The Last Elizabethan Essay - Critical Essays

Constance Fecher


Fecher helps readers to understand the charm, enthusiasm, and blunt honesty that won Ralegh great favor with Elizabeth. She provides a fascinating portrait of a man who incorporated a love of learning and a fascination with ideas into a life of action and of service.

Fecher explores Ralegh as an outsider: denigrated socially because of the poverty of his family, hated and slandered by jealous people who envied his success, and misunderstood because of his sympathy with new scientific thought and with the heretical ideas of poets and playwrights. He counted Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare among his friends and acquaintances, and he acted as a sympathetic patron to help writers such as Spenser gain recognition and acceptance. The author describes Ralegh’s forward-looking attempts to meet alien cultures on an equal footing, to make friends, to exchange ideas for mutual benefit, and to behave with human decency and tolerance toward the greed and intolerance of his countrypeople. Fecher also contrasts his support of religious tolerance with the religious intolerance of his attackers, and his bold criticism of bad agrarian practices with the ignorant adherence to age-old methods.

Through Ralegh, Fecher emphasizes the strong, enduring loyalties developed between childhood friends and between companions in adversity, but she warns of the dangers of jealousy and ambition and of the potential betrayals inherent in superficial...

(The entire section is 432 words.)