Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fire Over England's Tilbury Speech

Fire Over England. Dir. William K. Howard. Perf. Laurence Olivier, Flora Robson, and Vivien Leigh. 1937. Videocassette.

After an earlier post on Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth I, I remembered that the 1937 film Fire Over England also has a version of Elizabeth I's speech at Tilbury. That film's version is much more thrilling and much more moving—possibly because it's closer to the actual thrilling and moving words of Elizabeth:

Of course, she has the "heart and valor of a king" instead of the "heart and stomach of a king" in this version. Perhaps stomachs aren't quite as en vogue now as they were in 1588. Alternately, it's possible that the phrase "stomach of a king" tends to conjure up an image of the later years of Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father.

Here's most of the text of Elizabeth I's actual speech—for purposes of comparison with the speech above:
My loving people . . . I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour, and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England, too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm. (Somerset 464)

Works Cited

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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