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The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief

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The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief

by Richard Gen

Genre: Comedy, Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: 15 Minutes

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely


The action begins at a time when Portugal is ruled by a ministry whose premier is in league with Philip II. of Spain, and who, to keep possession of power, has fomented trouble between the young Queen and King, and encouraged the latter in all kinds of dissipations. At this time Cervantes, the poet, who has been banished from Spain, is a captain in the Royal Guards, and in love with Irene, a lady in waiting. These two are good friends of both the King and Queen, and are eager to depose the ministry. Cervantes is reader to the Queen, and the latter, having a sentimental attachment for him, writes upon her handkerchief, “A queen doth love thee, yet art thou no king,” and placing it in a volume of “Don Quixote,” hands it to him. The book is seized, and as “Don Quixote” is Minister of War and “Sancho Panza” Minister of Instruction, Cervantes is arrested for libel and treason. Irene and the King, however, save him by proving him insane, and the King and Queen ascend the throne. In desperation the premier hands the King the handkerchief with the inscription on it, which leads to the re-arrest of Cervantes and the banishment of the Queen to a convent. Cervantes escapes, however, and joins some brigands. They capture the Queen on her way to the convent, and in the disguise of the host and waiting-maid of an inn, they serve the King, who happens there on a hunting-trip. Everything is satisfactorily accounted for, and the inscription on the handkerchief is explained as a message which the Queen sent to the King by Cervantes.


The overreaction to a small gesture of fondness from a Queen is hard for a modern day audience to comprehend.  Why does it take the whole show and some arrests and banishments for the Queen to resolve the matter like she finally does at the end?  It seems so easily resolved that we wonder what all the fuss is about.  It’s possible to fashion a 15-minute version of this plot?


A word of caution: This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation. You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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