John Lydgates Fall of Princes: Narrative Tragedy in its Literary and Political Contexts

Hardcover | August 4, 2005

byNigel Mortimer

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The Benedictine monk John Lydgate was the most admired poet of the fifteenth century. He received commissions from some of the most powerful men in the land (including Henry V); he is spoken of with constant admiration; manuscripts of his work are abundant; many of his poems were put intoprint by England's earliest printers, ensuring that his influence extended well into the sixteenth century. The Fall of Princes, probably the longest poem in the language, is arguably Lydgate's masterwork; yet, until now, it has received only cursory critical attention. This book offers the firstextended discussion of the poem.The Fall of Princes accumulates accounts of nearly 500 figures from mythology and history (biblical, classical, and medieval) who have fallen from their positions of fame and power into obscurity, adversity, or poverty. In presenting these tragedies Lydgate probes the causes of the reversal of theirfortunes; how far can the caprice of a blind Lady Fortune be blamed? How far are the protagonists themselves responsible for their undoing? Most pressingly of all, why is it that bad things happen to seemingly innocent people? In drawing its conclusions about the downfalls of powerful men and women,Lydgate's poem operates within the popular medieval genre of 'advice to princes' literature.This book locates Lydgate's work within its contexts, exploring the nature of his relationship with the uneasy Lancastrian dynasty during the minority of Henry VI as well as his response to contemporary conflicts between ecclesiastical and secular authority. In particular, this book closely analysesLydgate's manipulations of his French source text, allowing readers to see in detail for the first time what it is that Lydgate was setting out to achieve. Finally, the book identifies the readership of Lydgate's poem in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, discussing its influence on theevolution of narrative tragedy in English.

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The Benedictine monk John Lydgate was the most admired poet of the fifteenth century. He received commissions from some of the most powerful men in the land (including Henry V); he is spoken of with constant admiration; manuscripts of his work are abundant; many of his poems were put intoprint by England's earliest printers, ensuring t...

Nigel Mortimer is Assistant Head and Head of English at Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh. He has previously taught English at Bradfield College, Berkshire, and Old and Middle English at Oxford University.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:376 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 1.03 inPublished:August 4, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199275017

ISBN - 13:9780199275014

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Table of Contents

1. The Fortunes of John Lydgate2. The French Context of the Fall of Princes3. 'Lancastrian' Lydgate: Poet and Patron4. Spiritual and Secular Authority in the Fall5. 'When the Good Bleeds': Tragedy in the Fall of Princes6. The Reception and Influence of the Fall

Editorial Reviews

"Mortimer's astute close readings effectively present Lydgate's Fall as 'a rich and rewarding text, the product of an accomplished, shrewd, and forthright poet operating a the height of his powers.' His analyses of this complext poem are accompanied by a host of useful tables, charting, manuscripts and their owners. Those wishing to study the Fall for themselves will appreciate his appendix listing corresponding lines in Lydgate and in his Latin and French sources. As the first sustained, sympathetic treatment of Lydgate's magnum opus, Mortimer's monograph will be welcomed by the 'new and open-minded audience' it addresses and will, I am sure, further the Lydgate renaissance that is under way."--Karen A. Winstead, Speculum