Criticism and Compliment examines the poems, plays and masques of the three figures who succeeded Ben Jonson as authors of court entertainments in the England of Charles I. The courtly literature of Caroline England has been dismissed by critics and characterised by historians as propaganda for Charles I's absolutism penned by sycophantic hirelings. Kevin Sharpe questions the assumptions on which these evaluations have been based. Challenging the traditional argument for a polarity between court and country cultures in early Stuart England, he re-reads the plays, poems and masques as primary documents of political attitudes articulated at court. Far from being confined to a decade or a party, the courtly literature of the 1630s is relocated within the broader humanist tradition of counsel. Through the language of love - a language, it is argued, that was part of the discourse of politics in Caroline England - the court poets criticised fundamental premises of the King's political ideology, and counselled traditional and moderate modes of government.