today’s random question

Imagine there is a novel set in Elizabethan England. What famous figures would you expect and/or want to see show up in it?

Aside from Elizabeth herself, I can think of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Ralegh, Sir Francis Drake, Doctor John Dee, and John Stow.

Who else?

0 Responses to “today’s random question”

  1. mrissa

    I would not want Doctor John Dee to show up in it. I would want Doctor John Dee not to show up in it. I am so sick of Doctor John Dee in novels that I do a little dance when someone manages to write an entire Elizabethan novel, particularly in a speculative genre, with no Doctor John Dee whatsoever. I do not find myself dancing unduly often.

    • kniedzw

      Yeah. I can understand your perspective, though I really have a soft spot in my heart for the Doctor. He’s … keen. 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      Awww . . . see, the problem is, Dee is interesting, and also logically fits into any attempt to do speculative stuff in Elizabethan England. Is it that you have a hate on for him, that people misuse him, or just that you’ve seen him too many times?

      (Oddly, I don’t find that I’ve encountered him in novels much at all. But I haven’t read that many Elizabethan novels.)

      • mrissa

        A combination of misuse/poorly researched use and (especially) too many appearances. I don’t mind it at all when he pops up in nonfiction, because, well, there he was. But sometimes too many uses of an interesting, logical fit in fiction creates a rut. It’s a hard balance to strike.

        • Marie Brennan

          Fair enough. I can especially call a pox on misuse/poorly researched use. He seems the kind of figure occult and/or conspiracy theory types love to wave around without actually knowing what they’re talking about.

          • moonandserpent

            I require Dee.

            And Edward Kelly, Dee’s sometimes partner, con-man and faux-occultist extraordinare.

          • Marie Brennan

            You would require a well-researched Dee, though, which makes a difference. (The fact alone that you know who Edward Kelly is says something.)

          • moonandserpent

            I’d almost say the Ed Kelly would be the more interesting one… after all, he is the guy who arguably conned Dee.

          • sartorias

            I posted before I saw this. Why Dee, when there are far more interesting people like Philip Melancthon? Is he overlooked because Lutherans Are Not Cool? But . . . but . . . but he was working so hard on his Unified Field Theory, isn’t that cool?

            Then there are Paracelsus and Agrippa, so much more interesting than Nostradamus or Dee. Imo.

          • Marie Brennan

            Given the boundaries I’m defining for the purposes of my question (Elizabethan period in England), there are plenty of interesting people who get excluded by reason of time period and/or location. As for Dee vs. Kelly, Dee is the more politically central of the two, which makes him either a better or a worse candidate for inclusion depending on the sort of story one is choosing to tell.

          • sartorias

            Very true. That period must have had something in the water–you throw the metaphorical stick and hit a dozen fascinating characters. In every single country. One has to set limits…and England is full of fascinating types. Officious and trouble-making Stafford included, though he’s over there in Paris being a buttmonkey in order to stick his fingers into power conduits.

            Cecil and Walsingham (and I include Robert Cecil) are very interesting men–and when their dispassionate intellects conflicted over the question of What Will Spain Do, well, that was a time fraught with fascinating, with the Mary Stuart conspiracies a minor key and sinister subtheme.

          • Marie Brennan

            The sixteenth century may in fact be my very favorite century ever. The politics, the unusually powerful women in politics, the metaphysics, the literature and theatre, the Renaissance spy intrigue, the explorations . . . I could go on for ages. And would, if left unchecked, which is why I set boundaries. <g>

            I should have thought to include the Cecils.

          • hakamadare

            another vote for Walsingham here.

          • moonandserpent

            Sad to say that I do think that charismatic-hermetic -possible-spy-magician-con-men are in fact cooler than dwarf-Lutherian-theologians.

            Agrippa on the other hand… he I might give you.

          • sartorias

            poor Melancthon! he definitely seems to be the nerd at the dance for today’s audiences!

          • mrissa

            ExACTly. “I have magic! And he was…um…a magic sort of guy!” Sigh.

  2. kitsunealyc

    Walsingham…sexy, sexy spymaster.

  3. Marie Brennan

    Interesting! I haven’t heard of him before. I can totally see that kind of order, though; she seemed to have a penchant for making people go and spy for her. (Why yes, I’m in the camp that believes Kit was a spy; how could you tell?)

  4. wrathchylde

    Members of the French court of that era. Catherine de Medici, Henri de Bourbon, Marguerite de Valois …

    Of course, that’s me, and I’ve always been fascinated by them.

    • Marie Brennan

      Diane de Poitiers . . . but I do mostly mean English figures of the time period. Though of course you can’t sidestep international politics, and I should put Mary Stuart on the list, at least.

  5. lowellboyslash

    Unsurprisingly, I’m into the New World stuff going on during that time – so, Spanish and Portuguese explorations, France fighting England, various natives of the Americas visiting England and going, “Wow, white people are weird.” (Pocahontas, e.g.)

    And there’s Ben Jonson, but he’s kind of boring.

    • Marie Brennan

      Jonson has his partisans out there, so watch out; one of them might try to shiv you.

      There’s plenty of awesome stuff all over the place in the sixteenth century. I’m finding it interesting, the number of people who are responding to my question by looking outside its given parameters.

  6. sartorias

    I’ve hit my limit on John Dee as the all-knowing (secretly Pagan and Earth-mother embracing) megamage. The guy was a charismatic charlatan, from everything I can discover. I also won’t read a book that is a secret hagiography to Mary Stuart. Or even more, with Christopher Marlowe: if I see one more story featuring him as a “fallen angel” who’s really a slash hero in disguise, I will foreswear anything set before 1600 for a while.

    But something that follows the fascinating de Guise family in their constant searches for power, that shows the inside into on Catherine de Medici, that is kind to hapless doofuses like Babington and shows the complexities of ones like Leicester with a trenchant eye….those I would read happily. Drake was fun, but more fun is how Howard handled him, and Philip of Spain was astonishingly complex, but is always given about half a dimension–just enough to be a satisfying villain.

    I think my favorite potential hero from that time is Philip Sidney…how I wish they hadn’t sent him over in support of Leicester’s ego-driven disaster in the Lowlands!

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeek. No, while I have an interest in those characters, I would never take them in that direction. Earth Mother, hell; I’d take my cues for Dee from Frances Yates, thank you very much, and the actual mysticism of the time. Mary Stuart is interesting, but not deserving of hagiography, and my own Kit Marlowe story features neither angels nor slash. (Though I do kill him off three times in less than four thousand words.)

      Babington and Leicester, in my mind, go on the list of people who were heavily involved of the politics at the time, but whose names are not very widely known to the general public today. (Where “general public” is defined as the set of people who would at least know most of the names in my original list.)

      • sartorias

        Yates’s Dee, now that I would happily settle down with. (Her work Astraea is one of my alltime favorite reads, even if the scholarship has since been superceded.)

        • Marie Brennan

          Haven’t read Astraea, I’m afraid. But yeah, I’ve heard nothing but rock-solid things about Yates, even in those instances where, as you say, she’s been superceded in more recent years.

          • sartorias

            Oooh, if you touch on Elizabeth at all, do get and read this one. She goes into all the symbolism understand by everyone with respect to those crushing Queen’s Progresses that she used to keep her men in line!

          • Marie Brennan

            Awesome. We’ve got Theatre of the World, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, and The Art of Memory; I’ve read bits of some of them, but none in their entirety. Mostly I’m saving that for when I’ll be making use of the information therein; otherwise, half of it will just slip away again.

          • sartorias

            Oh, I did a paper on that period and its paradigm, in ’74, and had a bibliography of some forty-plus works, among which were Yates’ books. There was one on Rudolph of Austria and his occult interests that was drop dead fascinating, spilling outward to touch on England.

  7. drydem

    Alright, it depends on your timeframe. I’m a big Lady Jane Grey fan, who is technically a contemporary, though prior by a few years.
    And it would be a shame to miss out on Robert Dudley, Mr. Sexypants of Elizabeth’s court.

  8. anima_mecanique

    I just realized I know next to nothing about Elizabethan England.

    Hate it when that happens.

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