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Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England

Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England

Daniel Javitch
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Poetry and Courtliness in Renaissance England
    Book Description:

    Model court conduct in the Renaissance shared many rhetorical features with poetry. Analyzing these stylistic affinities, Professor Javitch shows that the rise of the courtly ideal enhanced the status of poetic art. He suggests a new explanation for the fostering of poetic talents by courtly establishments and proposes that the court stimulated these talents more decisively than the Renaissance school.

    The author focuses on late Tudor England and considers how Queen Elizabeth's court helped poetry gain strength by subscribing to a code of behavior as artificial as that prescribed by Castiglione. Elizabethan writers, however, could benefit from the court's example only so long as their contemporaries continued to respect its social and moral authority. The author shows how the weakening of the courtly ideal led eventually to the poet's emergence as the maker of manners, a role first subtly indicated by Spenser in the Sixth Book ofThe Faerie Queene.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6963-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    Social and literary historians of sixteenth-century England have acknowledged that the court, especially Queen Elizabeth’s, played a significant role in promoting Tudor poetry. But they simply acknowledge this; they do not, for the most part, explain why the court acted virtually as a nursery of English Renaissance poetry. When general explanations are offered, they tend to be insufficient. For instance, historians maintain that the Tudor court acquired a central role in fostering poetry because the peers, statesmen, and courtiers who were its members assumed the burden of artistic patronage. This is certainly true. Previously, in the Middle Ages, the greatest...

  5. Chapter I
    (pp. 18-49)

    Sixteenth-century courtiers cultivated rhetorical stances that differed from the rhetorical ideals pursued by the humanists. By considering the differences between courtly and humanist rhetoric we can begin to see why poets gained from the ascendance of courtly values and also why the court played a more decisive role in stimulating poetry than did the Renaissance school. Perhaps the most effective way of appreciating these differences is to compare two texts that embody, respectively, courtly and humanist conceptions of the civilized man: Castiglione’sBook of the Courtierand Cicero’sDe oratore. The grounds for using Castiglione’s book to define the sixteenth-century...

  6. Chapter II
    (pp. 50-75)

    The Arte of English Poesiewas published anonymously in 1589, but George Puttenham, who is assumed to be its author, probably composed it some years earlier.¹ This important treatise has become familiar largely through its use as an index of Elizabethan critical attitudes. “Itsdisiecta membra,” as the modern editors of the work complain, “meet one everywhere in Elizabethan studies.” While critics have shown that many of its theoretical prescriptions reflect and anticipate English poetic practice, hardly anyone has observed that courtly manners determine the viability of these prescriptions. Yet one of the controlling assumptions in the work is that...

  7. Chapter III
    (pp. 76-106)

    The affinities between poetry and courtliness are ampler thanThe Arte of English Poesieindicates. While Puttenham recognizes the similarities between the poet’s small verbal devices and the courtier’s deceptive ploys, there are larger means of indirection at work in poetry than can be equally correlated with courtly modes of deception. Indeed, those figurative devices that, according to Puttenham, are regular features of small parts of poetic discourse can also be seen to characterize the design of whole poems. Aside from its figurative tactics, small or large, Renaissance poetry shares with courtliness a number of features barely intimated in the...

  8. Chapter IV
    (pp. 107-140)

    Poets benefited from the fact that the artifices that characterized their art were deemed desirable in court conduct. Like the courtier, who cultivated these artifices to win the grace of his sovereign and his peers, the poet could use his mastery of similar devices as a means of securing favor and place at court. But even if the court’s esteem for poetic artifice might not result in such pragmatic benefits, this esteem certainly helped poets gain more confidence. As I will show in the following pages, the distinctive features poetry shared with courtliness—ornament, dissimulation, playfulness—tended to be discredited...

  9. Chapter V
    (pp. 141-162)

    Spenser’s moral design in each book ofThe Faerie Queenewas to define a particular virtue by allegorical means and instill it in the minds of the aristocratic readers he particularly sought to address. The purpose of the entire epic, he had claimed at the start, was “to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline.” Given that epic poets had been acknowledged as moral and civic teachers ever since antiquity, and that their poems were assumed to offer readers models of virtue, Spenser’s didactic motives seem quite traditional. Nor does it seem very surprising that “a...

  10. Index
    (pp. 163-165)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 166-166)