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John Skelton and the politics of the 1520s

by Greg Walker

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The series of satirical poems and invectives written against Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey, the chief minister of Henry VIII, by the poet John Skelton has long been used by scholars as evidence of the sins and follies of Wolsey's regime. Yet the poems have never undergone serious political analysis. At the heart of this book is a detailed examination of these texts which aims to rectify that omission. For the first time they are subjected to a close reading which both elucidates their major themes and purpose, and sets them firmly in their political context. The book questions the orthodoxies of previous scholarship and challenges received opinions concerning the poet's status at the court of Henry VIII, his employment by the noble house of Howard, and his motives for launching the satirical assault upon Wolsey. From this analysis emerges a very different Skelton to that provided by earlier accounts.… (more)

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The series of satirical poems and invectives written against Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey, the chief minister of Henry VIII, by the poet John Skelton has long been used by scholars as evidence of the sins and follies of Wolsey's regime. Yet the poems have never undergone serious political analysis. At the heart of this book is a detailed examination of these texts which aims to rectify that omission. For the first time they are subjected to a close reading which both elucidates their major themes and purpose, and sets them firmly in their political context. The book questions the orthodoxies of previous scholarship and challenges received opinions concerning the poet's status at the court of Henry VIII, his employment by the noble house of Howard, and his motives for launching the satirical assault upon Wolsey. From this analysis emerges a very different Skelton to that provided by earlier accounts.

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