A-Z Challenge ~ Queen Elizabeth I #atozchallenge
Here’s an assignment I did for an English Literature class. Our Instructor gave us the choice to do a formal paper or use our creativity and do something with that. We had to discuss the works of two authors during the Elizabethan Era. I chose Christopher Marlowe and Queen Elizabeth. After writing this little piece, which I must say I got 100% on, I got a huge plot bunny for a story with Christopher Marlowe. If only I had the time to write it along with the three others I have started. ::sigh:: So, here we go. Let me know what you think.
Limits of Desire
“Good day, Your Grace. Would you care to join me for a stroll around the garden?” With a slight bow, Christopher Marlowe approached Queen Elizabeth with his elbow extended for her to grasp. Her Majesty wrapped her fingers in the crook of his arm and they began to walk through the gardens of the Royal Palace of Hatfield, the Queen’s favorite home.
During the second part of Elizabeth’s reign, many great English works of literature were written. Christopher Marlowe was a poet and great playwright, Edmund Spenser a great poet, and William Shakespeare a great poet and playwright. Christopher Marlowe was a familiar face in Queen Elizabeth’s court, as he possibly worked for one of her Privy Council members as a spy. Abrams and Greenblatt (2006) states, “Although much sensational information about Marlowe has been discovered in modern times, we are still largely “ignorant in the affairs he went about.” The likeliest possibility is that he served as a spy or agent provocateur against the English Catholics who were conspiring to overthrow the Protestant regime” (p. 458). During that time, Marlowe also wrote plays and the most performed play was Tamburlaine. Queen Elizabeth was a frequent patron of the stage. Therefore, when the Mayor of London tried to shut down the theatre houses, the Privy Council stepped in on her behalf preventing the closures to take place. During her coronation, Queen Elizabeth set the country back to Protestant religion after her sister, Mary I executed non-Catholics. England was being set back to rights, but Elizabeth had a difficult road to navigate.
“Good day, Sir,” replied Elizabeth. “What brings you to Hatfield Palace?”
Strolling past the small hedges lining the walkway, Marlowe replied, “I came to see Sir Walsingham, and thought I would take a stroll with the most beautiful woman in all of England.”
Elizabeth scoffed. She knew in his young age of twenty-six, he had seen plenty of beautiful women, and, at the peak of her sixtieth year, she knew she was not as beautiful as she was once.
“How you flatter such an old woman.” She looked up at his playful face and changed the subject. “Sir Marlowe, your play, Tamburlaine, was performed here last night by the Admiral’s Men. They were quite entertaining.”
“Ah, yes, I am sorry I missed it. When I left Cambridge, I spent a lot of my time with the Admiral’s Company and the troupe performs my play all over England.”
“You know, Tamburlaine reminds me very much of my father. I believe he thought himself greater than God at times. He wanted to rule it all. When the Catholic Church got in his way, he separated from them. If he was annoyed or found them disagreeable, he had them eliminated. My own mother…” She stopped speaking, because she never spoke of her mother’s death. Thinking of death in general made her very sad, and, as of late, her friends had been dying off little by little. Therefore, thinking of her mother’s death just made it worse. She was in the company of an amiable young man and did not want to taint it with morbid thoughts.
Ward (2008) states, “In Tamburlaine Marlowe departs from the aims and motives of his historical sources concerning tyranny and punishment, and, as I shall argue, employs the heavily ironic tone of Lucan’s discussion of Julius Caesar’s apparently ‘divine’ barbarism” (p. 318).
“I have heard said that Tamburlaine reflects your views on religion. Is that true, Sir? Do you feel that, perhaps, you cannot say out loud what you believe? Therefore, you have to write it in your plays?” Queen Elizabeth asked.
Braden (2006) quotes Brown in saying, “Prior to the 1590s, writers tend to defend literature in humanist terms, by arguing that it held a kernel of political or moral truth. . . .” (p. 397).
“I can assure you, Your Grace, I do not have any beliefs that may differ than your own.” He reassured. However, his thoughts on how he had to deny his true desires to be neither Catholic nor Protestant could never be spoken aloud, especially not in court. He shook his head, not sure whether it was a good idea or not to have given her all that he wrote.
“Perhaps, but we all have deep desires that we have to lock away. I had deep desires that could have never manifested. I wanted to marry once, but it would have never have been approved. So, I swore to never marry. However, the Privy Council suggested several approved matches. I entertained them and laughed behind their backs. I swore long ago, I would never put myself in a position where a man could control me.”
Abrams and Greenblatt (2006) states, “In 1580 his Protestant convictions led him publicly to oppose Queen Elizabeth’s projected marriage to the Catholic duke of Anjou. The queen, who hated interference with her diplomatic maneuvers, angrily dismissed Sidney from the court” (p. 450). This also shows how serious the idea of religion was at the time. Abrams and Greenblatt (2006) also explains Sir Philip Sidney’s position in Queen Elizabeth’s life,: Though she sent him on some diplomatic missions, the queen clearly regarded the zealous young man with considerable skepticism” (p. 450).
Christopher Marlowe thought over her words and sympathized. He dared not discuss his romantic leanings aloud. He held too many secrets, but that was how one survived in those times.
“How wonderful it would have been if love could be as you described it in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. Carpe diem and all. Uncomplicated love. Imagine being able to live in the moment while forgetting the consequences.” She looked off wistfully.
Marlowe said, “Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove” (Marlowe, 1599/2006, p. 459). He laughed remembering how young he was when he wrote that.
“Oh, I have recently read your newest play Doctor Faustus. What do you say about Faustus and his actions?” she asked.
“Well, I created a story of good versus evil, of ambition, and hope. However, in the end, I created a dramatic final scene, where Faustus’s hope of redemption was too late. He chose to obey evil instead of doing the right thing by asking for forgiveness,” explained Marlowe.
“Yes, yes. I can see how one might get caught up in a world of greed and ambition. It happens fairly easy in our world. Does it now, Marlowe?”
“I can see how that is possible, Your Majesty.”
“I hope to see Doctor Faustus on stage one day. And, perhaps, we can take another stroll to discuss literature at its finest once more,” she said, leading him back toward the house. “Let us return. I have much to attend to, Sir.”
“Of course, Your Grace. It has been a pleasure and one I hope to receive again.”
In 1593, Christopher Marlowe was murdered in a pub. The reason remains unknown. (Abrams and Greenblatt, 2006). After Marlowe’s death, Shakespeare is said to have mimicked his style and even used some of his lines. Marlowe influenced many authors with his works, as he was the first to use blank verse–verse without rhyme. Abrams and Greenblatt (2006) explain, The English theater audience had never before heard such resonant, immensely energetic blank verse. The great period of Elizabethan drama was launched by what Ben Jonson called ‘Marlowe’s mighty line’” (p. 458).
Desire is a powerful emotion; however, the ability to suppress that emotion shows such strength and courage. There are many things in life to desire: love, ambition, wealth, and freedom to live as one chooses. During the 16th century, the poems and plays may not have all focused on religion directly, but they did touch upon it. In some plays, like those by Christopher Marlowe, the characters acted out with great monologues and possibly spoke of the beliefs and desires of the playwright. Times were still precarious in England in the late 1500s. Religion and plots against the Queen were still major issues. Queen Elizabeth wrote, “The daughter of debate, that discord aye doth sow, Shall reap no gain where former rule still peach hath taught to grow. No foreign banished wight shall anchor in this port: Our realm brooks no seditious sects–let them elsewhere resort” (Elizabeth I, 1589/2006, p. 359). Mary Stuart, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, was constantly plotting against her. However, Elizabeth rose above her barriers with grace and dignity and was a well-loved queen. Bell (2003) quotes Levin in saying, “Elizabeth’s amazing personality not only shaped her own century so it is known as the Elizabethan Age, but hundreds of years later her image still fascinates us” (p. 247).
Abrams, M., & Greenblatt, S. (Eds.) (2006). The Norton anthology of English literature: The major authors (8th ed., Vol. A). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Bell, I. (2003). The Reign of Elizabeth I. Medieval & Renaissance Drama In England, 16243-248.
Braden, G. (2006). Redefining Elizabethan Literature. Modern Language Quarterly, 67(3), 397-400.
Elizabeth I. (2006). The doubt of my future foes. In M. Abrams & S. Greenblatt (Eds.) The Norton anthology of English literature: The major authors (8th ed., Vol. A). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. (Original Work Published 1589)
Marlowe, C. (2006). The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. In M. Abrams & S. Greenblatt (Eds.) The Norton anthology of English literature: The major authors (8th ed., Vol. A). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. (Original Work Published 1599)
Ward, A. E. (2008). Lucanic Irony in Marlowe’s Tamburlaine. Modern Language Review, 103(2), 311-329.