Born on September 7, 1533 under the sign of the Virgin, Elizabeth I became Queen of England at the age of 25. In 1548 her tutor William Grindal died and was replaced by Roger Ascham (1515-68), who helped her to learn French, Italian, Latin and Greek. Six days after her sister Mary’s death on November 17, 1558 Elizabeth arrived in London. The astrologer John Dee set her coronation for January 15, 1559, and it cost at least £16,000. Her procession from the Tower to Westminster was cheered by loyal subjects. Yet in her first six months Elizabeth reduced government spending about 60% compared to the last six months of Mary’s reign. Queen Mary I had left the Crown with a debt of about £280,000.
Elizabeth told the Spanish ambassador, the Count of Feria, that she was grateful to her people for making her queen, not to Felipe II, and Feria was denied a room in her palace at Whitehall. She chose William Cecil to be her principal secretary and warned him not to be corrupted by gifts. She dismissed all the men who had served Felipe II and most of the Catholics from her Council, keeping those pliable and adding seven Protestants. She refused to stay in her chapel while Owen Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle, used Catholic rites. As many exiled Protestants returned to England, their pamphlets attacked the Catholic hierarchy. To calm the realm Elizabeth proclaimed on December 28 that preaching was forbidden. While requiring the Gospels, the Epistles, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments to be recited in English, the rest of the service could be in Latin.
Those with inherited wealth and power were coming into conflict with “new men” who acquired wealth from the monasteries and by enclosing common lands which alienated peasants. Elizabeth tended to favor the new men.
Parliament met on January 25, 1559 with Nicholas Bacon, Keeper of the Great Seal, presiding. He opened the session by stating that her Majesty’s desire was to unite the people in security in a uniform order for the glory of God and the general tranquility. Ambassador Edward Carne was recalled from Rome on February 4. Bishop Bonner of London presided over a religious convocation on February 28 that confirmed transubstantiation, sacrifice of the Mass, and papal supremacy while condemning the laity’s usurped right to decide on doctrines, sacraments, and Church discipline. Elizabeth adjourned Parliament on March 24 but agreed to a debate on these issues in Westminster Hall on March 31. They began arguing over the rules, but presiding Nicholas Bacon rejected the conditions proposed as showing contempt for the Crown and dissolved the assembly. A few days later bishops White of Winchester and Watson of Lincoln were taken to the Tower, and others had to pay heavy fines.
Meanwhile the Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy that repealed Mary’s reactionary laws while reviving the anti-papal legislation of Henry VIII which gave the Crown supreme power over the national church. The Act of Uniformity brought back the modified second Edwardian Book of Common Prayer as the guide of public worship. Both acts included penal codes. Clerics, judges, college graduates, and all public officials had to take the oath of supremacy, and three attempts to maintain a foreign authority in England could be punished by death for treason. The Uniformity Act made clerics offending against the prayer book liable to life imprisonment. Laity could be fined 12d. each time they missed a church service, though few were prosecuted. Elizabeth was declared the “only supreme governor” in all spiritual and ecclesiastical things as well as temporal ones. Elizabeth approved both bills on May 8.
The new policy was not to make martyrs but enforce laws moderately. Those detained were often in the custody of the new bishops who replaced them; others only had to report to the Council occasionally. Eight bishops were sent to the Tower. Bishop Bonner was imprisoned at Marshalsea; but the former chancellor Nicholas Heath, Archbishop of York, was allowed to retire to his estates in Surrey. Government commissioners traveled the country from August to October and reported that most papists were falling on their own. Many believed these changes might not last a long time. Elizabeth said that she did not want to look into men’s souls to force their consciences. By November all of Mary’s bishops had been removed, and on December 17 Matthew Parker was consecrated as primate at Canterbury. Yet legal changes came slowly; by 1564 about half the justices still opposed government policy. Mobs ransacked some churches, and in September 1560 a decree prohibited destroying ancient monuments in churches set up for memory rather than superstition. In five years about 400 clergy resigned or lost their benefices.
Learning from Queen Mary’s unpopular marriage to the foreigner Felipe II, her sister Elizabeth rejected his marriage suit. Then Felipe hoped that she would marry one of Emperor Ferdinand’s sons, the archdukes Ferdinand and Charles, but she rejected Catholics and foreigners, especially if she had not met them. Prince Erik of Sweden sent his brother Johan to woo her on his behalf in 1559 and 1560. Henry Fitzalan, the Earl of Arundel, and William Pickering were subjects but failed also. She made Denmark’s Prince Adolphus, Duke of Holstein, a Knight of the Garter and gave him gifts and a life pension, but she soon sent him away. When Elizabeth met at Whitehall with those presenting the Commons’ petition for her to marry, she held up her coronation ring and declared that she was bound in marriage to England. She concluded that she would not mind having on her tomb that she had “reigned a virgin and died a virgin.”
After Felipe II decided to marry Henri II’s daughter Elizabeth of Valois, England’s Elizabeth wanted to get Calais back from the French. On April 2, 1559 she agreed to let France keep it for eight years if they kept the promise of mutually abstaining from aggression against each other. She was concerned about the French support of Mary Stuart in Scotland and became very upset when she learned that she and her husband François II had been proclaimed “King and Queen of England, Ireland, and Scotland.” Elizabeth had the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Grey de Wilton take 4,000 soldiers beyond the River Trent to guard the Scottish border.
On December 24, 1559 her Council decided to intervene in Scotland, but their orders to Norfolk were countermanded six days later, allowing only secret advances and Admiral William Winter’s fourteen ships which reached the Firth of Forth on January 23, 1560. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, and Arthur Grey de Wilton with 6,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry on February 27 at Berwick formed an alliance with Scottish lords who provided 2,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry. England had a treaty with Mary Stuart but did not want the French ending Scotland’s religious independence. Mary Stuart, Queen Regent of Scotland, was daughter of Mary of Guise, and husband of the Dauphin. On March 28 Grey moved an English army of 6,500 from Berwick. They joined the Scots at Prestonpans and moved toward Leith which had been fortified. Cecil went from Berwick to Edinburgh to negotiate with the French. On July 8 they agreed their two nations would not interfere in Scotland which was to be governed by a council of twelve with five chosen by the lords in Parliament and seven by Mary Stuart. England had spent £133,886 on this alliance with Scotland.
Elizabeth and Robert Dudley were the same age and had been friends since childhood, though his name was attainted because his father Northumberland and grandfather Edmund Dudley had been hanged. Robert Dudley had married Amy Robsart in 1550. By May 1559 Elizabeth had made him Master of the Horse and lieutenant of the Castle and Forest of Windsor, and she had given him property at Kew and the former monasteries of Watton and Meux in Yorkshire, plus a lucrative license to export woolen goods without paying duty. He had been her companion when she was imprisoned in the Tower, and she let him reside in an apartment near her bedchamber and often visited him at night. She often flirted with him at court, and they shared a sense of humor. On June 6 she made him a Knight of the Garter. After the death of Mary of Guise on June 10, the English siege broke through at Leith. On September 7, 1560 Elizabeth told the Spanish ambassador Alvarez de Quadra, Bishop of Aquila, that Amy was dead or nearly so, and the next day she was found at the bottom of stairs with a broken neck. Dudley was suspected of murdering her and was sent to his house at Kew. An investigation led by Christopher Blount concluded that her death was an accident. Elizabeth decided to give up her idea of marrying Dudley, and Cecil expelled Quadra from court. Elizabeth ordered the court to mourn, and she provided over £2,000 for Amy’s funeral in the royal chapel on September 22.
Catholic Henry Sidney suggested that Felipe II might agree to let Elizabeth marry Robert Dudley, and on February 13, 1561 Sidney and Dudley met with ambassador Quadra. Felipe would not give his blessing unless she agreed to favor Catholics in England. Dudley was willing to restore the Catholic faith; but Elizabeth was not going to cause a civil war in order to gain an alliance with Spain even if it meant she could marry the man she loved. After that she knew she would never marry Dudley.
In April 1562 Elizabeth sent Henry Sidney to Paris where he and Nicholas Throckmorton offered her services as a mediator between Queen Mother Catherine de Medici and the Huguenots, but Catherine declined. On September 20 England signed a secret treaty at Richmond with the Protestant leader Louis Bourbon de Condé. Le Havre would be garrisoned by 3,000 English soldiers until Calais surrendered, and another 3,000 men were given to Condé to defend Dieppe and Rouen, plus 140,000 crowns were loaned to the Huguenots. The English also threatened to help the Protestants in the Low Countries rebel against imperial Spain if the Spaniards helped the French keep Calais. Elizabeth thus hoped to get Calais back. She was the enemy of the Duke of Guise but not of Catherine de Medici.
Robert Dudley became a member of the Privy Council in October. The French royalists captured Rouen on October 26, and in December at Dreux they defeated the Huguenots, killing 6,000 and taking Condé prisoner. That fall Elizabeth had small pox but was not badly scarred.
Elizabeth wanted to revalue the currency, and her financial genius Thomas Gresham worked out an exchange to return £700,000 in old money for new sterling. Elizabeth made a profit of £45,000 and had her portrait engraved on the coins. Her closest female companion was Katherine Ashley who had been her governess when she was in the Tower. Katherine Grey Seymour was from the royal family; but the son she bore in 1561 was declared illegitimate because her marriage to the Earl of Hertford was not recognized. Elizabeth had the three kept in the Tower. Katherine had another son in February 1563, and the Star Chamber fined her husband £15,000 “for seducing a virgin of the blood royal.”
Parliament met again on January 11, 1563, and once again they urged Queen Elizabeth to marry to assure the succession. This session passed the Act of Artificers which fixed prices, imposed maximum wages, restricted the movement of workers, and regulated training. The Act for the Relief of the Poor required parishioners to donate or be imprisoned. The agrarian law was extended to keep land which had been plowed for four years from being converted to pasture. A law on apprentices helped industry and agriculture by requiring long contracts. On January 25 Elizabeth instructed the archbishops of Canterbury and York to make sure that rites and ceremonies were uniform, but that year Puritans demanded that religious rituals be curtailed with vestments limited to the surplice. In 1562 Parliament passed a Witchcraft Act that required harm for the death penalty.
John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments also known as his Book of Martyrs was published in March 1563 and was very popular; copies were put in all cathedrals and in most churches. Foxe had gone into exile during Mary’s reign and published a Latin version of his Book of Martyrs at Basel in 1559. Edmund Grindal came back to England and became Bishop of London. Foxe soon followed and was ordained a priest by him. An enlarged edition was published in 1570 in two folio volumes, and in 1571 a convocation ordered that the book was to be installed in every cathedral and that bishops, archdeacons, and resident canons were to make copies available in their houses for servants and visitors.
A convocation of the Church of England directed by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, established the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion by defining the doctrines and practice of the Anglican faith and differentiating them from previous Catholic dogma, Calvinist beliefs, and some radical Anabaptist ideas. These 39 Articles would be finalized and given the force of law by statute in 1571.
During the winter of 1563 Ambrose Dudley, the Earl of Warwick, had the garrison of 5,000 men at Le Havre work on fortifications with little food, drink, and clothing. In March 1563 Condé agreed to the peace of Amboise which granted tolerance of the Protestants and recognition of him and Coligny. On June 7 disease broke out at Le Havre, and by the end of the month four hundred men per week were dying. They faced a French army of 20,000 men and by July 15 had only 1,200 able men. On the 24th the harbor was lost, and four days later the English surrendered and were allowed to leave. Wounded Warwick and his men brought the plague back to London, and 20,000 died of it in the first summer. The French declared that the English had lost any claim to Calais. In April 1564 Elizabeth accepted 120,000 crowns for the French hostages she had held since 1559 because of Calais. In the war England had spent £132,000 on the army and £109,000 on weapons. Total military expenses in her first five years were more than £750,000. The Parliamentary subsidies averaged £50,000 a year during her first thirty years.
Meanwhile the Spanish embassy in London was supporting some needy Catholics. In the summer of 1562 Cecil had bribed the embassy secretary Borghese Venturini to provide evidence against Bishop Alvarez de Quadra, and in January 1563 he was indicted for sheltering a man who had tried to murder the Huguenot envoy Vidame de Chartres.
Elizabeth declined to go to war against Spain, and she ignored the crimes of the English ships that captured Spanish prizes. Cecil found that 26 English sailors had been abducted, interrogated by the Spanish Inquisition, and burned at the stake in 1563. That year in a quarrel at Gibraltar the English attacked French sailors; but Spanish authorities sentenced 240 English sailors to be galley slaves. After a long time and protests eighty men who survived returned to England.
In 1562 the sea-captain John Hawkins had begun to challenge the papal-decreed Spanish monopoly of the western hemisphere by purchasing African slaves from the Portuguese south of Cape Verde in the fall and selling them in the West Indies. On his next voyage Cecil and the earls Dudley of Leicester and William Herbert of Pembroke invested money, and Hawkins sold Africans at Borburata and Rio de la Hacha.
Cotton cloth from English looms was exported to Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands, and dues on articles imported into England from Flanders were increased while other products were prohibited. Spaniards at Brussels retaliated with similar restrictions on English traders and goods in Flanders. By 1564 English merchants were avoiding Antwerp by trading at Emden in Germany. Piracy between England and Spain was another problem. The Duke of Alba recruited English Catholics to fight the Dutch. The English allowed pirates such as La March to load weapons in England to fight for Orange.
On October 11, 1564 Robert Dudley was made the Earl of Leicester and Baron of Denbigh. When the English Parliament met again in November 1566, the earls of Leicester and Pembroke and the Duke of Norfolk wanted Elizabeth to take a husband and to regulate the succession by law. Elizabeth reacted by excluding them from her presence-chamber until they begged for pardon on their knees. Some in the Commons also wanted her to name her successor, but she refused.
After the death of her husband François II on December 5, 1560, Mary Stuart went back to Scotland, reaching Leith on August 19, 1561. Elizabeth sent her envoy Thomas Randolph to offer Robert Dudley as a husband for Mary Stuart, but she married Catholic Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, on July 29, 1565. James Stuart, Earl of Moray, opposed this, led a rebellion, and was outlawed in August. Elizabeth’s offer to mediate was rejected, but she managed to send £1,000 to Moray. When he went to London to see Elizabeth, she criticized him before her Council. The Scottish government confiscated the movable goods of rebels in November, and they dismissed Randolph from Edinburgh. Queen Mary gave birth to James Darnley on March 12, 1566.
Darnley wanted to be King of Scotland against the wishes of Queen Mary, and he was found dead on February 10, 1567. James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, was suspected of killing Darnley, and he and his men abducted Mary on April 24. Bothwell divorced his first wife on May 3 and wedded Mary twelve days later in a Protestant ceremony. He was made Duke of Orkney and consort of the Queen, but he was resented by Catholics and suspected by Protestants. After her miscarriage Mary was forced to abdicate on July 24 in favor of her son James. Moray was named regent while Bothwell went into exile. Mary escaped from Loch Leven on May 2, 1568 and fled to England. Lord Scrope and Francis Knollys protected her at Carlisle Castle, and Elizabeth sent a message she could not receive her at court. Mary asked for an interview, and Elizabeth offered to meet her at York in October. After the murder investigation Elizabeth concluded on January 10, 1569 that nothing had been proven against Mary and that Moray and his supporters were honorable. Ten days later Mary was moved from Bolton to Tutbury, and at the end of the month Moray went back to Scotland under safe conduct. Mary Stuart would spend the next nineteen years imprisoned in England.
In 1564 Calvinist Thomas Cartwright debated dramatist Thomas Preston during a visit by Elizabeth, and the next year Cartwright became a leader of the Puritans. In 1566 Archbishop Parker published his Book of Advertisements to fix rules for conducting public services; but 37% of the clergy refused to obey the Queen because they believed it would make them hypocrites.
In 1566 Humphrey Gilbert wrote his Discourse to Prove a North-West Passage, but Queen Elizabeth rejected this and sent him to Ireland where he suppressed a revolt. In autumn 1567 John Hawkins led a fleet of seven armed ships with Francis Drake one of the captains. They had trouble buying slaves and fought Spaniards at Rio de la Hacha. They seized treasure and took it to Cartagena. After the slaves were sold the ships were refitted in San Juan de Ulua harbor in September 1568. Spaniards attacked them, and only three ships returned to England in early 1569 after losing 120 men. On December 3, 1568 Hawkins had written to Cecil that a Spanish bullion ship with 800,000 ducats from Italian bankers to pay Alba’s soldiers in the Netherlands had put in at Plymouth and Southampton to avoid pirates. Elizabeth decided to borrow the money, and by the end of the month Alba put an embargo on English property in the Low Countries. The English Council responded on January 7, 1569 by ordering Spanish property in England confiscated. The English also helped Huguenots destroy commerce of the Guises in the Channel. On January 15 France’s Charles IX ordered English goods at Rouen confiscated.
While the new Spanish ambassador Guerau de Spes was complaining about the blockades, Leicester betrayed a conspiracy by Norfolk and Arundel to seize Cecil and overthrow the government. Part of the plan was for Mary Stuart to marry Norfolk, but Elizabeth learned of this in September and forbade that.
North of the River Trent the English were more Catholic and feudal, and they resented the innovations and the imprisonment of Mary Stuart. In May 1569 the young heir to the Dacre estates at Naworth died, and they were given to the Duke of Norfolk instead of to the deceased’s uncle Leonard Dacre. Norfolk believed that Pembroke and Arundel were under arrest, and so he submitted to Cecil, hoping for leniency. He was captured at Burnham by Francis Knollys and Henry Neville and taken to the Tower. On October 10 at Topcliffe in Yorkshire the Earl of Westmorland met with Northumberland and persuaded him to rebel. Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, was president of the Yorkshire council and advised justices to watch out for unlawful actions. On October 24 Elizabeth ordered Sussex to bring the earls to court, and they arrived six days later. By November 2 they had the names of seven conspirators, though there was no rebellion yet. Two days later Sussex ordered the earls to be in York in the morning, but the rebellion had begun. On November 15 the rebels entered Durham cathedral for a Mass and trampled on the prayer book. They proclaimed that they did not oppose Elizabeth but the evil men around her. Sussex declared the earls rebels and offered pardon to those who went home by the 22nd.
Royal troops gathered on the south side of the Trent in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Warwickshire under Edward Clinton, Earl of Lincoln. On December 11 Sussex with some of those men pursued the rebels who had about 4,000 foot-soldiers and 1,800 horsemen. Hartlepool had been captured by rebels, and the royal fleet arrived. The rebels on the 15th fled from Durham across the Pennines to Naworth and Liddesdale. On January 16, 1570 Elizabeth ordered demobilization, and Northumberland was imprisoned at Edinburgh. On January 23 Moray was assassinated, and on February 8 Elizabeth ordered the arrest of Leonard Dacre. One week later Hunsdon with 1,500 men left Berwick and was joined by Forster on the 19th at Hexham. Dacre’s forces met Hunsdon’s while they were crossing the Gelt. Dacre fled, and the rebels had 300 killed and 200 captured. Then the royal army of 12,000 men led by Clinton and Warwick plundered the north from Doncaster to Newcastle. Sussex ordered the pillaging to cease and allowed only sheriffs and officers to confiscate goods. Nonetheless the northern lands were devastated, and much livestock was wasted. On February 4 under martial law 500 rebels were executed, and 129 were indicted at York, Durham, and Carlisle. Lands of prominent rebels were attainted by the Crown, and the north was reduced to poverty.
Elizabeth, in order to secure the party of the earls of Morton and Mar in Scotland, sent Sussex and the army in April 1570 on a punitive raid of those in the border country who had aided the Queen during the rebellion. A few weeks later William Drury was sent from Berwick to support Morton in Edinburgh, and he helped King James VI besiege Dumbarton Castle. Elizabeth promised to stop this when the English rebels were expelled from Scotland. In late May the earls of Leicester and Arundel persuaded her to seek the restoration of Mary Stuart to pacify France and Scotland. She recalled Drury to Berwick and sent Randolph to inform Morton and Mar. They went along and elected her candidate, the Earl of Lennox, to be regent in July. Sussex announced in September that they agreed to a suspension of fighting for six months.
Roger Ascham had been appointed Latin secretary to Edward VI and did that for the queens Mary and Elizabeth. After attending a meeting with Elizabeth and her prominent advisors in 1563 when they discussed why students had run away from Eton out of fear of beating, Richard Sackville persuaded Ascham to write something about his idea that love provides better education than beating. Ascham wrote the first book of The Scholemaster but did not complete the second book before his death in 1568. His wife published it in 1570 and dedicated it to William Cecil. Like earlier humanists he emphasized moral values and learning as the path to wisdom. He argued that humans learn twenty times more quickly by reading books than they do from experience. He recommended Castiglione’s Courtier, though he warned against traveling in Italy because vice was so prevalent there. The teacher should encourage students with praise and gentleness without discouraging them with punishment. His three aims were truth in religion, honesty in living, and right order in learning. Thanks to his tutoring Queen Elizabeth was able to translate the Latin Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.
Pope Pius V had opened an investigation of heresy against Elizabeth on February 5, 1570, and twenty days later he published a bull excommunicating and deposing the English Queen without giving her any time to recant. Felipe II and Emperor Maximilian II complained that the Pope did not consult them before announcing this, but Maximilian was unable to get it rescinded. Felipe II sent a fleet to convey his bride Anne of Austria from Antwerp, and the English prepared their defenses by mobilizing a fleet at Rochester under Clinton.
On February 25, 1571 Elizabeth lifted her secretary Robert Cecil to a peerage as Baron of Burghley. Parliament assembled in April to pay for the costs of suppressing the northern rebellion. They enacted 29 public bills and 17 private ones. They restored the Treason Act of 1534 by making any words against Queen Elizabeth treasonous. A new law allowed the collecting of interest on loans up to 10%. Puritan influence passed a bill making church attendance at the communion service mandatory, and Church discipline was strengthened. In May the government became aware of a conspiracy led by the Florentine banker Roberto Ridolfi who had been imprisoned in 1569 but was recently released. He conspired to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Mary Stuart; but he could not persuade the Duke of Alba and Felipe that his plan was feasible, and it collapsed by the end of August 1571. Elizabeth’s intelligence service discovered the plot, and John Hawkins learned the plan. Norfolk was to wed Mary and lead the Catholics, but he was arrested on September 7. John Lesley was threatened with torture and revealed the conspiracy.
On March 1, 1572 Elizabeth expelled the Dutch rebels from English waters in order to protect British commerce. That month Parliament met to enact laws to protect her safety. They attainted Mary Stuart and advised retaliation for her having claimed the English throne, but Elizabeth vetoed the latter. England’s treasury was funding most of Mary’s upkeep with £52 a week even though she had an annual income of £12,000 from her dowry to subsidize her partisans. The dowry was plundered by Mary’s friends, and in 1575 Elizabeth reduced her allowance to £30 per week.
On April 19, 1572 at Blois the Queen Mother Catherine de’ Medici and Elizabeth agreed that France and England would be allies against Spain. Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was attainted for treason and was executed on June 2. That month Cecil of Burghley warned that the French were a maritime threat to England, and Elizabeth ordered Humphrey Gilbert to protect Flushing from the French. The Parliament passed the Poor Law Act by appropriating national taxation to relieve the poor. Yet vagabonds could be whipped for their first offense; on the second if they refused two years of servitude, they could be hanged. The Privy Council had reports of many vagabonds and urged this bill. The Scots surrendered Earl Thomas of Northumberland to England, and he was beheaded for treason on November 22. Francis Drake in July had plundered Nombre de Dio in Panama, and England’s share was worth about £20,000.
Also in June 1572 London ministers John Field and Thomas Wilcox published the pamphlet Admonition to Parliament declaring that a true Christian Church is known by preaching the Gospel purely, ministering sacraments sincerely, and keeping ecclesiastical discipline. They argued that the Church of voluntary believers should be run by church officers and be independent of state control. Authorities could not suppress Admonition as it had a third edition by August. Puritans protested greed and materialism that corrupted the Church. Archbishop Matthew Parker in the Canons of 1571 had tried to limit clerics to two benefices; but in 1573 William Hughes was appointed Bishop of St. Asaph’s and held an archdeaconry with ten more livings. After adding six more he had nine sinecures. He sold livings and leased others to relatives. Edwin Sandys exploited the see of Worcester, and even Richard Bancroft eventually had four canonries and two rectories.
After his lectures in 1570 the Puritan leader Cartwright had been deprived of his professorship at Cambridge and his fellowship the following year. Summoned by ecclesiastical commissioners in December 1573, he was in danger of being arrested and went into exile. In 1574 Cartwright translated from Latin Ecclesiastical Discipline by Walter Travers, and it became the canonical book for nonconformist Presbyterians. Peter Wentworth spoke out in Parliament against the royal policies, especially on February 8, 1575 when he was sent to the Tower until Elizabeth released him on March 12.
In April 1573 Elizabeth and the Duke of Alba in the Netherlands agreed to restore trade for two years. On April 17 Drury crossed the border by Berwick and had cannons shipped to Leith. They began bombardment a month later, and lacking French support the garrison capitulated on May 28. After three years as England’s ambassador to France in December 1573 Walsingham became Elizabeth’s joint principal secretary.
Felipe II sent Bernardino de Mendoza to England in July 1574, and on August 28 the treaty of Bristol settled the property disputes between England and Spain with the result that England only owed Spain £21,000.
In 1561 a royal proclamation had ordered Anabaptists to leave England. In 1575 a few radical Dutch Anabaptists from Aldgate were tried for heresy; five recanted, and the others were found guilty. No one had yet been burned in England under Elizabeth. She pardoned all but two who were burned at Smithfield. Elizabeth approved of torture to try to get information from prisoners. Victims included the Jesuits William Holt, Edmund Campion, and the poet Robert Southwell.
Edmund Grindal was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1575 and issued his regulations the next year that welcomed prophesying; but in 1577 Elizabeth ordered him to suppress innovations and report those who resisted to the Council for punishment. Grindal refused, and he was deprived of his office and his temporal jurisdiction for five years.
In March 1575 the Regent Requesens banished English refugees from the Netherlands and allowed British merchants to trade with Antwerp as long as they did not help Flushingers. One month later Elizabeth banned the Prince of Orange and his supporters from using English ports and her subjects from helping his rebellion. Requesens in September had the Spanish imperialists attack the islands of Duiveland and Schouwen and besieged Zerickzee, and by October they held both islands. The English feared that Holland would be lost to them, and Willem of Orange in December sent envoys asking Elizabeth to protect Holland and Zeeland and lend them military aid. As security he offered to repay her with the towns of Flushing, Brill, Dordrecht, and Enckhuizen. The Privy Council advised intervention, but the Queen in March 1576 decided to seek peace by mediation for an honorable settlement for both sides. That month an English merchant ship returning from Antwerp was captured by Zeelanders and taken to Arnemuiden. Elizabeth reacted by ordering Dutch ships at Falmouth seized. Zeeland’s admiralty retaliated by detaining Merchant Adventurers at Flushing.
Felipe II appointed Johann of Austria to govern the Netherlands. Atrocities inflicted by unpaid and mutinous Spaniards in September 1576 stimulated the seventeen provinces to unite in the Pacification of Ghent on November 8. Elizabeth promoted a settlement in the winter, and in February 1577 Johann signed a treaty with the Estates General. Elizabeth warned Johann that if he tried to conquer the provinces, she would help them as much as she could. Don John, afraid of being assassinated, at the end of July had Walloons take over Namur and threatened more revenge. Elizabeth sent William Davison in early August to the Estates General to offer England’s armed support to defend the Netherlands. A rumor that the Duke of Guise was sending an army of 11,000 to aid Johann provoked Orange to send the Marquis d’Havré to England to ask for a loan on September 22. Elizabeth promised him £100,000 and 5,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry. In December she sent Thomas Wilks to Madrid to ask Spain to recall Johann, and Thomas Leighton went to the Low Countries to urge an armistice. Elizabeth also offered to support Johann Casimir of the Palatinate with £40,000 to hire German cavalry to fight Johann of Austria. Bernardino Mendoza came from Madrid to London and threatened her if she did not change her mind. She retorted that she would not let the French enter the Netherlands nor let the Spanish rule it.
In April 1578 Elizabeth tried again to make peace with Johann and offered a mediation proposal to France’s Henri III to no avail. In June she sent an embassy of 120 men led by Francis Walsingham and Henry Cobham to Antwerp, but that also failed. On August 13 the Estates General appointed Duke François of Alençon the Defender of Belgian Liberty and a share in the military command. Elizabeth had held back the £100,000 and demanded the surrender of Sluys and Flushing as security. When his brother was crowned King Henri III in 1574, François became Duke of Anjou. Elizabeth accepted him as a suitor for her hand, and in September he sent Jean de Simier as his agent to help woo her. The courtship continued through the winter, and Simier at the end of March gave her twelve articles in French on the benefits Alençon would have if he married her. Alençon returned again to woo and left on August 29.
Rumors spread, and John Stubbs published his puritanical pamphlet, Discovery of a Gaping Gulf Wherein England is like to be Swallowed by Another French Marriage. Elizabeth was so offended that she had the right hands of the writer and the publisher chopped off. Five members of her Council voted for her marriage with seven against. She wanted it to be unanimous, but on November 24 Simier and the royal commissioners signed the article, allowing Elizabeth two more months to win over her subjects. Pope Gregory XIII published again her excommunication and sent Jesuits to foster revolt in Ireland.
Elizabeth and several members of her Council financed an expedition by Martin Frobisher in 1576 to explore north of Labrador. They thought they brought back stones containing gold in 1578 but were mistaken. Humphrey Gilbert sailed for North America on November 19, 1578; but his ships scattered, and some engaged in piracy. Francis Drake left Plymouth with five ships on December 13, 1577 and stopped several times in South America, capturing Spanish prizes off Peru. He visited southern Mexico, California (Mendocino), and Oregon before venturing across the Pacific Ocean with three ships to complete the first English voyage around the world in September 1580.
Events in Scotland went against the English. In April 1580 England sent Robert Bowes with £500 from Berwick to help James Douglas, Earl of Morton, who had been regent since 1572, but on December 31 he was arrested. Elizabeth tried to save him, but on June 2, 1581 he was beheaded for complicity in Darnley’s murder. Esmé Stuart, Earl of Lennox, was driven out of Scotland in December 1582. After Walsingham got information from him, Elizabeth let him pass through England on his way to France.
In 1581 Elizabeth was still considering marriage with François of Alençon for an alliance, but she did not want a war. A French embassy to London in April and Walsingham’s mission to Paris that summer both failed to resolve the issues. François of Alençon (now also Duke of Anjou) crossed the border into the Low Countries in August and captured Cambrai as Parma retreated. England sent £10,000 and France £4,000, but they ran short of funds. His army camped for the winter, and François visited Elizabeth at Richmond in November and stayed three months. Before he left for Flushing, he was loaned another £10,000 to pay his troops at Cambrai. Elizabeth promised £50,000 more but only paid him £30,000. In August she wrote a letter to Orange complaining that the States were not supporting Alençon’s French forces. Once again Alençon ran out of money, and in January 1583 he attacked Antwerp and other Dutch cities. The burghers turned against him, and Alençon in June went back to France where he died a year later.
Prominent members of the Privy Council had agents sending them information from around England and other countries. Francis Walsingham was the chief spymaster for Elizabeth and gathered intelligence from thirteen towns in France, nine in Germany, seven in the Low Countries, five in Italy, three in the Netherlands, and three in Turkey as well as throughout England. Counties north of the Trent had their own council as did Wales and the marches.
Puritans objected to Elizabeth sponsoring theatrical performances of the Queen’s Men, and she vetoed a bill that would have banned sports on Sundays. She also opposed making blasphemy and adultery capital offenses. In January 1580 Peter Wentworth spoke for Puritans in the fourth Parliament.
The refugee William Allen had established a college of the University of Douai in the Netherlands for English Catholics in 1568, and another began at Rome in 1579. The first missionaries were sent to England in 1574, and the next year the Privy Council instructed bishops to investigate Catholics who refused to attend Anglican services. On November 29, 1577 Cuthbert Mayne was the first Catholic priest in England to be hanged for treason because he refused to renounce his religion. By 1580 about a hundred seminary priests were working in England. Edmund Campion and Robert Persons had been educated at Oxford. Campion studied at Douai for two years, joined the Jesuits in Rome, and went to England in June 1580 with Persons. They tried to teach Catholic doctrines, but Campion was arrested on July 15, 1581. Persons had set up a secret press, but after its discovery he fled in August to France. Campion had four disputations with Anglicans in September before he was indicted with several others on November 14. Campion was convicted of treason and hanged on December 1, 1581.
The fine for refusing to attend Anglican services was increased from one shilling per Sunday to £20 per month while the fine for attending Mass became 100 marks and one year in prison. Converting to become a Catholic could result in the death penalty. In 1582 De Persecutione Anglicana was published in Rome with illustrations of arrests, torture, and executions. Cecil, the Baron of Burghley, published his Execution of Justice in England in 1583 to justify the prosecution of the priests for acts of treason rather than heretical beliefs.
John Whitgift defended the Anglican Church against criticism by Cartwright and other Puritans, and in 1583 Elizabeth appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury. Grindal had been under house arrest until his death on July 6, 1583. Whitgift promoted the Six Articles of 1583 which forced clergy to accept the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Crown, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion that had been established by Church convocation in 1563 and revised in 1571. As a result more than two hundred ministers were suspended in Lincoln, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Kent. Whitgift acted as an inquisitor for the Court of High Commission that went after delinquent Puritans.
After another change in leadership in Scotland in July 1583, Elizabeth sent Walsingham with an embassy to young James VI; but she declined to approve his use of force or bribery. Walsingham learned that the Spanish ambassador Mendoza and Francis Throckmorton were conspiring with Mary Stuart. Throckmorton was arrested in November and confessed under torture on December 2 that Mary knew of the plot to invade England. The papist John Somerville had sworn he would kill Elizabeth, and he was arrested and executed. On January 9, 1584 the Council expelled Mendoza from England for treason, and Throckmorton was executed in July. Cecil and Walsingham devised measures against Jesuits and Catholics such as the Bond of Association circulated in October binding those who signed to seek the death of anyone trying to gain the throne by harming the Queen.
Gilbert sailed again in 1583 and claimed St. John’s in New Foundland for England, but he was killed in a severe storm. Elizabeth gave Walter Raleigh a patent, and in April 1584 he sent Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow to explore north of Florida. They returned recommending the friendly natives on Roanoke Island, and Richard Grenville led an expedition of settlers in the spring of 1585. They were starving when they decided to return home with Drake in June 1586. Raleigh sent a second expedition to Roanoke in 1587, but those pioneers had disappeared by the time John White went to check on them in 1590. Thomas Cavendish circumnavigated the globe 1586-88 and returned with his men wearing gold chains.
In November 1584 Elizabeth sent Davison to the Netherlands to offer the States aid if they would hand over the towns of Flushing, Brill, and Enckhuizen as security. On May 19, 1585 Spain ordered English ships seized in Spanish ports, and England retaliated with an embargo on Spanish goods. France’s Henri III in July made a treaty with the Catholic League, stopped protecting Huguenots, and excluded Henri of Navarre from the throne. Francis Drake was sent to liberate captured ships and sailed on September 14 with thirty vessels and 2,300 men. He plundered Spanish property in the West Indies and ransomed San Domingo for 25,000 ducats and Cartagena on February 1, 1586 for 110,000 ducats. Drake picked up the survivors at Roanoke and returned to England that summer with loot worth more than £500,000.
Antwerp had fallen on August 2, 1585, and eight days later Elizabeth agreed to a treaty committing an English army to fight in the Netherlands until the war was finished. Leicester was appointed lieutenant-general in September and reached the Netherlands by the end of the year with 6,400 infantry and 1,000 cavalry. He disobeyed her orders by accepting a title as governor-general, and she demanded he renounce it. In June he was given the title under the Dutch rather than Elizabeth. England authorized £126,000 a year for the expedition out of annual revenues of £300,000. Leicester used it to help other English soldiers in the Netherlands and allowed peculation by his officers while increasing their salaries. The English army had few victories and dwindled. Leicester was recalled to England in November 1586 but was sent back to the Netherlands seven months later with another army of 5,000 men. The heroic Philip Sidney had died of a wound at Zutphen on October 17.
In the 1580s Robert Browne was influenced by the nonconformist Richard Greenham, and Henry Barrowe followed the ideas of the separatist John Greenwood. They challenged the Calvinist Puritans as well as the Anglicans by emphasizing the voluntary and congregational nature of Christian churches. They believed that the Anglican and Presbyterian connection between the church and state was not scriptural, and they wanted independent churches with well educated ministers relying on inspiration for a non-hierarchical and non-ritualist public worship. While exiled in Holland in 1582 Browne wrote his Treatise of Reformation without Tarrying for Any, arguing that every congregation could be self-sufficient without being guided by a central authority. He considered the Anglican Church and the Presbyterians corrupt. Presbyterians increased in the Parliament, and on February 27, 1585 the Puritan Dr. Peter Turner tried to get the Genevan Prayer Book and the Book of Discipline introduced to churches by pastors and elders, but his bill was rejected. Elizabeth was so angry that she had five radical leaders sent to the Tower until the close of the session.
Greenwood was arrested in October 1586 and wrote tracts with his fellow inmate Barrowe. In 1587 seven Puritan tracts were published under the name “Martin Marprelate” who has not been identified. In February that year Anthony Cope introduced a bill that would repeal all ecclesiastical laws and change the form of the common prayer; but his bill and the book he wrote were impounded, and he was put in the Tower for not having submitted his project to the bishops. Peter Wentworth presented his articles for freedom in the house on March 1, and he with others also were sent to the Tower.
In January 1585 the plot of Dr. William Parry to kill Elizabeth was discovered. Parliament authorized the death penalty. and Parry was expelled from Parliament on February 11 and hanged on March 2. They learned that Thomas Morgan, Mary Stuart’s agent in Paris, had supported the plot. Again Elizabeth blocked punishment of her cousin; but they moved Mary from Sheffield to Tutbury and assigned the Puritan Amyas Paulet to be her jailer. Walsingham devised secret surveillance, and the armed guard was strengthened. They moved Mary to Chartley in December, and Walsingham implemented means to learn her plans by hiring the renegade Catholic Gilbert Gifford to pretend to be her supporter and carry what she thought were secret messages for her in a beer-barrel. In June 1586 they learned of a conspiracy organized by Anthony Babington who had access to Elizabeth’s court. On July 7 he sent Mary a secret message describing the plan to kill Elizabeth and help Mary escape. Mary’s reply ten days later approved the plot. Walsingham wanted to get the names of Babington’s six associates, but because of the danger they arrested him in early August and seized Mary’s secret papers, arresting her secretaries. Babington confessed in the tower and was executed with his conspirators on September 20. Meanwhile in July 1586 Mary’s son James VI of Scotland signed the treaty of Berwick to become an ally of England with an annual pension of £4,000.
Elizabeth had Mary sent to the royal castle of Fotheringay in Northamptonshire and in early October appointed a commission of 36 judges, peers, and privy councilors to conduct her trial. Mary was not allowed a lawyer and defended herself, claiming she was only trying to escape. The Council in star chamber went over the facts again and also found her guilty. On November 5 both houses of Parliament approved Mary’s execution. Elizabeth hesitated but signed the death warrant on February 1, 1587. She ordered Davison to write to Paulet and have him murder Mary. Davison reluctantly complied, but Paulet refused to wreck his conscience. Cecil and the Council sent off the warrant, and Mary was beheaded at Fotheringay on February 8. When Elizabeth learned of the execution, she sent Davison to the Tower and kept him there for eighteen months. In reaction some Scots raided northern England, but eventually James VI accepted the English account of his mother’s death. Unlike Catholic Mary he was a Protestant and was next in line to inherit the English crown.
Spain’s Felipe II was considering an attack on England with a large armada, and in June 1585 his ambassador Olivarez in Rome asked Pope Sixtus V to contribute to the expedition. After much delay the Pope in December 1586 pledged to provide a million crowns to Spain’s war venture but only after the Spaniards had landed in England with 500,000 crowns then and 100,000 every four months afterward. Spanish diplomats believed that Catholics in England would form an army to help the invading Spaniards, but most English Catholics did not favor Spain. England’s Privy Council got many reports of the plan and began preparing in July 1586, and Walsingham’s spies kept them informed of Spain’s preparations. In January 1587 Elizabeth loaned Henri of Navarre £30,000 to hire 9,000 German mercenaries under Casimir.
On April 12 Francis Drake was sent out from Plymouth with a commission to attack Spanish ships and cut off supplies. The Queen owned six ships, and London merchants seeking profits provided seventeen. That spring Spanish ships could not move without danger. Drake captured the Portuguese galleon San Felipe with cargo worth £140,000, and he returned to Plymouth on June 26. The Spanish commander Santa Cruz took his fleet to the Azores to protect the bullion ships. After the Duke of Parma besieged Sluys in June, Elizabeth sent Leicester back to the Netherlands with 5,000 soldiers and £30,000; but Sluys fell in July.
England appointed Charles Howard of Effingham their commander on December 21, and in January 1588 three fleets were commissioned with Howard’s guarding the Thames, Henry Palmer’s patrolling the sea from Dover, and Drake’s from Plymouth guarding the western Channel. Spain’s best commander Santa Cruz died in February, and Parma’s forces in the Netherlands had been reduced from 30,000 to 17,000 men. The new admiral Medina Sidonia lacked experience in naval warfare, and the armada left the Tagus on May 18.
Spain’s cause was religious, and most of their ships were named after saints. The English were motivated by patriotism, and their ships had secular names such as Lion, Tiger, Dreadnought, and Revenge. In May 1588 Howard’s fleet joined Drake’s at Plymouth. On July 5 the English learned that the Spanish fleet from Tagus had been dispersed by a gale and were being repaired on the Spanish coast. Two days later Howard ordered the English ships to go there, but they were delayed by wind. The opposing fleets met on July 21 and fought for ten days. The Duke of Parma was unable to enter the open sea because of English and Dutch squadrons blockading his ports. On the night of July 28 the English sent eight fire ships to burn anchored Spanish galleons, and they caused disarray in the harbor. The next day the English defeated the armada in the battle at Gravelines. The English had less than 100 men killed and 400 wounded while the Spaniards had more than 600 dead and 800 wounded with 397 captured.
On July 30 Medina realized that five of his best ships were out of action, and he ordered his fleet to escape by sailing into the North Sea to circumnavigate the British Isles. Howard’s fleet stopped after following them to the Firth of Forth. The English ships had proved to be superior in speed and seaworthiness, and they were better armed. The Spaniards had to leave many ships on the rocky coast of Ireland, and Medina’s surviving ships did not reach Santander until late September. The Spanish armada had left Tagus with 22 galleons and 108 armed merchant ships with 30,000 men including 19,000 soldiers, but only 65 vessels returned. The English had 35 warships and 163 armed merchant vessels with about 17,500 men, and they did not lose one ship. The greatest losses were from disease which killed about 7,000 English and 20,000 Spaniards. After the victory Elizabeth declined to provide needed food and housing for the sailors, and hundreds died of disease.
John Lyly became a humanist like his grandfather William Lyly who knew Erasmus and Colet. John Lyly earned a masters degree at Oxford in 1575 and published his novel Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit in 1578 and its sequel Euphues and his England in 1580. The books were popular and had five more editions in the next decade. Lyly’s ornate style of writing using rhetorical devices and balanced phrasing with many similes was called euphuistic and was influential in the coming renaissance of English literature and theater. Here is an example with modernized spelling:
Descend into thine own conscience, and consider with thy self
the great difference between staring and stark blind,
wit and wisdom, love and lust: be merry, but with modesty:
be sober, but not too sullen: be valiant, but not too venturous.
Let thy attire be comely, but not costly:
thy diet wholesome, but not excessive:
use pastime as the word imports
to pass the time in honest recreation.
Mistrust no man without cause,
neither be thou credulous without proof:
be not light to follow every man’s opinion,
nor obstinate to stand in thine own concept,
Serve God, love God, fear God, and God will so bless thee,
as either heart can wish or thy friends desire.1
The novel Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit is a didactic romance with long speeches. Euphues is a young gentleman in Athens who goes to Naples to seek pleasure. An elderly gentleman warns him that his merry ways will bring bad results. Euphues dismisses his advice because he is old. Euphues meets young Philautus, and they become friends. Philautus is in love with Don Ferardo’s daughter Lucilla. Euphues goes with him and entertains them with a discourse on love. Lucilla falls in love with Euphues but still pretends to love Philautus. Euphues pretends to love Lucilla’s friend Livia in order to fool Philautus. While Philautus talks with Ferardo and arranges to marry Lucilla, she and Euphues debate love and declare their mutual passion. Philautus gets angry at Euphues and Lucilla, and he warns Euphues that she may betray him too. Ferardo does not let Euphues see his daughter. She falls in love with Curio even though she recognizes he is inferior. Euphues and Philautus renew their friendship, and Euphues goes back to Athens where he writes about religion and how to raise a child. He also advises Philautus in a letter to give up his life of pleasure in Naples.
In the sequel Euphues and his England Lyly praises England and Queen Elizabeth. Euphues and Philautus travel to England, and Euphues advises his friend not to fall in love too easily by telling him a story. The old beekeeper Fidus tells them about the monarchy of a beehive with a queen. They go to London, and Philautus falls in love with Camilla. Philautus suspects Euphues is his rival, and they part. Camilla puts off Philautus, and he goes to an Italian sorcerer who advises him to write love letters. After Philautus is attracted to Frances at Lady Flavia’s house, he gives up on Camilla and reconciles with Euphues. During a party at Flavia’s Euphues judges a debate on love favoring virtuous love above lust. Euphues studies the English court and returns to Athens on business where he writes praising English society.
Philip Sidney (1554-86) was the nephew of Robert Dudley, Early of Leicester, and in 1572 left Oxford to go to Paris with the English ambassador where he witnessed the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. He toured Europe and returned to Elizabeth’s court in 1575 where he met 13-year-old Penelope Devereux, Essex’s daughter who inspired him to write sonnets in Astrophel and Stella. In 1577 Sidney defended his father Henry’s governing of Ireland by writing a Discourse on Irish Affairs. That year he went to Germany as England’s ambassador to the Emperor. In May 1578 his mask The Lady of May was performed at Elizabeth’s court. In 1579 Stephen Gosson wrote a Puritanical criticism of poetry and theater in The School of Abuse. In 1580 Sidney sent Elizabeth a letter opposing her planned marriage to the Duke of Anjou and had to leave the court. He served in Parliament twice and stayed with his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. There he wrote Astrophel and Stella and his long pastoral romance, Arcadia. In January 1583 he was knighted, and in September he married Francis Walsingham’s daughter Frances. About that time Sidney wrote his Defence of Poesy. Queen Elizabeth appointed him governor of Flushing in 1585. In a battle next to Zutphen on September 22, 1586 with 600 men he fought against 4,500 Spaniards. He declined to wear leg armor and was shot in the thigh by a musket. He insisted on riding his horse back to his headquarters. The wound became infected, and he died on October 17. Sidney’s major literary works were published by his wife after his death.
Sidney probably completed most of the 108 sonnets and 11 songs of his Astrophel and Stella in 1582. These are poems of idealistic and unrequited love before he was married. After the success of an unauthorized edition of Arcadia in 1590, Astrophel and Stella was published in 1591. My favorite Sidney sonnet comes from his “Certain Sonnets” which were not published until 1598.
Leave me, O love which reachest but to dust;
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things;
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust,
Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings.
Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be;
Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light,
That doth both shine and give us sight to see.
O take fast hold; let that light be thy guide
In this small course which birth draws out to death,
And think how evil becometh him to slide,
Who seeketh heav’n, and comes of heav’nly breath.
Then farewell, world; thy uttermost I see;
Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me.2
Sidney’s first version of Arcadia may have been completed as early as 1577 and is referred to as Old Arcadia. He worked on it during the 1580s and revised the first two books before his death in 1586. His friend and biographer Fulke Greville supervised their publishing in 1590. In 1593 his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, to whom the romance is dedicated, published a complete text with the revisions. This is the standard edition which was reprinted thirteen times and stimulated two sequels and many imitations.
The long pastoral romance Arcadia that Sidney wrote to amuse his sister is set in Greece where Basileus is Duke of Arcadia. Prince Pyrocles is the son of King Evarchus of Macedon, and his friend Prince Musidorus is Duke of Thessalia and the nephew of Evarchus. Basileus goes to the oracle of Delphi to ask about the fate of his wife Gynecia and his daughters Pamela and Philoclea. He is told that within one year Pamela will be stolen; Philoclea will have a secret love affair; Gynecia will commit adultery; and he will lose his throne to a foreigner. Basileus asks his friend Philanax to govern while he takes his family to live in the country.
Pyrocles and Musidorus are shipwrecked and arrive in Arcadia. Pyrocles sees a picture of Philoclea and falls in love with her, and he pretends to be the Amazon lady Zelmane. They go to the lodge of Basileus who falls in love with Zelmane. As soon as Musidorus sees Pamela, he falls in love and disguises himself as Dorus, a servant of the chief herdsman Dametas. Zelmane saves Philoclea from a lion, but Gynecia learns he is a man and falls in love with him. Dorus saves Pamela from a bear, and both princesses are now in love with the princes. Shepherds entertain them all with songs. Dorus pretends to be in love with Dametas’ daughter Mopsa in order to be close to Pamela who learns he is a man. To avoid advances from Basileus, Pyrocles reveals himself to Philoclea who embraces him, making Gynecia jealous. The men are able to defeat an attack by ruffians, but Arcadian citizens revolt because of the neglect of Basileus. Pyrocles makes a speech persuading them to renew their loyalty, and in the next festival they debate Reason and Passion and enjoy dancing, poems, and stories.
Dorus manages to escape with Pamela, but they are attacked by bandits. Zelmane pretends to love Gynecia, making Philoclea sad. Pyrocles tells Basileus and Gynecia to meet him in a cave where she has an affair with her husband not knowing who he is while Pyrocles reveals himself to Philoclea and spends the night with her. When Gynecia reveals herself to Basileus, he repents and drinks a mysterious beverage Gynecia thinks is a love potion; but he passes out and is believed dead. Philanax with soldiers imprisons Gynecia, Pyrocles, and Philoclea. Captured by bandits, Musidorus reveals himself, but he and Pamela are arrested by Philanax’s soldiers and taken to him. King Evarchus arrives in Arcadia to visit Basileus, and Philanax persuades him to be the judge of the five others. Gynecia pleads guilty and asks for death. Evarchus recognizes his son and nephew and condemns them to death but gives less punishment to the princesses. Basileus wakes up and forgives his wife and daughters. He marvels at how well the oracle’s prophecy turned out, and the two young couples are married.
In Defence of Poesy Sidney relied on Aristotle’s philosophical view of poetry as imitation of life used to teach while entertaining. Thus portraying human experience can help people understand philosophical ideas in ways they can be applied practically. Philosophy teaches by precepts and history by examples, but a poet can combine the two in a story. Poetry with rhythm and rhyme can more easily be remembered. Poets can be popular philosophers, and Sidney cited the example of Aesop’s tales. Good poetry entices people into being taught, and the ultimate value is not just knowledge but also practical action. Plato and Boethius used dialog to make philosophical ideas more dramatic and interesting. Chaucer and many others have used stories to get across moral concepts. Comedy imitates life’s errors and makes people laugh as they learn from them, and tragedy uses drama to show what suffering mistakes can cause. Such instruction encourages people to improve themselves. Sidney argued that the best learning is what leads to virtue. Contrary to what Plato argued that poetry is lying, Sidney held that poetry does not claim to be factual but is rather imaginative; thus no deception is intended.
Edmund Spenser (1552-99) first published his poetic Shepheardes Calendar in 1579, and he dedicated it to Philip Sidney. In the first eclogue “January” the shepherd Colin Clout expresses his unfortunate love for Rosalind. He compares the season to his bleak situation, breaks his pipe, and falls to the ground. In “February” an elderly shepherd Thenot, who has been scorned by the boy Cuddie, tells a story of the oak and the briar in the cold winter. Yet God blesses them with long life. In “March” the youth Thomalin is wounded by Cupid’s dart as love begins to awaken. In “April” Hobbinoll tells Thenot that he is in love with Colin, and he praises Queen Elizabeth. The “May” eclogue shows the shepherds Piers and Palinodie discussing their differences as a Catholic and Protestant, and Piers tells a story of how the Fox devours the Kiddie. In “June” Colin complains to Hobbinoll that his beloved Rosalind has been disloyal with Menaleas. “July” has Thomalin praising the pastor Morrell. In “August” Willye and Perigot argue, and then Cuddie claims that Colin is the author of a boy’s story. In “September” Diggon Davie tells Hobbinoll how he drove his sheep far away where he learned of popish prelates and their loose living. In “October” Cuddie tells Pierce how perfect poetry depends on celestial inspiration. In the “November” eclogue Thenot and Colin mourn the death of the maiden Dido. Finally in “December” Colin complains to God again about the winter weather, and “after winter comes untimely death.” This poem describes the seasons of the year and relates them to the views of shepherds on love, religion, and poetry.
Law students at the Inner Temple in London wrote and produced plays, and one of the best early tragedies Gorboduc was performed at the Christmas celebrations in 1561. Written by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville, the play was then performed at Whitehall for Queen Elizabeth on January 18, 1562. Norton was married to Cranmer’s daughter. He became a diplomat and translated the Psalms and Calvin’s Institutions of Christian Religion in 1561. Later he became a Puritan and wrote religious tracts, opposing the theater. Sackville became an ambassador, a commissioner of state trials, and later Chancellor of Oxford University (1591) and Lord High Treasurer (1599). In 1563 he wrote the “Induction” and “Complaint of Henry, Duke of Buckingham” for The Mirror of the Magistrates, which was tragic verse about fallen English nobles. Gorboduc is noteworthy as the first major tragedy written in iambic pentameter blank verse rather than in rhyme.
The legend ofGorboduc, who may have ruled Britain about the 5th century BC, comes from The Histories of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Senecan tragedies influenced the English theater, and in the early 1560s all ten of Seneca’s tragedies were published in English translations. In Gorboduc a short mime show precedes each of the five acts as in Italian pageants. In the first one six wild men depict how a bundle of sticks is too strong for them to break like single sticks. In its second edition Gorboduc was entitled Ferrex and Porrex after his sons, and then it became The Tragedy of Gorboduc Or Ferrex and Porrex.
In the first act Gorboduc announces his plan to divide his kingdom between his sons Ferrex and Porrex. His advisor Arostus approves because he hopes it will continue peace and prosperity; but he warns the King not to implement this until his death. The royal secretary Eubulus disapproves because he believes a central power unites people, but divided rule causes conflict that could result in civil war. Gorboduc goes ahead and gives his realm south of the Humber River to his older son Ferrex and the north to his son Porrex.
At his court Ferrex complains that he lost half the kingdom, and Hermon urges him to rebel which is not overcome by the sage Dordan. Ferrex puts off killing his brother but prepares his army, and Dordan reports this to Gorboduc. In the north Tyndar persuades Porrex by reporting his brother’s secret arming. The wise Philander urges Porrex to consult with Ferrex and Gorboduc, but Porrex decides to invade the south and kill Ferrex. Gorboduc reads the letter from Dordan, and Philander arrives with the bad news that Porrex has killed Ferrex and taken over his kingdom.
Queen Videna favored Ferrex and vows vengeance against Porrex, but Gorboduc sends Eubulus to detain Porrex for trial. Gorboduc sends his son away but soon learns that the Queen has stabbed Porrex to death. The people revolt and kill Gorboduc and Queen Videna. A council discusses what to do while other nobles arrest the rebel leaders and execute those refusing to lay down their arms. Fergus, Duke of Albany, raises an army of 20,000 men and claims the kingdom. Arostus, Eubulus, and other nobles try to prevent civil war which ensues. This tragedy portrays the danger of civil war that could occur if Queen Elizabeth has no son or accepted heir.
The tragical comedy Damon and Pithias by Richard Edwards was performed for Queen Elizabeth during the Christmas season of 1564. The play is written in rhymed couplets. At the court of Dionysius, who ruled Syracuse 405-367 BC, the gentleman Aristippus has a rival in the parasite Carisophus. Eubulus is a good counselor of the tyrant Dionysius. Stephano is the slave of the loyal friends Damon and Pithias. Pithias is being held hostage while his friend Damon has been away for two months and must be executed in his place if Damon does not return tomorrow. At the last minute Damon appears, and the impressed Dionysius honors their friendship by having Eubulus give them new clothes. Some believed that the contention between Aristippus and Carisophus reflected conflicts in the court of Elizabeth, though the author dismissed this.
George Gascoigne (c. 1542-78) translated Ariosto’s 1509 comedy I Suppositi (The Substitutes) and presented Supposes in 1566. The widower Damon of Ferrara wants his only daughter Polynesta to have a good marriage. Her two suitors are the old lawyer Cleander and the young Sicilian gentleman Erostrato; but the latter switches identities with the servant Dulippo in Damon’s household so that he can get closer to Polynesta. Erostrato through the parasite Pasiphilo says he will match the generous dowry offered by Cleander, and he gets a Sienese merchant to impersonate his father Philogano until he can arrive from Cathanea. Damon overhears his servants and learns that the false Dulippo is in love with his daughter and has him put in a dungeon. After the real Philogano arrives in Ferrara, they learn that the real Dulippo, who is pretending to be Erostrato, is actually a long-lost son of Cleander who had been captured by the Turks when they conquered Otranto. Philogano proves that he is the father of Erostrato and the social equal of Damon who then lets Erostrato marry his daughter.
The tragedy Cambyses, King of Persia by Thomas Preston was published in 1570 and was described as “a lamentable tragedy mixed full of pleasant mirth.” This tragedy is written in the traditional rhymed couplets. Cambyses II was the son of Cyrus the Great and ruled the Persian Empire 530-522 BC. To show he can conquer like his father, Cambyses announces his plan to invade Egypt, and this is supported by his noble council. They advise him to appoint a regent while he is gone, and Cambyses selects the judge Sisamnes. Ambidexter the Vice is ready for war, and the ruffians Huf, Ruf, and Snuf engage in horseplay with him. They hope to gain plunder and compete for the favors of Mistress Meretrix. Sisamnes takes bribes, and the returning Cambyses has him executed for corruption. Cambyses drinks and is reprimanded by Praxaspes; but the drunk king shows he can shoot straight by shooting an arrow through the heart of the son of Praxaspes. Ambidexter tempts the King’s brother Smirdis and tells Cambyses that his ambitious brother wants him dead. So Cambyses orders Smirdis killed. In the last act Venus has her son Cupid shoot an arrow into the heart of Cambyses, and he falls in love with a lady who refuses him at first; but he persuades her to marry him, and Ambidexter helps prepare the marriage feast. At the banquet Cambyses tells his new queen about his brother, and she criticizes his fratricide. Cambyses orders her killed, but he is mortally wounded by his own weapon while mounting his horse. This tragedy portrays an Asian tyrant and warns against war and arbitrary murders.
George Peele (1556-96) earned a B.A. and an M.A. at Oxford, married a woman of property in 1583, and gained a reputation as a wit, though he spent his time and money drinking, wenching, and cheating. The Arraignment of Paris was his first play and is considered his best, and it was performed by the boys of the Chapel Royal for Queen Elizabeth in the early 1580s. The pagan gods Pan, Faunus, and Silvanus bring gifts to the Vale of Ida where they welcome the goddesses Juno, Pallas (Athena), and Venus. Flora and Pomona bring flowers and fruit. Nearby the shepherd Paris and the nymph Oenone promise to love each other. The three great goddesses take shelter from a storm in Diana’s Bower. Ate is the goddess of discord, and she brings a golden apple inscribed “Detur pulcherrimae” that is to go to the most beautiful. Juno, Pallas, and Venus each claim the prize and after arguing agree to let Paris be the judge. Juno offers him power and wealth, Pallas wisdom and victory in war, and Venus Cupid’s aid in winning love before showing him Helen. Paris awards the apple to the goddess of love.
The poor shepherd Colin is suffering from his love for Thestylis, but Venus causes the latter to fall in love with an ugly churl. Mercury summons Paris to the court of heaven where Juno and Pallas arraign him for his bad judgment. He defends himself by arguing that the criterion was beauty, not power or wisdom, and the gods confirm his decision. Yet Apollo suggests they consult Diana since they are in her territory and because as a woman she will be more impartial. Juno, Pallas, and Venus swear to accept her judgment, and she awards the prize to the nymph Eliza. In the final scene Diana presents the golden apple to Queen Elizabeth.
After the success of his Euphues novels John Lyly was given a lease on the Blackfriars hall by the Earl of Oxford in the summer of 1583. He wrote several plays, and the first was the comedy Alexander, Campaspe, and Diogenes. The great King Alexander of Macedon has just conquered Thebes and given them a generous peace before returning to Athens. Among his captives are two beautiful girls, the proud Timoclea and the humble Campaspe. Alexander promises to treat them well as his subjects rather than as prisoners. He summons the philosophers Aristotle, Plato, Chrysippus, Crates, Cleanthes, Anaxarchus, and Crysus (though Plato died when Alexander was 8 years old). However, the cynic Diogenes refuses to obey. Alexander goes to Diogenes and offers him whatever he wants. Diogenes replies by asking Alexander not to take what he cannot give him—the light of the world, and Alexander moves out of his sunlight. Alexander asks what he should learn to be content, and Diogenes advises him to unlearn coveting. Alexander admits to his general Hephestion that he loves Campaspe, and he sends the artist Apelles to paint her portrait. In his studio Apelles flatters her and falls in love with her.
Diogenes criticizes the manners and dissolute lives of the Athenians. Campaspe confesses that she likes the painter better than the prince, and Apelles declares he loves her. Alexander demands the painting, suspects their love, and summons Apelles. A page reports that the studio is on fire, and Apelles rushes in to get the portrait. Alexander sends for Campaspe, learns that she loves Apelles, and orders them to marry. Alexander realizes that he cannot control the affections of men, and he goes off to conquer Persia.
Lyly wrote the pastoral comedy Gallathea in his Euphuistic prose about 1584, and submitted it to the Stationers’ Register on April 1, 1585. Depicting the god Neptune and the goddesses Diana and Venus, the story comes from Ovid’s tale of Iphis and Ianthe in his Metamorphosis. Astrology, which was popular in Elizabeth’s court at this time, is considered.
The shepherds Tityrus and Melebeus have persuaded their daughters Gallathea and Phyllida to disguise themselves by dressing as boys in order to prevent their being sacrificed as a virgin to Neptune’s monstrous Augur this fifth year. The constellations they were born under make them vulnerable, and Gallathea is reluctant to deceive in order to escape this destiny. Three boys are also in the woods seeking their fortune. Cupid, the son of Venus, meets a nymph of Diana who also likes to hunt. Cupid plans how he can trick the maidens so they will fall in love. Three of Diana’s nymphs become enamored of the boys they think Gallathea and Phyllida are while they, thinking the other is a boy, fall in love with each other. Yet they each suspect the other is a maiden too. The Augur comes for the sacrificial virgin, and Tityrus and Melebeus deny they have a daughter. Augur arrives with the virgin Hebe who is to be sacrificed, but Augur rejects her and says that Neptune will find one fairer. Neptune plans to go after Diana’s nymphs, and he meets with them and Venus. He agrees to honor Diana and love Venus, and he persuades Diana to give Cupid back to Venus and to release the sacrifice of virgins. Diana and Venus agree. Tityrus and Melebeus introduce their daughters to each other, and Gallathea concludes the play by urging the ladies to yield to love.
Lyly’s comedy Sapho and Phao was probably performed at the court of Elizabeth on March 3, 1584. Because of her pride Queen Sapho of Syracuse falls in love with the old ferryman Phao of Lesbos after Aphrodite restores his youth and moves him to Chios. Phao loves her too, but they are socially very unequal. Venus is hit accidentally by one of Cupid’s arrows and is smitten by Phao too. She gets her husband Vulcan to forge arrows that break love spells; but Cupid cures Sapho of her love of Phao instead, and Cupid himself falls in love with the Queen. Cupid also makes Phao dislike Venus, and he leaves Sicily. Cupid even renounces his mother and stays with the virgin Sapho as her son. This comedy comments on the courtship of the virgin Elizabeth by the Duke of Alençon that failed in 1582.
Lyly’s comedy Endymion was performed by the Children of Paul’s troupe probably in February 1588. Endymion is in love with the moon goddess Cynthia, and his friend Eumenides loves the beautiful Semele who is in Cynthia’s court. The earth goddess Tellus is in love with Endymion while the captain Corsites loves her. Eumenides advises Endymion not to seek the unattainable but sleep. Tellus is jealous of Endymion and gets the enchantress Dipsas to put him to sleep. Eumenides informs Cynthia, who orders Corsites to imprison Tellus. Cynthia sends Eumenides to Thessaly and other messengers to Greece and Egypt to find a cure to help Endymion. The swaggering soldier Tophas falls in love with Dipsas and writes love sonnets. Eumenides meets the old hermit Geron who gives him a remedy. Eumenides has to cry tears for Semele to make it work. Geron says a woman with a perfect figure must kiss Endymion to wake him, and that is Cynthia.
Endymion is asleep for forty years while Tellus embroiders in prison and falls in love with her jailer Corsites. She sends Corsites to move Endymion to a cave; but he is too heavy, and Corsites falls asleep. Cynthia arrives with the philosopher Pythagoras and the Egyptian sage Gyptes, but they can only wake Corsites. Eumenides returns, and Cynthia kisses Endymion, waking him up; but he is old and reports his dream that Cynthia was attacked by ingratitude, treachery, and envy. Bagoa, who helped Dipsas drug Endymion, confesses and is punished by being changed into an aspen tree. Tellus explains that Endymion loves Cynthia, who rejuvenates him. Eumenides proves he is true and offers his tongue to help Semele speak. Cynthia gives Tellus to Corsites, and Dipsas renounces magic and returns to her husband Geron. Bagoa is restored and given to Tophas. Finally Cynthia welcomes Pythagoras and Gyptes to her court and urges them to put their virtue into practice. Cynthia as a goddess cannot marry as the others do, and she symbolizes Queen Elizabeth.
Thomas Kyd (1558-94) is known for having written a lost play about Hamlet and for the popular Spanish Tragedy which was anonymous until Thomas Heywood mentioned in his Apology for Actors in 1612 that Kyd wrote it. Kyd also shared a room with Christopher Marlowe in 1591 and testified that atheistic writing found there belonged to Marlowe and not him. Kyd wrote The Spanish Tragedy about 1586, and it was printed in ten editions by 1634 and greatly influenced Elizabethan and Stuart tragedies.
The ghost of Don Andrea appears with the Spirit of Revenge, and they learn that Spain defeated Portugal in the war of 1580. Portugal’s Prince Balthazar, who killed Andrea, was captured. Lorenzo and Andrea’s friend Horatio each claim to have taken Balthazar. However, at Portugal’s court Villupo tells the Viceroy that the traitor Alexandro killed his son Balthazar, and the Viceroy sentences him to death. Horatio at the court of Spain tells Bel-imperia that her fiancé Andrea was killed, and she persuades Horatio to get revenge in order to win her love which is also sought by Balthazar who is aided by Lorenzo. The King of Spain wants to marry his niece Bel-imperia to Balthazar to gain Portugal as an ally. Horatio meets her in a garden at night, but disguised Balthazar and Lorenzo hang Horatio and stab him. Bel-imperia recognizes them, and they carry her away. Horatio’s father Hieronimo finds his son’s body and grieves madly with his wife Isabella. Hieronimo swears he will get revenge. The ghost Andrea is also upset by his friend’s death.
Hieronimo finds a letter written in blood from Bel-imperia accusing Balthazar and Lorenzo of killing his son. They get rid of two accomplices by getting Pedringano to kill Balthazar’s man for which he is executed. Bel-imperia refuses to give in to Balthazar. The Spanish ambassador brings Balthazar’s ransom note for Horatio, and the King orders it paid; but Hieronimo cries out for justice, and Lorenzo persuades the King that Hieronimo is insane. The Portuguese Viceroy comes to Spain for his wedding. Lorenzo persuades his father, the Duke of Castile, to reconcile with Hieronimo. The ghost calls upon Revenge. Hieronimo’s wife stabs herself. The King asks Hieronimo to put on a play at the wedding celebration, and he presents Soliman and Perseda in which Soliman (Balthazar) murders Erasto (Lorenzo) to get his wife Perseda (Bel-imperia) who then kills him and herself. Hieronimo kills the bashaw and says these deaths are real. He compares the plays and presents the corpse of his son. He tries to hang himself and is stopped but when questioned bites off his tongue. Finally he stabs Lorenzo’s father and himself.
The revenge theme and the violence that Kyd presented on the stage in The Spanish Tragedy so dramatically increased the influence of these elements often found in Seneca’s tragedies.
Christopher Marlowe was born at Canterbury and was baptized on February 26, 1564. He began attending the King’s School in January 1579 and entered Corpus Christi College at Cambridge in December 1580, earning his B.A. in 1584 and an M.A. in 1587 when it was ordered by the Privy Council because he was employed “in matters touching the benefit of his country.” His tragedy Tamberlaine Part 1 was written in blank verse and performed by the Lord Admiral’s Men about 1587. In 1588 writer Robert Greene referred to “that atheist Tamberlan” in the preface to his poetry book Perimedes the Blacksmith. On August 14, 1590 Tamberlaine Parts 1 and 2 were entered in the Stationers’ Register, and that year they were published together anonymously. Thus Part 2 may have been produced in 1587 or 1588 also.
Marlowe’s tragedy Dido Queen of Carthage was published in 1594 and included in smaller print the name of Thomas Nash whom Marlowe knew at Cambridge, though Nashe was nearly four years younger. The title page also states that Dido was “played by the Children of her Majesty’s Chapel,” but it is not known when. Marlowe and Nashe may have written it while they were students. Scholars believe Dido is in Marlowe’s style, and it is based on Virgil’s Aeneid books 1, 2 and 4. The play opens with “Jupiter dandling Ganymede upon his knee.” In classical mythology the boy Ganymede is one of Zeus’s beautiful lovers, and he says Jupiter’s wife Juno is jealous. Venus complains that Jupiter is neglecting her son Aeneas who has left defeated Troy. Queen Dido falls in love with the Trojan Aeneas who leaves her to find his destiny in Italy. She has a funeral pyre built and throws herself into the flames, followed by her sister Anna and her lover Iarbas.
Marlowe based his dramas about Tamberlaine on several histories and biographies, though the character Zenocrate seems to be his invention. His main sources were Silva de Varia Leccion by Pedro Mexia in Thomas Fortescue’s English translation The Forest and Magni Tamerlanis Scytharum Imperatoris Vita by Petrus Perodinus. Tamberlaine (1536-1405) was the European name for Timur the Lame who in forty years conquered the Persian empire, India, and west to Egypt and North Africa before dying in an attempt to invade China.
In Marlowe’s Tamburlaine Part 1 Persia’s King Mycetes is overcome by his brother Cosroe who believes that the natal chart of Mycetes is weakened by the conjunction of the moon and Saturn while he is favored by the combination of the sun, Jupiter, and Mercury. Zenocrate, the daughter of Egypt’s Sultan, is brought to Tamberlaine’s camp as a captive. She was betrothed to the King of Arabia but is wooed by the Scythian Tamberlaine who hopes to conquer Asia. The Persian army has twice as many men as his army, but he bribes Persians and wins over Theridamas from Mycetes. Cosroe cooperates with Tamburlaine who easily defeats the smaller army of Mycetes. Then Tamburlaine offers Theridamas, Techelles, and Usumcasane the kingdoms of Algeria, Fez, and Morocco, and they help him defeat Cosroe to become king of Persia. Zenocrate admits she loves the Scythian conqueror, and her counselor Agydas accepts a dagger from Tamburlaine and kills himself.
Turkish Emperor Bajazeth and the new kings of Algeria, Fez, and Morocco are besieging Constantinople. Bajazeth offers Tamburlaine a truce, but the Scythian defiantly attacks the Turks and is victorious. He has Zenocrate take the crown from Bajazeth and proclaim him Emperor of Africa. Tamberlaine refuses to ransom his prisoners. Zenocrate’s father asks Egyptians to save her, and the Sultan allies with the King of Arabia at Damascus. Tamberlaine’s forces besiege the city while he treats Bajazeth with contempt by keeping him in a cage. His queen Zabina calls Zenocrate a concubine, but Zenocrate makes Zabina a slave of her maid. Tamburlaine promises to spare Zenocrate’s father and his friends if they surrender and recognize him as emperor. Four virgins plead for mercy, but Tamburlaine orders them slaughtered and their bodies exposed. Then he expresses his love for Zenocrate. Bajazeth kills himself by hitting his head against the cage, and Zabina goes crazy and follows his example. The Arabian king is wounded and dies in Zenocrate’s arms. Her father is captured and pardoned. Zenocrate is crowned Queen of Persia and is betrothed to Tamburlaine.
In Tamburlaine Part 2 King Orcanes of Natolia and former vassals of Emperor Bajazeth unite to avenge him. To fight Tamburlaine they ally with their Christian enemy, King Sigismund of Hungary and other Christians. Bajazeth’s son Callapine escapes from prison while Tamburlaine receives tribute from the plundering kings of Algeria, Fez, and Morocco. Sigismund and his Christian allies break their pledge to those they consider infidels and attack the Turks. Once again the Turks turn to Christians and the kings in Jerusalem, Syria, Trebizon, and Amasia to face Tamburlaine. The army of Orcanes defeats the Christians, and Sigismund is killed. Zenocrate gets sick and dies, and Tamburlaine grieves and burns the town where she died.
The kings of Algeria, Fez, and Morocco crown Callapine emperor and prepare to fight Tamburlaine who trains his sons for war by letting them wash their hands from his bleeding arm, though Calyphas does not want to be a warrior. When Olympia’s husband is killed in battle, she kills her son and tries to end her life; but Theridamas saves her and carries her away. The two great armies face each other at Aleppo. Tamburlaine’s army is victorious, and the three kings are captured; but he finds his son Calyphas playing cards during the battle and kills him. Tamburlaine orders Turkish whores to bury his son’s body and then gives them to his soldiers. Olympia tricks Theridamas into cutting her throat and dies. Tamburlaine makes the captured kings pull his carriage to Babylon. This city tries to resist, and he has the governor hanged on the wall and shot at by his soldiers. He orders the Babylonians drowned and their copies of the Koran burned. Tamburlaine becomes ill and is unable to pursue the escaping Emperor Callapine and the King of Amasia. Finally Tamburlaine designates his son Amyras as his successor, urging him to scourge and control his slaves, and then he dies.
In 1587 this biographical tragedy portrayed one of the most powerful and cruel conquerors in world history who was called the “Scourge of God” at a time when imperial Spain was dominating western Europe and threatening to invade England.
1. Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit by John Lyly in Tudor Poetry and Prose ed. J. William Hebel et al, p. 746-747.
2. “Leave me, O love” in Tudor Poetry and Prose ed. J. William Hebel et al, p. 120.