Sport, Politics, and Literature in the English Renaissance

Sport, Politics, and Literature in the English Renaissance

Sport, Politics, and Literature in the English Renaissance

Sport, Politics, and Literature in the English Renaissance


"Sport, Politics, and Literature in the English Renaissance is the first book-length study of the crucial relationship between sport and the political and imaginative literature of Renaissance England. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, educators, medical practitioners, and military scientists were among the many contemporaries who praised sport as necessary and functional - physiologically beneficial to the individual practitioner, vital to the preparedness of the military, and necessary to the maintenance of the traditional class hierarchy." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


As for the subject it is not waighty (being but a Treatise of Sport).

—Edmund Bert, 1619

O, like a book of sport thou'lt read me o'er; But there's more in me than thou understand'st.

—William Shakespeare, 1601—2

To our way of thinking, play is the direct opposite of seriousness. At first sight this opposition seems as irreducible to other categories as the play-concept itself. Examined more closely, however, the contrast between play and seriousness proves to be neither conclusive nor fixed.

—Johan Huizinga, 1938

In 1563, LAWRENCE HUMPHREY, PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY AT OXFORD University, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth a three-part volume entitled The Nobles or Of Nobilitye, in which he defined the nature and purpose of nobility for a rapidly rising gentry that required equally rapid socialization. Throughout his text, Humphrey differentiates the popular conception of nobility as idleness from "true” nobility, which he describes as the coupling of Christian and natural virtues. Like the various humanist conduct manuals it so systematically emulates, The Nobles includes a brief recommendation of physical activities thought suitable to the education of a proper English gentleman. Though the Oxford divine allows noblemen some freedom to enjoy physical activity, he is careful to emphasize moderation and to distinguish between proper and improper sports:

[I]n theyr playes and sportes, ought they keepe the golden meane. Thereof are two sortes. That more commendable whyche is stouter and manlier. And hath in it somwhat stately and warlike. The Greekes used fyve sortes, whirling, leaping, casting the darte, wrestling, running.... The other sorte, many doubte whether Christians, made for earnest, not sporte: or Nobles that should couple majestye . . .

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