Baxter's Tragedy

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Anon. (1602)
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Historical Records

Miscellaneous Henslowe Papers


The sole mention of a play called "Baxter's Tragedy" is an acquittance for £3 from William Playstowe to Philip Henslowe on 4 August 1602 (Greg, Papers, Article 37, 58-9). The document reads as follows:

Receved of mr Henslowe the iiijth of Agust 1602 }
for one monthes paye due vnto my mr mr Edmund} iijli
Tylney vppon the xxxjth day of July last past}
the som of iijli J say R[d] }
p[er] mei Will Playstowe


bookes owinge for /5/

baxters tragedy
Tobias Comedy
Jepha Judg of Jsrael & the Cardinall
loue parts frendshipp



Theatrical Provenance

Taken at face value, the acquittance locates the play in the repertory of the Admiral's men in late summer of 1602, at which time the company was preparing for its autumn season at the Fortune playhouse.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragedy

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Scholarly opinion on "Baxter's Tragedy" has entangled the play with another Admiral's product—"Bristow Tragedy"— about which very little is known except its author (John Day) and dates of purchase (May 1602).


Greg, Papers attributes the confusion of "Baxter's Tragedy" with "Bristow Tragedy" to William Warner but rejects it as "hardly likely" (I. 37, pp. 58-9, n7). Greg toys with the name "Barksted," that is, William Barksted, a player associated with the company of children who performed Ben Jonson's Epicoene (Queen's Revels) and with the adult company of Lady Elizabeth's men but not with the Admiral's men. Furthermore, as Greg points out, Barksted would have been only "twelve or thirteen in 1602." Barksted was associated with playwriting, however; Nungezer mentions a connection with John Marston's The Insatiate Countess (29).


Martin Wiggins, Catalogue #1327 also finds the finds unpersuasive the possibility that the title, "Baxter's Tragedy," is a mistake for "Bristow Tragedy."


Foakes perpetuates the confusion of Bristo/Baxter. Including the Playstowe acquitance in an appendix of selected Dulwich manuscripts, Foakes makes the following comment: "Baxter's Tragedy is not otherwise known but may possibly, as [William] Warner suggested, be identified with Day's Bristol Tragedy (headnote to Article 37, Henslowe's Diary, 296).


Gurr, like Foakes, perpetuates the identification of "Baxter's Tragedy" (in the Playstowe acquittance) as a listing of "Bristow Tragedy." Gurr explains that the "Bristol" play was the "most likely" to be "sent to the Master of the Revels" along with the other plays listed. He follows the suggestion offered by Greg that it was Malone's interlined hand that identified "the Cardinall" in the Playstowe list with Cardinal Wolsey, leading him to identify the play itself as one of those featuring Wolsey in the Admiral's repertory (264, n127).

For What It's Worth

Information welcome.

Works Cited


Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Nungezer, Edwin. A Dictionary of Actors. New York, Greenwood Press, 1929.




Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 14 June 2019.