Sir Henry Sidney, Lord-Deputy, accompanied by an armed force, sets out from Dublin Castle for a progress through Ireland. Detail from a plate in The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581).
From: John Derrick - http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/about/bgallery/Gallery/researchcoll/ireland.html
Coercing the Native Speaker: English Language Consolidation in the British Isles
The intent of the Scots to become Englishmen was certainly not predetermined at the time of the attempted union by King James. This was voted down in Parliament and Shakespeare’s commentaries in Macbeth notwithstanding, there was a propaganda war occurring. This war was fought between those who advocated a Standard English and those who wanted a Scottish standard of English. The victims of this battle for control of the language were the common dialect speakers who were forced to choose between these narrowing poles as the contest for the hearts and minds of the Scots and English developed over the next two centuries. As Adam Beach notes by the time of Adam Smith there had emerged a semi anthropological view of civilized and savage language in which those who did not speak in the dominant paradigm were increasingly regulated to lower class status.
Lynda Mugglestone relates how class was determined by accent, emphasizing the opportunity offered by language standardization in the work of 18th century writers like Thomas Sheridan. Sheridan spoke disparagingly about the ‘disgrace’ of dialect, uniformity of language would provide opportunity for the Scots, Irish and Welshmen. The shifting emphasis on accent and speaking properly became a focus in English culture. Mugglestone describes language becoming a key determinant of class status by the late 18th century.
Britain is depicted in its feminine aspect as the Athena-like Britannia disciplining the naughty Irish child
Taking another approach Amy Devitt sees the movement to uniformity as part of a natural process and not one of prescriptivism or institutional enforcement. Describing the gradual standardization of English in Scotland around the initial union through King James, the process is simply seen as a normal outcome of history. The emergence of a dominant language is not always benign as the example of the Irish would show during this same period. Patricia Palmer wrote about the dislocation felt by the Irish who as described in John Derrike’s The Image of Irelande, a not so rosy picture arises, “Dumb / bloodied, the severed / head now chokes to / speak another tongue”. Severed heads present a literal finality. Choking to speak the oppressors tongue, transition from one language to another in Elizabethan times displays the interrelationship between conquest and language. Perhaps the Irish model from the Elizabethan England’s bloody conquest of Ireland with the subsequent pushing aside of the Irish language could be seen as the mother of all English imperialism, in fact the model for subsequent rendering of savages unto civilization as was done so well with Native Americans by the colonists.
White and Black Slaves in the Sugar Plantations of Barbados. None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.
As the British embarked on the earliest phase of its dabbling in colonialism, Shakespeare weighed in against such foreign ventures. Leah Marcus describes Shakespeare’s anglicizing of names in his version of “Thomas Lodge’s prose romance Rosalynde (1590),” As You Like It, where the Ardennes forest is replaced with the British Arden forest. Marcus shows Shakespeare subtly anglicizing many original French terms and denigrating foreign adventures, Jacques for example becomes Jaques a potential victim of the French disease (as syphilis was known), with his sores, the representation of what would happen if the locals went abroad. Shakespeare was critical of British foreign adventurism by anglicizing Lodge’s story, according to Marcus. England was embroiled in its war of Irish conquest at the time As You Like It was first staged possibly at the opening of the Globe Theatre in 1599. Shakespeare in my modest view was constrained to follow the way the winds were blowing rather than staking is reputation on an anti-colonialist position.
Cromwellian army’s campaign in Ireland immediately after the English Civil War. Cromwell was short of cash to pay his troops at the end of the war, and confiscated 80% of the land (coloured orange above) for his troops in lieu of money. The dispossessed landowners were offered poor quality land in Connaught in exchange.
Bloody Ireland was a test, which way would the English go, to empire or fraternal relations? Patricia Palmer wrote, “`Elizabethan’ Ireland is the last moment when a confident Irish-speaking world confronts its English nemesis” The wordsmiths of freeholder independence vs the consolidation of empire in the language is part of a process of defining legitimatization according to Jim Milroy. Milroy’s criticism of “internal linguistic analysis” presented by advocates such as Saussure, who believed studying internal linguistic structural forms, creates “objective, non-ideological, and reliable,” analysis. Linguistic standardization excluding variants contradicting the norm inherently involves bias. Miloy says the claim “the history of standard English is the legitimate history of English” exhibits bias limiting the discourse, setting standards ignoring geography, history, and culture. The standardizing tendency, determines much English origins discourse focusing on corruption of a supposed model, Miloy considers illusory. Miloy credits the influence of Victorian enthusiasts enamored the language of Shakespeare, exploring dialects as vulgarizations of the mother tongue, denying historicity to deviations.
The fact is the term “Black Irish” is an ambiguous term!Traditionalist maintain the term to be in accordance with a dark-haired phenotype of Irish descent.
Writing of Ireland Palmer claims that the imperial and linguistic project went hand in hand as early as the sixteenth century. “The fact that so many of the leading translators of the age - Bryskett, Fenton, Googe, Harington - were also players in the conquest of Ireland confirms the uncanny congruity between pushing back the frontiers of English and expanding the geopolitical boundaries within which it operated.” The steps taken to establish empire were essential to the process creating English predominance, leading to the destruction of competing cultures by rooting out linguistic variance. Thus the creation of legitimate and illegitimate language is according to Wiley a projection of elite culture going back to the sixteenth century, defining social status by accent much earlier than the eighteenth century where Mugglestone places much of the written literature devoted to uplifting the linguistically deprived. While Mugglestone and Wiley are associating the distinction to class, Palmer focuses on the imperial project as dependent or co-equally requiring the destruction of the native tongue.
From the website: The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581) - Plates
The English solders return in triumph with ‘liberated’ livestock and Irish prisoners, carrying severed Irish heads and leading a captive by a halter. Note the adoption of Irish practice in the taking of enemy heads.
The Scottish then become subject to a different type of linguistic deconstruction. The new king of England in 1603, James, was the king of Scotland and England combined, already King of Scotland when he accepted the crown of England upon Elisabeth I’s death. For Devitt this was a natural process of integration. The power balance between England and Scotland was as that of Ireland prior to the conquest, still to be determined. Neil MacGregor points out that James attempted to solidify his union of Scotland and England in a political alliance, which neither the British nor the Scots would abide by. The Scots demanded equality and the English superiority. King James could only get out of Shakespeare a Macbeth, with the English coming to the aid of the legitimate rulers of Scotland, Edward, an ancestor of James. Yet Macbeth, as Greenblatt points out, would be reassuring in the sense that the usurper lost his head, just as the Gun Powder plotter, as Shakespeare obliquely refers to a Jesuit writer of equivocations, one whose head landed on a pike outside the Tower of London.
(To Be Continued).
Gunpowder Plotters heads on poles.
Works Cited For end notes contact GaryRumor2@yahoo.com
Beach, Adam R. 2001. The Creation of a Classical Language in the Eighteenth Century: Standardizing English, Cultural Imperialism, and the Future of the Literary Canon. Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 43, no. 2: 117-141, (accessed October 21, 2014).
Devitt, Amy J. Standardizing Written English: Diffusion in the Case of Scotland, 1520-1659. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989.
Greenblatt, Stephen. Will and the World. New York: Norton. 2004
MacGregor, Neil. Shakespeare’s Restless World A Portrait of An Era in Twenty Objects. New York: Viking 2012.
Maloy, Jim, “The legitimate language Giving a history to English.” Alternative Histories of English. Ed. Richard Watts and Peter Trudgill. London: Routledge, 2002. 7-26.
Marcus, Leah S., and Furness, Horace Howard Oliver. 2014. “Anti-Conquest and As You Like It.” Shakespeare Studies 42, 170. MAS Ultra - School Edition, EBSCOhost, (accessed October 21, 2014).
Mugglestone, Lynda. ‘Talking Proper’ The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol. Oxford: Clarendon Press.1995
Palmer, Patricia, Ann. Language and Conquest in Early Modern Ireland: English Renaissance Literature and Elizabethan Imperial Expansion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001.