Devices and Desires

“We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.”

The Book of Common Prayer

In the spring of 1579, Gilbert Talbot wrote his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury: “It is but vain to trouble your Lordship with such shows as were showed before Her Majesty this Shrovetide at night. The chiefest was a device presented by the persons of the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Surrey, the Lords Thomas Howard and Windsor. The device was prettier than it happened to have been performed; but the best of it, and I think the best liked, was two rich jewels which were presented to Her Majesty by the two Earls.”

Not exactly a rave review: Talbot thought it a pretty conceit which the performers failed to carry off. He says nothing of speeches nor speakers, nothing of the storyline, stage effects, music, dance, nor finery. Nothing dazzled the beholders but the jewels: the stars of the show were lumps of corundum.