In Campions Historie of Ireland (1571), Saint Edmund Campion describes Ireland as ‘an egge, blunt and plaine on the sides, not reaching forth to sea, in nooks and elbowes of Land, as Brittaine doth (Campion 1). He indicates that Ireland is a more perfect metonymic whole than the synecdochic Britain, which has ‘elbowes of land’ jutting into the sea. Ireland is desirable through being a pleasing egg-shape, while the noun ‘egge’ implies that it is a country in need of nurturing. However, it is also a country susceptible to invasion:
Leinster butteth upon England, Mounster and Connaght upon France and Spaine, Ulster upon the Scottish Llands (which face with Hebrides) scattered between both realms; wherein at this day, the Irish Scot Successour of the old Scythian Pict or Redshancke dwelleth. (Campion 4)
Ireland is portioned out according to the proximity of the closest countries, which demarcates boundaries. Campion claims Leinster contains ‘the fattest soyle’ and because it is on the east coast is ‘most open to receive helpe from England’ (Campion 5). Leinster is partially absorbed into English space, yet it is internalised by the presence of the ‘uncivill Irish and some rebels’ (5). Leinster is an enclosed space shared by both the English and Irish, which is denoted by the aggressive actions of the Irish rebels. Campion praises the innocence of the nascent English settlers. They settle ‘into a narrow circuite of certaine shires in Leinster’ that are ‘most defensible’ (Campion 5). The English are peaceful and civilised through desiring only a tiny part of Ireland, which is close to their home country so that the land is already practically English.
In order to encourage the English to settle in Ireland as part of the Elizabethan colonial campaign that had recently acquired the Munster plantation, Robert Payne in his Brife Description of Ireland (1589) sells Ireland as a place where ‘good knights and gentlemen of great worship’ can live comfortably (Payne 8). He minimises the threat from the ‘Kernes’ by stating they were mostly ‘slayne in the late warres’ (Payne 3). According to Payne, the colonisation of Ireland is practically complete, as most of the Irish ‘are very ciuill and honestly giuen’ (2). They mirror the ideal English citizen as they follow the same ‘lawes and gouernours as is in England’ (3). Payne transforms Ireland into a utopic space, where noble English gentleman can make money and enhance their social status. Furthermore, Queen Elizabeth I is absent as she is represented by a Lord Deputy. The allurement of living within a proper patriarchal society is implicit in Payne’s discourse. Ireland becomes a fatherland in relation to England as the mother country. In other words, the courtly love practice of professing undying love to the queen for patronage is replaced by pure colonial gain.
Five years after Payne’s utopic vision of Ireland being the ideal place for an English gentleman to live in, Richard Beacon in Solon His Follie, or A Politique Discourse, Touching the Reformation of common-weales conquered, declined or corrupted (1594) describes the country as an arena for violent conflict. Through a dialogue between Epimenides and Solon, Beacon allegorises the reformation of Ireland. He argues the rebellions in Ireland affect England through great expense, and that the Irish Lords will abuse their sovereignty to conspire ‘sundry treasons’ with France and Spain (Beacon 24). Beacon advocates using force and violence to subjugate the Irish in the manner of Lord Arthur Grey de Wilton and Sir Richard Bingham. The Irish need to be contained and controlled. In contrast to Payne, Beacon shows that there is a rigid dichotomy between the Irish and English.
In a tone of disbelief as he laments the Irish’s violence against the English, the anonymous author of The Supplication of the Blood of the English most Lamentably Murdered in Ireland, Cryeng out of the Yearth for Revenge (1598) considers the overall aim of Irish rebels ‘to thrust yore ma:tie from the possession of the throne’ (Anon 14). The Irish appear ungrateful for the queen’s generosity in sparing their lives, and providing ‘setled livinges in theire owne Contry’ (Anon 17). Elizabethan colonial practice in Ireland is seen without irony as beneficial to the uncivilised Irish, who continually take advantage of their benevolent neighbours. Like Beacon, The Supplication’s author recalls how the Irish were previously subdued by ‘noble progenitors’ or Kings ‘wth punishment, then wth reward; wth correction, then wth curteosie’ (Anon 25). He implies the Queen is too soft with the Irish and so recommends sterner measures. Her ‘princely love and motherly affection’ is out of place for such violent people, because the Irish are perceived as ‘monsters; whoe for one heade will yealde for the many’ (Anon 20 & 60). Their subversive nature is incestuously self-replicating through their bestiality. The savage Irish have no comprehension of ‘Motherly affection’. They are simply murderous multitudes who only understand the concept of violence. In The Supplication, Ireland is used to criticise the aging Queen in that the unruly Irish are indicative of her body politic as a whole. The criticism perhaps serves to motivate the Queen to take action.
Unsurprisingly, it transpires that the anonymous author of The Supplication of the Blood of the English most Lamentably Murdered in Ireland, Cryeng out of the Yearth for Revenge is a New English settler pleading for the Queen’s protection, and that she takes revenge for past rebellions. In other words, pre-empt Irish rebellion in order to ‘[l]ett them [the Irish rebels] see that the power of England is able as soddaynely to pull them down, as they were to lifte themselves up against yore aucthoritie’ (Anon 50). Elizabeth is to take the initiative in massacring the Irish before they can slaughter the New English settlers.
Anon. The Supplication of the Blood of the English most Lamentably Murdered in Ireland, Cryeng out of the Yearth for Revenge. 1598. Presented by Willy Maley. Analecta Hibernica. 36 (1995), 3-78.
Beacon, Richard. Solon His Follie, or A Politique Discourse, Touching the Reformation of common-weales conquered, declined or corrupted. Oxford: Joseph Barnes, 1594.
Payne, Robert. Brife Description of Ireland. London: Thomas Dawson, 1589.