Thursday, April 25, 2013

Guest Post and Giveaway: Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

Today I have a guest post from Sandra Byrd as part of the blog tour for her latest release,  Roses Have Thorns.  There's also a giveaway involved!

A Mask, a Masque and a Mystery

Although she bore no child, Queen Elizabeth I midwived a number of bright achievements during her reign which persist to this day; among them a settled religious faith, a healthy national commerce, and a nursing of the fine arts, specifically, the development of theater.  London still has one of the finest, if not the premiere, theater districts in the world.  But in truth, the English love of drama began much earlier than the 16th century.
In Theater—A  Crash Course  by Rob Graham states: "During the 12th century, nonliturgical vernacular plays based on biblical stories were performed at festivals, such as Christmas. These were called the Mystery Cycles (the 'mystery' was redemption...). Local lads from the crafts guilds and companies performed those 'passions' on rough wagons in procession through the streets or on fixed circular stages."     

            These plays, staged locally, were mostly enjoyed by the lower classes. The upper class enjoyed theater, too, especially when they put it on themselves. To plays based solely upon Scripture, courtiers added topics such as Greek and Roman gods, comedy, tragedy, and life as they (and their countrymen) knew it. Henry the Eighth was well known as a person who loved to sponsor and act in masques and disguisings. He preferred, of course, to play the valiant knight, or sometimes, what else? the sun itself! 
            Later in the sixteenth century, plays, playwrights, and performers came into their own and the love of theater spread. The Age of Shakespeare  by Frank Kermode, shares that poets and playwrights depended on aristocratic patrons for support. Many of the most highly titled men in Elizabeth's court sponsored their own troupe, known by the sponsor’s name. For example, The Earl of Leicester's Men were sponsored by the queen's favorite, and later, The Queen's Men were sponsored by Her Majesty herself.  
            When the queen finally sponsored her own troupe, the cloudy reputation of players and playwrights finally lifted. The Lord Chamberlain's Men were sponsored by Baron Hunsdon, Queen Elizabeth's cousin by Mary Boleyn. William Shakespeare wrote many of his plays for the troupe sponsored by The Lord Chamberlain, including Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth.  Others were writing and performing too. Kermode tells us that, "between 1558 and 1642 there were about three thousand (plays), of which six hundred and fifty have survived."  
            Shakespeare was not only a playwright, he sometimes acted in secondary roles and later, when partnerships began to sponsor performances for financial gains, he was an investor. He was among those who received a grant of arms and a great deal of money for his talents. Some of his better known colleagues and competition weren't so lucky. Christopher Marlow was stabbed to death at 29; Ben Johnson was often in jail and ended up with a branded thumb.
            Plays were also used for political purposes, even against the queen who allowed them to flourish. Historian Simon Schama tells us that the traitorous Earl of Essex sponsored a special production of "Richard II - which deals with the murder of an incompetent king ... to gee up his supporters against Elizabeth..." Elizabeth herself approved a play written by Sir Henry Lee, The Hermit's Tale, which celebrated a woman who chose her father's dukedom and duty over her own love. She used the tale, masterfully, to signal to her courtiers and her people that she would always put her true husband, England, first.
            Then, and now, drama allows us to explore our lives, our problems, our hopes and dreams, and our loves and losses. In fact, we, too, are players, for as William Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and entrances and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages."

Thank you Sandra!  Now for the giveaway:  One copy of Roses Have Thorns along with a cool necklace of
Elizabeth I.  To enter, please complete the form below by midnight, April  30, 2013.  Open to US residents only.

About the book:

From the acclaimed author of To Die For comes a stirring novel told that sheds new light on Elizabeth I and her court.Like Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, Sandra Byrd has attracted countless fans for evoking the complexity, grandeur, and brutality of the Tudor period. In her latest tour de force, she poses the question: What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage--or your life?

In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth's circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen's downfall, Helena is forced to choose between her unyielding monarch and the husband she's not sure she can trust--a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.

Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.


Sandra Byrd said...

Thank you for hosting me and the giveaway, Daphne. I appreciate it!

Carol L. said...

What an interesting post. I really enjoyed reading and learning at the same time. Sandra is a new Author to me but I'll definitely be reading this book. I enjoy reading about the Tudor era and Elizabeth. Thanks for the post.
Carol L
Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com