The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Certain historical characters appear throughout The Elizabethan Trilogy, most notably Elizabeth I, James I, and Sir Walter Ralegh. A set of secondary historical characters, including Francis Bacon, Robert Cecil, and William Shakespeare, also make appearances. Whether his characters are historical or fictional, Garrett uses two major devices to present and develop them.

The first is to present characters from a double point of view. In other words, they are described both as their contemporaries would have seen them and as they might have seen themselves. In this fashion, Walter Ralegh is seen in a variety of contradictory lights by those who shared the stage of English history with him. Their judgments are often tentative, and in The Death of the Fox, Garrett leaves the impression that James I regretted his condemnation and execution of Ralegh. On the other hand, Ralegh is also allowed to present his own thoughts and feelings, in words and phrases that Garrett has been careful to make characteristic of Ralegh’s own writings. The other characters in the trilogy, both historical and fictional, are often presented in this fashion.

Elizabeth I, queen of England, and James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of England, are at times described by an outside observer and at times by themselves, as their intimate thoughts and feelings are recorded in a stream-of-consciousness fashion consistent with the rhetorical style of Renaissance...

(The entire section is 441 words.)