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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

One episode in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene shows a sudden transition of worlds which is paradigmatic of Protestant self-representation. From cannibalistic Catholics to pastoral piety, from a godless outdoors to the small-scale courtesies of the godly household, this shift implies that the act of violent religious Reformation abruptly gives rise to a cultural reformation that profoundly changes the scale and style of social organization. This article argues that Spenser’s Protestant mythology still shapes the understanding of households in the sixteenth century and that it is radically misleading. Royal and magnate households dominate the early part of the century, while representations of small-scale (and sometimes only incidentally Protestant) households richly populate the drama and narrative prose of its end. By focusing on the role played by non-royal households in writing by mid-century Catholics-George Cavendish’s Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey and William Roper’s The Lyfe of Sir Thomas Moore, Knighte-- this article argues two things: that it is wrong to regard the royal household as the all-encompassing centre of early Tudor writing; and that is incorrect to suggest that the Protestant reformation aided the emergence of smaller-scale domestic institutions. In these mid-century works there is a counter-reformation representation of the household which had a powerful influence on later representations of the household—including even those of Protestants such as Spenser, George Gascoigne and Shakespeare.

Keywords: Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene, Reformation, cultural reformation, households, literary history, George Cavendish, Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey, William Roper, The Lyfe of Sir Thomas Moore

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