Merchants and the medieval mirror
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] My dissertation examines the representation of merchants in late medieval poems inspired by mirrors for princes. The mirror was a genre that had an explicitly stated purpose of educating a young monarch in which the author gave the king advice on anything from how to care for his body to how to treat his subjects, providing him with a "mirror" in which he could see the reflection of a proper ruler. Although most critics discuss these texts in relation to monarchical politics, I argue that the late medieval mirror was appropriated to promote the interests of the urban mercantile elite. In contrast to the small role given to merchants in mirrors, such as the widely-read Secretum Secretorum, a number of fourteenth and fifteenth-century poets drew on the genre of mirrors but attributed special attention to merchants. My dissertation argues that in Chaucer's Merchant's Tale, Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes, and Lydgate's Fall of Princes merchants are used to model kingly virtues. By mapping monarchical characteristics onto merchants, these late medieval texts promoted an urban hierarchy.
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