The date and circumstances of the play's authorship and performance are unknown, though scholars can draw some inferences from the little factual information available. The first quarto edition of 1653 was published by the actor-turned-bookseller Alexander Gough. Gough had earlier been a member of the King's Men, and had been part of the cast of that company's production of Ford's The Lover's Melancholy in late 1628 or 1629. This suggests that The Queen may also have been acted by the King's Men. Since Ford is thought to have written for the King's Men only early in his career — just two of his earlier plays were acted by the company — The Queen may be another early work.
The play's internal evidence of style and textual preferences points to Ford; it shows, among other particulars, the pattern of unusual contractions (t'ee for "to ye," d'ee for "do ye," y'are for "you are") that typifies Ford's work. Furthermore, "the work's incidence of rhymes and double and triple endings relative to that of Ford's other plays" also favors an early date in Ford's career, which makes sense in terms of the King's Men connection. The assignment of the play to Ford, first made by the German scholar Willy Bang in 1906, is widely accepted.
The quarto features Gough's dedication of the play to Catherine Mohun, the wife of Lord Warwick Mohun, Baron of Okehampton; and three sets of prefatory verses.
One man, however, sees a solution to the problem. The psychologically sophisticated Muretto half-counsels, half-manipulates Alphonso into a more positive disposition toward the Queen. Muretto praises the Queen's beauty to Alphonso, and simultaneously arouses his jealousy by suggesting that she is sexually active outside her marriage. Muretto functions rather like a modern therapist to treat Alphonso's psychological imbalance. The psychological manipulation works, in the sense that Alphonso begins to value the Queen only after he thinks he has lost her to another man.
Yet with two such passionate individuals, the reconciliation cannot come easily. Alphonso condemns the Queen to death; she can be reprieved only if a champion comes forth to defend her honor by meeting the king in single combat. The Queen, however, is determined to bow to her husband's will no matter the price, and demands that all her followers swear they will not step forward in her cause.
The play's secondary plot deals with the love affair of the Queen's general Velasco, the valiant soldier who defeated Alphonso, and the widow Salassa. Velasco has the opposite problem from Alphonso: he idealizes his love for Salassa, terming her "the deity I adore;" he allows her to dominate their relationship. (Velasco's friend and admirer Lodovico has a low opinion of Salassa, calling her a "frail commodity," a "paraquetto," a "wagtail.") Salassa indulges in her power over Velasco by asking him to give up all combat and conflict, or even wearing a sword and defending his reputation, for a period of two years. When he agrees, Velasco finds that he quickly loses his self-respect and the regard of others. He regains those qualities only when he steps forward as the Queen's champion, ready to meet the king on the field of honor.
Before the duel can take place, however, the assembled courtiers protest the proceeding, and Muretto steps forward to explain his role in manipulating Alphonso's mind. Finally, Alphonso is convinced of the Queen's innocence, and repents his past harshness; their rocky relationship reachs a new tolerance and understanding. A humbled Salassa also resolves to give up her vain and selfiish ways to be a fit wife for Velasco.
The play's comic relief is supplied by a group of minor characters — two quarrelling followers of Alphonso, the astrologer Pynto and a bluff captain named Bufo; plus Velasco's servant Mopas and the matchmaker/bawd Madame Shaparoon.
The Velasco/Salassa subplot derives from Novel 13 in the Histoires Tragiques of François de Belleforest.