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Abstract

This article uses the film Elizabeth (dir. Kapur, 1998) as a portal for understanding the interstices between modern and early modern conceptions of religion as it is read on the body. Elizabeth examines the period of religious and political unrest immediately before and after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603), compressing the late 1550s through the early 1570s into a comprehensive statement on the relationship between the body, heresy, and corruption. This article investigates how lower body activities and functions, like dancing, sex, and defecation, were linked in both the film and early modern minds to immorality, corruption, and heresy. This was especially true during the sixteenth century as the English Protestant Reformation's dialogic battle against Catholic clergy progressed and conspiracies against the queen mounted. By contrast, both Elizabethan contemporaries and director Shekhar Kapur establish upper body activities, like reading and intellectual work, as wholesome and virtuous. As the film follows the queen's transformation from youthful sensuality to physically detached wisdom, Kapur employs ideas proposed by Elizabeth's contemporaries to frame religion and corruption through bodily characterization.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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