This article reexamines the vexed question of the identity of the play performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men at the Globe on 7 February 1601 and its relationship to the events of the following day, when London was convulsed by the so-called Essex Rising. It offers a substantial and detailed reinterpretation of the Rising itself, tracing the explosive tensions between Essex and his political opponents back to his failed 1599 campaign in Ireland. By the end of January 1601, Essex and his supporters were secretly preparing to arrest his enemies and force their way into the Court to "humbly" petition the queen for redress of their grievances. This action was planned for about 13 or 14 February, but on the evening of 7 February—shortly after the play had been performed at the Globe—the earl and his inner circle were instead panicked into trying to secure protection from their enemies from the City of London. The hasty change of plans and the release of those plans to the Privy Council resulted in the abortive Rising on 8 February. This revised account challenges traditional arguments about the connection between the play of 7 February and the Rising. Turning to the identity of the play performed at the Globe, the essay argues that recent claims—that the performance was not of Shakespeare's Richard II but of an unknown drama based upon a controversial book by John Hayward—cannot be supported by the evidence. Shakespeare's play remains the most probable candidate for the performance on 7 February. The final section of the essay addresses why Shakespeare's Richard II might have had a special appeal to followers of Essex, especially aristocrats and Catholics, such as Sir Charles Percy, who commissioned the staging of the play at the Globe.
When Caliban reassures the terrified Stephano and Trinculo about the nature of the sounds that fill his island world, he draws attention to the fact that The Tempest, uniquely among Shakespeare's plays, is equipped with an elaborate soundtrack. Although Caliban seems not to distinguish between them, two kinds of sound—noise, introduced by the chaotic racket of the opening storm, and music, introduced by the exquisite harmony of Ariel's songs—alternate throughout the play. This article explores how this pattern contributes to the dramatic meaning of the play, emphasizing the way in which, by a network of delicate wordplay, it is linked to the burdens, both physical and emotional, from which its characters seek to be freed. The essay ends by indicating how such a reading might help to reconcile current postcolonial readings with the seemingly incompatible philosophical, biographical, and metadramatic approaches favored by previous critics.
This essay revises the inclination to see Shakespeare's skepticism about deep communal roots as skepticism about national identity. Although the demand for deep roots does characterize much early modern national consciousness, an alternate model of nationhood that subordinated ancient origin was emerging in this period, and it is this early model that eventually yields the modern association between nation and historical progress. In early Stuart England, the debate between the proposed union of England and Scotland initiated a confrontation between these two models of nationhood. What was the nation: Britain, whose roots went back to antiquity, or England, which had a relatively brief tenure on the island but which was unmixed with any Celtic blood? Escobedo proposes that we look not to the dynastic anxieties of the chronicle plays but instead to Cymbeline. Written during the years of the debate about Union in Great Britain, Shakespeare's late romance dramatizes two distinct versions of nationhood: a British nation, awkwardly heterogeneous but linked to antiquity; and an English nation, potentially pure but severed from tradition. Its protagonist, Posthumus, is in a story about ancient British dynasty but never (surprisingly) assumes any dynastic role; he comes to signify a model of English nation as "rootless." Cymbeline thus suggests that the realm can shift from Britannia to England—can begin to reimagine itself as a community we would call a "modern" nation—only at the cost of an ancient and dignified ancestry.