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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0520  Tuesday, 24 February 2004

From:           Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:           Monday, 23 Feb 2004 22:13:53 EST
Subject: 15.0494 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0494 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

Holger Schott quoted the reference that Essex was present

 >"at the rehearsal" of Hayward's book, but unless [Blair Worden]
 >has made some major archival discoveries . . .

Worden doesn't claim new evidence but revisits the known, citing
Chambers as his main source. For the record, Chambers provides the
pertinent transcripts in Vol. 2, 323-5. His Vol. 1 doesn't argue his
opinion that the 1601 production was Shakespeare's. The abstract Schott
refers to reads, "but the Erle himself being so often at the playing
thereof."

Gabriel Egan revised his opinion on hearing of Chambers's earlier
references:

 >So, this point--the dramatization of Hayward's book--wasn't the
 >main thrust of Worden's essay . . .

But this quotation is the backbone of Worden's essay. That the material
has been cited many times doesn't affect the argument.  Worden's main
thrust, it seems to me, is that "recent biographers . . . take it for
granted that the play was [Shakespeare's]" whereas the evidence reduces
the assumption to a probability not to be built on.

Frank Kermode rephrased his question to Worden on Oct. 9:

    Since the play can hardly have existed before Hayward had written
    his book, that commission must have been made between February
    1599 and February 1601. But on that date it was described, by the
    company's spokesman, as 'old and long out of use'.

The Calendar of State Papers dates the Essex abstract at July 4, 1600, a
result of his trial on June 5. His attendance at the play could only
have been before March 27, 1599, when he left for Ireland. On his return
later that year, Essex was under house arrest and was not freed until
August, 1600. Kermode shouldn't confuse or conflate events.

Hayward's book was published in February, so the play must have been
almost concurrently produced to allow Essex to be "often present at the
playing." The popularity of the book ("no book sold better") suggests
that a dramatic version would be successful. Kermode asked again in
November:

    Why, if the company already had a play based on Hayward,
    less than two years old, should they claim that it was 'old and
    long out of use'? Failure to deal with this simple issue is my
    chief complaint against Worden.

I think that a play two years old would be no more of a draw than a
two-year-old movie nowadays. But doesn't "out of use" mean the players
would not have command of their parts?  This objection was met with
money and seems not to have remained an issue. Apparently the general
public attended, because Bacon understood that "the play was olde, and
they should have losse in playing it," and Coke repeated at Merrick's
trial that he gave "forty shillings to Philips the player to play this,
besides whatsoever he could get." Playgoers could not know beforehand
that the actors were rusty, so low attendance would be from disinterest.
Two years is old enough.

The question remains as to which play was requested in 1601.  Coke
referred to "the story of Henry IV being set forth in a play," and "the
play of Henry IV." Merrick himself refers to the play as "Harry the
iiijth." Shakespeare's play had been in print for some time under a
different title, so these references may well be to Hayward's title.

Given the probability that the 1599 performances were, as Arden editor
Peter Ure suggests, "some kind of 'tragical' recitation or dramatic
show, based on Hayward," it seems at least logical that the supporters
of Essex would want to see what he had applauded.  That's enough to cast
doubt on the Shakespeare tradition -- for it not to be taken for
granted. It's not enough, however, to deny the possibility that
Shakespeare's Richard 2 was the play.

It's interesting that Kermode and Worden cite Forman on the 1611 Richard
2. "Remember also" that the discoverer of Forman's "Bocke" -- John Payne
Collier -- suggested in the same 1836 _New Particulars_ that the Richard
2 of the Essex rebellion was not Shakespeare's. One of Collier's motives
for forgery was to "prove" his own opinions, as has been demonstrated.
Maybe Kermode and Worden can put their heads together and tell us why
they take the legitimacy of Forman's 'plaies' for granted.

Gerald E. Downs

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