Lisa Hopkins


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

'Emblematic' is a term very often employed by critics of the dramatist John Ford, whose birthdate of 1586 coincided so neatly with the publication of the first English emblem book, Geffrey Whitney's A Choice of Emblemes. Sometimes the term is used loosely to denote little more than a preference for symbolism in the plays; but other commentators have deployed it more judiciously to point to a genuine interrelationship in Ford's works of support and tension between the visual and the verbal, as with Mark Stavig's comment that "Ford, in The Broken Heart, seems to have been consciously trying to make fuller use of what we can call emblematic methods as a means of defining the nature and significance of the suffering that is the play's main theme."1 Obviously this technique is most noticeable in his plays, where it applies to the relationship between stage picture and dialogue, and it is in connection with his staging techniques that critics have most frequently termed him an emblematic writer; but in fact the root of this practice can be clearly traced to Ford's earliest, non-dramatic experiments with writing, which, dating to the first decade of the seventeenth century, precede his independent plays by about fifteen years. In this paper I shall attempt to explore both the more loosely emblematic practices of Ford's staging techniques and also the more literal employment of emblems and of emblem-derived imagery, and I propose to base this exploration in a consideration of Ford's works as a whole rather than merely the more commonly-studied plays.