chapter  1
14 Pages

‘Here in this garden’: The Iconography of the Virgin Queen in Shakespeare’s Richard II

ByHelen Ostovich

The St. Peter Mancroft windows in Norwich, like the carvings and sculptures of many parish churches in Suffolk and Norfolk, escaped the 1561 order to destroy representations of Mary, proof that such iconography continued in William Shakespeare's day to exert a powerful influence. Echoes of this devotion in the presentation of Isabel, can be understood as determinants that proclaim Richard II's kingship authoritatively. The picture of Isabel in the garden at the centre of Richard II has a similar symbolic logic: it informs the other scenes by asserting spiritual values to guide our reception of political actions. The Wilton diptych, or Richard II presented to the Virgin and Child by his Patron Saint John the Baptist and Saints Edward and Edmund, is a portable altarpiece painted for Richard's private devotions. The marriage to Isabel would satisfy the political necessity for a bride and the personal desire for a child, it would allow him a tender private relationship without sexual demands.