Making the Grades
In 1999, Cate Blanchett received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the "Virgin Queen" who became England's monarch despite a troubled accession. Now both Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush who played her resourceful advisor, Sir Francis Walsingham, reprise their roles in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Still single and childless, the spectacularly attired Elizabeth I is besieged by tiresome political wrangling and increasingly younger suitors who want to form an alliance with the sovereign and secure their chance at her throne. Her courtiers are also concerned with the lack of an heir apparent and the civil instability that may result. But Elizabeth herself, at least publicly, seems more interested in affairs of state than marriage.
Governing during turbulent years of Catholic and Protestant unrest, the Queen is under constant threat from religious fanatics and eventually finds herself the target of an assassination plot by her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton). As well, King Philip II of Spain (Jordi Moll), eager to restore the Protestant England to Catholicism, is engaged in preparations to attack the coast.
But while traitors and warmongering rage around her, the Queen's private life is also in turmoil. Arriving at the castle, Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), a high seas adventurer, is the first man seemingly more interested in Elizabeth as a woman than a regent. Without the usual flattery of a suitor, Raleigh befriends the Queen and absorbs her attention with tales of discovery and piracy. Although she knows he is an unsuitable marriage choice, she encourages her aid, Bess (Abbie Cornish), to keep close to the man. Later, jealousy ensues when the proximity between her favorite lady-in-waiting and Raleigh results in a growing romance and illicit affair.
However with the Spanish Armada bearing down on the country, the Queen has to put aside personal matters to deal with the danger. Unfortunately it's these war measures that push this monarchy out of the realm of family viewing, Graphic depictions of bloody bodies, dark, dank torture chambers and impaling are shown along side gruesome battle scenes aboard the naval ships. Likewise, suspected traitors are summarily beaten, beheaded, stabbed or hanged.
Equally problematic is the film's inability to connect audiences with the detached ruler who, of her own admission, puts up barriers between the citizens and herself. Dissipating any romantic notions about being a royal, the script depicts the heartache and loneliness suffered by monarchs who were often pawns in their court's governmental schemes. With intrigues and deceptions often confusing to follow (and likely to bore most teens), the production focuses instead on extravagant costumes and intricate sets. Yet while those visuals may be pretty to look at, this script needs more than a little buffing to really shine like gold.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Elizabeth The Golden Age.
Hangings and beheadings are depicted as public affairs attended by aristocrats and common folk alike. What do you think intrigued onlookers with these gory events? How does our modern society compare? Are violent portrayals in movies, television programs and video games similar public displays of bloodshed?
According to the Queen’s astrological advisor, times of trial bring out the true natures of people. Do you agree with his observation? In what ways do difficulties expose a person’s real character? How have you seen this in your own life or the lives of others?
What is the difference between justice and mercy? Why is the Queen forced to choose one over another? What are the repercussions of her decision? Is it even possible for a person to invoke both justice and mercy at the same time?
How does the Queen’s appearance on the battlefront affect her citizens? What strengths does she possess as a monarch?