chapter  4
Faction in the 1590s?
Pages 14

Th e night before the rebellion Essex’s followers commissioned a special performance of Richard II, probably Shakespeare’s version of the play.2 Th is playing of the story of the usurpation of Richard II by the popular hero Henry Bolingbroke has been interpreted by some historians as being intended to boost the Essexians’ morale before the next day’s action.3 In the investigations carried out immediately aft er the rebellion, much attention was paid to the staging of Richard II and its deposition scene.4 Th e historian Sir John Hayward was arrested and questioned over his Th e First Part of the Life and Raigne of King Henrie the IIII, published in 1599 and dedicated to Essex, which had ‘seemed to condone the deposition of Richard II’.5 Famously, in August 1601 Elizabeth is reported to have told the antiquarian William Lambarde ‘I am Richard II, know ye not that?’6 Th e story of a monarch who had allowed himself to be led astray by evil counsellors and the consequently justifi ed usurpation of his throne by one of his noblemen might be said to have held many parallels to the situation of 1601. But if, as has been argued in the previous chapter and also by Paul Hammer and Jonathan Bate in their recent articles on the rebellion, the events of 8 February were not pre-planned, then the play could not have been commissioned as a precursor to rebellion but was a more general expression of the state of mind of Essex’s followers at this time.7 Here, quite a diff erent aspect of the play comes to the fore.