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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0423  Friday, 13 February 2004

[1]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 10:07:26 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0391 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

[2]     From:   Holger Schott <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 14:34:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

[3]     From:   Edward Brown <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 14:20:59 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0391 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

[4]     From:   Michael Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 10:33:17 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

[5]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Feb 2004 10:48:12 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 10:07:26 -0500
Subject: 15.0391 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0391 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

It is extremely difficult to say something completely novel in
Shakespeare studies, especially so in connection to the few bits of
evidence concerning the connection of Shakespeare to Elizabeth's court
and its politics. This is the case with Blair Worden's claim questioning
the identification of the play put on at the Globe on the eve of the
Essex rebellion of 1601. Blair Worden is a fine historian, and we are
all in his debt for important information about and insights into
Elizabethan politics. In this case, however, he is repeating doubts
raised by Peter Manning in his 1991 introduction to a modern edition of
Hayward's _The Life and Reigne of Henry IIII_. Also both Peter Ure (in
his 1956 introduction to the Arden R2) and Leeds Barroll, in an article
in _Shakespeare Quarterly_ 39 (1988)441-64, argue more generally that it
is Hayward's book and not Shakespeare's play that is behind most of the
allusions to Richard II in the discussion of the Essex rebellion, and
Montrose in -The Purpose of Playing_ and I in _Shakespeare, Machiavelli
and Montaigne_ (2002) try to underline the important role Hayward's book
played in the discussion of the connection (anyone interested is invited
to a larger discussion of these issues there).  Still it remains the
case that the play was put on specifically at the Globe, specifically
performed by the Chamberlain's Men, and was considered "old." All this
argues for Shakespeare's 1595 _Richard II_. The events dramatized in R2
overlap considerably with those narrativized by Hayward. My own view is
that the play was very probably but not certainly Shakespeare's--but
that in this case, contrary to our Bardicized expectations, it was as a
signifier of Hayward's work that it was received in the charged
atmosphere of the rebellion. Hayward, rather than Shakespeare, was,
after all, sent to the Tower and obsessed over by Elizabeth. Play titles
were neither canonized nor standardized, so that references to "Henry
IV" do not necessarily rule out R2--to me, they support the idea of the
influence of Hayward as being "represented" by Shakespeare's play.

There remains the problem of what play witnesses in the Essex trial
alluded to when they claimed Essex applauded ostentatiously at a
dramatized overthrow of Richard by Henry IV--a play Elizabeth said in
her famous "I am Richard II" remarks was performed forty times in
streets and houses. This does not sound like the Chamberlain's men to me
and suggests there may have been another Richard II/Henry IV play
kicking around. But really we need more positive evidence to untangle
all this, and skepticism toward all theories is warranted.

As I argued in my book, echoing Leeds, Worden seems right that this
tantalizing incident has been overblown by new historicists, but the
larger new historicist contention that Shakespeare's theater was
immersed in the world of Elizabethan politics stands nonetheless.

--Hugh Grady

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Holger Schott <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 14:34:07 -0500
Subject: 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

Martin Steward <
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 > writes,

 >The Chamberlain's Men, far from being censured, ended up performing the
 >play for Elizabeth I on the night of Essex's execution - deposition
 >scene and all.

This is, unfortunately, incorrect. While it is true that the
Chamberlain's Men performed at court that day, we don't know what they
played (actually, I'm not sure -- I haven't checked the court records --
but we certainly don't know that it was R2). We also have no clear
information whatsoever on the question if the deposition scene was ever
performed, before or after 1603 -- it might well have been in the play
from its first production, it might have been cut, or it might have been
a later addition. We simply don't know.

Best,
Holger

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Brown <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 14:20:59 -0600
Subject: 15.0391 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0391 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

It seems unlikely to me that Shakespeare's company, having already
experienced the censor's displeasure over the deposition scene in
"Richard II", would have risked taking up a new play on the subject
based on Hayward's book. When the book was published in February 1599,
the Queen showed her anger over Heyward's dedication to Essex -- which
approached an endorsement as her heir -- by arguing with Bacon whether
Heyward could be charged with treason, ultimately settling for clapping
him into the Fleet prison sometime in March (where he remained until
after her death), and having the Council suppress any second edition of
the book.

Wasn't the request to the company made by Essex's steward Meyrick and
others on the afternoon or evening of Friday, 6 February 1601, for a
special performance the next afternoon? (My memory may be faulty on
this.) If Essex or members of his party had commissioned a play based on
Heyward, they would have had to get it done and delivered to the company
to learn long before that date, which would mean that Augustine Phillips
didn't tell the truth about it.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Feb 2004 10:33:17 -1000
Subject: 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

Holger Shott writes:

 >Critics have questioned before if the play performed that day was
 >Shakespeare's -- _Woodstock_ has been offered as an alternative, for one
 >thing-

There is not the smallest chance the play was 'Woodstock' (1 Richard
II), despite the fact that Essex was a descendant of Thomas of
Woodstock.  Whatever its actual conclusion, Anon's drama could not have
included Richard's death, the key point alleged against the Essex play:
everyone knew that Bolingbroke was waiting in the wings. (1 Richard II
however almost certainly portrayed the king's brief deposition, which
would have been historically accurate. It is often forgotten that
Richard II was deposed twice, once in 1399 as everyone knows, and once
briefly in 1387 after the battle of Radcot Bridge, which concludes 1
Richard II. He was restored after about three days when the Lords
Appellant could not agree on his replacement, and spent the next ten
years trying to regain his authority.)

So far as the Essex play is concerned, I'd like to raise the more
radical possibility that there never was such a production--it was all
manufactured evidence to establish Essex's murderous intent (which he
repeatedly denied), and the testimony supporting it simply perjured.
Consider for one thing the impossibility of any theater company staging
at 24 to 48 hours notice an old play, long out of use. I defy even a
modern professional company to do such a thing--find the old script with
all its parts intact, cast roles, learn lines, block, rehearse, etc.
It's just not logistically feasible. Next, consider the fat reward given
the company: not only was it not prosecuted (compare the fate of Sir
John Haywood) but shortly thereafter was performing at court. It just
smells of a pay-off.

I am now retiring to my bunker.

--Michael Egan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Feb 2004 10:48:12 -0800
Subject: 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0409 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

Respondents to John Price's enquiry about Blair Worden's piece in LRB on
the play performed at the Globe the day before the Essex rebellion
appear to have missed Worden's central point, which (although Worden's
style doesn't make it explicit) seems to be founded on a discovery:

 >The connection between Hayward's book and the stage
 >is established in a document among the State Papers, apparently
 >written in or around July 1600 on the initiative of Attorney-General
 >Coke, and listing a number of allegations against Essex. Among
 >them is the charge (whose meaning is clearer than its syntax) of
 >'underhand permitting that most treasonable book of Henry IV
 >to be printed and published, being plainly deciphered, not only
 >by the matter and the epistle' - the dedication - 'thereof, for what
 >end and for whose behoof it was made, but also the earl himself
 >being so often PRESENT AT THE PLAYING THEREOF, and
 >with great applause giving countenance and liking to the same'. In
 >other words, HAYWARD'S BOOK HAD BEEN DRAMATISED,
 >and Essex - at what venue or venues, and in what company, we
 >cannot know - had watched, and given endorsement to, the
 >dramatisation. (LRB 10 July 2003 p. 22, emphasis added)

If anyone here already knew that Hayward's book had been dramatized, I'd
be grateful for a reference antedating Worden.

Peter Bridgman's comment that "Blair Worden should have checked out the
official account, written 18 Feb 1601, of actor Augustine Phillips'
interrogation by Popham . . ." is odd, for of course Worden did check it
and quotes it in a paragraph beginning "Now for the objection . . .".
Surely Bridgman wouldn't have written this without reading Worden's
article, yet it's hard to see what else could explain his mistake.

Gabriel Egan

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