Agamemnon and Ulysses

Anon. (1584)

Historical Records

Court Records

Accounts of the Office of the Revels

Chrystmas Twelftyde & Shrouetyde and making choyse of plaies Anno Regni Regine Elizabethe: xxvijo 1584

The Charges of those tymes viz. betwene the laste daie of October 1584. Anno xxvjto Regni Regine Elizabethe and the —— of ffebruary .1584. Annoque Regni Regine Elizabethe predicte xxvijo did rise aswell by meanes of attending making choyse, reforminge and altering of suche plaies Comodies maskes and inventions as were prepared sett furth and presented before her maiestie at the tymes aforesaid. ...
The history of Agamemnon & Vlisses presented and enacted before her maiestie by the Earle of Oxenford his boyes on St Iohns daie at night in Grenewich.

(Feuillerat, 365)

Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber

To Henry Evans vppon the Counsell[s] warr[ant] dated at Grenewch vijmo Aprilis 1585 for one play or Interlude presensed before her matie on St Iohn the Evangeliste[s] day last past at nighte by the †Chdren of Therle of Oxforde vili xiijs iiijd

(Cook and Wilson 22-23)

Theatrical Provenance

"Agamemnon and Ulysses" was performed by the Earl of Oxford's Boys at court on St. John's Day (27 December) 1584. It is one of seven performances listed in the Revels Accounts as having been played before the Queen between 26 October 1584 and 27 February 1585: the other performances in the winter season included Phyllida and Corin, Felix and Philomena, Five Plays in One, Three Plays in One, an Antic Play and a Comedy (all performed by the Queen's players), as well as "Dyuers feats of Actyuytie" performed by John Symons and his fellows. Henry Evans was paid for the performance.

Probable Genre(s)

Classical Legend (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The play certainly treated the two famous mythical Greek commanders, presumably at some around the Trojan war. The sources for the playwright may have included Homer, classical tragedy, medieval Troy narratives, etc. (See Critical Commentary below for further speculation.)

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Nelson: "the sole candidate for a lost work from Oxford's pen is 'Agamemnon and Ulysses', a play more likely to have been written by John Lyly, or by Henry Evans, who received payment for its performance" (393).

Wiggins, Catalogue (#761): "There is no way of knowing whether the play dramatized a broad selection of incidents from the Trojan War involving the two title characters, or whether it centered on their relationship in a more focused narrative. If the latter, the most promising material comes at the beginning of the war." Wiggins offers a conjectural plot in which Agamemnon tricks Ulysses into joining the Greek forces against Troy, followed by the sacrifice of Agamemnon's daughter Iphigenia.

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Cook, David and F.P. Wilson. Dramatic Records in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber 1558-1642. Malone Society Collections VI. 1962.
Feuillerat, Albert, ed. Documents Relating to the Office of the Revels in the Time of Queen Elizabeth. Louvain: A. Uystpruyst, 1908.
Nelson, Alan H. Monstrous Adversary: The Life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2003.

Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, Harvard University; updated 7 January 2014.