Elizabeth I looms in the background of Shakespeare’s early-to-mid work like the spectre at the feast.
It isn’t solely the question of censorship: she is, I think, the yardstick for every depiction of monarchy, leadership or indeed of strong women. Remember, too, that after a frantic period when the monarch (and ruling religion) changed every few years, she assumed the throne before Shakespeare was born, and was perhaps one of the few constants in that dangerous, fluid age, until she died in 1603.
She was also a real anachronism – a woman ruler in an incredibly patriarchal society. But was she a feminist? Should she be regarded as a feminist icon now?
[Warning: you might want to stop reading now, if you voted for Brexit]
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: King John, Act V
It’s all a bit shabby, isn’t it, at the end of the day?
Act V holds Hamlet‘s ‘mirror up to nature‘ [a]: Shakespeare might be exploring the ‘Commodity’ of the times, but I can’t avoid building synaptic bridges to the realpolitik of the shameful goings on in the UK’s parliament over the past few years. I ought to be far too old for the kind of idealistic rage I feel, but even at a relatively young age, I’m determined to ‘burn and rave at close of day‘ [b] …
Mistrust might be too strong a word, but there was always a youthful rebellious streak in me (Catholic-educated in what was at the time a pretty Catholic town), pushing against what I increasingly viewed as the bastard child of The Party in Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four and a medieval Ponzi scheme. The Catholic hierarchy increasingly personified notions of hypocritical middle-men, ‘eternal life’ assurance brokers, gatekeepers against the hereafter who would feed on the poor, vulnerable and frightened, whilst actually allowing anyone through, if the price was right.
Finally, I officially ‘fell out’ with God in a completely predictable spat – over bureacracy, not the Bible; red tape, not redemption; compliance, not communion …