Essay: Queen Elizabeth I’s methods of literary resistance

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  • Queen Elizabeth I’s methods of literary resistance
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The writings of Queen Elizabeth I are by no means considered canonical and play no central role in Renaissance literature. Indeed, one could discuss Elizabethan writing whilst quite ironically ignoring the Queen herself. This dissertation sets out to examine works which are, on the whole, neglected and shows that Queen Elizabeth I expertly utilised language to defend herself as both a queen, and a woman. Specifically, words allowed the monarch to mould an image which could fight prejudice and gain favour. She impressively negotiated a male-dominated writing culture, and society, to prove her worth. To demonstrate this, the structure of this dissertation has been divided according to the different audiences Elizabeth addressed, and her relationship to such audiences. I will begin my first section by examining the monarch’s early epigrams written in confinement to identify the constraints Elizabeth faced in her position. I will then move to an analysis of sonnets that circulated between members of the court to understand how verse could be utilised by the monarch to undermine her closest opponents. The final section of the dissertation will focus on speeches addressed to court and country, exploring how the rhetorical demands of a ‘Queen’s speech’ lent itself to powerful demonstrations of resistance to the public. This discussion hence will exhibit how the literary methods Elizabeth employed to combat constraints altered depending upon these different audiences, focusing particularly upon her identity as a woman.
This dissertation was partly inspired by the marginalisation of monarchic writing. The avoidance of these works could be for several reasons; perhaps the lack of literary excellence, (the writings are arguably skilled, but nothing outstanding), or the accessibility and reliability of the verse. Despite this, criticism on Queen Elizabeth I’s writing does exist. A fundamental text to which this work is indebted is Ilona Bell’s Elizabeth I: The Voice of a Monarch, but Bell’s chronological focus limits its analysis to a more generalised look at Elizabeth’s life. Criticism which focuses solely upon monarchs can also be found in Peter C. Herman’s invaluable Royal Poetrie: Monarchic Verse and the Political Imaginary of Early Modern England. Thus investigation into the credibility of monarchic verse justly asks for a re-assessment of royal writings: ‘There are no good reasons, in sum, for ignoring this poetry’. Herman’s focus upon several monarchs however – a chapter each dedicated to Henry VIII, Mary, Elizabeth, James and Charles – restricts the extent of exploration into the feminine quality of Elizabeth’s work, in the same way that Bell’s chronological approach is similarly confined. I hope to add a gendered approach to the work begun by the likes of Herman; ‘Elizabeth demands a new assessment of what it meant to write as a woman in the Elizabethan period’ .

It is firstly necessary to understand why resistance, as a concept, is so necessary to Elizabeth’s writings. The Oxford English Dictionary notes the religious etymology of ‘resistance’. For example, in the Bible, resisting temptations and facing difficulties are presented as virtuous, as the chapter of James states, ‘Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial’. However, in Early Modern England ‘resistance’ can be viewed from a different angle. To ‘resist’ temptation would be virtuous of a woman, but a resistance of the patriarchal norms established by a privileged-male system would be an outrage:

‘We must make a conscious effort to understand the thinking of and about women in a period when women (as a whole) were forced by political and familial circumstances into life-styles over which they exerted no control.’

Indeed, resistance against an established system was neither easy, nor advisable for a respectable reputation in a turbulent court scene. This was not merely a sociological construct – the Puritan teachings of the Church was the religious backing necessary for the demeaning of women . As John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland claimed, ‘for the man is to heade the woman […] as Christ is the heade of the churche, so is man of the woman’. This biblically established hierarchy epitomises the renaissance attitude to a woman’s social positioning.
The main methods of resistance in Elizabeth’s early epigrams are literary modes of ambivalence. This derives from the general inability of the young monarch to decipher who exactly this epigram may reach. Written in confinement whilst being held at Woodstock Castle, I shall show how Elizabeth retains pride and resistance through ambiguous language in an attempt to cloak her vulnerability. The epigram explores the negotiation between the line of pride and protection. Enough public confidence and enough silent complicity. It is a line Elizabeth fantastically captures in a simple epigram, ‘Written with a Diamond’ (1554-1555):

‘Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be’.
Quod Elizabeth the prisoner

On the one hand, this epigram functions like an advised legal statement. It offers a resistance against false accusations whilst withholding specific details and emotion. The eight words voice Elizabeth’s potency whilst concealing accusation. But this poem is not completely passive; on the contrary, it rather turns the finger of allegation. Indictment is implicitly placed onto those falsely accusing the speaker as she asserts nothing can be “proved”, a denunciation of the case. Of course, this is an ambiguous interpretation – but this is vague writing. What Elizabeth cannot do is regulate her audience, or their interpretations, but what she can do is position herself as innocent through a suppression of direct language. Bell similarly comments on how Elizabeth possesses power whilst retaining a nebulous tone: “This fundamental hermeneutical assumption – a foundational principle of modern critical theory – was a central guiding principle of Elizabeth’s rhetoric and reign” . The nature of Elizabeth’s reign – dangerously interpretative – was the nature of literature too, and, I suggest, a result of her gender.

The opening line’s ambiguity stems from its syntax and grammar, without even delving into the possible semantics. ‘Much suspected’ subverts the auxiliary verb ‘is’ (of the conjunction ‘to be’). The employment of the preposition ‘by’ is most interesting as it allows for two, rather significant, interpretations. Undeniably, the preposition ‘by’ refers to ‘the doer of the action’, and in the Elizabethan era it also had the meaning of ‘referring’ (OED). So, ‘much [is] suspected by me’ can refer to Elizabeth herself being suspicious of others. This is a subtle jab at the prejudices and injustices filed against her. This interpretation is hidden behind the guise of the alternative reading. Elizabeth is being held under suspicion herself, much is suspected ‘of’ her. Crucially though, Elizabeth is saying that despite the fact that her name is admittedly under fire, she is not guilty because the claim has no substance. The past tense of the verb ‘suspected’ could also imply that ever since her birth Elizabeth has been guilty of something; namely, preventing one of her male counterparts to the throne. Moreover, by placing the pronoun (very personally in the objective form of I, ‘me’) at the end of the line reverses the blame to those who ‘suspect’ Elizabeth. It confuses the typical ‘subject-verb-object’ order and cleverly fuses who the oppressor of blame is.

The cohesion between the two lines establish that though there is an act of resistance against false claims, Elizabeth is placed in a submissive position. She must act, and write, with a docile quality, relying upon implicit interpretation alone, as ‘Nothing proved can be’. The stark contrast between the verbs ‘suspected’ and ‘proved’ evidences the fragile environment of a young royal; something can so easily be suspected, but so difficultly proven. There is also sharp distinction between the opening words of each line, ‘Much’ and ‘nothing’. Quite obviously, this wordplay refers to a lack of evidence but a plenitude of accusations. These oppositions enhance the ambivalence of its authors situation; so much potential for power, but so much vulnerability.

Some may argue that resistance in this epigram is tentative – though the verb and the adjective are, to an extent, mutually exclusive. Lisa Hopkins remains adamant that despite flashes of strength, overall, ‘Elizabeth feels less free to commit herself. Indeed, I shall be suggesting that Elizabeth was, in fact, nervous of writing because in an age of ambiguity and wordplay, it offered too many hostages to fortune’. I agree to an extent with Hopkins – Elizabeth was nervous, but, if anything, wordplays and ambiguities allowed for the Queen’s most effective subtle jibes. Hopkins does later accept this viewpoint however; ‘ambiguities and suggestiveness were strengths rather than handicaps’. This matches my line of argument: Elizabeth employed vague literary devices – ambiguities, wordplay, syntax – to show resistance when she was at her most restricted.

In later epigrams, the Queen directly addresses gender constructs to manifest her resistance. In ‘Defiance of Fortune’ (1589) for example, there exists the idea that the Queen was caught between the inevitability of fortune and constraints of her gender: ‘Never think you fortune can bear the sway / Where virtue’s force can cause her to obey’. Indeed, the poem asks fortune to not be so adamant in the power of its wheel, ‘bear the sway’, as the pressure of ‘virtue’s force’ (her feminised expectations), can be dominant. Interestingly, the reticence witnessed in Elizabeth’s earlier, most vulnerable epigram has almost entirely disappeared. Elizabeth is represented as actively declaring that she shall not be passive and leave her fate to chance. This is made possible by the change in power relationship to her audience. By this point, Elizabeth’s power as England’s monarch allows for a more active verse, although the self-deprecating tone which claims her gender may still limit her ability remains. I believe however that admittance of her ‘weak’ gender is itself a sign of resistance. She is once again not allowing potential opponents to seek out problems when she herself has negotiated them.

In other poems addressing an international audience, Elizabeth similarly tackles gendered concepts. In ‘The Doubt of Future Foes’ (1571), a poem about the relationships between political enemies, Elizabeth ends a very probing poem with a very powerful rhyming couplet: ‘My rusty sword through rest shall first find his edge employ / To poll their tops that seek such change or gape for future joy’. Not only does Elizabeth physically possess a weapon, ‘My rusty sword’, but she controls ‘it’; or, as she genders it, ‘him’. This consolidates the notion that Elizabeth is very much in control of ‘male’ objects and domains, despite her sex. As Leah Marcus argues, Elizabeth was a ruler who often created an image of herself as androgynous. She acknowledged the capacities of her female body, but ‘raised’ her mind to that of a male’s.

The adjective ‘rusty’ also implies that the speaker has experience with being questioned and undermined. A sword being rusty suggests that it has been previously used, hinting at Elizabeth’s experience in battles with those who seek to defy her. The provocative verse dares one to doubt the dominance of the realm. Moreover, the single syllable of the final word strengthens the message of the poem. This verse does not so much rely on ambiguities, and this, I argue, stems from the relationship between poet and audience. The earlier epigrams from Elizabeth’s imprisonments are similarly directed at an enemy, but when at Woodstock Castle the poet is not a monarch with ‘subjects’. She may have possessed royal blood, but the vulnerability of the earlier epigram establishes her lack of dominion in relation to her readership.

I have suggested that this poem is more direct in its resistance because Elizabeth is now positioned much higher than her audience. Whilst I am confident in the truth of this – historically, it was written over a decade later – the debate of the ‘public versus the private’ must be considered in every analysis, with Herman even labelling the debate the ‘burden’ of his critical work. The first epigram was written on a window, with a diamond by a young woman not yet queen. Comparatively, this poem’s reception was a public one, of world leaders: ‘This poem […] was doubtless written by Elizabeth in response to the threat posed by the Catholic queen’s flight into Protestant England in 1568 […] this was the most frequently anthologised of all of Elizabeth’s verses’. I argue that this is why the resistance in this later poem is not so ambivalent. An audience of the world’s most powerful demands a confidence.

The central audience of Elizabeth’s poetry would have been her royal court, where the circulation of poetry by manuscript was becoming a fashionable, and enjoyable, pastime. It also allowed voices to be heard, and favour to be gained. ‘It is important to remember that when Elizabeth ascended the throne the language of love was almost exclusively a male domain’ says Bell, and I shall now explore the workings of a love lyric by Elizabeth. The literary culture was a system of networking – as demonstrated in The Faerie Queen (1596), Edmund Spenser’s literary praise of his monarch. However, Elizabeth’s interference into the Petrarchan love lyric is interesting. The likes of Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey traditionally dominate the image of this fashionable Renaissance literary form. In ‘Whoso List to Hunt’ (1557) for example, Wyatt fixates upon an unattainable lover, likely Anne Boleyn, through possessive language depicting a chase. These Petrarchan verses position the woman as the prey, and the male the predator. Elizabeth opposes this, initiating her own fashioning of the love lyric, one of mutuality and courtesy.

Sir Walter Raleigh, an iconic figure of the Elizabethan court, wrote a famed sonnet for his Queen, that obtained much attention. However, though Greenblatt dismisses Elizabeth’s response to ‘reassuring but demeaning pleasantries’, he totally misses what exactly she has done. It is also key to posit here that his would have undoubtedly been a very public poem, and thus is undeniably a part of monarchic ‘image-making’.

The exchange of these poems takes place around 1587, a point at when Raleigh’s reputation was quickly declining. The tide was turning – one of Elizabeth’s high-regarded favourites was losing his status. Raleigh claims ‘fortune hath stolen’ his lover in the openings of his stanza:

‘Fortune hath taken thee away, my love,
My life’s joy and my soul’s heaven above;
Fortune hath taken thee away my princess,
My world’s delight and my true fancy’s mistress’

This stanza typically adheres to Petrarchan norms: Raleigh is on an impossible quest for his love who rests among the “heaven above”. The employment of mystical lexis which is typically transcendent – a talk of souls, the heavens – indicates that Elizabeth is now unattainable to Raleigh, and ‘fortune’ has played its part in this. The OED indicates how fortune, (defined as ‘chance, hap, or luck, regarded as a cause of events and changes in men’s affairs’) can also be personified as the goddess of fortune (Fortuna), a symbol of good luck; ‘the power supposed to distribute the lots of life according to her own humour’ (OED). The emblem of the wheel (rota fortunae) is indicative of Raleigh’s fall, after his rise – this is the fortune of life. It is inevitable that he will lose his love, (and in turn, his favoured rank), but as the dominant Petrarchan male he reaches for the ‘object’ of his desire in any case. As such, Elizabeth, as portrayed by Raleigh – the typical male, literary figure of the Elizabethan court – is feminised. This traditional approach is perhaps why the likes of Stephen Greenblatt have continued to shine a light on its work. It adheres neatly to the literary (and gender) norms. Elizabeth’s response, which strays from these lines is not wholly ‘Petrarchan’. She dismisses the romanticised notion that ‘fate’ has drifted to the two apart, jibing at the overly-precautious wording. Though I do not believe Elizabeth’s response is fully ‘defamatory’, it certainly deserves to be held in a higher regard than Greenblatt deems appropriate for its effective criticism of her audience at court, and patriarchal norms.

‘Ah silly pug, wert thou so sore afraid?
Mourn not, my Wat, nor be thou so dismayed;
It passeth fickle Fortune’s power and skill
To force my heart to think thee any ill.’

This opening of Elizabeth’s response is warmly ironic. There is a fondness to the terms of address, ‘pug’, and ‘my Wat’. ‘Wat’ was used towards a person (OED), particularly one of closeness (‘a great wat’ was common). It was also one of Elizabeth’s pet names for Raleigh stemming from his first name, Walter. ‘Pug’ too was a term of endearment, ‘also applied to a plaything, as a doll or pet’. Indeed, the tone of this sonnet rather resonates with an adult affectionately correcting a foolish child. It is, to an extent mocking, and a role-reversal as it demeans Raleigh to something which can be objectified, and simply discarded. Evident also is the tone of familiarity – this is a woman who knows Raleigh, ‘Elizabeth’s response, carefully coordinated with Raleigh’s lines develops its own remarkably tender, coaxing tone’.

This affectionate tone of the verse here suggests that this is no more than a good-humoured tease between Raleigh and Elizabeth. Sonnets did, after all, form a part of Elizabethan entertainment. The reception of sonnets allowed Elizabeth to further showcase her resistance. As Stephen Greenblatt assuredly claims there can be no ‘privacy’ when a monarch, or any courtier, is writing. I agree with Greenblatt that the degree of privacy afforded by the environment of a Queen would be minimal, but I must add that this does not necessarily hinder her work here. The publicity worked in her favour. By utilising humour, Elizabeth can implicitly critique those questioning her status as the ‘Virgin Queen’ through the form of light-hearted entertainment. Humour is an effective medium for concealing accusation. The method of ambiguity here is very different to that of the initial epigram, but nevertheless, Elizabeth is ever-conscious of her turbulent environment and critical audience.

Some criticism does however note that there can be some doubts as to whether this verse was Elizabeth’s, with Leah Marcus explaining how Elizabeth’s answer has ‘strikes through the identification and the poem itself’, causing a questionability of its authenticity. This shall be considered, although of course its authorship is not a question one can fully answer. Verse was not written solely for print publication but manuscript circulation, contrasting with a modern-day audience and our understanding of copyright and ownership. ‘Copyright’ simply did not exist. Any form of writing could have been appropriated, edited or shaped to fit the idealised viewpoint of the editor, before it is exchanged. This was the adoption of shared culture. I suggest, that because of this ‘shared culture’, it is incredible that Elizabeth could be questioning rigid, accepted gender roles. As the most read woman of her period, her participation in this ‘shared culture’ demonstrates the significance of the Queen’s role for women writers. It is also important to remember is that, for Elizabeth, ‘only three poems – all written before she became queen – were published (without Elizabeth’s permission) during her life; the rest circulated in manuscript, some during her life, others after’. This is common with many Renaissance texts, and so one cannot fully dismiss this exchange of these poems. As Herman suggests, ‘the attendant textual issues should not obscure either the degree of Elizabeth’s poetic accomplishment or the importance of her verse for understanding the dynamics of authority’ .

The dynamic of authority evidenced in this case is Elizabeth’s playful mocking of the courtier’s lack of innovation and imagination in his poetry addresses a bigger gender issue. Her assumption that Raleigh is hiding behind Petrarchan norms, (he’s ‘so sore afraid’ and ‘dismayed’) is a total reversal of gender roles, positioning the male lover’ as a weakened individual. Elizabeth is exposing Raleigh’s true motive for writing which lay behind the heavily-allegorical sonnets of the courtier. He was vulnerable male keen to preserve favouritism, and thus turned to the literary mode of flattery, with an abundance of friendly banter, to ensure a good relationship with his queen. She however, posits if Raleigh is too stubborn to ask for help as he uses the cloak of Petrarch to instead position the Queen as a mere lover. Marriage, a constant reminder to Elizabeth of her restricting femininity, would not allow her submission. Victor Von Klarwill for example accounts Baron Caspar Breuner as stating that Elizabeth would ‘rather go into a nunnery, or for that matter suffer death, than marry against her will’. Interestingly, one can postulate that this sonnet was either recited to a private audience at court or circulated through a manuscript – perhaps both. Consequently, the sonnet declares the monarch’s superior wit and literary abilities, in addition to denouncing gendered expectations, delivered through the form of common court entertainment.

The common argument is that a monarch’s verse is an expression of complete authority. This is – or, should be – a motion abandoned. Whilst this is true to some extent – why should Henry VIII need to heighten his power as a fearful tyrant? As Jonathan Goldberg maintains a monarch surely has some ‘instrument of royal power’. The likes of Herman – with his gesticulation of the ‘political imaginary’ – would fundamentally disagree that royal power is equivalent to absolute power. He argues that monarchs write verse with the means of ‘manipulating or appropriating the political imaginary of monarchy to enhance his or her position’. I wholly support Herman’s sentiment which implies that the monarch does not write to ‘rise’ positionally – this is impossible. However, I do take issue with the verb ‘enhance’. I believe Elizabeth cannot be grouped alongside male monarchs so easily. As a sole female ruler, she needed to create power before she ‘enhanced’ it.

Elizabeth did not only have to prove to her close court and political rivals that she was capable of ruling. Upon Elizabeth’s coronation, the newly-appointed ruler had to strongly defend her right to the crown, for several reasons, including her Protestantism, but predominantly her gender – for issues already deliberated. I shall maintain my line of argument by claiming that the audience here drives her literary methods of resistance. This speech was written not long after the Woodstock epigram, and yet it is not so taciturn in language. This, I claim, is because her audience – the nation – demands clear answers. Clarity is a demonstration of capability and honesty. Elizabeth’s debut speech, written by herself aged twenty-five, openly addresses concerns with resistance.

‘I happily chose the kind of life in which I yet live, which I assure you for my own part hath hitherto best contended myself and I trust hath been most acceptable to God’, forms part of her opening speech. The simplicity ascertains the bold nature of the Queen’s words – her meaning cannot be lost. The pre-modifying adverb ‘happily chose’ initiates that the Queen has a freedom of choice, an inherent right. Yet, it also implies that she is not necessarily belittling her critics – with this choice, comes criticism. It has a regal, proud tone to it.

Repeated throughout the speech is the notion of her relationship with God: a quest to rectify the uncertainties raised by many. She reiterates the biblically supported idea that God rules through the leader of the country: ‘I trust God, who hath hitherto therein preserved and led me by the hand, will not now of his goodness suffer me to go alone’. Openly confronting the issue of marriage, Elizabeth confides in her nation that she shall continue to be subservient to God regarding such a matter – ‘And albeit it might please almighty God to continue me still in this mind to live out of the state of marriage, yet it is not to be feared but He will so work in my heart’. Every possible hinderance to Elizabeth is coated in the authority of God. Marriage, shall be ruled by Him, as her reign is. This is not only the divine right of kings, but queens. The language of this prose is decorated, but also prohibits too much insight. Allison Heisch discusses that whilst adorned prose was a rhetorical fashion of the time, ‘it was also a technique of evasion’. Most impressive is that this evasion is difficult to see when one is reading the speech, let alone listening.

Elizabeth’s resistance is particularly at its height through her acknowledgement of those against her: ‘if the eschewing of the danger of my enemies or the avoiding of the peril of death, whose messenger or rather continual watchman, the prince’s indignation’. Other than the obvious gender-blurring through her terming of Mary as a ‘prince’, Elizabeth is outwardly honest about the threats she faces, acknowledging the existence of a ‘continual watchman’. Through her recognition of weakness she is rousing support and, ultimately, protection. Thus, whilst Sir John Neale agrees with my sentiment that parliamentary and political occasions were a highly effective opportunity for Elizabeth to rouse support he misses that, initially, they were of instrumental necessity. He claims that her political speeches were a ‘supreme opportunity of projecting upon the nation, through its assembled deputies, her personality and affection, her discipline, her will and unrivalled gifts of leadership’. Neale’s employment of praise for Elizabeth’s rhetorical prowess is to be admired, yet, as I earlier took issue with Herman’s use of the word ‘enhancement’, I disagree with Neale’s notion that Elizabeth was ‘established’ in her political speeches. Brave, powerful and arguably indignant indeed – but, there is that initial need to address her weaknesses.

For instance, Elizabeth’s speech at Cambridge University in 1564 (originally delivered in Latin), opens with a direct acknowledgment to the gender of herself, and her audience;

‘Although feminine modesty, most faithful subjects and most celebrated university, prohibits the delivery of a rude and uncultivated speech in such a gathering of most learned men, yet the intercession of my nobles and my own goodwill to the university incite me to produce one’

Even before Elizabeth has lunged into the body of her speech, she has acknowledged the three political hinderances to her monarchic image: the expectations of the female, the audience of well-educated male Cantabrigians, and the masculine institution. The employment of the deontic modal ‘most’ establishes these men as the highest of society’s offerings; she systematically sings their praises, but also forces their acknowledgement of their privilege. She places herself as powerful, and her speech as an offering, one to be grateful for, ‘my own goodwill’. Essentially, the monarch recognises her own linguistic abilities and quite powerfully asks her audience to recognise it too. The implicit humour also creates a confident Elizabeth, and somewhat equalises the balance of relationship between student and royal. It signifies a sense of comfortability. The language Elizabeth needed to acquire, especially for a speech of this kind, would have been popularised in male rhetorical spheres as princely oration, but this could not have been a product of a woman’s education; even a royal’s. The very fact that is early speech overcomes distance between audience and orator is admiringly bold.

Her later speeches do continue to signify greater strength of demand. There is a definite growth period to which the monarch is no longer concerned with addressing deprecating issues. In this sense, the ‘body politic’ of Elizabeth certainly grows in her rhetoric. Her speeches become a product of her capabilities as an accepted, admirable monarch. The prose becomes less decorated and more direct. Previously, when faced with opposition, the Queen turned to decorated sentiments of theology to support her divine rights. In 1563, in a speech regarding the subject of marriage, she showcased this;

‘The weight and greatness of this matter, might cause me, being a woman wanting both with and memory, some fear to speak, and bashful besides, a thing appropriate to my sex: But yet the princely seat and kingly throne, wherein God, (though unworthy) has constituted me’.

The first part of this clause alludes to her gender, which is then joined by reference to deity. There is a recognition of the throne to maleness, ‘the princely seat and kingly throne’, but her queenship is ‘constituted’, which refers to a direct appointment. Her “being a woman” does not prohibit her ability – rather, Elizabeth is claiming to revel in ‘kingly’ nature. This point can be reiterated often throughout her speeches – it merely becomes more direct later in her career: ‘though I be a woman, yet I have as good a courage answered able to my place as ever my father had: I am your anointed Queen’. The increase of Elizabeth’s power dynamic in relation to her audience increases the confidence of her language and syntax; no longer is it necessary to rely upon such ambivalences, though, ambiguities will naturally remain.

This dissertation has sought to explore Elizabeth’s methods of literary resistance. It has been demonstrated that Elizabeth employed a range of literary methods to create her own political image, redefining – or, more accurately – inventing the literary persona of the female monarch. These devices were fashioned according to her audience. The ambiguity and excellent syntactic evasiveness of the early epigrams are results of Elizabeth’s uncertain audience, and vulnerable situation. Comparatively, the imminent nature of the court setting allowed the queen to integrate herself into the manuscript culture, and thus, light-hearted, mocking verse was an effective vehicle of resistance. My argument has culminated with an analysis of the Queen’s public speeches, where the clarity and effective rhetorical structures portray Elizabeth’s enduring strength most effectively. Hence, audience is the underlying factor differentiating the literary methods of resistance. Common to all of Elizabeth’s texts, however, is the embracing of the female gender, as opposed to the dismissal of it. Thus, this monarch’s resistance must be deemed inherently female.

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