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Shakespeare and Elizabeth:
The Meeting of Two Myths
Helen Hackett

Hardcover | 2009 | $55.00 | £45.95 | ISBN: 9780691128061
320 pp. | 6 x 9 | 18 halftones.
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Did William Shakespeare ever meet Queen Elizabeth I? There is no evidence of such a meeting, yet for three centuries writers and artists have been provoked and inspired to imagine it. Shakespeare and Elizabeth is the first book to explore the rich history of invented encounters between the poet and the Queen, and examines how and why the mythology of these two charismatic and enduring cultural icons has been intertwined in British and American culture.

Helen Hackett follows the history of meetings between Shakespeare and Elizabeth through historical novels, plays, paintings, and films, ranging from well-known works such as Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth and the film Shakespeare in Love to lesser known but equally fascinating examples. Raising intriguing questions about the boundaries separating scholarship and fiction, Hackett looks at biographers and critics who continue to delve into links between the queen and the poet. In the Shakespeare authorship controversy there have even been claims that Shakespeare was Elizabeth's secret son or lover, or that Elizabeth herself was the genius Shakespeare. Hackett uncovers the reasons behind the lasting appeal of their combined reputations, and she locates this interest in their enigmatic sexual identities, as well as in the ways they represent political tensions and national aspirations.

Considering a wealth of examples, Shakespeare and Elizabeth shows how central this double myth is to both elite and popular culture in Britain and the United States, and how vibrantly it is reshaped in different eras.


"The sweep of Hackett's narrative is impressive and includes the visual arts as well as literary adaptations. It is replete with local gems, the author excelling at close literary readings. . . . At its best this attractive, searching book brings to mind Samuel Schoenbaum's Shakespeare's Lives."--René Weis, Around the Globe

"[An] engaging, clearheaded study."--Choice

"This is a scholarly yet wonderfully entertaining book about a modern myth: the belief that Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare met, talked and admired each other. . . . Helen Hackett provides a witty survey of the extraordinary variety of ways in which this curious supposition has been reiterated and elaborated in the cultural artefacts of the last 200 years. Not just in works of biography and history, but in novels, paintings, plays, films, and book illustrations, the encounter between man and woman who have come, with hindsight, so be seen as the two greatest figures of the Elizabethan age has been depicted again and again. . . . Sharp, learned, lively and amusing, this is an illuminating and engaging study. It is not easy nowadays to write a book about Shakespeare which is both fresh and substantial. Helen Hackett has done so."--Nicholas Shrimpton, The Brown Book

"[Shakespeare and Elizabeth] is charming, thought provoking, and richly informative about the way cultures and myths interact to shape national identities and ideals."--Helen Heightsman Gordon, Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences

"[Helen Hackett] manages her material with considerable engagement and lucidity in a book that is original, striking, and highly recommended."--Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
A Note on the Text xiii
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Lives and Legends in the Eighteenth Century 21
Chapter 2: Facts and Fictions in Nineteenth-Century Britain 46
Chapter 3: Shakespeare and Elizabeth Arrive in America 95
Chapter 4: Criticism and Interpretation: Elizabeth as the Key to Shakespeare 112
Chapter 5: New Intimacies: Elizabeth in the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy 152
Chapter 6: Twentieth-Century Fictions: Shakespeare and Elizabeth Meet Modernism and Postmodernism 179
Epilogue: Shakespeare and Elizabeth in the Twenty-fi rst Century 227
Notes 245
Bibliography 269
Index 291

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File created: 4/20/2017

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