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Indography pp 209-222 | Cite as

Playing an Indian Queen

Neoplatonism, Ethnography, and The Temple of Love
  • Amrita Sen
Chapter
Part of the Signs of Race book series (SOR)

Abstract

On Shrove Tuesday 1635, Sir Thomas Roe, former ambassador to the Mogul court, notorious for his immaculate English wardrobe and reluctance to learn native languages, found himself in the company of “strange” Indian ladies at the Banqueting House at Whitehall, of all places.2 Like all other guests, he must have gazed at the elaborate Indian scenery laid out before him with “strange beasts and birds,” a tiger, an elephant, and a unicorn most prominently visible under a Rubens ceiling that celebrated James I’s apotheosis. Not surprisingly, a rather fastidious Roe did not approve of the spectacle and confided to Bishop Hall that “the masque was yesternight performed with much trouble and wearisomeness.”3 The masque in question was William Davenant’s The Temple of Love, and its lead dancer none other than Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. Although Roe diplomatically desisted from explicating in his letter why he found the performance so troublesome, what stands out for our present purposes of Indography is that, on this occasion, Henrietta Maria appeared before a courtly public as Indamora, sovereign of the Hindu kingdom of Narsinga. Her predecessor Anne of Denmark was not the only Stuart queen to present herself before a courtly audience as an exotic subject, a black-faced daughter of Niger in The Masque of Blackness. The stakes of such mediations were high, for as Stephen Orgel observes, masques relied on establishing a co-relation or authenticity that went beyond mere impersonation.4

Keywords

Seventeenth Century English Court East India Company Invent Nature English Identity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
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Copyright information

© Jonathan Gil Harris 2012

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  • Amrita Sen

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