Studies in Spenser, Milton and the Theory of Monarchy

By Ruth Mohl | Go to book overview

MELANCTHON, STIGEL, AND HENRY VIII

THE MEDIEVAL theory of the divine origin of kingship--though weakened in England, as elsewhere, by the questioning of such republicans as Marsilius of Padua, William of Ockham, and Nicholas of Cusa; by historical events such as the deposition of Richard II, the election by parliament of Henry IV, and the subsequent Wars of the Roses; and by the impact of such early sixteenth-century theories as that the oldest estate was not the nobility, but the commons, and that from the ranks of labor came all other classes-- remained, nevertheless, an important part of early sixteenth-century political theory and furnished both Tudors and Stuarts with a basis for the development of a strong monarchy and for the death blow to feudalism. Numerous English writers, both in prose and in verse, helped to keep the theory alive in the sixteenth century. To Edmund Dudley, Alexander Barclay, Thomas Elyot, John Cheke, Thomas Starkey, David Lyndsay, Robert Crowley, George Gasoigne , the authors of the Mirrour for Magistrates and the Complaynt of Scotlande, Thomas Dekker, Richard Hooker, and others, the theory of divine right was as real as it was to their predecessors in the Middle Ages.1 It is important to note, however, that whereas on the Continent the theory remained largely one of royal absolutism and sovereignty, whereby the king was lawmaker and therefore above the law while nonresistance and obedience were enjoined by God on his subjects, the theory in England, in the sixteenth century as in the fifteenth, stressed the king's duty to rule with parliament, his subordination to law, both natural and positive, and his moral responsibility toward his subjects except in the spiritual realm where the duties of the clergy began.2

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1
I have discussed their treatment of the theme in The Three Estates in Medieval and Renaissance Literature ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1933), pp. 143-229, 276-83.
2
Cf. Franklin Le V. Baumer, The Early Tudor Theory of Kingship ( New Haven:

-31-

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Studies in Spenser, Milton and the Theory of Monarchy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • The Glosses Concerning Spenser's Rosalinde 1
  • Spenser's Diggon Davie 15
  • Melancthon, Stigel, and Henry VIII 31
  • Theories of Monarchy in "Mum And the Sothsegger" 42
  • The Theme of "Paradise Lost" 66
  • Milton and the Idea Of Perfection 94
  • Index 133
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