chapter  2
The Queen and the Stage: The Rise of Popular Theater in Elizabethan England (1558–1580)
Pages 20

When Elizabeth Tudor inherited the throne in 1558, she entered London in triumph in an extravagant royal passage, setting the literal and proverbial stage for a 45-year reign in which ceremony, pageant, and theatricality came to define and redefine the English monarchy. In large part, Elizabeth’s reliance upon spectacle arose from her need to counteract the questionable legitimacy and scandal that accompanied her succession. The controversies surrounding Elizabeth’s accession included-but were not limited to-her proclaimed bastardy, her Protestantism, her gender, a suspected affair with (or assault by?) Thomas Seymour, involvement with Wyatt’s Revolt (1554), and the possibility of a betrothal and marriage to her late sister’s Catholic husband, Philip of Spain. Despite these, Elizabeth was determined to be her father’s daughter, a decision that reflects her keen awareness of the importance of pageantry and public spectacle to the foundation and perception of monarchical power. In her response to its 1586 petition to execute Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth herself (now famously) informed Parliament that

Awareness of her position as a performative public figure characterized her entire reign. This understanding is particularly interesting because such an explanation of sovereign visibility presupposes a system of limited participatory governance.