The Rhetoric of Mortality: Elizabeth I’s Use of Death

The Rhetoric of Mortality: Elizabeth I’s Use of Death

Tesdal, Luke

Early English Studies, vol. 1 (2007)


This paper examines Elizabeth I’s use of death in her rhetoric. Built as a reaction to Henry VIII’s apparent view of lives as expendable, Elizabeth attempted to forge her own indelible identity within the hearts of her subjects while warding off the dangerous advances of her male courtiers. The major issues and themes of her reign can be broken down into three broad and overlapping categories, each equally influential on her rhetoric of death. As assuredly as she ruled by God’s will Elizabeth would have to give account before Him in the next life, and she professed this to be the standard she lived by. In Elizabeth’s rhetoric, death becomes the most potent argumentative device in her arsenal and demonstrates her ability to change her greatest weakness into her greatest strength.

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