Bold Beauchamps

Thomas Heywood (?) (1606?)

Historical Records

See References to the Play below.

Theatrical Provenance

Presumably staged in or before 1607; auspices unknown.

Probable Genre(s)

History (?) (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Early references to the play's title (see below) suggest that it depicted the exploits of multiple generations of the Beauchamp family. It seems that Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th earl of Warwick, who fought at the Battles of Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), is the likeliest candidate to have appeared in a play with this title (see For What It's Worth). Narratives of Edward III's French wars could be found in the chronicle histories of Froissart and Holinshed, and were dramatized in Edward III (S.R. 1595, published 1596).

References to the Play

Francis Beaumont, The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607)

At the beginning of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, when the disruptive Citizen is joined by his Wife on the stage, she admits that she is an inexperienced playgoer:

Wife. By your leaue Gentlemen all, Im'e something troublesome, Im'e a stra[n]ger here, I was nere at one of these playes as they say, before; but I should haue seene Iane Shore once, and my husband hath promised me any time this Twelue-moneth to carry me to the Bold Beauchams, but in truth he did not, I pray you beare with me. (sig. Bv)

John Suckling, The Goblins (1638)

   1 Th. No, none of these:
They are by themselves in some other place;
But here's he that writ Tamerlane.
   P. I beseech you bring me to him,
There's something in his Scene
Betwixt the Empresses a little high and clowdie,
I would resolve my selfe.
   1 Th. You shall Sir.
Let me see — the Author of the bold Beauchams,
And Englands Ioy.
   Po. The last was a well writ peice, I assure you,
A Brittane I take it; and Shakespeares very way:
I desire to see the man […] (Fragmenta Aurea, sig. C7)

Suckling's allusion to "Englands Ioy" refers to a famous hoax in 1602 in which an audience paid a high admission for a play that was never performed (see England's Joy). The Poet's praise of the latter is thus likely meant to be ironic: the "point of the passage lies in the Poet's inability to distinguish Shakespeare's work from the crudest plays" (Beaurline 4.5.17n).

A Whip for an Ape (1645)

This pamphlet, a satirical commentary on the rivalry between the Royalist newpaper Mercurius Aulicus and the Parliamentarian Mercurius Britannicus, pauses to describe the martial achievements of Rupert and Maurice—"the two Germane Princes"—whose "strong inclination to Idolatrie and all manner of vanitie" have led them to fight for the cause of their uncle Charles II (sig. A3v). Nevertheless, even a Parliamentarian must admire their valor:

O the memorable acts of these bold Beacham's, not to be paraleld by those so often presented wth generall applause in the publique Theater. These do not trust a companie of idle fellowes to tell their stories for 'em in a Play-house, but make all England the Stage, wherewith fire and sword they Act their parts themselves… (sig. A4; cited in Rollins 278n).

Hudibras. The Second Part (1663)

An allusion to "Bold Beauchamps" appears in the spurious Hudibras. The Second Part (printed before Butler's genuine Second Part appeared). It is the only reference that explicitly links the play to Heywood.

The Ancient Poet Heywood draws
From Ancestors of These his Laws
Of Dramma, to fill up each Sceane
With Souldiers good, to please Plebe'ne,
And in those famous Stories told
The Grecian Warrs, and Beauchamps bold. (sig. B8)

William Davenant, The Playhouse to Be Let (1663)

        Play. […] There is an old tradition
That in the times of mighty Tamberlane,
Of conjuring Faustus, and the Beauchamps bold,
You Poets us'd to have the second day.
This shall be ours, Sir, and to morrow yours.
Poet. I'll take my venture, 'tis agreed! (Works, sig. K3v)

Charles Sackville, "Epilogue to Every Man in His Humour" (1670)

The play is invoked in an epilogue written for a 1670 revival of Every Man in His Humour by Charles Sackville, later earl of Dorset (van Lennep 1.169-70). Halfway through the epilogue, the Ghost of Jonson appears and demands repentance of the audience for "the great offence / Your Ancestors so rashly did commit / Against the mighty powers of Art and Wit", namely the poor reception of his Sejanus and Cataline:

Repent, or not your guilty heads shall fall
The curse of many a rhyming Pastoral:
The three bold Beauchamps shall revive again,
And with the London-Prentice conquer Spain.
All the dull follies of the former age
Shall rise and find applause upon this Stage. (Collection, sig. C8-C8v)

John Lacy, The Dumb Lady (1672)

How would the Poets all rejoyce to see
This age appear i'th' old simplicity;
To have your wives and you come ten times o'er,
To see the pudding eaten in Jane shore;
To cry up the bold Beauchamps of the Stage?
There was a blessed understanding age. (sig. A4)

Martin Clifford, Notes Upon Mr. Dryden's Poems (1687)

In his commentary on Dryden's Conquest of Granada, responding in particular to the poet's claim that the character of Almanzor was modeled on Homer's Achilles, Clifford protests:

But the Four Sons of Ammon, the Three bold Beachams, the Four London Prentices, Tamerlain the Scythian Shepherd, Muleasses, Amurath, and Bajazet, or any raging Turk at the Red Bull and Fortune, might as well have been urged by you as a Pattern of your Almanzor, as the Achilles in Homer, but then our Laureat had not pass'd for so Learned a man as he desires his unlearned Admirers should esteem him. (sig. A4)

The other plays alluded to seem to be: The Four Sons of Aymon, Heywood's Four Prentices of London, Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Mason's The Turk, Goffe's The Courageous Turk (Amurath) and The Raging Turk (Bajazet).

Critical Commentary

Dyce found a possible allusion to the "Bold Beauchamps" in Middleton's A Mad World, My Masters (published 1608). Follywit's prologue for the play-within-the-play begins:

We sing of wandring knights, what them betyde,
Who nor in one place, nor one shape abide,
They're here now, & anon no scouts can reach em
Being euery man well horst like a bold Beacham,
The Play which we present, no fault shall meete
But one, youle say tis short, weele say tis sweete… (sig. H2-H2v)

According to Dyce, "Follywit […] seems to allude to one of the characters in a celebrated drama, produced before 1600, called The bold Beauchamps, which is frequently mentioned by our early writers: it no longer exists" (2.411n).

Fleay assigns the play to Heywood, recognizing that the attribution is "very doubtful" (1.286). The play "was probably acted by the same company as Guy Earl of Warwick" (1.286), which Fleay elsewhere observes: "Taylor, the Water poet, in his Penniless Pilgrimage, 1618, speaks of this play as acted by Derby's men" (1.136).

Clark addresses the play in his study of Heywood, but assesses the evidence for its attribution to Heywood "very slender" (14). On the subject of Middleton's reference to "a bold Beacham," he offers: "Apparently this romance of 'wandring Knights' was old-fashioned before Middleton wrote, though, if we judge from The Knight of the Burning Pestle where it is mentioned along with Edward IV […] it may still have held the boards at the Red Bull, which had a reputation for such melodramas, as late as 1607. The company which produced it, however, still remains a mystery" (15). Fleay's guess "has nothing to commend it." Clark's ultimate verdict: "That Heywood was responsible for this lost and obviously worthless effort we are not prepared to urge or to deny" (15).

Wiggins (#1471) cites three more passages that may offer clues about the play. The first is from the pamphlet The Scot Arraigned (1651) by R.F., in which Scotland is addressed: "Tis true you have declared highly against our Liberty and Goverment, and like bold Beauchamps, have seconded your words with your swords" (sig. A4v). According to Wiggins, this confirms the "martial element" of the play. The second, from Edmund Gayton's Pleasant Notes upon Don Quixot (1654), may support Sackville's association of the Bold Beauchamps fighting with the "London-Prentice":

…some tearing Tragædy full of fights and skirmishes: As the Guelphs and Guiblins, Greeks and Trojans, or the three London Apprentises, which commonly ends in six acts, the spectators frequently mounting the stage, and making a more bloody Catastrophe amongst themselves, then the Players did. (p. 271)

While Wiggins acknowledges that "[n]either the London apprentice nor the conquest of Spain" mentioned by Sackville "need be part of this play," it does seem to have "appealed to citizen tastes" and "may also, in part, have represented a citizen milieu," perhaps depicting the eponymous Beauchamps as "heroic figures who started out humbly, like the title characters of The Four Prentices of London." They may "even have played a decisive part in the legendary English conquest of Spain by John of Gaunt." The third passage is from The Knave in Graine (1640) by J.D.:

He's gone, I am still here, now Gentlemen,
If heretofore there hath been any Doll,
Any bold Beachum, and any Cut-purse Moll.
Grace me so farre to say, that of a Cheater
Though some have been more grave; scarce any greater,
But Gentlemen; what need we more repeating?
Knowing, that even in all Trades there is cheating?
Tis common both in buying and in selling,
In all Commerce; nay, even in mony telling.
Tis frequent 'twixt the Pander and the Whore,
We our selves finde it at the Play-house doore. (sig. M2v)

Wiggins sees the proximity of a Bold Beauchamp with Moll Cutpurse as possibly suggesting "a city cozenage dimension to the play."

For What It's Worth

Proverbial Title

The association of boldness with the name Beauchamp was proverbial, appearing in several contemporaneous collections of adages: "Bolde Beauchampe" (Draxe, s.v. "Boldnesse"), "As bolde as Beauchampe" (Clarke, s.v. "Impudentiæ"), "As bold as Beauchamp" (Ray, sig. T4v). Michael Drayton, in the eighteenth book of Poly-Olbion, imagines the term originated with Thomas de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick during Edward III's wars in France:

Warwick, of England then High-constable that was,
As other of that race, heere well I cannot passe;
That braue and god-like brood of Beuchamps, which so long
Them Earles of Warwick held; so hardy, great, and strong,
That after of that name it to an Adage grew,
If any man himselfe adventrous hapt to shew,
Bold Beuchampe men him tearm'd, if none so bold as hee. (sig. 2C)

Apparently, some attributed the currency of the proverb to its alliterative quality, but Thomas Fuller in his Worthies of England (where he discusses the phrase as a local Warwickshire proverb), makes the case for its validity:

Some will say the concurrence of these two B. B. did much help the Proverbe, and I think (as in others of the same kind) they did nothing hinder it. However this quality could not be fixed on any name with more truth. If it be demanded, what Beauchamp is chiefly meant, amongst the many of that Surname, Earls of Warwick? The answer of mutinous people is true in this case, One and all.
1. William. 2. Guy. 3. Thomas. 4. Thomas. 5. Richard. 6. Henry.
Such a series there was of successive undauntedness in that noble Family. (sig. 3P3).

However, Fuller ultimately sides with Drayton, choosing Thomas as the most likely candidate: "But, if a better may be allowed amongst the best, and a bolder amongst the boldest; I conceive that Thomas the first of that name, gave the chief occasion to this Proverbe…" Fuller cites a particularly impressive anecdote from the chronicle histories, when Warwick disembarks at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue:

At Hogges in Normandy, in the year of our Lord 1346. being there in safety arrived with Edward the third, this Thomas leaping over ship-board, was the first man who went on land, seconded by one Esquire, and six Archers, being mounted on a silly Palfray, which the suddain accident of the business first offered to hand; with this company, he did fight against one hundred armed men, and in hostile manner overthrew every one which withstood him: and so at one shock, with his seven assistants, he slew sixty Normans, removed all resistance, and gave means to the whole fleet to land the Army in safety.

While this anecdote does not appear in Froissart or Holinshed, it was recorded in Thomas Walsingham's early 15th-century history Ypodigma Neustriae, which was published in an edition by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1574 (sig. P2v).

Possible References

Ben Jonson, "A Speech According to Horace" (1626)

     In the stead of bold
Beauchamps, and Nevills, Cliffords, Audley's old;
Insert thy Hodges, and those newer men. (Under-woods, sig. 2F4)

Jonson's poem is cited by Clark (15). For the composition date of 1626, see Burrow's headnote to the poem (7.180n).


The earliest explicit reference to "Bold Beauchamps" as a play is in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, published in 1613 but often dated to 1607 based on internal evidence (Zitner 10-12, Hattaway viii-ix). Nell's claim that her husband George "hath promised me any time this Twelue-moneth to carry me to the Bold Beauchams, but in truth he did not," suggests that "Beauchamps" was being offered by a London company within a year prior to Beaumont's play, thus the tentative assignment of the lost play to 1606 in Harbage's Annals, which offers the limits "c. 1600–1607". Nell's phrase "any time this" seems to denote a continual action over time: i.e., George has promised her repeatedly over the course of the past year to take her to the play. Of course, there were a finite number of opportunities in a year that he would have been able to fulfill this promise, if any. It is possible that Nell's complaint and disappointment are intended to be heard comically (that is, George has promised to take her to a play that has not in fact been performed in the past year, perhaps one that is well-known to be passé)? Incidentally, if we suppose with Dyce that the allusion to "a bold Beacham" in A Mad World, My Masters does indeed refer to the lost play, then Middleton provides us with a potentially earlier terminus ad quem. The title page of the quarto (S.R. 4 October 1608) says that Mad World "hath bin lately in Action by the Children of Paules," who stopped performing in 1606: based on the play's allusions, the recent Oxford Middleton dates it "between midyear 1605 and late 1606" (Peter Saccio in Taylor 355). Dyce guessed that "Bold Beauchamps" must have been "produced before 1600" (2.411n). Perhaps the rationale for this estimate was, as Clark assumed, that Middleton's reference suggests that "this romance of 'wandring Knights' was old-fashioned" (15), although a play set in the time of Edward III would scarcely have been about knights errant. (On the other hand, Thomas de Beauchamp was a founder member of the chivalric Order of the Garter.)

Leaving the question of the play's original performance date, the abundance of references to "Bold Beauchamps" from the mid- and late-seventeenth century is noteworthy, especially for a play that was never apparently published. Perhaps it (or else another play by the same title) was performed again after its original staging. The most suggestive evidence here is the reference in the 1645 pamphlet A Whip for an Ape: "the memorable acts of these bold Beacham's, not to be paraleld by those so often presented wth generall applause in the publique Theater" (sig. A4). Of course, it is possible that the pamphleteer is using the phrase "bold Beacham's" proverbially, and without specific reference to any play or plays on that subject. However, the extant of Restoration-era references to the lost play perhaps suggest that its staging might have been in living memory for some.

Observations about the References

Lacy's pairing of "Jane shore" with "bold Beauchamps" seems at first to be taken from The Knight of the Burning Pestle, but his reference to "the pudding eaten" in the former suggests that he is familiar with the content of that play (perhaps the banquet scene in 1 Edward IV?).

Clifford's reference to "the Four Sons of Ammon" seems to refer to a lost play that first appeared in Henslowe's Diary in 1602, reappearing when it was licensed for performance at the Red Bull in 1624 (see the play's LDP entry). No publication is known. Heywood's Four Prentices of London (S.R. 1594, publ. 1615) was another Admiral's play, that was apparently revived by Queen Anne's Men at the Red Bull: the 1632 quarto describes it as having been "diuers times acted at the Red-Bull, by the Queenes Maiesties Seruants." (Queen Anne's Men performed at the Red Bull until 1617; Queen Henrietta's Men performed at the Cockpit.) John Mason's The Turk (publ. 1610 and again in 1632) announced on its title page that it had been "diuers times acted by the Children of his Maiesties Reuels" (though in 1668 it was allowed to the Duke's Company [van Lennep 1.140]). The title pages of Thomas Goffe's two Turk plays, The Raging Turk and The Courageous Turk (publ. 1631 and 1632 respectively), both mention performances by the students of Christ's Church, Oxford. About Clifford's 1687 reference to "Tamerlain the Scythian Shepherd," it should be noted that when Charles Saunders published his own Tamerlane the Great in 1681 he denied the accusation that "this was only an Old-Play Transcrib'd" by claiming his ignorance about Marlowe's precedent:

But I hope I may easily unload my self of that Calumny, when I shall testifie that I never heard of any Play on the same Subject, untill my own was Acted, neither have I since seen it, though it hath been told me, there is a Cock-Pit Play, going under the name of the Scythian Shepherd, or Tamberlain the Great, which how good it is, any one may Iudge by its obscurity, being a thing, not a Bookseller in London, or scarce the Players themselves, who Acted it formerly, cou'd call to Remembrance, so far, that I believe that whoever was the Author, he might e'en keep it to himself secure from invasion, or Plagiary; But let these who have Read it Convince themselves of their Errors, that this is no second Edition, but an entirely new Play. ("Preface," sig. av)

However, Clifford's "Tamerlain" is presumably Marlowe's: given his reference to the Fortune, which was never reopened after the Restoration, the general sense seems to be a list of antediluvian plays.

Works Cited

Beaurline, L. A., ed. The Works of John Suckling. Volume II: The Plays. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.
Beaumont, Francis. The Knight of the Burning Pestle. London, 1613.
Burrow, Colin, ed. The Underwood. In The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson. Gen. eds. David Bevington et al. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012.
Clark, Arthur Melville. Thomas Heywood: Playwright and Miscellanist. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1931.
Clarke, John. Parœmiologia Anglo-Latina. London, 1639.
Clifford, M[artin]. Notes Upon Mr. Dryden's Poems. London, 1687.
A Collection of Poems Written upon Several Occasions by Several Persons. London, 1672.
D., J. The Knave in Graine, New Vampt. London, 1640.
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Draxe, Thomas. Bibliotheca Scholastica Instructissima. London, 1616.
Drayton, Michael. Poly-Olbion. London, 1612.
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F., R. The Scot Arraigned, And At the Bar of Justice, Reason, and Religion, Convinced, Convicted, and Condemned of a most horrid and odious Conspiracy and Rebellion against the Native Liberty and Birth-right of the Church and Free State of England. London, 1651.
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M[iddleton], T[homas]. A Mad World, My Masters. London, 1608.
Rollins, Hyder E. "A Contribution to the History of the English Commonwealth Drama." Studies in Philology 18 (1921): 267–33.
Saunders, C[harles]. Tamerlane the Great. London, 1681.
Suckling, John. The Goblins. In Fragmenta Aurea. London, 1646.
van Lennep, William, et al., eds. The London Stage, 1660–1800. 5 vols. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1960-68.
Parker, Matthew, ed. Historia Breuis Thomæ Walsingham. London, 1574.
A Whip for an Ape: or, Aulicus his Whelp worm'd. [London], 1645.
Zitner, Sheldon, ed. The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1984.

Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, University of Toronto; updated 26 May 2015.