Richard Wood
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‘Cleverly playing the stoic’
The Earl of Essex, Sir Philip Sidney and surviving Elizabeth’s court
in Essex
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As the title of Paul E. J. Hammer's landmark book indicates, the political career of Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex is associated with the polarisation of Elizabethan politics towards the end of sixteenth century. A dominant feature of Essex's make-up, according to Mervyn James, was a new chivalric romanticism, 'a synthesis of honour, humanism and religion', inherited from Sir Philip Sidney and epitomised by his prose romance, the Arcadia. This chapter examines the relationship between the earl and the 'specific aspect of the political culture of Elizabethan England' (that 'synthesis') that is 'Sidneian chivalric romanticism'. It argues that the revised Arcadia in particular, written in the 1580s, ought to be read in accordance with a distinctly feminine discourse of pragmatic stoicism and principled anti-factionalism.

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The cultural impact of an Elizabethan courtier


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