Elizabeth Essay

Elizabeth Essay

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The 1998 movie “Elizabeth,” directed by Shekhar Kapur, from a script by Michael Hirst, is a historical epic that takes place during and after the mid-16th-century period when England’s Princess Elizabeth was nearly eliminated by her half-sister, Queen Mary. It portrays the events of Mary’s death, Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, and the struggles and events that she must overcome in order to preserve the strength of the English Monarchy, and establish Protestantism as the chief English religion. She must also maintain her stability and safety as a female ruler in a male-dominated society.

The movie is beautifully made, with eloquent and realistic costumes, and prominent actors, and it successfully turns an important historical period into a riveting drama filled with action and romance. However, looking at “Elizabeth” from a historical standpoint, it is lacking in terms of accuracy. The chronological events in the movie do not follow with the historical events, and instances that happened over many years are crammed into a short period of time. Also, many events are exaggerated, or even completely made up in order to add to the dramatic appeal of the movie. Despite these flaws, “Elizabeth” does correctly relate the main aspects of Queen Elizabeth I’s rule.
Elizabeth was born in 1533, the daughter of the infamous Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. When Elizabeth was three, her mother was beheaded for treason and adultery, and Parliament declared her marriage to Henry invalid, which made Elizabeth illegitimate. Her chances of ever ascending the throne were again thwarted by the birth of Edward, the son of Henry and his third wife. When Edward, a Protestant, died in 1553, his older half-sister, Mary, a Catholic, took the throne. Mary always held bitter feelings toward Elizabeth because Anne Boleyn treated Catherine of Aragon, Mary‘s mother, badly. To avoid angering Mary, Elizabeth “conformed outwardly to Catholicism,” but she secretly hoped and plotted to restore Protestantism. She was briefly locked up in the Tower of London, and was almost executed.

The movie begins with the execution of three Protestant activists, ordered by Mary, illustrating her hatred and intolerance for Protestants. In order to avoid angering Mary, “Elizabeth continually had to proclaim her pious distaste for heresy.”(Jagger) In the movie, Mary ...

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...o about two hours, and make these two hours interesting. To do so, facts had to be manipulated in order to make the movie more interesting and easy to follow. Important characters were omitted, conspiracies grouped together, and people were misrepresented. Elizabeth was portrayed as a happy and fun-loving young woman, when historians describe her as a somewhat cold-hearted woman who shared her father’s nasty temper. The filmmakers turned the history into a drama that has the essential characteristics of any entertaining movie: suspense, good guys and bad guys, and a riveting love story. They were not attempting to make an accurate documentary of Elizabethan England, but a dramatized interpretation of it that would be enjoyable to viewers, and provoke interest in the Elizabethan era.


Hartl, John. Movie Review: ‘Elizabeth’ is unstuffy historical epic, stirring up overlooked British history” November 20.

McCaffrey, Wallace, Susan Doran, Chris Haigh, and Norman Jones.

Ridley, Jasper. The Shrewdness of Virtue . London: Viking Penguin Inc, 1987
Encyclopedia Britannica 1999-2000

Elizabeth I. Crown Copyright, 1997, 1998, 1999.

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