Apprentice's Prize

Richard Brome and Thomas Heywood (c.1634)

Historical Records

Stationers' Records

Stationers' Register, 8 April 1654:

Mr. Mosely. Entred for his Copies Two plaies called. The Life and Death of Sr. Martyn Skink. wth ye warres of ye Low Countries. by Rich. Broome. & Tho: Heywood. & The Apprentices Prize, &c.

(Bentley, JCS, 3.76)

Theatrical Provenance

The King's Men have the best claim, because they were the company who performed the one extant Brome/Heywood collaboration (see below). But in his ODNB article on Brome, Martin Butler adds that both this play and Sir Martin Skink have "titles that sound most suited to the plebeian amphitheatres."

Probable Genre(s)

Apprentice play (Butler); Comedy? (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known (but see "For What It's Worth")

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

The record is generally interpreted as indicating, firstly, that The Apprentice's Prize was a play; and, secondly, that Brome and Heywood wrote it. However, it should be borne in mind that the wording is not entirely conclusive on either of these points. On the one hand, if, as has been suggested, The Life and Death of Sir Martin Skink was a two-part play, then the status of The Apprentice's Prize becomes very unclear. For discussion of Sir Martin Skink click here. On the other, some critics, for instance, Bentley (3.58), accept that the record suggests it was a play, but doubt that Brome and Heywood are necessarily identified as its authors.

The date of the play, if play it was, is usually conjecturally ascribed to around 1634, the date of Brome and Heywood's one surviving collaboration The Witches of Lancashire, written for the King's Men. Fleay, in his Biographical Chronicle of English Drama, 1.41, argued that all three plays of the Brome-Heywood collaboration were rewrites by Brome of much earlier plays by Heywood. However, Bentley (3.58) notes that this is definitely untrue in the case of the one surviving play, which removes any basis for thinking it might be true of the lost ones. Bentley, accordingly, dates this play to c.1634. The nature of the collaboration between Brome and Heywood has been studied most recently by Heather Hirschfeld.

Martin Butler contextualizes the play in terms of 1630s populist drama, noting in particular a contemporary interest in the role of the apprentice represented by plays such as The Four Prentices; A Shoemaker a Gentleman; and Thomas Rawlins' The Rebellion.

For What It's Worth

This play, and William Sampson's lost play The Widow's Prize, or the Woman Captain, prompt the question, what might happen in a play about prizes? The most obviously relevant possible model is John Fletcher's play The Woman's Prize, or the Tamer Tamed, in which a woman rebels against the established order, barricading herself in her husband's house with her friends, and resisting all attempts at removal until he has to capitulate to her. Another possibly relevant seventeenth-century publication is:

Anon., Lanii triumphantes, or, The butchers prize being a description of the famous battel between Achilles a butcher of Greece and Hector a weaver of Troy, occasion'd by the rape of a daughty damosill y-clep'd Hellen the bright. London: William Crook, 1665.

This is a verse narrative very loosely burlesquing Homer. The Butcher's Prize and The Woman's Prize share a common theme in their mock-heroic descriptions of battle scenes, and the title of The Widow's Prize, or the Woman Captain suggests similar possibilities. Perhaps it is reasonable to read these mock-heroic possibilities into the lost play The Apprentice's Prize.

On reflection, though, The Woman's Prize, or the Tamer Tamed is a particularly interesting intertext for this play, because The Woman's Prize was revived by the King's Men in October 1633 (that is, around eight months before the same company performed The Late Lancashire Witches, the one Brome/Heywood collaboration we can place with any certainty). It is known that The Woman's Prize did well, "very well liked" on its revival (Fletcher, Introduction 16). Perhaps we should see The Apprentice's Prize as conceived as some sort of sequel to or imitation of Fletcher's play, one of the big theatrical successes of the year 1633.

Works Cited

Butler, Martin. ‘Brome, Richard (c.1590–1652)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 [[1]].
Butler, Martin. Theatre and Crisis 1632-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
Fleay, F. G. A Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama, 1559—1642. 2 vols. 1891; rpt New York: Burt Franklin, 1962.
Fletcher, John. The tamer tamed: or, The woman's prize, ed. Celia R. Daileader, Gary Taylor. Manchester: Revels, 2006.
Hirschfeld, Heather. "Collaborating across generations: Thomas Heywood, Richard Brome, and the production of The Late Lancashire Witches". Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30.2 (2000): 339-74.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, 1 July 2016.