Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Folger Exhibitions
• Past Exhibitions
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Political Dreams

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Political Dreams

Religion and politics were deeply intertwined in Renaissance England. The threats to sixteenth-century Protestants in Mary I’s reign were dramatized in “dream” scenes in plays about such politically significant characters as Princess Elizabeth (the future queen) and Katherine, Dowager Duchess of Suffolk. In the seventeenth century, the struggles between Royalists who supported Charles I and Parliamentarians were described in dreams in a series of political pamphlets.

Thomas Heywood. If you know not me, you know no bodie. Part I. London, 1605

John Quarles writes in couplets about his dream of the 1649 execution of Charles I. The images at the beginning of his poem show Charles the night before his death dreaming of his wife and son while an angel prepares to replace the crown he lost on earth with a heavenly one. Opposite this, we see the stark reality of Charles about to be executed.


In his dramatization of the dangers experienced by the Protestant Princess Elizabeth in the reign of her Catholic half-sister Mary, Thomas Heywood includes “a dumb show” (a scene played silently) while Elizabeth sleeps. In the dumb show, angels stop the villain Winchester from killing the sleeping princess and place a Bible in her hands. Elizabeth wakes, as if from a dream, not knowing how the Bible materialized.


After the execution of Charles I in 1649, his son Charles sought help in Scotland to claim the throne. According to James Douglas, the young Charles dreamt he saw a spider with a crown hanging over its head and two other crowns at the end of the thread. As the spider lowered itself down the cobweb, it fell and lost everything. Despite the dire portent of this dream, Charles II was restored as king in 1660.



Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623