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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0551  Thursday, 26 February 2004

[1]     From:   Holger Schott <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Feb 2004 11:12:59 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0528 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

[2]     From:   Norman Hinton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Feb 2004 11:14:16 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0528 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Holger Schott <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Feb 2004 11:12:59 -0500
Subject: 15.0528 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0528 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

Gerald Downs' post and my own (which got delayed on its way to Hardy's
inbox) overlapped; in that post, I have elaborated my earlier critique
of Worden's arguments in a way that addresses Downs' defence. One of
Worden's points, paraphrased by Downs, needs to be qualified
specifically, though:

 >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.

The play went by different names for different people: Meyrick/Merrick
says in his examination (PRO 12/278/78) that "they went all together to
the Globe over the water wher the L. Chamberlens men vse to play and
were ther somwhat before the play began, Sr Charles [Percy] tellyng them
that the play wold be of Harry the iiijth. ... the play was of Kyng
Harry the iiijth, and of the kylling of Kyng Richard the second played
by the L. Chamberlens players." Sir William Constable mentions "the
play" in his examination (PRO 12/278/72), but doesn't give its title.
Augustine Phillips refers to it as "the play of the deposyng and kyllyng
of Kyng Rychard the second," and "that play of Kyng Richard" (PRO
12/278/85). At Meyrick's trial, Coke spoke of "the story of Henry IV
being set forth in a play" (Chambers, _WS_, vol. 2.  325, quoting _State
Trials_ 1735 ed., vii.47), and of the "play of Henry IV" (ibid. 326).
Bacon, in his government-sponsored account of Essex's treason and the
associated trials, calls it "the play of deposing King _Richard_ the
second" (ibid., quoting _A Declaration of the Practices and
Treasons..._, sig.K2v [STC 1133]). Camden, in the 1615 _Annales_,
mentions "exoletam tragoediam de tragica abdicatione regis Richardi II"
(ibid., 327).

In other words, the witness closest to the play itself, Phillips,
consistently refers to it as "Richard II"; Bacon, who worked through the
documents assembled by the prosecution in writing his account, likewise
called it that. How did Coke's apparent preference for "Henry IV" come
about? If we look at his working notes (PRO 12/278/98-100), it becomes
apparent that in drawing up the charges against Meyrick, he went through
all the examinations bearing on that case, starting, presumably, with
Meyrick's own statement. He first drew up a list of bullet points, as it
were, one of which was "the play of h4" (Meyrick's own tag). In a second
step, he listed the sources for specific accusations: "phillipps for the
play of h4 | et confessione propria." In other words, both Augustine
Phillips' examination and Meyrick's own confession support the
allegation that he attended the performance. Coke does not alter the
play's title to make it conform with Phillips' statement, nor did
Phillips' testimony feature at trial -- it didn't have to, because
Meyrick himself had confessed that he saw the play, a play which he
called "Henry IV." Just as Coke didn't change the title in his notes, he
used the name given to the play by Meyrick himself when outlining the
charges against him at his trial.

The play performed on February 7, 1601, then, was known as "the play of
Kyng Richard" to the players, and thought of as "the play ... of Kyng
Harry the iiijth" by Meyricke and Sir Charles Percy. This might support
Hugh Grady's suggestion that the performance functioned as "a signifier
of Hayward's work" and what the book had come to stand for; it does not
support Blair Worden's conviction that the performance dramatized that
book. He argues that any candidate for "the play" must both "centr[e] on
the deposition and killing of Richard" and be "accurately ... called
'the play of Henry IV'." The hypothetical dramatization of Hayward's
_Life_ fits these conditions perfectly -- because no-one knows what it
"centred on": this fictional construct is malleable enough to correspond
to any description; it can "accurately" be called "the play of Henry IV"
precisely because in the absence of the play, we cannot judge the
accuracy of that title. However, given the flexibility of reference
evident in the surviving documents -- the play could be thought of both
as "Richard II" and as "Henry IV" (and _R2_ is, after all,
conventionally included as part of the second _Henriad_!) -- we might
find Worden's insistence on "accuracy" a little inappropriate to begin with.

Best,
Holger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Norman Hinton <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 25 Feb 2004 11:14:16 -0600
Subject: 15.0528 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0528 The Essex Rebellion and Richard II

I don't have Worden's piece to hand, but if, as has been suggested, a
main point of his argument is that the work referred to was not a play
but a "book" -- well, that shows a lack of knowledge of the various
meanings the word "book" had at the time.

I try to avoid the OED whenever possible, since there are more accurate
sources, but in this case, the 2nd edition shows that the term "book"
can refer to any written document, whether 'published', or bound, or not
-- and indeed, in I Henry IV, i, 228, Shakespeare has Mortimer use the
term "book" to refer to an agreement that he and Glendower and Hotspur
are having drawn up.  Any thing written down could be and often was
called a 'book' in the 16th century.

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