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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In his exploration of kingship, Shakespeare exhibits a keen engagement with contemporary debates about the conflict between classical and Christian ethics and ‘statecraft’—the morally compromised behaviour employed by successful political actors in the fallen world. This chapter explores the expression of ideas of ‘policy’ or reason of state in post-Reformation Europe and their application by English writers to monarchical rule in a world rent by religious schism. Often associated with the influence of Machiavelli, Lipsius, and Botero, princely statecraft was most prominently invoked in negative senses by authors in the great polemical battles of the Reformation, where Protestant and Catholic accused each other of manipulating religion for wicked political ends. But the notion that the prudent prince might be required to compromise conventional ethical codes for the stability of state and commonwealth gained cautious acceptance amongst some apologists for strong monarchical rule in early modern England.

Keywords: monarchy, reason of state, statecraft, policy, prudence, Machiavelli, Lipsius, Botero, Henry V

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