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Earlier Literary Manifestations

By Author: Arsenalo
Total Articles: 116

Earlier literary manifestations of Artaxerxes doubtless informed the images he conjured in the minds of Cotterell's readers. Even among those of Cotterell's target audience who, unlike Charles I and Prince Charles, had not previously read La Calprenede's original, there would have been a pre-conditioned, positive reception of this figure. Plutarch had included a Life of Artaxerxes in his Lives, which, mediated through its popular translation by Thomas North was one of the routes by which this character had already seeped into the consciousness of polite English society by the time of Cassandra's publication. Another route which won the favour of Charles Fs court was a drama, based on North, by Sir John Suckling, one of the first Links Of London Bracelets royalist exiles, which examined the love between Prince Darius and the mistress of the old King Artaxerxes. Entitled Aglaura, it was first performed at court during Christmas 1637, where a presentation copy seems to have been given to Charles I. Artaxerxes' seventeenth century reputation hardly flagged after Cassandra: Dryden penned a biography of him in his own celebrated translation of Plutarch.

While in the same vein as La Calprenede taking liberties with aspects of the historical figure of Artaxerxes, Cotterell remains faithful to his essential qualities, as described by these other sources. For example, within the main body of the romance he translates as follows the scene during the battle between the Scythians and Persians when the main protagonist in the story, Oroondates, son of King Mathius of Scythia, meets his adversary, the Persian prince: It was a Persian Cavalier, whose arms were all covered with precious stones, who surrounded by a score of ours, defended himself with so wonderful a courage, that he was not far from making them all despair of victory... we all considered his valor as a marvellous thing, and if that of our Prince had not equaled it. We should not easily have believed the testimony of our own eyes. The sense of wonder Links Of London Charms and admiration inculcated in the characters here, as throughout Cassandra, is a sine qua non of mid-century romance. In the context of debates within royalism it suggests, on one level, that political loyalty can be inspired by the courage of individual princes; and yet for all the awe it can also engender in his enemies, they remain his enemies: the distance between 'himself' 'our' and 'we' is momentarily bridged, but endures. In this sense, courage alone, while it can and does reach across the factional divide, provides compensation for, but does not in itself provide the solution to, present political impotency.

And yet, at a time, in the early 1650s, when royalists including Hyde were arguing that Charles's personal qualities were all that royalism and Charles himself could now survive on, the figure of Artaxerxes remains a potent one with which to identify him. Accordingly, Cotterell's portrayal of Artaxerxes continues in equally encomiastic terms: And truly I must confess to you, that the Sun never had any thing more lovely than Artaxerxes, and that I have not attributed any qualities to my Master, which that Prince possessed not as advantageously as he: You already know something of his valor, his handsomeness was admirable, his goodness went beyond it, and in all his actions he had a grace so little common, that it was impossible to know him and not to love him. Moreover, Cassandra, as with the romance genre in general, displays a usefully flexible interface with current events, so that when Artaxerxes dies in battle, and widespread mourning for him takes place among the Asian royal family, topical attention can seamlessly and poignantly be transferred from Charles to the still-recent death of his father: I will not tell you Darius his grief, nor that of the Queens and Princesses for the death of a son, and of a brother, to whom it was so due, we were too far off to be witnesses of it; but we have known since, that the King bore that loss with less patience then that of his Dominions, and that the Princesses by whom he was so ardently beloved, being weary of their lives when he was gon, were like to have followed him to his grave; and one may truly say, that never Prince was so generally bewailed in Asia.

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