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Writing the Nation in Reformation England, 1530–1580$
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Cathy Shrank

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199268887

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199268887.001.0001

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Thomas Wilson and the Limits of English Rhetoric

Thomas Wilson and the Limits of English Rhetoric

(p.182) 5 Thomas Wilson and the Limits of English Rhetoric
Writing the Nation in Reformation England, 1530–1580

Cathy Shrank (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at Wilson's promotion of English as a language capable of exhibiting eloquence, and of rhetoric as a necessary tool of statecraft and control. It explores Wilson's use of logic and rhetoric in service of English Protestantism, and his promotion of plain English — a uniform, national language, comprehensible to all — as opposed to ‘ink-horn terms’ or socially-divisive, elitist jargon. It examines the influence of Italian political thought, particularly Machiavelli, and Wilson's growing preference for the vocabulary of state over that of commonweal. Tracing Wilson's inevitable disappointment in rhetoric as a tool of government, it reveals how the regulatory overstructure of his works is tempered by the survival of a more sceptical tradition (indebted to Thomas More), with a grimly playful ability to question the efficacy of humanist ideals in the business of government, as found in Wilson's dialogue against usury.

Keywords:   commonweal, dialogue, Italy, Machiavelli, Protestantism, rhetoric, state, Thomas Wilson

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