In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS retical sophistication of ‘‘Textual Subjectivity’’ was not yet available, and my disagreement with that theory had a different basis. In fairness, I must quote a disclaimer Spearing makes in a footnote to his chapter on The Man of Law’s Tale: ‘‘My purpose here is not to demonstrate my superiority over these scholars (I must be guilty of at least as many errors), but to argue that failure to achieve perfection is characteristic of human authors, not merely of fictional narrators’’ (p. 116). To that we may all say, ‘‘Amen!’’ Alfred David Indiana University Paul Strohm. Politique: Languages of Statecraft between Chaucer and Shakespeare. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2005. Pp. ix, 298. $27.50 paper, $55.00 cloth. Chaucer and Shakespeare, like parallel mountain ranges, have cast a deep shadow over everything between them. In recent years, critical exploration has discovered that this territory is not uniformly dark and arid. The period’s reputation for ‘‘dullness’’ has been revealed as a mask for writing that is anything but dull. Paul Strohm’s new volume contributes to the illumination and irrigation of this hidden territory, revealing it to contain fertile ground for critical inquiry. The particular focus of Politique is on ‘‘mainly vernacular English political texts’’ (p. 1) and on ‘‘performative or action-seeking languages’’ and ‘‘symbolic deeds and events’’ that ‘‘create something new’’ (p. 9). Politique, the word that gives the book its title, is the focus of the first chapter, ‘‘Politique Perjury in the Arrivall of Edward IV.’’ The Historie of the Arrivall of King Edward IV (usefully reprinted here in an appendix) is an English prose account of the return in 1471 of Edward IV from exile to take the throne again. In Strohm’s analysis, politiqwe in the Arrivall means ‘‘shrewd,’’ ‘‘diplomatic,’’ rather than (as previously) ‘‘pertaining to governance’’; it is part of an analytical vocabulary that enables the Arrivall author to pursue his own and his audience’s interests in ‘‘calculation and naked self-interest’’ (p. 44), interests that anticipate those of Shakespeare’s histories. Like Henry Bolingbroke, Edward landed at Ravenspur and evaded resistance by maintaining that he only intended PAGE 551 551 ................. 16596$ CH13 11-01-10 14:08:49 PS STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER to claim his dukedom. But whereas earlier pro-Lancastrian chroniclers were embarrassed by Bolingbroke’s subterfuge, the Arrivall author depicts Edward’s parallel action as ‘‘politically astute behaviour’’ (p. 32), exemplifying, Strohm claims, a ‘‘pre-Machiavellian moment’’ (p. 35). In ‘‘Lydgate and the Rise of Pollecie in the Mirror Tradition,’’ Strohm analyses responses to Boccaccio’s De Casibus Virorum Illustrium and its genre. The pilgrims’ response to Chaucer’s Monk’s Tale has often been used to confirm that misfortune makes tedious narratives (Greg Doran’s Royal Shakespeare Company production of the complete Tales brilliantly had the Monk recite during the interval; when the audience returns, the Monk is still performing and the pilgrims are asleep). In Strohm’s analysis , far from being boring, the genre was ‘‘disturbing’’ for readers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries who wished to analyze the practical steps (pollecie, now ‘‘prudence’’ as much as ‘‘good governance’’) that they might take to remedy the effects of Fortune. Strohm locates the first signs of the shift of perspective on Fortune in Laurent de Premierfait’s version of Boccaccio’s text, and in Lydgate’s reworking of Laurent. He suggests that an unbroken tradition stretches from Lydgate to the sixteenth century; to the Mirror for Magistrates, the updated sequel to Lydgate published in 1559 and 1563, and to Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 3. A chapter on Fortescue and Pecock identifies both as ‘‘parcyalle’’ men who described the state in the language of natural reason and were forced to recant their writings. Fortescue was able to retract his support for the Lancastrians by claiming that his political writings about the Yorkist claim to the throne were shaped by partisan interests. Partisanship and self-interestedness are the dark side, according to Strohm, of the state as described in Fortescue’s reasoned analysis. The parallel with Pecock seems a little strained, since in Pecock’s writings descriptions of governance and society are figures illustrating...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 551-554
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.