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Greg Walker Masterclass

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'Complaining About the Weather: John Heywood, Thomas More, and the Opening of the Reformation Parliament'

A masteclass with Greg Walker, Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature, University of Edinburgh

This masterclass is free and open to all students and members of staff. However, spaces are limited, so please register. The reading will be sent to all participants before the workshop.


This session will look at two texts, one an historical ‘source’, Sir Thomas More’s opening address to the Parliament of 1529 (Henry VIII’s ‘Reformation Parliament’), delivered on 3 November, the other a literary work, the interlude, A Play of the Weather, written by More’s nephew John Heywood at some point in the same period. I have suggested that the two documents are connected, and that the play comments on the parliament, the events that led up to it, and the turbulent debates of the session that followed. But that claim is fraught with problems, theoretical, practical, and methodological.

The workshop will be based on a close reading of the relevant texts. But, as you will quickly discover, deciding on what exactly the ‘relevant texts’ are is itself a challenge. What exactly did More say in that speech? The two most comprehensive accounts are rather different in their emphases, and create problems of interpretation of their own.And then there is the more complex issue of deciding what More might of meant by whatever it is we think he said. What was the range of possible implications of a speech delivered to Parliament in the presence of the King? Then there is Heywood’s interlude. How might we read that in the light of More’s speech and the events in Parliament? Need the two things be connected at all? What might Heywood have intended his audience(s) to make of the interlude? What was the range of possible utterances in an interlude in this period? How controversial or ‘political’ was it possible to be in a dramatic or literary work in this period? And how secure can we be in our answers to any of these questions?

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