Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-kfj7r Total loading time: 0.235 Render date: 2022-12-04T06:27:45.513Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

5 - Performing ‘Water’ Ralegh : The Cultural Politics of Sea Captains in Late Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 November 2020

Get access

Summary

‘I am Walter Ralegh, know ye not that?’

Walter Ralegh (c.1554-1618) was a pivotal cultural and political figure. Adventurer, courtier, poet, traitor, he was one of the most charismatic and controversial figures of the English Renaissance. The antiquary Anthony á Wood summed up both the difficulties of categorising him and the range of his interests: ‘[a]uthors are perplex’d […] under what topic to place him, whether of statesman, seaman, souldier, chymist, or chronologer; for in all these he did excell’. ‘Favourite’ of Elizabeth I, in later life Ralegh's fortunes reversed as, unpopular with James I, he was tried for treason, condemned, imprisoned, released, and then finally executed in October 1618 after his return from the disastrous second Guiana voyage. As his contemporary Sir Robert Naunton, Master of the Court of Wards, observed: ‘Sir Walter Rawleigh was one that it seemes fortune had picked out of purpose, of whom to make an example, and to use as her Tennis-Ball, thereby to shew what she could do’. He was also an individual whose life and treatment, and beliefs expressed in speech and writing, other writers used to support their own political viewpoints. Anna R. Beer sums up his extraordinary significance when she writes that, due to his own political marginalisation through long-term imprisonment and popular vilification, ‘Ralegh should not have mattered in the seventeenth century’, yet he was in fact the key individual the Stuart state was unable ‘to silence’. Indeed, ‘in the decades after his execution, Ralegh was re-formed by his readers into an authority in opposition to Stuart government’. Processes of memorialization appear to have taken place even whilst Ralegh was still alive, perhaps because ‘the Last Elizabethan’ (Hugh R. Trevor Roper's name for him) was considered already ‘civilly dead’ after his condemnation for treason in 1603, that is dead to law and society.

Accounts about him both whilst alive and posthumously are often starkly different, running the gamut from hyperbolically hostile to hagiographic, so that multiple versions of ‘Walter Ralegh’ emerge and compete for dominance. For instance, he was often seen as the victim of royal authoritarianism, repression, and injustice.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×