Chapter

“Shewe Us Your Mynde Then”: Bureaucracy and Royal Privilege in Skelton's <i>Magnyfycence</i>

Bradin Cormack

in A Power to Do Justice

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780226116242
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226116259 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226116259.003.0003
“Shewe Us Your Mynde Then”: Bureaucracy and Royal Privilege in Skelton's Magnyfycence

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This chapter argues that John Skelton's Magnyfycence was a response to the bureaucratization of royal authority under the early Tudors. Traditionally read as a warning about excessive expenditure in the royal household, the play emerges instead as an act of political theory, a meditation on the nature of royal identity inside a rapidly evolving administrative culture. This culture abstracted authority from any fully coherent origin and relocated it in a more quantitatively oriented process of management and measurement. In the play, dramatic representation and political representation meet as forms of distribution and embodiment for the consolidation of authority. Skelton describes and analyzes the forms of political delegation by charting the royal household's aggressively bureaucratic pursuit of royal privilege on feudal lands. He also examines legal writing, the material embodiment of delegation, as a site of vulnerability in the state's reproduction and extension of its power. Moreover, Skelton externalizes the idea of royal intention by bringing it in proximity to the idea of equity as a non-arcane principle of legal interpretation and the de facto motor for judicial centralization.

Keywords: John Skelton; Magnyfycence; bureaucratization; royal authority; Tudors; political theory; royal privilege; royal household; legal writing; centralization

Chapter.  16838 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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