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Journeymen in MurderThe Assassin in English Renaissance Drama$
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Martin Wiggins

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198112280

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112280.001.0001

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Murder by Decree

Murder by Decree

(p.82) 5 Murder by Decree
Journeymen in Murder

Martin Wiggins

Oxford University Press

One of the concerns which the stage assassin focused, from Cambises onwards, was tyranny. According to many humanist thinkers, the principal bulwarks against tyranny were a good education and good advice. Conversely, the thing most likely to corrupt a prince was flattery, ‘the Nurse of Tyrants’. It was easier to blame the flatterer than the prince for the latter's tyrannical behaviour, for in English law the monarch could do no wrong; critics of Queen Elizabeth's regime pointed accusing fingers at her ministers, never at the Queen herself. These are factors which underlie Robert Greene's portrait of the making of a tyrant in James IV. In several plays, the tyrant's assassins are juxtaposed with the legitimate instruments of royal power. William Shakespeare returned to the question of tyrants and murderers in his later plays, as part of a wider consideration of the theme of service.

Keywords:   William Shakespeare, plays, assassins, tyrants, murderers, tyranny, flattery, James IV, Robert Greene

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