Slander and sedition in Elizabethan law, speech and writing

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2014
Thesis identifier
  • T13810
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Slander and sedition represented pervasive and dangerous forces in the early modern period. Accordingly, they were subject to laws governing language and methods of censorship and repression. Academic interest in Elizabethan slander and sedition has long been divided into studies which focus on the power relations which underpin slanderous literary texts, the ways in which institutions of authority defined and sought to suppress transgressive material, or the role which slander played in the religious invective which blossomed during the late sixteenth century. The present study will compare and contrast the diverse approaches to slanderous activity in relation to the Elizabethan law courts, the theatre and the Church. In so doing, attention will not only be given to language which was idenfitied as slanderous or seditious by the Elizabethan state, but to the diverse methods by which those who engaged in illicit discourses mitigated, resisted and fought accusations of slander. As a result, it will be argued that the malleable principle of the common law, uncertain methods of theatrical and press censorship, the dangers of voicing political dissidence even when couched in the rhetoric of counsel, and increasing attempts at controlling printing presses ultimately led to an appropriation of the term 'libel' as a distinct, political mode of anonymous, often handwritten expression At heart, this study, therefore, provides a comprehensive examination of the legal, theatrical and dramatic conditions which gave rise to the flagrantly slanderous political discourses of the seventeenth century, in which a wealth of renewed scholarly interest has blossomed.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2014
Former identifier
  • 1038669