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.
This chapter surveys the handful of extant biblical plays written or translated during the last quarter of the sixteenth century to offer an overview of this complex and generically diverse group of plays. The descriptions found on their title pages provide a snapshot of the multiplicity of their tone and identity, with some termed comedies, some tragedies, and others using the trope of the looking glass to gesture at the homiletic mode of the de casibus tradition. The chapter argues that these varied descriptions permit the modern reader a more nuanced understanding of the continuities between these biblical plays and the earlier models of liturgical drama from the pre-Reformation past, with George Peele’s David and Bethsabe (1590) as a case in point. The play draws on the tradition of King David as an exemplar of lust and treachery, but Peele offers a more complex account of David’s reign by including the rebellion of his son Absalon and the planned accession of his heir Solomon. The play scrutinises providential monarchy as a model of kingship and tackles other topical issues such as the responsibilities of the monarch to govern and receive advice.
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 book approaches the rich and diverse figure of the earl by looking at a wealth of diverse visual and textual manifestations of Essex produced during the sixteenth century and up to the present day. It resituates his life and career within the richly diverse contours of his cultural and political milieu. Included in the discussion are not just those texts of which Essex is the subject, such as poems, portraits or films, but also those texts produced by Essex himself, including private letters, poems and entertainments. The book first offers important insights into the composition and ethos of the Essex circle. It then provides an important intervention in the debate about the relationship between Essex and the theatre and Essex and Shakespeare, considering his role as a patron of a company of players. The book also explains Essex's use of non-professional theatrical entertainments at court in 1595 to promote an agenda he had shared with Sidney by campaigning for an increased level of English involvement in international affairs. It deals with a frequently neglected entertainment called the device of the Indian Prince, referred to here as Seeing Love as it dramatises the story of the blind Indian prince. Finally, the book offers a detailed examination of Essex's relationship with another dangerously public discourse, 'politic history', by tracing the influence of a range of competing texts.
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.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book describes the rich and diverse figure of the earl by looking at a wealth of diverse visual and textual manifestations of Essex produced during the sixteenth century and up to the present day. It traces the critical assessment of the earl's decision to undertake a campaign in Ireland and considers the suggestion that his political enemies considered it politically expedient to have the earl personally embroiled in a foreign war. The book also describes the biographical commonplace that Essex identified himself with the chivalric code valued by Sir Philip Sidney and actively fashioned an identity for himself as Sidney's heir. It presents Essex's use of non-professional theatrical entertainments at court to promote an agenda he had shared with Sidney by campaigning for an increased level of English involvement in international affairs.