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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0391  Wednesday, 11 February 2004

From:           John Price <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Feb 2004 21:40:23 -0000
Subject:        The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

It is a commonplace of Shakespearean scholarship that Richard II was
performed on 7 February 1601 as a prelude to the Essex rebellion - this
incident is wheeled out time and again as evidence of the subversive and
political nature of Shakespeare's drama. In an article in the London
Review however, Blair Worden has called this idea in to question. See
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n13/word01_.html  He does not accept that the
performance at the Globe of a play described as 'the play of Henry 4' is
Shakespeare's at all, proposing instead that it was a dramatisation of
John Heywood's 'The First Part of the Life and Reign of King Henry IV',
commissioned moreover for a private performance.

Frank Kermode entered into correspondence about this, offering the
important, but not decisive objection that Hayward's work was only two
years old at the time of the staging and could not therefore be
described as 'old'. Has anyone any other thoughts on this debate? It
seems to me that if Worden is right, it would have important
implications for those strands of criticism which foreground
Shakespeare's political content.

John Price

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