The political career of Thomas Devereux, Earl of Essex, frequently impinges upon the dramatic career of Mr. William Shakespeare. In 1593 this proud, capricious, brilliant and foolish nobleman was stimulating the Queen’s commissioners to suppress the ‘School of Night’. This affair elicited from Shakespeare the first of his notable comedies, ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’.1 Eight years later, in 1601, the friends of Essex conspired to stage a revival of ‘Richard II’, the first of Shakespeare’s great tetralogy of histories, which resulted in at least one member of the audience being hanged.2 Meanwhile, in June 1594, Essex was actively concerned in the persecution of one, Roderigo Lopez, a Jew of Portuguese descent, physician to the Queen, wrongfully accused of plotting to poison Her Majesty for reasons that have ceased to have any great interest for posterity. Essex, who manufactured the evidence, also presided at the trial, an arrangement which greatly simplified the procedure. The unfortunate Jew was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in the presence of an excited crowd who marvelled that he should dare, in his last moments, to utter the name of Jesus.
KeywordsComic Character Jewish Question Romantic Tradition English Audience Noble Nature
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