Wednesday 12th July. 10.00 AM – ‘A’ Stage, Shepperton Studios. With the armada sailing Elizabeth’s reign is reaching a crisis and Raleigh finds her in her private apartments late at night, reading.
For a scene as pregnant with foreboding and suppressed emotion as this there is only really one book that the Queen can be reading – Boethius’ ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was an official at the court of the Ostrogothic emperor Theoderic the Great in the early sixth century and wrote the Consolation whilst awaiting execution (by torture) for allegedly conspiring with the rival Byzantine emperor. In the book he imagines he is visited by the “Lady Philosophy” and the text consists of their dialogue as he struggles to come to terms with the fate of man and his own impending death.
Although the book is actually a piece of neo-Platonist philosophy, from an early date it was taken up by Christians and the text subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) altered to make it into a more overtly Christian text. So important did it become that it was personally translated into Old English by King Alfred the Great, and into Middle English by Chaucer. It was also a very special book for Elizabeth who, during the autumn of 1593, translated the verse portions out of Latin into English. Although she did not make a complete translation or publish the result this still made her the first English monarch to write or translate a book since Alfred some seven hundred years before. Tonight she sits with Raleigh as they await the armada and perhaps their own deaths and, as she puts the book aside, her thoughts turn to the sensual life she has never had.