Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: The First Blast of the Trumpet
  • Author: John Knox
  • Editor: Michael Best
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Editor: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The First Blast of the Trumpet


    John Knox (c. 1513-1572) was a passionate and vocal protestant, one of the founders of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women was published in 1558, and is specifically directed against the catholic rule by women in Scotland and England: Mary of Guise, Dowager Queen of Scotland, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Mary I of England. The title is rather misleading to modern eyes because Knox tended to be latinate in his use of vocabulary: monstrous means the slightly less extreme unnatural, and regiment means rule. Knox's polemic agains women in general became a problem for him when the protestant queen, Elizabeth I, came to the throne (in the same year the First Blast was published) and he lost influence as a result.

    King Lear was written and performed almost fifty years after the publication of the First Blast. Although Knox's views were even in his time extreme, they provide a useful backdrop to the situation faced by those in the kingdom as Lear passes on his power to his daughters. It is telling that as he announces his action after banishing Cordelia he does not address his daughters but their husbands:

    The sway,
    Revenue, execution of the rest,
    Beloved sons, be yours.
    (TLN 144-146)