|Module Title||THREE QUEENS AND THEIR SUBJECTS|
|Co-ordinator||Dr Michael Roberts|
|Course delivery||Lecture||18 Hours|
|Essay||2 x 2,500 word essays||40%|
Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici, Queen regent of France, are among the first European women for whom we have detailed biographical evidence. Each exerted enormous political influence whilst alive, cast a spell over contemporary (roughly 1550-1600) and later culture, and has continued to fascinate those who take an interest in the past, as witnessed by the recent movie Elizabeth. This module starts from the striking fact of these women's evident importance, before opening out into a study of their relationship with their subjects. In particular, the module seeks to establish what these women shared with their more ordinary contemporaries, the women who were burnt at the stake as witches for example, or the prostitutes who worked on the Elizabethan South Bank, and who were amongst the first audience for Shakespeare's plays. How did women rule in a world in which men were thought to be the 'natural' rulers? And how did the fact of their rule affect ordinary life for men and women in the street and village lane?
The second half of the sixteenth century is probably the very first period in European history for which we have sufficient evidence to be able to examine both Queens and their humblest subjects: the destitute poor, the conscripted soldiers, the alewives and the cunning women: think of the variety of people Shakespeare depicted in his plays. But remember, too, that all his female parts were acted by boys and young men (again, a plot device in the movie Elizabeth). Why this, if women ruled? What did it mean for a man to be laughed at by his fellows in the alehouse as a cuckold? And why did teenage apprentices attack brothels on Shrove Tuesday? Why did all contemporaries make such play with 'inversion', with turning the world upside down, with Carnival? Were late sixteenth-century politics really as sexualised as those of our own day? Did men really have such a hard time? And why do film-makers keep returning to this period and its personalities?