Age and Manhood in Everard Guilpin’s Skialetheia
This chapter discusses the importance of age to the construction of Elizabethan manhood. As previously mentioned, verse satire in the period was mostly written by men in their early 20s, and satirical poets tended frequently to characterise themselves as young and rash. The central argument of the chapter is that Skialetheia is structured as a progression towards manhood and maturity—the earlier epigrams and satires depict an impulsive, aggressive youngster who is gradually replaced by a voice of wisdom with Stoical overtones. The epigrams, placed first in the volume, offer an index to various types of confrontational behaviour between men, usually involving sexual debasement, and the first three satires in various ways emphasise the satirist’s conflicts with his targets and interlocutors and emphatically identify him as young—as ‘a schoolboy still’. By contrast, the remaining three satires feature various devices of physical and emotional distancing, including increased reliance on sententious wisdom and proverbs, and introduce detached Stoical wisdom as an ideal in the face of vice. Age in Skialetheia is not just a stage embodied by the speaker—it is realised in terms of change and movement towards patriarchal masculinity.