Sir Henry Yelverton, the king’s attorney general, was no friend to Sir Walter Ralegh. Yelverton owed his office to the influence of the Howards, the great and powerful Catholic family, secret pensioners of the king of Spain and long-time virulent enemies of Ralegh. And yet, in the attorney’s solemn address before the King’s Bench at Westminster on October 28, 1618, expressing His Majesty’s pleasure that Ralegh should die, there is a strange note of piety, of awe even, in the face of Ralegh’s destiny: ‘He hath been a star at which the world hath gazed; but stars may fall nay they must fall when they trouble the sphere wherein they abide.’ These words catch the sense, felt even in his own day, that Ralegh’s life had a very special quality, something almost mythic, something usually found only in the creations of art, which set it apart from the lives of other men. Ralegh himself did everything in his power to encourage such a feeling, for he was an actor, and at the great public moments of his career he performed unforgettably.
–from Sir Walter Ralegh: The Renaissance Man and His Roles by Stephen J. Greenblatt.
Greenblatt paints Ralegh (to use one of numerous ways to spell the man’s name) as an actor. Here at N.C Miscellany, we’d like to turn that around. How many actors have played Sir Walter on film and television?
In these days of the Web and IMDB it’s not too hard to find the answer. But before you go there, try to name as many as you can.
And why are we thinking about Sir Walter as a film character? Because Ralegh as a subject in film and literature is one of the topics of discussion for an event we’re sponsoring on April 1. We’re marking the 400th anniversary of publication of Ralegh’s The History of the World with a discussion among three men who’ve looked at aspects of Ralegh’s life and work. Christopher Armitage, who teaches in UNC’s Department of English, recently edited a volume titled Literary and Visual Ralegh. He’ll be joined by two contributors to the volume–Thomas Herron of East Carolina University and Julian Lethbridge of the University of Tübingen in Germany. Their discussion takes place at 3 pm in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in Wilson Library, just down the hall from the North Carolina Collection. We hope you can join us.