Publication details [#4157]

Djordjevic, Igor. 2005. The trumpet of chivalry and the mirror of policy: Writing and reading nationhood in Holinshed's "Chronicles", 1377--1485. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 307 pp.


This thesis achieves three aims by focusing on Raphael Holinshed's 'Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland', the historical source narrative of Shakespeare's English history plays. First, it reveals the crucial importance of the lexicon of chivalry to the early modern English articulation of ideas of nationhood and prudent governance. Second, it overturns the misconception that the chronicle narrative is univocally pro-Tudor and demonstrates that the narrative resists ideology. And finally, it re-evaluates the implications of the textual differences between the 1577 and 1587 editions of the 'Chronicles'. The thesis reconstructs the early modern hermeneutic approach to the 'Chronicles', and as a result, the work ceases to figure as a rambling, digressive compendium of episodes, memorable only for being plundered by Renaissance playwrights and poets. Instead, the narrative emerges as a "Mirror of Policy" proposing lessons of prudent governance to an audience of princes, courtiers, and magistrates. The first chapter proposes a hermeneutic approach to the text that is rhetorically alert to the purposes of invention and figurative language in the narrative and based on Renaissance rhetorical theory, poetics, and reading practices. Chapter two focuses on the reign of Richard II and introduces the lexical, semantic, and ideological dimensions of Holinshed's narrative. Chapters three and four, respectively, discuss the lessons of prudent foreign and domestic policy that Holinshed's reader could have derived from the narrative of the Hundred Years' War and the Wars of the Roses. The lessons define an ideal commonwealth: one in which a true king is recognized both by decorous, heroic conduct and politic prudence; where the noblemen's only ambition is to work for the good of the commonwealth; and where the commons give their constitutive assent to prudent royal governance. Consequently, a clear picture emerges of what it means to be English, and what the prudent domestic and foreign policies of that nation ought to be. By proposing such a national vision, Holinshed's narrative in effect aligns itself with the early modern tradition of political Mirrors and advice-books. (Dissertation Abstracts)