chapter  9
15 Pages

RE-READING ELIZABETH CARY'S THE TRAGEDIE OF MARIAM, FAIRE QUEENE OF JEWRY

In Renaissance studies, traditional scholarly resistance to the deployment of "race" as a category of analysis is based on its apparent invisibility in early modern England. This is wrong-headed (as the opening quotation indicates) because "white" is racially invisible only within the terms of the dominant ideology of white supremacy where only the other is racially marked.6 (As we shall see, in Cary's Mariam the mark of whiteness, its de-racialization, far from being invisible, is vividly apparent.) Further, the argument that there is no empirical justification for an analysis of racial difference is a line of reasoning that ignores the (empirically verifiable) imperialist ventures in Ireland and the New World in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which produced "race" as a category of difference as never before. This production entailed dual processes: the racialization of the other and the concomitant de-racialization of the self. Racially marked others in the English Renaissance included Africans and Celts, Jews, and the "wild Irish.,,7 While the former are to our racial sensibility the hyper-visible others here, there is no reason to suppose that the racial otherness of Celts, Jews, and the Irish was not as indelible and irreducible according to Renaissance regimes of visible difference as the "fact" of "negritude" is for us.s This is so not only because "race" is a cultural construct rather than a natural category with no objective content, but also because there is a process of differentiation via the mark of blackness continually at work in Renaissance constructions of otherness.