Shakespeare’s Vision of the Conflict

  • A. L. Rowse


We are now in a better position to appreciate that Shakespeare’s spreading concern with this subject did not originate with him but was the crest of a wave in the continuous and growing interest in the story of the previous century. This crest was reached in the 1590’s; the momentum was even speeded up as the 1590’s advanced and the new century began with the tragedy of Essex’s fall. There was the widespread growth of the Elizabethan interest in history in itself to go upon; there was the natural response to the stage to the public interest, the “unusual public interest in the matters treated in such plays.”1 In addition to this, there was an inner excitement, as the Queen’s long reign drew to its close, in the dangerously disturbing question of the succession, matters that had involved depositions of kings, civil dissensions and war. The more dangerous these subjects the greater their fascination for the public. There is plenty of evidence of how these things went together: the “popularity” of Essex and the consciousness that he might make another Bolingbroke, the comparison of the Queen’s last years with Richard II’s, her awareness of what people were saying and her acute sensitivity to it; the censorship of the deposition scene in Richard II, the putting on of the play by Essex’s followers on the eve of his rising, Hayward’s imprisonment for his Henry IV.


Henry Versus Disturbing Question Honest Dealing Happy Youth English Throne 
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© A. L. Rowse 1966

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  • A. L. Rowse

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