The New Reign

  • Richard Dutton
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


The old Queen died on 24 March 1603, and her ‘cousin of Scotland’, who had already reigned there as James VI for thirty-six of his thirty-seven years, was proclaimed her successor. The transition of power was smoother than most people had dared to hope, given that no aspirant had a clear-cut claim to the throne; it was masterminded by Sir Robert Cecil, who, elevated to the peerage as Earl of Salisbury, was to be the king’s first minister until his death in 1612. In most respects James I suffered by comparison with his predecessor: an unprepossessing figure who ruled over an openly venal Court, where the Scots he brought south with him were much resented; he had a passion for deer-hunting that seriously disrupted the business of government, and an uncircumspect predilection for handsome young men, several of whom did not repay the trust and favours he lavished upon them; throughout his youth he had been a pawn in the factional politics of Scotland, which seems to have left him almost neurotically insecure, favouring padded doublets as a defence against assassins’ knives; some people unkindly linked this with the pacifism of his foreign policy, which brought about an unpopular peace with Catholic Spain, the national enemy for more than a generation.


Court Performance Royal Patronage Venetian Republic Merry Wife Catholic Upbringing 
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  1. 6.
    See J. W. Bennett, ‘Measure for Measure’ as Royal Entertainment (New York, 1966).Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    See G. Taylor and M. Warren (eds) The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare’s Two Versions of ‘King Lear’ (Oxford, 1983).Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    From An Apologie for Actors (published 1612, written c. 1608). Cited from extracts in G. E. Bentley (ed.) The Seventeenth Century Stage: A Collection of Critical Essays (Chicago, 1968) p. 16.Google Scholar
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    See D. H. Willson, King Janies VI & I (London, 1963) pp. 249–57;Google Scholar
  5. J. W. Draper, ‘The Occasion of King Lear’, Studies in Philology, 34 (1937) pp. 176–85.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    See H. N. Paul, The Royal Play of ‘Macbeth’ (New York, 1950); this is the most sustained reading of the play as written for King James.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Dutton 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Dutton
    • 1
  1. 1.Lancaster UniversityUK

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