Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




W. G. Roebuck


This thesis examines the literary genre of biblical verse paraphrase as practised in England between 1550 and 1640, and focuses on the social setting and function of such works from the last decade of Elizabeth's reign to the Civil War. The little attention that these works have received has generally been hampered by a desire to ascertain their poetic worth rather than recognize their historical importance. This thesis attempts to redress that tendency by considering the social conditions out of which these paraphrases arose: such aspects as the publication and patronage of them, and what part they played in a poet's career; whether that career was literary, courtly or clerical. Such an approach recognizes the paraphrases as religious, social and political, as well as poetic activities. It also examines the literary context of these paraphrases: that is, not only what part they played in the individual poetic career, but how they functioned in the development of sacred poetry in English. The thesis concludes that biblical verse paraphrase, especially in the reign of King James I, was recognized as a literary task of public as well as religious importance. The thesis proceeds by considering a broad range of paraphrasers, from such well-known poets as Michael Drayton, Thomas Middleton and John Donne, to many obscure ones, some of whose work has never reached print.

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