Historical Contexts: Emblems

Emblems: Early Modern Thinking Illustrated?

Helen Ostovich and Jessica Swain

Abstract: This brief introduction defines what an emblem is for the purposes of understanding the sometimes oblique references in The Three Ladies of London. An emblem is 'a way to know the world' visually, seeing and then understanding intellectually what it might signify — adding sensory and metaphorical dimension to the words that accompany the image. This introduction therefore explores some specific images that reflect meanings in the play: The Seeming Lover, A Virtue Hidden, Deformitie, Poore Theeves ... and Great Theeves, and True Virtue. The other emblems in the accompanying Whitney collection offer more opportunities to 'know the world' of the Three Ladies.

Citation: Swain, Jessica, with Helen Ostovich, ‘Emblems: Early Modern Thinking Illustrated?’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context,

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A Collection of Emblems, Ancient and Moderne

George Wither

Description: This collection provides access to 33 selected images from George Wither’s A Collection of Emblems, Ancient and Moderne (1635). The images displayed in this gallery have been digitally enhanced, but the originals are also available online at The OpenLibrary. The emblems, according to The OpenLibrary, ‘are printed from plates originally engraved by Crispijn van de Passe the elder for “Nucleus emblematorum” by Gabriel Rollenhagen (STC)’ and offer us an visual lens through which to consider The Three Ladies of London.

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