The Thaumaturgy Department

(It's dramaturgy, not thaumaturgy.)


Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Pronunciation: \ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work

2014-2015 Season:
Next to Normal
It's A Wonderful Life
One Night in Miami
Herzog Rep
After the Revolution
4000 Miles
Play Labs

The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.


The Heart of the Matter

In light of 'Tis Pity's metaphorical—and ultimately quite literal—fascination with hearts, there is a compelling tidbit currently circulating on the SHAKSPER listserv. The story goes that Queen Elizabeth (first of that name, whom today we might come to know more familiarly as “E-Rex”), following the death of one of her handmaidens, commissioned an autopsy to determine whether signs of the young lady’s love-lorn state could actually be found imprinted on her heart. In a strange extension of the era’s conviction that inward and outward states ought to match (beautiful people have beautiful souls, naturally, as Giovanni argues in the play, and vice versa), Her E-Rexitude wanted to find out whether the experience of love, or being heartsick perhaps, became physically legible.

Even more deliciously, a version of the story has it that she died heartbroken—over her own brother! (And of course her ghost still hangs about, as it might be expected to; here’s a link where you can even catch shots of her from a GhostCam.)

Here are excerpts from the conversation, including two replies to the initial inquiry that include references to some source material, if you find your curiosity aroused. Watch out, though; that might show up somewhere you don’t expect.

from the SHAKSPER online listserv, Hardy M. Cook ed.:


“This source is referred to, and indeed quoted from, in Lesel Dawson, Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 16-17.”

"The accompanying footnote is very helpful and gives the details of the original source. A copy of the text is available on Google."

Hope that helps.

Best wishes, C. Bowditch

Editor’s Note: I’m glad to find another subscriber who has learned the useful joys of Google Books:,M1



"The story you are referring to, I believe, occurs in a letter by Philip Gaudy written in 1600 regarding ‘Mistress Ratcliffe,’ one of the Queen’s handmaidens. You can find a reference to this in Lesel Dawson’s book [same citation]."

"The woman, ‘Mistress Ratcliffe,’ was otherwise known as Margaret Radclyffe, and a fuller version of her story (as contained in Gaudy’s

letter) can be found here:

Best wishes,

E. Johnson-DeBaufre

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