“A Thousand Times Worse Than Death”: A Thanatography of the Second Earl of Essex

Project Lead:

Hank Dobin, Professor of English


Jeff Knudson, Senior Technology Architect, ITS
Cecelia Weingart ’19
Hannah Palmatary ’18
Ben Gee ’18
Christian von Hassell ’16

Project URL: http://essex.academic.wlu.edu

Project Description:

Robert Devereux, the Second Earl of Essex, lived a short but eventful life as the final favorite of Elizabeth I—ultimately executed in February 1601 for treason. In contrast, his afterlife has been long—although equally eventful and fascinating. In a letter written to the Queen during his house arrest in May 1600, Essex anticipates his painful legacy:

The prating tavern haunter speaks of me as he lists; the frantic libeller writes of me what he lists; already they print me and make me speak to the world, and shortly they will play me in what forms they list upon the stage. The least of these is a thousand times worse than death.

Indeed, Essex has been printed, painted, and performed thousands of times since his death—with varying degrees of censure and sympathy.

This scholarly project tells the story of Essex’s myriad afterlives. If a biography is the story of a life (and Essex has been the subject of at least four biographies and countless histories), then this project attempts to write the thanatography of his continuing legacy and significance post-mortem (after the word “thanatos,” meaning death). For a brief account of Essex’s life, click on Who Was Essex? Or, for an interactive digital tour of his lifetime, you can visit the Essex LifeMap.

Our primary methodology and innovative feature of this project is to develop a digital timeline of those many representations of Essex and their contexts. This Timeline captures, in a dynamic, interactive fashion, the myriad ways in which Essex—and, inevitably, Elizabeth also since their stories are so entangled—have been represented in the more than four centuries since their deaths.

Mellon Summer Research Grant, Summer 2016 (Digital Humanities)

Palmatary, Hannah, and Ben Gee. Tenth Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Palmatary, Hannah, and Ben Gee. Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities, Davidson College, November 6-8, 2015.
Palmatary, Hannah, and Ben Gee. 17th Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference for Undergraduate Scholarship (MARCUS) held at Randolph College, in Lynchburgh, Virginia, on October 10, 2015.

Methodology: Mapplication and Timeline