Divinity and State

ISBN : 9780199255641

David Womersley
432 Pages
164 x 241 mm
Pub date
Feb 2010
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In 1589 the Privy Council encouraged the Archbishop of Canterbury to take steps to control the theatres, which had offended authority by putting on plays which addressed 'certen matters of Divinytie and of State unfitt to be suffred'. How had questions of divinity and state become entangled? The Reformation had invested the English Crown with supremacy over the Church, and religious belief had thus been transformed into a political statement. In the plentiful chronicle literature of the sixteenth-century, questions of monarchical legitimacy and religious orthodoxy became intertwined as a consequence of that demand for a usable national past created by the high political developments of the 1530s. Divinity and State explores the consequences of these events in the English historiography and historical drama of the sixteenth century. It is divided into four parts. In the first, the impact of reformed religion on narratives of the national past is measured and described. Part II examines how the entanglement of the national past and reformed religion was reflected in historical drama from Bale to the early years of James I, and focuses on two paradigmatic characters: the sanctified monarch and the martyred subject. Part III considers Shakespeare's history plays in the light of the preceding discussion, and finds that Shakespeare's career as a historical dramatist shows him eventually re-shaping the history play with great audacity. Part IV corroborates this reading of Shakespeare's later history plays by reference to the dramatic ripostes they provoked.


1. Fabyan's Chronicle: Reading and Religion Reformed
2. More's Richard III: Revision and Reformation
3. Cooper and Crowley: Continuation and Controversy
4. Grafton and Stow: Schism and Technique
5. Versions of Henry V: The Gravity of Foxe
6. Reformation and Riposte: Kynge Johan and Respublica
7. Sanctified Monarchs: The Massacre at Paris, Edward III, When You See Me You Know Me, and 1 and 2 If You Know Not Me
8. Martyred Subjects: Martyred Subjects: Woodstock, The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore, 1 and 2 Edward IV, and The Life and Death of the Lord Cromwell
9. Shakespearean Apocalypse : 1-3 Henry VI
10. Three Experiments with the Shape of Time: Richard III, King John, and Richard II
11. The History Play Reformed: 1 and 2 Henry IV, and Henry V
12. Riposte as Corroboration: 1 and 2 Robert Earle of Hvntington and 1 Sir John Oldcastle

About the author: 

David Womersley was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and is currently the Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of St Catherine's College. His publications include The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin, 1994) and Gibbon and the Watchmen of the Holy City: the Historian and his Reputation, 1776-1815 (Oxford, 2002). He has edited Edmund Burke's Pre-Revolutionary Writings (Penguin, 1998), Restoration Drama: An Anthology (Blackwell, 2000), Cultures of Whiggism (University of Delaware Press, 2005), Literary Milieux (University of Delaware Press, 2008), and Boswell's Life of Johnson (Penguin, 2008). His current projects include a biography of Gibbon (for Yale University Press), and monographs provisionally entitled Literary Whiggism 1680-1730 and English Literature and Colonial Tension, 1765-88.

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