Background on Against Venemous Tongues

Connected Background



Introduction and Background to

The poem is taken from Marshe’s printing of Skelton’s Workes from 1568.

According to Scattergood, the date for the poem must be 1515 or 1516 when one follows the arguments of Edward’s who claims that “the phrases Oratoris Regis tertio, which he interprets as meaning ‘in the third year as orator royal,’ may provide evidence for dating the poem” (431). The induction of orator royal is deemed to have been in 1512 or 1513 which sets the date of the poem three years later. Moreover, the poem shows some clear similarities with Skelton’s major play Magnyfycence, which was probably written in 1515. Sandy Bardsley, however, indicates that Skelton wrote the poem in 1529. He provides no evidence for this conclusion (90).

According to Pollet, the poem refers to the anger of Wolsey to certain lords, “because they had so many men in a livery at the meeting of the Scotch Queen” (Scattergood 431). Edward argues that this poem must have been Skelton’s first attempt of anti-Wolseyan poetry whereas Jane Griffiths indicates that the poem is too cryptic and seems to have no specific personal aim (Schwartz-Leeper 24-25). As Schwartz-Leeper rightly states: “the key image in this category is servants’ livery; allegedly, Skelton contrasts the attention paid to the holy symbols on Wolsey’s servants’ livery with Wolsey’s lack of concern with his spiritual duties” (25).