Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation focuses on the use of funeral commemoration in religious and political controversies in early modern England. By examining the rhetoric used in funeral sermons and elegies, I show that commemorative writers use figural interpretation of the Bible to legitimize praise by linking the deceased to characters from scripture. Figural interpretation places the dead into a framework of ecclesiastical history and creates Protestant saints used as exempla in political and religious debates. This dissertation examines funeral sermons, elegies, and other commemorative poems written between 1558 and 1625. Chapter one discusses the development of figural interpretation in Elizabethan funeral sermons. By reading sermons by Edmund Grindal, Thomas Sparke, Matthew Parker, and William Barlow, I show that figural interpretation allows preachers to use funeral sermons as reformed counterparts to medieval cults of political saints. Chapter two examines elegies written by George Whetstone, Thomas Churchyard, John Phillips, Edmund Spenser, and Mary Sidney after Sir Philip Sidney’s death in 1586. These poets support military intervention on the continent against Roman Catholic States by using figural interpretation to represent Sidney as a martyr. Chapter three discusses commemoration as a polemical tool for militant Protestants in Elizabethan Ireland by discussing funeral sermons for three Lords Deputy of Ireland and Book V of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. Chapter four considers the commemoration of Prince Henry in 1612 and argues that poets George Wither, Joshua Sylvester, and Henry Peacham, and the preacher Daniel Price use biblical figurae of kings David and Josiah to represent Henry as a militant Protestant saint. I also show that John Donne uses figural interpretation in his elegy to advance an agenda of religious pacifism. Chapter five examines funeral sermons preached after James I’s 1625 death. I argue that militant Protestant preachers like Daniel Price and Phineas Hodson and conformist preachers like John Donne and James Williams used different sets of figurae to support their sides in the debate over ceremonies in the English church. The conclusion calls for further research on the role of commemoration in early modern England as a whole, and in Donne’s work in particular.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Anna Nardo