Staging the Henrician Court : Jupiter an ideal early modern monarch?

This page last changed on Dec 07, 2009 by Eleanor Rycroft.

Cannot resolve external resource into attachment.'For above all gods, since our father's fall/ We Jupiter were ever principal'

Jupiter is a difficult character to define. He appears on the surface to simply be a figure for Henry VIII. Detailed work on his character, however, reveals a funnier but also potentially more troubling figure. If Jupiter is Henry then what is one to make of his decision to make all the suitors plead for the weather they want when he already knows what he is going to do? Certainly Jupiter is trying to teach them a lesson by doing this but there is clearly a danger that the audience will view Jupiter's actions as arbitrary and even cruel. There is also a sense in which Jupiter is very pleased with himself. He knows that all the characters will ask for their own weather, although it is important to note that while he suggests that they all made similar requests in fact the Ranger and Laundress only ask for the weather they need for their jobs not that other people do not also get the weather they need / desire, and therefore that the result of the play will be simply stasis.

It maybe that one needs to understand Jupiter as a model monarch withing a context that is particularly difficult for us to understand and sympathise with. At the recent Henry VIII and the Tudor Court 1509 - 2009 Conference held at Hampton Court there was a general consensus that Henry was a tyrant. It is, however, important to note that for early modern men and woman the worst kind of ruler was probably not a tyrant but was instead someone like Henry VI or even the duke of Somerset who simply loss control of the situation - either by being weak or by trying to do too much.  Also, Rebecca Bushnell defines a characteristic feature of the tyrant as being overly concerned with sexual desire and his relations with women, while Jupiter clearly states "that is not the thing at this time meant" when Merry Report tries to arrange a tryst between him and the Gentlewoman.  Jupiter may play with his subjects, he many even humiliate them, but he will not let them down or leave them in any doubt over who is in charge. Jupiter would ensure that order was maintained.

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