Richard Niccols’s A Mirour for Magistrates (1610) and the politicization of the English speculum principis literary tradition

Making, Ericka Theresa Ann (2021) Richard Niccols’s A Mirour for Magistrates (1610) and the politicization of the English speculum principis literary tradition. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The progenitive text of the English speculum principis, or mirror for princes, literary tradition, John Lydgate’s (1370-1451) The Fall of Princes (1438) was reprinted and reinterpreted for new political purposes by Protestant printers and authors alike throughout the sixteenth century. As the print history and reception of the numerous early modern adaptations of Lydgate’s The Fall reveal, the development of the English mirror tradition was closely related to the evolution of nationalistic English literature from the 1550s to the early seventeenth century. Following William Baldwin’s influential A Mirror for Magistrates (1559), the adaptations of Lydgate’s The Fall provided a suitable platform from which authors could communicate their displeasure, especially with the political directions of Mary I’s and later James I’s regimes. The last early modern adaptation of Lydgate’s The Fall by the poet and editor Richard Niccols (1584-1616), A Mirour for Magistrates: Being a True Chronicle Historie of the Untimely falls of such unfortunate Princes and men of note…Newly Enlarged with A Last part, called A Winter’s Nights Vision (1610), exemplifies how authors tried to shape the responses of the reading public to contemporary political and religious disputes through topically applicable historical exempla. The 1610 edition of A Mirour with the addition of Niccols’s own composition entitled A Winter’s Night Vision represents the mirror tradition as what it had come to signify by the early seventeenth century: an archetypically Elizabethan monument of imagined national history. Niccols’s choice to concentrate solely on England’s past reveals his disdain for and criticism of the policies of the Scottish James I (1566-1625) and the latter’s concerted efforts to create the culturally unified kingdom of “Great Britain” under his rule. Moreover, Niccols’s insertion of the tragedies of King Arthur, Richard III, Edward II, and King John, and his lengthy laudatory poem of Elizabeth I were intended to offer covert, but pointed, princely instruction to James I. Reinforcing Niccols’s oppositional political stand and promoting a certain type of English patriotism during a period of growing political and religious unrest, A Mirour for Magistrates can be aligned with the emerging anti-Jacobean literature of the early seventeenth century.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15159
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 80-91).
Keywords: English literature, Early Modern, Richard Niccols, A Mirror for Magistrates, speculum principis, Jacobean, Elizabethan, A Winter's Night Vision, de casibus tradition, John Lydgate, William Baldwin, Early Modern studies, English history, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: July 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: English literature--Early modern, 1500-1700; English poetry--Early modern, 1500-1700; Political ethics--Early works to 1800.

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