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Dangerous TalkScandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England$
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David Cressy

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199564804

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199564804.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 October 2021

Sins of the Tongue

Sins of the Tongue

(p.1) 1 Sins of the Tongue
Dangerous Talk

David Cressy

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the ‘sins of the tongue’ and restraints on political conversation. It contrasts prescriptions against meddling discourse with the recognition that plebeian speech was irrepressible. Post-Reformation England inherited some of the language and many of the concerns of early church fathers and medieval confessors about the ‘sins of the mouth’ and the ‘sins of the tongue’. These sins could damage reputations, set neighbor against neighbour, and undercut the authority of the crown. They became ‘crimes of the tongue’ when the state retaliated and its proceedings entered reports of spoken words into the written historical record. The worst culprits, by common account, were the vulgar masses. In practice, however, people talked all the time, and sometimes spoke out of turn. Consequently, there was no stopping the flow of commentary and opinion.

Keywords:   political conversation, Post-Reformation England, sins, speech, talk

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