The Earl of Essex and the Trials of History: Gervase Markham's The Dumbe Knight

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This article argues that the Jacobean tragicomedy The Dumbe Knight (1608), by Gervase Markham with additional scenes by Lewis Machin, functions as a commentary on the Elizabethan succession crisis of 1598–1603. In particular, it engages with the history of the Essex rebellion, revising the political context of the 1601 uprising in such a way as to vindicate the actions of Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, and exonerate him from the accusation of treason. The 1601 revolt is restaged as a lawful conflict between rival nations, a revision which not only occludes the historical disloyalty of Essex, but also reinvents his defiance as a necessary and heroic venture. This political reading is supported by an investigation of Markham's individual and family attachments to the Essex circle, and by an analysis of this other writings, many of which comment on the politics of the Elizabethan succession question and engage similarly with the figure of Robert Devereux. As part of this wider study, the article examines how Markham repeatedly employs a gendered discourse of power to criticize Elizabeth's government, derogating female political rule as unnatural, intemperate, and prone to tyranny. By sanctioning male resistance to female authority, the romance plot of The Dumbe Knight both palliates the act of rebellion and reveals Markham's own political philosophy, furnishing him with a language through which he can express and justify his ideological opposition to Elizabeth's rule.
Translated title of the contributionThe Earl of Essex and the Trials of History: Gervase Markham's The Dumbe Knight
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344 - 364
Number of pages21
JournalReview of English Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Publisher: OUP

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