Midsummer Monsieur: Episode 3 with Earl Showerman

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“And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays.”

— Bottom, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Could A Midsummer Night’s Dream contain allegorical references satirizing Queen Elizabeth’s long & melodramatic courtship with Francois Hercule Valois, the Duc of Alençon?

In this podcast, Dr. Earl Showerman takes us on a visit to the court of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1570s. Statesmen, nobles, and perhaps even Elizabeth herself are divided over whether or not the Virgin Queen should marry the younger brother of the King of France. Dramatics ensue onstage and off, in a surprisingly strange and significant episode of English history. And what’s most surprising is that this colorful, contentious time may be preserved in all its absurdity and otherworldliness in one of Shakespeare’s best known plays.

We also look at how Shakespeare included personalities and incidents from the French court in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Measure for Measure, and consider the intersection of literature and political speech in Elizabethan England.

Join us for this lively look back at where politics, love, image-making and theater weave together in a confused tangle of real-world plotlines.

Read the poem Queen Elizabeth wrote to the Duc of Alençon as he left England for the last time: On Monsieur’s Departure.

Recommended Reading

Books and articles for further exploration:


Earl Showerman photoEarl Showerman graduated from Harvard College and the University of Michigan Medical School, and practiced emergency medicine in Oregon for over 30 years.

A longtime patron of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, after retiring from medicine in 2003, he enrolled at Southern Oregon University (SOU) to study Shakespeare and to pursue his decades-long love affair with the authorship question.

Dr. Showerman is a former president of the Shakespeare Fellowship and former trustee of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition.  In recent years he has presented a series of papers at Concordia University and the joint Shakespeare Fellowship/Shakespeare Oxford Society authorship conferences on the topic of Shakespeare’s “Greater Greek.”

Dr. Showerman’s research has included a reexamination of the Greek literary sources and allegorical elements in Hamlet, The Winter’s Tale, Pericles, Much Ado about Nothing, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Tudor interlude, Horestes. He has delivered a series of lectures on his research at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at SOU and was the chair of the 2010 Ashland Authorship Conference. He periodically teaches a class called “The Shakespeare Authorship Question” at SOU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Scene From A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania and Bottom
“What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?” Edwin Landseer’s “Scene From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom”

Portraits of Francois Hercule Valois,
Duc of Anjou and Alençon:

“Nay, faith, let me not play a woman; I have a beard coming.” Alençon as a young man.
Alencon by Hillyard
“Good monsieur, bring me the honey bags.” Alençon captured in miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, 1577
Alençon from the Valois Tapestry
“I could play Ercles rarely.” The Herculean Hercule, detail from the Valois Tapestry.
Queen Elizabeth I Feeds the Dutch Cow
“Queen Elizabeth I Feeds the Dutch Cow.” An anonymous satirical Dutch painting, c.1586. Alençon (now called the Duc of Anjou), in pink, is at the losing end of the cow.