5 Things to Know in connection to The Insatiate Countess
1. The Insatiate Countess is loosely based on the execution of Bianca Maria, Countess of Challant, for adultery in 1526. Italian author Matteo Bandello wrote of the incident in Novelle, 1554 which François Belleforest translated into French in 1565. William Painter used Belleforest's text as the basis for his inclusion of the Bianca Maria story in his collection, The Palace of Pleasure, 1567. Painter's account was Marston's principal source.
2. The first publication of The Insatiate Countess was in 1613 which happens to be the year that King James granted Frances Howard an annulment of her marriage to Robert Devereux, the earl of Essex, so she could marry Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset. Two years later she would stand trial for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, an opponent to her marriage to Carr, who died around the time of Howard's remarriage. Frances and her waiting woman, Anne Turner, were found guilty of poisoning him, though only Anne was executed. How the Overbury scandal impacted the theaters (Jacobean drama had already taken a turn for the licentious) is a matter of scholarly speculation.
3. Part of the ritual of execution in Early Modern England was the penitent speech, which the criminal gave on the scaffold, and which was published as both a deterrent and evidence of state power. As an example, Anne Turner's Tears, recounts Turner's final words.
4. The Children of the Queen's Revel's were the first to perform The Insatiate Countess, which makes sense given that the repertory of the boys companies tended to the more satiric and erotic.
5. John Marston only wrote the initial draft of The Insatiate Countess. William Barksted and Lewis Machin finished the play.