The Free Radio
The Prophet’s Hair
Harmony of Spheres
Chekov and Zulu
Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship (Santa Fé, AD 1492)
Patronage involves the provision of encouragement and support, through financial, social or political means to advance the cause of another. The ancient world placed a high importance on the ability of a man to be a patron. The most well known form of patronage is the sponsorship of artists by the commissioning of artworks. Patronage has also been present in the fields of music, writing, philosophy, early science and scholarship generally. In Renaissance Italy, the Medici family were famous for off-loading their ill-gotten wealth (through charging unreasonable interest on loans) by funding artists’ work. When the Italian-born Christopher Columbus petitioned the Spanish queen, Isabella I of Castile, to fund his expedition to the Indies, she rejected him at least three times and took two years to accept his proposition. His voyage is detailed in the children’s rhyme which begins:
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue
Christopher Columbus kneeling in front of Queen Isabella I
Samuel Johnson, to whom the writing of the Oxford Dictionary is attributed, once defined a patron as, “one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help”. With whom does his sympathy lie? In your own words, explain Johnson’s view of patrons.
How does Christopher Columbus present himself and his proposition to Queen Isabella?
Find four examples of words or phrases that suggest the power of Queen Isabella and then find four that suggest the powerlessness of Christopher Columbus.
This story is told in the present tense and contains interjections from Queen Isabella’s heralds (the two voices are indicated by the use of single and double elongated tildes). How do the Queen’s heralds view Christopher Columbus? Locate evidence from the text to support three criticisms they have of him.
How do the heralds view Queen Isabella? Locate three examples from the text to support your theory.
Examine Isabella’s reversal of position. What does she realise? What kind of a physical reaction does she experience? How does Rushdie link the idea of power and desire here? Draw on evidence from the text to support your view.
How is Columbus’ reaction to Isabella’s reversal of position like a lover’s?
Examine the title and the first appearance of the word ‘consummation’ in the story. Why do you think Rushdie has used this word? Locate the two statements Columbus makes about the ‘money and patronage’. What does this choice of word suggest about:
(a) the nature of Columbus’ request;
(b) the nature of the relationship between explorer and patron;
(c) Columbus’ intention and his emotional state; and
(d) Rushdie’s intended effect on his readers?
Isabella’s change of mind occurs in the Alhambra, a Moorish palace in Granade, Spain. Click here to see the Court of the Lions and go to the Nasrid Palaces. Given that the palace contains art from Jewish, Moorish and Christian cultures, and given Isabella’s treatment of the Jews and the Moors, what might the Ahambra symbolise in this story?
1. Historical Re-Imagining
Choose a relationship between patrons and those to whom they provided patronage to research further:
Drawing on your research, imagine a scenario where one is trying to ‘woo' or coerce the other to do or create something. Write the short story of this interaction. Explore the nature of the power dynamic between the two individuals. Write your account in the present tense. Consider having supporters of one or both sides interject with their own views.
- Pope Julius II and Michaelangelo
- Lorenzo de'Medici and either Michaelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci
- Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and/or William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke and William Shakespeare
- Emporer Josef and Mozart
- Archduke Rudolf and Beethoven
- Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford and Ben Jonson
2. Historical Romance
The inscription above can be found in the Alhambra. “TANTO MONTA – MONTA TANTO” translates “As much as the one is worth, so much is the other.” This is the motto of a prenuptial agreement made by the Spanish Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. During their joint reign they did in fact support each other effectively in accordance with their motto of equality. They had six children together.
Imagine King Ferdinand II's view of Columbus and Isabella's relationship. Write his first person account of the story.
3. Historical Persuasion
From the list of explorers from wikipedia select one that interests you. Write a persuasive letter to designed to convince an imagined patron (possibly a King, Queen, President or Prime Minister) to allow you to conduct your exploration. You could draw on past expeditions and exploration for evidence. You could flatter and compliment the appropriate people. You could suggest the benefits and advantages that could come of your voyage. You could play on the rivalry between some of the great sea-faring nations (Spain, Portugal, Holland, Britain etc). Your letter should demonstrate an understanding of the historical time and place in which your chosen explorer lived.
East West: a reading and creative writing unit developed by Ross Barham, Amanda Carroll, Blair Mahoney, and G. Marotous.
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© 2010. Melbourne High School English Faculty.