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

Scott C. Lucas

Publication Year: 2009

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 long-misunderstood collection, one that restores the Mirror to its rightful place as one of the greatest works of sixteenth-century English political literature.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Massachusetts Studies in Early Modern Culture

Cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Many of the arguments of this book found their first expression in a Duke University dissertation directed by Annabel Patterson. I owe an enduring debt of gratitude to Professor Patterson, who introduced me to A Mirror for Magistrates, encouraged me to investigate the fraught literary and political questions surrounding it, and provided through her scholarship a model of ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-17

In the opening scene of Ben Jonson’s 1614 comedy Bartholomew 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 ...

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Chapter 1: A Memorial of suche Princes: Creation and Contexts

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pp. 18-66

From the beginning, the work that would become known as A Mirror for Magistrates was 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 of de casibus tragedies and an evangelical ...

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Chapter 2: The Consolation of Tragedy: "Edmund Duke of Somerset," "Humfrey Duke of Gloucester," and the Fall of the "Good Duke" of Somerset

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pp. 67-105

In the Memorial-Mirror tragedy “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,

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Chapter 3: "Syr Thomas of Wudstocke" and the "Unfortunate" Death of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

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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 another Memorial tragedy touching on the career of the fallen Protector, “Howe syr Thomas of Wudstocke Duke of Glocester, vncle to king Richarde ...

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Chapter 4: A Memorial of suche Princes and the Loss of Imperial England

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pp. 135-171

George Ferrers was not alone in pursuing a retrospectively topical project in A Memorial of suche Princes. Three other Memorial authors, 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. ...

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Chapter 5: Royal Power and the Abuse of the Law in A Memorial of suche Princes

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pp. 172-202

In the preceding three chapters I have examined chiefly Memorial-Mirror tragedies 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 of A Memorial of suche Princes, the presentation of admonitory exempla designed to lead Marian magistrates to eschew ongoing or ...

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Chapter 6: The Seconde Parte of the Mirrour for Magistrates and the Future of Political Literature in Elizabeth's Reign

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pp. 202-230

The Seconde Parte of the Mirrour for Magistrates (the gathering of poems and prose links first appended to the original selection of Mirror poems 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 ...

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Conclusion: The Mirror and Its Legacy

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pp. 231-236

Despite the fervor with which he composed his poetic contributions to the Seconde Part of the Mirrour for Magistrates, William Baldwin nevertheless betrays elsewhere in the 1563 Mirror a 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 of Mirror ...

Appendix: The Growth and Development of William Baldwin's A Mirror for Magistrates

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pp. 237-248

Bibliography

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pp. 249-264

Index

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pp. 265-275

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761229
E-ISBN-10: 1613761228
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558497061
Print-ISBN-10: 1558497064

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 6 illus.
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Massachusetts Studies in Early Modern Culture
Series Editor Byline: Arthur Kinney See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794701547
MUSE Marc Record: Download for "A Mirror for Magistrates" and the Politics of the English Reformation

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • English poetry -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
  • Literature and history -- Great Britain -- History -- 16th century.
  • Reformation -- England.
  • Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 1485-1603.
  • Mirrour for magistrates.
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