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Discourses of Kingship in Measure for Measure and the Works of James I Anne Scott When James I came to the throne in 1603 he was already a monarch of twenty years' experience with a style of his o w n and clearly developed ideas of kingship. Thoroughly educated, having been tutored since the age of three by Buchanan, (a m a n w h o m he respected greatly as a teacher but disliked as a man),1 he was keen that his n e w Engblsh subjects should recognise him as a poet and scholar as well as a statesman. The publication, in 1603, of his major literary, religious and political works in London became a matter of great topical interest; Bacon said that the Basilikon Doron, James's epistle to his son, Prince Henry, was in everyone's hand. It must certainly have been in Shakespeare's hand, together with The Trew Law of Free Monarchies, for its influence on Measure for Measure is unmistakable. The play is set in Vienna, not London, the ruler is a duke, not a king, but the concerns are definitely those of the court and society of England in the first flush of the n e w Stuart reign. 1 Roger Lockyer, The Early Stuarts, (London and New York: Longman, 1989), p. 37. 2 See Brian Gibbons' introduction to the New Cambridge edition of Measure for Measure (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 21. P A R E R G O N ns 15.2 (January 1998) 72 Anne Scott Of all the acting companies which came under royal patronage at the accession of James I, the one in which Shakespeare was part owner, actor and chief playwright was the most directly influenced by King James and his Court.3 As the King's M e n , appointed and licensed only days after the monarch entered the capital in 1603,4 i t was their responsibility to entertain at Whitehall for the whole of the court season which James had increased from Queen Elizabeth's season of the twelve nights of Christmastide to a period stretching from Hallowmas (November 1) through to Shrovetide.5 Measure for Measure was the first play written by Shakespeare in the new reign and performed before the King at Whitehall on St Stephen's Day, 26 December 1604, to open the Christmas festivities for that year. King James's o w n expressed opinions surface at several points in the text of Measure for Measure. James sees the king as God's lieutenant; the sceptre he wields is given by G o d and the laws he makes derive from God's laws. H e tells his son in the introductory sonnet to Basilikon Doron: God gives not Kings the stile of Gods in vaine, For on his Throne his Scepter doe they swey Observe the Statutes of your heavenly King, A n d from his Law, make all your Laws to spring: Since his Lieutenant here ye should remaine. (p. 137) 3 Other members of the Royal family were patrons to their own companies: there were three Queen's companies, one Prince Henry's company, three Prince Charles's companies and three or four Princess Elizabeth's companies. John Murray, The English Dramatic Companies 1558 -1642 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1963). 4 James arrived in London on May 7, and by May 9 seems to have given the companies permission to act, for on that date Worcester's men began to act at the Rose 'by the kynges licence.' O n May 17,1603, a Privy Seal licensed the Lord Chamberlain's men as the King's players. Murray, p.146. The text of the Royal Licence for the King's Men is quoted in G. Blakemore Evans, Elizabethan—Jacobean Drama, (London: A. and C. Black, 1987), p. 40. 5 Alvin Kernan, Shakespeare, the King's Playwright, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), p. 16. Discourses ofKingship 73 The king's relationship to his subjects is as that of a father, or of the head to the body; as the maker of the laws he is the protector of justice, the preserver of equity...


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