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dared to raise his ambitious aspiration to the possession
of her hand.

In the first act, there is the scene in which the author,
Giacometti — ^with one of those inspirations which are
famihar to him and which are very striking — creates a
most difficult contrast in its action, by displaying a
characteristic trait of this great queen, and thus giving
the opportunity to the actress who plays the part to show
her ability.

Elizabeth had to dictate two letters at the same mo-
ment, employing her Secretary, Davison, and the young
philosopher. Bacon. The first letter is dictated in the
irritated tone of the Sovereign, to Lord Leicester, in reply
to a message he has sent her in which he notified her of
the ovations of triumph he had received in Holland, and
pushing his audacity to the extent of asking her for the
crown of Belgium which the Counts of Egmont, of Horn
and of Flessing have offered to him, in the name of the
United Provinces. All this is expressed in a most ego-
tistic manner, which vexes the queen.

The second letter contains an order that she wishes
to give to Judge Pophan.

Though Bacon knows how adverse Elizabeth is to the
latest work of Shakespeare, "Henry VIII," because
he has dared to put on the stage her father and mother
and herself, yet with the hope of obtaining her consent to
its production. Bacon begs her on his knees to listen to
some of the passages of the play. She reluctantly grants
his request.

Then with all the emphasis with which an author may
read his own work in order to make it well appreciated,
(and some historians go even so far as to maintain that
this drama is a creation of Bacon), he declaims some
parts of the play in which is prophesied the greatness, the
prosperity, and the long life of Elizabeth, and which exalts
her exemplary magnanimity and her fame as a maiden-
queen! . . . The stratagem of Bacon proves very
successful. Hearing herself so highly flattered, Elizabeth
writes with her own hand at the foot of the manuscript,
that it is her wish that the drama of "Henry VIII" be
presented within a fortnight at Windsor, in her Court



144 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

theatre. But learning from Bacon that the play cannot
be produced so soon, as Shakespeare is in prison for debts,
the queen resolves to dictate at once a letter to Bacon
for Judge Pophan, in which she informs him that she
consents that the drama " Henry VIII " shall be produced.
And as Pophan has unconsciously forbidden the pro-
duction of a drama in which the queen is highly exalted
she finds a way to punish him by making him pay
all Shakespeare's debts, "according to the note that
Bacon will present to him." She ended her letter
by saying: That she hopes that in future he will
put on his glasses in order to better distinguish white
from black.

I dictate these two letters at the same time, giving
to the one destined for the Earl of Leicester the greatest
impression of severity, declaring that "crowns were not
made for his head, and least of all the one of Belgium,
which she herself had refused." I added that he is to
resign immediately from the command of the troops under
the leadership of Sir Walter Raleigh, if he does not wish
me to have him placed under arrest by a regiment of
cavalry. This dictation, given with movements of ire,
alternates with the other to Pophan, given in a familiar
but authoritative and bantering tone, such as the subject
of the letter required.

Such a contrast produced completely the effects that
the author desired.

During the second act there are some very remarkable
scenes, in which the author has found the way to delineate
and put together the various episodes of the life of Eliza-
beth, by connecting them in a masterly manner, taking
advantage of all the license of time and place that would
be tolerated on the stage, and this without either spoiling
or altering the regular procedure of the action, or making
the parts appear unnatural or uninteresting in their
connection.

I preferred the second act to the others, because it
offered me the opportunity of playing a comedy part,
which I so much liked. Even later on, during my pro-
fessional career, it was a source of great pleasure to me,
when owing to some unexpected circumstance I was asked



ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND 145

to play a comic role in either Goldoni's "Locandiera,"
or " I Gelosi Fortimati."

In the above-mentioned second act of Elizabeth, there
is a coquettish scene, in which the cunning, the flattering
queen, pretends to accept at times the loving overtures
of the Earl of Essex, and to pity at the same time the ill-
repressed emotions of jealousy of the Earl of Leicester
who believes that Essex is his fortunate rival; while at
other moments the queen suddenly assumes the tone of
the offended Sovereign, and dismisses the Earl of Essex
from her presence, saying "that in her queenly heart
never did enter a feeble affection," and, controlling her
feelings, she allows herself to add "that one should make
exception to the Duke of Anjou and the Admiral Sey-
mour!" Then when the Earl of Essex perceives, by the
anger of the queen, that he has gone a little too far, he
throws himself at her feet, asking forgiveness. In playing
that part, I assumed the looks of the offended queen, while
clearly showing to the spectators that I enjoyed that
unrestrained outburst of jealousy. And, frowning I
would say: "You wicked man, you dare to love your
Queen! . . ."I would act so that Essex should try
to take hold of my hand to impress a kiss upon it, while,
with a disdainful commanding gesture, I would draw it
back. Then, little by little, without being noticed by
the Earl, I admire at a glance, with a loving satisfaction,
that noble and handsome knight in so submissive a pos-
ture, and conquering those sentiments of love and pride
which were antagonistic to my nature, I exclaim, in a
jesting manner: "What are you doing there? Are you
reciting your prayers ? Rise . . rise up!"

In pronouncing these last two words, my hand, motion-
ing him to rise, would with dignity slightly touch the hair
of the Earl, so that the latter, feeling encouraged by
that gesture, would rise, grasp my hand, and cover it with
kisses, and holding it tightly with both his hands, exclaim,
with emotion: "Ah! the Queen of England has taken my
hand!" I, disengaging myself, would move back, and
with affected modesty would end the dialogue, saying:
"I did not notice it!" Restraining then my emotion
and my love, and hearing the Earl sweetly utter the



I4Ó MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

words: "That it was not possible to love another woman
after having seen Elizabeth!" greatly moved, with a long
look — in which was expressed all the love that was domin-
ating me at that moment — after a short hesitation, taking
a gem from my finger, I offer it to the Earl, and solemnly
promise to him: "That if owing to any wrong he may
commit, he should lose the grace of his queen, by present-
ing me or having that ring presented to me, he shall be
pardoned, and I pledge my word as queen!"

In a monologue which follows this scene, the author
endeavours to bring out all the characteristic features of
the nature of Elizabeth. While the passion of love seems
to tame and finally conquer her, her unrestrained pride
and fever for absolute power, which constantly devour
her, smother in her heart all the tender and gentle woman-
ly feelings, and make her feel ashamed of her spasmodic
weakness. The idea of having to yield to the insistent
wish of the Parliament, of the Puritans, and of Went-
worth, that she choose a husband: "the fear of having
to share her kingdom with another, and not be any longer
the arbiter of everything and of all," strengthens more
than ever her resolution to remain free and her own
mistress.

While she is in a gracious frame of mind, her Secretary,
Davison, presents himself, bearing a letter from Mary
Stuart addressed to her, and also the death sentence for
Mary, in order that the Queen may place on it the royal
seal.

Elizabeth can hardly repress an expression of joy,
and covers her emotion with a mask of hypocrisy. She
reads the letter of the unhappy prisoner, with ill-concealed
impatience. At the end of it, Mary Stuart declares as
her heir and successor to the throne of Scotland, (think-
ing that her son James is allied with her murderers) the
unconquerable PhiHp II, King of Spain. Elizabeth is
then assailed by one of her usual excesses of hatred and
says to herself, in a sneering way: "that she herself will
assimie the execution of the will, but that in the mean-
while she will send her to meet the angels!" A most
horrible sentiment worthy of a perv-erse woman.

During the scene of dissimulation with James VI, who



ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND 147

comes to ask for the life of his mother, threatening to
avenge her death, in case his prayer is not granted —
with a set expression in my face, and a harassed, pene-
trating look, I show to the audience the storm that is
brewing within me.

But on the arrival of Davison, who comes to announce
in a loud voice : " that the executioner has shown to the
people the head of Mary Stuart," my appearance under-
goes a complete transformation, and a cry of unrepressed
joy escapes me, which, however, owing to the consterna-
tion of the bystanders at the terrible announcement,
passes unobserved. I quickly repress it, breaking forth
furiously against those who had executed the sentence.
With my usual quickness, I instantaneously impress upon
my face a very exaggerated expression of grief, of re-
pressed hysterics, succeeding thus in deceiving even
James VI, who is not able to discern "whether my grief
was real or pretended." Having remained alone with
my courtiers, I keep up before them also, my hypocrisy,
weeping and declaring that I have decided to spend the
rest of my days in a cloister, in penance and con-
templation. But the unexpected return of the ad-
venturer, Francis Drake, who had been sent by Elizabeth
through the Spanish regions in order to discover the
movements of the Spaniards, causes my face and my whole
body to undergo an instantaneous and complete change.
The death of Mary Stuart, my hypocritical pretences,
the false penitence, all were forgotten in the feverish
anxiety to learn the result of the mission intrusted to
Drake.

He relates that the war preparations of the enemy
are vast enough to conquer all Europe; that the fleet,
divided in two squadrons cover the sea for the space of
seven miles from one extremity to the other; that some
of the bravest foreign captains are allied to the Spaniards,
who, feeling already certain of victory, are calling their
fleet the "invincible armada." Hearing all this, I dart
flames from my eyes, and in an outburst I cry: "At last,
I have succeeded in my purpose!" Then, like a fiery
steed who prances at the roar of cannons, Elizabeth,
electrified by the presentiment of a great victory, shows



148 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

that she feels her blood boil in her veins, and that her
imagination is exalted.

When Don Mendoza, the Ambassador of Spain, in an
arrogant tone declares war against her in the name of
his King, Philip II, Elizabeth thanks him disdainfully.
Then, as an experienced leader of armies, with a feverish
ardour I give the orders for the war preparations, divid-
ing the commands, establishing the various authorities,
and enthused by my belligerent spirit, I assure my Lords
"that a most powerful sword will fight for England."
"And which one?" asks Mendoza. "The one of Henry
VIII," I answer, filled with pride. "Who will have the
courage to wield it?" adds, with petulance, Mendoza.
"I!" I reply, throw^ing myself toward the trophy formed
with the arms of Henry VIII. And grasping, with a
threatening movement, the formidable sword which was
to assure the victory of England, with a threatening voice
I add: "And tell to Philip that Elizabeth has un-
sheathed it. When two nations meet like two athletic
giants on the ocean, the world will tremble, and after
their encounter, one of these two will disappear in a
bloody pool, like a pebble thrown by a child in the water!
O England, O Spain, O Elizabeth, O PhiHp! Upon
the memory of the King, my father, I swear it!"
And I remain with my sword raised, placing my hand
on it in the act of an oath. All the bystanders drawing
their swords, point them in the direction of mine, repeat-
ing: "We swear."

With this tableau the curtain drops.

The third act does not contain any scenes adding to
this remarkable interpretation of Elizabeth's character,
with the exception of two interesting situations; the
historical episode of Marguerite Lambrun and the punish-
ment of Essex.

When Marguerite is led before me, in consequence of
her attempt upon my life, I question her with an angry
voice, having decided to punish her with death, but on
hearing the resolute tone in which she declares, without
changing her countenance, that her purpose was to kill
me in order to avenge the death of her unfortunate



ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND 149

mistress, Mary Stuart, as well as that of her poor hus-
band, who had died of grief, not having been able to
survive the horrible fate of his queen, I become much
affected. I ask what I should do to her after such a
confession; and hearing her bold answer that I should
forgive her, filled with astonishment I add: "And
what assurance have I that you will not again attempt
my life?" To which Marguerite answers: "That a par-
don granted with so many restrictions is no longer a par-
don, and that I may have her head! " Such presumption,
such temerity, such courage of expression, the queen
had never before seen in anyone during all her reign;
they subjugated her — and after a moment of hesitation,
yielding to an impulse of generosity, hastily, for fear of
repenting, she says to Marguerite: "Go with God, but
be quick! ..."

As regards the colouring that I thought best to give
to this scene, it seemed to me well to interpret the inten-
tion of the author, by expressing in a marked way, with
face and voice — the contrasts between generosity, sever-
ity, and greatness, the characteristic instincts of this
great queen.

The other important situation begins with the reception
granted by Elizabeth to the conquerors of Cadiz. The ex-
pression of my face had to reveal my purpose of avenging
myself on the Earl of Essex for the love that he bore the
Lady Sarah, for having overstepped the power intrusted
to him, and for not having conformed to my wishes.

I begin the speech addressed to the victors, praising
and thanking them both in my name and in the name
of all England, for the most important victory they had
gained over the formidable Spanish fleet. I name Drake
high admiral, Lord Howard, Earl of Nottingham. As
to Essex, who, like the others, has respectfully knelt at
my feet, expecting that he, also, would be rewarded for
his prowess, I commence by admiring the courage he has
shown during the battle, and this in an insinuating,
tranquil voice, as if I am preparing him to receive an
adequate recompense. "However," I add, "taking into
consideration that you have failed in your duties as a
subject, denying obedience to those whom I had invested



ISO MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

with supreme power over the armies of land and sea,
becoming also a rebel to the orders of your queen ; I will
wait to reward you until I obtain from you proofs of
obedience and submission."

All this is said with an austere face, in a firm and
vibrating voice, as if I wished that each one of my words
should hurt his heart, and humiliate him before all. The
Earl, recovering from his amazement, begins to give
vent to his rancour for the injustice he suffers and ends
by reproving me for having overwhelmed with honours
and distinctions Lord Howard, whom, he knew, had only
won the battle owing to a raging storm which had run the
Spanish ships upon the rocks. I ask him in vain to be
silent. Little by little my anger grows, particularly
when I hear the Earl boast of being descended from a line
of kings, and when I, endeavouring to prevent Lord
Howard from accepting the challenge that the Earl
has thrown at him, and the latter, with a sardonic smile,
says: "Can the dukes and the earls no longer fight one
another without the permission of the Queen? . . ."
Then my ire overflows, and renders me so blind as to
cause me to throw my glove in his face! Lord Essex,
losing all control and exasperated by this insult, over-
steps every consideration of regard and respect for his
queen and breaks forth into fierce invectives against her.
He accuses her "of having fused her crown with those
of dukes and earls; of having made the Parliament of
England like the Divan of Mahomet ; of having reprieved
all privileges"; and as if this were not enough, he fills
the measure of his insults by calling her " an Occidental
Vestal who more than once has allowed her sacred flame
to go out, upon the tripod of Jupiter."

AH the dramatic business and the accentuation of the
words I had to utter during the various climaxes at the
end of this act, were so w^ell indicated by the author that
the portraying the situation did not entail much difficulty.
I took good care never to forget that I was a queen, even
when a prey to the most violent excitement, and that
this queen was Elizabeth of England ! . .

Several years elapse between the third and fourth




Courtesy of Brown Brothers, New York

ADELAIDE RISTORI IN 1880



ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND 151

acts, during which the Eari of Essex, having obtained
forgiveness for the fault he had committed, has again
become a favourite of EHzabeth. He is now sent as a
general to Ireland, invested with full powers to repress
energetically the revolts and troubles which are constantly
arising there. Owing to the inability of the new general
this undertaking had most unfortunate results. His
haughtiness and imprudence led him to the point of
raising the flag of revolt against his own queen. He
was arrested and sentenced to die on the scaffold. It
is at this point that the action of the fourth act begins.
Elizabeth's body is now beginning to bend under the
weight of her years! Grief at seeing herself forced to
use any severity against the man who has been so dear to
her, the only one she really has loved, contributes much
toward the abatement of her power of mind, I had
studied how to show the effects of my progressing old
age. (Elizabeth was then sixty-five years old.)

Seeing that Lady Burleigh observes my agitation, I
try to conceal from her its true cause, endeavouring to
persuade her that whenever I have to sentence anyone
to death I experience dreadful and cruel pains. Still,
in spite of myself, I allow myself almost unconsciously
to say that the real reason of my embarrassment is the
fear that Lord Essex will delay sending me the ring that
I had given to him in a moment of tenderness, with the
solemn promise of forgiving him any wrongdoings when-
ever he should have it presented to me. Lady Burleigh
is convinced that the Earl has not yet dared to send the
ring. He knows how guilty he is and fears to irritate
the Queen even more — and she offers her services to be-
take herself to the Tower, not as an envoy of the Queen,
but as if following her own inspiration, in order to advise
the Earl of the clemency and the magnanimity of his
queen. Then, without being observed by Lady Bur-
leigh, I express joy at such a proposition ; but fearing to
fall short of my dignity, with an evident effort, I prevent
her from carrying out her plan: "Stop" — I would say to
her — "if he is as proud as Lucifer, let him go and meet
him." On the arrival of Lord Burleigh, who comes to
submit the sentence of death for the royal signature,



m2



]\1EM0IRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI



Elizabeth cannot repress entirely the painful emotion
which dominates her in spite of herself. She orders all
to leave and in the meantime tells Lord Burleigh to send
her Davison, the Lord of the Seal.

Having remained alone and being thus able to give
vent to my own feelings, I emit long sighs at first, while
unfolding upon the table the long parchment and look
at it with a sad and painful expression, as if it seems
impossible that I should affix my name to it, and send to
death the only man I had ever loved! Very much per-
plexed, but even more resolute, the spectators should
perceive that struggle within myself. At moments, in
order to acquire strength and not to give in to a womanly
weakness, the necessity of this death penalty seeming to
me imperative, I exclaim: "He must die — as the other
conspirators — Suffolk — Pary — Babington — Lopez
and Mary Stuart have died! . . " With every one
of these interjections, I make the gesture of dipping my
pen in the ink and signing the fatal parchment; but I
soon lose the courage to accomplish such an act. In
order to urge myself to do it, I say to myself : " But if
I should forgive him, it would be as if I were to confess
my weakness! . . I to be weak? . . Never!
. . . " and again I resolve to sign the parchment;
and again my courage abandons me, and, with a gesture
of wrath, I throw the pen on the floor. A flash of hope
would suddenly dart through me. " Perhaps the pride
of the Earl may fail him before the thought of death
. . . perhaps Essex has already given the ring to
somebody who might bring it to me." And encouraged
by such an illusion, I vehemently ring the bell and ask
if any message has come for me from the Tower. Receiv-
ing an answer in the negative, and feeling exhausted, I
sit heavily down in my armchair, exclaiming: "Pride!
pride! to die with his life in his hands. . . "

The author of the drama introduces at this point the
historical episode of the ring, to show its importance in
connection with the death of the Earl of Essex, and how
much it contributed to hasten the death of Elizabeth.
Lally Tollendal says: " He lost his head upon the scaffold
and the grief that the Queen experienced in seeing herself



ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND 153

forced to such a rigorous act against a man who had been
so dear to her, plunged her into a profound melan-
cholia." Two years later, when the Countess of Not-
tingham confessed, on her death-bed, the perfidy
her husband had forced her to commit by pre-
venting her from returning to the Queen the fatal
ring, as a token of the repentance of Essex and as
a means of obtaining the clemency of his queen, Eliza-
beth was no longer able to restrain her deep emotion.
"The Lord may forgive you," she said to the dying
Countess, "but I shall never be able to do it!" From
that moment the fatal blow began to take effect. She
hardly consented in taking any more food and refused
all the remedies given to her, saying that she only desired
death !

Returning to the description of the last mentioned
scene, I then suggest with bitterness: "that Lady Bur-
leigh has not understood me. ' ' I deplore that I am forced,
for the first time in the many years of my reign, to express
a wish without being obeyed. In order to suppress any
sense of repentance, I picture to myself Essex as a rebel
deserving all my severity. Then the fear of committing
an injustice causes me to tremble! . . Remorse tor-
ments me, and becoming a prey to it my imagination
causes me to see the ghost of Mary Stuart, that for a long
time after her horrible end disturbed my sleep. . .
causing me to rise from my bed terrified! . . Then,
recovering my senses, I blush at my weakness, and over-
come with self -contempt and discomfiture — imagining I
see the so-much-desired ring brought to me — with all the
energy of my being and of my offended love, forgetting
all but State reasons, and the dignity of the Crown, I
sanction the decision of the Judges, and quickly sign the
sentence. My heart is then broken! Davison, who has
been sent to me by Lord Burleigh, presents himself to
take away the sentence. At the sight of him I tremble
painfully, and strive to conceal the alteration of my face.
Forced as I am to submit to the sacrifice imposed on me
by a sense of duty, I slowly hand over the parchment
with a trembling hand to the Master of the Seal. . .
But, as if by holding it back in my hand I could prolong



154 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

for a few minutes the life of Essex, I act in such a way
to make Davison humbly try to take it from my hand,
which clenched it convulsively.

As soon as Davison gets the document, he approaches
the door; but owing to a new sentiment of passion, I
hastily call him back. Davison turns around, thinking


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