"A Cestelaunce on the Crabyd Queane": the Hybrid Nature of John Pikeryng's Horestes

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    Abstract

    John Pikeryng’s hybrid morality Horestes (1567) was advertised on its original title page as “A Newe Enterlude of Vice Conteyninge, the Historye of Horestes with the cruell revengment of his Fathers death, upon his one naturtll [sic.] Mother”. Drawing upon the Oresteia, Pikeryng employed the Clytemnestra analogy to comment upon the murder of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, King Consort of Scotland and husband of Mary Queen of Scots. This ultimately unsolved crime —the actual manner of Darnley’s death remains a mystery— also took place in 1567. To make matters worse, within months Mary married the Earl of Bothwell —the man her subjects claimed was Darnley’s murderer. Much of the importance of Horestes, then, is related to its role as a political allegory. Towards the close of the play, in fact, its political function is emphasised by Dewtey’s compliment to Elizabeth I. This allegorical figure asks the audience to pray “For Elyzabeth our Quene, whose gratious maiestie: / May rayne over us, in helth for aye” (ll. 1194-95). The play is noteworthy, however, not simply as a commentary on the political situation in Scotland in the late 1560s. Its use of classical figures and morality play allegories (Counsell, Nature and Fame to name but a few), its mixing of verse and song, and its employment of a multiple plot structure all add to the distinct nature of Horestes. Indeed, one might say that its true significance lies in its very hybridity. And whilst Horestes is obviously indebted to the mediaeval morality play tradition, it also keenly anticipates the drama of Shakespeare (especially Hamlet) and his contemporaries. These and related issues shall, therefore, be explored in this essay.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-76
    Number of pages12
    JournalSEDERI
    Volume14
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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