In Spring 1575 at Kenilworth, the Earl of Leicester organised a series of pageants in order to entertain Queen Elizabeth I on her progress. The masque of the goddess Diana’s quest for the nymph Zabeta reveals that Zabeta, as Susan Doran and Helen Hackett observe, is a truncated anagram of ‘Elizabeth’ implying that the nymph is the queen’s persona. The masque was not performed at Kenilworth due ‘to lack of opportunity and seasonable weather’, but was published in George Gascoigne’s The Princely Pleasures at the Courte at Kenilworth (Gascoigne 53).
The masque arguably promoted Leicester as Elizabeth’s ideal husband:
And Jove in heaven would smile to see
Diana set on shelfe….
….where you now in princely port
have past one pleasant day,
A world of wealth at wil,
you henceforth shall enjoy;
In weded state…(Nichols 514-15 cited Hackett 89)
Hackett argues that ‘weded state’ was ‘a metaphor for political favour, just as love-language was deployed in [Christopher] Hatton’s letters [to Queen Elizabeth] of the same period’ (Hackett 89). Doran maintains that the masque presents Leicester’s proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. The above passage, however, is more Continue reading