Dumb Politics in <i>Gorboduc</i>

Alice Hunt

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199566471
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Dumb Politics in Gorboduc

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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Gorboduc was written by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville for the Inner Temple's traditional Christmas revels of 1561–2: a suite of banquets, entertainments, and mock-ceremonies headed by an annually elected lord of misrule. It is the first extant tragedy written in English, the first adhering (mostly) to classical principles, and the first to be written in blank verse. It is also the earliest play to feature dumb shows, and one of the first to address the thorny issue of the Elizabethan succession. Gorboduc is a dramatic mirror into which rulers and ruled should peer and learn. It balances different representational modes, literary techniques, and dramatic devices. It contains conflicting ideas of history and personal agency. It tells of the past but speaks to the present and prophesies the future. It is didactic and dramatic, cautionary, and tragic.

Keywords: English drama; tragedy; blank verse; dumb shows; political plays; Inner Temple; Thomas Norton; Thomas Sackville

Article.  10136 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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