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Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays$

Lawrence Manley and Sally-Beth MacLean

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300191998

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300191998.001.0001

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The Archive

The Archive

Sources and Genres in the Repertory

(p.157) 5 The Archive
Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays

Lawrence Manley

Sally-Beth MacLean

Yale University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter characterizes some of the archival dimensions of the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men—its selection of subjects, materials, and genres—as represented by its plays. In its discussion of the company’s archive, the chapter argues that the plays of Lord Strange’s Men linked the stage closely to the modern world and to fashionable modes of writing associated with the contemporary Renaissance.

Keywords:   repertory, Lord Strange Men, plays, writing, Renaissance

In her study of Latin American performance, Diana Taylor explains that cultures generate, store, and transmit knowledge by means of an “archive” of enduring material artifacts (such as buildings, objects, texts, and other documents) and by means of a “repertoire” of actions and practices involving live participation (such as spoken language, dance, sports, rituals, and other modes of performance). Taylor’s interest lies primarily in modes of participatory performance that operate at some remove from archival forms of knowledge, but she recognizes that the “archive” and the “repertoire” interpenetrate across a spectrum of cultural phenomena, from language (which combines live speech with written record) to law and religion (where written texts and corporeal enactment often work in combination). Two of Taylor’s further observations are especially pertinent to the study of Elizabethan acting companies: (1) the relationship between an archive and a repertoire cannot, generally speaking, be characterized as either sequential or hegemonic (i.e., it is misleading to rank either of these two phenomena as primary or secondary to the other); (2) archives and repertoires are culturally significant because both are shaped (and constantly reshaped over time) by the values, interests, and beliefs of a given society.1

Theatrical performance is clearly a phenomenon where archive and repertoire operate in variable combinations, ranging from dramatic literature (such as the plays of Seneca), in which performance is almost purely notional and transmission is primarily textual, to improvisational performances (such as commedia dell’arte), where live transmission plays a much stronger role than textual transmission. Elizabethan theater was enriched and complicated by the changing ways in which it combined an archive of documents and inherited textual materials with a repertoire of bodily transmitted performance practices. (p.158) As Evelyn Tribble observes while quoting T. Fitzpatrick on commedia dell’arte, every performance was “a highly distributed act ‘in which oral and literate processes happily cohabited and complemented each other.’ ”2 Documenting the repertoire of skills, techniques, and styles practiced by Elizabethan performers must necessarily depend upon an archive that survives exclusively in the realm of textuality (as printed and manuscript playbooks as well as other documents and written records of performance). But using the archive to reconstruct the repertoire is not simply a methodological necessity; it is rooted in assumptions about Elizabethan theater as a medium both textual and performative.

Theater’s combination of archival and behavioral traits helps explain the way the repertorial system of Elizabethan acting companies actually worked. While all acting companies shared both the immense cultural archive and repertoire (the texts and behaviors) belonging to all Elizabethans as well as an archive and repertoire (of plays and performances) specific to the theater profession, each individual company’s work must have formed a characteristic selection and inflection of elements drawn from all of these, a “cognitive ecology,” in Tribble’s terms.3 Rotating in daily performance, a successful company’s repertory, created by playwrights from their knowledge of Elizabethan culture and then enacted, became in turn a distinctive component within that culture, a discernible “company style” consisting of characteristic subjects, stories, genres, themes, and modes of verbal and enacted expression. One of the meanings of “Lord Strange’s Men,” in other words, would have been rooted in the theatergoing public’s recognition of the selection that formed the company’s distinctive archive and repertoire. To be sure, the performance skills and practices developed by individual acting companies were selected and adapted from the techniques common to the acting profession generally. Nevertheless Lord Strange’s Men would have mobilized in distinctive ways both the extratheatrical repertoire of Elizabethan spoken language, comportment, ceremony, and ritual and the common artisanal practices that the veterans of the company, previously members of Leicester’s, the Queen’s, and the Lord Admiral’s Men, brought with them to their new enterprise or borrowed from what they saw other companies doing. But the company’s distinctive performance styles would also have been profoundly influenced by the genres, sources, and styles of the plays in its archive.

In this chapter we attempt to characterize some of the archival dimensions of the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men—its selection of subjects, materials, and genres—as represented by its plays. We argue that the company’s identity was formed in part by its interest in “modern matter,” by which we mean both its preference for dramatizing recent geopolitical events and its evident interest in (p.159) performing genres with a strong classical or Italianate pedigree, including Senecan revenge, novella intrigue, and what Henslowe (or the company) called “gelyous comodey.” These interests were not, of course, entirely unique to the company—if they were, the company’s work would have been unintelligible—but Lord Strange’s Men were innovators who fastened upon key subjects and interests at a decisive moment in Elizabethan stage history. Our discussion of the company’s archive inevitably shades into a discussion of the ways the company’s performance techniques were integrated with their choice of materials. Those techniques are discussed in chapter 6. It is impossible to say unequivocally whether the company’s authors and playbooks (ultimately the company’s choice of materials) produced their theatrical practices or whether their practices and skills helped to produce the kinds of writing represented in their plays. The reciprocal connection is what creates the “company style.”


In many respects Lord Strange’s Men continued the older “artisanal” model of popular theater. To begin with, sixteen of the titles mentioned in Henslowe’s diary belong to plays now lost. Though the impact of some of them, such as “tambercame” and “tittus & vespacia,” is visible in allusions that survive in extant works, these lost plays were apparently never published, and so their authors remain just as anonymous as their artisanal forebears in the popular performance tradition. Moreover several of the company’s extant plays—The Booke of Sir Thomas More, John of Bordeaux, and John a Kent and John a Cumber (if this last belonged to Strange’s Men)—survive only as unpublished play house documents, and all of them bear the signs of the collaborative work and practical adaptation that went with artisanal theater. Even 1 Henry VI, for that matter, remained an unpublished play house document until 1623, and it too bears signs of collaboration. Anonymity was also a feature of several company plays that did receive early publication. A Knack to Knowe a Knave (1594), attributed to “ED. ALLEN and his Companie,” remains to this day a company play without an author. The Spanish Tragedy (1592), Orlando Furioso (1594), The Battle of Alcazar (1594), and Titus Andronicus (1594), now recognized as a collaboration, all appeared in early editions without authorial attribution. If there was ever an edition of The Jew of Malta earlier than 1633, it too might have lacked an indication of authorship; no author, at any rate, is mentioned in the 1594 entry of the play in the Stationers’ Register. Of the more than thirty titles with possible connections to Lord Strange’s Men, only two were published, before the First Folio, in a form that attributed them to particular authors: A Looking Glasse for (p.160) London and England. Made By Thomas Lodge Gentleman, and Robert Greene and the undated The Massacre at Paris … Written by Christopher Marlow. A useful corrective against drawing too firm a line between artisanship and authorship, or between the Queen’s Men and the upstart company of Lord Strange, is the fact that, compared with the plays of Lord Strange’s Men, a higher percentage of possible Queen’s Men’s plays appeared with authorial attributions on their title pages.

Lack of publication or authorial attribution is not, however, a sign of the company’s retrograde status; to a large extent it merely indicates that the nascent field of playbook publication was not yet focused on the authorship of plays and that much playwriting was almost by definition collaborative.4 Nevertheless it is evident from the longer-term life of several of the plays of Lord Strange’s Men—from their longevity in both print and performance as they passed to later companies—that the company played a crucial transitional role in terms of their selection of plays and players with “star” quality and in terms of their flair for grasping current interests and new literary fashions. Many of the plays that passed through the company’s hands, perhaps as a result of repeated London performances, developed a “canonical” status, both on the London stage and in print. The durability and influence of their repertory seems to have gone hand in hand with its having been written by a new generation of highly educated and exceptionally talented playwrights. Associated with Lord Strange or with Lord Strange’s Men and their plays are the names of nearly all the major playwrights of the time: Robert Greene, George Peele, Thomas Kyd, Thomas Lodge, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, Anthony Munday, Thomas Nashe, and Henry Chettle, whose hand appears in the manuscripts of John of Bordeaux and Sir Thomas More. Among the leading playwrights of the time, John Lyly may be the only one whose work does not appear to have been linked to the company.

With the possible exception of Shakespeare, the connection of these individuals to the theater was not primarily through their work as performers, as it had been for Richard Tarlton or Robert Wilson, who also served as playwrights for the Queen’s Men. They were professional authors whose independent status as gentleman poets, intellectuals, and independent authors in various nontheatrical genres was supported only in part by their commissions to supply acting companies with fresh material. The difference between them and their artisanal forbears and colleagues is the issue—and Shakespeare is caught in the issue—in Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit (1592).5 Lord Strange’s Men were not unique in acquiring scripts from this new generation of writers. The company followed close upon the lead and in some cases secured the plays of their immediate (p.161) predecessors and rivals, including the Queen’s Men, some of whose plays were also authored by Greene and Peele, as well as by “industrious Kyd.”6 Nevertheless by comparison with what is known of previous companies, including the Queen’s, Leicester’s, and the contemporary Lord Admiral’s Men, the cadre of authors represented in the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men, including the names of Marlowe and Shakespeare, was exceptionally deep, indeed nearly comprehensive, in the newer kinds of professional writing moving onto the London stage in the early 1590s.

The talent of the company’s actors and the quality of its plays and writers were no doubt mutually supporting. “Dramatists as well as actors, company managers, theatre owners and other personnel,” Grace Ioppolo has observed, “lived in a highly interrelated theatrical business world.”7 There was much theatrical experience among the former Leicester’s Men in Lord Strange’s company, but the roles of Edward Alleyn and Philip Henslowe as theatrical managers were no doubt essential to the company’s acquisition of its repertory. Evidence suggests that Strange’s Men may have been at the Rose even before their partnership with Alleyn, perhaps as early as 1590, and their obvious resistance to touring was likely connected to Henslowe’s concerted effort to build his business on the Bankside. Henslowe did not begin keeping records of his extensive dealings with playwrights until 1597. One possible inference, according to Ioppolo, is that before that date “Henslowe was earning income from the performance of plays …, not from contracting dramatists to write those plays.”8 But it is evident from Henslowe’s later ownership of plays performed by Strange’s Men that he may at least have helped the company finance its acquisition of plays and, in doing so, have developed a knack for acquiring successful theatrical properties. Alleyn too may have played a role in securing plays, beginning with his play purchases from Richard Jones in 1589–90. His later sale of “the massaker of france” to Henslowe9 indicates that he may have owned, and thus been the one to acquire, some of the plays of Lord Strange’s Men.

Henslowe’s records of his dealings with playwrights on commission from 1597 show them working in something like a partnership with the playing company. “Dramatists,” as Ioppolo says, “did not simply hand over a completed manuscript, and their authority, at the play house door and disappear.”10 They collaborated with the company in plotting, casting, and rehearsing the play.11 Actors themselves sometimes urged Henslowe to finance especially promising works proposed by authors, and they frequently served as witnesses to Henslowe’s dealings with them. Some of the regular playwrights in Henslowe’s post-1597 stable, such as Munday, Chettle, and Robert Wilson, may have established their links to Henslowe during the period when Strange’s Men were at the Rose. (p.162) Though there is no evidence in the records that Thomas Lodge was writing for Henslowe after 1597, Henslowe intervened on his behalf circa 1597–98 in a suit for indebtedness, perhaps through a connection that went back to Lodge’s work with Strange’s Men and his enjoyment of Stanley patronage.12

But while players themselves and the management of Henslowe may have shaped the working environment of playwrights, the high profile of “literary” authorship in the company’s repertory may also have been owing to the long Stanley tradition of theatrical patronage and to the reputation of Lord and Lady Strange as exceptional literary connoisseurs and patrons.13 Few theatrical patrons can be connected through acquaintance or patronage to so many of the playwrights and leading authors of their time. In fact nearly every one of the above-mentioned authors could claim some personal or patronage connection to Lord Strange. For example, in January 1592/93, when Marlowe was arrested on suspicion of counterfeiting in the Netherlands, he reported to Sir Robert Sidney that he was “very wel known both to the Earle of Northumberland and my Lord Strang.”14 Possible support for this claim is found in a letter from Thomas Kyd to the Lord Keeper Sir Thomas Puckering at some time after the death of Marlowe and following his own release from custody after questioning (and possibly torture) in connection with the so-called Dutch Church libel and the papers that were subsequently found in the lodgings he shared with Marlowe. Kyd explained, “My first acquaintance with this Marlowe, rose vpon his bearing name to serve my Lord although his Lordship never knewe his service, but in writing for his plaiers, ffor never cold my Lordship endure his name, or sight, when he had heard of his conditions, nor wold indeed the forme of devyne praiers vsed duelie in his Lordships house, haue quadred with such reprobates.” As for his own connection to this patron, Kyd added that he hoped, despite his recent troubles, to “reteyne the favours of my Lord, whom I haue servd almost theis vj yeres nowe.”15 The candidate who, when Kyd was writing in late 1593, best fits a profile involving seven years’ service, a playing company, and the patronage of Marlowe is Lord Strange.16 Marlowe’s explicit claim to have been “very wel known to … Lord Strang”17 adds weight to this possibility. If, as Dennis Flynn has suggested, the “Mr John Donnes” or “Mr Jhon Downes” who was among the “noble men Knightes and Esquires and Gentlemene geving their Attendance” on Henry Stanley during his 1585 embassy to invest Henri III in the Order of the Garter was actually the young Jack Donne, then he too may have been among the intellectuals patronized by the family.18

Less subject to speculation are published acknowledgments and bids for patronage explicitly addressed to Lord Strange and his family. Lodge, in a work dedicated to William Stanley, who succeeded Ferdinando as 6th Earl of Derby (p.163)

The ArchiveSources and Genres in the Repertory

The Stanley arms, published in Luis de Granada, Of Prayer and Meditation (1592). Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library.

in 1594, explained that “your noble father [i.e., Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby] in mine infancie, with his owne hands incorporated me into your house.”19 If, as seems likely, Lodge was the translator of the first “Protestant” edition of Luis de Granada’s Of Prayer and Meditation (1592)—he was definitely the translator of The Flowers of Lodowick of Granada (1601)—then it was also he who included a copy of the Stanley arms and a fulsome tribute to “his especiall good Lord … and Ladie Strange” with the Prayers volume, a work that had been “so long since of me made promise at Channon-rowe,” the Stanley residence in Westminster.20 Robert Greene, who had dedicated The Mirror of Modestie (1584) to Ferdinando’s mother, the Countess of Derby, lauded Lord Strange as “so honorable a Maecenas” in the dedication to Ciceronis Amor (1589).21 Anthony Munday, who may have written John a Kent and John a Cumber and Sir Thomas More for Lord Strange’s Men, labeled Ferdinando “the true heir and successor in your fathers nobleness and vertues,” and he dedicated his Defence of Contraries (1593) to the new earl with his “humble affection” and the offer of his (p.164)
The ArchiveSources and Genres in the Repertory

Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange and (1593–94) 5th Earl of Derby, in the year of his death, 1594. Courtesy of the owner.

“very vttermost habilitie to your Honors service.”22 In his Polyhymnia (1589), Peele celebrated “The Earle of Darbies valiant sonne and heire, / Brave Ferdinande Lord Straunge” for his role in the Accession Day Tilt of 1589, and in lavishing description on “Stanleyes olde Crest and honourable badge … Joves kinglie byrd, the golden Ea gle,” he evoked the myth, deriving from the old Stanley sagas, that the family line had descended through the foundling Oskell discovered in an eagle’s nest.23 In Pierce Penilesse, Nashe, we have seen, showed himself “thankfull (in some part) for benefits receiued” from Lord Strange, paying tribute to Edward Alleyn, to the Talbot play of Strange’s Men, and to the company’s patron, “the matchlesse image of Honor, and magnificent rewarder of virtue, Ioues Eagle-borne Ganimed, thrice-noble Amintas.” Quoting from Ovid’s Heroides, Nashe extolled Lord Strange as decus atque æui gloria summa tui—the ornament and chief glory of his time.24 Nashe dwelt at some length on Edmund Spenser’s failure to include Lord Strange among the eleven nobles to whom he wrote dedicatory sonnets in the 1590 Faerie Queene. Spenser had, of course, by the time of Pierce Penilesse praised his supposed kinswoman, “the Ladie Straunge,” formerly Alice Spencer of Althorpe, for her “noble match with that most honourable Lord the verie Paterne of right Nobilitie.” In Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (1595), Spenser lamented the passing Ferdinando Stanley under the same pastoral name used by Nashe, Amyntas.25

(p.165) Spenser’s tribute is a reminder that if Ferdinando Stanley’s patronage of leading writers was modeled on that of his mentor, the Earl of Leicester, it was also rooted in his personal reputation as an intellectual who, in addition to “maintaining” those who piped, could pipe himself with “passing [i.e., surpassing] skill.”26 John Bodenham’s Bel-vedere, or The Garden of the Muses (1600) includes “Ferdinando, Earl of Derby” among the “noble personages” (the Earl of Oxford, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir John Harington, Sir Edward Dyer, and Fulke Greville, among others) whose poems were printed in the volume.27 In the posthumous tribute in William Covell’s Polimanteia (1595), the poetic achievement of this “neuer enough lamented” lord was reason for linking his name with Sir Philip Sidney’s.28 George Chapman linked “that most ingenious Darbie” with “deepe searching Northumberland, and skill-imbracing heire of Hunsdon [George Carey],” describing all three as young noblemen who “most profitably entertained learning in themselues.” Like Nashe, Chapman drew upon the Stanley eagle-and-child emblem in order to declare, “He is the Ganemede, the birde of Ioue, / Rapt to his soueraignes bosome for his loue.”29

It is probably crucial to Lord Strange’s roles as patron and intellectual, and to his acting company’s work with plays from a new generation of writers, that compared with other leading theater patrons of the period—Henry Carey (b. 1526), Robert Dudley (b. 1532), Henry Radcliffe (b. 1533), Charles Howard (b. 1532), and Henry Herbert (b. 1538)—he was a full generation younger (b. circa 1559, matriculated St. John’s, Oxford 1572) and thus a close contemporary to the company’s playwrights: Peele (b. 1556, matriculated Broadgates Hall, Oxford 1571), Lodge (b. 1558, matriculated Trinity, Oxford 1574), Greene (b. 1558, matriculated St. John’s, Cambridge 1577), Marlowe (b. 1564, matriculated Corpus Christi, Cambridge 1580), Nashe (b. 1567, matriculated St. John’s, Cambridge 1582), Kyd (b. 1558), Munday (b. 1560), Chettle (b. circa 1561–63), and Shakespeare (b. 1564). Much has been made of this “Elizabethan younger generation” and the paradoxical relationship between its extraordinary intellectual qualifications and its marginalized relationship to the dominant but aging Elizabethan establishment.30 As a member of the peerage and the son of a privy councillor and Lord High Steward, Ferdinando Stanley experienced nothing like the marginality of the university wits and professional playwrights, whose estateless condition forced them into the commercial worlds of popular print and performance. But as a talented and ambitious nobleman without portfolio, a suspected Catholic whose potential claim to the throne kept him under close surveillance and out of power, and a well-educated intellectual whose apparent tolerance of heterodox opinion caused his name to be linked with those of the “wizard Earl” of Northumberland and Sir Walter Raleigh, Ferdinando Stanley (p.166) was a patron well-matched to the generational experience, ambition, and outlook of the most innovative of late Elizabethan play wright s. While Lord Strange’s company took much in personnel and practices, as well as plays and intellectual cues, from companies sponsored by the queen, the Earl of Leicester, and the Lord Admiral, and while they probably owed much of their success to Henslowe’s help with financing plays and managing collaborations, both players and their playwrights found in Lord Strange precisely the sort of patron under whom a theater given to experiment, daring, and expanded intellectual horizons might flourish.

“Modern Matter”: Geopolitics and Contemporary Writing

In keeping with the intellectual profile of the company’s patron and its leading authors, the plays of Lord Strange’s Men linked the stage closely to the modern world and to fashionable modes of writing associated with the contemporary Renaissance. The archive, in other words, was “bookish,” drawing, most importantly, on the humanistic revival of classical learning and on writing from and about the contemporary world. Perhaps most striking in this archive, by way of contrast with the repertory of the Queen’s Men, is direct embrace of current geopolitics. Some of the plays in Strange’s repertory that feature this distinctively “modern” geopolitical orientation, such as The Battle of Alcazar and The Spanish Tragedy, might possibly have originated with the slightly earlier Lord Admiral’s Men. But our first documentable knowledge of these plays of modern times is through their appearance in Strange’s repertory, alongside other works of a similarly contemporary character, like The Jew of Malta and The Massacre at Paris. Strange’s Men may have had a line of plays engaging with Saxon history, particularly if, in addition to A Knack to Know a Knave and Fair Em the Millers Daughter, Edmond Ironside was among their plays. But the surviving plays of the Queen’s Men dealt almost exclusively with ancient and medieval English history (The True Chronicle History of King Leir, The Troublesome Reign of King John, The True Tragedy of Richard III) and historical romance (Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay), English folklore (The Old Wives’ Tale), or English satire and homiletics (The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London). By contrast, the archive for many of the plays of Lord Strange’s Men was a selection of news and history devoted to recent world affairs.31

The Battle of Alcazar, for example, translates to the stage a “complex, globally oriented history”32 widely documented in contemporary chronicles: the 1578 victory of Abd el-Malek and the still-reigning Moroccan prince Mulay al-Mansur (p.167) (d. 1603) over the combined forces of the usurping Mulay Mahamet and the Portuguese King Sebastian at El-Ksar Kbir. Peele’s main source was the translation, by way of Latin, from the 1578 Spanish original of Luis Nieto, in John Polemon’s Second part of the booke of Battailes, fought in our age (1587). But the events at El-Ksar Kbir were widely documented, almost from the moment of their unfolding, in the contemporary English press.33 The contemporaneousness of the printed material, in this case, provides a good illustration of the interaction between the archive and the repertoire of embodied knowledge and practice engaged by the theater, because the recently chronicled events at El-Ksar Kbir were continuing to impact English affairs even as The Battle of Alcazar was being performed.34

As “a picture of the tangled web of Realpolitik” involving Portugal, Spain, England, Morocco, the Turkish Empire, England, Italy, Ireland, and the papacy, The Battle of Alcazar was “the only play in the whole Elizabethan repertoire to

The ArchiveSources and Genres in the Repertory

The battle of El-Ksar Kbir, from Portugalesische Schlacht und gewisse Zeittung (Nuremburg, 1579). Courtesy of Bayerische Staatsbibliotek.

(p.168) portray the Christian-Islamic conflict in North Africa with historical accuracy.”35 Whether the play originated with Edward Alleyn and the earlier Lord Admiral’s Men or with Lord Strange’s Men themselves, who were likely playing in London from the spring of 1589, The Battle of Alcazar was drawn from events so near to the present that the meaning of what the play took from print was being inflected by ongoing events. The play would thus have resonated not only with the recent press but with other kinds of cultural performances, such as Peele’s Device of the Pageant borne before Woolstone Dixi (1585), a London mayoral show dating from the year the Barbary Company was incorporated and prominently featuring a Moor riding upon a lynx, or the colorful reception of the Moroccan ambassador Marzuq Raiz in January 1588/89, when he was greeted “with the chiefest marchants of the Barbary Company, well commanded all on horse back” and driven “in Coche” into London, where he delivered Morocco’s promise of support to the Norris–Drake expedition.36 When The Battle of Alcazar was being performed at the Rose in 1592–93, a few years after the Portuguese expedition had returned in failure, the play would have acquired further contemporary resonances.37 So closely tied was the play to the unfolding geopolitical situation of the last quarter of the sixteenth century that its subsequent revival by the Lord Admiral’s Men at the Fortune circa 1600 was probably in turn inspired by the arrival in London of Abd el-Ouahed, the most recent ambassador from Mulay al-Mansur, the still-surviving victor at El-Ksar Kbir.

Though at a somewhat greater distance, the implications of the Portuguese tragedies at El-Ksar Kbir (1578), Alcantara (1580), and the Azores (1582–83) also formed a geopolitical frame of reference for The Spanish Tragedy, a companion to Peele’s play in the repertory. Although Kyd’s play is not in any sense a direct representation of contemporary events, Spain’s military defeat of Portugal in the play and the arrangement of a marriage and succession resulting in a “post-Portuguese Spanish imperium” where “Spaine is Portugall / And Portugall is Spaine” (TLN 542–43) amount to a strong evocation of the contemporary world shaped by Spain’s annexation of the Portuguese kingdom. (It would not have been lost on English audiences that the Armada of 1588 was largely a Portuguese navy.)38

Also part of Kyd’s play world and of the timely archive of Lord Strange’s Men is the role of the Ottoman Turks in shaping the sixteenth-century Mediterranean. The play-within-the-play, a compressed version of the tragedy of Solyman and Perseda (1592), is set during the Turkish siege of Rhodes (1522), an event within sufficiently recent memory for Hieronimo to have used an account of it as the basis for the play he drafted during his studious youth in Toledo. (p.169) Hieronimo’s use of such timely material not only models Kyd’s own similar use of works like Sebastian Münster’s Comosgraphie Universelle (1575) for The Spanish Tragedy and Solyman and Perseda; it also models the learned use of source material pertaining to the Turkish Empire elsewhere in the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men, in the account of recent Turkish support for Abdelmelec against Muly Mahamet in The Battle of Alcazar, for example, and in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, which, with considerable license, represents the 1565 Turkish siege of Malta. But the action of The Jew of Malta is placed “within a very specific strategic context that has less to do with … the siege of Malta in 1565 than with the English promotion of Eastern trade between 1589 and 1592”; that maneuvering included the merging of the Venice and Turkey companies into the new Levant company in January 1591/92, just a month before Lord Strange’s Men are recorded at Henslowe’s Rose.39 Crucial to contemporary events in the Mediterranean were developing connections between merchant venturing, information gathering, and espionage like those embodied in Marlowe’s Jewish intriguer, Barabas. Marlowe may have modeled Barabas on contemporary figures like Joseph Mendez-Nassi (João Micques), a Marrano diplomat and advisor to Selim II who became Duke of Naxos after engineering the capture of Cyprus by the Turks in 1570, or David Passi, the double-and triple-agent in Constantinople, who appears prominently in English state papers of 1585–91.40 The Jew of Malta introduced the Rose audience, in other words, to a contemporary world of transnational connections based on the circulation of money and secret information.41

Marlowe’s connection with the Elizabethan intelligence service perhaps accounts for the fact that his contribution to the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men appears to draw not just on contemporary publications but on knowledge too recent or too sequestered to have been printed. The Massacre at Paris draws from recent pro-League pamphlets such as Charles Pinselet’s Martire des deux frères (1589) in order to bring the play’s events very nearly up to the present, with the assassinations of the Guise (1587) and Henri III (1589) and with the accession of the reigning king, Henri of Navarre, on behalf of whom the Earl of Essex led an unsuccessful expedition to besiege Rouen in August 1591–January 1591/92.42 In the English Agent who attends upon Henri III in time to hear the dying king’s words, Marlowe indicates a source of intelligence so fresh that, apart from The Massacre itself, it was not reported in print until 1655.43

Perhaps influenced by the cosmopolitan experience of its writers and players,44 the sequence of plays mounted at the Rose over four days on 27–31 May 1592, hints at the cumulative effects that could be achieved by combining several of the company’s best-known “modern” plays in repertory:


Receued at Ieronymo the 27 of maye 1592

xxiij s.

Receued at matchevell the 29 of maye 1592

xxvj s.

Receued at the Iewe of malta the 30 of maye 1592

xxxiij s.

Receued at mvlemvloco the 31 of maye 1592

xxiiij s.45

The modern flavor of this repertory shaped the company’s performance practices as well. While prologues and presenters were common practice, several of those in the repertory of Strange’s Men mediated the action through commentary and report, calling explicit attention to the contemporaneity and veracity of the events represented on stage. Peele, for example, taking a hint from the claim in Polemon’s Second part of the booke of Battailes, fought in our age (1587) that its version of “The Battaile of Alcazar” (Peele’s main source) was “taken out of a nameless Portugall auctor” (sig. R3), framed his play with a Presenter (identified as “a Portingall” in the later Lord Admiral’s Men’s plot)46 who stands in for the eyewitness author-participant Luis Nieto, author of the account translated in Polemon:

  • Saie not these things are faind, for true they are,
  • Sit you and see this true and tragicke warre,
  • A modern matter full of bloud and ruth,
  • Where three bolde kings confounded in their height,
  • Fall to the earth contending for a crowne,
  • And call this warre The battell of Alcazar.

(TLN 44, 62–66)

In The Jew of Malta the modernity of the story and its implications are similarly introduced to the audience by another modern author-figure, in this case the Machiavel. What ever its subject, the lost “matchavell” play of Lord Strange’s Men was performed the day before The Jew of Malta on two of the three occasions when it was recorded in Henslowe’s diary. (A third performance preceded the premiere of “harey the vj,” which also alludes to “notorious Machiauile”; TLN 2714.) In Marlowe’s prologue, the figure of “Machevil,” responding to contemporary claims that England had thus far been spared translations of Machiavelli,47 introduces a capsule summary of his shockingly amoral philosophy to the Rose audience: “I count Religion but a childish Toy / And hold there is no sinne but Ignorance” (sig. B).

These contemporary presenters are matched in The Massacre at Paris by the mysterious figure of the English Agent, introduced in the play’s final scene as a surrogate for the author and his clandestine sources, and delegated by the dying (p.171) Henri III to bear his message to England. The news borne by the Agent was in this case swiftly overtaken by events, since by 30 January 1592/93 the audience had experienced the failure of the 1591 expedition to Dieppe in behalf of Henri I V, and it knew also about extensive losses among English forces sent to Henri’s aid. (By late 1592 only six hundred of the approximately eight thousand troops sent in the previous eighteen months remained in fighting trim.) Some in the audience might have heard about the widely rumored negotiations between Henri of Navarre and his League opponents and thus about the waning prospects of the Protestant cause in France. When the play opened in January 1592/93, a new wave of reinforcements was in preparation, but if the play continued to be played outside of London during the company tour of 1593, then the meaning of the play would have been changed again by the hard winter experienced by the Brittany expedition, and yet again after July 1593, when Henri abandoned his support of the Protestant cause and declared, “Paris vaut bien une messe.”48

The theatrical aesthetic adopted by Lord Strange’s Men thus involved the staging of events so closely connected with current affairs that their meaning could quickly change in response to new information and ongoing developments. This is a mode of “framing” quite different from that practiced by the more traditional Queen’s Men, whose literalist technique used framing to supply “a surplus of narrative explanation” and moral commentary.49 The presenters, narrators, and surrogate authors in the plays of Lord Strange’s Men certainly narrate, interpret, and otherwise mediate to the audience in traditional fashion; but their function, as with Hieronimo’s baffling title boards, playbook, prologue, and epilogue, is not so much to explain as (in a manner almost opposite to explaining) to situate the contemporary audience themselves within the frame of the play and to implicate them in the complexities of their own contemporary world as it unfolds on stage.50

Created by intellectuals, this was an educated theater for an informed London audience. Written under the influence of humanist learning, it gave prominent attention to the place of intellectuals and intellectual heroism in worlds shaped by political intrigue, warfare, and the power of money. To be met with among the intellectuals in the repertory of Strange’s Men were not just the “portingall” Presenter who stands in for the contemporary “Portugall auctor” of The Battle of Alcazar or the provocative Machiavel who introduces The Jew of Malta but (in The Massacre at Paris) figures like Peter Ramus, Omer Talon, Philippe du Plessis-Mornay, Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas, and (if the manuscript play on Sir Thomas More was first prepared for Lord Strange’s Men) More, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and probably Erasmus. (The sheets in the original manuscript corresponding to the (p.172) later version of the Erasmus scene do not survive.) To turn to plays with more distant settings, the hero of “mandevell” was probably a courtly adventurer along the lines of the one in William Warner’s Albion’s England, but he was also known to Elizabethans as a widely-traveled ethnographer of Eastern peoples and religions. The ancient author Flavius Josephus, if the plays by Thomas Legge and William Heminges are any guide, might have featured as a key participant in the lost “tittus & vespacia.” In the category of ancient authorities brought to life on stage were the prophet Osea, revived in A Looking Glass for London and England in order to preach to the London theater audience, and Jonah, a tortured prophet whose Job-like suffering gives him every reason to ask what it profits a man to speak in behalf of the Lord. The heroine of the lost “poope Ione” was held “in admiration for her learning,”51 as was Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who featured in 1 Henry VI. So too was the heroine of the lost “senobia,” famous for the “wysedom and policy” she “attayned by the study of noble philosophye.”52 Among the magian heroes in the company repertory were the learned St. Dunstan of A Knack to Know a Knave and Friar Bacon of John of Bordeaux, whose citation of the Almagest’s “Sapiens dominabitur astris” supports the hero’s praise of scholars: “men of art to you belonges / the prayes that vertue guides and pittie waightes vpon” (TLN 773–74).

To sum up, this was a repertory based in an archive of learned books and current knowledge, and one of its purposes was to mediate the excitement to be found in books, “men of art,” and “modern matter.”

“The Exorbitant Wickedness of Power”: Senecanism

Marked by the presence of these bookish figures, the repertory was deeply and extensively indebted to ancient and modern literatures and to classical rhetorical training. Orlando Furioso, for example, not only put on stage material derived from Ariosto at the very moment his fashionable poem was being published for the first time in English translation by Sir John Harington; it also included passages of Italian (roughly paraphrased) from Ariosto’s original Italian as well as Latin from Mantuan’s Eclogues, Cicero, and Prudentius. Orlando Furioso wears its learning less subtly than other plays in the repertory, but the play’s cleverness in combining a modern slander plot with romance epic, Herculean madness, and pastoral and lyric interludes gives it something like the witty delicacy of a boys’ play.

Among the more important strands in the company repertory were those drawn from the literate traditions of Senecan tragedy and from the Italian novella, (p.173) with its narratives of intrigue and jealous passion. These two strands of influence, sometimes braided together in the company’s plays, supported a new theatrical “genrism,” marked by the emergence of modern equivalents to the classical genres of tragedy and comedy and by conscious experimentation with their interoperable structures. This innovation, distinguishing the repertory from the medleys, moral plays, and chivalric romances of the Queen’s Men, cannot be attributed to Lord Strange’s Men exclusively, but it is in their work that we find a uniquely complete and coherent picture of tragic and comic genres emerging on the popular stage from the archives of Senecan excess and novella intrigues.

Ben Jonson’s reference in Bartholomew Fair (1614) to tastes that hold “Jeronimo, or Andronicus are the best plays” points to the foundational significance of this pair of plays and to the importance of their Senecan manner for the Elizabethan popular theater.53 Both linked with Lord Strange’s Men, both possibly originated by them, these generation-defining plays brought to the popular stage a model of tragedy influenced by ancient example and previously associated primarily with elite venues like the universities and Inns of Court. At the broadest level, where the revenge structure of Senecan tragedy overlapped with Christian notions of divine retribution and moral justice, it provided for a stronger narrative line in dramatic writing, a unified action with compelling intrinsic interest, a tale that tells itself in the suspenseful unfolding. Revenge supplies narrative coherence not just to The Spanish Tragedy and Titus Andronicus but to Abdelmelec’s victory over Muly Mahamet in The Battle of Alcazar; it drives the intrigues of Barabas in The Jew of Malta, and in The Massacre at Paris it enables Marlowe to connect the 1572 massacre to the horrid revenges against the Duc du Guise and his brother and to the Guise’s dying call for further revenge on Henri III that will, by play’s end, engulf all of Europe:

  • Ah Sextus, be reueng’d vpon the King.
  • Philip and Parma, I am slaine for you:
  • Pope excommunicate, Philip depose,
  • The wicked branch of curst Valois his line.

(TLN 1240–43)

The lost “tittus & vespacia” was almost certainly concerned with what the Middle Ages knew as the ultimate “vengeance of our Lord” against the Jews. It may also have contained (along with The Battle of Alcazar and Titus Andronicus) a Thyestean feast modeled on Seneca (see chapter 4).

While no play of the period can be called strictly or purely Senecan—it was the norm for modern English tragedies, Fulke Greville said, to “point out God’s (p.174)

The ArchiveSources and Genres in the Repertory

The assassination of the Duc du Guise, from Charles Pinselet, Le Martire des deux frères (1589). Courtesy of Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.

revenging aspect upon every particular sin”54—it is also a mistake to see in the revenge tragedies of Lord Strange’s Men only an inherent conservatism, a mere adaptation of Seneca’s “bleak moralism” to Christian didacticism,55 or a visceral recoil from Tamburlanian excess to more “conventional ideas” of sin and punishment.56 In addition to supporting intrinsically compelling narrative structures, new aspects of verbal style, and spectacular devices like the soliciting ghost, Senecanism also supplied, through its very resemblances to Christian thinking, the potential for collision between divine and personal justice. As a corollary of such collisions, it could also underwrite the “particular style of selfhood” that Gordon Braden has described as “the self’s search for a radical, unpredicated independence.”57

(p.175) In contrast to modern tragedy’s providential concern with “God’s revenging aspect,” ancient tragedy, Greville claimed, exemplified “the dangerous miseries of man’s life, where order, laws, doctrine, and authority are unable to protect innocency from the exorbitant wickedness of power.”58 In his account of Renaissance tragedy and the Senecan tradition, Braden has located in the Stoic response to this “exorbitant wickedness of power” (or to political impotence under tyranny) the basis for cultivating a privilegium, an alienated inner world and private cause. The counterpart of this alienated inner world in the realm of Senecan tragedy is the vengeful anger “which bursts upon and desolates an unexpecting and largely uncomprehending world” and enacts “the mind’s disruptive power over external reality.”59 Thus much more than mere unity of narrative action emerged from the theatrics of Senecanism. The combination of moral outrage with political powerlessness helped to create, in The Spanish Tragedy, Titus Andronicus, and their Elizabethan kin, the guarded inner life of the revenging hero, his isolation by powerlessness, his epistemological uncertainty, his moral conflictedness, as well as the necessity of dissimulation, secrecy, and soliloquized deliberation of private purposes in oppressive circumstances. All of these attributes had undoubted implications for the performance techniques of Strange’s Men—for styles of impersonation and methods for presenting passion, for example, or (in the revenger’s search for demonstrative retribution that brings with it “the victim’s acknowledgement of his conqueror”)60 for the staging of spectacular violence.

“The Strangeness or Perplexedness of Witty Fictions”: Intrigue

Much of what went into the private passions, intrigue, paranoia, and Machiavellian Realpolitik of popular revenge tragedy came not from Seneca but from the melodramatic and sensational treatment of private passion and intrigue in the novella tradition. Greville distinguished between “tragedies … naked and casual like the Greek and Latin” and those “contrived with the variety and unexpected encounters of the Italians.”61 His account of the latter kind, where tragedy is shaped by “the strangeness or perplexedness of witty fictions,” is a good description of the elaborate intrigues and crossed purposes that characterize several tragedies of Lord Strange’s Men.62 By analogy with the Senecan revenge plot, love intrigue drawn from the novella tradition supported plots “better knit, more unified and coherent than those based on chronicles or episodic romances.”63 It encouraged the sort of suspenseful plotting that lets the theater tell the tale, adding sensationalism, emotional variety in subordinate roles, and (p.176) a model of causation rooted in erotic passion and conniving purposes. Whether the central erotic problem was generated by the power of a jealous father endangering a clandestine suitor, by the cruelty of a predatory tyrant competing with a sexual rival, or by the treachery of friendships and loyalties betrayed by rivalry (all these variants are to be found in the plays of Strange’s Men), it brought with it a range of extravagant and intense emotions—a variety of ethical dilemmas involving honor, loyalty, and chastity—and a metatheatrical fascination with the nature of spectation, illusion, and disillusionment.

We cannot say that the importation of such romantic material to the English popular stage originated exclusively with Lord Strange’s Men. As early as 1582 Stephen Gosson noted that Painter’s “the Palace of plea sure” was being “ransackt, to furnish the playe howses in London.”64 But the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men is the first in which we can actually see the erotic subject matter of the novella and its corresponding manner of intrigue—previously developed in elite, private theater plays like Gismond of Salerne (1567) and its revision as Tancred and Gismund (1591)—actually taking full effect on the popular stage. “Dangerous suspition,” or “danger mixt with iealous despite” (The Spanish Tragedy, TLN 811–12), is the typical atmosphere created by erotic intrigues unfolding in perilous courtly situations. In The Spanish Tragedy the inset tragedy of Solyman and Perseda, drawn from Jacques Yver’s Printemps d’Yver by way of William Wotton, befits the play’s modern Spanish “author,” the learned Hieronimo; it also imbeds, as a play-within-the-play, a version of the main plot’s novella-like rivalry between Horatio and Balthazar for the hand of Bel-Imperia. It probably calls up as well, from the now-lost first part of Jeronimo, the original persecution (and possible murder) of the overreaching Andrea by the jealous father and brother of Bel-Imperia.65 “The cause was loue, whence grew this mortall hate” (TLN 2790) is a statement that glosses not just “Solyman and Perseda” but The Spanish Tragedy and its prequel. In The Jew of Malta a dangerous, spying father and a rivalrous love affair are combined in a crucial strand of the plot: the tragic pursuit of Abigail by Lodowick and Matthias, which leads in turn to Abigail’s betrayal of her father and the Jew’s revenge.

By contrast, the clever, unexpectedly comic ending of the company’s Orlando Furioso lies in its being derived not so much from Ariosto’s main romance plot, where Angelica proves spectacularly unfaithful to Orlando, as from Greene’s transposition of a more novella-like intrigue involving jealousy, deception, and slander—Ariosto’s inset tale of Ariodante and Ginevra—onto the poem’s central episodes. The surprising result is an Angelica who turns out to be unexpectedly faithful. Like Orlando Furioso, other works fashioned for Lord Strange’s Men play self-consciously with unstable generic borders, where the cliffhanging, (p.177) melodramatic effects of erotic intrigue and its violent emotions derive from events that can veer with equal probability toward tragedy or comedy. The company’s “bendo & Richardo,” probably drawn from Bandello and Ser Giovanni by way of Painter, looks to have been a play whose grotesque violence and gothic atmosphere finally veered toward fabliau. The Mandeville romance recorded in Warner’s Albion’s England, which we suspect of being related to the “mandevell” play in Henslowe’s diary, is in many ways a comic mirror image of Solyman and Perseda, containing as it does a tournament and unknown challenger, a lost love-token, a fearful flight from a persecuting ruler, exile and service to a Muslim prince, a masked ball, and an outburst of jealousy that in this case ends with a happy reconciliation.

“Gelyous Comodey”: Generic Hybridity

The title of the lost “gelyous comodey” perhaps points to the company’s apparent preference for comedies based on erotic rivalry and incorporating the melodramatic potential of jealousy and betrayal. Mixed into the moral satire of A Knack to Know a Knave is the contest for the love of Alfrida waged between King Edgar and Ethenwald, Earl of Cornwall, who schemes to win for himself the bride he is commissioned to woo in the king’s behalf. The tragic, predatory tyranny of Edgar resembles Rasni’s murder of the Paphlagonian king for the sake of his wife in A Looking Glass for London and England and Prince Ferdinand’s wicked persecution of John of Bordeaux in order to obtain the knight’s wife, Rossaline. The mustache-twirling villainy of King Edgar’s erotic tyranny derives ultimately from Holinshed, but in keeping with its happy outcome A Knack to Know a Knave also imports from comic tradition and novella trickery the more comic side of intrigue, which assumes “Deceit in loue is but a merriment / To such as seek a riuall to preuent” (TLN 913–14).

In the company’s other surviving comedy, Fair Em, a predatory tyrant plot similar to A Knack to Know a Knave’s, in which William the Conqueror competes with his commissioned suitor Lübeck for the hand of Mariana, is combined with a second plot involving the three companionate suitors of the Miller of Manchester’s daughter; the result is a quintessentially “gelyous comodey.” The play explores various dilemmas of honor and compromised friendship, and it portrays the passionate “hate, disdaine, reproach, and infamie” that are “the fruit of frantike bedlome ielozie” (TLN 458–59). In its attempt to follow Terence and the influential example of Munday’s Fedele and Fortunio (1585), Fair Em in the end supplies almost enough additional women to lay erotic rivalry to rest, but it seems always to have been the intention of the play’s author(s) to (p.178) omit a full complement of potential spouses in order to emphasize at the end of the play the sense of disillusionment and emotional injury wrought by jealousy and slander.

In other words, just as “the strangeness or perplexedness of witty fictions” drawn from modern novella intrigues helped to complicate and sensationalize the tragic plots favored by Lord Strange’s Men, so also did the perverse erotic rivalries behind their comedies. As they came to be inflected by the romantic values embedded in the novella tradition, rival lover plots of the sort found in ancient comedy acquired the constellation of violent passions, strong social imperatives, and sharp moral dilemmas that Lord Strange’s Men were clearly seeking to exploit. Like Senecan revenge, this was a generic thread in the archive with strong implications for the company’s performance techniques, which included not only methods for impersonating passion and arousing suspense by way of passion’s volatile and unpredictable course but also suspenseful uses of staging and spectacle.

Just as revenge tragedy could reflect self-consciously upon the staging of spectacular violence, so in “gelyous comodey” the thematics of love’s illusions and disillusionment were embodied in the dynamics of spectation. These dynamics could sometimes take emblematic form, as in Fair Em’s stage direction “Enter Valingford and Mountney at two sundrie dores, looking angerly each on other with Rapiers drauen” (ll. 813–14) or in the last of the wary confrontations between Lodowick and Matthias in The Jew of Malta:

  •            Enter Mathias.
  • Math. This is the place; now Abigall shall see
  • Whether Mathias hold her deare or no.
  •   Enter Lodo. reading.
  • Lod. What, dares the villain write in such base terms?
  • Math. I did it, and reuenge it if thou dar’st.
  •   Fight: Enter Barabas aboue.
  • Bar. O bravely fought; and yet they thrust not home.
  • Now, Lodowicke, now, Mathias; so. [Both fall dead.]

(sig. F2v)

As Barabas’s jealous “supervision” of the scene from above suggests, the ultimate import of such scenes concerns the role of spectation in the very nature of jealousy itself. Thus in Orlando Furioso Orlando comes upon and misconstrues the forged poems hung up by Sacripante, and in The Spanish Tragedy Pedringano, discovering the secret affair of Horatio and Bel-Imperia, “shews all to the (p.179) Prince and Lorenzo, placing them in secret” on the balcony above Hieronimo’s orchard (sig. C4v). Perhaps the most elaborate of such spectacles is formed by the chain of rival lovers in Fair Em, each entering to observe the intentions of the competitors who follow:

  • Enter Manuile alone, disguised
  • Enter Valingford at another dore, disguised… . Manuile stays hiding himselfe.
  • Enter Mountney disguised at another dore.

(TLN 277, 291, 302)

Anticipating the game of “all hid” in Love’s Labour’s Lost but rooted in jealousy rather than in sporting suspicion, this scene embodies as spectatorial situation the erotic problem of imperfect knowledge; it points forward to Fair Em’s key metaphor—the illusory basis of the slanders against the heroine—and to the pain of Em’s final disillusionment with love.

Lord Strange’s Men were perhaps not the first to develop these effects of “gelyous comodey”; they may have found a strong prece dent in one of the most innovative of the Queen’s Men’s plays, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, where Prince Edward observes through Bacon’s magic glass his proxy suitor Lacy wooing Margaret of Fressingfield for himself. But a substantial portion of their plays deploy these “spectacles of jealousy” not simply for the dramatic irony that lends intrinsic interest to intrigue plots or for the sake of putting jealousy into the emblematic form of juxtaposed viewpoints but in order, through the staging of doubt and imperfect knowledge, to lend depth and substance to the personal worlds and passions represented. As Katharine Maus has explained in her treatment of the staging of jealousy, spectation is an “art of diagnosis” that mirrors the theater’s own.66 In what spectation skeptically suggests about the inscrutability of secret purposes and hidden emotions, about the inner lives and intentions of others, it supports modes of characterization and impersonation that imply more than meets the eye. In the plays of Lord Strange’s Men, spectation supports the company’s experiment in personating passion.

A final example of the company’s creation of sensational dramatic moments from the situational context of jealousy is the Guise’s discovery of his wife’s secret affair with Mugeron, a creepy theatrical coup that Marlowe derived from a minor historical scandal involving a wholly separate person from Mugeron (one Saint-Mégrin) but that he then inflated into the basis for the play’s final revenge action, the outbreak of civil war between the Guise and Henri III:

  • (p.180)   Enter the Maid with Inke and Paper.
  •  [Duch.] So, set it down, and leaue me to my selfe. [Exit Maid.]
  • She writes. O would to God this quill that heere doth write
  • Had late been pluckt from out faire Cupids wing:
  • That it might print these lines within his heart.
  •      Enter The Guise.
  • Guise. What, all alone, my loue, and writing too:
  • I prethee, say to whome thou writes?
  • Duch. To such a one, my Lord, as when she reads
  • my lines, will laugh, I feare me, at their good aray.
  • Guise. I pray thee let me see.
  • Duch. O no, my Lord, a woman only must
  • partake the secrets of my heart.
  • Guise. But Madam I must see. he takes it.
  • Are these your secrets that no man must know?
  • Duch. O pardon me my Lord.
  • Guise. Thou trothles and vniust, what lines are these?
  • Am I growne olde, or is thy lust growne yong,
  • Or hath my loue been so obscurde in thee
  • That others needs to comment on my text?
  • Mor du, wert not the fruit within thy wombe,
  • Of whose increase I set some longing hope:
  • This wrathfull hand should strike thee to the hart.
  • Hence strumpet, hide thy head for shame,
  • And fly my presence if thou looke to liue! Exit [Duchess].
  • O wicked sex, periured and vniust,
  • Now doe I see that from the very first,
  • Her eyes and lookes sow’d seeds of periury,
  • But villaine he to whom these lines should goe
  • Shall buy her loue euen with his dearest bloud. Exit.

(TLN 801–37v)

Carefully choreographed around situation-changing entrances and exits and based on the subtext of the Guise’s violent, menacing temperament, the scene integrates language with gesture, script with embodiment, tracing an arc of unfolding emotional action to its conclusion on the note of blood revenge. This is not a scene required by the historical sources for The Massacre at Paris, but its focus and technique, novella-like and (at the end) Senecan, are the very essence of the company’s technical achievements in narrative coherence and emotional power. They are a dimension of the company’s archive insofar as they (p.181) derive from its preoccupation with “modern matter,” in this case both recent French politics and the literate fashion for novella intrigue. But they are just as surely a dimension of the company’s artistic repertoire, its cultivation of techniques of staging, spectation, and impersonation, which marked a new departure for the Elizabethan stage. We have begun our turn from the company’s archive to its performance techniques, and we will take up questions of impersonation and acting style in the chapter that follows.


(3) . “A cognitive ecological model dovetails well with the recent emphasis on theatrical scholarship on company-specific or reportorial histories. Each company has a distinct cognitive ecology, some more closely akin than others,” Cognition in the Globe, 153.

(4) . The publication of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays (1590) and Doctor Faustus (1592) was a key development in the emergence of the Elizabethan professional playwright, but this is not discernible from the title pages of these works, where Marlowe’s name does not appear.

(6) . Thomas Dekker, A Knights Coniuring (1607), sig. K4v.

(9) . Dulwich College Archive: MS VII, f. 96; transcribed with kind permission of the Governors of Dulwich College.

(11) . See Stern, Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan, 59–61; Stern, Documents of Performance in Early Modern England, 25; Palfrey and Stern, Shakespeare in Parts, 66; King, Casting Shakespeare’s Plays, 6–10.

(12) . Dulwich College Archive: MS I, ff. 30–33v.

(13) . For our survey of Ferdinando Stanley’s patronage connections we are indebted to Heywood, Earls of Derby; Fogle, “ ‘Such a Rural Queen’ ”; Daugherty, “Question of Topical Allusion.”

(14) . TNA: PRO, SP 84/44, f. 60v. See Wernham, “Christopher Marlowe at Flushing.”

(15) . BL: MS Harley 6849, f. 218, © The British Library Board; fully transcribed in Freeman, Thomas Kyd, 180–81.

(16) . On the grounds that Kyd dedicated his 1594 translation of Robert Garnier’s Cornelia to Bridgett, Countess of Sussex, Arthur Freeman, Thomas Kyd, 32–37, proposed that Kyd’s lord was either Robert Radcliffe, Lord Fitzwalter and Earl of Sussex after his father’s death in December 1593, or, since Radcliffe was only twenty in 1593 and perhaps too young to have been Kyd’s “Lord” for “theis vj yeres,” his father, Henry Radcliffe, 4th Earl of Sussex. Henry Radcliffe’s career, however, was spent almost entirely in Hampshire, away from London and the court, and there is no evidence that Marlowe wrote plays for his company. More recently Lukas Erne, believing that Marlowe’s claim to be “very wel known” to Lord Strange conflicts with Kyd’s assertion that “never cold my Lordship endure” Marlowe’s name, has proposed that the patron of both Marlowe and Kyd was Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, whose company performed Edward II (Beyond The Spanish Tragedy, 227–30).

(17) . Several recent biographers of Marlowe adopt the view that Kyd’s patron was Lord Strange; see Kuriyama, Christopher Marlowe, 228; Riggs, World of Christopher Marlowe, 262; Honan, Christopher Marlowe, 243.

(19) . A Fig for Momus (1595), sig. A2v.

(20) . Of Prayer and Meditation (1592), ff. 3–4.

(21) . Greene, Life and Complete Works, ed. Grosart, 7: 100.

(22) . Cambridge University Library copy, sig. A2. The 1593 edition of The Defence of Contraries promised a second volume of paradoxes “vpon the good acceptation of the first Booke” (103), yet this second volume was evidently forestalled, since Munday says in the dedication of his 1602 True knowledge of a mans owne selfe that “the troubles of the time, & misinterpretation of the worke by some in authoritie, was the only cause why it went not forward” (sig. A5). See Platt, Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox, 24. Hamilton suggests the “troubles” may be related to the fact that The defence of (p.400) contraries derived from the work of a French Catholic, Charles Estienne (Anthony Munday and the Catholics, 124–25). The “misinterpretation” may have been owing, however, to the plight of the discredited Ferdinando Stanley from October 1593. No entry for the Stationers’ Register survives, but Munday’s dedication to Ferdinando as “the great and puissant Earl of Derby” clearly alludes to the recent death of the 4th Earl in September. Ferdinando’s fall from grace followed by just a few days the death of his father, so it is possible Munday was responding to the earl’s banishment from court and his loss of office by offering paradoxical consolations, “For him that hath lost his worldly Honours and Preferments: That a man ought not to be greeued, though he be despoiled of his goods and honours” and “For the Exiled: That it is better to be banished, than continue in libertie.”

(23) . The Life and Minor Works of George Peele, ed. David H. Horne, in Peele, Life and Works of George Peele, 233.

(25) . “The Teares of the Muses,” in Complaints (1591), sig. E2; Colin Clouts Come home againe (1595), sig. C2–C2v.

(26) . Colin Clouts Come home againe, sig. C2.

(27) . Bel-vedere, or The Garden of the Muses (1600), sig. A5. See May, “Spenser’s ‘Amyntas.’ ” The longest of these poems, a parodic pastoral praise of “Phillis” that may be targeting Abraham Fraunce’s The Lamentations of Amyntas for the Death of Phillis (1587), may be partially responsible for the pastoral name “Amyntas” that Nashe and Spenser assigned to Lord Strange. The salaciousness of “My Mistress in hir brest dothe were” may help to explain Nashe’s dedication of his unpublished pornographic poem, “The Choice of Valentines,” to “the Right Honourable the Lord S.” See Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller and Other Works, 458.

(28) . Polimanteia (1595), sig. Q2.

(29) . The Shadow of Night (1594), Epistle, ll. 30–32, 462–63 and gloss, n25, in Chapman, Poems of George Chapman, 19, 41, 45.

(31) . To be sure, the Queen’s Men’s Selimus, responding to the innovative Asiatic focus of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays, drew on translations of recent chronicles in order to present, highly fictionalized, the relatively recent reign of the early sixteenth-century Turkish emperor Selim I (1520–66), “grandfather to him that now reigneth” (i.e., Amurath, 1574–95), and to document “a most lamentable history / Which this last age acknowledgeth for true” (title page and Prologue, Selimus, Emperor of the Turks [1594], in Vitkus, Three Turk Plays, 55, 59).

(33) . See, e.g., A dolorous discourse, of a most terrible and bloudy Battel, fought in Barbarie, the fowrth day of August, last past (1578), or “The Calamatie, and seruile bondage of Portugall, vnder the gouernment of Phillip king of Castile … the 5. of August 1578,” in George Whetstone, The English Myrror (1586), 84–87. On Peele’s use of the several sources available, see The Battle of Alcazar, ed. John Yoklavich, in Peele, Life and Works of George Peele, 2: 226–79, 369–73; Stukeley, Stukeley Plays, 26–27.

(p.401) (34) . See, e.g., A Relation of the expongnable attempt and conquest of the yland of Tercera (1584); The Explanation of the True and Lawfull Right and Tytle, of the Most Excellent Prince, Anthonie (1585); and George Peele’s, “A Farewell To the most famous Generalles of our English forces by land and Sea, Sir John Norris and Sir Frauncis Drake Knightes” (1589), ll. 23–28, in The Life and Minor Works of George Peele, ed. David H. Horne, in Peele, Life and Works of George Peele, 1: 221–22. That The Battle of Alcazar was probably already on the stage by the time Peele’s poem in celebration of the Norris–Drake expedition was entered in the Stationers’ Register on 23 February 1588/89 is reflected in the poem’s mention of the expedition’s farewell to London’s “Theaters and proude Tragaedians, … mightie Tamburlaine / … Tom Stukeley and the rest” (ll. 20–23).

(36) . The Ambassage of Master Henry Roberts … to Mully Hamet Emperour of Marocco, in Richard Hakluyt, Principall navigations, voyages, and discoveries of the English Nation (1599), second volume, second part, 117–18.

(37) . A reading suggested by Matar, Britain and Barbary, 17–19.

(44) . Marlowe, who had visited the Guise’s own college at Rheims and traveled in the Netherlands, and Lodge, who sailed to Terceira and the Canary Islands in 1585–86 and to Brazil in 1591, were among the best-traveled authors for Lord Strange’s troupe, but it is worth remembering also that several of the former Leicester’s Men who formed Lord Strange’s Men had themselves been with Leicester in the Low Countries and visited Elsinore.

(45) . Dulwich College Archive: MS VII, f. 7v; transcribed with kind permission of the Governors of Dulwich College.

(46) . The latter is conjectured by Bradley in From Text to Performance, 200.

(47) . John Case, Sphaera Civitatis (Oxford, 1588), sig. A2. On Marlowe’s possible allusion to Case and to the Latin translation of Gentillet’s Discours sur les moyens du bien gouverner (Anti-Machiavel), see Marlowe, Jew of Malta, ed. Bawcutt, 62nn1–4.

(48) . On the English expeditions in support of Henri I V, see MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I, chapters 79.

(50) . We adapt here Taylor’s description of the performative “scenario,” which “places spectators within its frame, implicating us in its ethics and politics” (Archive and the Repertoire, 33).

(51) . Bale, The Pageant of Popes (1574), f. 56.

(52) . Sir Thomas Elyot, The Defence of Good Women (1545), sig. E.

(53) . Bartholomew Fair, Induction ll. 93–96, in Jonson, Complete Plays of Ben Jonson, vol. 4.

(54) . A Dedication to Sir Philip Sidney (c. 1610, pub. 1652), in Greville, Prose Works of Fulke Greville, 133.

(58) . Greville, A Dedication to Sir Philip Sidney, 138.

(61) . Greville, A Dedication to Sir Philip Sidney, 222.

(62) . The practice of sensationalizing classical tragedy by contaminating it with courtly situations, erotic conflicts, and Machiavellian intrigues drawn from the novella had originated with Italian dramatists like Cinthio and Denores, who declared that “the material for the most perfect tragedy” was to be found “in a subject suited to our own days, i.e. a story from Boccaccio,” Poetica (1588), 48v, cited in Charlton, Senecan Tradition, xc.

(64) . Playes confuted in fiue actions (1582), sig. D5v. There is possible evidence of early experimentation with novella material in the titles of such lost plays as “The Three Sisters of Mantua” (Warwick’s, 1578) and “The Duke of Milan and the Marquis of Mantua” (Sussex’s, 1579).

(65) . For a reading that suggests that Andrea is revenged by the deaths of Castile and Lorenzo as well as that of Balthasar, see Empson, “Spanish Tragedy.”