I am Richard II
in Spectacular Performances
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This chapter alludes to William Lambarde's well-known account of his interview with Queen Elizabeth in August, 1601, seven months after the Essex rebellion and Essex's execution for treason. Lambarde was the royal archivist, and had brought Elizabeth a summary of the historical documents stored in the Tower of London. The chapter focuses on Elizabeth's portrait of Richard II. In comparison with the individualized and assertive Holbein and Hornebolte portraits of her father, or the domesticated portraits of her sister by Antonio Mor, the painting is strikingly iconic. It employs a pictorial formula used occasionally on royal documents, but it is most strikingly similar to the Westminster portrait of Richard II. The painting iconographically abolishes a century and a half of both English history and royal iconography, and returns us to the last moment when the legitimacy of the monarchy was not a problem.

Spectacular Performances

Essays on theatre, imagery, books and selves in early modern England>

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