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The Life of Elizabeth I Paperback – October 5, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
How would one write a history of the Tudor period and not rely on gossip? The whole corpus of the primary documents of the period are largely gossip. Gossip also influences history and the players on its stage. Elizabeth simply could not marry Dudley, perhaps the only man she truly loved, due to the gossip surrounding the death of his first wife Amy Robsart Dudley. Gossip is relevant if people believe it (and it is the nature of humans to believe it).
Elizabeth's courtships, flirting, etc. is also of the greatest historical significance. Constant courtship was the device she employed to convince her male courtiers that she planned to marry and produce an heir (hopefully male of course). In fact, she had no intention of marrying, knowing that the moment she did power would immediately pass to her husband whoever that might be.
As to the charges that the book is filled with filth and Monica type tabloid journalism again shows a total ignorance of the period. The Tudor court was a vey racy place even by modern standards. Readers offended by such information should stick with their Jerry Falwell tapes!
I have taught Tudor history for 34 years and I have seen more interest in the Elizabethan Age over that last 6 months than at any other time in my career. The reason is two recent movies: "Elizabeth" and "Shakespeare in Love." "Elizabeth" is not very good history and "Shakespeare In Love" is pure fiction. Nonetheless, I applaude both movies for they have engendered a new interest in the period and its personalities. Students are now asking me what books they should read to learn more. I recommend Weir's Elizabeth (and other of her works) because they are written in an interesting and engaging fashion. Later on I will suggest that they move on to Hibbert, Johnson, Ridley, etc.
This book reveals the human face of one of the most dynamic personalities of the Western World and does it in a highly engaging and readable form. Unfortunately, the only people who read what most of us historians write is other historians. No one else is willing to tolerate the pedantry and deadly dryness of the academic style.
I commend this book and recommend it enthusiastically to all those interested in Elizabeth and her age.
The problem is, I really liked the book. Really. Sure, this is a popular treatment of Elizabeth I's life, but what does that mean? It means that Weir occasionally glosses over complexities and that her prose is jargon free. She doesn't enter any spiral-of-doom of arcane theory, and she seems to have a good time romping around the Renaissance. I couldn't put the darn book down.
Perhaps what shows the honesty of this book is an admission Weir makes herself: she set out to show Elizabeth I's private life, and found she could not. No reader should miss that this is a world in which the very concept of a private life has yet to be articulated in any way familiar to us. Weir didn't come up empty (as she seems to think); she enables us, through her presentation, to realize the ways in which privacy in the Renaissance *isn't*. Weir searched for the inner Elizabeth and didn't find her, making us wonder about the entire issue of interiority.
I wanted more, of course, more subtlety, more arcane documents, a more clearly articulated point-of-view (and less psychoanalysis, though there isn't much). But this book is sound -- and it's not to be condescended to. I dare attach my name to that.