Education as a courtier

Alexandra Gajda

in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199218608
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Education as a courtier

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



‘Wherefore if thou looke for any favour or preferment in our Court, nay if thou looke for any seate or resting place in the Court of heaven, seeke for it by learning’. This article focuses on the idea of education being a courtier. Sixteenth-century writers hymned the dynamic between the pragmatic and ideological utility of education. Learning might advance the public career of the socially aspirant young man, but also the fortunes of the commonwealth, which — ideally — was supported and governed through the talents and virtues of wise counsellors and magistrates. There also developed a vast pedagogic literature covering all aspects of education, from the manners of children to entry into adult life. Thomas Elyot's Boke named the Governour, which itself drew on the educational writings and example of More, Erasmus, and Vives, expounded ‘the education of them.’ In many ways John Donne's own education represents a template of the conventional paths open to young Elizabethans.

Keywords: courtier; education; Thomas More; pedagogic literature; Desidirius; Erasmus; commonwealth

Article.  5784 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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