A Life of William Shakespeare

By Joseph Quincy Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE ESSEX REBELLION, AND THE WAR OF THE THEATRES

THE year 1601 held for Shakespeare other things than the gratifying success of Hamlet. Its early months were marked by a sensational occurence which must have deeply stirred him, and which involved his troupe in a perilous experience.

The gallant soldier, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who had endeared himself to the hearts of the people by his spectacular expedition to Cadiz and the Azores,1 had in 1599 been appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland for the specific purpose of subduing the rebellious islanders and bringing peace to that unfortunate land. On March 27, with his staff and a splendid retinue of attendants, he set out for his new post. His progress through the streets of London took the form of a triumphal procession, the populace everywhere flocking to see and applaud their hero. Stow tells us that "the people pressed exceedingly to behold him, especially in the highways, for more than four miles' space, crying and saying, God bless your Lordship! God preserve your honour! etc., and some followed him until the evening, only to behold him." By his side

____________________
1
Spenser, in Prothalamion, goes out of his way to celebrate Essex. The passage begins thus:

Yet therein now doth lodge a noble Peer,
Great England's glory, and the world's wide wonder,
Whose dreadfull name late through all Spaine did thunder,
And Hercules' two pillors standing feere
Did make to quake and feare.
Fair branch of Honor! Flower of Chevalrie!
That fillest England with thy triumphys fame,
Joy have thou of thy noble victorie!

-315-

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