The Real People Featured In A Discovery of Witches Season 2
Deborah Harkness' 'All Souls Trilogy' may be full of fantasy, but if you delve into the historical elements of the series, you’ll find that many of her characters are based on real-life people. Especially with Season 2 timewalking viewers into Elizabethan London, we're introduced to a veritable menagerie of fascinating personalities and figures from that time.
Queens, alchemists, poets, and scholars from the Elizabethan era are not only featured, but are reimagined by the magical mind of Deborah Harkness. Here's a tour of the real histories behind some of these characters, and Harkness' fantastical additions.
Deborah Harkness gives a much more fully fleshed out version of Mary Sidney than we're used to. Sidney was a very skilled writer who was suffocated by the sexist times in which she lived. She would often have to tame her craft and restrict herself to writing about religion to get her work read, and more importantly to get paid as a working-class woman. In A Discovery of Witches, Sidney is brought to the screen as an alchemist who conducts experiments. She becomes Diana's trusted ally, helping her in her search for The Book of Life.
Elizabethan London was an era brimming with rich history, and one that saw a rise in culture vultures. Queen Elizabeth was a big deal in Elizabethan times for obvious reasons. What's less common knowledge, is that she was known for her suspicions—they were so bad that some would even call it paranoia. She would hire various spies to protect her realm. Harkness brilliantly brings the Queen into her story by making Matthew one of those spies. While this fit him in the 1500s, we watch him grapple with this role when he steps back in time.
Lord Burghley/William Cecil
I urge you to browse pictures of Lord Burghley and his affinity for velvet red outfits—it's absolute fashion inspiration. Lord Burghley was a key advisor to Queen Elizabeth, and he managed to remain secretary of state for two terms. Despite his out-loud fashion sense, he does have a much darker side bringing alleged Catholics to punishment on behalf of the Church of England.
The School of Night Collective
Known to be a collective of poets and atheists, the School of Night Collective is also the name of the second installment of Deborah Harkness’s trilogy. The collective doesn’t fail to impress, with its fascinating array of artists that A Discovery of Witches ultimately adds its own supernatural touches to.
Matthew Roydon is actually a bit of a mystery when it comes to solid historical facts. I'm assuming this is why Deborah Harkness had so much fun and freedom with recreating his past. Although in history, as Diana says, we don’t know much of his footsteps, in this season he's best friends with Christopher Marlowe and a valued member of the School of Night collective.
Christopher Marlowe (aka Kit)
Although he's a Demon in the show, in real life he's a brilliant, famous poet and playwright that died under a cloud of mystery. Christopher Marlowe was the nucleus of the School of Night community, and was orbited by many fascinating characters. A Discovery of Witches has a lot of fun playing around with what his life may have been like, including making him a best friend of Matthew, even though we have no idea whether they ever crossed paths.
You’ll often see pictures of Henry looking longingly at whoever is painting him. Known for being a prisoner due to his possible involvement in the gunpowder plot, he was most famously known as a renowned scholar despite his mild deafness and a speech impediment. Also an alchemist, Henry is portrayed as another member of the School of Night crew in the show.
Sir Walter Raleigh
He was a personal favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth, and also a controversial figure due to his secret marriage to her. Sir Walter Raleigh had many eclectic talents, from soldier and spy, to poet. You can see why Queen Elizabeth fell for his many talents.
He plays a brief role in A Discovery of Witches, but is a profound man of history. John Dee was lucky enough to have access to the largest library of the Elizabethan era. Not only was he a key advisor for Queen Elizabeth, but his talents also varied from astronomy, to mathematics and alchemy. John Dee was also an occultist, and he did make some false predictions, including that the world would end ten years after his death.
As part of Diana’s magical journey, she meets Edward Kelly, one of the prominent researchers of The Philosophers Stone and a big-time occultist. Edward often joined forces on magical investigations, and is said to have been a medium to the spirit world.
Digging deeper into these Season 2 characters from Elizabethan times opened up a Pandora's Box of history. With a deep knowledge of the past in her pocket, it also highlights Harkness' ability to put her own spin on the truth. We can't wait to see who we'll meet in Season 3!
In the meantime, stream new episodes of A Discovery of Witches Season 2 every week on amc.com and AMC apps. New episodes air Sundays 8/7c.
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