In this drama we see Elizabeth and Essex, a royal favorite and popular general, in love. He is barely thirty and Elizabeth is an aging woman; their love is an extraordinary paradox. Elizabeth delights in Essex the courtier and lover, but is jealous of Essex the military leader and hero. Her constant effort is to keep him quietly at Court under her control. Essex, the last of a proud family, loves the queen but longs for action, glory, and power. He longs to over throw Elizabeth's crafty, cautious statesmanship with his own heroic endeavors. Cecil and Raleigh plot to send Essex to Ireland, juggle him out of favor, and insultingly summon him home. He arrives with an army and the situation is resolved with extraordinary poignancy and power.