Bridegroom and the Madman, The

Anon. (c.1619)

Historical Records

Cotton MS. Tiberius E. X.

Marcham p14 Bridegroom.jpg
Excerpt from p14 of Marcham (out of copyright)

In 1925 Frank Marcham transcribed and published the contents of the then British Museum manuscript, Cotton MS. Tiberius E. X. It contains the History of Richard III by the Master of the Revels, Sir George Buck, written on what appears to be “Revels Office waste,” sometime after 1617 (Chambers, RES 479). Amongst the papers are “four lists of plays, bare lists without any indication of their objects,” which may or may not be all in Buck’s hand (Chambers, RES 479). Chambers believes it “most likely that the lists represent plays which the Revels Office had at some time or times under consideration for performance at court” (RES 484). The list designated ‘D’ by Chambers (f.247) contains, as its second entry, “The Bridegr<>", the rest of the entry being lost to fire damage.

The date to which List D is connected has been much debated in recent criticism, with the leading possibilities being in the range 1615-19 (arguments summarized by Steggle). It is thought that the early part, at least, of List D contains plays associated with the Prince's Men.

Middle Temple records

The Middle Temple archives contain an undated receipt, written on a single sheet of paper:

recevd of mr baldwine for on Comedy Called the brydgrom & the madmane, presented in the mydell tempell hall before the Iudges, & the benchers, on Candelmas Day last, the some of twelfe pownd, & being at charges for extreordynary mvsikve, for the better Content of thowse reverent persons toward that Charg recevd more xis, so in all, I Iohn newton have recevd of mr baldwine twelf pownd, xis.
Iohn newton servant
to the princ his hightnes
(Orbison, 57).

Orbison observes that the date of the performance referred to is certainly between 1612 and 1619, and gives a number of reasons why the date in question is most likely the Candlemas Day (2 February) of 1618-19. John Newton was a leading member of Prince Charles's Men: see Bentley, 2.515-6.

King's Men repertory list (1641)

On 7 August 1641, the Lord Chamberlain issued a list of play titles which were the property of the King's Men, and not to be printed without their consent. On this list appears "The Bridegroome & ye Madma". (Bentley, 5.1297; see the list in full here).

Theatrical Provenance

Prince Charles's (I) Men in 1619; King's Men by 1641. Considered (at least) for performance at court, performed in the Middle Temple.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (per Middle Temple records), with music.

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

Bentley (5.1296) hesitates over identifying List D's "the Bridegr<>" as the "The Bridegroom and the Madman" of the 1641 record, but concludes that it probably is: "No other play title beginning with the letters of the Revels entry is known in the Elizabethan, Jacobean, or Caroline periods". Since Bentley was writing, the connection between "the Bridegr<>" and "The Bridegroom and the Madman" has been further corroborated by the record printed by Orbison, which shows that "The Bridegroom and the Madman" was already in existence, and in performance, at around the right date for List D. Furthermore, Orbison's record shows the play being played by the Prince's Men, the company who seem to have owned the other plays in the section of List D where "the Bridegr<>" appears.

Orbison suggests that William Rowley, who moved from Prince Charles's Men to the King's Men, may have brought the play with him, but observes that other explanations are possible for its movement from one company to another.

Chambers (482) suggested that this play was published in the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio of 1647 under the title, The Nice Valour, or the Passionate Madman, since that play has a prologue associated with a revival. Bentley is less enthusiastic: "I see nothing to recommend the identification" (Bentley, 5.1296). Chambers's suggestion is occasionally revived: Bliss (376), for instance, comments that the identification has "a great deal to recommend it".

Philip L. Ralph suggested that the play might be an alternative title for Fletcher's The Mad Lover, but that suggestion does not seem compellingly strong.

For What It's Worth

What kind of plot could one have, featuring both a bridegroom and a madman?

Works Cited

Bliss, M. D. "Massinger's City Madam and the Lost City Honest Man". English Literary Renaissance, 7 (1977): 368–381. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6757.1977.tb01376.x
Chambers, E. K. (review author), “The King’s Office of the Revels, 1610-1622. Fragments of Documents in the Department of Manuscripts, British Museum, transcribed by FRANK MARCHAM, with a Preface by J. P. GILSON. London: Frank Marcham, 53, Chalk Farm Road, N.W.1. Pp. 50, including 19 Collotype Plates. £2. 2s. 1925.” The Review of English Studies, 1.4 (1925): 479-84. Print.
Marcham, Frank. The King's Office of the Revels 1610-1622: Fragments of Documents in the Department of Manuscripts, British Museum. London: F. Marcham, 1925. Print.
Orbison, Tucker. "Traces of Two Jacobean Dramatic Performances at the Middle Temple," Yearbook of English Studies 1 (1971): 55-62.
Ralph, Philip L. "References to the Drama in the Mildmay Diary". Modern Language Notes 55 (1940): 589-591.
Steggle, Matthew. "A lost Jacobean tragedy: Henry the Una (c 1619)", Early Theatre 13 (2010): 65-81.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University; updated David McInnis, 25 Feb 2015.