In the fall of 1595, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was poised to attain political greatness, and he knew it. The international political climate had become sufficiently precarious that a statesman with Essex‘s particular expertise in foreign intelligence and military matters possessed skills well-tailored to address England’s current crises. Spain was once again preparing to invade, this time with an armada greater than in 1588; relations with England’s key ally France were cooling; and the financial and military advantages of asserting a presence in the New World were becoming increasingly evident. Aware of this moment as opportune for his political career, Essex engaged in a period of intense personal campaigning during the latter half of 1595— campaigning that, significantly, involved two theatrical entertainments produced for Queen Elizabeth I. These dramatic spectacles took place in the final weeks of 1595, and in both, Essex encouraged the queen to endorse his vision for a more internationally assertive England.
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