FENTON, Sir Geoffrey

FENTON, Sir Geoffrey
(c. 1539-1609)
Geoffrey Fenton was an Elizabethan translator, colonial administrator, and advocate of severity against the Irish. Little is known about his early years until 1567, when he dedicated his Certaine Tragicall Discourses Written oute of Frenche and Latine to Mary Sidney, the mother of the poet Sir Philip Sidney.* From this point, Fenton began a career first as a translator and then as an ad­ministrator within the growing Elizabethan state bureaucracy. The subject matter of Certaine Tragicall Discourses, a work originally written in Italian by Matteo Bandello* to which Fenton added many of his own moral interpolations, is culturally significant. His translation was only one of several such projects in the 1560s and 1570s, when Italian novelle, short prose tales, enjoyed a tremen­dous vogue among Elizabethan readers and creative artists, including William Shakespeare.*
Fenton continued to translate a wide variety of works throughout the 1570s, mainly from French works. In 1579, again using a French source, he published an English version of Francesco Guicciardini's* History of the Wars of Italy.It is a sign of his position and ambitions that he dedicated History ofthe Wars of Italy to Queen Elizabeth.*
In 1580 he began a longer career in administration, mostly in Ireland, which was in the late sixteenth century the site of a politically contentious and often-brutal English campaign to subdue the Irish. During this period Fenton associ­ated with many important Elizabethan political figures, as well as with literary figures such as Edmund Spenser.* He served in the Irish Parliament, as a sec­retary in the colonial administration, and as an envoy between Ireland and Lon­don, often arguing in vigorous terms for severity against the Irish and the earl of Tyrone in particular. In 1589 he was awarded a knighthood. He died in Dublin in October 1609.
R. L. Douglas, "Introduction," in Certain Tragical Discourses ofBandello, by Geoffrey Fenton, 1967.
Thomas G. Olsen

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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