National history to foreign calamity
A Mirror for Magistrates and early English tragedy
in Shakespeare’s histories and counter-histories
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This chapter addresses one aspect of the political legacy of the Mirror. Gabriel Harvey appears confused, running together the titles of the Mirror for Magistrates and Gorboduc in a way that suggests that they are the same work. The two are of course separate texts. The first is the multi-authored compilation of didactic poetry about the falls of English kings, lords and pretenders to power between the reigns of Richard II and Edward IV. The second is Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton's Gorboduc, one of the earliest examples of classical tragedy and historical drama in English. Gorboduc replays an episode in ancient British history in which King Gorboduc divided the realm between his two sons, sparking a disastrous Civil War. In their appeal to foreign, mythological and fictional calamities, rather than to national history, the dramatists perhaps even enhanced the ability of their works to promote reflection and contemplation.

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