KING JAMES’S EAR by Rod Dungate


This dramatic and theatrical play revolves around the Thomas Overbury affair – a huge scandal that rocked society during the reign of James I.  Murder, poison, witchcraft, sex, spying, dancing – it’s all in it.

It is a large scale play which can be performed by 15 actors; 11 men, 3 women, 1 boy. Some doubling is required; this is outlined in the script.

King James I (of England James VI of Scotland) had a range of male lovers – he packed his wife, Queen Anne off to Greenwich so he could pursue them.  One of his long-term lovers was an extremely handsome Scotsman, Robert Carr.

However, Robert Carr was the long-time lover of Sir Thomas Overbury, and Sir Thomas started making trouble.  Into this triangle came Frances Essex a member of one of the most powerful families in the kingdom.  It seemed obvious to the Essex family that if they could marry Frances to Robert they would have unprecedented access to the King.

It was clear Sir Thomas had to be got rid of.  He was imprisoned and later poisoned.  It is likely that at least three people were separately trying to finish him off.  His death created a huge scandal in which even the King himself was implicated.

People were hanged and imprisoned as a result.  It is the stuff of drama.  And, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.



M12 F4

King James I of England, VI of Scotland

Queen Anne, his wife

Henry, Prince of Wales, his elder son

Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, Lord Chancellor, elderly

Sir Thomas Overbury, a writer, twenties

Lady Frances Howard, Countess of Essex, powerful, twenties

Ben Jonson, the playwright, middle years

Inigo Jones, the designer, younger than Ben

Robert Carr, a young Scotsman, Sir Thomas’s lover, five years younger than him

Jane Turner, Lady Frances’ close friend

Dr Simon Forman, an astrologer

Solomon, Ben Jonson’s young son

Lawrence, Sir Thomas’s servant and his age exactly

John, a Palace servant

Paul, a Palace servant

Richard Weston, under-keeper at the Tower of London

James Franklin, a chemical scientist William Reeves, a chemical scientist

Drug Dealers



The first production of KING JAMES’S EAR was at the Old Red Lion Theatre, St John Street, London, EC1, on March 30 1993, presented by ISIS Productions



Preview available here

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