Helen J. Burgess
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‘Nature without labor’
Virgin Queen and virgin land in Sir Walter Ralegh’s The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana
in Goddesses and Queens
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Sir Walter Ralegh's The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana was first published in 1595. He wrote the book following his exploratory voyage to the Orinoco Basin in 1594 in search of the legendary 'El Dorado', or the City of Gold, reported by early Spanish explorers. Ralegh's Discoverie was an attempt to persuade Elizabeth I and her nobles to invest money in a second trip to Guiana. For Ralegh, Elizabeth's virginity and the virginity of Guiana are linked as an image of wise management and sustainability of resources. The idea of 'nature without labor' suggests that nature is productive without the intervening hand of human husbandry: a return to an age of plenty before the fall. The Discoverie of Guiana is in many ways an example of an early virtual reality. Ralegh's tale of Guiana is thus ultimately a story about an ecological crisis in England.

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Goddesses and Queens

The iconography of Elizabeth I


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