The career of an early Tudor poet
John Skelton (c.1460–1529) wrote poetry and some prose, in Latin and English, for almost forty years, circulating his work through manuscript copies and the new medium of print. He was both a priest and a court writer: he was attached to Henry VIII and wrote much at ‘the kinges most noble commaundement’. His work deals in praise and blame, the ethical poetic of the Middle Ages: he wrote to promote the good of his country and the moral well-being of the individual. But within these limits, his work addresses a wide variety of subjects – English relations with France and Scotland, the internal politics of the Tudor court and the ambitions of Cardinal Wolsey, heresy and the threats of Lutheransim – in an astonishing variety of genres and forms. This book traces both the course of his public career and his developing personal concerns as he restlessly sought to express ideas which were politically relevant and effective in ways which were also aesthetically satisfying.
John Scattergood is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Emeritus), Trinity College Dublin and pro-chancellor of the University of Dublin. His latest book is Occasions for writing: essays on medieval and Renaissance literature, politics and society (2010), and he is preparing a new edition of his John Skelton: the complete English poems (1983).
Below is a video by the Skelton Project, giving a Middle English reading of John Skelton's poem "Speke Parrot":