Sir John Oldcastle (The Renaissance Imagination)

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Even while urging restraint, Somer had sent three marks to fund the next dinner, a little over one-eighth of what Hoccleve claims to be his own annual income 26 marks in the Regiment —, — It is not that one work falsifies the other or renders it inauthentic. If we skeptically and attentively question both his own writing and his supposed identity, it becomes clear that Hoccleve, despite all we know about him, is not necessarily who we think he is. A pair of balades addresses the king and his Garter Knights, inferentially relating their date of composition to one of the annual Garter assemblies at Windsor, most likely in Last in this sequence is the Remonstrance , a longer poem addressed to the fugitive Lollard Sir John Oldcastle, the heading of which tells us that it was written in late July and early August , when Henry and his troops were assembling at Southampton in preparation for the voyage to Harfleur.

The Sir John Oldcastle

This group of poems has been decisively characterized either as occasional poetry or as instances of propaganda, whether the promulgation of a particular message on behalf of the Crown or a more symbolic form of agitprop. The absence of documentary corroboration to show that Hoccleve was rewarded either financially or by way of formal status or title , and the lack of codicological and textual evidence for the public distribution of these poems, engenders a degree of caution, rendering Hoccleve merely quasi - or un -official, if an unofficial laureate is not in fact a contradiction in terms.

It is notable, most significantly, that all of these poems are anti -occasional. The homage balade and the paired Garter balades have elaborate and difficult rhyme schemes and hence are formally deferential, fit for a king, as one might expect if they were presented or performed on a public occasion.

Yet in their content they do not seek to reproduce or commemorate elements of the public display that defined the ceremonies by which Hoccleve dates their moment of composition and the status of their addressees. The homage ceremony, for example, must have been a striking occasion, combining a declaration of willingness, the clasping together of hands, a kiss, a promise of fealty, and a solemn oath. But in the middle three stanzas Hoccleve moves on to plain imperatives, directing Henry toward self-governance and virtue. The balade may have been written on the occasion of the homage ceremony, but it is not a poem written for or about this ceremony.

This ceremonial occasion is not sufficient in its own right, but appears as a prelude by which other actions are invited. The balade presents itself not as advice or complaint, but as an acknowledgment of fault made in the first-person plural on behalf of a group. Nevertheless, Hoccleve reassures us, Henry V is not such a king, and in fact his reburial of Richard demonstrates his benevolence. In similar fashion, the pair of Garter balades convert Garter ritual and pageantry into a new ideal of heresy suppression in both larger semantic units and small verbal detail.

Once again, it is not so much that the balade was written for the occasion its heading specifies, but that the occasion is redirected toward other purposes. Each poem moves decisively away from a discrete instance of royal agency, whether this be ceremonial, military, or punitive, toward a reiteration of the overarching responsibilities of a king and his knights to act as defenders of the faith. Hoccleve is most concerned to argue that heresy is a constant danger and that the most important duty of the king and his knights is to obey and protect Holy Church.

They must defend orthodoxy, eradicate heresy, and protect the rights of the church from any oppression. Some of the categorizations listed above are borrowed from the field of contemporary public relations publicist, spokesman. So too is the assumption that certain speakers and the texts they produce are officialized by royal authority, though the mechanism by which such authorization occurs is not made clear.

Equally anachronistic is the suggestion that Hoccleve is a kind of proto-poet laureate. Presumably such laureation would be in the more modern sense of a poet appointed as an officer of the royal household rather than as a poet worthy of laureation by the Muses, given that, as Robert J. Nevertheless, each of these categorizations responds to very real changes occurring in the first quarter of the fifteenth century in the intended and actual audiences of English poetry, especially political poetry discussing the theory and practice of kingship.

Yet if these texts were not occasional poems intended as propaganda, then their mode both second-person address and third-person reference to the king and their subject matter the duty of secular power to defend the faith require alternative explanations.

The Life of Sir John Oldcastle, print) by Anthony Munday

Rather than being royal propaganda, they are more closely aligned with clerical appeals to Henry V to act against Lollard heretics. The Lancastrian reaction to heresy was intermittent, ambivalent, and cautious. Although the Crown did cooperate with the church in the burning of heretics from , nonetheless its anti-heresy measures were sporadic and short lived. Henry himself spent much time in conversation with Oldcastle, intending to persuade him toward orthodoxy.

After his sentencing, the king obtained a stay of execution, during which time Oldcastle escaped.

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Most significantly, the church sought to harness and reshape definitions of kingship, prioritizing defense of the faith against heresy and obedience to ecclesiastical authority. As with the mandates, summons, and sermon quoted above, Hoccleve sought to harness royal power in the defense of orthodoxy. His is a clerical, moral voice speaking to royal authority on behalf of orthodoxy and the church rather than disseminating a predetermined representation of Lancastrian sovereignty.

Hoccleve participates in and contributes to the continuous negotiation of the relationship between church and Crown and between the ecclesiastical and secular domains. The poem is divided into two parts, the first apostrophizing the fugitive Oldcastle and the second addressing the Lollard heretics who have supposedly led Oldcastle astray.

The tone of the poem is polemical, reproducing and manipulating stereotypes of gender and social status in defense of orthodoxy.

As many readers have pointed out, the Remonstrance cannot literally be meant for the attention of Oldcastle or his fellow heretics. Its apostrophes are rhetorical, a performance for other readers to witness fictively. Alongside his rhetorical and polemic strategies, Hoccleve also co-opts the authority of patristic quotation and examples from ecclesiastical history. Though the poem suggests reading matter for Oldcastle the story of Lancelot, the sieges of Troy and Thebes that should take the place of heterodox doctrinal and ecclesiological speculation, Hoccleve nonetheless presents patristic authority and church history in the first half of the poem that apostrophizes Oldcastle as an individual.

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Such authorities in the Huntington autograph are accompanied either by the full source quotation or its location in Latin marginal glosses. Some of this material is taken from well-known works of basic doctrinal instruction and exhortation. Hoccleve quotes from the second half of the work, which reiterates, in a series of statements, what the orthodox Christian must firmly believe and never doubt firmissime tene et nullatenus dubites …. Elsewhere in the poem, Hoccleve draws on the history of the early church, especially notable figures who provide model instances of the relationship between ecclesiastical and imperial power and between spiritual and temporal jurisdictions.

The sixth-century Emperor Justinian is cited both as lawgiver and as example. Hoccleve also apostrophizes Constantine as a figure not only obedient to the church but also an emperor who honored and respected sacerdotal authority — The emperor tells the bishops that neither he nor any layman can judge or correct the behavior of priests, who have been provided by God as gods for the laity.

Hoccleve names his source for his account of Theodosius as Book Nine of the sixth-century Epiphanius-Cassiodorus Historiae ecclesiasticae tripartitae in his marginal gloss, also giving in Latin the opening words of a passage as a finding aid. Heresy not only imperils the soul of the individual heretic, but also threatens to alter existing relationships between secular and spiritual power and thus requires a defense by means of exemplary and foundational church history. Such examples are in the Remonstrance ostensibly presented to the absent Oldcastle and his fellow Lollards to argue that Lollardy should not presume to alter doctrine and reform the church, because spiritual authority surpasses all temporal authority.

Indeed, immediately after his address to Constantine, Hoccleve offers thanks that Henry V himself follows in the footsteps of this emperor, the archetype of a ruler obedient to the church and famous for supposedly endowing the church with profitable landed estates. Here in the Remonstrance Hoccleve offers up the model of temporal rulers defined by their obedience to and protection of the church, just as he had earlier done in the first of the Garter balades.

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George, whose feast day Henry had raised to a greater double feast in June , but as an imperial defender of faith, characterized by obedience and subordination to ecclesiastical authority. The Remonstrance , amid its several other impulses, speaks not for the king but to the king, even though Hoccleve acknowledges that Henry too is absent, beginning his military adventure in France. His is not the voice of a prince-pleaser, propagandist, or proto-laureate, but rather a clerical voice, not only in its administrative sense but also partly ecclesiastic, if not strictly sacerdotal.

Hoccleve tells us in the Regiment that he had intended to be a priest if he had been promoted to a benefice, suggesting he was already in minor orders, but that none had been forthcoming, and so he had married — His surviving corpus bears the traces of personal devotion and pastoral initiative, not only in his choice of works for translation but also in the number of lyrics in praise of the Virgin and the Trinity.

He also retained a desire to communicate and embody clerical doctrine and sentence. Rather it makes use of flickerings of intermittent interest and engagement. To be sure, Hoccleve is no great scholar: he sometimes mis-cites or mis-attributes his citations and glosses, while many of his sententiae are taken from florilegia such as the Liber scintillarum. Lydgate explores and extends Chaucerian genres, especially narratives of pre-Christian history and courtly love-vision. Feedback If you need help or have a question for Customer Service, contact us. Would you like to report poor quality or formatting in this book?

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