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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter summarizes the career of Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex (1565–1601), who played a central role in English affairs during the 1590s. Essex has often been caricatured as the royal favourite who lost his head, both literally and figuratively. However, Essex was a hugely consequential figure in England’s political and cultural life during the latter years of Elizabeth’s reign. His dramatic fall in February 1601 caused widespread shock and grief. Although he was defeated in the political power struggle which ultimately cost him his life, Essex looms large in the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, with one direct allusion to him in Henry V and a host of probable allusions to him elsewhere in Shakespeare’s plays.

Keywords: Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, royal favourite, Elizabethan politics

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