Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Queen, Shakespeare, and Love

Recently I did sort of a study/research project about King Henry VIII.  There is much to be said of the Tudors, the reign was eventful, to say the least.  Queen Elizabeth, for example, never married.  I have a theory.  Before I say what it is, let me just say, that yes, I realize there are countless theories about Elizabeth and Shakespeare, one more is not going to hurt anyone.  It might be completely off the charts but, anyhow...

Queen Elizabeth is known to have had a friend, Lord Robert Dudley. The extremely boiled down version of the story is that they were childhood friends, and she was in love with him.  At the time that this became evident, he was married, his wife was ill, and it was said that Elizabeth would marry him should his wife die.  His wife died after accidentally falling down a flight of stairs however. Elizabeth was advised not to marry Dudley by her council, the disapproval was very clear. Elizabeth considered marrying him for nearly a decade after his wife's death, despite several other proposals.  Even after she had decided she would not marry Dudley, she continued to be jealous of his affairs.  Robert Dudley remarried in 1578, eighteen years after his wife's death and it is said that Elizabeth continued to show displeasure towards his new wife. Here is the Last Letter (and here is the Readable Version) that he wrote to Elizabeth.  She had this letter saved in her personal belongings which they only found after her death, it was marked "His Last Letter".

When asked "Where was Queen Elizabeth in Romeo and Juliet?" most people answer with, "She wasn't in the play." Well, my answer would be, "She was Juliet, and Lord Robert Dudley was Romeo."  Star crossed lovers, forbidden to love or to marry, does that not ring a bell?  Shakespeare took a lot of inspiration from Royal families, there are references to kings and queens in many of his works, a lot of which are satirical.  Romeo and Juliet was written around 1595, long after Dudley's remarriage and Elizabeth's love made public. Elizabeth stood for morality and chastity, which was something Romeo and Juliet's characters failed to follow, and so comes about their tragic, untimely death.  I think Shakespeare not only considered Elizabeth and Dudley to be star crossed lovers, he also, through the play, metaphorically shows what could have been if they had given in to their desires.  If Elizabeth had failed to take the advice of her trusted council, her marriage to Dudley could have been a political and national disaster.

As I said before, it is a theory, I could be totally off the mark here, I don't know nearly enough to say that this is it.  However, it is food for thought.  Queen Elizabeth was present in quiet a few of Shakespeare's works, Romeo and Juliet may have been one of the very first. All we know for sure is that Shakespeare admired her and she admired his work, the truth of this matter is long gone.

***This topic is open for discussion. I would love to hear what you think about this, let me know by leaving a comment on this post.

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