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Significant People in Shakespeare’s World

Sue Shearman | Monday July 20, 2009

Categories: Shakespeare, Shakespeare - Other Activities and Resources

The People

[The information below was kindly contributed by Sue Shearman. All rights are reserved and subject to the consent of the author.] © 2006

Click on the images to find out additional information from Wikipedia.

Robert Dudley – Earl of Leicester

Robert Dudley was a favourite of Elizabeth I till his death in 1588. She is thought to have wanted to marry him, but he was already married and when his wife died in suspicious circumstances in 1560 all possibility of marriage was gone. Elizabeth banned him from court for secretly marrying in 1576 and he was not allowed to return till 1584.

His step-son – or possibly his son though he never acknowledged it – was Robert, Earl of Essex who would replace Dudley as the queen’s favourite in 1588. It was at Warwick Castle that Dudley arranged a splendid pageant for Elizabeth, referred to by Shakespeare in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Sir Francis Walsingham

Sir Francis Walsingham was Elizabeth I’s spymaster. It was his influence which lead to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots after he uncovered to so-called Babington Plot, which some historians believe was his own invention. It is possible, though not proved, that one of his spies was Christopher Marlowe, the playwright who was killed in a brawl in a Deptford tavern in 1593.

Sir Francis Drake

Drake was the first sailor to circumnavigate the globe in ‘The Golden Hind’ in 1577, though is probably more famous for finishing a game of bowls in the face of the approaching Spanish Armada in 1585. This is almost certainly untrue, but he did devise the plan of sending fire ships to destroy the fleet. he died in Puerto Rico in 1595 and was buried at sea.

Sir Robert Cecil

“A slight, crooked, hump-backed young gentleman, dwarfish in stature, but with a face not irregular in feature, and thoughtful and subtle in expression, with reddish hair, a thin tawny beard, and large, pathetic, greenish-coloured eyes, with a mind and...


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