Use of Veiled Imagery and Criticism by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Thomas More

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 …

…he right of a prince’s reign.” (Wyatt, 73-75) One very notable aspect of this short passage is the enjambment at line 74, to end the line on “tyranny”, clearly draws attention to Wyatt’s opinion of this silencing of the voice.While both men faced the same difficulties in their inability to be open and honest, for fear of death, they faced these complications in very different ways. More’s focus fell more on the qualities of a ruler, and veiled these discussions in hypothetical discussions of a land that did not exist. Wyatt confronted his grievances head on, focusing his poetry, particularly “Mine Own John Poins” directly on the hypocrisy evident in the court.

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Works Cited

Greenblatt, Stephen, and M. H. Abrams. The Norton Anthology of English Literature theSixteenth Century; the Early Seventeenth Century. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. Print.


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