1. Shakespeare in January 1601
2. Shakespeare's Richard II on 7 February 1601
4. Shakespeare and the Essex Trial
5. Shakespeare and the Essex Execution
William Shakespeare must have been very excited and scared, in equal measure, on 8 February 1601.
But that was last night, and when Essex and Southampton parted ways with Shakespeare and his company, there was hardly a dry eye among them.
|Queen Elizabeth I, ca. 1601|
Would the Queen allow him to speak and make his case? Would she listen to his grievances? Would she correct them? Would she punish Robert Cecil, the cause of so much discord in the court? Or would she defend him?
It did not escape Shakespeare's notice that 8 February was the anniversary of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
|The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots 8 February 1587|
Mary had been executed, killed on orders of her cousin Queen Elizabeth, in 1587.
Mary's son James was now King of Scotland, and it was clear that he wanted Queen Elizabeth either dead or deposed, in order for him to take the throne himself.
Shakespeare had heard the rumors that Essex was doing James's bidding, perhaps starting a conflict that James would end, by marching into England and succeeding Elizabeth.
8 February could not be an accident. Essex must have chosen this day on purpose, as a gesture to James.
Or was it James's idea, his brand of revenge?
Shakespeare did not know if Essex chose the date on purpose, but he didn't like the coincidence.
If Elizabeth killed Essex, where would the killing stop?
|St. Paul's as it would have looked in 1601|
They rode with almost 300 armed men, many from some of the finest families in England.
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