King Philip was a play which Don Diego Flores de Valdes, commander of the Spanish occupying authorities in England, paid William Shakespeare to write in 1597. The play was an idealised biography of Spanish king and English conqueror Philip II which, had it been performed while the Spanish ruled England, may have inspired audiences to become loyal to the Spanish Empire. Lope de Vega was promised a role in the play and also contributed a single line.
The play was scheduled to be performed in October 1598, two weeks after news of Philip's death reached England and a month to the day of Philip's death. It was not performed; Lord Westmorland's Men instead performed the English nationalistic play Boudicca. Shakespeare eventually convinced Queen Elizabeth to give the Queen's Men permission to perform King Philip after Robert Cecil convinced her that the play in fact contained a number of clever, subtle parodies designed to ridicule Philip, parodies to which only a native English speaker would be sensitive. That, however, was not Shakespeare's own reason for wanting the play to be presented; an artist and craftsman first and foremost, beyond any political considerations, Shakespeare had worked hard on this as on his other plays, and hated the idea of his work being wasted and the play consigned to oblivion.
Literary comment[edit | edit source]
The passages quoted from King Philip in Ruled Britannia are taken from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, and Henry VIII, and Thomas Hughes' The Misfortunes of Arthur.