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Elizabeth I

Translations, 1544-1589

England’s Virgin Queen, Elizabeth Tudor, had a reputation for proficiency in foreign languages, repeatedly demonstrated in multilingual exchanges with foreign emissaries at court and in the extemporized Latin she spoke on formal visits to Cambridge and Oxford. But the supreme proof of her mastery of other tongues is the sizable body of translations she made over the course of her lifetime. This two-volume set is the first complete collection of Elizabeth’s translations from and into Latin, French, and Italian.

Presenting original and modernized spellings in a facing-page format, these two volumes will answer the call to make all of Elizabeth’s writings available. They include her renderings of epistles of Cicero and Seneca, religious writings of John Calvin and Marguerite de Navarre, and Horace’s Ars poetica, as well as Elizabeth’s Latin Sententiae drawn from diverse sources, on the responsibilities of sovereign rule and her own perspectives on the monarchy.  Editors Janel Mueller and Joshua Scodel offer introduction to each of the translated selections, describing the source text, its cultural significance, and the historical context in which Elizabeth translated it. Their annotations identify obscure meanings, biblical and classical references, and Elizabeth’s actual or apparent deviations from her sources.

The translations collected here trace Elizabeth’s steady progression from youthful evangelical piety to more mature reflections on morality, royal responsibility, public and private forms of grief, and the right way to rule.  Elizabeth I: Translations is the queen’s personal legacy, an example of the very best that a humanist education can bring to the conduct of sovereign rule.

504 pages | 5 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2008

History: British and Irish History

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature, Classical Languages, Romance Languages


“These volumes are a mine of interesting materials for Elizabethan scholars, and will probably contribute to redeem some of Elizabeth’s ‘minor’ poetical works (the meters from De consolatione and her rendering of Plutarch) from neglect. Readers are presented with some original discoveries, such as the fact that Elizabeth used Erasmus’s Latin version of Plutarch as her source text, and with very informative (but never obtrusive) footnotes throughout more than a thousand pages of text. . . . Janel Mueller and Joshua Scodel provide here a series of documents which will allow readers to acquire an unique insight into Elizabeth’s formative years.”

Carlo M. Bajetta | Times Literary Supplement

“Janel Mueller and Joshua Scodel are to be applauded for making a genuinely new contribution to the field, by rising to the considerable challenge of a comprehensive edition of Elizabeth’s translations. These two handsome volumes complete a set begun by the Collected Works of Elizabeth (edited by Mueller with Leah S. Marcus and Mary Beth Rose in 2000) and the accompanying volume of source materials, Autograph Compositions and Foreign Language Originals (which appeared from Mueller and Marcus in 2003). The four volumes together will not only grace any bookshelf, but will engender much fruitful discussion: not only of Elizabeth, who may now take her place as a significant and accomplished early modern author; but also of translation, as an important literary art of the period which we are perhaps still only beginning to take as seriously as we should.”

Helen Hackett | Journal of the Northern Reniassance

“With the publication of these two volumes, University of Chicago Press has now made available in modern English all of the writings of England’s Queen Elizabeth. . . . A detailed introduction accompanies each text, and the voluminous notes identify classical and biblical references and comment on Elizabeth’s handling of her sources. The translations span Elizabeth’s entire life, from age 11 to near the end of her reign. The subjects that she chose to translate, and the nuances of her translations, provide a remarkable window into the political, religious, and philosophical concerns of this fascinating monarch. These are invaluable texts for anyone interested in Elizabethan history or literature. . . . Highly recommended.”


"[These volumes] will not only grace any bookshelf, but will engender much fruitful discussion: not only of Elizabeth, who may now take her place as a significant and accomplished early modern author; but also of translation, as an important literary art of the period. . . . For Elizabeth, her translations were evidently a place where she not only honed her impressive linguistic and literary skills but also thought through political issues. . . . For us, this important publication will enable significant re-assessment of a Queen whom we thought we already knew so well."

Helen Hackett | Journal of the Northern Renaissance

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
General Introduction
I          1544: Marguerite de Navarre’s Le Miroir de l’âme Pécheresse
II         1545: Katherine Parr’s Prayers or Meditations
            Dedicatory Letter
            Latin Translation
            French Translation
            Italian Translation
III        1545: John Calvin’s Institution de la Religion Chrestienne, Chapter One
IV        1547: Bernardino Ochino’s “Che Cosa è Christo”
            Elizabeth’s Latin Translation
            Editors’ English Translation
V         1563: Elizabeth’s Sententiae
VI        Pre-1558–1580s: Elizabeth’s Book Inscriptions

VII       ca. 1567: Seneca’s Epistulae Morales 107
VIII      ca. 1579: Cicero’s Epistulae ad Familiares 2.6
IX        ca. 1589: Choral Ode from Hercules Oetaeus
Appendix 1: Translation Ascribed to Elizabeth of Francesco Petrarch’s Trionfo dell’Eternità, Lines 1–90
Appendix 2: The Reliability of Nugae Antiquae as a Source for Translations Ascribed to Elizabeth
Index of Names


MLA: MLA Prize for a Scholarly Edition

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