This essay analyzes a debate over the exegesis of two letters involving an allusion to Amadís de Gaula, amid the shift in Anglo-Spanish relations occurring in the winter of 1568–69. It argues that the Spanish ambassador Guerau de Spes’s Amadís allusion was more subtle and politically significant than has been recognized, and that the English censure of his text relied on the material circumstances in which it was read. This analysis sheds new light on how the English Privy Council read the Amadís allusion as both an oblique criticism of Elizabeth I and a libel against her secretary of state, William Cecil. As an unusually well-documented interpretive debate over topical allegory, this incident helps explain how both the existence and the procedure of literary censorship in early modern England remained contingent upon political, rhetorical, and material circumstances of production and reception in relation to perceived authorial intention.
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