On the eve of the beheading of her court favorite and rumored lover, the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth was entertained with a royal command performance by Shakespeare and his company. Upon this obscure historical fact, one of Canada's most acclaimed playwrights, Timothy Findley, imagines this daring and original drama. Longing for distraction, the Queen visits her stables where the actors are lodged for the night. There she finds the man who plays Shakespeare's leading ladies, and in their passionate confrontation, the actor and his Queen come to shocking revelations about sexuality, identity and love.
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes (includes intermission)
is presented in the Jentes Family Auditorium.
On the eve of his death, William Shakespeare relives another fateful night, fifteen years earlier, when the Lord Chamberlain's Men were invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth—the night before her beloved Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was to be beheaded for treason to the Crown. The Queen sentenced him to death, and only she can pardon him before the morning. With the possibility of rioting in the streets, a curfew is imposed and the acting company must be lodged that night in the royal stables. Desperately needing distraction from the fateful night's events, Elizabeth seeks out the company of Shakespeare and the actors.
But it is not Shakespeare who commands her attention as much as does Ned Lowenscroft, the actor she has seen portray Shakespeare's female roles, including that evening, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. His body covered in bruises and sores, Ned is dying of syphilis—giving him a fool's license perhaps as he engages the Queen in verbal combat through the night as she awaits her Robert's execution. The actor is set upon revealing the woman who is buried beneath the role the "Virgin Queen" has played, as she, in turn, demands that Ned discover the strength of a man facing his own death, without script in hand.