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Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy The Humanist Chronotope

2270 words - 9 pages

Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy - The Humanist Chronotope

In "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel," Mikhail Bakhtin defines the chronotope as "the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature" (84). That is what the chronotope is; Bakhtin continues with what the chrontope does: "It can even be said that it is precisely the chronotope that defines genre and generic distinctions" (85). In The Spanish Tragedy, Kyd layers three chronotopic zones to create a new chronotope, the "humanist chronotope," which in turn creates a unique dramatic genre, one we might call "humanist drama."

According to Bakhtin, two seminal chronotopes from classical literature form the basis of most later chronotopes. The first of these seminal chronotopes is the adventure chronotope, found in romance narratives such as Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe. Time in this chronotope is a random and non-causal chain of events characterized by "suddenly" and "at just that moment" that ends at the same point in biographical time at which it began. Time is thus infinite, reversible, and extratemporal; it is also governed by chance, and therefore, Bakhtin writes, "The initiative in this time does not belong to human beings" (95). Extratemporal time requires "extraspatial" space that is abstract rather than concrete, as a concrete space, argues Bakhtin, would limit the power of chance. Adventure space is also alien space: a familiar world would also leave traces that would limit the chance that drives time in the romance.

Apuleius’s The Golden Ass exemplifies the second seminal chronotope: the adventure-everyday chronotope, a hybrid, as the name suggests, of the abstract adventure chronotope and a more concrete everyday chronotope. Time in this chronotope is distinguished from adventure time because, like biographical time, it "leaves a deep and irradicable mark on the man himself as well as on his entire life" (116). The basic temporal motif of the adventure-everyday novel is metamorphosis,

a method of portraying the whole of an individual’s life in its more important moments of crisis: for showing how an individual becomes other than what he was...In the crisis-type of portrayal we see only one or two moments that decide a man’s life and determine its entire dispositon. (115)

While these metamorphoses taken together delimit the everyday life of an individual, the exact moments of crisis bear similarities to pure adventure time: "a time of exceptional and unusual events, events determined by chance, which, moreover, manifest themselves in fortuitous encounters...and fortuitous nonencounters" (116). In the adventure-everyday chronotope, space is likewise both concrete and abstract. The hero travels along a "road of life" that makes space "more concrete and saturated with a time that is more substantial" (120). Space loses the abstract and alien quality of the romance as the hero travels from one specific...

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