On April 4, a small group of Essex scholars convened for the seminar “Reading Essex” at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America in Vancouver, British Columbia. The five participants all had written papers that they had shared in advance of the conference; for the two hours of the seminar, the participants engaged in spirited conversation about many aspects of Essex’s life and legacy.
Professor Grace Ioppolo of the University of Reading wrote about Essex’s connections to the players and companies in the 1580s and 1590s. Professor Alzada Tipton of Elmhurst College examined Samuel Daniel’s play Philotas and its connections to the Essex story. Professor Chris Fitter of Rutgers-Camden wrote about the coded language and action of Shakespeare’s plays, arguing that Shakespeare viewed Essex as a dangerous threat to the state and the public. Professor Alan Stewart of Columbia University explored the little-known facts surrounding the 1599 publication of John Hayward’s History of Henry IIII, infamous for its dedication to Essex and the severe response it elicited from the government. Finally, Professor Hank Dobin offered analysis of two obscure 19th century American poems about Essex, Elizabeth and the Countess of Nottingham in order to exemplify the enduring power of the ring story and the tropes of human and divine forgiveness.