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"A Mirror for Magistrates" and the Politics of the English Reformation

"A Mirror for Magistrates" and the Politics of the English Reformation

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 288
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    "A Mirror for Magistrates" and the Politics of the English Reformation
    Book Description:

    Perhaps no other work of secular poetry was as widely read in Tudor England as the historical verse tragedy collection A Mirror for Magistrates. For over sixty years (1559–1621), this compendium of tragic monologues presented in the voices of fallen political figures from England’s past remained almost constantly in print, offering both exemplary warnings to English rulers and inspiring models for literary authors, including Spenser and Shakespeare. In a striking departure from previous scholarship, Scott Lucas shows that modern critics have misconstrued the purpose of the tragic verse narratives of the Mirror, approaching them primarily as uncontroversial meditations on abstract political and philosophical doctrines. Lucas revises this view, revealing many of the Mirror tragedies to be works topically applicable in form and politically contentious in nature. Lucas returns the earliest poems of A Mirror for Magistrates to the troubled context of their production, the tumultuous reign of the Catholic Queen Mary (1553–1558). As Protestants suffering from the traumatic collapse of King Edward VI’s “godly” rule (1547–1553) and from the current policies of Mary’s government, the Mirror authors radically reshaped their poems’ historical sources in order to craft emotionally moving narratives designed to provide models for interpreting the political failures of Edward VI’s reign and to offer urgent warnings to Marian magistrates. Lucas’s study also reveals how, in later poems, the Mirror authors issued oblique appeals to Queen Elizabeth’s officers, boldly demanding that they allow the realm of “the literary” to stand as an unfettered discursive arena of public controversy. Lucas thus provides a provocative new approach to this seminal but longmisunderstood collection, one that restores the Mirror to its rightful place as one of the greatest works of sixteenthcentury English political literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-122-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    In the opening scene of Ben Jonson’s 1614 comedyBartholomew Fair, several actors representing theater employees address the audience on how properly to view Jonson’s play. One of these, the Scrivener, asks audience members to accept certain “Articles of Agreement” between themselves and the author before the play begins. Although this compact allows audiences generally to express opinions on the art of Jonson’s comedy, it nevertheless strictly prohibits one particular method of interpretive analysis. The final article of Jonson’s agreement demands that spectators promise “neither in themselves [to] conceal, nor suffer by them to be concealed, any state-decipherer, or politic...

  6. CHAPTER ONE A Memorial of suche Princes: Creation and Contexts
    (pp. 18-66)

    From the beginning, the work that would become known asA Mirror for Magistrateswas a product of English Reformation politics. Only the change from Edward VI’s evangelical Protestant government to Mary I’s Anglo-Catholic (or Henrician Protestant) one brought together a Catholic printer with the initial idea for a new work ofde casibustragedies and an evangelical editor who shaped the project as an allusive memorial of fallen leaders and a mirror for contemporary magistrates.¹

    England’s evangelical Protestant monarch Edward VI passed away on July 6, 1553. In the wake of his death, those who had been outspoken in...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Consolation of Tragedy: “Edmund Duke of Somerset,” “Humfrey Duke of Gloucester,” and the Fall of the “Good Duke” of Somerset
    (pp. 67-105)

    In theMemorial-Mirrortragedy “How Thomas Montague the earle of Salysbury in the middes of his glory, was chaunceably slayne with a piece of ordinaunce,” Salisbury’s ghost begins his narrative with a lengthy execration of the way the world typically remembers well-intentioned but unsuccessful men. “A goodly thing is surely good reporte,” he declares; too often, however, “we find opprest/By foule defame those that deserve it best” (143). “How many shall we find,” he continues,

    For vertues sake with infamy opprest?

    How many agayn through helpe of fortune blind,

    For yll attemptes atchiued, with honour blest?

    Succes is wurst ofttimes...

  8. CHAPTER THREE “Syr Thomas of Wudstocke” and the “Unfortunate” Death of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset
    (pp. 106-134)

    In “Somerset” and “Gloucester,” George Ferrers provides models by which readers might exonerate Edward Seymour from the damning charge that it was his own corrupt incompetence that led to his fall from power. In yet anotherMemorialtragedy touching on the career of the fallen Protector, “Howe syr Thomas of Wudstocke Duke of Glocester, vncle to king Richarde the seconde, was vnlawfully murdred,” Ferrers turns his revisionary project to the last years of Seymour’s life, leading readers to confront once more the final and most painful set of charges lodged against Seymour, those that painted the former Protector as a...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR A Memorial of suche Princes and the Loss of Imperial England
    (pp. 135-171)

    George Ferrers was not alone in pursuing a retrospectively topical project inA Memorial of suche Princes. Three otherMemorialauthors, each anonymous, also craft exemplary narratives designed to return readers to what they saw as the chief political disasters of the Edwardian period. Their poems handle subjects different from the domestic political tragedies of Ferrers’s works. Instead these works strive to guide readers in their response to the haunting failure of the English imperialist ideal, that proud, nationalistic ethos of “glorious” expansionism abroad and patriotic independence at home which many saw as the very wellspring of national pride and...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Royal Power and the Abuse of the Law in A Memorial of suche Princes
    (pp. 172-201)

    In the preceding three chapters I have examined chieflyMemorial-Mirrortragedies created to confront and to interpret the disasters of England’s Edwardian past. Here, by contrast, I turn my attention to the other great topically engaged project ofA Memorial of suche Princes, the presentation of admonitory exempla designed to lead Marian magistrates to eschew ongoing or anticipated political practices to which theMemorialauthors were opposed.

    The politically admonitory exempla are the best known of all the tragedies of the 1559Mirror for Magistrates, for it was these poems that William Baldwin chose to emphasize above all others in...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Seconde Parte of the Mirrour for Magistrates and the Future of Political Literature in Elizabeth’s Reign
    (pp. 202-230)

    The Seconde Parte of the Mirrour for Magistrates(the gathering of poems and prose links first appended to the original selection ofMirrorpoems in 1563) is a curious collection of writings. While presented as a unified volume compiled seven days after the tragedies of the first edition were composed, its contents are actually extremely disparate in age, content, and tone. Although its first half was constructed in the Elizabethan period, its second half is certainly Marian in origin. These two sections were grafted together and printed without notice of their disparity, as a result leaving comments appropriate to Elizabeth’s...

  12. Conclusion: The Mirror and Its Legacy
    (pp. 231-236)

    Despite the fervor with which he composed his poetic contributions to theSeconde Part of the Mirrour for Magistrates, William Baldwin nevertheless betrays elsewhere in the 1563Mirrora growing weariness with his now decade-old and still unfinished project. In the dedicatory epistle to this edition, Baldwin confesses his initial reluctance to compile the new volume ofMirrortragedies he now presents to readers. Since publishing the 1559Mirror, Baldwin declares, “I have bene called to an other trade of lyfe,” that of a minister. It was only because Henry Lord Stafford “hath not ceassed to call vpon me” to...

  13. Appendix: The Growth and Development of William Baldwin’s A Mirror for Magistrates
    (pp. 237-248)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-264)
  15. Index
    (pp. 265-275)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 276-277)