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Spektrum Shake-speare

Schule und Unterricht 135 Motley to the view Sonnet 110 opens: Alas, ’tis true, I have gone here and there And made myself a motley to the view. A «motley» is the multi-colored dress of the court jester. The word can be understood literally or metaphorically. But «view» here means «exposure to the public» view, such as a professional actor was regularly exposing and had to expose himself to. For an aristocrat this was tantamount to a serious breach of the behavioural code of his class and almost equivalent with committing «social suicide». Hence, the rueful reflection in the third line of sonnet 110. In 1531 Sir Thomas Elyot published his Book named the Governor, a sort of manual for the re-education of the old feudal aristocracy to the new court aristocracy. «Governor» here means «political leader». According to Elyot the new aristocrat, the «governor», that is the political leader, ought to possess two things: learning (the majority of the old feudal aristocracy had considered learning as effeminate and only proper for a clerk, not for a knight) and refined or «honest» manners. Training in different arts: poetry, music, painting … was also part of this re-education. However, the aristocrat should reserve such artistic performances to his leisure time and privacy, never expose himself to the public view performing music, painting, etc. The Roman emperor Nero is held up as the negative example, because he used to sit in the theatre where the people of Rome could watch him in public. Elyot reveals that he is aware of the danger that the loss of respect caused by the behaviour of one individual aristocrat might rebound on the whole ruling elite. The pressure of the aristocracy as a whole class on each indivi- dual member to conform to the aristocratic behavioural code, which was a basic element of their legitimating ideology, was enormous. Sir Thomas Elyot’s assessment of Nero in 1531 does not differ in essence from that of the Roman historian Tacitus. Tacitus’ unconditional damnation of Nero’s behaviour is not rooted in the emperor’s predilection for poetry, playing and singing as such but for not restricting it to the private sphere. (Annals, Book XIV).