Bussy Galore

A famous modern poet used to sacrifice every year a Statius to Virgil’s manes; and I have indignation enough to burn a D’Ambois annually to the memory of Jonson.

John Dryden's poor opinion of Chapman's most famous plays is not widely shared, these days.


Connecting Oxford to Jacobean drama is a Labour of Hercules for Oxfordians, given that he died in 1604 before Jacobean drama had much to distinguish it from Elizabethan drama. Yet in a unique passage in Chapman's Jacobean drama The Revenge of Bussy d'Ambois, the Earl himself is criticised and even rebuked on stage.

This is a rather extraordinary occurrence if you believe Oxfordian tales of censorship and the stigma of print.  Their entire authorship case requires Oxford to hide behind an allonym for the offence of a few dim resemblances between Polonius and Cecil, so what can they mean, ignoring Chapman so disrespectfully taking the mickey out of the Earl, without even disguising his name, in a long and critical passage? Off with his head, surely?

The play is a sequel to Bussy d'Ambois, entered in the Register in June 1607 by the Children of St Paul's but which later found its way into the repertoire of The King's Men who acted it at court in the 1630's. It forms part of four plays written by Chapman about 16c events at the French court. Two of these were banned and then censored to remove the offending treatment of the French Queen. So how did the critical representation of the Earl survive?

To be or not to be Hamlet

Hamlet and Laertes in Ophelia's grave

At her funeral, Hamlet leaps into Ophelia’s grave to outdo the grief of her brother with his own: “I lou'd Ophelia; fortie thousand Brothers Could not (with all there quantitie of Loue) Make vp my summe.” The anger of the brother and the grief of the suitor square up to each other as the famous scene progresses, setting up the play’s climax perfectly, triggering a new decisiveness in Hamlet which is soon mirrored by Laertes' commitment to revenge his sister, leading to a duel in which they both die.