Having spent Christmas in Essex (specifically in Tiptree, home of jam and Jenny Rowe), I now find myself revisiting the erstwhile Earl of that county – though I’m pretty sure he never spent much time there.
Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was an Elizabethan favourite who got lippy, staged a cak-handed revolt, and paid with his overly-bearded head. A curious fact about said revolt is that, on the day before it took place, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (star playwright: W Shakespeare) were generously paid by some of the Essex gang to perform Richard II at the Globe; it being a play in which a monarch is deposed, and in which his supplanter is painted in far from unflattering tones, it clearly had useful political lessons to impart – or so the Essexians appear to have believed. Anyway, a few years back, I took these events and made them the basis for a play called Propaganda, in which I depict both the lead-up to the revolt, and the negotiations which, in my fevered imagination, might have led to that extremely risky performance by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (who kept their heads and entrails, but still had to explain their conduct to the Privy Council).
The play was written in 2010, designed to be staged in rep with a production of Richard II. So far it’s not happened, though several Bardocentric playhouses in the US have it on their "maybe" lists. Anyway, I got to thinking I should dust it down and give it a readthrough, as it’s five years old and I’m five years better (theoretically) as a writer. I certainly found plenty of little tweaks and nips and tucks to impose upon the dialogue – the continuing challenge being to make the thing sound just sufficiently Elizabethan without being either pretentious or incomprehensible – but, by and large, it stands up extremely well to my almost Khmer Rouge-like standards of self-criticism.
Comparing beards with the Earl of Essex, Parham House, W Sussex.