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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The scurrilous, sometimes seditious, nature of verse libel made it immensely popular in Elizabethan England, although, while also restricting it mainly to manuscript circulation. Few examples found their way into print, rendering the genre largely invisible until today. Despite this, verse libel was one of the most pervasive forms of the period, nurtured with imagination and verve by a broad range of poets. Poems were passed—and not necessarily secretively—from one person to the next, they were cast into pulpits and public places, scattered about the streets, posted on walls. Some were even sung to popular tunes, the better to humiliate their victims while also introducing the genre to the illiterate (and thus broadening the public debate contained within them beyond the elite). Libellous verse was part of everyday life decades before scholars have thought; its impact largely unknown today.

Keywords: the Court, defamation, the Inns of Court, law, libel, manuscript culture, print culture, the public, recusancy, religion, satire, sedition, the universities, verse, wit

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