Early modern literature played a key role in the formation of the legal justification for imperialism. As the English colonial enterprise developed, the existing legal tradition of common law no longer solved the moral dilemmas of the new world order, in which England had become, instead of a victim of Catholic enemies, an aggressive force with its own overseas territories. Writers of romance fiction employed narrative strategies in order to resolve this difficulty and, in the process, provided a legal basis for English imperialism. Brian Lockey analyses works by such authors as Shakespeare, Spenser and Sidney in the light of these legal discourses, and uncovers new contexts for the genre of romance. Scholars of early modern literature, as well as those interested in the history of law as the British Empire emerged, will learn much from this insightful and ambitious study.
Brian Lockey is Assistant Professor of English at St. John's University, New York.
Introduction: romance and the ethics of expansion; Part I. Romance and Law: 1. Transnational justice and the genre of Romance; 2. Natural law and charitable intervention in Sir Philip Sidney's Old Arcadia; 3. Natural law and corrupt lawyers: Riche, Roberts, Johnson, and Warner; 4. Spenser's legalization of the Irish conquest; Part II. The Prerogative Courts and the Conquest Within: 5. Historical contexts: common law, natural law, civil law; 6. Roman conquest and English legal identity in Cymbeline; 7. Love's justice and the freedom of Brittany in Lady Mary Wroth's Urania Part One; Conclusion: English law and the early modern Romance.