Rebellion in Action

An Illustrated Lecture featuring Edward’s Boys


Philotas 1

As far as we know, Samuel Daniel’s The Tragedy of Philotas was only performed once, probably in January 1605. The actors were all choristers in the company known as the Children of the Queen’s Revels. It was niche drama, and the choice of inflammatory subject matter—satire on the state–was surely part of the attraction. And the performance earned Daniel the unwelcome scrutiny of the Privy Council, possibly on account of a perceived resemblance between the play’s protagonist and the Earl of Essex, who had been executed for rebellion and treason in 1601.

Furthermore, Philotas was highly unusual. In some ways it resembled ancient tragedy, with its Nuntius (or Messenger) and its neo-classical Chorus, a group of citizens that could change the mood of the play and invoke and speak for the reaction of the audience. Most strikingly, Daniel’s tragedy was written almost entirely in rhyme. To a sophisticated theatre audience in 1605, which was used to hearing blank verse as the dominant mode, the constant rhyme must have been a surprise, even a challenge to its perception of the characters on stage. 

At the invitation of Globe Education, Professor John Pitcher discusses the controversy with the support of members of Edward’s Boys, who play out scenes that touched the political nerve.

7.30pm Thursday 27th September

In “Shakespeare’s Schoolroom”, King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon

Tickets (free of charge, with a retiring collection) available:

7pm Friday 28th September

In the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe

Tickets available: