Queen Elizabeth

In her speech, "To the Troops at Tilbury," Queen Elizabeth uses her femininity as a rhetorical tool. She contrasts her "weak" female body with her strong, kingly stomach. By pointing to an internal feature, she is able to take on a masculine aspect to relate to her audience even while they can see her femininity before them. Does that insult the female body, to use it so negatively? Or is it a form of regaining control, such as reclaiming a slur?

It is interesting that in all the long years of her reign, the editors of this book chose a speech less than a page in length to highlight. The stub biography they provide for her is longer than her speech. But it is a powerful speech, and powerful in its implications.

Here is a female Queen, a woman who refused marriage because she was married to her country. She makes of her governance a religious vocation. She takes on aspects of men and women in order to totally rule her country. She dares to speak to soldiers and encourage them to war, less as Queen than as Ruler.

Her mention of a weak female body leads to a powerful moment of playing to her audience. "I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too" (49). I can almost see the pride swelling in the breasts of the English sailors and soldiers. A king of England, indeed.

Rhetoric is designed to play to an audience, and this short speech demonstrates that Queen Elizabeth knew well how to do that.

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