Fleming, John V. Greene, Thomas M. Jauss, H. Kohl, Benjamin E. Lloyd, T. Mommsen, Theodor E. Ovid, The Love Poems, ed. Invectives, ed. Chaucer, Petrarch, and the Poetics of Exile 45 ——. Canzoniere: Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, ed. Ramsay, P. Scaglione, Aldo S. Schless, Howard H.
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Spearing, A. Spiller, Michael R. Zacour, Norman P. Ralf Hertel Nationalising History? Chronicles and history plays alike serve to propagate the idea of a shared past and of common roots, and are thus fundamental to the shaping of a specific English identity. How the English made sense of this Italian immigrant who stayed more than fifty years in their country, making sense of their own history will be the focus of the following chapter.
The young priest from Urbino had just published two books which were winning him great acclaim and making his name in humanist Europe. His Proverbiorum Libellus or Adagia , a collection of ancient proverbs, had re-introduced a classical genre that was soon to become highly popular again; only two years later, Erasmus entered the same market with his own collection and popularised the genre. In short, when in Polydore was sent to England as sub-collector of a papal tax, he was at the beginning of a promising career.
At first glance, his voyage to England would seem to have ended his lucky streak. He was a stranger in many ways: not only an Italian in England but also a Catholic in a fiercely anti-Catholic country severing all ties with Rome. Indeed, he was to experience open hostility soon enough: in , he was imprisoned after the interception of some of his letters critical of Chancellor Thomas Wolsey, mastermind of Henrician politics.
Despite his spell in prison, Polydore seems to have done surprisingly well in England where, at least after the split from Rome, he was bound to have been considered a representative of the Papal arch-enemy. While others in far less prominent positions fell victim to the religious turmoil of the era, Polydore, who had soon also become archdeacon of Wells, managed not only to keep his head on his shoulders but also his position and privileges.
He remained in England for more than half a century before retiring to his native Urbino at the age of around 80, not without having first secured a generous pension. His final reward might have been less generous than it seems at first, as J. Alsop argues. Nonetheless, the fact that he was allowed to leave for Italy and retain his income speaks of his high reputation.
See J. Beno Weiss and Louis C. Nationalising History? In fact, he seems to have harboured mistrust towards over-much patriotism of any kind; as a humanist, he obviously believed more in a supranational community of learned men than in national communities. His point is clear: despite all apparent differences between the various peoples, in the end they all stem from the same root — they are not so different from each other as nationalism might want to make us believe.
Apparently, this supranational stance stems from both a humanist conviction and a Christian belief in Noah as ancestor of all men and a pre-Babylonian community of mankind from which all nations developed. Not that there were no English chroniclers at court who could have accomplished the task, but Henry wanted something different. He wanted a history book with a message, and the message was to be that England, this island at the edge of Europe, claimed its historic place among the major European powers.
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Henry needed an Italian humanist to undertake this task for him, and he found Polydore. In other words, the English relied on the mediation of a foreigner to appropriate their own history. The way into the past was not a direct one but one via Italy: English history had to be sanctioned by Italian humanism before it could become truly a national history through an intricate web of reappropriations.
The book was not only foreign in appearance, some of the ideas it propagated must have struck the English as alien, too. In effect, Polydore continued the de-nationalisation of history up to the point of effrontery.
This shows rather subtly in the first sentence already: The whole countrie of Britaine which at this daie, as it were in dowble name, is called Englande and Scotlande , being an Ilonde in the ocean sea butting over agaynste the French shore, is divided into iiij. To secure this they were willing to jettison portions of the national myth which for other reasons they encouraged among native authors. Polydore and Emili, writing in Latin, enjoyed privileges denied to the vernacular historian.
Of course, Polydore might merely have been imitating a classical formula to ennoble his subject. Implicitly, however, his first sentence already calls into question the uniqueness of Britain — one can describe it in much the same terms as France. In fact, the opening sentence depicts the position of the isles exclusively in relation to the French shore. In addition, this sentence not only calls into question the uniqueness of the country but also the unity of its population by stressing its division, and Polydore continues in this vein when he goes on to split up England into even smaller parts, namely 34 shires and 17 dioceses.
The British do not have a specific look but resemble a motley crew of foreigners from all parts of the Continent. They learn Greek letters, and their architecture, their dress, and even their religion remind Polydore of the French p. Countering it, he holds that […] in olde time […] manie nations weare so bowled as to derive the beginninge of theire stocke from the Goddes as especially the Romaines did , to thentent the originall of there people and cities mighte bee the more princelie and prosperus, which things, albeit thei sownded more like fables then the sincere witnesses of noble acts, yet weare thei received for trewthe; for the which cause even those things which last of all were committed to writinge of the antiquities of Britaines, were with soe easye credit received of the common sorte that thei have ascribed the fownteine of their genialogie to Brutus […].
Wherefore it is not to bee thought that at enie time it lacked inhabitants, which might then receave them when all other londes didd, not awayghting or intertaining the exiled or hurtfull roge runninge awaye owt of Spain, Germaine, Fraunce, or Italie, as late Historians make reporte. Not surprisingly, the Anglica Historia provoked extreme reactions. While some humanist-minded readers welcomed his account since it stressed the Roman origins of British culture and placed it in the humanist tradition, many reactions were extremely hostile. A variant depicted him as Papal spy, secretly shipping his sources to Rome.
Quoted from Hays, Renaissance Historian, p. His vociferous enemies made it clear that he was not merely a criminal but, worse, an Italian criminal — his de-nationalisation of history had met with the nationalistic response. For Polydore forced the English to reconsider their national past and thus contributed significantly to the emergence and shaping of an early modern national identity. Never intended for the English market and designed for a Continental readership, the Anglica Historia was supposed to travel.
It was never meant for the English market — tellingly, it has to the present day not been published in English in its entirety — but was supposed to find a new place for English history abroad on the Continent. Yet its story is not only one of exile but also one of a homecoming: despite all of the attacks, it was to become the single most influential book in the shaping of the English view of the national past.
In spite of all initial vilification, English historians and playwrights made ample use of it. Yet, how was English history re-appropriated by the English, and how was it re-nationalised? There is, however, a hypertext critical edition and translation of the entire work provided by Dana F. Tillyard, p. More specifically, it is the play which chronologically ends the sequel on the Wars of the Roses and introduces Richmond, who as Henry VII becomes the founder of the Tudor dynasty.
For the final confrontation between Richard and Richmond, Shakespeare could, however, not rely on More, for his text breaks off before this event. This sounds confusing, but essentially it is simple Nationalising History? Despite the large number of speaking parts — Anthony Hammond counts no less than 52 — this play focuses strongly on its protagonist and does not measure out the population in its diversity as, for instance, Henry IV Part 1 does.
When figures of the lower classes appear such as the two murderers of Clarence, the play reduces them to tools in the hands of Richard whom he utilises to serve his ambitions. However, having only a limited space at my disposal here and seeing that there has already been done much research on the relation between Shakespeare and his immediate sources, I will in the following, rather than include an extra section of the Tudor chroniclers, take those changes into consideration which are significant in the context of this paper.
In the context of analysing this process, it seems to make more sense to consider a longer span of time and to reach back further than to the chronicles of Hall and Holinshed — to Polydore. What it does represent, however, is disunity. There are so many warring factions, so many protagonists interpreting history their own way, and so much scheming that it is difficult not to get lost in the intricate web of intrigues. If the cast of the play is extremely numerous, the spatial setting is extremely restricted: the topography of Richard III is obsessively Londoncentred.
The evil nature of the protagonist exerts a fascination that swallows all; next to spellbinding Richard, there is no space for other foci. Tellingly, most of the scenes are set indoors: It is as if the play zoomed in not only on London as the centre of power but also on Richard gnawing his way into the royal palaces and the heart of power like a worm in a rotten apple.
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However, this changes in the last act. Here, the action finally does move beyond the palaces of London, and this is highly symbolic: Richard loses his grip on power and no longer manages to act as the centre holding all; history, which he had centred on himself almost magnetically, becomes decentred and will eventually marginalise him.
The drama eventually does not let him get away with all his egocentrism: in this last act, Richard is forced to realise that history is not all about himself but about England. And it is this shift in focus that eventually marks his fall; when the picture broadens from a close-up study of the charismatic king into a national panorama, this widening perspective simultaneously dwarfs him, Nationalising History? The movement towards Bosworth Field, into the country, into the territory of the people, is a movement towards his destruction. The growing awareness of the national dimension of history shows already in the semantics of the last act.
His use of the rhetoric of patriotism is rather a thinly veiled strategy to discredit a personal adversary than a sudden awareness of the national dimension of his deeds. Yet, the turn towards the national in the last act of Richard III goes beyond the purely rhetorical of this particular oration and informs the entire imagery of the final confrontation.
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Tellingly, unlike in Polydore, in Shakespeare both Richard and Richmond invoke St George, patron saint of England, and thus a cause greater than their own. Richmond and victory! While Polydore, Hall, Holinshed, and More tell of Richard, Shakespeare makes him come alive on the theatre stage in the flesh and blood of an actor. In Shakespeare, history is not narrated but re-enacted, and this is a difference as simple as it is crucial: when history repeats itself in front of the eyes of the spectators, they become eye-witnesses of sorts; they do not so much learn about history — as they might learn from a piece of historiography — but reexperience it; in a way, they are there when Richmond slays Richard and ends his terrible reign.
This subtly adds to the impression that Richard is rather the dragon than the dragon-slayer.
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Jowett, p. Dent, , pp. Polydore in particular keeps reminding us of the distance in time to the events and frequently foregrounds the narrative frame, commenting on the events, adding a morale, or voicing his doubts about certain reports e. For a discussion of the ritualistic qualities see Hammond, pp.
While Polydore and his Tudor mediators present this scene as an uncertain piece of hearsay, in Shakespeare it turns into a full-blown ritual played out in the midst of the audience.