Anti-Catholic Play

Anon. (1606)

N.B. This lost play is untitled. The title offered here for convenience is that used by Wiggins.

Historical Records

Ormerod, The Picture of a Papist (1606)

There is a certaine book latelye published, entituled, the double PP,* alias, the picture of a Iesuite, alias the picture of a traiterous Iesuit: which som in london haue reproted to be of my drawing: But be it known vnto you, that I am so farre from being the Author of that friuolous Pamphlet, as that J hold both it, and another that was thrown abroad vpon the stage at the late execution of the traitors, together with many othere toyes lately printed againste the Papists, as fit for the fire as the coniuring bookes in the 19 of the Acts, verse, 19...
Oliver Ormerod, The Picture of a Papist (London, 1606), sig.A4v

(Marginal note: "It is a very vnfit thing, that histrionicall iesters and stage players should bee suffred to writ books of such matters and in deed a greate disgrace to our Religion.")

Hubbard, Great Britain's Resurrection (1606)

Others in great varietie of inuention in verse & prose, in Latine and English, in sermon & otherwise, haue trauelled in this argument laudably and fruitfully: some memorably euen by the voyce of a dolefull Pyramis demolished in Fraunce, crauing restitution in noble great Brittaine: yea the Theater and English Roscius himselfe hath pourtrayed this work of God, and set it aloft, tanquam in arce Phidiae, as it were in the turret of the famous caruer Phidias, to the view of all men.
William Hubbard [or Hubbock], "To the deuout and Christian Reader", Great Brittaines resurrection (1606), sig.A3r-v.

Theatrical Provenance

Unknown. (See Critical Commentary below for the possible connection to the King's Men). The performance took place whilst the Gunpowder Plot conspirators were being executed (30-31 January 1606).

Probable Genre(s)

Topical history.

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The historical records suggest this was a topical play about the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605, in which Catholic conspirators (chiefly Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, Thomas Wintour and John Wright, though notoriously the mercenary Guy Fawkes too) attempted to blow up the English Parliament including the king.

References to the Play

Only the historical records above.

Critical Commentary

Woodson first drew attention to the two historical records documenting the one-time existence of this play. He suggests that Hubbard, who was Chaplain to the King, intended an allusion to the King's Men player Richard Burbage with the reference to "Roscius": "Since Richard Burbage, of the King's Men, was identified by Camden with the flattering title alter Roscius, and since that name is otherwise given to Burbage in the seventeenth century, there is a possible connection between this lost play and the King's Men" (529). Apparently subscribing to a belief in the inherent superiority of the King's Men relative to other professional playing companies, Woodson is troubled by the reputation of this lost play and resists assigning it to the King's Men ("Ormerod's easy contempt for the merit of the play makes the connection difficult", 529). He nevertheless situates the lost play in relation to Shakespeare's work: "the existence of the topical play on the Gunpowder Plot may help explain the limited topicality of Shakespeare's Macbeth, on grounds that it was not the first play to allude to the Gunpowder Plot" (529).

Wiggins (#1490) notes that "Ormerod's remarks support only the identification of the subject matter as anti-Catholic", meaning that technically he might be referring to something like Dekker's The Whore of Babylon, or possibly not even a play at all but a pamphlet (like The Double PP) which may have been written by a player and distributed at a playhouse.

For What It's Worth

Information welcome.

Works Cited

Hubbard [or Hubbock], William. Great Brittaines resurrection: or the Parliaments passing bell By vvay of psalmodie, against the tryumphing of the Papists, in their seuen psalmes. And in imitation of the song of the three nobles of Israel, deliuered out of the fierie ouen of Babell. By VVilliam Hubbard, Chaplaine to the Kings Maiestie, in his Highness Tower of London. Seene and allowed. 1606. (NB. author entered as "William Hubbock" in ESTC and EEBO following its correction in the Errata, sig.[¶4])
Ormerod, Oliver. The Picture of a Papist. London, 1606.
Woodson, William C. "A Lost Play on the Gunpowder Plot". N&Q 222 (Dec. 1977): 528-29.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 22 October 2015.