This is a major study of the relation between poetry and politcs in sixteenth and seventeenth century English literature, focusing in particular on the works of Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton, and Dryden. Howard Erskine-Hill argues that the major tradition of political allusion is not, as has often been argued, that of the political allegory of Dryden's Absalom and Architophel, and other overtly political poems, but rather a more shifting and less systematic practice, often involving equivocal ormultiple reference. Drawing on the revisionist trend in recent historiography, and taking issue with recent New Historicist criticism, the book offers new and thought-provoking readings of familiar texts. For example, Shakespeare's Histories, far from endorsing a conservative Tudor myth, are shownto examine and reject divine-right kingship in favour of a political vision of what the succession crisis of the 1590s required. A forgotten political aspect of Hamlet is restored and an anti-Cromwellian strain is identified in Milton's Paradise Lost. Again and again, Professor Erskine-Hill isable to show how some of the most powerful works of the period, works which in the past have been read for their aesthetic achievement and generalized wisdom, in fact contain a political component crucial to our understanding of the poem.