This article surveys the modern reception of the first English tragedy Gorboduc, first reviewing references to Gorboduc in popular print and literature and then in performance. For a long time in the popular press, the play formed part of a framework of cultural knowledge that educated people were assumed to have or desire. Productions of Gorboduc grew out of that context. Implicitly hearkening back to the Renaissance ethos of teach and delight', they offered audiences an appealing way to reinforce their awareness of English drama. Beyond this dominant trend in the play's reception, Gorboduc has circulated in another way - as a work that not only represents the past but which also speaks to contemporary times. While the play once represented general information that educated people ought to know, clearly this is no longer the case. Considering this fact, this article suggests that it is possible to rehabilitate the play by building on presentist understandings of the play already present in its modern reception in popular print and performance - that is, to emphasise why Gorboduc continues to be relevant by more explicitly framing it and other Tudor plays in relation to topics that dominate the sixteenth century and matter now, such as tyranny, counsel, and territorial disunion.
Roman exempla, or moralizing anecdotes, appear frequently in the English literature of the early Tudor period. Textual, authorial, and historical exempla offered a language people could use to counsel the king and their fellow Englishmen and women. As a teacher of individual virtue, Roman exempla remained fairly stable throughout the period, though translators themselves became more conscious of their role as counsellors and more visible in their texts through their prefatory material. As a political guide for England, Roman exempla became more problematic over the course of the early Tudor period. Authors increasingly discouraged kings and nobles from heeding popular counsel and encouraged them to rely more on printed Roman exempla and the translators who wrote them.
This article explores the responses to early modern colonial enterprises in the writings of four major English writers: Edmund Spenser, Sir Walter Raleigh, Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe. The article shows how diverse responses to such undertakings were and that there was as much hostility and indifference as there was enthusiasm, not only for political and/or moral reasons but also because expensive overseas ventures were sometimes thought of as a needless waste of money and lives. In doing so the article aims to contribute towards recent calls to decolonize' the university and the curriculum, showing that responses to colonialism in colonising societies were never monolithic and that it is important that this historical reality is recognised if we are to engage seriously with the impact of colonialism and imperialism. Harvey and Raleigh were enthusiastic proponents of the benefits of colonial settlements, and took their cue from reading Richard Hakluyt the Younger's Principal Navigations (1589), which suggested that the English had always thrived when they had ventured overseas and expanded their dominions. Spenser was much more ambivalent, despite his status as a colonist in Ireland after 1580, and Nashe was scornful of the purpose of such grand plans. For Nashe, partly inspired by his vitriolic quarrel with Harvey, it was much more important to concentrate on the locality of England itself and he accuses others of failing to see what surrounds them because they have been misled by the prospect of plunder and profit from exotic lands.
Tudor chronicles regularly presented Edward III and Henry V as exemplary English monarchs, celebrated for their famous military victories against the French. During the last two decades of the Elizabethan period, these monarchs featured in a variety of new texts: as part of a flurry of war manuals that explore the conduct and experience of war and in plays for the professional stages. Together, the war manuals and stage plays make up an important body of texts that reveal the intertwined popular appeal of Edward III and Henry V and their application to contemporary politics, including the state of ongoing military preparation and engagement that marked the end of the Elizabethan period. This article offers a contrastive analysis of the monarchs' representations in selected war manuals and in Shakespeare's Henry V and the apocryphal Edward III. It argues that, while the war manuals examine the legacies of Edward and Henry, they are less detailed and critical than the plays, which offer potential for radical deconstruction of monarchical authority. Mediating between celebration and criticism, the plays question two aspects that had been closely associated with the popular reputations of these monarchs: a model of kingship that relies significantly on the person of the monarch and the legitimacy and expediency of foreign conquests. As the most sustained, individual accounts of Edward III and Henry V from the last decade of the Elizabethan period, the stage plays form an important part of the historiographical tradition and evaluation of these monarchs.