surname conventionally given to a royal bastard), is translated and literalized into a pure mark of status; he is the "kinges soon." By effacing Richmond's name in this way, the poem subsumes Richmond's personal identity--the self Surrey claims to have loved--into his rank and birth. Such an apparently antisubjective move belies the traditional perception of the elegy as "an intensely moving, personal lament, not for a royal heir, but for a friend." (18) On the contrary, the poem is quite explicitly a lament for a (potential) royal heir. Yet the poem's royal heir is also the beloved friend; the categories that modern readers might split into personal and political always meet and often meld.
Surrey's comparison of himself and Richmond to "Priams sonnes of Troye" continues the elegy's display of political affinity. Through this simile, Surrey writes himself into the royal family, as Richmond's brother and a king's son himself. In a bold gesture, the poem treats alliance and affinity as equivalent to blood. It may also be hinting at something even riskier. The line reminds the reader that Surrey, a descendent of Edward I (paternally) and Edward III (maternally), had royal blood in plenty. His maternal grandfather, the Duke of Buckingham, was among that unlucky group of early Tudor nobles with better genealogical claims to the throne than the Tudor monarchs themselves. Buckingham was executed in 1521 for showing dangerous interest in that claim, as Surrey himself would be in 1547. This troubled inheritance provides a dark undertone to Surrey's self-aggrandizing epic allusion.
Other shadows are also implicit in it. A reference to Troy inevitably suggests both glory and catastrophe--the greatness of the Trojan kingdom and Troy's fate as "the original grand disaster of classical culture." (19) And thanks to the lingering influence of Geoffrey of Monmouth's mythic Arthurian history, England and its kings could be seen as products of this grand disaster. Troy, according to Geoffrey, was the point of origin of the English realm, for Britain, like Rome, had been founded by a Trojan refugee (in this case Brutus). (20) "So crewell prison," however, elides this happier, recuperative aspect of Troy's fate. Surrey seems to imagine Windsor as a literal new Troy, and the Trojan catastrophe as recurring through Richmond's death and Surrey's fall into disfavor. Surrey's reference to Priam's sons adds to this sense of repeated disaster by associating Richmond and himself with the bloody fate of the Trojan princes. All of Surrey's dynasty building is thus overshadowed, from the poem's very beginning, by the reader's knowledge of its calamitous failure.
The next section of the poem turns away from Troy and other epic allusions. Its nine-stanza exploration of Surrey's memories of adolescent happiness is instigated and structured by the distinctly chivalric, rather than epic, space of Windsor Castle. The physical environment of Windsor serves as a sort of architectural mnemonic, with each location recalling specific aspects of Surrey's and Richmond's friendship. After the dynastic and historical concerns of the first stanza, the poem's movements through sites of pleasure in and around Windsor--"grene courtes," "statelye sales," "graveld ground," "secret groves," and "wyld forest"--appear to signal the poem's shift of focus away from inheritance and alliance and toward personal intimacy (lines 6, 9, 17, 25, 29). All of the boys' recollected diversions, including courtly love affairs, serve to demonstrate their friendship. All experiences and spaces are shared, as emphasized by the recurrence of "we" and "us," and the absence of the singular "I." This insistent pluralizing almost erases any distinction of identity between the two friends, as does a historical coincidence that haunts the poem, although unmentioned in it: Surrey and Richmond shared the same given name, Henry. (21) So intimate does the poem seem here, so private the recollections, that Surrey's sudden mention of other companions--he and Richmond are "trayled by swarmes of youthe"--comes as a surprise (line 23). The introduction of this entourage epitomizes the poem's link between private, personal intimacy and the public display of that intimacy. Surrey's Windsor is simultaneously a very private Eden and a place where he and Richmond were, like Hamlet, "th'observed of all observers." (22)
Not coincidentally, Windsor's spaces and entertainments also create an atmosphere straight out of chivalric romance. The boys tourney "with sleves tyed on the helme, / On fomynge horse, with swordes and frendlye hertes" and hunt in "The wyld forest, the clothed holtes with grene, / With raynes avald and swift ybrethed horse, / With crye of houndes and mery blastes bitwen" (lines 17-8, 29-31). They take part in other courtly pastimes as well, including tennis, dancing, and music. Surrey's remembered youth is an ideal education in chivalry, including a perfect friendship with a chivalric companion. Chivalric romances contain many examples of this ideal male intimacy, such as Roland and Oliver, the inseparable and virtually identical friends Ami/Amis and Amile/Amilun, and Lancelot and Galehaut in the Vulgate cycle. (23) Even Chretien de Troyes's Erec and Enide, deeply preoccupied with heteroerotic love and the proper functioning of the male-female couple, gives Erec a perfect knightly friend and companion, Guivret, who is indispensible to maintaining Erec's chivalric worth. Surrey could, presumably, have taken the route of many other early modern writers and identified male friendship with classical models and with genres such as epic and pastoral. (24) Surrey's less-expected use of romance in "So crewell prison" identifies Surrey and Richmond's intimacy with chivalry and noble virtue in ways that, as we will see, have strong political implications.
The last space the poem explores in its long central section is the most intimate of all--the boys' bedchamber in Windsor and their shared bed:</p> <pre> The voyd walles eke, that harbourd us eche night;
Wherwith, alas, revive within my brest The swete accord, such slepes as yet delight, The pleasaunt dreames, the quyet bedd of rest, The secret thoughtes imparted with such trust, The wanton talke, the dyvers chaung of playe The friendshipp sworne, eche promyse kept so just, Wherwith we past the winter nightes awaye. (lines 33-40) </pre> <p>Besides the intimate location, the language of these two stanzas is highly eroticized: "swete," "delight," "secret," "wanton," "playe." These stanzas have been the basis for contemporary readings inflected by queer theory because they tend to disrupt attempts to interpret the poem in terms of a strictly non-erotic "friendship." (25) Yet this moment of access to intimate secrets, our privileged view of wanton talk and play, is more complex than it might seem. The erotic is not the hidden truth of the poem; quite the opposite, in fact. "So crewell prison" relentlessly puts Surrey's intimacy with Richmond, including its erotic aspects, on display. (26) Nor should we assume that the poem makes public an eroticism that was itself previously secret and hidden. It is worth recalling that the bed-chamber of a Tudor lord was not an exclusively private place, but typically a semipublic room. (27) Some of Richmond's and Surrey's servants would certainly have shared their Windsor chamber, and in these circumstances even the curtained-off space of the bed itself would have provided only approximate privacy and solitude. The "swarmes of youthe" surround Richmond and Surrey in the bedchamber as in Windsor's more obviously public spaces; intimate solitude coexists with observation. In fact, I propose, bodily intimacy is the key to the poem's public meanings.
One particular kind of bodily intimacy, that between the king and his servants, was becoming heavily invested with political meaning in the period. As David Starkey's work on court history has shown, an important factor in the development of Tudor absolutism was the resurgence of household government, particularly the growth of the Privy Chamber. (28) The Privy Chamber began in the late fifteenth century as a gesture toward increased royal privacy by separating the care of the royal body from the public responsibilities of the Chamber. The intimacy of the Privy Chamber is suggested by the fact that its head was the Groom of the Stool, who attended to the king's toilet functions. In the first decade of Henry VIII's reign, Privy Chamber offices began to assume political dimensions, and the king appointed his favorites to the offices. Eventually the Privy Chamber became closely linked with the Privy Council and, in the last years of Henry VIII's reign, the "dry stamp," which allowed an official facsimile of the royal signature to be placed on documents, was in the control of Privy Chamber officials, usually the Groom of the Stool. Unsurprisingly, such offices were highly desirable and much sought after.
Besides its various forms of official authority, the Privy Chamber also provided perhaps the most significant form of power in a court culture: access and influence. Privy Chamber officials had unparalleled royal access, since no one else could enter the king's private rooms without command. The role of the Groom of the Stool, who besides his toilet responsibilities attended the king everywhere, slept at the foot of the king's bed, and was the sole servant normally allowed in the royal bedchamber, shows the extent of this profound personal intimacy. Such intimacy could at least potentially have erotic overtones as well. The young men of the Privy Chamber from 1515 until their expulsion in 1519 (as part of Wolsey's consolidation of power) "were universally known as the king's 'minions,' which is most politely to be translated as 'pretty boys.'" (29) Edward Hall's chronicle disapprovingly notes their familiarity with the king: "not regardying his estate nor degree, [they] were so familier and homely with hym, and plaied suche light touches with hym that thei forgat themselfes: Which thynges ... the kynges counsail thought it not mete to be suffred for the kynges honor." (30) Such comments have prompted Jonathan Goldberg to ask, "Were Henry's minions, those men closest to his body, sexually close?" (31) Perhaps so, Goldberg argues; Seth Lerer, by contrast, suggests that the exact kind or degree of intimacy is relatively unimportant. What is crucial, in terms of the politics of Henry's reign, is the growth of a form of royal service that "defines relationships of power in terms of the intimacies of the privy chamber and the bedroom." (32) The Privy Chamber, and the factional politics that it structured, created a virtually seamless link between physical intimacy and political power. (33)
In this light, it is possible to see how the erotics of the "bedroom scene" in "So crewell prison" portray relations of power as well as of love. The bedchamber, the private place of "secret thoughtes," is also a space in which Surrey and Richmond, as noblemen, fulfill political roles and live under political and courtierly observation. And given Richmond's potential role of royal heir, the bedchamber can also be read as a privy chamber, one analogous to the king's official Privy Chamber. (34) Within the poem's spatial economy, Surrey and Richmond form a microcosm of a royal household. The elegy boldly displays Surrey's access to and intimacy with the royal body of the "kinges soon." Surrey presents himself as a royal minion par excellence, and "the wanton talke, the dyvers chaung of playe" between the two recalls Hall's comments about the privileged familiarity of earlier minions.
These key stanzas also structure the intimacy between Surrey and Richmond along more traditional, yet more potentially dangerous and ambiguous, political lines. The boys' love is formalized by an oath: "The friendshipp sworne, eche promyse kept so just" (line 39). The relationship between them is thus one of "trouth," a key late-medieval signifier of personal and political fidelity. The poem leaves carefully unstated just what oath the boys swore, just what "eche promyse" consisted of. The lines can, as I will discuss in more detail below, imply several kinds of sworn love relationships, such as oaths of friendship or brotherhood. Yet the complex relations of authority and status between Surrey and Richmond, which the poem insistently plants in the reader's memory, also open up the possibility of disruptive forms of oathbound allegiance. The near equality between them (Surrey is, poetically at least, a "kinges soon," as well as being heir to a dukedom second only to Richmond's in precedence) allows the oath to be imagined as one of horizontal alliance between lords. Such an alliance, with its suggestion of faction, is inevitably threatening to royal authority. Conversely, to the extent that Surrey imagines himself in the elegy as Richmond's follower (although a favored follower), the oath can be read as one of retaining, and thus as a lawless, disorderly, and possibly treasonable alienation of the royal sovereignty. (35) Retaining, although practiced well into the Tudor period, was legally and ideologically marginal because incompatible with the strict and uniform hierarchy of king and subject that Tudor rulers increasingly insisted on. (36) Although in practice even illegal retaining was seldom prosecuted, the possibility became (like the ecclesiastical charge of praemunire) a convenient instrument for checking nonroyal assertions of authority. (37) Within the poem's own terms, of course, the boys' oath is presented as an unexceptionable and fully positive bond. Its implicit threat is enfolded, though not finally contained, by the poem's appeal to (largely literary and imagined) knightly tradition. These two stanzas thus establish a relationship between Surrey and Richmond that is densely packed with meaning, in which intimacy, structured through chivalry, is both politically threatening and politically valorized.
It is just after these two stanzas that the poem reaches its apparently most personal moment. The emotions of recollection break the speaker's composure: he begins to weep, and then speaks a formal "playnt" addressed to Windsor Castle (line 44):</p> <pre> "O place of blisse, renewer of my woos, Geve me accompt wher is my noble fere, Whome in thy walles thou didest eche night enclose, To other lief, but unto me most dere." (lines 45-8) </pre> <p>The intimacy of the emotion is perhaps undermined, though, by the formality of the poem's language at this point. Douglas L. Peterson has noted a "sudden shift ... to the diction of eloquence," here, a diction that properly belongs to the courtly love complaint with its "melancholia of unrequited love." (38) Indeed, as several critics have noted, the quatrain echoes a Chaucerian courtly love complaint, Troilus's lament before Criseyde's empty house: (39)</p> <pre> O paleis, whilom crowne of houses alle, Enlumyned with sonne of alle blisse! O ryng, fro which the ruby is out falle,
O cause of wo, that cause hast ben of lisse! (40) </pre> <p>In the immediately subsequent lines of Chaucer's poem, Troilus rides through the town and finds that each place reminds him of his time with Criseyde; the first nine stanzas of "So crewell prison" are structured by a similar locational mnemonic. Surrey's allusion to Troilus functions on several levels. First, it expands the homoeroticism of the "bedroom scene" by implying sexual love between Surrey and Richmond as between Troilus and Criseyde. Second, it associates the particularly complex relations of intimacy and observation in Troilus with Surrey's own public intimacy with Richmond. As Lerer has shown, in the Henrician period Troilus and Criseyde was not read simply as a love story. Instead, it came to function as a "structural paradigm for the defining dramas of intrusion and performance, letter-writing and illicit reading, in early Tudor courtly literature," and also as a model for negotiating the games of performance, secrecy, and surveillance that comprised the "ocularism" of courtly politics. (41) Surrey places his ambiguously chivalric, intimate friendship into the most fraught of courtly contexts. Thus, while Peterson, responding to the disturbing eruption of the language of love within the language of friendship, sees the poem's sudden move into courtly formality as a literary failure, I would argue that it suggests a permeability of categories such as friendship/love and personal/public. Within the context of court politics, intimacy is always shaded by the public and the formal. Finally, the allusion also reemphasizes the disastrous fate of "Priams sonnes" and of Troy. It is significant that "So crewell prison" locates its Troilean moment not in the amatory performances of book 2 of Troilus and Criseyde (which in Lerer's analysis is the poem's key section for Henrician courtly readers) but in the devastating loss of book 5. Surrey's display of intimacy is hopelessly belated. The love he writes has already, inevitably, been lost.
Besides the complexities introduced by the Troilus and Criseyde allusion, this stanza also continues the poem's engagement with chivalric politics. The lines again suggest that Surrey's love for Richmond is inextricable from political relations inflected by ideas of nobility. The stanza's rhyme makes this explicit. Richmond is both the "noble fere" (a word that itself crucially conflates meanings, including "companion," "mate," and "equal") and "most dere." (42) He is both noble and beloved--beloved because he is noble. The poem's previous use of the language of chivalry and "trouth" strengthens this association. While unsurprising in the courtly love context of Troilus and Criseyde, the association of intimacy with nobility is a shift away from the less defined intimacy politics of the royal household.
At Henry VIII's court, the "bedroom politics" of the Privy Chamber meant that the nobility were increasingly marginalized from royal service and its attendant political power. The men of the Privy Chamber were generally not noblemen, and the rise of the Privy Council also somewhat curtailed the nobility's traditional role as royal advisors. (43) Although in "So crewell prison" Surrey imagines himself as minion and sole Privy Chamber attendant to the king's son, he crucially emphasizes his own nobility as well. This emphasis runs throughout the elegy, from his early self-description as one of "Priams sonnes" to the end of the poem, where he notes that Windsor is the place "where all my fredome grew" (line 51). "Fredome," as Surrey uses the term, means more than the personal liberty that Surrey has lost through imprisonment. It retains its Middle English sense as a heavily status-marked term that defines both the privileges of nobility and gentility and the behavioral obligations such rank imposes. (44) Surrey's careful insistence on his own "fredome," even in a context of lamenting its loss, implies a criticism not unlike Hall's of low-born royal favorites who forget themselves through intimacy with the king. The poem rewrites the Henrician politics of intimacy, presenting a royal household that consists exclusively of a royal heir and the heir to the chief noble family, bound by chivalric oath. In such a household, intimate royal service functions as the culmination, rather than the usurpation, of the traditional role of the nobles as warriors and noble advisors.
The elegy underscores its chivalric agenda through numerous echoes of what was perhaps the most literarily authoritative (indeed, thanks to William Thynne's 1532 edition of Chaucer, already canonical) version of chivalric romance, Chaucer's The Knight's Tale. The catastrophic conflict between chivalry and courtly love that The Knight's Tale stages has led Jonathan Crewe to read these resemblances as signifying a dangerous edge of competition between Surrey and Richmond: as "anticipatory rehearsals of the adult struggle that will murderously explode between Palamon and Arcite." (45) Richmond's role in the elegy, in Crewe's reading, is to be both the political and sexual rival who, like Arcite, must be eliminated, and the Petrarchan beloved who must be dead to be loved properly. However, Crewe's reading presumes that the relation of "So crewell prison" to The Knight's Tale is one of repetition, with Surrey's allusions duplicating the meanings of the earlier poem. On the contrary, far from duplicating The Knight's Tale, "So crewell prison" performs systematic revisions, even reversals, of its predecessor that reconstruct the problematic Chaucerian version of chivalry and love. While The Knight's Tale works within a literary tradition in which, as Lee Patterson puts it, "chivalry habitually represent[s] itself in sorrowful, even tragic terms," Surrey displaces the tragedy from the structures of chivalry itself to the political failures that have allowed chivalry to decline. (46)
These revisions are evident from the beginning of "So crewell prison." The elegy's Windsor is the reverse, structurally and spatially, of Chaucer's Athens. Palamon and Arcite enter The Knight's Tale as prisoners of war, condemned "to dwell in prisoun / Perpetuelly." (47) Surrey emphasizes that Windsor, for him, was originally the place "where all my fredome grew" (line 51). Palamon and Arcite later obtain their freedom, and although their combat ends in death for Arcite, it allows Palamon's full inscription into the chivalric social order of Athens. Palamon marries the king's sister-in-law Emelye and lives "in blisse, in richesse, and in heele" (line 3102). "So crewell prison," on the other hand, maps the transformation of Windsor into a prison. Richmond's death isolates and confines Surrey: "I alone, where all my fredome grew, / In pryson pyne with bondage and restraynt" (lines 51-2). "So crewell prison" transforms the tragicomic plot of The Knight's Tale, its story of "deere aboght" success, into a simultaneously tragic and ironic decline (line 3100).
The courtly love plot of The Knight's Tale is also reversed, as well as largely erased, in the elegy, so that it confirms rather than breaks chivalric ties between men. To begin with the spatial once again, Palamon and Arcite are imprisoned in a "grete tour, that was so thikke and stroong, / Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun" (lines 1056-7). From this tower, the two look down and see Emelye walking in her garden, and immediately become rivals for her love. Surrey reverses both the spatiality and the consequences of courtly love. "So crewell prison" describes "The large grene courtes, where we wer wont to hove, / With eyes cast upp unto the maydens towre. / And easye syghes, such as folke drawe in love" (lines 6-8). Here the knights are at liberty, and the "maydens" are, in a sense, imprisoned in their tower. Another line refers to "her eyes which kept the leddes above," as she watches the boys play tennis (line 16). The castle's women apparently never come down from the maidens' tower, and their fixed location at the edges of Windsor's space is symptomatic of the marginality of courtly love within Surrey and Richmond's love for one another. The poem's ambiguous syntax suggests that the two boys may, like Palamon and Arcite, be courting the same woman: "our dame," "her eyes," "our ladyes prayes" (lines 15, 16, 26). Yet they are carefully presented as not being rivals, and they employ their efforts for each other's sake: "With wordes and lookes that tygers could but rewe, / Where eche of us did plead the others right" (lines 11-2). While Palamon and Arcite fight "[u]p to the ancle ... in hir blood" for Emelye's sake (line 1660), Surrey's and Richmond's combat "with swordes and frendlye hertes" is purely formal and a sign of friendship (line 18). The grove where Palamon and Arcite fight their first bloody battle is similarly transformed, in the elegy, into a place where Surrey and Richmond use the formal posturings of courtly love to cement their own intimacy.</p> <pre>
The secret groves, which oft we made resound Of pleasaunt playnt of our ladyes prayes, Recording soft what grace eche one had found,
What hope of spede, what dred of long delayes. (lines 25-8) </pre> <p>Thus, rather than showing "the incipient, 'Chaucerian' murderousness of the rivalry between the two young friends," (48) the elegy in fact constantly points out their unbroken friendship.
I use the term "unbroken" advisedly, for one of the most crucial aspects of friendship in both poems is that it is marked and reinforced by sworn oath. I have already described some potentially disruptive political meanings of the oath in "So crewell prison." The connection to The Knight's Tale draws attention to the more personal and intimate possibilities of oath-bound relationships, possibilities that again demonstrate a lack of division between personal intimacy and political loyalty. Palamon describes himself to Arcite as "thy cosyn and thy brother / Ysworn ful depe, and ech of us til oother" (lines 1131-2). Such an oath of brotherhood, as it developed in medieval chivalric practice, involved both a pledge of personal devotion and a legal obligation. As Pierre Chaplais puts it, "The two partners promised to give one another assistance in every respect ... Faithful execution of the compact was normally guaranteed by oaths sworn personally by the two brothers, who might also take communion together, sometimes sharing the same host. So personal was their relationship that they might exchange weapons and clothes or bear the same heraldic device on their arms." (49) In the middle ages, classical exempla of friendship such as Theseus and Pirithous or Achilles and Patroclus were used as models of sworn brotherhood. (50) This appropriation of classical friendship, with its categorically slippery relation to eroticism, suggests a parallel slipperiness in the case of sworn brotherhood.
And the institution edges into economic and political as well as homosocial and erotic categories. Its lifelong, enforceable rights and obligations are similar to both retaining and, importantly though less obviously, to marriage (itself an institution bringing together personal, legal, and at times political bonds). (51) The Knight's Tale tends to suppress the political aspects of sworn brotherhood; the only specific obligation between Palamon and Arcite that the tale mentions is that the two should assist, rather than hinder, each other's love affairs. When their love rivalry for Emelye breaks their union, however, the break is a political as well as a personal one. Palamon admonishes Arcite that "[i]t nere ... to thee no greet honour / For to be fals, ne for to be traitour / To me" (lines 1129-31). The result of Arcite's treason is a violent rivalry, a kind of intimate civil war. (52) Their friendship is only restored through death, when the dying Arcite advises Emelye to marry Palamon, since "in this world right now ne knowe I non / So worthy to ben loved as Palamon" (lines 2793-4). Surrey, by contrast, emphasizes his and Richmond's perfect mutual fidelity. Their courtly love adventures do not strain their "friendshipp sworne, eche promyse kept so just," which is reaffirmed in bed each night (line 39). Homoeroticism reinforces the complicated bonds between men that the introduction of heteroerotic love shatters in The Knight's Tale.
Perhaps the most significant way in which "So crewell prison" revises The Knight's Tale is its omission of Theseus, the duke (or king) of Athens. (53) Theseus is both the mainspring of The Knight's Tale's plot and, at least in one way of reading the tale, an exemplary wise and chivalrous king. (54) The tale opens, in fact, not with Palamon and Arcite but with Theseus, whom the Knight describes in terms of high praise: "Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne; / What with his wysdom and his chivalrie" (lines 864-5). Despite Theseus's apparently unmotivated perpetual imprisonment of the cousins, the tale constantly stresses his mercy. He forgives (after the intercession of the court ladies) Palamon and Arcite's illicit combat in the grove, and this forgiveness is specifically associated with Theseus' own role as an exemplar of nobility. "[P]itee renneth soone in gentil herte," notes the Knight, introducing a phrase that will be repeated, both earnestly and parodically, frequently in the Canterbury Tales (line 1761). Before pardoning Palamon and Arcite, Theseus contemplates mercy's role as a key factor in good governance:</p> <pre> Fy Upon a lord that wol have no mercy, But been a leon, bothe in word and dede, To hem that been in repentaunce and drede, As wel as to a proud despitous man That wol mayntene that he first bigan. That lord hath litel of discrecioun, That in swich cas kan no divisioun But weyeth pride and humblesse after oon. (lines 1773-81) </pre> <p>"So crewell prison" conspicuously lacks a Theseus figure, a noble ruler who combines warrior prowess, and its chivalric ritualizations, with mercy. This absence, in a poem that presents Surrey as imprisoned, alone, in the former site of chivalric glory, serves to emphasize the lack of merciful "discrecioun" in Surrey's treatment. Surrey's presumed offense (striking another man in the royal court) is not unlike the illicit combat for which Theseus offers kingly forgiveness. Surrey may be casting himself here as a repentant and grief-stricken Palamon, desperately in need of a merciful Theseus.
The absence of a noble ruler in Surrey's elegy also makes possible broader readings than this strictly biographical one. Theseus's absence and the poem's other revisions of The Knight's Tale imply a critique of the Henrician court as a place where chivalry meets with rejection and imprisonment. When Arcite repudiates his oath of brotherhood in The Knight's Tale, he makes a comment that presents the "courtly" as incompatible with any other form of alliance: "And therfore, at the kynges court, my brother, / Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother" (lines 1181-2). This sentiment, though disavowed in Chaucer by the tale's stabilizing and ostensibly happy ending, is perhaps the closest parallel of the elegy (where there is literally "noon oother" in Surrey's courtly prison) to The Knight's Tale. Surrey's isolation is symptomatic of a larger breakdown of social order, a misrule figured by the absence of Theseus. Instead of the possibility of redemption under a wise king, as in The Knight's Tale, "So crewell prison" offers only the ironic consolation of banishing the grief of imprisonment "with remembraunce of the greater greif" of Richmond's death (line 53).
Surrey here continues and expands the literary history of tragic chivalry that Patterson describes. "So crewell prison" intensifies, by making it immediate, the nostalgia that was inextricable from chivalry at least as far back as Chretien de Troyes's romances of ancient, ideal Arthurian knighthood. The elegy depicts the death of chivalry, and it is a recent death. The death of Richmond, beloved friend and king's son, signifies loss of lordship and the transformation of noble "fredome" into literal and figurative imprisonment. Once the intimate, chivalric "court" the two friends formed is gone, the court of Windsor is nothing but a prison, as the poem's first lines already emphasize: "So crewell prison howe could betyde, alas, / As prowde Wyndsour" (lines 1-2). Windsor is emptied of both meaning and people--the walls are "voyd" and echo back Surrey's grieving: "Eache stone, alas, that dothe my sorowe rewe, / Retournes therto a hollowe sound of playnt" (lines 33, 49-50). Surrey is "alone," as he describes himself in the next line, not merely because of Richmond's loss, but because of the loss of the chivalric court he remembers. What is left, the poem suggests, is a corrupt court of ignoble jailers (such as, perhaps, the newly powerful Seymours) and one noble, suffering prisoner who bewails the loss of the past.
There is nevertheless a certain dissonance in Surrey's depiction of the death of chivalry. The court of Henry VIII made constant use of chivalric display, from the Field of the Cloth of Gold to the tournaments on May Day and other celebratory occasions. (55) The king's enthusiasm for chivalric sports was such that twice, in March 1524 and January 1536, he suffered serious injuries due to tilting mishaps. (56) Henry also promoted the Order of the Garter (in a manner designed to position the monarch as the source of chivalric honor) and scheduled his own 1509 accession for St. George's Day. (57) Thus Surrey's refusal, in "So crewell prison," to describe Henry VIII as Theseus, and his transformation of Richmond's death into the death of chivalry, do not so much lament an end to chivalric practice as make a highly critical statement about the content of Henrician chivalry. The elegy implicitly places ritualized Henrician chivalry, with its quality of absolutist display, in opposition to a true chivalry based upon complete love and loyalty between the king (or at least the king's son) and the highest of the blood nobility. Once again, the elegy's "bedroom scene," which contrasts Richmond and Surrey's noble intimacy with the influence of new men in the Privy Chamber, serves as the political center of the poem.
The all-encompassing personal and political catastrophe that Richmond's death entails is emphasized by another literary allusion, one of the references to Dido that are frequent and important in Surrey's elegies. The opening line of the elegy's bedroom scene, "the voyd walles eke, that harbourd us eche night" echoes a description of the lovesick Dido in Surrey's translation of book 4 of the Aeneid (line 33). (58)</p> <pre> Alone she mournes within her palace voide, And sets her down on her forsaken bed. And absent him she heares, when he is gone, And seeth eke. (4.103-6) </pre> <p>Although this epic reference might at first seem incompatible with the poem's chivalric, medievalizing tone, by Surrey's time Dido had acquired a long textual history and had been subject to revisions of various kinds, from Ovid's Heroides to medieval romances. (59) In this revisionary tradition, Dido, rather than Aeneas, becomes the central figure and attracts the reader's moral commitment and sympathy. (60) The tradition of the revisionary, sympathetic Dido has political implications--it serves, in Marilynn Desmond's terms, as "a pervasive countermemory" to and implicit critique of the masculinist empire building of the Aeneid. (61) The Virgilian Dido, on the other hand, had by the early modern period become associated with a protonationalist poetic. As John Watkins has argued, early modern uses of this Dido story frequently aim to establish the poet as a new Virgil, forsaking other genres for the national epic as Aeneas forsook Dido in favor of Roman imperial destiny. (62) Surrey, although his Aeneid translations work mostly within the Virgilian tradition, transforms this imperial topos in "So crewell prison" by altering his own speaking position: that is, he presents himself not as Aeneas but as Dido, mourning within the void walls of an empty palace. (63) "So crewell prison" thus associates the chivalric past with the subversive "countermemory" of the revisionist Dido tradition. Imperial destiny in the poem is emptied of all attraction, perhaps even of possibility. There is no Roman empire to found: Richmond as Aeneas goes not to Rome but to death, leaving England to share the eventual fate of strifetorn, defeated Carthage. The Dido allusion contradicts Jonathan Crewe's claim that Surrey, since his self-identification as one of "Priams sonnes" is only metaphorical, is able, Aeneas-like, to transform loss into power in the elegy; Surrey, Crewe claims, "is free to become the Aeneas rather than the Troilus of the poem." (64) On the contrary, Surrey-as-Dido (like Surrey-as-Troilus) writes himself as utterly hemmed in by death and political failure.
Surrey's allusion to Dido, then, which within the Virgilian tradition would be expected to reorient the poem toward consolation and the work of empire, instead contributes to an entrapment of the poem and its speaker within an apparently inescapable collapse. The elegy opens with the ominous comparison to "Priams sonnes," toward the middle the Dido reference occurs, and two stanzas later comes the echo of Troilus's lament for Criseyde. Despite the ultimate origin of all these allusions in classical epic, in each case the Chaucerian and romance subtext is as strong as, or stronger than, the classical. Thomas M. Greene has described Surrey as a poet with no sense of anachronism, in whom there is only "a rudimentary alertness to the cultural contexts" and to the "distance" of the classical past. (65) It may be more helpful to read Surrey's use of the classical past in the elegy as purposely filtered through the lens of romance, replacing Roman absolutist, imperial politics (so appropriate to the development of early modern monarchies) with a chivalric ideal of loving, noble lordship. To the extent that the Roman epic model is visible within "So crewell prison" (and it is visible, even as a specific absence), it haunts the poem as a vision not of triumph but of disaster. Surrey reimagines the lordless knight, the rejected nobleman, as the abandoned Troilus or Dido; the epic as failed romance; and the Privy Chamber politics of emergent absolutism as the death of chivalry. (66)
Nevertheless, Surrey's insistence on the collapse of the chivalric past, his forceful self-representation as Dido, does not fully exclude the possibility of his becoming Aeneas. There is, as the whole poem emphasizes, one survivor and inheritor of chivalry: Surrey himself. His imprisonment and isolation in "So crewell prison" are, unlike Dido's abandonment, eminently reversible. If Surrey were freed and restored to his appropriate role as a nobleman, the poem suggests, at least some of the lost past would be recuperable. The poem's grief and its political self-assertion cannot be separated.
Surrey's grief for Richmond became, in fact, an important part of his public persona. Nine years after the composition of "So crewell prison," Surrey commissioned a portrait that was to have included a picture of Richmond set in the base of a broken pillar. While it was being painted, Surrey changed his mind (perhaps, as W. A. Sessions suggests, due to the tense political situation) and had Richmond's picture blotted out. (67) The broken pillar was left in, however, along with a motto that displayed both Surrey's grief and his ambition: "Sat Super Est," or "Enough Survives." Surrey here is the survivor, the unbroken pillar, the potentially transformative "enough" that remains. Besides the portrait, Surrey may also, as Sessions argues, have designed his own tomb to match Richmond's, which was placed among the Howard tombs at Thetford and was later moved with them to St. Michael's Church, Framlingham, Suffolk. (68) The placing of perfect friends in a shared tomb or matching tombs is a gesture common in chivalric romance: Amis and Amilun are buried together, and so, in the Vulgate cycle, are Lancelot and Galehaut. Such a burial has implications both erotic and political, as Fulke Greville's planned, but unrealized, joint tomb for himself and Sir Philip Sidney also demonstrates. (69) The dead, beloved man becomes a symbol, a cause, a lost ideal.
Throughout his life, Surrey declared his love and grief for Richmond at every opportunity, and these declarations assisted his continued self-presentation as a disenfranchised nobleman brutalized by a world that had rejected nobility and chivalry. Every mention of Richmond recalls a golden past, faded and yet recuperable even in the politically catastrophic present. Richmond's memory becomes the scene for Surrey's "stage playes" of not-quite-lost possibilities. In his portrait, Surrey stands in a doorway, surrounded by broken emblems of the past yet ready to step forward. "So crewell prison" and Surrey's other gestures of grief similarly cast him as mourner and survivor, as an embodied and potent mix of memory and ambition.
(1) Walter R. Davis, "Contexts in Surrey's Poetry," ELR 4, 1 (Winter 1974): 40-55, 49.
(2) Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, ed. Richard S. Sylvester, vol. 2 of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, 21 vols. (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1963), p. 81.
(3) For readings that posit a sexual relationship between Surrey and Richmond, see Jonathan Crewe, Trials of Authorship: Anterior Forms and Poetic Reconstructions from Wyatt to Shakespeare, New Historicism: Studies in Cultural Poetics 9 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1990), pp. 48-78; Stephen Guy-Bray, "'We Two Boys Together Clinging': The Earl of Surrey and the Duke of Richmond," ESC 21, 2 (June 1995): 138-50; and Guy-Bray, Homoerotic Space: The Poetics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 2002), pp. 103-17. W. A. Sessions's Henry Howard, the Poet Earl of Surrey: A Life (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999) does not explicitly address Surrey's sexuality, but Sessions's phrasing can be telling. For example, he describes how Surrey and Richmond were "forced to separate, returning to their wives" in 1535, and characterizes Surrey's fathering of his first child as one of his "acts of obedience" to dynastic necessity (p. 108). (Henry Howard, the Poet Earl will subsequently be cited as HHPE.)
(4) See, particularly, Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon, 1978): and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1985).
(5) Alan Stewart, Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997), p. xix. See also Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay Men's Press, 1982) and "Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship in Elizabethan England" in Queering the Renaissance, ed. Jonathan Goldberg (Durham NC and London: Duke Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 40-61.
(6) Bray notes the proximity of displays of intimacy and displays of power when discussing a dream that Archbishop Laud recorded in his diary in 1625, in which he shared a bed with the Duke of Buckingham: "[T]he point of the dream is in its conclusion, that the powerful mark of favor he was dreaming of was public" ("Homosexuality," p. 43). Although the late Elizabethan and Jacobean court cultures Bray analyzes are different from those of Henry VIII, similar structures of intimacy and power were at work in Henry's court, as I will discuss below. For further analysis of the politics of intimacy at the court of James I, see Curtis Perry, "The Politics of Access and Representations of the Sodomite King in Early Modern England," RenQ 53, 4 (Winter 2000): 1054-83.
(7) The latter date (1535) is an approximation and represents the point at which Surrey probably began cohabiting with his wife, whom he married in 1533 at the age of sixteen; their first child was born in 1536 (Sessions, HHPE, p. 108).
(8) Such arranged friendships, with a family placing its son in the household of a royal heir or youthful monarch, were a not-infrequent method of political advancement in the later middle ages. Both Edward II's favorite Piers Gaveston and Richard II's favorite Robert de Vere were childhood companions of their kings, and the placing of the favorites at court was, in both cases, meant to assist the fortunes of their families (J. S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II [London: Harvester-Wheatsheaf, 1988], pp. 27-31; Nigel Saul, Richard II [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1997], pp. 121-2). These friendships seem to have been particularly susceptible to accusations of sodomy, perhaps because they combined structural similarity to a royal marriage with a disruption of hierarchies of birth (favorites often acquired more power than higher ranking and more senior nobles). Gaveston's position especially paralleled Surrey's, since Gaveston apparently "was expected to serve as a model for the young prince" (Hamilton, p. 30). Unlike Gaveston, however, Surrey had the advantage of birth; the Howards were the senior noble family in Henrician England.
(9) Qtd. in Edwin Casady, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (New York: Modern Language Association, 1938), p. 32.
(10) Casady, pp. 34-5.
(11) Helen Miller, Henry VIII and the English Nobility (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), p. 21.
(12) S. P. Zitner observes that Surrey's "two great friendships [with Richmond and with Thomas Clere, the subject of Surrey's elegy 'Norfolk sprang thee'] are also gestures of familial--hence political--incorporation." ("Truth and Mourning in a Sonnet by Surrey," ELH 50, 3 [Fall 1983]: 509-29, 524).
(13) PRO SP 1/122, 238v.; Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry the Eighth, 21 vols. (London: HMSO, 1864-1932), 12.2.248. (Letters and Papers will be subsequently cited as LP.)
(14) This was not just a matter of similarity of aims. Under examination in April 1537, the Pilgrimage leader Lord Darcy accused Surrey and probably Norfolk of complicity with the rebels. Although the record of Darcy's examination has not survived, his charge against Surrey is known via a letter Norfolk wrote to Thomas Cromwell in July 1537 thanking him for his support against Darcy's false accusations (LP 11.21). This letter is misdated in LP to 1536. Another letter from Norfolk to Cromwell from July 1537 similarly mentions Cromwell's "friendship at this time in trying out my truth and my son's" (LP 12.2.229). The consequences of this accusation seem to have lingered; when the conservative Exeter conspirators were tried in December 1537, Norfolk was excluded from his usual role as high steward and never again served in that capacity (Miller, Henry VIII, p. 66).
(15) Like much of Surrey's biography, both the exact date of this imprisonment and its cause are uncertain. The traditional account is that Surrey was imprisoned for striking Edward Seymour, who had been spreading rumors that Surrey was sympathetic to the Pilgrimage of Grace (Casady, pp. 60-3). Sessions casts a critical eye on this "cult narrative" in HHPE, pp. 128-32. Susan Brigden has shown that the personal animosity between Surrey and Edward Seymour has been exaggerated; Surrey was, for example, a frequent dinner guest of the Seymours in late 1539 ("Surrey and the 'Conjured League,'" Historical Journal 37, 3 [September 1994]: 507-38, 520). I have accepted (as does Sessions) the dating of Surrey's imprisonment to mid-1537; its specific circumstances are not crucial to my analysis. Another poem by Surrey, "When Windesor walles," may date from the same period and seems also to refer to Richmond's death, but the connections are less certain, and an analysis of the poem is beyond the scope of this essay.
(16) Songes and Sonettes (Richard Tottel's Miscellany), 1557 (Leeds: Scolar Press, 1966), B2v.
(17) Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, "So crewell prison," in Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey: Poems, ed. Emrys Jones (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), lines 1-4. All subsequent citations of Surrey's poetry will be to line numbers in this edition and will appear parenthetically in the text.
(18) C. W. Jentoft, "Surrey's Five Elegies: Rhetoric, Structure and the Poetry of Praise," PMLA 91, 1 (January 1976): 23-32, 30.
(19) Sessions, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, Twayne's English Author Series (Boston: Twayne, 1986), pp. 33-4.
(20) For a discussion of the political implications of the Trojan origin myth, see Lee Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1991), pp. 90-8.
(21) Both, of course, were named after Henry VIII, as were many other men of their generation. But the popularity of this name does not, I think, detract from its possible significance here as a token of a fated, predestined intimacy.
(22) William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. Harold Jenkins (London: Arden [Thomson Learning], 2001), III.i.156.
(23) The names of Ami/Amis and Amile/Amilun vary slightly in different versions of this story. This romance was highly popular and circulated from the eleventh through the seventeenth centuries in several languages, including Latin, French, and Middle English (Samuel N. Rosenberg and Samuel Danon, Ami and Amile: A Medieval Tale of Friendship, Translated from the Old French [Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1996], p. 2). Surrey is likely to have known some version of it. The motif of almost identical friends, sometimes with similar names, is not uncommon in romance, and Surrey and Richmond's shared given name fits perfectly with this paradigm.
(24) Guy-Bray reads "So crewell prison" alongside Renaissance versions of pastoral elegy, although he notes that it "is not a pastoral poem," but rather offers "some sense of what a more purely English elegiac tradition might have looked like" (Homoerotic Space, pp. 87, 86).
(25) For queer theory readings, see Guy-Bray, who in "'We Two Boys'" classes the elegy with Surrey's other love poems, and Jonathan Goldberg, who seeks to wrest Surrey's elegies away from what he calls "pathologizing" homophobic readings (Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities [Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1992], pp. 56-60). Goldberg's main target is Crewe's chapter on Surrey in Trials of Authorship. Crewe reads the erotics of the poem as simultaneously homicidal and suicidal, and his contempt for Surrey is striking. As an example of the two stanzas' disruptive power, see Davis, who reproduces Surrey's erotic language even while attempting to fix it within a heteronormative discourse: "Surrey's feelings for Richmond have the same intensity as a man's love for a woman; and ... the death of a friend with whom one has had such intense pleasure may well be seen by the survivor as a kind of unrequited love" ("Contexts," pp. 52-3). Sessions suggests that the persistent myth of Surrey's love for "the fair Geraldine" serves, in part, as a homophobic rewriting in which Geraldine is a "socially correct substitute for Richmond" (HHPE, p. 133).
(26) It should be acknowledged that the original audience for Surrey's poetry is uncertain. Almost none of Surrey's papers have survived, and we know little about the early circulation of his poems. Surrey was, however, part of the Howard-based literary circle that compiled the Devonshire manuscript, and it seems reasonable to assume that his own poems were read at least within that circle.
(27) The delineation of private space was just beginning to transform architecture in the early Tudor period. New houses increasingly included features meant to protect the lord's domestic privacy, such as courtyard galleries (allowing access to particular rooms without passing through other rooms first) and private stairs (Maurice Howard, The Early Tudor Country House: Architecture and Politics, 1490-1550 [London: George Philip, 1987], pp. 83-95). However, even the king's private space, which was guarded by household regulation (and, in palaces such as Westminster, by architectural design), was not absolute (David Starkey, "Intimacy and Innovation: The Rise of the Privy Chamber, 1485-1547," in The English Court: From the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War, ed. Starkey et al. [London: Longman, 1987], pp. 71-118, 73-4). For example, the Groom of the Stool slept in the royal bedchamber.
(28) My very general summary of the Privy Chamber here derives from several of Starkey's works: "Court and Government," in Revolution Reassessed: Revisions in the History of Tudor Government and Administration, ed. Christopher Coleman and Starkey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp. 29-58; "Intimacy and Innovation"; and "Representation Through Intimacy," in Symbols and Sentiments: Cross-Cultural Studies in Symbolism, ed. Ioan Lewis (London: Academic Press, 1977), pp. 187-224.
(29) Starkey, "Intimacy," p. 79.
(30) Edward Hall, The triumphaunt reigne of Kyng henry the VIII, book 8 of The vnion of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre [and] Yorke (London, 1548; STC 12721, Early English Books Online 2003), 68r.
(31) Goldberg, Sodometries, p. 48.
(32) Seth Lerer, Courtly Letters in the Age of Henry VIII: Literary Culture and the Arts of Deceit, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 18 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997), p. 110.
(33) For a brief overview of the role of factional politics and the Privy Chamber in the rise and fall of Thomas Wolsey, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Surrey himself, see Starkey, The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics (New York: Franklin Watts, 1986).
(34) This analogy is somewhat strengthened by the fact that at Windsor the king's bedchamber (though not the actual Privy Chamber, which was several rooms away from the bedchamber) was located directly over Richmond's apartments (W. J. St. John Hope, Windsor Castle: An Architectural History, 2 vols. [London: Country Life, 1913], 2:569). Richmond's rooms, which were renovated in 1533 while Richmond and Surrey were in France, are described in the account books of James Nedam, the king's surveyor, as "the new lodgynges called the prynces lodgyng" (qtd. in Hope, 1:253). This reference to Richmond as "the prince" suggests that he was considered Henry's de facto heir (Henry's daughter Mary, by contrast, lost the title "princess" when she was declared illegitimate in 1534).
(35) I am using the term "retaining" here not in the technical sense, as used by some historians, of a contract-based relation of service, but in the looser way in which it was used in the Henrician period to indicate relations of political service among nobles or between nobles and gentry.
(36) The Tudors did not, of course, originate royal attacks on retaining, which had been occurring sporadically since the thirteenth century (J. M. W. Bean, From Lord to Patron: Lordship in Late Medieval England [Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1989], pp. 200-30; Michael Hicks, Bastard Feudalism, The Medieval World [London: Longman, 1995], pp. 110-36). However, the development of Tudor absolutism made retaining a particularly important issue.
(37) For instance, illegal retaining factored into the 1521 treason trial of the Duke of Buckingham, Surrey's grandfather (Miller, p. 49).
(38) Douglas L. Peterson, The English Lyric from Wyatt to Donne: A History of the Plain and Eloquent Styles (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1967), p. 71. Peterson attributes this stylistic shift to "the general inadequacy at this early date of the vernacular," so that when Surrey "wants to describe his grief ... he is forced to turn to the diction and phraseology of the courtly love poets" (p. 71). This is a particularly creative way of containing the poem's eroticism.
(39) See, for example, Sessions, Henry Howard, p. 132; and Guy-Bray, Homoerotic Space, pp. 113-5.
(40) Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3d edn. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), pp. 473-585, 5.547-50. All subsequent citations of Troilus and Criseyde will be to book and line numbers in this edition and will appear parenthetically in the text.
(41) Lerer, pp. 10, 30. Interestingly, the Devonshire manuscript, with its strong Howard ties, serves as one of Lerer's main examples of such uses of Chaucer (pp. 143-60).
(42) Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. "fere," sense 1. For further discussion of Surrey's use of "fere," see Guy-Bray, Homoerotic Space, p. 106.
(43) For an overview of the Privy Council's displacement of nobles, see John Guy, "The King's Council and Political Participation," in Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics, and Reform, 1500-1550, ed. Alistair Fox and Guy (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 121-47. Surrey served in the Chamber as royal cupbearer beginning in 1542, but never held a Privy Chamber office.
(44) Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. "freedom," sense 3.
(45) Crewe, p. 71.
(46) Patterson, p. 213.
(47) Chaucer, The Knight's Tale, in The Riverside Chaucer, pp. 37-66, lines 1023-4. All subsequent citations of The Knight's Tale will be to book and line numbers in this edition and will appear parenthetically in the text.
(48) Crewe, p. 73. As Eve Sedgwick argues extensively in Between Men, sexual rivalry is not devoid of its own erotic charge. In "So crewell prison," though, homosocial and homoerotic ties between men are for the most part forged directly rather than via Sedgwick's "triangulation" through rivalry. The elegy consistently describes gestures of potential rivalry between Surrey and Richmond as fully contained by their love, and hence emptied of the violence that informs The Knight's Tale and the later narratives of rivalry Sedgwick describes.
(49) Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 19-20. Chaplais is here summarizing the more detailed discussion in Maurice Keen, "Brotherhood in Arms," History, no. 159 (February 1962): 1-17.
(50) Riverside Chaucer, p. 830n.
(51) Keen notes a "striking similarity between the bonds of brotherhood-in-arms and that of lords and retainers" in that both are bonds between at least approximate equals ("Brotherhood in Arms," p. 16). While Chaplais, in the context of "defending" Edward II and Gaveston from interpretations of their relationship as sexual, implies that sworn brotherhood necessarily excludes erotic ties, John Boswell has argued that sworn brotherhood is strongly parallel to, even a form of, marriage. While Boswell's claims have been justly criticized, such unions almost certainly contain erotic potential. For Boswell's brief summary of his arguments on this subject, see Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (New York: Villard, 1994), pp. 271-9.
(52) By the late fourteenth century, the meaning of "treason" was shifting from personal to political betrayal. For a discussion of this shift, see Richard Firth Green, A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England, The Middle Ages Series (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), pp. 207-21.
(53) Chaucer refers to Theseus throughout as "duc" of Athens, not king, a usage he evidently derives from Giovanni Boccaccio's Teseida (Riverside Chaucer, p. 828n). But Chaucer's Theseus is certainly ruler of Athens and can appropriately be read as a king figure despite his title.
(54) Critical discussion of The Knight's Tale has frequently pointed out the ambiguous role of chivalric values within it and questioned Theseus's success as a chivalric king. For a brief summary of The Knight's Tale's critical history through the 1980s, see Patterson, pp. 165-7. Surrey's elegy makes use of Chaucer's depiction of the breakdown of chivalry while elevating the chivalric ideal itself.
(55) Surrey himself participated in the 1540 May Day tournament (Casady, p. 76n).
(56) J. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1968), pp. 484-5.
(57) For Henry VIII and the Order of the Garter, see Miller, pp. 87-92.
(58) Sessions, Henry Howard, p. 132.
(59) For a discussion of the medieval Dido tradition, see Marilynn Desmond, Reading Dido: Gender, Textuality, and the Medieval "Aeneid," Medieval Cultures 8 (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1994).
(60) For examples that Surrey is likely to have known, see the Dido section of Chaucer's The Legend of Good Women and Caxton's "Eneydos," 1490, ed. W. T. Culley and F. J. Furnivall, EETS e.s. 57 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1890).
(61) Desmond, p. 21.
(62) John Watkins, The Specter of Dido: Spenser and Virgilian Epic (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1995).
(63) Surrey is known to have borrowed extensively from Gavin Douglas's ca. 1513 Eneados, which explicitly rejects romances, such as Caxton's Eneydos, that have "pervertit" Virgil's text (qtd. in Desmond, p. 166). Although Douglas's Eneados was not printed until 1553, it circulated in manuscript before that (Desmond, p. 176). For an examination of Surrey's debt to Douglas, see Henry Howard, ed. Emrys Jones, pp. 134-40; and for a more recent assessment, O. B. Hardison, "Tudor Humanism and Surrey's Translation of the Aeneid," SP 83, 3 (Summer 1986): 237-60, 242.
(64) Crewe, p. 71.
(65) Thomas M, Greene, The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1982), p. 244.
(66) It may be significant that of Surrey's own translation of the Aeneid, only book 2 (the narration of the fall of Troy) and book 4 (the love affair and the abandonment of Dido) survive. In contrast to my interpretation here, Sessions's biography presents Surrey as a would-be Henrician Virgil, a reading based in part upon the unproven assumption that Surrey translated or planned to translate the whole epic. See, for example, HHPE, pp. 143-74, in which the Aeneid translations are key to a whole complex of ostensibly Romanizing, imperial gestures by Surrey. An entirely different version of Surrey's life and career becomes legible if one makes the (equally unproven) assumption that Surrey translated only the surviving books, which center on collapse rather than on the founding of the new empire.
(67) One of Surrey's few surviving letters instructs his servant Hugh Ellys to let the painter know about this change of plan (LP 21.2.1426). For a more detailed discussion of the portrait's dating and content, see Sessions, HHPE, pp. 333-51.
(68) Sessions, HHPE, pp. 120-3. Surrey's tomb was never finished; it remained at Thetford, where it was discovered by archaeological excavations in the mid-twentieth century (p. 123).
(69) For a description of Greville's plans, see Ronald A. Rebholz, The Life of Fulke Greville, First Lord Brooke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 317. Although the joint tomb was never built, the inscription on Greville's own funeral monument, "Servant to Queen Elizabeth / Councillor to King James / And Friend to Sir Philip Sidney," makes a verbal attempt at the same project of marking personal and political intimacy (p. 318). It is unlikely that Greville could have known of Surrey's unfinished tomb despite the strong parallels to his own plan.
Candace Lines is an assistant professor of English at Howard University.