The Golden Chain: Royal Slavery, Sovereignty and Servitude in Early Modern English Literature, 1550-1688
Bossert, Andrew Raymond
Leinwand, Theodore B.
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Enchained kings, enthroned slaves, and enthralled subjects--these are the emblems of royal slavery abounding in early modern English literature. They express concerns over national identity and monarch-subject relationships, and they arise in debates regarding absolutism, constitutionalism, and imperialism between the years 1550 and 1688. Thus, my dissertation performs close readings of rhetorical tropes relating to two early modern debates: monarchy's function and servitude's nature. This research synthesizes work by David Norbrook, Rebecca Bushnell, and Constance Jordan regarding the influence of domestic politics on English literature with studies by Kim Hall, Ania Loomba, and Nabil Matar on English imperialism. The introduction explores early modern depictions of Moses, whose self-denial advances nation-building. Three types of royal slavery emerge: 1) a slave who becomes a prince, 2) a slave who becomes a prince's property, or 3) a prince who becomes a slave. Moses experiences all three types, and serves as a model for other royal slaves and English leaders. Chapter One examines enslavement to monarchs. Political rebels and love slaves in [i]Julius Caesar[/i], [i]Antony and Cleopatra[/i], accounts of Hercules, and the [i]Fairie Queene[/i] describe slavery to excuse disloyalty. However, these examples also blame subjects for enslaving themselves. Chapter Two shows how images of enslaved kings appeal to pathos. Sympathetic royal slaves appear in Guevara's [i]Diall of Princes[/i], Owen Feltham's [i]Resolves[/i], and Marlowe's [i]Tamburlaine[/i]. Shakespeare's plays problematize sympathetic royal slave rhetoric, while [i]The Rape of Lucrece[/i]'s royal slave images question the poem's republicanism. Hutchinson's [i]Order and Disorder[/i] uses royal slave figures as anti-monarchical invectives. Chapter Three discusses slaves who become rulers who learn that true restoration is impossible. In Milton's [i]Paradise Lost[/i], the devils' utopia masks their vulnerability; Scudery's Briseis in [i]Several witty discourses[/i] depicts an enslaved princess's false restoration. However, Scudery's Cariclia and Cartwright's protagonist in [i]The Royal Slave[/i] suggest that patience yields rewards surpassing one's original state. My conclusion argues that the slave revolt in Aphra Behn's [i]Oroonoko[/i] fails because, like the English themselves, the slaves have a fractured national identity. Without commonwealth, the slaves surrender to private interests. Thus, Behn comments directly on colonial practice and metaphorically on English politics.