The Consolation of Philosophy

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.

4 thoughts on “The Consolation of Philosophy

  1. Justin,
    Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale makes several allusions to this quote from The Consolation of Philosophy (the Orpheus/Eurydice myth):
    “Who shall set a law to lovers? Love is a greater law unto itself. Alack! at the very bounds of darkness Orpheus looked upon his Eurydice; looked, and lost her, and was lost himself.
    ‘To you too this tale refers; you, who seek to lead your thoughts to the light above. For whosoever is overcome of desire, and turns his gaze upon the darkness ‘neath the earth, he, while he looks on hell, loses the prize he carried off.'” -Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
    The Knight is overcome by desire and the furies explode from beneath the earth and kill him:
    “In love, the secret is the self;
    In death, the echo of the secret.”
    -Heather McHugh (“Nymph to Narcissus”)
    As Elizabeth has never fully succumbed to a sensual life, she maintains her authority and integrity and “keeps” England safe which is indistiguishable from her “self”.
    The scene you describe above is very seductive and, intellectually, moreover, metaphorically, speaking, delicious and intoxicating.

  2. Hi Justin.
    I’m interested to know about the rehearsal and filming process. Do you rehearse and shoot a scene in one day – starting from scratch with blocking moves etc. or has some rehearsal already taken place?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.