Comparing Coronations, or “Who Wore It Best” (Royals Edition)?

O ceremony, show me but thy worth!
What is thy soul of adoration?
Art thou aught else but place, degree and form,
Creating awe and fear in other men?
Wherein thou art less happy being fear'd
Than they in fearing.
What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!
Think'st thou the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation?
Will it give place to flexure and low bending?
Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,
Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,
That play'st so subtly with a king's repose;
I am a king that find thee, and I know
'Tis not the balm, the sceptre and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farced title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the high shore of this world,
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony Henry V, Act IV, Scene i.

As this quote from Shakespeare's Henry V, there are many different cermonial customs and adornments that the British monarchs have used to adorn and elevate their kings and queens. Today I'm going to compare and contrast King Charles III and his mother Queen Elizabeth II, then I'll compare these coronations with the monarch who lived during most of Shakespeare's life: Queen Elizabeth I.

Part I: Queen Elizabeth II vs. Charles I

All my information for this section comes from this fascinating article from the Washington Post, which compares and contrasts King Charles’ coronation on May 6th, 2022, with his mother’s, which occurred on June 2, 1953:

THe Balm

Close up of the canopy raised while the king was annointed

Both Charles and Elizabeth were anointed with holy oil- an ancient tradition signifying God’s favor. The tradition goes all the way back to the Bible, where the book of First Kings details the procedure of anointing King Solomon:

And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon.  

And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’  You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, 

1 Kings Chapter 1, Verses 33-35

King George the Third commissioned composer Georg Friedrich Handel (famous for “The Messiah”) to write an anthem for his coronation based on this Biblical passage in 1761 This song has been a tradition during English coronations for the past 300 years, and as you can see in the video below, it was played when King Charles and Queen Elizabeth were privately anointed behind the canopy you see below.

The Scepter

The scepter is called the Sovereign’s Scepter and it is on display in the Tower of London as part of the Crown Jewels. For more information, go to Royal

The Ball

The ball in this passage refers to the globus cruciger or ‘the orb and the cross.’ This is a symbol of the king’s status as the head of the Church Of England, which began with Elizabeth I’s father, Henry VIII. The orb telegraphs Christ as the true ruler of the world, and the English monarch as his representative on Earth.

The Sword (and) the Mace

A mace used to be a concussive weapon used in battle against knights in shining armor. Since armor is hard to penetrate, medieval warriors tried to cause blunt force trauma and concussion in their enemies using maces. Since those more violent beginnings, the mace has evolved into a symbol of the King’s power and is used at the opening of Parliament. There are three swords that lords used to herald the King during the coronation- the two swords of Justice, and the Curtana or ‘Sword of Mercy,’ so called, because its blade is broken, making it a ceremonial object of peace, rather than a practical weapon.

King Charles’ own sword is called the Sword of State- it is a steel sword gilded with silver, and the handle is wooden, gilded with gold. It symbolizes the monarch’s commitment to knightly virtues, and it is used to create people as knights.

The Crown

St. Edward’s crown is adorned with diamonds, furs, and over 2,000 diamonds! This crown, along with the sword of state, dates back to the 1660s, after the monarchy was briefly abolished, though the crown still has had its share of problems over the centuries, including being stolen!

The Robe(s)

Much like how during graduation ceremonies people wear special robes to signify the transition from one state of being, British monarchs have worn multiple robes to show their apotheosis from a prince to the sovereign head of the country.

The Robe of Estate

The robe of Estate is the long, sumptuous robe of the sovereign; a symbol of his or her wealth. Charles wore his at the end of the ceremony after the crown was placed on his head.

Traditionally, the Robe of Estate is a very specific shade of purple called Tyrian Purple. It is again, a symbol of wealth because it was very labor-intensive and expensive to produce. This is one of the reasons why purple is a color associated with wealth and status:

Charles in his red surcoat
Left- Royal portrait of Queen Elizabeth in her purple Robe of Estate by Sir Herbert James Gunn. Right- King Charles in his crimson Robe of Estate

Elizabeth’s purple Robe of Estate will now be worn by Queen Camilla, Charles’ wife. It is 6 1/2 meters long, weighs 15 pounds, and took 12 seamstresses 3,500 hours to complete, (source: Historic UK).

Queen Camilla in her Robe of State

THe THrone

The oldest part of the ceremony will without question be the throne- a plain-looking piece of oak that is over 700 years old! St. Edward’s Throne has been part of coronation ceremonies since King Edward I, (aka Edward Longshanks from Braveheart) in around 1200 AD. Surely there is no greater symbol of royal continuity- the monarchs in Shakespeare’s history plays actually sat on this throne. Any king or queen who touches this piece of furniture must get a sense of the ancient traditions of the monarchy.

King Charles III sits on St. Edmund’s throne, holding the scepters.

The Tide of Pomp (Royal Processions)

The royal coach parked in front of Westminster Abbey

It’s been a tradition ever since the Middle ages for the new king or queen to travel from their home palace through the county so people can see them on their way to be crowned at Westminster Abbey. Long ago, this was a multi-day journey full of public festivals and entertainment that allowed the whole country to get a rare glimpse of the new monarch. By contrast, King Charles and Queen Camila only traveled 1.3 miles from Buckingham Palace to Westminster.

Image compare of King Charles III and his queen Camilla with his mother and father during Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.

Part II: Queen Elizabeth the First’s Coronation, January 14th, 1558.

The Procession

After the death of Mary the First, Elizabeth’s sister,

Royal portrait of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I.

An Account of the Coronation

Like her namesake and the new king, Queen Elizabeth I was crowned at Westminster on January 15, 1558. Unlike them, however, the ceremony was performed in Latin and English by a Catholic bishop. Obviously, since Elizabeth was crowned during the Protestant Reformation, there was a lot of controversy about the liturgy. Some accounts aren’t sure what parts of the Catholic were read, but we do know Elizabeth took the oath, wore a similar golden robe to Charles and Elizabeth II, and was given the balm and scepter just like them. Here is a primary source account from an ambassador from the town of Mantua, Italy:

“The Queen was received under the canopy by the Archbishop and another Bishop, they having previously perfumed her with incense, giving her the holy water and the pax, the choristers singing; then the Earl of Rutland followed her Majesty with a plain naked sword without any point, signifying Ireland, which has never been conquered; then came the Earl of Exeter with the second sword; the third was borne by Viscount Montagu; the Earl of Arundel, having been made Lord Steward and High Constable for that day, carried the fourth (sword) of royal justice, with its gilt scabbard loaded with pearls. The orb was carried by the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Marshal, and in advance were knights clad in the ducal fashion, carrying the three crowns, they being the three Kings-at-arms; they bore the three sceptres, with their three crowns of iron, of silver, and of gold on their heads, and in their hands three naked iron swords, signifying the three titles of England, France, and Ireland..”

— Il Schifanoya, royal ambassador from Mantua

‘And whereas your request is that I should continue your good lady and be Queen, be ye ensured that I will be as good unto you as ever Queen was unto her people. No will in me can lack, neither do I trust shall there lack any power. And persuade yourselves that for the safety and quietness of you all I will not spare if need be to spend my blood. God thank you all.’ _Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth’s ring


10 Things You didn’t know about Coronations

God Save the King! In case you didn’t know, over the weekend, Charles Windsor, (formerly known as Prince Charles) became King Charles III at Westminster Abbey, The ceremony called upon many ancient royal traditions, many of which Shakespeare would’ve been familiar with. So this week, in addition to my traditional celebration of Mother’s Day, I am going to look at this ceremony and give you a behind-the-scenes look at royal coronations and how they looked in Shakespeare’s time and our own.

First, enjoy this video produced by Westminster Abbey, the ancient hall where King Charles was crowned on Saturday, May 6th, 2023:

Verily, May the Fourth Be With Thee

Hi everyone!

Well today is May 4rth, when a lot of people have chosen to celebrate one of the most iconic movies of the 20th century: Star Wars! And why not? The story is full of conflict, introspection, love, change, the conflict between fathers and sons, and occasionally guidance from ghosts. Wait, that sounds familiar- it’s a lot like Shakespeare! Yes, the movie has a lot of parallels with the Shakespearean canon, and I’d like to share some of those similarities here. Below is a post I did for the American Shakespeare Center about how the Star Wars prequels parallel Shakespeare’s history saga of Henry the Sixth:

More recent posts for May 4rth



Enjoy May the Fourth!

Review: “Star Wars-  the Empire Striketh Back.” by Ian Doescher

As I was writing William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back, I was surprised to realize I had made more references to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing than any other play. Much Ado is a comedy—probably my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies—so it was strange that lines from it kept popping up in the darkest of the original Star Wars® trilogy.

Ian Doescher,


What Is William Shakespeare’s Star Wars?

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is a series of parody plays written by Ian Doescher that takes the prose screenplays of the Star Wars story and transforms them into Elizabethan verse. Last time I mentioned how much I loved the cheeky references to Shakespeare and Star Wars, and how Doescher adapts the cinematic quality into Elizabethan drama very well. In my podcast, I also emphasized the way Doescher gives each character verbose Shakespearan language that works very well for radio and theater:

My podcast episode where I do dramatic readings of “Verily A New Hope.”

What I want to do with this post, (and the accompanying podcast), is to see whether this edition captures the fun, the clever wordplay, and the Shakespearean storytelling of “A New Hope,” with the second installment of the series, and if it helps to capture the shift in tone between the two movies, as Luke is tempted by the dark side and Han is betrayed and frozen by Lando.

Notes about the play

  1. The first play in the series, Verily, A New Hope,” took plot and structure inspiration from Henry V; it tells the story as an epic heroic story of Luke’s heroic deeds, much like how Henry V is about a king who grows from boy to man.
  2. By the playwright’s own admission, the dialogue is stuffed with lots of re-purposed quotes from Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s comedy of a womanizing, self-centered soldier who becomes a devoted husband. This is appropriate since the Leia/ Han plot within the play and movie starts out with them bickering like Beatrice and Benedick. Doescher says this was an accident, but I think he might have subconsciously taken inspiration from their love affair to help structure the dialogue. In the accompanying podcast episode, I talk more about how the use of Much Ado quotes helped to flesh out the characters of Luke, Leia, and especially Han.


Movies and plays follow a similar structure where the action starts at a static place, tension rises, and finally, things get resolved at the end. A lot of the same elements are in both issues. The main difference is how they are arranged. Let’s see how Doescher translated the three-act structure of a screenplay, to the five-act structure of an Elizabethan tragedy.

As you can see, films have a 3 act structure

Elements to Watch for:

  1. The Language
    1. Choruses
    • A Chorus is a short speech where a character who is not part of the action of the play introduces the plot.  It functions the same way as the famous title crawl at the beginning of Star Wars.
  1. I mentioned last time that “Verily: A New Hope” uses choruses liberally, which is appropriate because the tone of this story is so much darker, and since the action follows the journeys of Han and Luke so closely Ian doesn’t use choruses as much. I suspect this is partly because unlike The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope jumped around more between planets and locations and used wipes and other transitions heavily:

Below is a link to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Learning Zone, where you can learn about the language of the Henry V chorus.

2. Repeated lines/ Half lines

The literary technique of stichomythia has characters who speak at more or less the same time, using slightly different forms of dialogue. Doescher uses this well as a staging device by having Vader and Luke speak similar lines as Luke plummets down the shaft after losing his lightsaber duel:

These similar lines highlight the connection these two have (no spoilers), and also emphasize that, though the actors might be physically close onstage, their characters are meant to be far apart; they wouldn’t be saying this to each other.

In Romeo and Juliet, there’s an excellent example of stichomythia in Act IV, Scene iv, right after Juliet’s parents and Nurse discovers her, apparently dead. There is a long series of laments by her parents and nurse where they are shocked and horrified at her sudden death:

Lady CapuletAccursed, unhappy, wretched, hateful day! 2702
Most miserable hour that e’er time saw
In lasting labour of his pilgrimage!
But one, poor one, one poor and loving child,
But one thing to rejoice and solace in,
And cruel death hath catch’d it from my sight!
NurseO woe! O woful, woful, woful day!
Most lamentable day, most woful day,
That ever, ever, I did yet behold!2710
O day! O day! O day! O hateful day!
Never was seen so black a day as this:
O woful day, O woful day!
ParisBeguiled, divorced, wronged, spited, slain!
Most detestable death, by thee beguil’d,2715
By cruel cruel thee quite overthrown!
O love! O life! not life, but love in death!
CapuletDespised, distressed, hated, martyr’d, kill’d!
Uncomfortable time, why camest thou now
To murder, murder our solemnity?2720
O child! O child! my soul, and not my child!
Dead art thou! Alack! my child is dead;
And with my child my joys are buried.
Romeo and Juliet, Act IV, Scene v lines 2702-2723.

When I played Friar Laurence and the cast and I rehearsed this scene, the actors playing the Nurse and Juliet’s parents were struck by how similar the lines are and worried that these long passages of laments would get tedious to an audience. I realized by looking at the similar lines, the similar words (especially at the ends of lines), and the fact that Friar Laurence interrupts them at the end, led me to believe that these lines are meant to be spoken AT THE SAME TIME. This creates an effect of organized chaos where the actors seem to be wailing and ranting, but are actually speaking a carefully composed quartet of grief. Thus Doescher cleverly mimics Shakespeare’s use of stichomythia to convey Vader and Luke’s physical distance, and complementary feelings at the same time.

3. Parody Lines

The biggest appeal of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is the fact that it is a parody, and I’ve said for many years that parody and gentle riffing on Shakespeare is a great way to get students to overcome their fear of Shakespeare and engage with him. Students who know Star Wars but don’t know Shakespeare will recognize the familiar characters and plots of the movies and then see how Shakespeare’s language tells the story anew. Similarly, people who know Shakespeare will recognize the way Doescher re-tools famous Shakespeare quotes to give to characters in the Star Wars Universe, like here, where he spoofs the intentionally bad speech of Snug the Joiner and gives it to the Wampa from Empire Strikes Back:

Peter Keavy as Snug the Joyner in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” 2017.

In the Educator’s guide, which I’ve attached below, Doescher tells you exactly which lines he has parodied and the plots of the original plays so the students can learn about Shakespeare through these famous speeches. Orson Wells once said that “We sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations,” and this edition gives us thrilling space battle, wonderful characters, and witty dialogue to keep us entertained while we wait.

Staged moments

As Doescher worked his way through all nine installments of Star Wars, he continued to expand and experiment with his storytelling. There are a couple of moments in “Empire” that work only onstage such as the aforementioned moment of stichomythia after the lightsaber duel, and the scene in Act II, Scene ii where the Imperial Walkers known as AT-ATs actually speak to each other onstage. Like the French in Henry V, it’s interesting to see the battle from the enemy’s point of view, albeit a highly biased one. I won’t reprint it here for copyright reasons, but I will put this funny sketch in as a placeholder:

My Criticism

Although I loved “Verily, A New Hope,” I feel that Doescher didn’t go far enough to adapt the dialogue in interesting ways and play with the stagecraft of Star Wars to make it more distinct from the film and the first installment. My favorite moment of the play was the Wampa speech which was great because it not only parodies one of my favorite speeches in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it also made the Wampa attack tonally distinct from the film- the film is tense and grim, while the Wampa speech is funny and charming. I wish Doescher had embraced the parody and silly tone he shows in this speech and applied it more to the rest of the play; we already know Empire is the darkest installment of the series, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be played like that the whole time.

What I think works best in the film is the romantic comedy between Han and Leia; Doescher does a wonderful job pointing out the parallels between Han and Leia and Benedick and Beatrice which is not only fun, but helps Star Wars fans appreciate the comedy of Much Ado About Nothing even more. This is why I’m glad Doescher took painstaking notes on how he parodied Much Ado and other plays in the guide below:

The Education Guide

Doescher’s official website.

Support My podcast

If you enjoyed the accompanying podcast episode to this post, please consider subscribing and donating to help me continue making fun and educational content like this!

New Video: Yoda Speaks Shakespearean QUotes!

This is part of my upcoming podcast where I demonstrate how similar Yoda’s speech is to some Shakespearean dialogue. Actor and puppeteer Frank Oz, who puppeteered the character and supplied the voice explained that the idea behind the character’s iconic speech pattern was a discovery he made reading through the script:

“It’s funny you ask about [Yoda] because I was just looking at the original script of The Empire Strikes Back the other day and there was a bit of that odd syntax in it, but also it had Yoda speaking very colloquially. So I said to George [Lucas]: ‘Can I do the whole thing like this?’ And he said: ‘Sure!’ It just felt so right.”

There are a lot of in-universe theories as to why Yoda speaks like this. David Adger, from Queen Mary University of London has a theory that, much like many Latin languages have a different syntax than English, perhaps Yoda is speaking in the syntax of his language while speaking English:

He’s speaking English but changed the structure of it to be like his native language,” Adger points out. “We can find out something about Yoda’s native language by looking at how he speaks English, in the same way as I can find out about a French person’s native language by looking at how that French person speaks English. Yoda says things like ‘the greatest teacher failure is’… If you were to say that in a language like Hawaiian … it would be almost exactly the same … putting the predicate before the subject,” the professor used as an example.

David Adger, qtd in Comic,
Book cover for Ian Doescher’s “The Empire Striketh Back,” a Shakespearean parody of Star Wars Episode 5.

Why Do Shakespeare and Yoda speak like this?

Example of Anastrophe from

From a Shakespearean perspective, what Yoda is doing is called anastrophe, a rhetorical technique that is used for emphasis. Instead of the familiar- Subject-Verb-Object syntax of English, the order is flipped to grab the reader/ listener’s attention:

According to Silvae Rhetorica (The Forest of Rhetoric), the word Anastrophe is Greek for “backward turning,” where the writer twist the word order around. As I said before, this creates a surprising effect, much like this painting by Picasso:

“People take the eye for granted. If I paint an eye in an eye socket, they take it for granted. If I take it out of the eye socket and stick it somewhere else, it comes as a shock, and they see the eye anew.”

— Pablo Picasso

In the following slides, (which I found from, you can see examples of how Shakespeare and Yoda use anastrophe.

So I hope this post has helped you understand the force of Yoda’s unique style of speaking that was first used by The Bard!

anastrophe - Phocabulary word - Photo Word of the Day to improve and  enhance word memory. Beginner, intermediate, advanced words including  definition, synonyms, and antonyms.

If you liked this post, please listen to my new podcast about Ian Doescher’s Shakespearean parody of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which I’ll publish on May 4rth (hopefully) .

Shout Out to William Shakespeare In Media: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

While researching for my upcoming podcast on Shakespeare’s Star Wars, I found this great article by fellow Shakespeare blogger William Shakespeare In Media. They have a great analysis of Ian Doescher’s parody “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars,” with some details I didn’t know the first time around! So please show them your support, and tell them Shakespearean Student sent you!

Also, feel free to peruse my podcast and post on “Verily: A New Hope.”

I’m very excited for the content I have coming up, BEGUN STAR WARS WEEK HAS!!!

Teacher Resource: Free Shakespearean Sonnet Poster

I found this free poster of how Shakespearean sonnets work from Prestwick House, and I thought I’d share it with you:

There are 17 more posters to print out for free as well for National Poetry Month, including Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Sandberg’s “The Fog,” and lots of gothic posters related to Edgar Allen Poe.