had hired a scribe to make a complete transcription of it before the fire. The first edition of Beowulf based on Vitellius A.xv appeared in 1815 and relied on this transcription. Attempts to preserve the manuscript from further degradation in 1845 resulted in the loss of hundreds of letters, many of which are difficult to recover due to rebinding and so forth. Beginning in 1982, the manuscript has been the subject of an ongoing electronic project intended to preserve digitally what may disintegrate naturally.
Scholars date the manuscript anywhere from the eighth through the 11th centuries. However, this does not, necessarily date the poem to the same time frame, as it may have been written down long after its composition. Some scholars believe the late date because of parallels to the Blickling Homilies (11th-century sermons) and orthographic styles, while others believe the excessive praise of the Norse society's values indicate a much earlier date.
COUPLET A couplet comprises two successive lines of verse that usually share the same rhythm, meter, and semantic message; thus, couplets are self-contained, complete poetic units. It is a simple and elegant poetic expression. In the 16th century, couplets became particularly crucial as they often ended sonnets, completing the thought or narrative. There are a number of variations built upon couplets, including heroic couplets (iambic pentameter), alexandrine couplets (iambic hexameter), and elegiac couplets (dactylic hexameter/dactylic pentameter). The latter were used by Greek poets for small-scale epics and by Romans for love poetry (e.g., Ovid's Amores).
COURT CULTURE (TUDOR COURT CULTURE) (1485-1603) Life at the Tudor court provided ample opportunity for engagement in literary, musical, and theatrical pastimes during the reigns of the five monarchs who bore the surname: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Economics, religion, and politics played equal parts in court behavior along with the individual personalities of the monarchs who reigned over it. The
House of Tudor controlled the throne of England for 118 years, from 1485 to 1603. With Henry VIII and Elizabeth I combining to reign for 83 of those years, their influence on court life and the legacy they left are the most well-documented, though the other mon-archs certainly played a part in shaping the culture of the Tudor court.
Upon his father's death, Henry VIII ascended to the throne at the age of 18. He and his queen, Catherine of Aragon quickly gathered around them courtiers who shared their love for music, performance, and poetry. Henry played several instruments, composed music, wrote poetry, and performed in courtly masques. He and his male courtiers once surprised the queen and her ladies when they appeared unannounced as Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. The members of Henry's court were expected to participate in all that he enjoyed, and the court of the 1510s and 1520s was filled with music and poetry. Many times these artistic events were linked to what is called the game of courtly love. Unlike a real romantic engagement, courtly love was intended as a show of formal, noncommitted affection, though at times it led to a more significant attraction and relationship. Single and married courtiers alike played the game, showering each other with love poetry, music, and gifts. Those at court during the time of these games of courtly love included the poets Sir Thomas Wyatt; John Skel-ton; and Henry Howard, earl of Surrey.
As the early imprisonment of Surrey indicates, and a later one confirms, life at the Tudor court was not all merriment, poetry, and dancing; at times it was also perilous and precarious. The duke of Buckingham— father to Elizabeth Stafford Howard and grandfather to the earl of Surrey—was executed for treason around the same time Skelton was composing Garland of Laurel. Henry's subsequent financial, marital, and religious troubles also made the court a dangerous place. Henry expected complete, unquestioning support from those around him and became petulant and vengeful when it was not forthcoming. officers of state were executed as easily as commoners. Sometime lord chancellor Sir Thomas More, for instance, was beheaded for refusing to accept Protestantism.
After Henry's death in 1547, his nine-year-old son, Edward, became king. Though Edward VI was often ill, his court remained similar to his father's, offering entertainment and merriment alongside peril. Edward's own uncle, the duke of Somerset, who had been named his protector upon Henry Vlll's death, was eventually executed. Despite the political and religious upheaval that went on around him, Edward had a troupe of actors retained at court, and, like his father, maintained a deep love for pageantry.
Mary I became queen upon the death of her younger sibling Edward in 1553. A devotee of music with fervent religious beliefs, the queen knew how to use pageantry to her advantage, beginning with an amazing show of spectacle for her coronation. Throughout the first few years of her reign, spectacle entertainments were quite popular at the Marian court. Musicians also continued to be in favor, including Thomas Tallis, who had originally performed for Henry Vlll's court. Tallis's accomplishments as a musician and courtier should not be overlooked as he served under not only Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary, but also under Elizabeth I.
When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, she inherited a country in religious turmoil, financial distress, and political danger. Life at her court would prove perilous to some as the queen put down rebellion and rebuilt the country's wealth and power. However, she too enjoyed music, dancing, theater, and poetry. Her court was constantly moving from one royal residence to another or to the country homes of the ranking nobles, who often provided elaborate entertainments for their queen. Elizabeth immediately chose to ban religious drama, a deliberate attempt to erase the years of religious strife her predecessors had wrought by first leaving the Roman Catholic Church, then returning to it, then leaving it again. Elizabeth's banning of sacred drama was one of the factors that precipitated the great secular theater of the period.
Elizabeth I was also an accomplished dancer and musician, and her love of the arts provided an atmosphere in which different genres could flourish, both in her court and throughout England. Thus, lutenists such as Thomas Campion coexisted with poets such as Edmund Spenser. Elizabeth ensured that the court was the center of the English artistic world, attended by poets such as Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh. Sidney was considered a jewel of the court, and he wrote poems that illuminated the life of both queen and court, notably Sonnet 9 from his Astrophil and Stella. Though the poem's overarching theme is one of love found and lost, the story it tells conveys a strong sense of the Elizabethan court. Also at court was Philip's sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, countess of Pembroke, who was one of the earliest female poets.
Sir Walter Raleigh was a soldier, a courtier, an entrepreneur, and an explorer. These diverse aspects of his life in part contributed to a body of poetic works of varied forms and substance, and to a rounded view of the English court. He illustrated the court's liking for pomp and circumstance just as clearly as he showed that he shared the queen's love for farce.
Perhaps most intriguing was the "virgin queen's" insistence on continuing the game of courtly love within her court. Elizabeth chose "favorites" from among the many men who attended her—such as Robert Devereux, earl of Essex—with whom she carried on overt flirtations. It is likely that she slept with some of these men—the epithet "virgin queen" refers to her unmarried state, not her sexual experience. She also insisted that even peers who were not among her "favorites" treat her as if they were her ardent admirer, casting her in the role of the "cruel fair" woman so prevalent in the poets' sonnet sequences. This was a two-sided, dangerous game to play, and some men ended up in the ToWER of London merely for marrying without Elizabeth's permission.
See also patronage.
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