Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Kenilworth Castle

*Kenilworth Castle. Castle near the central England village of Kenilworth in Warwickshire. First built in the twelfth century, this castle was given by Queen Elizabeth to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, and was the scene of his festivities for her in the summer of 1575. Against this background, Scott’s novel presents an intimate portrait of Elizabeth’s personality and her relationships with Sir Walter Raleigh, the earl of Sussex, and other historical figures.

Although Scott takes liberties with historical details about Dudley’s guest list, he is accurate about his architectural and topographical details. He uses the actual castle’s floor plan in his description of the seven acres at Kenilworth and bases his descriptions of its interior on an inventory list from Dudley’s time of the castle’s tableware, furniture, and hangings. The castle’s pageantry becomes one of the vehicles in the book for Scott to present a complete and vibrant picture of Elizabethan society that includes traveling entertainers, court figures, country bumpkins, servants, and others.

When he was asked to write a book on Elizabeth—after his 1820 novel about Scotland’s Queen Mary Stuart, The Abbot—Scott rejected the title of “Armada” suggested by his publisher because such a novel would have required a focus on Elizabeth’s political prowess in the English defeat of the attempted Spanish invasion in 1588. As in his other novels, Scott prefers not to show history in the making during a pivotal historical event, but to present historical figures in the normal course...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Hayden, John O., ed. Scott: The Critical Heritage. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1970. Provides information on the original reception of Kenilworth, presenting reviews ranging from 1805 to an 1883 selection written on Scott by Mark Twain. A thorough guide to the critical and literary treatment of Scott in later times as well.

Hillhouse, James T. The Waverley Novels and Their Critics. New York: Octagon Books, 1970. A collection of critical reviews, including criticism by Scott himself and reviews of Kenilworth after its publication. Also includes critical interpretations of Scott and Kenilworth in the fifty years following his death.

Johnson, Edgar. Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1970. Considers the historical significance of Kenilworth, with particular emphasis on Scott’s treatment of royalty. Concludes that the subject matter and the setting are perfectly matched.

Macintosh, W. Scott and Goethe: German Influence on the Writings of Sir Walter Scott. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1970. Compares Kenilworth with William Shakespeare’s Othello and Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Egmont. Also summarizes Goethe’s opinion of Scott’s writing.

Pearson, Hesketh. Sir Walter Scott: His Life and Personality. New York: Harper & Row, 1954. An account of the reception of Kenilworth in England and the period of Scott’s life in which it was written. Some criticism of the characters and the setting of that novel. Also includes an extended bibliography and index.