“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.
Books and articles for further exploration:
- Marion (Ansel) Taylor, Bottom, Thou Art Translated: Political Allegory in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Related Literature
- Eva Lee Turner Clark, Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays: A Study of the Early Court Revels and Personalities of the Times
- Martin Andrew Sharp Hume, The Courtships of Queen Elizabeth: a History of the Various Negotiations for her Marriage
- Roger Stritmatter, On The Chronology and Performance Venue of A Midsummer Night’s Dreame
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.
Portraits of Francois Hercule Valois,
Duc of Anjou and Alençon: