Cobbler of Queenheath, The

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Anon. (1597)

Historical Records

Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe's Diary)

F. 37 (Greg, I.69)

Lent vnto Robarte shawe the 23 of octobʒ 1597
to by a boocke for the company of my lorde admirals
men & my lord penbrockes the some of ………… xxxxs
called the cobler ………… wittnes
E Alleyn

F. 43v (Greg, I.82)

layd owt vnto Robarte shawe to by a boocke for the
companey the 21 of octobʒ 1597 the some of ………… xxxxs
called the cobler………… wittnes………… E Alleyn

Henslowe's Inventory of Playbooks

(Greg, Papers, p. 121)

A Note of all suche bookes as belong to the Stocke, and such as I have bought since the 3d of March 1598
Cobler quen hive.

Theatrical Provenance

"The Cobbler" was purchased for the Admiral's players on 21 October 1597, not quite two weeks after Henslowe made a marginal note by his list of performances that the Admiral's and Pembroke's players were playing at the Rose: "the xj of octobe be gane my lord admerals & my lord of penbrockes men to playe at my howsse 1597" (Greg, 1.54). One of those Pembroke's men was Robert Shaw (Shaa). The timing of his joining the Admiral's men, which coincides with the departure of some Pembroke's players from Francis Langley's Swan in the wake of the debacle of playing "The Isle of Dogs" at the end of July 1597, suggests that Shaw was one of those departing Pembroke's players. That he had a playbook to sell ("Lent vnto Robarte shawe … to by a boocke") implies that the book, i.e., "The Cobbler," had recently been in the repertory of Pembroke's men.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues


References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Greg adds the nearly duplicate entries in the diary (F. 37, F. 43v) to the entry in Henslowe's inventory to get the title, "The Cobbler of Queenhithe" (II.188, item 116); he considers it "[p]robably an old play." He takes the spelling, "Queenhithe" from George Peele's Edward I; Harbage spells the word "Queenheath."

Knutson, following Chambers, classifies "The Cobbler" as a secondhand play (119, 160).

Gurr notes that "The Cobbler" was probably "from Pembroke's" (230, n.71), but he does not read the entries of purchase as identifying Shaw as the seller: "Who bought it is not stated" (230, n.71).

See also Wiggins serial number 1085.

For What It's Worth

The company "The Cobbler" keeps among the playbooks in stock at the Rose in March 1598 provides another clue that its recent owners had been Pembroke's men. It is preceded in the list by "Hardicanewtes", "Borbonne", "Sturgflaterey", and "Branhowlle", (Greg, Papers, 121). Three of these plays—""Hardicanute," "Friar Spendleton," and "Burbon"—turn up in Henslowe's list of performances at the Rose beside the marginal notation that the Admiral's and Pembroke's players are playing together (Greg, 1.54). Greg, observing this coincidence, labels these plays along with "Black Joan" as former property of Pembroke's men (Greg, II, 186-7).

Works Cited

Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Knutson, Roslyn L., "The Commercial Significance of the Payments for Playtexts in Henslowe's Diary, 1597-1603," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 5 (1991): 117-63.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 9 October 2012.