Example Of Thomas More And Howard's Earl Of Surrey Essay
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History of King Richard III
Saint Thomas More is a renowned figure in the literature world. He was an English lawyer and author. Throughout his life, More was regarded as one of the premier humanist scholars. More held many posts in public leadership including the powerful Lord Chancellor post. He was a highly educated man having studied Latin and Greek as well as being a qualified lawyer who had been admitted to the bar. More also had a monastic calling, which at times conflicted with his desire for public service. He at one time served as a monk, a calling to whose principles he remained true until his death. Around 1513 to 1518, More authored a novel known as The History of King Richard III. This book was written partly in English and partly in Latin. In later years, the book came to be regarded as the first masterpiece in the field of English historiography, which refers to the study of history or study of a particular subject in history. This was in spite of the book remaining unfinished. The novel has inspired numerous authors, most notably Shakespeare’s own sonnet on Richard III. Sadly, More was martyred through beheading when he refused to declare King Henry VIII the head of the Church of England. This paper examines this literary masterpiece through its structure, characters, and themes, and defines its role, placement, and significance in the development of historiography in Renaissance England.
More’s book makes extensive use of orations and dialogue as well as reported speech. In fact, these aspects cover more than half of the book. This serves to give the text a dramatic quality. Hence, the book has been described as employing a style that can be described as dramatic conceit. More makes use of literary and rhetorical techniques, as was the norm with authors in the Renaissance period. Composed speeches from the characters in the book are used to describe history and rhetoric. Structurally though, the inference one gets from the book is that it was intended as a work of history, therefore, that is the best way to classify it. From a structural point of view, the book has nine major sections. Each of these sections is comprised of between ten and twelve pages each. This is with the exception of the eighth section, which is the concluding section, as this is shorter. These sections are representative of the natural breaks visible in the text, and are in keeping with More’s other works in which he employs the same structure.
In the first or introductory section, we have the death of King Edward IV, who is Richard’s brother (More and Sylvester). The deaths of Richard the Duke of York, and George, the Duke of Clarence are detailed. Richard is briefly described, and the narrator here implicates him in the deaths of both Henry VI and the Duke of Clarence. The implication is that these murders are perpetrated in order to further Richard’s ambition of usurping the throne. The section concludes with a description of Edward IV’s last illness. This section sets up the difference between the good King, Edward IV, of whom there are happy memories, and the evil king, Richard III who is already tainted with blood even before he assumes power (More and Sylvester 140-146).
The second section begins where Edward V is deposed and encompasses the flight of the Queen to sanctuary. This section describes how, after Edward’s demise, Richard begins to sow discord between the nobles and the Queen’s family. More describes Richard as a “deepe dissimuler” who can adopt any role provided it suits him at the particular time (More and Sylvester 136-139). Richard has persuasive powers that operate indirectly and whose effect is only noticed when it is too late. The duplicity of Richard is particularly evident when he arrests the Queen’s brother Lord Rivers and her first son, and pretends that all is well between them, but later on, he has Rivers executed (More and Sylvester). The story of Lord Hastings and the deception he also employs is told here.
In the third section, we have the meeting of the Lords in Council, which is held in London. Richard dupes the council into appointing him Protector of the King, which the narrator compares with a lamb being given to a wolf to protect. The Archbishop of Canterbury is then sent to convince the Queen to hand over her son, the Duke of York, from the sanctuary. The Duke of Buckingham argues that the Duke of York should not be hiding in the sanctuary since he has done no wrong (More and Sylvester 136-140).
The fourth section is represented by the debate between the Queen, and the Cardinal, about the issue of Sanctuary. The Cardinal agrees to go to the Queen to convince her to release her son, and she is accompanied by a group of lords who are willing to take him by force if need be. . The Queen tries to convince them of her right to keep her son with her, but she fails in her efforts, with even the Cardinal not siding with her. On his arrival, the Protector pretends to be happy to see him although he is anything but. This further goes to show his duplicity of character (More and Sylvester 130-138).
The fifth section describes the execution of Hastings. It is this section that we see how Buckingham came to join hands with Richard in usurping the throne, and we are shown the naïveté of Hastings in not knowing the true intentions of Richard. The section details how Richard accuses the Queen of witchcraft and implicates Hastings, who is then executed as a traitor.
The sixth section describes Edward IV’s love life. More makes use of stylistic devices such as flashbacks to show the development of the plot against Hastings including how he is deemed a traitor because he has taken Shore to be his mistress after Edward IV’s death. The section also shows the various dreams and portents that predate Hastings death. This was a strongly held belief in that period (More and Sylvester 153).
The seventh section is that which describes the sermon of Doctor Shaa and the speech made by Buckingham at Guildhall. Both these events are meant to get the people to affirm Richard as King but they fail to elicit the desired response from the people. The eighth section describes the coronation of Richard as King, and how the people present greet this with fanfare unlike the crowd listening to the speech and the sermon. Richard continues his deception by pretending he does not want to assume power until Buckingham convinces him (More and Sylvester).
The Latin version of the book ends in this eighth chapter, but the English version has a continuation that describes the death of the princes, which occurs in the Tower. More claims that Richard is responsible for these murders (More and Sylvester 158-163).
The first key character in More’s book is King Richard III. The book manages to paint him as a villainous character and an extremely evil man. More portrays the King as a man who will go to any length to achieve his ambitions. Right from the onset, More is shown as a character that will eliminate anyone who stands in his way Richard is passed off as a tyrant who uses lies, murder and manipulation to obtain power. More describes the series of killings that Richard engineers, starting with those of the Dukes of York and Clarence at the beginning of the book (More and Sylvester 1-99).
The description of the murders continues with that of the Queen’s brother, which is done to stem opposition. The deaths of Hastings and the princes are also described as the handiwork of. Richard. However, Richard III is not only a murderer. More manages to paint him as a brilliant strategist and opportunist who takes advantage of others to get what he wants. He is also a master of deception, adopting various roles as and when they fit him (More and Sylvester 130-139).
The other important character is King Edward IV. Although he dies very early in the story, Edward is a key character because of how More portrays him as a model king. He is used to contrast with the tyrannical King Richard III and is painted as being responsible for the unity of the kingdom. This comes out in the way the kingdom falls into disarray after his death with everyone claiming power. This is in sharp contrast to the relative peace and calm that existed in the period before his demise (More and Sylvester 140-145). The Queen is also integral to the story thanks to her ability to see right through Richard’s schemes when it seems all around him are gullible enough to believe him. A good illustration is where she implores the noblemen not to trust King Richard who by then is the Protector. Her worst fears prove true when the King usurps the throne (More and Sylvester 140-145).
The central theme of this book is that of tyranny. This theme is clearly brought out in More’s description of the evil King Richard III and his ascension to power. More is a strong opponent of tyranny, and it is evident that he believes in democratic leadership. This is evident in the words he uses to refer to the English people. Not once in the entire book does he use the word subjects in reference to the people of England. Instead, he prefers to use terms such as citizens.
More uses the book and the portrayal of Richard as a tyrannical king to show the danger inherent in this type of leadership. He contrasts the state of affairs during Henry IV’s rule with that of Richard III and shows how much worse things are during Richard’s time. He also looks at the role of the nobles and clergy in ensuring good leadership, showing how the rise to power of Richard could and should have been halted, but for a lack of virtuous noblemen and members of the clergy. Instead of topping the tyrant, some such as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Hastings collaborate with him (More and Sylvester 130-140).
More’s book is of massive historical significance in the Renaissance era. The book is the pioneer masterpiece in the realm of English historiography. Through the book’s description of historical facts and events, most of which have been corroborated by other authors, we are able to draw and derive a vision of the Renaissance period. For instance, it is easy to understand why Richard III is described as a tyrant upon reading of the evil acts and deviousness that he portrayed (More and Sylvester 160-173). Again, through the study of the book’s stylistic devices such as portents, we are able to identify cultural beliefs existent at that time which is a part of historiography. The use of Latin in the writing also gives us a pointer to how language was viewed and used in that time.
Howard's Earl of Surrey
The Soote Season
This poem describes the English countryside at a time when winter has ended, and Spring is just beginning. The poem is structured in three quatrains, accompanied by an ending couplet. The poem has an abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme, which results in a syllabic monotony since only two rhymes are present in each. Lines 5 and 14 do not even rhyme because the word “springs” is merely a repetition (Howard and Keene 40). A rhetorical word scheme technique known as hyperbaton is employed. This refers to the modification of the expected syntax of the word order. Instead of the ordinary Subject Verb Object structure, an inverted form of Subject Object Verb is used. For instance, The nightingale with feathers new (S) she (O) sings (V). Normally, the syntax should be “The nightingale with new feathers (S) sings (V) without an Object (Howard and Keene 40).
The poem’s central theme is regeneration, and this argument is repeated throughout every line of the poem. This further adds to the monotony of the poem. Howard makes use of symbolism to entrench this theme, where each item is a symbol for the old being shed off, and replaced by the new that is, regeneration. The green vegetation that is clinging to the hills and the vales, the nightingale’s new feathers, the lovemaking between the turtle dove and its mate, the new antlers of the hart as well as the new coat of the buck. The snake has a new skin, and the fish have new scales. The author also talks of the bees that are busy collecting honey from the flowers that have newly blossomed (Howard and Keene 40). All this is symbolic of a new start and a fresh beginning. However, despite this seemingly happy regeneration, the poem’s tone is one tinged with sadness. The persona in the poem is sad due to an inability to obtain the love and the affection of his lover (Howard and Keene 40).
The Frailty and Hurtfulness of Beauty
In this poem, also known as Brittle Beauty, the persona is a bitter person. The bitter tone of the poem is evident in the way the speaker laments the brittleness of beauty. The speaker does not assign a gender to the beauty’s owner. Therefore, some form of politically hazardous form of duplicity may be inferred. The central theme of the poem is beauty and more specifically, the speaker’s grievances about this beauty. In the last quatrain, the speaker makes an appearance in the first person, in the eleventh line, which may perhaps be seen as a way of authenticating and even validating the grievances (Howard and Keene 41).
The poem has a structure all too common to the Earl’ other works. The poem is made up of three quatrains with each quatrain having four lines each, followed by an ending couplet. It employs an abab, cdcd, efef, gg rhyme structure. That is, each quatrain has a different rhyme. However, Howard also employs a half- rhyme (“poison”) in the twelfth line. The effect of this rhyme scheme is to create musicality. The author also uses an unusual plural where he talks of “peason” in place of “peas.” This is used in the sixth line (Howard and Keene 41). The author also makes use of alliteration as a sonic device, and this is evident where he talks of “Brittle beauty.” Another example is “Tickle Treasure” which also creates musicality. Howard has also used a metaphor where he talks of “Slipper in sliding, as is an eel's tail.” Surrey has also used imagery, as can be demonstrated in the couplet where the image of fruit in frost is used (Howard and Keene 41).
A Lover’s Vow.
In this poem, the persona is a person who is deeply in love with his lover. The speaker is speaking to his loved one, making a promise never to be unfaithful to her. He promises that he will be contented regardless of what comes. The speaker makes this promise because of the great love he has for the person being addressed. This love is described in detail, and the comparisons are repeated in every line for emphasis. The poem is written in a loving tone that is marked with gentleness, and that exudes love in every sentence. The main theme that runs through the poem is that of enduring love. This love is so great that it drives the speaker to make plenty of comparisons that emphasize it. The speaker is sure that whatever he faces, the one outcome he is sure of is that the love for his beloved will prevail (Howard and Keene 45).
As is typical of Surrey’s poems, the poem is structured into three quatrains followed by a couplet at the end. The poem's rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. The effect of this rhyme scheme is to create musicality. The author has employed the use of alliteration as a sonic device, as illustrated in line four when he talks of “Proud people (Howard and Keene 45).” This helps to give the poem a rhythmic and musical feel. The poet has also made use of the literary device of antithesis. This is a poetic device in which words or phrases, which contrast with each other in meaning, are balanced. The author uses this device to elaborate the measure of his love. Through balancing these opposites, such as age and youth or heaven and hell, the poet is stating that in everything between the extremes of life, he vows to love her (Howard and Keene 45).
Alas, so all things now do hold their peace!
In this poem, the poet is lamenting that the peace of night, as well as the quietude that is exhibited by “Heaven and Earth” is not reflected in the poet’s life (Howard and Keene 42). Regardless of this, his “sweet thoughts” at times tend to bring an illusion of this quietude, when he has thoughts of his lover (Howard and Keene 42). However, once he recalls that he has been rejected, the pain in his heart shatters the illusion. The poem is about the inner struggle that the poet is experiencing, and the primary theme is love that is unrequited. The poem’s tone is sorrowful since the poet is sad that everything except him seems to have found its peace.
The poem is once again, in Howard’s signature style, composed of three quatrains with an ending couplet. Each quatrain has four lines, and the sonnet has two lines. The poem has a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. This rhyme scheme creates musicality.
Another sonic device that is used is repetition, and this is intended to achieve the same effect as the rhyme. An example of this repetition is in the eleventh line where the poet talks of “by and by.” (Howard and Keene 42).
The poet also employs antithesis in the ninth line when he talks of “In joy and woe.” (Howard and Keene 42)The effect of this device is to emphasize that he is experiencing the feelings at all times. The poet has also made use of a paradox. A paradox is a literary device where a statement that appears to contradict itself is used yet, it still appears to be true in a way. In this poem, the paradox is how the poet can describe his lover as a peaceful night and yet, it is the same lover who causes him anguish.
Howard , Henry and Dennis Keene. Selected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1985.
More, Saint Thomas and Richard Standish Sylvester. The History of King Richard Iii and Selections from the English and Latin Poems. New Haven [Conn: Yale University Press, 1976.
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