what a Yarn! ‘Kenilworth’

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Kenilworth Castle today

Shh! Quiet, please! Sir Walter Scott is gonna tell a story.

Kenilworth is a political thriller inspired by a ghost story, which in turn was inspired by an unsolved murder during the reign of Elizabeth I. And speaking of Elizabeth–

Imagine: Your father had your mother beheaded, because he wanted a son instead of you. Your grandfather overthrew a dynasty that had ruled for several centuries. Your half-sister launched a wave of religious persecutions–and married, by proxy, your country’s arch-enemy, the king of Spain. Your generation’s grandparents remember the Wars of the Roses, which nearly depopulated England. Then came wave after wave of religious violence.

And on top of all that: on top of knowing that you are queen of a powder keg that could blow at any minute: on top of all that, you have to somehow dominate this nest of vipers and cannibals you’ve inherited as your English ruling class–and you dearly want to do it without resorting to tyranny and mass murder.

Welcome to Elizabethan England. If you wake up alive tomorrow, thank God and Queen Elizabeth for that.

The hero of Kenilworth tries to save a young woman who has been caught up in a web of deadly court intrigue in which more than a few lives are at stake. And because Sir Walter has provided us with the back story, in his introduction, we the readers know things that the characters don’t know, and we experience ever-heightening suspense as the characters mis-read and mis-play one situation after another. You want to warn them, but you can’t.

Oh, how I wish Akira Kurosawa could’ve made a movie out of this! It would’ve been right up his street. He might have recast it into a Japanese historical/cultural context, but so what? It would’ve been great! Starring Toshiro Mifune as the hero. There’s also a character named Flibbertygibbet. How cool is that?

No, I’m not going to tell you how the story comes out. That would be a kind of robbery. But it’s one of those stories that’ll still be suspenseful even if you’ve read it before.

Hats off to Walter Scott!

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