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date: 18 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter explores the legal, political, and literary contexts of the possible torture of John Felton, the 1628 assassin of the royal favourite George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. It reassesses the authorities’ debates about torturing Felton, analyses newsletter reports of the assassin’s alleged response to the threat, and concludes with a close reading of the representation of torture in Zouche Townley’s libel ‘To His Confined Friend Mr. Felton’, and Philip Massinger’s play The Roman Actor. The chapter illustrates the connections among early modern English legal, literary, and political imaginaries, while exploring how these imaginaries shaped and were shaped by controversial political events. It argues that these representations of the Felton case reveal diverse attitudes to judicial torture and expose the depth of political polarization in later 1620s England.

Keywords: torture, John Felton, George Villiers Duke of Buckingham, Charles I, John Rushworth, prerogative, verse libel, Zouche Townley, Philip Massinger, The Roman Actor

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