Katritzky, M. A.
(2012). “‘The picture of “We three”’: a transnational visual and verbal formula before, during and after the lifetime of Shakespeare.
In: Filatkina, Natalia; Muench, Birgit Ulrike and Kleine-Engel, Ane eds.
Formelhaftigkeit in Text und Bild.
Trierer Beitraege zu den historischen Kulturwissenschaften (2).
Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, pp. 223–244.
This enquiry focuses on the transcultural impact of a longstanding tradition of closely linked, folly-related, formulaic sayings, featured in one of Shakespeare’s relatively rare evocations of the visual arts, “The picture of ‘We three’”. It considers issues surrounding the medieval roots of the formula’s early modern religious undertones, and its increasing trivialization into a banal joke, as it persisted beyond the lifetime of Shakespeare. It also identifies and examines further images and literary passages relating to this transnational formula, knowledge of whose visual record, invariably associated with accompanying texts, is fundamental to the interpretative process of both its illustrated and unillustrated texts. Although the formula is typified by the phrase “We three”, the number is not fixed. Two, three, four, seven and ten are all popular variants. Whatever the given number, it is generally one more than those actually being depicted or described. Drawing heavily on the late medieval Germanic tradition of folly literature and its associated images, this formula made its mark on early modern visual and textual culture in many European countries, establishing itself as a popular subject for English and German literature, and English, German, Italian, French and Netherlandish art.
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