Bad Beginning Makes a Good Ending, A

Anon. (>1613)

Historical Records

Court Records

Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber

Item 47b (Cook, 56):

Item paid to the said Iohn Heminges vppon the lyke warrant: dated att Whitehall xx0 die Maij 1613 for presentinge sixe severall playes viz one playe called a badd ‡ beginininge makes a good endinge, One other called ye Capteyne, One other the Alcumist. One other Cardenno. One other The Hotspurr. And one other called Benidicte and Bettris All played wthin the tyme of this Accompte viz pd Fortie powndes, And by waye of his Mates rewarde twentie powndes In all …… lxli

Stationers Register

29 June 1660
Entered to Humphrey Moseley
An ill begining has a good end, & a bad begining may have a good end. a Comedy ... by Iohn fforde.
S.R.2, 2.271 (Internet Archive)

Warburton's List

"A good beginning may have A good end by Jon. Ford" was included by John Warburton (1682-1759) in his list of the unprinted MS plays allegedly in his collection until destroyed by Warburton’s cook:

Lansdowne ms 807 f001r.jpg

(British Library, Lansdowne MS 807, fo.1r. Reproduced by permission of the British Library. Click image to view full page; click here for more information on Warburton's list)

Theatrical Provenance

The play was one of 20 performances by the King’s Men at court through the winter holiday season of 1612-13 (the other 14 plays named are Philaster (a second time by its sub-title, “Love Lies a-Bleeding”), " The Knot of Fools," Much Ado About Nothing (also played under the title “Benidicte and Bettris”?), The Maid’s Tragedy, The Merry Devil of Edmonton, The Tempest, A King and No King, "The Twins Tragedy," The Winter’s Tale, “Sir John Falstaff” (Wiv.? 1H4?), The Nobleman, and "Caesars Tragedy" (Julius Caesar?).

In addition, the Prince’s Men put on the two parts of "The Knaves"; the Children of the Chapel put on The Coxcombe, Cupid’s Revenge, and The Widow’s Tears; Lady Elizabeth’s Men put on Cockle de Moye (The Dutch Courtesan) and "Raymond Duke of Lyons."

The winter of 1612-13 was a bittersweet time for the court. Prince Henry died suddenly of a fever on 6 November 1612, yet the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine took place as scheduled on Valentine’s Day, 1613.

Without evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that "A Bad Beginning Makes a Good Ending" was performed in both of the King's company's London venues, the Globe and Blackfriars.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Though no sources and analogues are known, it is impossible to resist considering this play as yet another domestic comedy in the mode of patient wives and prodigal husbands.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Fleay, BCED identified this play with one attributed to John Ford in John Warburton's list (and, by implication, to the one in Moseley's list). He also thought it was "probably the same" as The London Prodigal, Q1605 (I.234, II.328).

Greg, BEPD, 2.1005), and Bentley, JCS (3.444-6) dismiss the association with The London Prodigal. Both scholars seem undecided on the connection with the title/s attributed to Ford, yet Bentley, JCS does conclude that "[t]he 1613 and 1660 titles are so similar that the same play must surely be intended" (3.445).

For What It's Worth

The substantiality of identifying "A Bad Beginning Makes a Good Ending" with the also-lost play attributed to John Ford goes beyond the similarity in titles to the accuracy of the Chamber Accounts, Moseley's playlist, and the Warburton List as evidence. The Chamber Accounts certainly record titles that vary from those in other records such as printed title pages, for example, the variously recorded "Philaster" and "Love Lyes a bleeding," "Sr Iohn Falstafe" for what must have been either I Henry IV or Merry Wives of Windsor, and Benidicte and Betteris for a second performance of Much adoe abowte nothinge (Cook, 55-56). Greg, discussing the Warburton list in "The Bakings of Betsy," decided that Warburton's claim to have had all those plays in his library was false. And Greg questions Warburton's memory; he thought Warburton confused his own library holdings with notes he had made from various stationers' lists (prominently, Moseley) and thus later claimed he had had all the texts in his possession (259).

Here, the practice is to provide one entry for "A Bad Beginning Makes a Good Ending" and "An Ill Beginning Makes a Good End" (with its variant titles) until such time as further evidence clarifies the relationship of these lost plays.

Works Cited

Cook, David and F. P. Wilson (eds.) Dramatic Records in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber 1558-1642. Malone Society Collections VI, 1961 (1962).
Greg, W. W. "The Bakings of Betsy," The Library, Third Series, 11.7 (1911): 225-59.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 29 April 2012.