Use Of Veiled Imagery And Criticism By Sir Thomas Wyatt And Sir Thomas More

1798 words - 7 pages

Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Thomas More wrote during the reign of King Henry VIII, a notoriously harsh king with a penchant for punishment. While both More and Wyatt had opinions of the King, their fear of severe punishment, forced them to revert to a mode of criticism that was far more covert. These men began integrating their political beliefs, and opinions of the king into their writings. They both believed that “in a court of people who envy everyone else and admire only themselves,”(More, 528), any sort of public, open commentary against the king would surely earn them the axe. Living with this fear both men were forced to confront their tormentor through their words, creating works still examined today for their political implications. Through the use of veiled imagery and criticism these men were able to make political commentary on King Henry VIII and avoid harm.
Sir Thomas More saw King Henry VIII as a “solitary ruler who enjoy[ed] a life of pleasure and self-indulgence” which he likens to “a jailer, not a king” (More, 541). While he does not specify that this is commentary on the flaws of Henry VIII, it is nonetheless a scathing view of what many considered to be the most predominant short falls of King Henry VIII. More places this image of the King as jailer in the discussion of what it means to be a good monarch as discussed between the Cardinal Martin and the narrator, Thomas More. This discussion of kingship relies on references to many other professions of the time that were supposed to be professions of caretaking, referring to the “Shepherd” (More, 540), the “jailer” and the “doctor” (More, 541). With each profession he describes the negative implications if the job is not performed correctly, and that the duty of these professions is to care for others above themselves, a duty, he believes is applicable to kingship. Again, of course, More was very careful to frame this discourse in a way that made no direct reference to the king of England. At the time he wrote this More was on a diplomatic mission for Henry VIII in Netherlands (Greenblatt, 519), due to this connection More had to separate any negative imagery of Kingship from Henry VIII which he was able to accomplish simply by placing these values on a very foreign society, Utopia, his imaginary place.
In discussions on kingship in Utopia it is clear that More was experimenting with his ideas. In the beginning of book one, in a discussion between Peter and Raphael the differing opinions of a naïve Englishman and a learned young man present some of More’s own conflicting ideas on the subject.
“I’m surprised that you don’t enter some king’s service; for I don’t know a single prince who wouldn’t be eager to employ you”…
…“I am not much concerned about my relatives and friends… I think they should be content with this gift of mine, and not expect that for their sake I should enslave myself to any king…”
…“I do not mean that you should be in servitude to any king, only in his...

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