Author John Staines here argues that sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers in England, Scotland, and France wrote tragedies of the Queen of Scots - royal heroine or tyrant, martyr or whore - in order to move their audiences towards political action by shaping and directing the passions generated by the spectacle of her fall.
In following the retellings of her history from her lifetime through the revolutions and political experiments of the seventeenth century, this study identifies two basic literary traditions of her tragedy: one conservative, sentimental, and royalist, the other radical, skeptical, and republican. Staines provides new readings of Spenser and Milton, as well as of early modern dramatists, to compile a comprehensive study of the writings about this important historical and literary figure.
He charts developments in public rhetoric and political writing from the Elizabethan period through the Restoration, using the emotional representations of the life of this tragic woman and queen to explore early modern experiments in addressing and moving a public audience. By exploring the writing and rewriting of the tragic histories of the Queen of Scots, this book reveals the importance of literature as a force in the redefinition of British political life between 1560 and 1690.