Elizabeth Book Report

This essay has a total of 3043 words and 10 pages.


Elizabeth" The 1998 movie "Elizabeth," directed by Shekhar Kapur, from a script by Michael
Hirst, is a historical epic that takes place during and after the mid-16th-century period
when England's Princess Elizabeth was nearly eliminated by her half-sister, Queen Mary. It
portrays the events of Mary's death, Elizabeth's ascension to the throne, and the
struggles and events that she must overcome in order to preserve the strength of the
English Monarchy, and establish Protestantism as the chief English religion. She must also
maintain her stability and safety as a female ruler in a male-dominated society. The movie
is beautifully made, with eloquent and realistic costumes, and prominent actors, and it
successfully turns an important historical period into a riveting drama filled with action
and romance. However, looking at "Elizabeth" from a historical standpoint, it is lacking
in terms of accuracy. The chronological events in the movie do not follow with the
historical events, and instances that happened over many years are crammed into a short
period of time. Also, many events are exaggerated, or even completely made up in order to
add to the dramatic appeal of the movie. Despite these flaws, "Elizabeth" does correctly
relate the main aspects of Queen Elizabeth I's rule. Elizabeth was born in 1533, the
daughter of the infamous Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. When Elizabeth was
three, her mother was beheaded for treason and adultery, and Parliament declared her
marriage to Henry invalid, which made Elizabeth illegitimate. Her chances of ever
ascending the throne were again thwarted by the birth of Edward, the son of Henry and his
third wife. When Edward, a Protestant, died in 1553, his older half-sister, Mary, a
Catholic, took the throne. Mary always held bitter feelings toward Elizabeth because Anne
Boleyn treated Catherine of Aragon, Mary‘s mother, badly. To avoid angering Mary,
Elizabeth "conformed outwardly to Catholicism," but she secretly hoped and plotted to
restore Protestantism. She was briefly locked up in the Tower of London, and was almost
executed. The movie begins with the execution of three Protestant activists, ordered by
Mary, illustrating her hatred and intolerance for Protestants. In order to avoid angering
Mary, "Elizabeth continually had to proclaim her pious distaste for heresy."(Jagger) In
the movie, Mary meets with her advisors, including the Duke of Norfolk, who advises her to
arrest Elizabeth for treason, and possibly execute her. They believe that she is part of a
conspiracy to kill Mary, ascend the throne, and reinstate Protestantism. The movie shows
Elizabeth being captured and taken to the Tower of London, where she is kept for short
period of time. During the time when she is imprisoned, Mary's advisors, namely Norfolk,
attempt to persuade her to put Elizabeth to death, but Mary is reluctant to do so.
Elizabeth is taken to see Mary, who at this point knows that she is dying of ovarian
cancer. Mary begs Elizabeth to promise that when she becomes Queen, she will preserve
Catholicism in England. Elizabeth promises only to "do as her heart tells her to do,"
which angers Mary, and she is then put under house arrest at the royal manor of Woodstock
in Oxfordshire, where she stays until Mary's death. In reality, these events followed
somewhat of a different course. Elizabeth was suspected of plotting the reinstatement of
Protestantism with a French ambassador and other Protestant activists, and Mary's advisors
suggested that Elizabeth be put under surveillance, as it might be then possible to find
reasons for sending her to the tower. Investigations proceeded, and Elizabeth was finally
sent to the tower, where she was held for two months in a suite of four rooms, where only
her servants could visit her. When she was released from the tower, she was taken to the
estate at Woodstock, and kept there for nine months under house arrest. During this time,
she was allowed no visitors. In the movie, Robert Dudley frequently visited her. In
reality, this would never have been allowed. The confrontation with Mary is inaccurate as
well. Instead of a face-to-face confrontation about preserving Catholicism, Mary wrote her
dying wish in a letter, and had it sent to Woodstock, where Elizabeth in turn replied back
with the same message that the movie shows. These inaccuracies in the movie can be
attributed to the filmmaker's lack of film time, as well as the drama factor. A
face-to-face confrontation is much more dramatic and entertaining than a mail
correspondence. Another inaccuracy in the movie is the role of Norfolk. The movie shows
him as a loyal servant to Mary, and a strong supporter of the execution of Elizabeth.
Actually, "Norfolk was not a key character in English political history until Elizabeth
had been on the throne for some years."(Thomas) His role in the movie is almost entirely
false, although he was eventually put to death due to his role in a conspiracy against
Elizabeth. Again, this can be attributed to the drama factor in the movie. Norfolk assumes
the role of the main "bad guy," and heightens the suspense of the movie. When Mary finally
dies due to ovarian cancer, Elizabeth is notified at Woodstock, and travels to England,
where she takes the crown amid great public rejoicing. At this time, the movie shows Sir
Francis Walsingham, a Protestant activist who had been hiding out in France awaiting the
death of Mary, returning to England to council Elizabeth, and the ascension of Elizabeth
to the throne. In reality, Walsingham did not become a key figure in English politics
until the second decade of Elizabeth's reign, although Elizabeth did maintain
correspondence with him throughout the early years of her reign. During the first few
weeks of her reign, Elizabeth reduced the size of her council in order to get rid of
several Catholic members, and appointed several new ones. The most skillful of her new
advisors was William Cecil, who was later made Lord Burghley. In the movie, Richard
Attenborough, an elderly man, plays Sir William. The real Sir William was only thirty
years of age when Elizabeth was crowned, and he served under her for forty years. She
never forced him to retire, as the movie later shows. At the very start of her reign,
Elizabeth faced pressures from both her advisors and Parliament to marry and produce an
heir. Her suitors included Philip II of Spain, Archduke Charles of Austria, Eric XIV of
Sweden, the Duke d' Anjou, the Duke of Alencon, and many others. However, she was
reluctant to marry from the beginning, and told Parliament that "in the end this shall be
sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a Queen, having reigned such a time,
lived and died a virgin"(Ridley). She was, in fact, probably in love with Robert Dudley,
known also as the Earl of Leicester. The movie manipulates several facts about Elizabeth
and Dudley's relationship. It shows Elizabeth and Dudley engaging in sexual activity,
which historians are very skeptical about. Jagger states, "It is unlikely that Robert
Dudley and the Queen had a sexual relationship, for various reasons, and their love affair
had not begun at the time of her coronation. In all probability, the Queen was the virgin
she claimed to be." Dudley and Elizabeth are constantly shown together, which holds some
historical accuracy. The two had a very close and affectionate relationship, and Elizabeth
frequently turned to Dudley for political advice. Rumors of a romantic involvement between
the two spread around Europe, and damaged her reputation to some extent. However, unlike
the movie shows, Elizabeth knew very well that Dudley was married, while she had attended
his wedding in 1550, so he could not very well hide the marriage from her. One very large
falsification on the filmmaker's part is Dudley's involvement in the conspiracy to have
Elizabeth killed. However, he did conspire with several outside forces in an effort to
gain support for a marriage between him and Elizabeth. Dudley met with the Spanish
ambassador, and told him to tell Philip II that he "was prepared to restore religion by
way of Council in return for Philip II's support of the marriage"(Doran). However, he had
no intention of keeping these promises once the wedding had taken place. Although she may
have wanted to, Elizabeth refused to marry Dudley because her main advisors objected to
it, but she let him continue his intrigues with the Spaniards, and her encouragement
probably gave him hope that she would eventually marry him. Dudley continued to pursue
Elizabeth, although it never worked out for him. On one occasion, Elizabeth stated that
"[she] would have here but one mistress and no master"(Jagger). Eventually, as it became
apparent that Elizabeth was not going to marry, the House of Commons and House of Lords
"preferred a Dudley match to her continuing a life of celibacy and to the threat of civil
war on her death. This evidence of Parliamentary approval for a marriage to her favorite
came too late, for by 1563 she had apparently little desire and certainly no intention of
taking Dudley as a husband"(Doran). As for the conspiracy, Robert had been involved with a
plan for Norfolk to marry Mary Stuart, but this had nothing to do with a plot to kill
Elizabeth. He had only supported it in order to get Norfolk out of England, which may have
worked on Elizabeth's behalf, while Norfolk conspired against her in later years. When the
plan started to turn in a negative way towards Elizabeth, Robert immediately confessed to
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