A Lotmanian Approach to the Ideological Function of Honour in Early Modern English Texts

Jesús López-Peláez Casellas


This essay aims at presenting a semiotic study of the ideological function of the concept of honour in early modern prose writing in England. By means of both a critical study of the major axiological and epistemological dimensions of sixteenth and seventeenth century honour, and a cultural semiotic approach to this notion (Lotman’s typology of cultures), it is my belief that it will be possible to clarify the social and ideological meaning and function of early modern honour, and to account for the transformations that the concept underwent during this period of transition, especially as can be observed in non-literary works (moral treatises and conduct books, mainly). Additionally, this is also intended to contribute to further study of the form and function of the code and concept of honour in the English literature (drama and poetry) of this period.


honour; early modern England; Yuri Lotman; typology of cultures; moral treatises; conduct books; Thomas Elyot; Robert Ashley; James Cleland; Lodowicke Bryskett

Full Text:



Alvis, J. 1990. Shakespeare’s Understanding of Honour. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Annas, J. 1981. An Introduction to Plato’s Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Aristotle. 1970. Ethica Nichomachea [I. Bywater, ed.]. Oxford: Classical Texts.

Aristotle. 1971. Eudemian Ethics [H. Rackham, ed.]. London: Loeb Classical Library.

Aristotle. 1984. The Complete Works [J. Barnes, ed.]. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Ashley, R. 1947 [1600]. Of honour [V. Heltzel, ed.]. San Marino, CA: The Huntington Library.

Aurelius, M. 1979 Ta eis heauton. M. Aurelius. Ad se ipsum libri duodecim [J. Dalfen, ed.]. Leipzig: Teubner.

Aurelius, M. 1985. Meditaciones. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.

Book of Saint Albans. 1486 [1518]. London. – English Early Books Online.

Boswell, Ch. The Culture and Rhetoric of the Answer-poem, 1485–1625. Unpub. PhD Thesis. The University of Leeds.

Bryskett, L. 1970 [1606]. A Discourse of Civill Life [T. E. Wright, ed.]. San Fernando, CA: San Fernando Valley State College.

Cairns, D. L. 1993. Aidōs. The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Chew, A. 1988. Stoicism in Renaissance English Literature. An Introduction. New York: Peter Lang.

Cicero. 1976. De finibus bonorum et malorum [N. Marinone, ed.]. Torino.

Cicero. 1989. Sobre los deberes [J. Guillén, transl.]. Madrid: Tecnos.

Cleland, J. 1948 [1627]. The Institution of a Young Noble Man. New York: Scholars Facsimiles & Reprints.

Council, N. 1973. When Honour’s at the Stake. London: Allen & Unwin.

Elyot, Th. 1907 [1531]. The Boke Named the Gouernour London & New York: Everyman.

Epictetus. 2012. The Enchiridion. Trans. E. Carter. – http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/epicench.html. (15.10.2012)

Fernie, E. 2002. Shame in Shakespeare. London & New York: Routledge.

Guevara, A. 1557 [1521]. The Dial of Princes [Sir Th. North, transl.]. London.

Hill, Ch. 1965. Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution. Oxford: Clarendon.

Hobbes, Th. 1999 [1651]. Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil. Hamilton: McMaster University Archive of the History of Economic Thought.

Irwin, T.H. 1985. Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Jaeger, W. 1945. Paideia. Los ideales de la cultura griega. Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

James, M. 1978. English Politics and the Concept of Honour. – Society, Politics and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 308–415.

López-Peláez Casellas, J. 1992. Saint Augustine and the Renaissance Concept of Hon- our. – Mª L. Dañobeitia, ed., Proceedings of the III Conference of the Spanish Society for English Renaissance Studies. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 139–149.

López-Peláez Casellas, J. 1998. ‘Ocular Proofs’: Análisis comparado de los formantes ‘pañuelo’ y ‘daga’ en Othello y El médico de su honra. – Studia Neophilologica, 70, 187–196. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00393279808588231

López-Peláez Casellas, J. 2003. Two Different Approaches to the Coriolanus Theme: A Preliminary Study of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Calderón’s Las armas de la hermosura. – Interlitteraria, 8, 213–227.

López-Peláez Casellas, J. 2004. ‘And dressed myself in such humility’: Honour and Disguising in Henry IV. – J. López-Peláez, D. Malcolm, P. Sánchez, eds., Masquer- ades. Disguise in Literature in English from the Middle Ages to the Present. Gdansk: Gdansk University Press, 38–54.

López-Peláez Casellas, J. 2009. Honourable Murderers. El concepto del honor en Othello de Shakespeare y en los dramas de honor de Calderón. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Lotman, J. M. 1978. On the Semiotic Mechanism of Culture. – New Literary History, 9, 2, 211–232. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/468571

Lotman, J. M. 1979. El problema del signo y del sistema sígnico en la tipología de la cultura anterior al siglo XX. – J. Lozano, ed., Semiótica de la cultura. Madrid: Cátedra, 41–66.

Lotman, J. M. 1994. The Text within the Text. – PMLA, 109, 3, 377–384. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/463074

Lotman, J. M. 1996–2000. La semiosfera [3 vols]. Madrid: Cátedra/Universitat de València.

Lotman, J. M.Universe of the Mind. A Semiotic Theory of Culture. 2001. London and New York: Tauris.

Lull, R. 1926 [1276]. The Book of the Ordre of Chivalry. Ed. A. T. Byles. London: Early English Text Society.

Markham, F. 1625. The Booke of Honour, or, Five Decades of Epistles of Honour. London.

Markham, G. 1624. Honour in his Perfection. London.

Milles, Th. 1610. The Catalogue of Honour. London: English Early Books Online.

Norden, J. 1597. The Mirror of Honor. London.

Oxford English Dictionary Online. – www.oed.com (27/11/2012)

Plutarch. Parallel Lives. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/home.html (10/09/2012)

Pacheco, A. 1990. Shakespeare and the Contradictions of Honour. Unpub. PhD Thesis. Microfilm edition. York: University of York.

Restivo, G. 1996. Shakespeare between Machiavelli and Montaigne: An Exploration Through Lotman’s Codes. – Interlitteraria, 1, 41–62.

Reta, T. T. 1999. ‘Vows to the blackest devil’: Hamlet and the Evolving Code of Honor in Early Modern England. – Renaissance Quarterly, 52, 4, 1070–17. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2901836

Rodríguez, J. C. 1990. Teoría e historia de la producción ideológica. Las primeras literaturas burguesas. Madrid: Akal.

Romei, H. 1598. The Courtier’s Academie. London.

Schneider, B. R. Shakespeare’s Morals. – http://www.stoics.com/ (15.12.2012) Segar, W. 1590. The Booke of Honor and Armes. London.

Seneca, L. A. 1917–1925. Moral Epistles. Trans. R. M. Gummere. Cambridge, MA: The Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.

SEP = Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ analogy-medieval/ (28.09.2012).

Serpieri, A. 1991. Reading the signs: towards a semiotics of Shakespearean drama. – J. Drakakis, ed., Alternative Shakespeares. London & New York: Routledge, 119–143.

Siegel, P. N. 1964. Shakespeare and the Neo-Chivalric Cult of Honour. – The Centennial Review, 8, 1, 39–70.

Simmons, J. 1978. English County Historians. Wakefield: EP Publishing.

Watson, Curtis B. 1960. Shakespeare and the Renaissance Concept of Honour. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Williams, R. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Williams, R. 1980. Problems in Materialism and Culture. London & New York: Verso.

Zaidi, A. 2003. Coriolanus and the Paradox of Rome in Shakespeare and Calderón. – Hispanófila, 137, 1–17.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/IL.2013.18.1.02


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 1406-0701 (print)
ISSN 2228-4729 (online)