Elizabeth I was one of the most powerful women rulers in European
history. What can feminism reveal about the attitudes of her male
subjects towards this enigmatic figure? Through readings of key
Elizabethan texts by Lyly, Ralegh, Chapman, Shakespeare, and
Spenser, Philippa Berry shows that while Elizabeth's combination of
chastity with political and religious power was repeatedly
idealized, it was also perceived as extremely disturbing. The
figure of the unmarried queen implicitly challenged the masculine
focus of Renaissance discourses of love, philosophy and absolutist
political ideology. In her exploration of the potent combination of
themes of sexuality and politics with classical myth and
Neoplatonic mysticism, Berry offers a radical reassessment of the
status of 'woman' as a bearer of meaning within Renaissance
literature and culture.
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