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Authorship and the Royal “I”: King James VI/I and the Politics of Monarchic Verse

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018


In this essay, I will show how James's position as monarch governed both the writing and the reception of his verse. Using James's previously ignored sonnet to Elizabeth, enclosed in a letter to her and so far as one can tell, intended for her eyes alone, his elegy for Sir Philip Sidney, printed in a commemorative volume, and the mini-epic, the Lepanto, I will show that James always writes as a monarch and never as a mere poet. The first two poems demonstrate how James used (or, more accurately in the case of the Elizabeth sonnet, tried to use) verse as an instrument of diplomacy. For the Lepanto, I will examine the parallels between the poem's (literal) ambivalence and James's foreignl religious diplomacy along with the resonances of James's decision to republish the Lepanto as a separate piece when he became king of England in 1603. Insodoing, we will also see how the publication history of the Lepanto contributes to the history of authorship and how James took advantage of the growing authority of print authorship.

Copyright © Renaissance Society of America 2001

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