The only achievement of Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville in drama consists of their collaboration on Gorboduc, first performed at one of the Inns of Court, the Inner Temple, on January 6, 1561. It was enough of a success to gain a second performance, before Queen Elizabeth I, on January 18 at Whitehall. Norton, born in 1532, was a member of a wealthy London family associated with the Grocer’s Company. While still quite young, he entered the household of Lord Somerset, the Protector, where he proved himself an intelligent youth and served that nobleman well as amanuensis. Some of Norton’s Calvinist ideas were formulated while he served under Somerset; as early as 1552 Norton corresponded with John Calvin.
The lives of Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, four years Norton’s junior, intersected several times during their careers. The first such occasion perhaps came in 1555, when they both entered the Inner Temple to study law, of which Norton later made a successful career, serving as counsel for the Stationers’ Company and later as solicitor for the Merchant Taylors’ Company.
Norton married twice, both times to relatives of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer: first to a daughter, Margery, then to a cousin, Alice. Cranmer was burned by the Catholics in 1556, the year after Norton married Margery. Later in life Norton was virulently anti-Catholic.
Norton and Sackville were associated as members of Elizabeth’s first Parliament in 1558. Norton began the main period of his literary career about that time: His translation of Calvin was published in 1561;...
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