Elizabeth I is perhaps the most visible woman in early modern Europe, yet little attention has been paid to what she said about the difficulties of constructing her power in a patriarchal society. Elizabeth I: The Competition for Representation examines her struggle for authority through the representation of her female body. Frye's method is to provide historical accounts of three representational crises spaced fifteen years apart: the London coronation entry of 1559, the Kenilworth entertainments of 1575, and the publication of The Faerie Queene in 1590. In ways which varied with social class and historical circumstance, the London merchants, the members of the Protestant faction, courtly artists and artful courtiers all sought to stabilize their own gendered identities by constructing the queen within the 'natural'definitions of feminine as passive and weak. Elizabeth fought back, acting as a discursive agent by crossing and then disrupting these definitions.
She and those closely identified with her interests evolved a number of strategies through which to express her control of the government as the ownership of her body, including her elaborate iconography and a mythic biography upon which most accounts of Elizabeth's life have been based. The more authoritative her image became, the more violently it was contested in a process which this book examines and consciously perpetuates.