Forms of Authority in the Works of Mary Sidney Herbert and Philip Sidney

  • Martin Richard Foote

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores the works of Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney Herbert in order to interrogate how their works respond to authority, the different ways in which they challenge authority, and how authority passes from Sidney to Sidney Herbert. It examines the literary strategies she uses to draw upon his legacy. The thesis asserts that Sidney Herbert is not a passive beneficiary of this transfer of authority, but rather that it is made possible by her active involvement in fashioning her brother’s legacy after his death. Using feminist theory alongside new historicism, the thesis recognises the relationship between Sidney and Sidney Herbert as being crucial to the context in which their works were written. The thesis is representative of the recent reintroduction of Sidney to early modern studies, and by examining Sidney and Sidney Herbert together, it creates new insight to the dynamics of authority that informed their texts. The thesis is organised into four chapters which take a chronological approach to discussing four different areas of authority. The first chapter uses The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Sidney to explore the authority of the author. The second chapter uses Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella and Sidney Herbert’s translation of The Triumph of Death to explore Petrarchan authority. The third chapter uses Sidney Herbert’s The Tragedy of Antony, and her tribute poems, ‘The Doleful Lay of Clorinda’ and ‘To the Angel Spirit of the Most Excellent Sir Philip Sidney’, to explore the authority of legacy. Finally, the fourth chapter uses Sidney Herbert’s Psalm translations from The Sidney Psalter to explore religious authority. Throughout these four chapters the thesis will demonstrate the ways in which Sidney and Sidney Herbert disrupt authority, and how Sidney Herbert builds upon Sidney’s legacy to assert a new authority in the form of a strong moral voice used to convey ideas of Protestant Christianity.
    Date of Award8 Jan 2024
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorParaic Finnerty (Supervisor), Marion Wynne-Davies (Supervisor) & Katy Gibbons (Supervisor)

    Cite this