Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Celebrating Queen Elizabeth II

The Anglophiles among you may have spent the morning watching (or streaming) the live coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration. The reigning monarch of Britain has spent 60 years on the throne, and is still beloved and revered by her subjects.

Image from AFP/Getty Images

Shakespeare’s own Queen Elizabeth (the first of that name), was one of the longest-reigning monarchs of her time. She spent 45 years as Queen, and while she may not have been always beloved by all, she was certainly a formidable leader. She led her countrymen into battle with the Spanish invaders, supported the arts, handled tough political and economical

decisions – and saw them through. She proved that women could and would be as competent on the throne as men, and paved the way for monarchs like Elizabeth II.

Though Queen Elizabeth I did not personally patronize Shakespeare’s company, they were often invited to play at court – and Shakespeare gave

her plenty of strong female characters to side with or contest. An old folkstory says she enjoyed his Falstaff so much in the Henry IV plays that she requested a comedy for Falstaff in which he falls in love. Shakespeare dutifully penned The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Queen Elizabeth II paid the Folger a visit in 1991, where she sat in for a day of student festival performances, and visited our rare books – including a look at the bible that once belonged to her predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I.

Congratulations on 60 years as Queen of England, Your Majesty. Long Live the Queen!

One Comment

  • Is it okay to speculate about Falstaff? I’ve wondered if, at some level, Shakespeare intended him to be a spoof of the older Henry VIII. After all, that’s the man who ordered the execution of Queen Elizabeth’s mother. Just think, they’re both corpulent and notoriously lusty.

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