Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English
(Im)politeness, social status, and roles in the Early Modern English courtroom: Your Lordship and traitor in high treason and ordinary criminal trials
This paper studies the influence of trial participants’ social status and role on the negotiation of (im)politeness in Early Modern English high treason and ordinary criminal trials. The data is drawn from the first two sub-periods of the trial section of A Corpus of English Dialogues 1560–1760 (CED), additional court records, which were both annotated socio-pragmatically to extend the SPC to the beginning of the Early Modern English period, i.e. 1560–1639, and the trial section of the Socio-Pragmatic Corpus 1640–1760 (SPC). The analysis of the concordance of your Lordship, a deferent form of address, and traitor, an epithet, gives insights into language use in different types of trials and shows a possible influence of the trial participants’ social status on the negotiation of (im)politeness in trial proceedings. This study presents authentic dialogues from the Early Modern English courtroom, which was characterised by formality and its own linguistic rules, and explores the influence of social status as a socio-pragmatic parameter on forms of address, epithets and on the role of trial participants. It discusses the results from the viewpoint of different types of trial proceedings and from the perspective of the Early Modern English society, which was based on a strict social code and defined by rules of socially accepted behaviour.
Studies on authentic and fictional dialogues in the history of English have generated a lot of attention and discussions among scholars within the last fifteen years. They cover a wide range of topics such as (im)politeness (Jucker and Taavitsainen 2000), orality (Kryk-Kastovsky 2000), apologies (Jucker and Taavitsainen 2008), and discourse markers (Lutzky 2012) by focusing either on single genres such as plays (Demmen 2009) and trial proceedings (Archer 2005), or diverse genres (Walker 2007).
This paper focuses on authentic dialogues in the Early Modern English (EModE) courtroom, which functions as a micro-cosmos with different linguistic rules and a strict formality compared to the macro-cosmos, the EModE society. It investigates the influence of trial participants’ social status and role on (im)polite language use in this micro-cosmos (courtroom) and explores how the various participants negotiate (im)politeness in different trial proceedings, high treason trials (HTTs) and ordinary criminal trials (OCTs). So far empirical studies have focused on verbal interactions between members of the court and other trial participants. They investigated mainly the choice of language (formal, informal, polite, or impolite) or forms of address (titles, honorifics, the pronouns you and thou) (e.g. Walker 2007) without focusing on the influence of different trial proceedings or political and religious issues.
The data of this study is based on the trial section of the first two sub-periods (1560–1639) of A Corpus of English Dialogues 1560-1760 (CED), additional records which I have annotated socio-pragmatically, and the trial section of the Socio-Pragmatic Corpus 1640-1760 (SPC), a sub-corpus of the CED.  The new socio-pragmatically annotated records extend the SPC to the beginning of the EModE period, i.e. 1560-1639. As a result, further investigations regarding the influence of social status/role on verbal behaviour (polite/impolite) in the historical courtroom from the 16th to the 18th century are possible.
In particular, this study explores the use of your Lordship, a deferent form of address, and traitor, an epithet, in HT and OCTs by focusing on trial participants’ social status and role. A quantitative analysis examines the frequency and contexts of both forms of address in the different trial proceedings, while the qualitative analysis explores in relation to extra-linguistic information the use of your Lordship and traitor in HTTs. The main aim of the latter is to investigate a possible influence of the participants’ social status outside the courtroom (rank, political position) on their role and power position in the courtroom and as a result on their negotiation of (im)polite language in EModE trial proceedings.
The discussion of what politeness is, how it can be defined, how it can be distinguished from impoliteness and rudeness, or how these terms are connected to power has been an ongoing debate among scholars for the last twenty years (e.g. Brown and Levinson 1987; Locher and Bousfield 2008: 1ff.; Nevala 2010: 421ff.). In general, utterances which obey politeness rules will be perceived as polite in contrast to impolite utterances and rude remarks, i.e. remarks which are made by withholding politeness intentionally. However, the questions how to define these rules and who perceives them have generated diverse approaches to (im)politeness including Brown and Levinson’s concept of face (1987), the first and second-order politeness model (Watts et al. 1992), relational face work models (Spencer-Oatey 2008), and discursive approaches (cf. Bom & Mills 2015).
Brown and Levinson’s model focuses on the concept of face, which is connected with the ”notion of being embarrassed or humiliated, or ‘losing face’”. Therefore, “face is something that is emotionally invested”, it can be “lost, maintained, or enhanced, and must be constantly attended to in interaction” (Brown and Levinson 1987: 61f.). Their model comprises the concept of positive and negative face and face wants. Positive face is “the positive consistent self-image or personality”, whereas negative face is “the right to be non-restricted in action and in personal integrity” (Brown and Levinson 1987: 61f.). Both types of face are constantly endangered due to face-threatening acts (FTAs), which led them to discuss five politeness strategies to avoid or diminish face threats (Brown and Levinson 1987: 60; see also Kasper 1996: 4). As Jucker (2008: 7) points out, their “view of politeness as a redress to a face threat” is the departing point for many later developed approaches to (im)politeness.
However, Brown and Levinson’s concept of face as the methodological starting point for politeness theories has been criticised due to its universality claim and focus on the speaker’s intention. As Jucker (2012: 44) argues, “it is problematic to focus on single utterances and to assign politeness values to them on the basis of some linguistic forms that are used in these utterances”. As a result, their model has been gradually replaced in favour of relational face work (Spencer-Oatey 2008) and discursive approaches to politeness.
The distinction between first and second-order politeness, introduced by Watts et al. (1992), is determined by the evaluation and perception of members of a social group (politeness1) or by a theoretical concept regarding “social behaviour and language usage” (politeness2) (Watts et al. 1992 : xx; cf. Locher and Bousfield 2008: 5; Watts 2003: 9; Watts 2010). Second-order politeness models use lay-persons’ “judgements about behaviour”, such as impolite, rude, polite, polished, which were made “according to the norms of their particular discursive practice” and “consider them on a theoretical level” (Locher and Bousfield 2008: 5). Nevertheless, it is important that a judgement will be made with “the norms of the particular discursive community in mind” (Locher and Bousfield 2008:7).
With regard to the EModE period, it seems that (im)politeness is “encoded in speech” and that certain linguistic forms may signal either a polite or impolite function (im/politeness marker) of an utterance or exchange. For example, a request may be initiated by the phrases I pray you or I beg leave, an accusation by I accuse you, or an apology by pardon me for. In other words, particular phrases (word clusters, lexical bundles, multi-word-combinations) designate particular speech acts (Culpeper and Kytö 2010: 103; cf. Culpeper and Kytö 2002; Demmen 2009). Therefore diverse forms of address, such as honorifics, terms of address (Sir, your Lordship, etc.), insults (sirrah, traitor etc.), conventional or formulaic expressions (thank you, excuse me, I pray you, etc.) or other speech acts, e.g. apologies (Eelen 2001: 35; Jucker and Taavitsainen 2008: 242) often function as a starting point when investigating (im)politeness. However, as Jucker (2012: 47) states, “it is the interplay between the intrinsic politeness value of the linguistic forms and the discursive contexts in which they are used which decides whether an utterance comes across as interactionally appropriate, as impolite or rude, or as excessively over-polite and perhaps ironic”.
Therefore, I will apply discursive approaches, Brown and Levinson’s notion of face (1987), and Watts’ politic behaviour (1992) to the data to gain a more comprehensive picture of the negotiation of (im)politeness between trial participants in different types of trials. The data for this study are drawn from the trial section of the extended SPC (1560–1760) and it investigates the use of the deferent form of address your Lordship and the epithet traitor, as two ends of a scale of options when addressing someone in trial. This is in particular important for the investigation of a possible influence of extra-linguistic parameters such as social status, political and religious issues on (im)polite language use.
In the EModE period, social status played an essential role in society and influenced the verbal behaviour in day-to-day life, for example regarding the use of terms of address, titles of courtesy or occupational address forms. In this macro-cosmos, social status and someone’s social role in society or in a certain social group were defined generally by wealth, occupation, gender, and birth. However, a “gentleman” belonged neither to a legally defined group nor to a homogeneous social class. Members of the gentry were distinguished by different kinds of titles, heritable or not, their legal privileges as well as a possible parliamentary status. This social class comprised different groups such as peers (e.g. Dukes, Earls, Viscounts, etc.), gentry proper (e.g. Baronets, Knights), and parish gentlemen such as Esquires (Wrightson 2004: 31).
The large social group of non-gentry included e.g. yeomen, labourers, servants, artificers, and the poor. The group of the professions, the third most important social class, was defined by occupation and/or a connection to a city. Originally lawyers, clergymen, and doctors represented the group of professions, but the boundaries between all social groups started to change and became fuzzy during the EModE period. The ability of upward and downward social mobility made the social order dynamic and changed the perception of the different social classes over time (Wrightson 2004: 36ff; Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 2003: 33ff.).
Nevertheless, society was ruled by a strict code which defined socially accepted behaviour based on honour, reputation and courtesy, and this behaviour was judged continuously by one’s peers (Whigham 1983: 631). This politic behaviour, i.e. “behaviour, linguistic and non-linguistic, which the participants construct as being appropriate to the ongoing social interaction” (Watts 2003: 21), marks the central point between impolite and polite behaviour, i.e. behaviour which is “marked by the speech community as being more than merely politic” (Watts 1992: 51). Therefore, the main goal was “to purchase worthy prayse of their inferiours and estimation and credit amonge theyr betters” (Robson qtd. in Peltonen 2003: 35). According to Early Modern courtesy manuals, impolite behaviour expresses dishonour and causes affronts, while lies and slanderous speech are able to ruin someone’s reputation (Peltonen 2003: 38ff.; cf. Culpeper 2016). As a result, honour, courtesy, and civility defined the perceptions of (im)polite linguistic behaviour, i.e. these factors defined its first order politeness.
However, these socially accepted rules, which were connected with a certain linguistic (im)polite behaviour, may not have applied fully in the courtroom during trials. In these situations the courtroom functions as a micro-cosmos with its own linguistic rules, courtroom specific behaviour, and conventions. In addition to their social role in the EModE society, people are given a role in the courtroom, e.g. as defendant, judge, prosecutor, in different types of trials (OC or HTTs). With their given roles they were placed into an institutional setting in which they were confronted with formulaic language in form of fixed legal phrases and a rigid turn-taking system or as Lakoff (1990: 95) puts it, with “the non-reciprocity in court and a form of communication which contrasts their familiar conversational activity”.
In HTTs, many defendants, e.g. the Duke of Norfolk (1571/72), the Earl of Essex (1600), as well as judges and prosecutors (Queen’s/King’s counsel), e.g. Sir Edward Coke, Sir Francis Bacon, were members of the nobility/gentry and well known members of the society. In OCTs (felony/misdemeanour), judges and prosecutors were usually part of the gentry, while defendants were often labourers, yeomen or professionals. On rare occasions the defendants were members of the nobility: for example Lady Frances Somerset and Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset were tried for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury (1616).
In the EModE period, defendants had to be tried by their social equals in both HT and OCTs. The main idea was that a defendant should be tried by “twelve of his equals and neighbours, indifferently chosen, and superior to all suspicion” (Blackstone, 1769 , 4: 343). In OCTs, jurors were supposed to hear numerous cases within a very short period, while in cases of HT, defendants were usually tried before ad hoc commissions, specially selected judges and jurors. The main reason was, apart from using jurors and judges according to the defendant’s social status, to prosecute the “enemy of the state” before all eyes. The “King’s/Queen’s learned counsel”, which prosecuted the defendants, consisted in the Elizabethan and Stuart time of the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and a Serjeant-at-law (or the Attorney General and two Serjeants-at-law) (Bellamy 1979: 146; Langbein 1978: 266f.).
To comprehend the influence of socio-pragmatic parameters on word choice, use of (im)polite language, and register, it is important to understand the seriousness, perception, and context of HTTs in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, most people perceived HT as “a crime against God and man, [as] the worst of crimes which comprised all other crimes” (Clark 1967: 104). This belief was motivated by the threat that the order of the state and the Queen’s/King’s life were endangered due to HT or as Blackstone (1769 , 4: 75) puts it:
As this is the highest civil crime, which […] any man can possibly commit, it ought therefore to be the most precisely ascertained. For if the crime of high treason be indeterminate, this alone […] is sufficient to make any government degenerate into arbitrary power.
The seriousness of this offence is closely connected to the defendant’s social status. In many famous cases, the defendants were members of the gentry or nobility, courtiers, or former favourites of the monarch, e.g. the Earl of Essex, and, therefore, part of the inner royal social circle. They had a privileged position in society (macro-cosmos), which enabled them to plot against the monarch, to raise armies, and to endanger the kingdom.
Example (1) is taken from the Attorney General’s (Sir Edward Coke) speech to the court in the Trial of Robert Earl of Essex and Henry Earl of Southampton (1600) and states the definition of HT in the Elizabethan period.
According to Hammer (2007: 109f.), a “rudimentary public sphere” emerged in Elizabethan England, caused by public challenges regarding at first merely religious matters, but later also political opposition and Elizabeth’s legitimate right to the English throne (cf. Lake and Questier 2000). Therefore, HT committed by members of the nobility, for example by Robert Essex who was an Earl by birth and Elizabeth’s favourite at court, was regarded as an attack on the stability of the government and the public sphere. The state in the Elizabethan time tried to preserve its legitimate claim to the English throne and needed the support of the English aristocracy. Therefore, any kind of high treasonable actions had to be ended quickly and the culprits had to be prosecuted severely. In such cases the aim of the government and the prosecution was to present the defendant’s actions in rather drastic ways to the public.
The data of this study, which will be referred to in the following as SPC 1560-1760, are based on six trials from sub-periods E1 and E2 of A Corpus of English Dialogues 1560–1760 (CED) and four new HT trial texts, which I annotated socio-pragmatically.   Additionally, I used the 16 court records from periods E3 to E5 (1640–1760) of the Socio-Pragmatic Corpus (SPC), a specialised sub-section of the CED.  Culpeper and Archer (2007: 8f.) used a socio-pragmatic annotation scheme which identifies the speaker’s gender, age, role, and status/social rank in each text. This scheme of the SPC was devised by Culpeper and Archer “to interface with four fields – namely, historical linguistics, pragmatics, corpus linguistics and sociolinguistics” (Archer 2005: 106). Their goal was to create a tagging system that could be employed in particular for socio-pragmatic analyses (Culpeper and Archer 2007: 6). The following field tags and their possible values present an overview of their scheme:
Example (2), drawn from the HT Trial of Anthony Babington, etc. (1586), presents the annotation system for an utterance by Judge Sir Christopher Hatton to one of the defendants (John Savage). According to the tag fields and values, the following passage provides the information given below:
With this information included in the turn-by-turn annotation, it is possible to immediately know the social status, age and gender for all speakers and addressees, as well as their role in the trial. For the analysis I chose your Lordship, a deferent form of address, and traitor, an epithet, as two ends of a scale of options when addressing someone in a trial. The second person pronoun you signified deference and negative politeness and was used in particular in combination with titles such as Lord, Lordship, and Grace as well as with honorifics, e.g. Honour (Walker 2007: 281). The deferential form of address your Lordship mirrors the formality and hierarchy of the EModE courtroom, while the epithet traitor, i.e. someone “who betrays any person that trusts him, or any duty entrusted to him; a betrayer” (OED: traitor, n.), reflects the seriousness of the offence HT in EModE trial proceedings.
In this study, I used the software WordSmith to extract the concordance of your Lordship and traitor from the SPC files and to investigate for each example the speaker’s role, the addressee, their social status and the type of trial, HT or OCT. Moreover, I examined the attestation of these forms by looking at their use as a term of address, a term of reported speech, or a term of reference. In the qualitative analysis, I explored the context in which your Lordship and traitor were used by applying Watts’ notion of politic behaviour (1992), Brown and Levinson’s politeness concept (1987), and by investigating it on a discursive level.
The following analysis focuses on the deferent form of address your Lordship. Its diachronic development in the SPC shows an increase of the weighted frequency from 0.15 (E1) to 0.73 (E4) followed by a sharp drop to 0.22 in E5. The decrease is closely connected with the introduction of defence counsels at the end of the 17th century. Before that time defendants had to defend themselves during the trial. The barristers who took over the defence belonged usually to the rank of professions. Figure 1 shows the frequency of your Lordship in the five sub-periods of the SPC according to the role of the various trial participants, e.g. defendants, witnesses, Attorney General, regardless of their social status. These attestations present your Lordship as a term of address used by trial participants in the courtroom.
The results show that in the SPC your Lordship was used frequently by defendants and defence counsels to address other trial participants in E1 to E5, followed by the Attorney/Solicitor General’s use. In sub-periods 2 and 4, two peaks occur caused by two specific trials. In the Trial of Robert Earl of Essex and Henry Earl of Southampton 1600 (E2) the defendants, both Earls by birth, used your Lordship 10 times which corresponds to a weighted frequency of 0.41 (Essex 7 tokens, Southampton 3 tokens). In sub-period 4, 14 (0.36) out of 28 attestations (0.42) of your Lordship are attested in the Trial of Francis Francia (1716); they are distributed between the defence counsel (8 tokens), the Attorney General (4 tokens), one witness (1 token), and the defendant (1 token).
Overall, in the SPC defendants/defence counsels used your Lordship as a term of address 45 times, usually to communicate with members of the court, e.g. the Attorney/Solicitor General, the Lord High Stewart, the Peers, or the Judges, which mirrors the power positions of the trial participants in the EModE courtroom. With regard to the Attorney/Solicitor General, who was usually a member of the Queen’s/King’s counsel, your Lordship was used most frequently in E3 (0.24) and decreases to a weighted frequency of 0.03 by the fifth 5th period. Witnesses used your Lordship only infrequently to address the Judge, as Figure 1 shows, while the Attorney/Solicitor General used it to address the judge, witnesses, the Lord High Stewart, and sometimes the defendant.
The results of a further analysis suggest that with regard to social class, speakers from the gentry used your Lordship with 4 density of 0.17 (26 tokens), followed by the professions (20 tokens, 0.13), and the nobility (12 tokens, 0.08). With the introduction of defence counsels into HT and OCTs at the end of the 17th century your Lordship a formulaic address term decreases. Considering that the peak in sub-period 4 is caused by a specific trial, the results indicate a change in address terms by the 5th sub-period. In the class of the gentry, the majority of attestations (18 out of 26) of your Lordship can be attributed to the Attorney/Solicitor General, while defendants from the gentry did not use it repeatedly.
With regard to different kinds of trials, your Lordship was more frequently used in HTTs (89.5 percent), while in OCTs your Lordship may have been rather infrequent (10.5 percent). In HTTs, defendants from the rank of the nobility address other trial participants most frequently (11 attestations, 0.10) with your Lordship. After the introduction of defence counsel, an even higher density of your Lordship (0.12) can be found in the group of barristers from the rank of professions, while defence counsels from the gentry show a much lower attestation (0.04). Although witnesses could belong to any social class in HT and OCTs, their social rank was often similar to the defendant’s. In OCTs, speakers from all social classes used your Lordship infrequently; the highest density (0.10) of your Lordship can be found when defence counsels from the rank of professions address other trial participants. Overall, the results indicate that in both kinds of trials defendants and later defence counsels used formulaic language more often than other trial participants. So far, the quantitative analysis suggests that both the power position in the courtroom and the kind of trial had influence on word choice.
The EModE courtroom was governed by strict legal language and formality. However, the strict social behaviour code and the importance of social status which dominated the EModE society, i.e. the macro-cosmos, did not prevent impoliteness and verbal insults in the courtroom. For example, in this study the epithet traitor, i.e. someone “who betrays any person that trusts him, or any duty entrusted to him; a betrayer” (OED: traitor, n.), was found exclusively in HTTs. Table 2 presents the overall occurrence of traitor in HTTs in the five sub-periods of the SPC.
Table 2 shows 34 attestations of traitor/traytor (32 traitor, 2 traytor) in the five sub-periods of the SPC. The highest density of the term traitor (61.8 percent, 21 attestations) can be found in E2, followed by 26.5 percent (9 attestations) in the first period of the SPC (E1 1560–1599). In E3 (1640–1679), traitor occurs rather infrequently (8.8 percent, 3 attestations) and seems to have almost disappeared in the fourth (2.9 percent, 1 attestation) and fifth time periods (no attestation) of the SPC. Moreover, all 34 attestations of the epithet traitor can be found exclusively in 10 HTTs. It is important to note that in E2 19 out of 22 attestations of traitor occur in the Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh (1603) and only 3 in the Trial of Robert Earl of Essex (1600).
However, not all attestations of traitor functioned as terms of address between members of the court and defendants. Figure 1 presents the different functions of traitor in the SPC.
Figure 1 shows that traitor with a weighted frequency of 0.06 was used frequently as a term of address in the SPC. In all these cases, a member of the court addresses the defendant, usually from the nobility or gentry, as traitor with the intention to offend. In example (3), drawn from the Trial of Robert Earl of Essex and Henry Earl of Southampton (1600), the Attorney General Sir Edward Coke offends the defendant Robert Earl of Essex, by referring to him as traitor.
The offence of HT is closely connected with betrayal, and the Attorney General therefore stresses the difference between him (an honest man) and the defendant (a traitor) with the intention to offend. In example (3), Coke as a member of the gentry uses his power position in the courtroom to offend publicly the defendant Essex, a member of the nobility. Coke displays that Essex has violated the moral code. In the SPC, traitor as a term of address collocates frequently with adjectives such as notorious, execrable and their superlatives, e.g. absolutest. Similar collocations, e.g. false traitor, notorious traitor, can also be found, when traitor is used in the indictment, where it appears with a density of 0.03. With 4 attestations and a density of 0.03, defendants use traitor to refer to themselves, either as part of a confession and asking for mercy or as part of their defence.
When traitor is used in reported speech, usually by members of the court or in depositions read in court, it is often combined with exclamations such as Oh or in combination with expressions such as Oh villain. The highest density of traitor (0.08) can be found in its function as a term of reference. In most of these cases, a member of the court refers to the defendant as traitor, e.g. the Attorney General in his speech to the court, but occasionally defendants use traitor, e.g. to discredit witnesses. Traitor as a term of reference also occurs regarding a legal topic discussed during the trial, but this kind of utterance is always closely connected with the defendant in the trial.
Traitor in its plural form occurs 13 times in the SPC, usually in the indictment when more than one defendant is part of the HTT (7 attestations), in its function as a term of reference (5 attestations) and one time as a term of address in the Trial of Anthony Babington (1586) in the form “[…] in not fearing such Traitors as thou art”. Overall, in the SPC traitor occurs more frequently as a term of reference (38.2 percent) than as a term of address (26.4 percent); in the latter case it is used to offend the defendant directly, in particular with its collocates notorious, or execrable. With regard to social classes, members of the court use this epithet to a higher extent than defendants, even when the latter are of higher social rank.
For the qualitative analysis of the influence of social status and role on (im)politeness in the EModE courtroom, I have chosen passages from two HTTs: Trial of Robert Earl of Essex and Henry Earl of Southampton (1600) and the Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh (1603). The results of the quantitative analysis have shown that your Lordship, a deferent form of address,occurs more often in HTTs than OCTs, while traitor occurs exclusively in HTTs. As a result, the text samples for the qualitative analysis are drawn from HTTs, whose defendants have similar social roles in the macro-cosmos, i.e. members of the nobility/gentry and courtiers. I will investigate the negotiation of (im)politeness between trial participants in these texts by applying Brown and Levinson’s notion of face (1987), Watts’ concept of politic behaviour (1992) as well as a discursive approach (cf. Jucker 2012) to these samples.
Example (4) is drawn from the Trial of Robert Earl of Essex and Henry Earl of Southampton (1600). Both defendants are members of the nobility and accused of HT. In this passage the defendant (Essex) addresses the Attorney General, Sir Edward Coke, and threatens the face of three people, one of them being a member of the Jury, Lord Henry Cobham (11th Baron Cobham).
Essex addresses Sir Edward Coke using his title Mr. Attorney as well as my Lord and your Lordship, which is a negative politeness strategy (cf. Brown and Levinson 1987). When applying Watts’ concept of politic behaviour (1992) to the EModE period, the socially accepted form between a member of the gentry (Coke) and a member of the nobility would be my Lord. Your Lordship, as a form of address which was used in the courtroom as well as in society, indicates in this case a form which goes beyond politic behaviour and therefore can be considered as polite (cf. Watts 1992: 51f.).
Essex also uses negative politeness strategies when forming a request. The phrase let me intreat you is similar to the expressions I beseech you/I pray you. These phrases show the speaker’s wish that the addressee either do something or, like in this case, grant the freedom to make a statement and/or an accusation. According to Jucker (2011: 191), “these forms are speaker based. A request constitutes a threat to the addressee’s negative face since it imposes on his or her freedom. The speaker-based forms justify the imposition with the speaker’s sincere wish”. In this case, Essex takes over his defence and changes his role from a defendant who answers questions to someone who takes the lead during the interrogation. He suggests that Coke should think about the testimony of the witnesses who accuse him of being a traitor.
On a discursive level, Essex openly attacks Coke’s reputation as Attorney General by suggesting that the earlier witness depositions should be paraphrased to be in agreement with Coke’s and probably the court’s preferred opinion of the events when he points out: the self-same Examiner, may make these several Examinations agree all in one, were they never so far distant. Moreover, Essex threatens the face of three people in his utterance, Cobham (Lord Henry Cobham, 11th Baron Cobham), Cecil (Lord Robert Cecil, Secretary of State), and Raleigh (Sir Walter Raleigh). He indicates that all three gave false testimony to Queen Elizabeth I. and therefore were responsible for his situation. He explains his visit to the Queen with the intention ”to have put our selves unto her Mercy”, and denies false motives. He accuses these three men of dishonesty, when he says: “[they] abus’d her Majesty’s Ears with false Informations”. With the accusation of slander he suggests that they had broken the social norms they were supposed to follow in the macro-cosmos, i.e. the EModE society. It is important to note that all three men, Cobham, Raleigh, and Cecil were present during the trial. Therefore, Essex threatens them in front of the court and tries to discredit their loyalties in the eyes of the Queen. This was in particular true for Cecil, who was Secretary of State and one of Elizabeth’s trusted advisers. The main dispute between Cecil and Essex in the macro-cosmos concerned foreign policy and in particular Essex’s accusations that Cecil supported the Spanish claim to the English throne.
In the following example (5), Cobham replies to Essex’s accusations.
Cobham, in the role of a member of the Jury, addresses Essex with my Lord of Essex, which is a negative politeness strategy (cf. Brown and Levinson 1987). When applying Watts’ concept of politic behaviour (1992) to the EModE courtroom, it is also the socially accepted form between members of the same status and approximately the same age. Cobham also uses the request “let me know” followed by another negative face threat “I intreat you” to demand an explanation from Essex regarding his earlier accusations of slander and disloyalty.
On a discursive level, Cobham’s request is a form of defence against slanderous language in front of the court. When applying Brown and Gilman’s model of power and solidarity (1960) to the EModE period, it is evident that Essex’s role as defendant should have been less powerful than the role of a peer or even the Secretary of State (Cecil) in the courtroom. However, Essex tries evoking his powerful social and political position as an Earl by birth to enhance his role as a defendant and accused traitor. Essex was a courtier and Queen Elizabeth’s personal favourite, which gave him additional power in the EModE society, and his speech acts can be considered as an attempt at transferring this power to the micro-cosmos of the courtroom. As a result, he, for instance, tried to attack Cobham, Cecil and Raleigh’s honour and “good name”, as shown in example (4).
The next passage (6) is drawn from the Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh (1603), who was accused of HT, and presents the verbal interaction between the defendant (Raleigh) and the Attorney General (Sir Edward Coke). Both participants are members of the gentry and approximately the same age.
Coke replies to a previous statement by Raleigh (“You tell me News I never heard of.”) with the question “Oh Sir, do I?”, which indicates Coke’s disbelief regarding Raleigh’s utterance, followed by phrases such as I will prove you and I will charge you. These phrases threaten the defendant’s face, in particular when he combines them with the epithet traitor and the adjective notorious used as a superlative. At the same time, they show Coke’s anger at Raleigh’s request to prove the accusations against him, despite the polite term of address Sir and the pronoun you. When applying Watts’ concept of politeness (1992) to Coke’s language use, the Attorney General as a social equal should have used politic language in interaction with the defendant. Moreover, the formality of the EModE courtroom and its trial proceedings contrasts with Coke’s open hostility towards Raleigh. In the macro-cosmos such language use between members of the gentry would be considered as rude and insulting, despite the polite terms of address you and Sir. When applying Brown and Gilman’s model of power and solidarity (1960) to this period, the power imbalance of the trial participants is in favour of the Attorney General compared to the weaker defendant’s role in the trial. While Coke’s language use is allowed by his role as Attorney General (cf. Archer 2008: 195f.) in the historical courtroom, this utterance can be seen as an example of exerting his power over the defendant to intimidate him. At the same time, it is important to note that Coke had a personal dislike of Raleigh, which he displayed openly in court.
Moreover, Coke accuses Raleigh of being the leader of the so-called Main-plot (in imitation of the earlier Bye-plot) and emphasises this belief by using the combination pronoun you + title Sir + full name Walter Raleigh when addressing the defendant.  Coke uses this overly polite form to stress his powerful position as Attorney General and to show his anger and his belief in Raleigh’s guilt. He indicates further that it was Raleigh’s intention to murder King James I. and to “alter Religion”. As a result, England would have been catholic and under the sovereignty of the Spanish King. Thus, Coke presents here the two things that people feared most in this period.
This study provides innovative insights into the micro-cosmos of the historical courtroom and the ways in which (im)politeness was negotiated in different types of trials, in particular in the late Elizabethan and early Stuart time. With the expansion of the SPC to the beginning of the EModE period, the socio-pragmatically annotated trial records offer an understanding of the connections between the negotiation of (im)politeness in different types of trials, the social role of the trial participants as well as the political and historical context in this period. By applying politeness models such as Brown and Levinson’s (1987), Watts’ first and second order concept (1992) but also discursive approaches to these court records, the study shows the different functions of traitor in HTTs and the use of the deferent form of address your Lordship in different types of trials (HTTs and OCTs). Moreover, it presents the connection between the social status in the EModE society (macro-cosmos) and the negotiation of (im)politeness in the courtroom (micro-cosmos). While in the macro-cosmos social status was the departure point for any kind of (im)politeness negotiation, in the micro-cosmos of the historical courtroom the trial participants’ role and in particular the type of trial are crucial. The verbal behaviour in the courtroom differed from the socially accepted norms of the macro-cosmos in so far as HTTs were political trials and dealt with a more serious offence than OCTs.
The analysis of your Lordship, a deferent form of address,and traitor, an epithet, in the EModE courtroom shows that your Lordship mirrors the formality and power situation of the courtroom, shaping our understanding of the EModE society, while traitor contrasts this concept. Firstly, all attestations of traitor are in HTTs, while your Lordship can be found in both types of trials, but in OCTs to a lower extent than in HTTs. Secondly, traitor has different functions; it occurs as a form of address, usually to offend, as a term of reference, in reported speech, in defendants’ utterances referring to themselves, and in the indictment. In the latter, the formality of the legal proceedings is linked with the seriousness of the offence by using adjectives such as false, e.g. another false traitor in this Conspiracy. Thirdly, only members of the court use traitor as a form of address, despite the social class of the defendant. However, defendants also use traitor in a similar way, by referring to witnesses and other defendants to discredit their liability and to evoke their weaker position in the trial. In other cases, personal dislike led the prosecution to address the defendant with traitor, often in combination with adjectives such as notorious, horrible or absolute, e.g. in the Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh.
Your Lordship as a polite form of address was frequently used in HTTs by defendants and defence counsels to address members of the court, while it was less frequent in the OCTs of the SPC. In periods E1 to E3, defendants were supposed to defend themselves without any legal help in both HTTs and OCTs, i.e. in cases of felony. The results of the SPC show that defendants who used your Lordship in these time spans belonged to the aristocracy. Other trial participants, such as witnesses, used your Lordship only infrequently. The results display that your Lordship is more often attested in HTTs than in OCTs, in particular to address members of the court but also occasionally defendants. Moreover, the diachronic development of your Lordship as formulaic language shows a decrease over time, which points probably to a change of address terms. The two peaks in sub-periods 2 and 4 are due to specific trials. Although your Lordship is a deferent term of address, it occurs in combination with accusations, slanderous language, and face threats.
Finally, in many HTTs, but also in some OCTs, the defendants belonged to the aristocracy, which brought social class as an extra-linguistic factor of influence into the trial proceedings. In both kinds of trials members of the gentry and the nobility are closely connected through wealth, social and political influence as well as power. While OCTs dealt with crimes of violence (e.g. murder), HTTs were political trials and perceived as a crime against God, the God given order of the King or Queen, and in particular against the own social class. Therefore, these trials were more emotionally charged and more expressive terms, such as traitor, are attested compared to OCTs.
 Trial of Anthony Babington (1586), Trial of Edward Abbington (1586), Trial of Robert Earl of Essex and Henry Earl of Southampton (1600), Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh (1603). The texts were drawn from the State Trials (1730) as well as from manuscript collections of the British Library. [Go back up]
 “This so-called Bye plot had as its objective the kidnapping of King James, the intention being to hold him hostage against an end to persecution of Catholics and a removal of ministers identified with Elizabethan repression.” (Nicholls, Mark: “George Brooke (1568–1603)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online. Oxford University Press: doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3541 [Go back up]
CED = A Corpus of English Dialogues 1560–1760. 2006. Compiled under the supervision of Merja Kytö (Uppsala University) and Jonathan Culpeper (Lancaster University). http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/CoRD/corpora/CED/index.html
SPC = Sociopragmatic Corpus. 2007. Annotated under the supervision of Jonathan Culpeper (Lancaster University). A derivate of A Corpus of English Dialogues 1560–1760, compiled under the supervision of Merja Kytö (Uppsala University) and Jonathan Culpeper (Lancaster University).
State Trials = A complete collection of state-trials and proceedings upon high-treason, and other misdemeanours; from the reign of King Richard II. to the end of the reign of King George I., 6 Vols. London 1730.
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