This article examines the role and place of virtues in early modern English grammar schools (ca. 1558 – 1640). It argues that schoolboys were exposed to the questions of moral philosophy and virtues throughout their time in the grammar school. From their elementary classes in Latin grammar to moral philosophy and rhetoric classes in the uppermost forms, students received training in the four cardinal virtues. The training took place, however, in an overwhelmingly linguistic and rhetorical context. It follows that early modern schoolboys learned that virtues were not so much intrinsic values of morality as much as instrumental values of rhetoric. This has important consequences for our understanding of early modern educational and intellectual culture.

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