Thursday, March 02, 2006

Through out her novel, Shelley refers to Ireland as a savage place filled with degenerate English lords and wiley natives. In chapter 15 she writes, "Cork was an asylum for civilization in the centre of a savage district". Cork is relatively civilized because it is governed and inhabited by the English. the city exists as a microcosm representative of England's position in the world. The one truly civilized place amongst an uncivilized world. Even the French and Spanish can not match English blood. Hence, Richard enters Ireland as a civilized Englishman and the native Irish recognize his superiority. The tainted English Lords and local Irish roans and cheiftans support him unquestioningly and revere his nobility. He enters Ireland as the colonizer and the colonized worship his majesty and purity, naturally. Of course, one might argue that Richard lost some of his purity when he became Perkin Warbeck and lived amongst the Spanish and French. He is tainted from his travels abroad.
I'm struck with the similarities of her description of Ireland and its inhabitants to Puritan and early colonial discourse on native americans. Similar to Puritan writers and early colonial writer's portrayals of America and Native Americans, she protrays Ireland as an uncivilized, savage, barbaric, wild, and dangerous world. She describes the Irish in terms of their simplicity and natural hospitality to those who are superior. Their dress is ancient and provincial and their language is unintelligable to Richard. Therefore, their difference makes them savage, barbaric, and inferior. They fall prey to every scheme the Yorks may have to regain the English thrown, and frequently play the pawn. Furthermore, it is ironic the narrator considers Ireland barbaric and inferior in part because of their fueding and wars between "tribes" rather than families. Such were the circumstances of England.
Shelley's novel reveals England as the center of the world. Other countries exist as different chest pieces in the English nobilities attempts at legitimacy. Perhaps the novel looks at the legitimacy of history told by one voice only.

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