Shakespeare and the Resistance: The Earl of Southampton, the Essex Rebellion, and the Poems that Challenged Tudor Tyranny

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PublicAffairs, Aug 21, 2018 - History - 288 pages
Shakespeare's largely misunderstood narrative poems contain within them an explosive commentary on the political storms convulsing his country

The 1590s were bleak years for England. The queen was old, the succession unclear, and the treasury empty after decades of war. Amid the rising tension, William Shakespeare published a pair of poems dedicated to the young Earl of Southampton: Venus and Adonis in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece a year later.

Although wildly popular during Shakespeare's lifetime, to modern readers both works are almost impenetrable. But in her enthralling new book, the Shakespearean scholar Clare Asquith reveals their hidden contents: two politically charged allegories of Tudor tyranny that justified-and even urged-direct action against an unpopular regime. The poems were Shakespeare's bestselling works in his lifetime, evidence that they spoke clearly to England's wounded populace and disaffected nobility, and especially to their champion, the Earl of Essex.

Shakespeare and the Resistance unearths Shakespeare's own analysis of a political and religious crisis which would shortly erupt in armed rebellion on the streets of London. Using the latest historical research, it resurrects the story of a bold bid for freedom of conscience and an end to corruption that was erased from history by the men who suppressed it. This compelling reading situates Shakespeare at the heart of the resistance movement.


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About the author (2018)

Clare Asquith, Countess of Oxford and Asquith, is the author of Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare. She studied English literature at Oxford, where she gained a congratulatory First. Her ideas about Shakespeare's politics and religion were first raised in the Times Literary Supplement in 2001. Since then, she has written numerous articles and lectured widely on Shakespeare and his background.

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