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The story of Bastarda

Second Evening: ‘... Till Death Do Us Part’

Marie Mergeay
Reading time
7 min.

Challenged by the betrayal of her political enemies as well as her 'favourites', it is not just an older but also a more dangerous Queen Elizabeth I that we get to know in part two of Bastarda. Read the summary here.


Smeton, one of the narrators, sings about his devotion to Elizabeth, who is standing alone on the stage. Together with the other narrators, he attempts to summarise the point we have reached in the story. But they are interrupted by the Child, who takes over the story from Elizabeth’s third year of life. She does not wish to see the danger that threatens her. Elizabeth feels loved, she says, especially by her people, and feels safe and secure at Westminster.


In a rhythmic recap, Cecil lists all the threats facing the Queen: the Irish uprising, insurgency within the English Court, the Scots and Dutchmen who want to poison her, the pope who wants to excommunicate her... and Mary Stuart who can conspire against her from prison.

Mary Stuart repeats the insults towards Elizabeth, thereby bringing matters to a head once more. Elizabeth’s life, throne and love for Leicester are all under threat. Elizabeth remains alone on stage. She once again hears the voice of her father, encouraging her to have Mary executed. The Child anxiously searches for Leicester.


In the jail, Cecil hands Mary the execution letter. Leicester makes a final attempt to appease Elizabeth. His pleas are counterproductive: the Queen orders him to attend the execution in person.

Once the execution date is set, all hope for a happy ending is lost and the slow but unavoidable decline sets in. The middle path that has been followed by Elizabeth until now gradually gives way to a more stringent policy: Catholics are persecuted, churches and abbeys destroyed. The Child plays a mass execution with her dolls.


Mary calmly bids farewell to her supporters. We see Elizabeth changing clothes and makeup. While Mary is dying, a doll statue of the Virgin Mary catches fire. The Child now also turns against the courtiers. Cecil and Smeton return to recounting the facts and describing the painful transformation of the aging Elizabeth. Shortly after returning from a military expedition in the Netherlands, Leicester falls ill and dies.


Elizabeth has now taken on the characteristic appearance of the ‘Virgin Queen’. The Child demands a party.

*Intermission: music sounds in the hallways. The stage is cleaned after the ‘mass executions’.


Elizabeth is now an elderly woman who suffers from various ailments that affect her appearance. The narrators attempt to pick up the thread again of a chronological story, but the Child will have nothing to do with it. She has her heart set on a new favourite – the young Robert Devereux – who is given the same title as Leicester in the past. But Devereux is unfaithful in both politics and love.

When he is arrested for treason, the Child is beside herself. Elizabeth, who still has feelings for him, now awaits confrontation with Sara, a royal lady-in-waiting and Devereux’s mistress, followed by Devereux himself. During that conversation, Elizabeth grills Devereux about an unsuccessful military expedition. She is actually attempting to determine his feelings for her: at stake is not his loyalty to the Queen, but his faithfulness to her as a woman. She also reminds him about the ring she once gave him. On presentation of it, he can always trust her to intervene.

But Robert only has eyes for Sara and gives her the ring the next time they meet. They dance with one another in plain view of everyone. Elizabeth in turn attempts to forget her age. But the mirrors in her castle are unrelenting: the deterioration is irreversible. The Child feels increasingly desperate and considers giving up. Nottingham sings about the love that brings suffering to us all and about the hope we must cling to.


Elizabeth is on the verge of exhaustion, but still finds the strength to face the audience once more. The voices of Henry and Anne remind us that her fate is sealed. There is no way out. Elizabeth decides that the unfaithful Devereux must die – while at the same time still hoping that he will use the ring to save himself. When she changes her mind about his execution at the very last moment, it is too late...

Il n’y a pas d’échappatoire. Elizabeth décide que l’infidèle Devereux doit mourir – même si elle espère qu’il utilisera la bague pour se sauver. Quand elle se ravise à la dernière minute, il est trop tard : Devereux a déjà été exécuté.


The news of Devereux’s death is a lethal blow for Elizabeth. Everyone around her gradually leaves the stage. Utterly alone, she faces the audience once again, while Anne and Henry observe her growing despair and madness. As ‘Al dolce guidami’ resumes, Anne tries to comfort her daughter as before, but Elizabeth turns against her mother, whom she blames for everything.


The death of the Queen is announced, but Elizabeth does not want to leave the stage. The choir sings how sad it is to see her in this state. Elizabeth turns to the audience – us – one last time.