Staging Roman History, Stuart Politics, and the Duke of Buckingham: The Example of The Emperor’s Favourite


  • Siobhan C. Keenan De Montfort University



George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, drama, favourites, roman history, stuart politics,


Recent years have seen growing interest in the literature of early modern favouritism and the poetry inspired by, and for, one of the period’s most infamous royal favourites, George Villers, duke of Buckingham. This essay explores one relevant text that has received comparatively little attention: The Emperor’s Favourite is an anonymous seventeenth-century manuscript tragedy preserved in the library of the Newdigates of Arbury Hall (MS A414). Probably written between 1627-1632?, and based on the playwright’s reading of classical authors such as Juvenal, Suetonius, and Tacitus, The Emperor’s Favourite superficially dramatizes the tragic rise and fall of Crispinus, corrupt favourite of tyrannical Roman Emperor Nero, but a series of contemporary parallels makes it clear that the play offers an oblique critique of the career of Buckingham and the Stuart court, thus tapping into topical anxieties about Buckingham’s influence and the effects of royal favouritism more generally.