The 16th-century ‘true crime’ genre

Call me an unsophisticated lass from the colonies, but I still get a buzz from artistic crossing of the centuries, so I really enjoyed last night seeing a production The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham. Published in 1592, it closely follows the “true-life” crime of 1551.

I reviewed it over on My London Your London.

Of course the “true-life” angle is thought-provoking – I woke this morning thinking about poor Alice, the real-life one, who paid the ultimate price for “petty treason”, being burned alive.

And at least one modern writer, has exonerated her:

Thomas Ardern, Orlin shows, was a broker of dissolved monastic properties who learned the art from some of the age’s most rapacious courtier-officials, Sir Edward North (Alice Ardern’s stepfather) and Sir Thomas Cheyney. As Cheyney’s steward in Kent, and as a customs collector for the vicinity of Faversham, Arden was, much to his own advantage, deeply involved in the conveyance of church holdings into private and state hands. Memories were long in Kent: people knew whence Ardern’s wealth had come, and, perhaps more dangerously, Ardern knew whence had come the wealth of many others. I will not give away Orlin’s solution to Ardern’s murder; suffice it to say that among the possible motives for Ardern’s murder, those of his wile Alice were by no means the most urgent.

(From: Recent Studies in English Renaissance, Lawrence Manley; Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 36, 1996, referring to Lena Cowen Orlin’s Private Matters and Public Culture in Post-Reformation England.)

One comment

  • January 24, 2007 - 7:22 pm | Permalink

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