Lisa Hopkins
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The Earl of Essex and the Duke of Windsor
Elizabeth and Essex on film
in Essex
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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1939) is usually described as an adaptation of Maxwell Anderson's 1930 play Elizabeth the Queen, and there are certainly similarities. Conversely, some aspects of the film seem to derive ultimately not from Anderson's play but from Lytton Strachey's 1928 dual biography of Elizabeth and Essex. In the film, only Elizabeth has a subjectivity to speak of, and she is also significantly strengthened in comparison with the model provided by Strachey. The Essex of Michael Curtiz's film shares both the strengths and the weaknesses of Edward VIII. Indeed in the film, without warrant from the play, the younger Cecil says of Essex that 'Something's got to be done to tarnish him', echoing Edward's celebrated response to the poverty he saw in South Wales, 'Something must be done'.

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The cultural impact of an Elizabethan courtier


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