Quote of the Week: 18 December 2017

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

BH neale coverNeale, JE:  Queen Elizabeth I (Pimlico:  London, 1998)

Once again, I’m minded to say that we continue to study EMP Literature because whilst times and technology have undoubtedly moved on, human attitudes and the situations we face remain broadly the same.

Endemic Xenophobia?  Check.

Effemination of rival men who dress too well?  Check.

Aristocratic disdain for ‘upstarts’?  Check.

‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,’ as Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (another foreigner*, dammit!) might say …

Let’s look at this week’s quotation:

‘For a base-born person, a foreigner, and worse still, an Italian, a race of whom a contemporary Englishman complained that they ‘serve all princes at once, and with their perfumed gloves and wanton presents, and gold enough to boot if need be, work what they list and lick the fat even from our beards’ – for such a man to usurp such a position in the State was as gross a violation of the aristocratic decencies of the age as could well be imagined.  Gentility might be, as Cecil told his son, nothing else than ancient riches, but the entry to rule and government in those days called for some degree of ancientry.’

A Level Students might believe we’re talking about Piers Gaveston in early 14th-Century England.  The observant will note that Gaveston was French rather than Italian, – otherwise the fit is excellent …

In fact, what we have here is a summary of the late 16th-century denunciations of David Riccio – ‘Seigneur Davie‘ – the favourite of Mary, Queen of Scots who was famously dragged from his mistress’ skirts and murdered in a stairwell at Holyrood House by Mary’s oafish husband, Lord Darnley, in 1566: when Shakespeare was 2.

And I’m sure you don’t need me to give you parallels from 2017 …


* this being the ‘world-wide’ web, where most people reading the post won’t personally know me, it might be worth pointing out that I’m satirising the xenophobic attitudes so widespread in the UK in 2017.  I was born abroad …

Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Regular at Shakespeare's notorious tavern; hyperactive English Teacher; Reader; Scrabble Warrior; friend of the Orangutan

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