Donald Stump and Susan M. Felch, eds.  Elizabeth I and Her Age.  New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.  xxix+895pp.  ISBN 978 0 393 9282 8.

 Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

Lisa Hopkins. "Review of Donald Stump and Susan M. Felch, eds. Elizabeth I and Her Age." Early Modern Literary Studies 15.1 (2009-10) <URL:>.


  1. This ingeniously conceived and wholly welcome volume in the Norton Critical Editions series establishes Elizabeth I as a figure who, from her days as a princess to the end of her life, both wrote and was written about, and who continued to be the subject of important narrative, poetic, dramatic, and ultimately filmic accounts for the next four hundred years.  Stump’s and Felch’s selection of materials to illustrate this is judicious and at times inspired, including such usual suspects as Foxe, Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII, Spenser, Heywood, Mulcaster, and Gascoigne, as well as rather less usual ones such as John Bale, William Whittingham, Anne Vaughan Lock, Edward Hake, and William Elderton.  The volume is divided into twelve parts (in a nod to The Faerie Queene?), chronologically ordered: The Princess Elizabeth (1553-1558); Coronation and the Problems of Legitimacy, Religion, and Succession (1559-1566); Mary Stuart, The Northern Rebellion, and Protestant Discontent (1567-1571); Changing Alliances (1572-1577); Courtiers, Assassins, and the Death of Mary Stuart (1582-1587); The Spanish Armada and its Aftermath (1588-1592); A Changing Court and Aging Queen (1592-1597); Ireland, Rebellion, and the Passing of the Queen (1598-1603); Lingering Images of the Queen; Remembering Elizabeth: Early Accounts of the Queen (1577-1848); and finally Modern Scholarship and Criticism, which brings together in one place a good range of those who have helped us understand the scope and significance of writing by and about the queen, and culminates in Thomas Betteridge’s account of films featuring Elizabeth.

  2. The editorial principles which have been applied to this range of texts are clearly identified and well thought through.  Spelling has been modernised and there is a decent sprinkling of illustrations (Roy Strong is one of those whose work is represented in the ‘Modern Scholarship and Criticism’ section), though sadly all are in black and white.  Each section has a concise introduction and there are thoughtful notes at the bottom of the page.  There are no obvious omissions among the texts, though the structure of the volume does mean that while the Alençon marriage looms large, other possible suitors and favourites, including Leicester and Essex, are hard to find traces of in the list of contents; despite the welcome inclusion of a scene from Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage in which Dido discusses her suitors, a reader not well acquainted with Elizabeth and her history might struggle to understand the full point of the episode.  In part this is due to the one really irritating aspect of this volume, which is its failure to supply an index; the glossary of names is useful, but an index would have been even more so, and would hardly have taken the volume to an unmanageable length.  Along with this slight muting of  a sense of the queen’s personal life, her private voice is also not much in evidence; there is, for instance, little sense of her relationship with her maids-of-honour and female friends and relatives, who were very important in her life.  Even the picture on the cover, Gheeraerts’ ‘Welbeck’ or ‘Wanstead’ or ‘Peace’ Portrait, is one of those which shows Elizabeth wholly as an icon and offers no sense of intimacy or of access to a personality.  In its sense of the importance of Elizabeth as a political and cultural figure, though, the volume is beyond reproach.  


Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at

© 2010-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).