This lecture will offer a reinterpretation of one of the most important but misunderstood episodes in Shakespeare's career: the specially commissioned performance of Richard II at the Globe on the eve of the Earl of Essex's 'rebellion' in February 1601. It will refute the recent suggestion that the play performed was not by Shakespeare, will reveal who commissioned the performance and why, will make a new proposal about the relationship between Shakespeare's play and Sir John Hayward's controversial History of Henry IV, will set the performance in the larger context of Shakespeare's representations of the codes of honour, chivalry and politic history that were associated with Essex and his circle, and will suggest that the famous encounter between Queen Elizabeth and William Lambarde, in which she purportedly compared herself to Richard II, was in all probability embroidered long after the event.
Professor Jonathan Bate FBA, Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature, University of Warwick, was elected a Fellow of the Academy in 1999. His publications include Shakespeare and the English Romantic Imagination (Oxford UP, 1986), Shakespearean Constitutions (Oxford UP, 1989), Shakespeare and Ovid (Oxford UP, 1993), the Arden edition of Titus Andronicus (1995), The Genius of Shakespeare (Picador, 1997).
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This lecture was published in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 162, 2008 Lectures.