Imaginary Betrayals: Subjectivity and the Discourses of Treason in Early Modern England
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013 M05 29 - 224 páginas
In 1352 King Edward III had expanded the legal definition of treason to include the act of imagining the death of the king, opening up the category of "constructive" treason, in which even a subject's thoughts might become the basis for prosecution. By the sixteenth century, treason was perceived as an increasingly serious threat and policed with a new urgency. Referring to the extensive early modern literature on the subject of treason, Imaginary Betrayals reveals how and to what extent ideas of proof and grounds for conviction were subject to prosecutorial construction during the Tudor period. Karen Cunningham looks at contemporary records of three prominent cases in order to demonstrate the degree to which the imagination was used to prove treason: the 1542 attainder of Katherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, charged with having had sexual relations with two men before her marriage; the 1586 case of Anthony Babington and twelve confederates, accused of plotting with the Spanish to invade England and assassinate Elizabeth; and the prosecution in the same year of Mary, Queen of Scots, indicted for conspiring with Babington to engineer her own accession to the throne.
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And although prosecutors attempted to establish a definitive point of view—in Pierre Bourdieu's formulation, “to impose a universally recognized principle of knowledge on the social world” 2—they did not necessarily succeed.
... the loss of possessions on the part of the person found guilty and the “corrupting of his blood” (the disinheriting of his heirs) —the Crown might gain both political and real currency as a result of a prosecution.
... they could be interpreted as having malicious intent indirectly and the accused could be found guiltyoftreason.30 The kings lawyers justified these prosecutions in the late fifteenth century on the grounds of intention: such things ...
Words, then, might be the crime or they might be evidence of the crime in any given prosecution. What these trials illuminate is that in Tudor legal practice, what counted as an “overt act” was unpredictable and frequently turned.
5'3 Prosecutors, however, typically posited a gap between the speech of the accused and a truth embedded in his or her deviant heart, ... During the Ralegh prosecution, for example, Coke turned Ralegh's rhetorical skill into a sign ...
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