The 2015/16 season at Folger Theatre kicks off with a special engagement of texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, which heads into rehearsal next week and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to host the world premiere of this new American play (we have more than one this season!) and to use this site to tell you more about the play, its Queen, and their connections to the Folger.
Drawing in part on Elizabeth I’s letters and other material in the Folger collection, texts&beheadings is a devised theatre piece that uses Elizabeth’s own words – and four talented actresses – to reveal her wit, courage, and extraordinary love of her people. To learn more, including complete casting and newly added events visit us online.
In honor of the start of rehearsal, we’re taking a look back into the Folger archives and exploring the wealth of Elizabeth I treasures at the Folger.
In 2003, the Folger celebrated the 400th anniversary of the end of Elizabeth’s reign with an exhibition entitled Elizabeth I: Then and Now.
The exhibition is archived online on Folgerpedia and the catalog is still available. The curator of Elizabeth I, Georgianna Ziegler, will give a free talk on October 2 before the evening performance of texts&beheadings/ElizabethR and we hope you’ll join us then. In the meantime, enjoy exploring the archive and the images below, which represent a small fraction of the material at the Folger.
ELIZABETH I at the folger
Elizabeth I Autograph letter, signed, to James VI of Scotland, ca. 1592/3 March. Although Elizabeth did not wish to declare a successor during her lifetime, she certainly had James VI of Scotland (1566-1625) in mind. She paid the younger man an allowance and kept up a correspondence with him. In this letter she warns him to deal more forcefully with a group of belligerent Catholic earls in Scotland who were planning to support a Spanish invasion of the country. At the end of the letter, when she is running out of paper, she apologizes for her handwriting: “Now do I remember your cumber to read such scribbled lines.”
Queen Elizabeth I. after John de Critz. Oil on panel, after 1620.
Delaram engraving of Elizabeth, 1617-1619. This magnificent posthumous engraving, based on a portrait by Hilliard, is an apotheosis of Elizabeth. In imagery taken from the Virgin Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse, Elizabeth is shown crowned with stars. Her earthly success is commemorated beneath in verses by John Davies of Hereford: Lo here her Type, who was of late, the Prop of Belgia, Stay of France: Spaines Foyle Faiths Shield, and Queene of State; of Arms and Learning; Fate and Chance: In brief; of women, nere was seen, so great a Prince; so good a Queen.
Elizabeth enthroned, in Nobilitas politica vel ciuilis, 1608. This handcolored engraving shows Elizabeth enthroned. We know that she wore three different costumes for her coronation day, two of them inherited from her sister Mary. One of these had a mantle and gown made of cloth of gold, the mantle trimmed with ermine. Robert Glover, who wrote Nobilitas politica vel ciuilis, was Somerset Herald and one of the great English genealogists.
Englands Elizabeth: her life and troubles, during her minoritie, from the cradle to the crowne. Historically laid open and interwouen with such eminent passages of state, as happened vnder the reigne of Henry the Eight, Edvvard the Sixt…, 1631.
The Plimpton “Sieve” Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, 1579 This magnificent portrait by George Gower, Sergeant Painter to the Queen, belongs to the early group of “Sieve” portraits where Elizabeth wears a red gown. The portraits take their name from the sieve she holds in her left hand, recalling the Roman Vestal virgin who carried water in a sieve, thus proving her virginity. In this painting, the globe on the left with the Italian motto “I see everything and much is lacking,” appears to refer to Elizabeth’s imperial mission as her explorers sailed out to new lands. On the right is her coat of arms with a quotation beneath from Petrarch, indicating that the Virgin Queen is beyond the woes of lovers.
The “Bishop’s Bible”, 1568. The Folger owns the actual copy of the Bishops’ Bible given to Queen Elizabeth by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury in October 1568. Bound in red velvet, with silver-gilt bosses decorated Tudor roses, the Bible would have been used in her chapel. On the title page is an engraving of a youthful Elizabeth with flowing hair. With Faith and Charity on each side, she becomes emblematic of Hope. Inside is a handcolored portrait of Sir Robert Dudley, her favorite.
Detail of Elizabeth I’s signature in a letter to Henri IV of France, c. 1590.
Stayed tuned next week for more Elizabeth images from the Folger collection, this time focusing on portrayals of Elizabeth onstage. Sneak peek below –
texts&beheadings/ElizabethR will be the second time in as many years that the Queen Herself will make an appearance at the Folger. Holly Twyford played Elizabeth in last season’s Mary Stuart and Michael Learned won a Helen Hayes award for her portrayal of the Queen in Elizabeth the Queen in 2003.
Holly Tywford as Elizabeth I and Cody Nickell as Leicester in Schiller’s “Mary Stuart” directed by Richard Clifford. Folger Theatre, 2015. Photo by Teresa Wood.
Michael Learned (Elizabeth I), Martin Kildare (the Earl of Essex), Elizabeth the Queen, Folger Theatre, 2003. Directed by Richard Clifford. Photo by Carol Pratt.