Chariclea (Theagenes and Chariclea)

Anon. (1572)

Historical Records

Government Documents

Accounts of the Office of the Revels

Payments for 'speares for the play Cariclia' and an 'Awlter [alter] for theagines' are listed in the Revels accounts of 1572/3 (Feuillerat 175: 1-24, see also Feuillerat's note 175 (454)).

The complete entry from Feuillerat reads as follows:

Propertymaker & his parcels [margin, left of entry]

Iohn Carow for sparres to make frames for the players howses--
ixs. vjd./ Canvas for A monster vij ells -- v3. xd/ A
nett for the ffishers maskers -- xs vjd for wooll to stuf the
fishes -- xijd/ ij speares for the play of Cariclia -- xyjd / A
tree of Holly for the Duttons playe -- iijs iiijd / other holly
for the forest -- xijd A Traye for the fishermen -- vijd A
mace -- xijd / Turky bowes -- ijs / Arrowes -- xijd sparres
caryed to hampton coorte -- ijs packthrfed -- iiijd / A planke
-- xijd . A new fawchyn -- iijs iiijd/ the mending of v flfawchins
-- vs A palmers staf -- xijd / A desk for farrantes playe -- iijs/
Boordes to brace the skaffold^s -- vjd A vyzarde for an
apes face -- iijs iiijd / Glew j lb -- iijd / A keye for Ianvs -- ijs
A Monster -- xxs / An Awlter for theagines -- iijs iiijd / Dishes
-- iiijd . Egges couwterfet vij doozen -- xiiijs/ Roches couflterfet
-- yj6 Whitings xxiiij -- vjs knyves for marryntfrs -- xijd/
Thornebackes -- iiijs Smelts iij dozen -- iijs Mackerells
-- iijs/ fflownders -- iijs Image of canvas stuft -- iijs
Boordtfs to beare lights for the hall -- iiijs/ cariage of
the Awlter from the warderobe to powles wharf -- iiijd A
Ladder -- xviijd/ A ffootepace of iij stepps with Iointes -- x6/
Nayles vc of single tenns -- iiijs ijd/ Dubble tens -- xviijd/
syxpeny nayles -- xviijd. three peny nayles -- ixd twopeny
nayles -- viijd Tackes -- vjd/ hoopes for the monster -- xd
In all

Payment to theatre companies in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber (1572-1573) narrow the list of theatre companies that may have performed this play (Collections, VI, 6-7. See also the examination by Wiggins, Catalogue #536 of which of these companies may or may not have performed this play in 1572-73).

Theatrical Provenance

At Court. The companies performing at court during the holiday season from Christmas through Shrovetide include Leicester's men, Sussex's men, and Lincoln's men (for the adult companies) and Paul's Boys, Children of Windsor, Children of Eton, and Merchant Taylors Boys (for the children's companies). Wiggins, Catalogue #536) "tentatively" excludes Lincoln's men and the Children of Windsor because properties assigned to them by the Revels Accounts do not appear likely for "Chariclea."

Probable Genre(s)

Romance. Melodrama.

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The STC lists the printing of An Aethiopian History around 1569 (rpt. 1577), a work that was translated by Thomas Underdowne from a Greek text (STC (2nd ed.), 13041). This story comes from Heliodorus of Emesa's history of Theagenes and Chariclea. The story of the Queen of Ethiopia is also translated from the French by James Sandford in 1567 in a supplement to his translation of a work entitled The Amorous and Tragicall Tales of Plutarch (STC (2nd ed.), 20072).

This same play was either revived or made from the same or similar sources in another lost play, entitled 'The Queen of Ethiopia' in 1578.

In this romance, Chariclea, the daughter of King Hydaspes and Queen Persinna of Ethiopia, was born white because her mother gazed upon a painting of Andromeda while Chariclea was being conceived. This happened just after the queen was rescued by Perseus, which makes the queen fear being accused of adultery. So Persinna leaves the baby Chariclea in the care of Sisimithras, who takes the baby to Egypt and in turn leaves her in the care of a Pythian priest.

Chariclea is later taken to Delphi, and made a priestess of Artemis. When Theagenes the Thessalian comes to Delphi, the two fall in love. Theagenes runs off with Chariclea with the help of Calasiris, an Egyptian employed by Queen Persinna to find Chariclea. Theagenes and Chariclea go through a number of trials, including encounters with pirates and thieves. The plot culminates with Chariclea taken and offered as a sacrifice to the gods by her own father. But her birth is made known, and Chariclea and Theagenes are married.

This narrative was dramatized again in 1640 by John Gough in a play entitled 'The Strange Discovery: A Tragi-comedy'.

References to the Play

In Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582), Stephen Gosson lists 'the AEthiopian historie' as one of the books that had been 'ransackt to furnish the Play houses in London'. The passage reads:

I may boldely say it, because I haue
seene it, that the Palace of pleasure,
the Golden Asse, the AEthiopian hi-
storie, Amadis of Fraunce, the
Rounde table, baudie Comedies in
Latine, French, Italian, and Spanish,
haue beene throughly ransackt, to fur-
nish the Playe houses in London. (D6v).

In his 'Defense of Poesy' (1583), Sir Philip Sydney does not reference this play per se, but he does reference the love story of Theagenes and Chariclea, which he calls that 'sugared invention' of Heliodorus' (218). In the same essay he says that, with the exception of Gorboduc, the tragedies and comedies of his time had neither 'honest civility' nor 'skillful poetry.' If Sydney saw the play, which is (barely) possible, he was not impressed (243).

Critical Commentary

Wiggins holds that in the Revels accounts, the mitres and a picture of Andromeda 'correspond' with the likely print source for the play and speculates on other possible items that may make reference to this play (Wiggins, Catalogue #536).

Lee Monroe Ellison in The Early Romantic Drama at the English Court makes the connection between Heliodorus and Revels account of the purchase of items for the production. The spears mentioned in the account in Ellison's view were 'probably intended to represent arms in the hands of Hydaspes's exultant soldiers,' and the alter mentioned in the Revels entry was probably the 'sacrificial alter upon whose heated golden bars the victims, Theagenes and Chariclea,are placed.' Ellison sees the story, particularly with its spears, as having 'all the elements of sensationalism necessary to recommend it to dramatists of this period.' He concludes that the tenth book, from which the story came, was 'capable of being served up as tolerable melodrama' (68-69).

For What It's Worth

Wiggins mentions but then excludes certain items in the Revels accounts that were listed in proximity 'on the balance of probability' (Wiggins, Catalogue # 536). One is the possible provision for a monster, and a monster does appear at the end of the source. The Revels accounts have three references to a monster being constructed in the entries for 1572-73, clustered around this play (175). One is reminded again of Sydney's 'Defense,' in which he condemns the conventions of drama during his time and obliquely describes a play that has a 'hideous monster with fire and smoke' (243). In the context of Sydney's description, the monster is ridiculous, along with other features of the unnamed play he describes. The general description he gives does not point specifically to this play, nor can we establish that this play had a monster, but it is worth noting the appearance of monsters and other unfeasible events on stages at court met with the lack of willing suspension of disbelief from Sydney and no doubt others.

Works Cited

Collections, Vol. VI, Malone Society Publications (1961).
Ellison, Lee Monroe. The Early Romantic Drama at the English Court (Chicago, 1917). Internet Archive
Gosson, Stephen. Plays Confuted in Five Actions. London: Thomas Gossson, 1582. EEBO-TCP (text only). STC (2nd ed.), 12095.
Gough, John. The Strange Discovery (London, Edward Griffin, 1640). Print.
Heliodorus, of Emesa. An Aethiopian History. trans. Thomas Underdowne (London: Frauncis Coldocke, 1569, rpt. 1577). EEBO-TPC (1577 edition, text only). STC (2nd ed.), 13042.
Sidney, Philip. Sir Philip Sidney: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones (Oxford: OUP, 2009). Print.
Sandford, James. The Amorous and Tragicall Tales of Plutarch (London: Leonard Maylard, 1567). EEBO-TCP. STC (2nd ed.), 20072.

Site created and maintained by Thomas Dabbs, Aoyama Gakuin University; updated 2 March, 2017.