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.
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
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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