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Franck Lessay
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François Laroque

III - Enfers et délices : de Chaucer à Webster

“Good sometimes queen” (V.1.37). Richard II, Mary Stuart and the Politics of Queenship

Alison Findlay

Résumé

Cet article s’intéresse à la façon dont la puissance de la narration et du symbolisme a surdéterminé la relation impossible entre ces deux cousines qu’étaient la reine Élisabeth et Marie Stuart, et la façon dont Shakespeare contribué à perpétuer ce tragique récit historique dans Richard II. La poétique très particulière de la royauté sur laquelle chacune des deux souveraines s’est appuyée est passée au crible à travers le personnage de Richard. Cet article analyse le style de gouvernement de Richard et l’usurpation de Bolingbroke en les mettant en relation avec la manière dont Elisabeth et Marie se sont forgé une identité royale au sein d’un ensemble de pouvoir patriarcal. Au-delà de ses préoccupations intitiales pour un style de gouvernement efficace, le Richard II de Shakespeare retrace l’histoire secrète et officieuse des sympathisants catholiques, tels qu’on l’entrevoit à travers l’exécution de Marie, évoquée dans la scène du jardin, et dans le destin tragique de son protagoniste.

Texte intégral

  • 1 James Emerson Phillips, Images of a Queen: Mary Stuart in Sixteenth Century Literature, Berkeley a (...)
  • 2 Lily B. Campbell, Shakespeare’s Histories: Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy, San Marino, Huntington L (...)

1Mary Stuart has been incessantly represented, literalised, fabricated, during her lifetime and (especially) after her death, as critics like Phillips have shown.1 There has been a long tradition of reading Shakespeare’s King John as a struggle between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, Catholicism and Protestantism, following Lily B. Cambell's book Shakespeare’s Histories: Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy.2 Richard II mirrors King John not only in probable date of composition and style (entirely in verse), but because it too contains a trace of Mary Stuart’s story. In reading Richard II as an encrypted version of her relationship to Elizabeth and her fall from power, many coded parallels could be unravelled (for example, in the murder of Gloucester, the trial between Mowbray and Bolingbroke, the Flint Castle scene and journey to London), but this essay will focus on just three examples: the poetics of queenship and Richard’s feminized monarchy; Mary’s competition with Elizabeth; and the uses made of mar tyrdom by Richard II and Mary Stuart.

2Shakespeare’s cryptic reinscription of Mary seems to be highlighted in a speech on stories. In Act 5 Scene 1 of Richard II, the deposed king laments

  • 3 All quotations are from William Shakespeare, Richard II, ed. Andrew Gurr, Cambridge, Cambridge Uni (...)

Good sometimes queen, prepare thee hence for France
Think I am dead, and that even here thou tak’st,
As from my death-bed thy last living leave.
In winter’s tedious nights, sit by the fire
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
Of woeful ages long ago betid;
And ere thou bid goodnight, to quite their griefs
Tell thou the lamentable tale of me,
And send the hearers weeping to their beds;
For why, the senseless brands will sympathize
The heavy accent of thy moving tongue,
And in compassion weep the fire out;
And some will mourn in ashes, some coal black,
For the deposing of a rightful king.
(V.l.37-50)3

  • 4 Alexandre Labanov-Rostovsky, Lettres, instructions et mémoires de Marie Stuart, 7 vols, London, C (...)

3Shifting from the “Good sometimes queen” to the deposed king, we can read a microcosm of Mary’s story, already heightened into tear-jerking tragedy by the self-conscious protagonist. Richard imagines himself represented in his queen’s tales to be told by the fireside in France. Mary Stuart charged her doctors and waiting women to retell her final hours to listeners at the French court. Writing her last-living leave to her brother-in-law Henry III, six hours before she was executed, she tells him “s’il vous plait de croire mon médecin et ces autres miens désolez serviteurs, vous oyrez la vérité, et comme, grâce a Dieu, je mepris la mort et fidellement proteste de la recevoir innocente de tout crime, quand je serois leur sujette”.4 Mary constructs herself as a triumphant subject scorning death, martyred for her religion, in the “lamentable tale of me” which she entrusts her servants to tell. By comparing her words with Richard’s, we can see that both deposed monarchs try to assert agency over the retellings. Richard and Mary both offer images of the living author who is conscious of his own death in the representations that will follow him or her.

  • 5 Philips, Images of A Queen, pp. 189-95.

4Mary’s servants were detained at Fotheringay and then in London, but when they did reach Paris in October 1587, their stories were the foundation of a mass of literature on their saintly Royal mistress. The discussion of storytelling in Richard II may be Shakespeare’s own self-conscious allusion to the literary retellings of Mary’s fate amongst the Catholic community, designed to construct her as a martyr for the faith. Adam Blackwood’s Martyre de la Royne d’Escosse, published in five editions between 1587-89 was accompanied by La Mort de la Royne D’Escosse, with at least four editions between 1588-89. Tragedies by Jean de Bordes (in Milan), and Adrian Roulers, schoolmaster at Douai, moved the story into a new genre. Indeed, Roulers’ play, published in 1593, was written to be performed by the schoolboys.5 If Shakespeare was brought up as a Catholic and had close contact with the Jesuit Counter-Reformation mission, he may have been aware of these dramatic precedents. Another appropriation of Mary’s martyrdom, much closer to home, may have influenced the composition of Richard II. 1595 saw the execution of the Jesuit priest Richard Southwell, a cousin to Shakespeare, whose poems included the ventriloquisation:

  • 6 Robert Southwell, The Complete Poems of Robert Southwell, SJ, ed. R. B. Grosart, London: Fuller Wo (...)

Alive a Queene, now dead I am a sainte;
Once Mary called, my name nowe Martyr is;
From earthly raigne debarred by restraint,
In liew whereof I raigne in heavenly blisse.6

5Southwell’s death perhaps reawakened sad stories of the death of queens for the playwright. Shakespeare’s oblique representation of Mary Stuart in Richard II is, however, far from the clear celebratory picture offered by the Jesuit martyr. Perhaps as a result of Shakespeare’s own turbulent relationship with forms of Catholicism, it is deeply ambivalent.

  • 7 Jenny Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure, London, George Philip, 1988, p. 19.

6Richard’s speech begins “Good sometimes queen”, an apt title for Mary, who actively ruled Scotland for only six years of her forty-four year life. She was a minor and absentee ruler for the first nineteen years and was deposed in favour of her son James and imprisoned in England for the last nineteen.7 Shakespeare’s play uses the feminine Isabella to represent the French dimension of Mary Stuart’s identity, but it is the male Richard who figures her role as tragic protagonist in Scotland and England. Through this cross-gendered representation, Shakespeare explores the political challenge faced by Mary Stuart, who, (like Elizabeth I), had to reconcile her identity as woman and her status as Prince.

  • 8 Wormald, pp. 39-40.
  • 9 Kate Aughterson (ed.), Renaissance Women: Constructions of Femininity in England, A Sourcebook, Lo (...)

7Jenny Wormald says Mary’s failure as a queen was not predetermined by gender, since her namesakes, Mary of Hungary, Mary of Guise, Mary Tudor provided examples of strong female rulers, as did Margaret of Parma and Catherine de Medici. However, Wormald tellingly admits that these women exercised power “faute de mieux, against the natural order of things”8 a view most forcefully expressed by Mary Stuart’s own subject John Knox. The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558) declares that to promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, a thing most contrarious to his revealed will and approved ordinance.9

  • 10 John Knox to Queen Elizabeth 6 August 1561, Cal. Scot. Papers 1 (1547-63), p. 542. Cited in Philli (...)

8Mary Stuart’s sensitivity to such a critique is clear since she took Knox’s tract as a personal attack. In 1561 he reported that the Queen of Scots strove to have the book “confuted by the censure of the learned in divers realms; and farther, that she lauboreth to inflambe the hartes of princes against the writer.”10 Queen Elizabeth was equally strenuous in her attempts to discredit the text, suggesting a basic insecurity shared by both monarchs because of their gender.

  • 11 Jennifer Summit, ‘“The Arte of A Ladies Penne’: Elizabeth I and the Poetics of Queenship”, English (...)
  • 12 Labanoff, vol. 1 p. 82. For further disussion of the importance of queenship, see Alison Findlay, (...)

9In the absence of automatic male authority to command, both Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I cultivated a specialized poetics of queenship using display: interweaving emblems, images, verbal and non-verbal languages as Jennifer Summit has noted.11 They relied on the poetic discourse used in Richard II, and in particular, by its feminised protagonist. Richard’s mastery depends primarily on an invisible (and absent) divine paternal authority which must be invoked through language and Symbol. “Is not the King’s name forty thousand names?”, says Richard “Arm, arm, my name! A puny subject strikes/At thy great glory” (III.2.79). The king’s name, and her inheritance of it, was equally important to a queen. Her name signalled her authentic blood link to absent paternal authority (Kings James V and Henry VIII). Elizabeth claimed to have the heart and stomach of a king, while Mary asserted command over Scotland in 1560 by describing herself as the continuation of a masculine tradition, telling her subjects that all would remain as it was “ce que vos pères and prédécesseurs ont tousjours monstré de fidélité, loyauté et affection a nos progéniteurs vos princes souverains.”12

  • 13 Henderson, p. 215; Labanoff, vol. 1 p. 148.
  • 14 Another Latin translation by George Conn is dated 1624 and reproduced in Bittersweet Within My Hea (...)

10Richard the poet-king, enacts a style of government shared by the queens’reigns. Their ability to fashion themselves through metaphor was vital to their political success. With Pierre de Ronsard as her literary mentor, Mary Stuart was seemingly well fitted with a “moving tongue” to present herself as a commanding figure. Her poem “The Diamond Speaks”, written to Elizabeth sometime in 1562, offers an astute assessment of the techniques required for female rule, but also the desire for female solidarity in the world of male government. The verse was to accompany a “ring with a diamond fashioned lyke a heart”,13 passed as a symbol of unity and equality between two queens. Unfortunately, Mary’s French original is lost and we must rely on Thomas Chaloner’s 1579 Latin translation.14

11The poem claims that the diamond’s sparkling power surpasses the strength of flame and brand, and its many facets display the cunning craft behind its creation. The heart-shaped jewel, with its feminine associations of beauty and tenderness, is here reconstructed as a metaphor for hard-headed female government. Skilful self-fashioning and brilliant display can surpass the power of material force (or biology). The second part of the poem expands the metaphor, imagining each queen as such a diamond, mounted on a common band of iron (signalling strength in loyalty). Sisterly unity would amaze and blind all enemies:

  • 15 op.cit., pp. 21-23.

Tunc ego perstingam tremulo fulgore coruscans
Adstantum, immisis lumina seu radu.
Tunc ego seu pretio, seu quae me provocet arte,
Gemma, adamas firmo robore prima ferar.
[Then with my glitt’ring rays I should confound the sight
Of all who saw me, dazzling enemies with my light.
Then, by my worth and by her art, I should be known
As the diamond, the greatest jewel, the mighty stone.]15

12In Shakespeare’s play, Richard II’s power relies on the same dazzling inscrutability. When he returns from Ireland to confront the military threat posed by Bolingbroke, Richard compensates for his lack of military power with an elaborately crafted poetic performance, drawing on the conventional imagery of kingship to style himself as a heavenly sun who will appear and shame the rebels into submission:

But when from under this terrestrial ball
He fires the proud tops of the eastern pines,
And darts his light through every guilty hole,
Then murders, treasons, and detested sins,
The cloak of night being plucked from off their backs,
Stand bare and naked, trembling of themselves.
So when this thief, this traitor Bolingbroke,
Who all this while hath revelled in the night
Whilst we were wand'ring with the Antipodes,
Shall see us rising in our throne, the east,
His treasons will sit blushing in his face,
Not able to endure the sight of day,
But, self-affrighted, tremble at his sin.
(III.2.37-49)

13Richard employs an image of omnipresent blazing power, a royal sun which can look everywhere but cannot be looked at. The exact strength of the King is invisible to the trembling foe who blushes before the poetically crafted appearance of majesty. Mary’s image of the queenly diamond, dazzling enemies with its light, is refracted in this dramatic representation. As we will see, Elizabeth took up the same idea of majestic inscrutability and turned it back on Mary when she fled to England. Both queens can therefore be aligned with the poet king Richard, whose ability to sustain his position through rhetoric and right in the first part of the play, apparently denies the need for masculine force to substantiate monarchy. When he confronts Bolingbroke's forces at Flint Castle, Richard's power is purely theatrical. His crown, robe and commanding eye combine with his superior stage position on the walls to create “so fair a show” of “controlling majesty” that he is still able to assert his royal will (III.3.69-70). Like Richard, Mary and Elizabeth created a show of majesty with the power to undermine exclusively male constructions of authority.

14It was of course Elizabeth who claimed “I am Richard II, know ye not that?”, but Richard’s misgovernment and fall from power suggests the fate of Mary Stuart. Elizabeth may have feared deposition and failure but Mary experienced it. She was a nightmarish example of what could happen to Elizabeth. Richard's vital mistake is his failure to sustain the rhetoric of command. At Flint Castle, Richard publicly stages his own abdication by subjecting himself to Bolingbroke:

What must the King do now? Must he submit?
The King shall do it. Must he be deposed?
The King shall be contented. Must he lose
The name of King? A God’s name let it go.
(III.3.142-45)

  • 16 Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1969, pp. 238-89.

15Mary Queen of Scots’ surrender of herself to Bothwell offers a striking parallel to Richard II’s words (though it lacks his irony). By marrying her abductor, the Queen disastrously compromised her position, not just because she had implicated herself in the murder of Darnley, but because she had forgotten her royal identity and effectively rewritten herself as a wife subjected to her husband’s authority. (In relation to Darnley, she had remained the primary signatory of all royal documents).16 It was only “natural” that this fallen woman should submit to the Scottish lords at Carberry Hill and ultimately abdicate. In a love sonnet to Bothwell used at the 1568 Conference of Westminster, she supposedly wrote:

  • 17 Bittersweet Within My Heart, p. 44.

Entre ses mains et en son plein pouvoir
Je mets mon fils, mon honneur et ma vie,
Mon pays, mes sujects, mon âme assujetie
Et tout a lui...17

16George Buchanan translated this as:

In his handis and in his full power
I put my sonne, my honour, and my lyif,
My contry, my subiects, my sowle al subdewit

  • 18 G. Buchanan, Ane Detection of the duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes (1571).

17Buchanan’s translations are one example of Mary losing control of her story. Whether Mary wrote the original French poems herself or not, she is ventriloquized as unsuitable to rule in lines like “I haif no wealth, hap, nor contentation/But to obay and serve him truly’. Rewritten as a saintly model of wifely duty, loving Bothwell in “subjection” (Sonnet 6), she can no longer be a queen.18

18Mary’s flight to England in 1568 created an uncomfortable proximity between the two queens which lasted for nineteen years. The deposition scene in Richard II (excised from printed texts until after Elizabeth’s death), plays out the poetic competition over queenship, refiguring Mary and Elizabeth in the roles of Richard and Bolingbroke, though in a deliberately ambiguous way. Mary is both the illegitimate usurper threatening Elizabeth, and the weak monarch, forced to give up crown and regal identity. Bolingbroke and Richard face each other on opposite sides of the crown, as Mary and Elizabeth had to during the long years of Mary's imprisonment. Richard tells Bolingbroke:

Here, cousin, seize the crown
Here, cousin. On this side my hand, on that side thine.
Now is this golden crown like a deep well
That owes two buckets filling one another,
The emptier ever dancing in the air,
The other down, unseen, and full of water.
That bucket down and full of tears am I,
Drinking my griefs, whilst you mount up on high.
(IV. 1.172-79)

  • 19 Labanoff, Vol 2 p.68. Mary’s dispute with Knox reached a climax when he opposed her marriage to Da (...)
  • 20 J. E. Neale,Queen Elisabeth I, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1960, p. 206.

19The mirroring of opposites exposes sameness. Richards situation reveals to Bolingbroke his own weak position on the throne and the likelihood of deposition by his nobles. This was something Elizabeth was obliged to recognize too. In a letter written from Lochleven Castle, Mary warned her cousin “Vous pouvés aussi considérer l’importance de l’exsample pratiqué contre moy, non seullement en Roy ou Royne, mays par moindre qualité.”19 Elizabeth criticized the Scottish Parliament for putting pressure on Mary to abdicate, saying “They have no warrant nor authority by the law of God or man to be as superiors, judges or vindicators over their prince and sovereign, howsoever they do gather or conceive matters of disorder against her.”20 Elizabeth saw in Mary’s fate what could happen to her if she allowed her male counsellors to challenge her right to govern as a “prince” on the grounds of “matters of disorder against her,” a specifically gendered failure to manage her affairs.

  • 21 Labanoff, vol 2, pp. 80-82.

20Mary’s appeal to her sister Queen for help, reminding her of the ring gift proved fruitless. Appealing to Elizabeth “tant pour la proximité du sang, similytue d’état et professée amitié” merely emphasised Elizabeth’s own insecurities21 Suspicious of the Catholic plots surrounding Mary, Elizabeth turned against an enemy rather than uniting with a weaker sister diamond. Her sonnet “The Doubt of Future Foes”, was written circa 1570, in the wake of the Northern rebellion and probably during the trial of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. It is an expression of panoptic queenly power. Fearing that her Catholic “subjects faith doth ebb”, Elizabeth presents herself transcending such apparent weakness by claiming foreknowledge of “future foes”. Like Richard's royal sun in Richard II, Elizabeth is able to dart her “light through every guilty hole” (II.3.39), with the help of “worthy wights” such as Walsingham and the members of his secret service. She cautions Mary that she already knows of future plots and will undo these before they come to fruition:

The top of hope supposed the root upreared shall be,
And fruitless all their grafted guile, as shortly ye shall see.
The dazzled eyes with pride, which great ambition blinds,
Shall be unsealed by worthy wights whose foresight falsehood finds.
The daughter of debate that discord aye doth sow
Shall reap no gain where former rule still peace hath taught to know.
No foreign banished wight shall anchor in this port;
Our realm brooks not seditious sects, let them elsewhere resort.
My rusty sword through rest shall First his edge employ
To poll their tops that seek such change or gape for future joy.

21The foreign banished wight” and “daughter of debate” who sows civil unrest is Mary Stuart. Elizabeth warns that she is able to see through all their “grafted guile”, and will use her sword to execute such rebellious or unruly plants.

  • 22 Francis Teague, “Elizabeth I”, in Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation, ed. Katherina (...)
  • 23 The image of Tarquin decapitating poppies as a covert death sentence appears in Livy’s History (1. (...)

22The poem’s horticultural imagery “root upreared” “fruitless” “grafted” “sow” “reap” etc., follows a popular trope, the garden as kingdom. As Frances Teague has remarked, Elizabeth’s lines “remind one of the garden scene in Richard IT’22which draws on the same trope from Livy.23

23 Gardener:

Go thou, and like an executioner
Cutt off the heads of too-fast-growing sprays
That look too lofty in our commonwealth.
(III.4.33-36)
All must be even in our government.
You thus employed, I will go root away
The noisome weeds which without profit suck
The soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.

24 Servant:

Why should we, in the compass of a pale,
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing as in a model our firm estate,
When our sea-walleèd garden, the whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers chocked up,
Her fruit trees all unpruned, her hedges ruined,
Her knots disordered and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars?
(III.4.34-48)

25The allegorical nature of Act III Scene 4 makes it stand out like a highly decorated illustration in the play’s narrative. Taken in isolation, its echoing of the garden trope in Elizabeth’s poem could be coincidental. However, further investigation suggests that Shakespeare’s “illustrative panel” encrypts the political and religious struggle between the two queens by reproducing the very allegories they used. As Jennifer Summit observes, Mary Stuart reworked the verbal images in Elizabeth’s “The Doubt of Future Foes” in her embroideries, in particular the Oxburgh Hanging. The dangerous nature of these emblems was clear since they were produced as evidence of treason at the trial of the Duke of Norfolk, leading to his execution in 1571. They also incriminated Mary. The historian William Camden noted in his Annales of England (1615) that:

  • 24 William Camden, Annales, or the Historie of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princesse Elizabeth, (...)

Suspitions were layd hold on, as if there were a plot already layd to set her at liberty: and that, by occasion of certaine Emblems sent unto her. Which were these: Argus with his many eyes, all his eyes lull’d asleep by Mercurius sweetly piping, with this short sentence, Eloquium tot lumina clausit that is so many eyes have faire speech clos’d: Mercurius cutting off Argus head which kept Iô. A scien grafted into a stocke, and bound about with bands, yet budding forth fresh, and written about, per vincula cresco, that is to say through bands I grow. A palme tree pressed downe but rising up againe, with this sentence, Ponderibus virtus innata resistit, that is ‘Gainst weights doth inbred vertue strive. This Anagram also Veritas armata, that is, Truth armed, according to her name Maria Stuarta, the letters being transposed, was taken in worse part. Neverthelesse, there crept forth certaine spies, and letters were secretly sent as well fained as true, whereby her womanish impotency might be thrust on to her owne destruction.24

26Mary’s countering shots to “The Doubt of Future Foes” in the queenly battle fought with pen and needle are clear. The eyes lulled by sweet piping and “faire speech” suggest that Mary’s professions of love and loyalty to “ma chère sœur” were far from genuine, accompanied, as they were, by involvement in Catholic plots. The images of gardening are even more interesting, suggesting that wounding or oppression will actually encourage further growth. The Latin motto on Mary’s Oxburgh Hanging reads “Virescit, Vulnere Virtus”: “virtue flourishes through wounding”.

27Read in the context of this war over emblems, the scene in Richard II takes a pragmatic but particularly Marian line on gardening. The lines quoted above stress the necessity for pruning the too-fast-growing sprays. This is what a good king, an ideal Richard, should have done. Richard failed, as Mary failed to prune her nobles and was usurped (or fails to assassinate Elizabeth and is killed). So as not to fall into the same trap, Elizabeth had to execute rebels, and finally, after nineteen years, uproot or decapitate Mary herself. However, the gardener’s second speech points out the inevitable (indeed, desireable) consequences of pruning: further growth. “We at time of year/Do wound the bark” he says, echoing the Symbol from Mary’s embroidery. The pruning images in Richard II offer a positive reading of Mary’s execution as a cull that will produce fruit of greater Catholic support, more vigorous regrowth. Execution is a no-win situation for Elizabeth. As she recognises in “The Doubt of Future Foes” she must poll the tops that gape for future joy, but the execution of Mary will only make her cause flourish all the more strongly, threatening to turn the sea-walled kingdom into a wilderness of fast-growing sprays, an unweeded garden that requires constant attention.

  • 25 British Museum Harl. 831 MS in Accounts and Papers Relating to Mary Queen of Scots, ed. Allan J. C (...)

28Shakespeare could certainly have known Elizabeth’s poem since it was a celebrated example of her poetic skill in Puttenham’s Arte of English Poesie (1589). Its political import was emphasised by Puttenham’s discussion of Elizabeth’s use of dark and figurative language in her dealings with Mary in his “Defence of the Honorable Sentence and Execution of the Queene of Scotes”, a manuscript written “for large satisfaction of all such persons both prince and private who by ignorance of the case or partiallitie of mind shall happen to be irresolute and not satisfied in the said cause.”25

  • 26 Margaret Swain, The Needlework of Mary, Queen of Scots, New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1 (...)
  • 27 Robert Southwell’s poem “I dye without desert” has Mary describe herself as “A gracious plant for (...)

29Whether Shakespeare would have had access to the details of Mary’s embroideries is far more difficult to determine. It is interesting to note that she bequeathed the veil and rosary she wore at her execution to Anne Dacre, wife to Philip Howard, son of Duke of Norfolk. Philip Howard was imprisoned in the Tower for recusant activities, so another panel embroidered by Mary for him would probably have been sent to Anne. This and the “Virescit, Vulnere Virtus” pruning embroidery given to his father doubtless acquired the status of relics in that prominent Catholic family, when Philip followed in the footsteps of his father and the Catholic Queen, and died for his faith in 1595.26 The fact that the emblem of fruitful wounding was sent to Mary as well as being embroidered by her suggests these images formed a hieroglyphics of Catholic resistance (Robert Southwell uses the same image of Mary, for example.27) If so, then a Shakespeare with connections to a Jesuit network may well have been cryptically advertizing his observations on its power to renew itself through persecution.

30Mary’s embroidery suggests she recognised her death would be the beginning of a powerful iconography. Her personal motto, “en ma fin est mon commencement” perhaps explains her enthusiasm for execution as a form of victory over Elizabeth. Through its coded allusions, Richard II, offers a way of reading the martyrdom of Mary Stuart and of those Catholics who were following her pattern in 1595.

31In the endless hours of imprisonment, both Mary and Richard realise the futility of trying to regain royal identity in material terms, and turn to self-dissolution. In Act V Scene 5 Richard describes himself as a feminized subject, shifting restlessly between subject positions, none of which satisfy him. He says “Thus play I in one person many people/And none contented” (V.5.31), and goes on to imagine himself as beggar and as “kinged again, and by and by unkinged by Bullingbrook” (V.5.332-37). He poignantly considers how he has become time’s “numbering clock” (V.5.50) in prison where “my thoughts are minutes” (V.5.52). His realisation that “I wasted time and now doth time waste me” is accompanied by an acceptance of self as absence:

Nor I, nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased
With being nothing.
(V.5.38-41)

  • 28 Labanoff, vol. 2, p. 277.
  • 29 Op. cit., vol. 6, p. 446.

32Mary too wrestled to reconcile her experiences of being monarch and imprisoned subject. In 1568 she had publicly declared that “je suis délibéré que je ne précipite lègièrement ce que Dieu m’a donné, et que je me résolve de mourir Royne, que femme privée.”28 Even in November 1586 Mary appealed to Elizabeth par le tiltre de Reyne que je porte encore jusques à la mort”29.

33Richard s poetic meditations on time, self-recognition and dissolution are uncannily duplicated in Mary Stuart s “Book of Hours”, whose religious texts she embellished with marginal jottings, mainly poetry. Her life in prison becomes a dock to number the hours and days:

Les heures je guide et le jour

[I guide the hours and guide the day

Par l'ordre exact de ma carrière,

Because my course is true and right

Quittant mon triste séjour

And thus I quit my own sad stay

Pour ici croitre ma lumière

That here I may increase my light.]

34Through the bitterness, Mary recognizes that “ici croitre ma lumiere” [here I may increase my light], To increase her light in spiritual terms was to recognise, like Richard, the truth her own insignifïcance. In her last poem, written from prison at Fotheringay Castle, she observed:

Que suis-je hélas ? Et de quoi sert ma vie ?

[Alas what am I? What use has my life?

Je ne suis fors* qu'un corps privé, cœur

I am but a body whose heart's de torn away,

Une ombre vaine, un objet de malheur

A vain shadow, an object of misery

Qui n'a plus rien que de mourir en vie

Who has nothing left but deathin-life.]

35Both Richard and Mary's words are dominated by a death-drive, a consciousness of the radical instability of the subject which can only be resolved by its dissolution into nothing.

36The death wish is not simply for self-annihilation. In the spiritual sense, it is self-sacrifice in the face of an omnipotent, divine Other. However, in the worldly sense it is the beginnings of self as story, a lasting fame, as long as men can live or eyes can see. “Quittant mon triste sejour/Pour ici croitre ma lumière”, dying to increase one’s brightness on earth, perhaps. One of Mary’s poems captures the suggestion that self-dissolution may be only the gateway to a new identity as martyr:

  • 30 Bittersweet Within My Heart, p. 90.

Un Cœur que l’outrage martyre

[A heart which is martyred with agony

Par un mépris ou d’un refus

Through scorn, rejection and disdain

A le pouvoir de faire dire :

Still has the power and right to say:

Je ne suis plus ce que je fus. Marie R.30

What I was I no more remain]

37Power and right are the qualities associated with the martyred self. Richard II too ends with a powerful reassertion of the self: “Mount, mount, my soul; thy seat is up on high,/Whilst my gross flesh sinks downward, here to die” (V.6.111)

  • 31 Ibid.

38How are these to be read? Critics have noted Richard’s ostentatious use of religious symbolism, as he offers to swap his jewels for a set of beads, his figured goblets for a dish of wood (III.3.146-53), and then goes on to compare himself to Christ, chastising his disobedient subjects as “Pilates” who have “delivered me to my sour cross” (IV. 1.230-1). Mary Stuart bequeathed silver boxes, cups and ewers, and then took up a golden rosary and prayer book to descend to her death in Fotheringay Castle. Her repeated declarations that she was dying for her faith, rather than as a criminal, suggest a self-conscious manipulation of martyrdom to match Richard’s. (In one verse in the Book of Hours she imagines her enemies round her deathbed casting lots for her garments).31 By pruning or wounding the self, both monarchs know their stories will flourish.

39One could argue that Mary’s verses, jotted in a personal prayer book, are private meditations. This turns out to be far from the truth. Amongst the leaves of the Book of Hours, in addition to Mary’s lines, are the signatures of prominent members of the English court: including Francis Walsingham, Charles Howard, Thomas Radcliffe, Walter Devereux, Elizabeth Shrewsbury, and Arbella Stuart. The signatures suggest that the Book of Hours was being inspected by interested individuals during her life and after her death, up until at least 1610. Could this circulation have given Shakespeare access to the verses inside? Whatever the answer to this particular mystery, Mary Stuart’s awareness that her poems would be read by others makes us reassess the personal confessions in verse, and their “woeful taies” as worldly self-fashionings.

40Like Mary Stuart s head, the pages of the Book of Hours have been brutally cropped, so cutting off some of her words. At the bottom of Folio 81v she desperately observes:

  • 32 Ibid.

Il faut plus que la renommeé
[Never again in all my fame must I
Pour dire et publier32
Proclaim and tell]

41The sentence is unfmished. Did Shakespeare take up the story of the “Good sometimes queen”, retelling it in Richard II to send spectators to their beds musing on the regenerative force of martyrdom? Mary’s faith in narrative may have reminded the playwright that each martyred monarch or jesuit needed “the heavy accent of a moving tongue” to retell his or her story.

Notes

1 James Emerson Phillips, Images of a Queen: Mary Stuart in Sixteenth Century Literature, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1964.

2 Lily B. Campbell, Shakespeare’s Histories: Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy, San Marino, Huntington Library, 1978.

3 All quotations are from William Shakespeare, Richard II, ed. Andrew Gurr, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984.

4 Alexandre Labanov-Rostovsky, Lettres, instructions et mémoires de Marie Stuart, 7 vols, London, C Dolman, 1844, 6, p. 492.

5 Philips, Images of A Queen, pp. 189-95.

6 Robert Southwell, The Complete Poems of Robert Southwell, SJ, ed. R. B. Grosart, London: Fuller Worthies’Library, 1872, pp. 171-2.

7 Jenny Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure, London, George Philip, 1988, p. 19.

8 Wormald, pp. 39-40.

9 Kate Aughterson (ed.), Renaissance Women: Constructions of Femininity in England, A Sourcebook, London, Routledge, 1995, p. 138.

10 John Knox to Queen Elizabeth 6 August 1561, Cal. Scot. Papers 1 (1547-63), p. 542. Cited in Phillips, p. 33.

11 Jennifer Summit, ‘“The Arte of A Ladies Penne’: Elizabeth I and the Poetics of Queenship”, English Literary Renaissance 26 (1996), pp. 395-422.

12 Labanoff, vol. 1 p. 82. For further disussion of the importance of queenship, see Alison Findlay, A Feminist Perspective on Renaissance Drama, Oxford, Blackwell, 1999, Chapter 5.

13 Henderson, p. 215; Labanoff, vol. 1 p. 148.

14 Another Latin translation by George Conn is dated 1624 and reproduced in Bittersweet Within My Heart: The Love Poems of Mary, Queen of Scots, trans. and ed. Robin Bell, London, Pavilion Books, 1992, pp. 24-25

15 op.cit., pp. 21-23.

16 Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1969, pp. 238-89.

17 Bittersweet Within My Heart, p. 44.

18 G. Buchanan, Ane Detection of the duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes (1571).

19 Labanoff, Vol 2 p.68. Mary’s dispute with Knox reached a climax when he opposed her marriage to Darnley. Infuriated by his sermon against the match, she apparently asked him “What have ye to do with my marriage? Or what are ye within this Commounwealth”, to which Knox replied “a subject borne within the same”. See T. F. Henderson, Mary Queen of Scots, 2 vols, London, 1905, Vol 2, p. 272.

20 J. E. Neale,Queen Elisabeth I, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1960, p. 206.

21 Labanoff, vol 2, pp. 80-82.

22 Francis Teague, “Elizabeth I”, in Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation, ed. Katherina M. Wilson, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987, p. 529.

23 The image of Tarquin decapitating poppies as a covert death sentence appears in Livy’s History (1.54), cited in H. J. Leon, “Classical Sources for the Garden Scene in Richard II", Philological Quarterly 29 (1950), p. 65.

24 William Camden, Annales, or the Historie of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princesse Elizabeth, by William Camden, trans. by R.N., London, Thomas Harper for Benjamin Fisher, 1635, (1615).

25 British Museum Harl. 831 MS in Accounts and Papers Relating to Mary Queen of Scots, ed. Allan J. Crosby and John Bruce, London, 1587-88.

26 Margaret Swain, The Needlework of Mary, Queen of Scots, New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1973, pp. 101-103.

27 Robert Southwell’s poem “I dye without desert” has Mary describe herself as “A gracious plant for fruite, for leafe and flower”, and concludes with an image of God as the gardener: “God doth sometymes first cropp the sweetest floure/And leaves the weede till Tyme do it devour” Poems, 173-74, p. 174.

28 Labanoff, vol. 2, p. 277.

29 Op. cit., vol. 6, p. 446.

30 Bittersweet Within My Heart, p. 90.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

Auteur

Université de Lancaster
Professeur à l’Université de Lancaster. Elle a notamment publié Illegitimate Power : Bastards in Renaissance Drama, Manchester University Press, 1994 et A Feminist Perspective on Renaissance Drama, Blackwell, 1998 et elle est aussi co-auteur de Women and Dramatic Production 1550-1700, Longman, 2000 et travaille actuellement sur Women in Skaespeare ainsi qu’à une édition de Macbeth (Arden “Shakespeare at Stratford”).

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