A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the iconography of marriage
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play which is heavily imbued with the iconography of virginity which had been developed by and for Elizabeth I in the final phase of her reign. This chapter is concerned with several strategies of retrospection employed by William Shakespeare in Dream in order to critique Elizabeth and her iconography of virginity. The first example of this is the relationship between Dream and John Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage. The second strategy of retrospection is Shakespeare's use of the figure of Titania to reassess Elizabeth's status in the 1590s as perpetual virgin. The myth of Dido was one which had been used in Elizabethan entertainments as early as 1564. The use of the myth increased significantly, however, during the period 1579 to 1583 which coincided with the marriage negotiations between Elizabeth and Francis, Duke of Anjo.
The visual images of Queen Elizabeth I displayed in contemporary portraits and perpetuated and developed in more recent media, such as film and television, make her one of the most familiar and popular of all British monarchs. This book is a collection of essays that examine the diversity of the queen's extensive iconographical repertoire, focusing on both visual and textual representations of Elizabeth, in portraiture, literature, contemporary sermons, speeches and alchemical treatises. It falls into three sections. The first part looks at the diverse range of religious and quasi-religious images that were employed by and about Elizabeth, such as the Prophetesse Deborah, the suggestive parallel with Joan of Arc, and finally Lady Alchymia, the female deity in alchemical treatises. When Queen Elizabeth I, the first female Protestant monarch, was enthroned in 1558, male poets, artists, theologians, and statesmen struggled to represent this new phenomenon. The second part turns to one of the major enterprises of the Elizabethan era, the attempt to colonise the New World, during which the eastern seaboard of America was renamed Virginia in celebration of the Virgin Queen. The last part focuses on the ways in which the classical world was plundered for modes of imaging and figuring the queen. Finally, the book summarises the enormously wide range of Elizabeth's iconographical repertoire of its appeal, and provides a fitting end to a book which ranges so widely across the allegorical personae of the queen.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book addresses the full range of the queen's extraordinary iconographical repertoire, focusing specifically on its development during Elizabeth I's forty-five-year reign. It looks at the diverse range of religious and quasi-religious images that were employed by Elizabeth. The book turns to one of the major enterprises of the Elizabethan era, the attempt to colonise the New World, during which the eastern seaboard of America was renamed Virginia in celebration of the Virgin Queen. It considers the development of the iconography of Elizabeth as a collaborative enterprise, through the examination of some of the most famous paintings of Elizabeth, paying particular attention to The Ditchley portrait, the Siena Sieve Portrait and the Rainbow Portrait. The book notes that a good deal has been written on the subject of Elizabeth's identification with Petrarch's Laura.