Plays Of Persuasion

A new book by Greg Walker on the court of Henry VIII

Steven Gunn | Published in
  • Plays Of Persuasion: Drama And Politics At The Court Of Henry VIII
    Greg Walker - Cambridge University Press, 1991 - xii+244pp. - £30

The interludes studied in this book seem unpromising material for the historian. None is certainly dated and half have no known author. Many of the characters are symbolic virtues or vices with names like Perseverance, Dissimulation, Merry Report and Hardy Dardy, and the lines they speak often combine platitudinous wisdom with heavy-handed comic invective. Yet Henry VIII and his courtiers found them entertaining, instructive and useful; Greg Walker explains why.

Drama, he argues, was an ideal vehicle for political discussion. Its didactic potential – presenting models for emulation, mouthpieces for ideas and tendentious interpretations of history or current affairs – was matched by its suitability for exploring a subject without committing its author or sponsor to a dangerously clear-cut position, as a polemical tract or a political memorandum might do. Not only as diplomatic propaganda at court, but also as after-dinner entertainment in great houses and in countrywide performance by the acting troupes retained by leading nobles, early Tudor plays carried a political edge.

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