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Slander and Sedition in Elizabethan Law, Speech, and Writing

Steven Veerapen

The Elizabethan era is generally understood to coincide with the blossoming of English language – it was the age of Shakespeare, Sidney, and Marlowe. Yet it is known also as a period of brutality and repression: saying or writing anything against the state, the queen, or its governors might result in hanging, fines, or the loss of limbs. Defaming neighbours could and frequently did result in a day in court, with slander emerging as a byword for unacceptable speech and writing.

Academic interest has long been divided into studies which focus on the power relations underpinning literary production, the ways in which authorities sought to suppress and censor transgressive material, or the role slander played in religious polemic. This book will explore the legal backdrop which helped and hindered the production and curtailment of slanderous and seditious material across multiple sites. In so doing, it will seek to uncover exactly how slander and sedition were defined, regulated, punished, and, ultimately, negotiated by those who grappled over control of discourse.

Through examination of the legal, theatrical, and religious conditions of the age of Elizabeth, this study will provide an explanation of the rise of the flagrantly slanderous political discourses of the seventeenth century.

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About the author

About the author

Extract

Pursuing an interest in sixteenth-century literature, Steven Veerapen was awarded a first-class Honours degree in English, with a thesis focussing on Renaissance literary depictions of Henry VIII’s six wives. He then received an MLitt in Renaissance Studies, with his thesis examining depictions of Elizabeth I in early modern drama and chronicle histories. This was followed by a PhD from the University of Strathclyde, the focus of which was on Elizabethan slanderous and seditious material. He now lectures in English Studies at the University of Strathclyde. His research interests include early modern Anglo-Scottish relations and representations of authority and resistance in early modern drama.

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