Early modern legal poetics and morality 1560-1625

Darvill Mills, Janis Jane (2011) Early modern legal poetics and morality 1560-1625. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the reciprocity of literary and legal cultures, and seeks to enhance
understanding of cultural and socio-legal constructions of morality in early modern
England. Identifying the tensions in an institutional legality in which both secular
pragmatism and moral idealism act as formulating principals, it interrogates the sense of
disjuncture that arises between imaginative concepts of moral justice and their
translation into the formal structures of law.

Chapter 1 investigates representations of rape in light of the legislative changes of
the 1570s, and addresses the question of how literature shapes the legal imaginary of
immorality. Literary models, notably Shakespeare’s The Rape Of Lucrece (1594), and
George Peele’s Tale of Troy (1589), are examined together with the texts of Edward
Coke and Thomas Edgar to argue that lawyers’ mythopoeic interpretative strategies
produce a form of legal fiction in relation to sexual crime.

These strategies are contextualised in Chapter 2 in relation to the education and
literary-legal culture at the Inns of Court, and the thesis progresses to an examination of
the inns’ literary and dramatic output – notably that of Thomas Norton and Thomas
Sackville’s Gorbuduc, and Arthur Broke’s contemporaneous revels’ masque, Desire
and Lady Bewty (1561-2) – to establish how the legal fraternity wielded significant
authority over Tudor sexual politics, moral signification, and interpretative practices.

Chapters 3 and 4 explore legal and ethical challenges heralded by the Jacobean
accession, particularly those posed by the Somerset scandal. Analysis of histories,
letters, and court satire, together with Thomas Campion’s The Lord Hay’s Masque
(1607), and George Chapman’s Andromeda Liberata (1614) and The Tragedy of Chabot
(1639), illuminates the period’s textual negotiations of legal, political, and personal
ethics, and offers a revealing picture of the moral paradoxes produced by the opacity of
the parameters between the personal and political lives of the ruling elite.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English > PE0814 Early Modern English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0057 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0421 Elizabethan era (1550-1640)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2011 10:20
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2015 13:01
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/6966

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