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Thomas Heywood's The Royall King, and the Loyall Subject and the Fall of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex Kevin Lindberg Many recent studies have portrayed England's early modern theater as avenue carefullymonitored bya government suspicious ofsubversion , but as Paul Yachnin, Leeds Barroll, and others have shown, official stage supervision tended to be inconsistent in both its attention and punishments.1 Governmental reactionsto plays that seemed to allude to the controversial fall of Queen Elizabeth I's Earl Marshal and favorite Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, exemplify this inconsistency.2 For example, it is true that the Privy Council questioned Shakespeare's company regarding their Richard II performance one day before Essex's revolt on 8 February 1601, Ben Jonson in 1603 for apparent references to the earl's fall in his Sejanus, and Samuel Daniel for his Philotas in 1605; still, such actions were hardly as harsh as Jonson's imprisonment in 1597 for The Isle ofDogs and again with George Chapman in 1605 for slurring Scots in Eastward Ho. One early-seventeenth-century play that apparently drew no official attention, despite its portraying an English monarch urged by envious courtiers to destroy an heroic Marshal and thus seeming to mirror a common interpretation of Essex's fall, is Thomas Heywood's TheRoyallKing, and theLoyallSubject.3 This play has received very little attention from scholars, but examined in conjunction with its historical context and its author's published dramatic philosophy, it offers much instruction regarding at least one dramatist's understanding ofthe professional theater's social voice. Given the uncertainties ofofficialreaction to controversial plays and playwrights, one wonders why a writer so invested in the theater as Heywood, an actor-sharer in the earl ofWorcester's men who would later 31 32Comparative Drama state in Tiie English Traveller (1633) that he had "either an entire hand or at least a main finger" in over two hundred plays, would risk dramatizing a volatile event like Essex's downfall. But in AnApologyforActors (1612),Heywood reveals his beliefthatwhileplays should entertain,they should also teach. Noting that the Greeks knew the instructive potential ofplays, Heywood states that they"could by their industry, finde out no neerer or director course to planthumanityand manners in the hearts of the multitude then to instruct them by moralized mysteries, what vices to auoyd, what vertues to embrace; what enormityes to abandon, what ordinances to obserue: whose liues (being for some special! endowments in former times honoured) they should admire and followe: whose vicious actions (personated in some licentious liuer) they should despise 8c shunne ..." (C3r). Recognizing that in the sixteenth century, the term emulation could mean identifying another as an exemplar, or possibly even at the same time rival (Rebhorn, 77), this essay will examine how the "moralized mystery" of The Royall King, and the Loyall Subject alters its source to draw energy from anxiety connected with a competitive ,destabilizingpolitics capable ofdestroying apopular hero like Essex. But the playwright does not simply expose a problem; he proposes a solution through the possibilities ofintercession and reconciliation, giving RoyallKinga happy ending as its unfortunate Marshal's wife and daughters successfully beg for his life. In light of this, the essay will also note connections between (in some cases, highly publicized) attempts by women in Essex's life to intercede with the machinery of justice with those of female characters in Royall King. Finally, this paper will compare the playwith other writings by Heywood to see how the message of Royall Kingfits with his dramatic practice.We will find that Heywood's play teaches its audience to "despise and shun" the "vicious actions" of its emulous courtiers, and to "admire and follow" the virtuous patience of its Marshal, the merciful intercession of its women, and the reconciliation afforded by its king. In that it was not published until 1637, the main problem in determining how RoyallKing's lessons interact with their historical context is its uncertain composition date. Alfred Harbage places it between 1602 and 1618,butnotes that RoyallKingcouldbe thesameplayas Heywood's lost Marshal Osric, performed at the Rose Theatre in September 1602.4 Kevin Lindberg33 Nineteenth-centuryeditor (and noted document forger) J. Payne Collier baseshisclaimthattheplaywascomposed"shortlybefore...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 31-53
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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