Alice Pierce

Anon. (1597)

Historical Records


For apparel in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 37v (Greg I, 70)

Layd owt for the company of my lord admeralles }
men for to by tafetie & tynsell to macke a payer }
of bodeyes for a womones gowne to playe allece perce } xxs
for wch I dellyuered vnto the littell tayller Jn Redey }
money the 8 of desembʒ 1597 the some of }
wittnes E Alleyn

layd owt mor the same tyme for makynge & a payer }
of yeare sleavse of the bodeyes of pyges gowne } vjs vijd

lente vnto Robart shawe for to by cop[er] lace }
of [gowe] sylver to lace a payer of hosse for alles perce } xvjs
the 10 desembʒ 1597 the some of }
wittnes wm Borne Jube
& gabrell spencer

Fol. 43v (Greg I, 82) (the following entries appear to duplicate items above except for item two, which adds a bodice for the same cost)

layd owt for the companye to by tafetie & tynssell }
for the bodeyes of a womones gowne to playe allce perce } xxs
wch J dd vnto the litell tayller the 8 of desembʒ 1597 }
wittnes E Alleyn

layd owt for mackynge allce perces bodeyes & a payer }
of yeare sleaues the some of } vjs vijd

lent vnto Robart shawe to by copr lace of sylver for }
a payer of hosse in alls perce the 10 of desembʒ } xvjs
wittnes wm borne Jube & gabrell spenser


Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library

List of apparel

Greg, Papers (APX. I, art. 1, p. 116, l. 53).

Under the heading “The Enventary of all the aparell for my Lord Admeralles men, tacken the 10 of Marche 1598. —Leaft above in the tier-house in the cheast.
Item, ... j payer of bodeyes for Alles Pearce

List of plays

Greg, Papers (APX. I, art. 1, p. 121, l. 193)

Under the heading “A Note of all suche bookes as belong to the Stocke, and such as I have bought since the 3d of Marche 1598

Alls Perce.

Theatrical Provenance

The listing of "Alls Perce" among the books Henslowe had in stock or had bought "since the 3d of March 1598," as well as the payments for apparel for the play in December of 1597, confirms acquisition by the Admiral's men. It also locates that acquisition in the wake of the breakup of Pembroke's men, who had been playing at the Swan in July 1597 and attracting unwelcome governmental attention because of one of their repertory items, "The Isle of Dogs." This coincidence influenced Greg II to assume that "Alice Pierce" had "been brought in [to the Admiral's holdings] by Pembroke's men," i.e., players including William Bird, Robert Shaa, and Gabriel Spencer (p. 187). If so, the play was performed at both the Swan and Rose playhouses in 1597-8. Wiggins, Catalogue assigns the "original production" of this play not to Pembroke's but to the Admiral's men (#1091).

Probable Genre(s)

Harbage considers the play a history, as does Wiggins, Catalogue (#1091)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

A digest of historical sources including Holinshed's Chronicles conveys the key events in the story of Alice Perrers (d. 1499/01), the mistress of King Edward III. At court as a lady in waiting to Edward's queen, Philippa, Alice kept the affair private until the queen died (1369); at about this time also, Alice married Sir William Windsor). Her coming-out party as royal concubine occurred in 1375, when the king held a tournament at Smithfield and presented Alice as the Lady of the Sun. Neither courtiers nor commoners nor poets (William Langland, Geoffrey Chaucer) approved of Alice's immoral behavior and acquisitiveness; an illustrative detail is the rumor that she stole the king's rings as he lay dying (1377). After the king's death, Alice fought (sometimes unsuccessfully) political attempts to imprison her and family attempts to strip her of properties granted her by the king (Given-Wilson).

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Malone does not offer an opinion on the identity of the title character (I, pt. 2, pp. 302, 307), but Collier, in a footnote to the entry recording the Admiral's purchase of material for Alice's gown on 8 December 1597, calls her "the mistress to Edward III" (p. 116n). Neither Fleay, BCED (2.306, #205) nor Greg II (p. 189, #120) repeats that identification, but it is now become widely accepted. Gurr, however, does not comment on Alice's possible historical identity (he spells the surname "Pearce" [p. 230]).

Wiggins, Catalogue doesn't question the identification of Alice as Edward III's mistress. Describing the plot, he emphasizes the king's public display of her at Smithfield and her deathbed theft of his rings. In something of an aside, he points to Acts and Monuments, in which Foxe recounts an episode in which Alice got a friar's help in bewitching the king. Wiggins observes that the use of this story "would obviously have a bearing on exactly how black the play painted its title character" (#1091).

For What It's Worth

Information welcome.

Works Cited

Given-Wilson, C. "Perrers [married name Windsor], Alice." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Site created and maintained by Christopher Matusiak, updated 16 March 2011. Additions by Roslyn L. Knutson 31 May 2019.