Damon and Pithias

Henry Chettle (1600)

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 29v (Greg I.57)

Receiued in þt of paiment of [Gri] Damon and }
Pythias this 16. of ffebruary 1599 . . . . . . . . . . . . } xxs
                       By me henry chettle./

Fol. 67v (Greg I. 118)

Layd owt for the company the 16 febrearye 1599 }
in earnest of a Boocke called damon & } xxs
pethyus as maye a pere   some is . . . . . . . . . . . . . }
            to hary chettell

F. 68 (Greg I. 119)

Lent vnto wm Birde the 10 marche 1599 to }
geue harey chettell in earneste of his Boocke } xxvjs
called damon & pethias the some of . . . . . . . . }

Fol. 68v (Greg, I.120)

Lent vnto harey chettell the 26 of aprell 1[59]600 }
in þte payment of a Boocke called damon }
& pethias at the a poyntment of Robart shawe } xxxs
the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }
                       henry Chettle./

|16 - 07 - 00| payd to Harry Chettle in full payment of vjs for } xxxxiiijs
his booke of Damon & Pithias xxxxiiijs . . . . . . . }

Miscellaneous payments in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 69 (Greg, I.121)

pd vnto the mr of the Revelles man for licensynge }
of a Boocke called damon & pethias the 16 of } vijs
maye 1600 some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's players purchased "Damon and Pithias" from Henry Chettle for 120s. (£6) from February through April, 1600. This season would have been their last at the Rose, as the Fortune was under construction and the company would move to the new playhouse in the fall.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragi-comedy? (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Damon and Pithias by Richard Edwards

The story of Damon and Pithias, having classical origins, was broadly familiar in the early modern period. A relatively contemporary dramatic analogue was Damon and Pithias by Richard Edwards (Q1571), which, according to the title page of the quarto, was played at court by the Children of the Chapel.

Miscellaneous Allusions in non-Dramatic Literature

Contemporary references to the narrative demonstrate that the primary context was friendship. Categories of works that exploit that thread include prose narratives of the Euphuistic type such asEuphues. The Anatomy of Wit [1578], Narbonus, the Laberynth of Libertie [1580]) and sermons.
William Burton, "A sermon preached in the Cathedrall Church in Norwich, the xxi. day of December 1589 ...

The last thing that from this reason I observe, is this: that seeing as the loue of God is so free, so continuall, so vndeserved, and so vnspeakeable, that therefore vvee set more by it then by any loue in the world, Great vvas the loue of Damon & Pithias, when one offered to die for another, but it was neither free, perpetuall, nor vndeserued, for Damon loued Pithias, because Pithias loued Damon, & so one friend loued another: but God loued vs vvhen vve vvere his enemies & hated him: their loue ended with their liues, Gods loue is eternall, as himselfe: ...

Austin Saker, Narbonus, The Laberynth of Libertie.

Narbonus' friend = Phemocles; work in two parts; TCP trace = "a faithlesse foe: If I proue Damon; he Damocles: he Theseus ..; or your selfe desire: And if Damon were faithfull to Pithyas ...; ... Lepidus to Laelius ...

Francis Meres, God's Arithmetic: under the section on the #1

It is friendship that maketh prosperitie more glorious, and aduersitie more tollerable. But in no kinde of society hath this friendship more gloriously appeared, nor more constantly continued, then betweene man and wife. Which we shall presently yeelde vnto, if wee goe no further then to the stories of the Heathen: The friendship of Pilades and Orestes, of Damon and Pythias, of Achilles & Patroclus, so much admired and extolled of the Grecian Writers for continuance was neuer more stable, for mutuall dutie and helpe more requisite, or for tendernes of affection and sincerity of true and vnfayned loue and loyaltie more commendable, then the loue of Alceste to her husband Admetus, who vnderwent the weightie burthen of death for him. Or of Tiberius Gracchus to his wife Cornelia, who for her tasted of the same cup, that Alcste did for her husband, so that it is a matter vndecideable, whether Alceste loued her husband, or Gracchus his Wife better. Damon and Pythias are much commended for beeing each others pledge in a capitall case, and for the returne at the prefixed day: But if you poyse with Damon and Pythias the loue of Mynian wiues to their Husbands, as the oue of the wife of Theopompus the Lacedomonian to him, the VVomens scale will farre prooue the weyghtyer.

Walter Dorke, A Tipe or Figure of Friendship.

>thesis: (A3) all things can be overcome "either with the fortefied power of a patient minde, or with the fortunate presence of a faithfull friend. What comfort can there bee more propitiate or present to a penciue mind, than to powre out the plaints thereof into the secret bosome of a sincere friend, by whose sweete communication is receaued a sodaine delight, and souerraigne consolation, as a most cordiall medicine against any corrasiue."… "Dionisius the Tirant was so amazed at the friendship//A3v// of Damon and Pithias that it translated his minde from being tirannous towards them, to become almost with them, as it may appeare by his owne petition. Rogo ut me quoque in vestram amicitiam recipiatis. I beseeche you (saith he) receaue me also into your sacred societie."
(B2:) Wherefore it may be well said, that wee vse neither water, nor fire, nor earth, nor aire, in more places than we doo Friendship. It maketh prosperitie to shine most glorious, and causeth aduersitie to seeme nothing grieuous It suffereth neither the heart to be daunted, nor the courage in any case quailed: wherefore being absent, yet are they present: being needie, they haue inough: being poore, they haue plentie: being weake, are strong: yea and I had almost said that which is more strange, being dead are aliue: insomuch, that the death of the one seemeth blessed, and the life of the other nothing blemished, so great is the honor, so gracious the remembrance, so godly the zeal that is bred in Friends one toward another. He yet loketh vpon his faithfull Friend, doth behold a perfect patterne of his owne person, being as it were an Alter ego, that is another himselfe. What was it that caused Phocion so say, he neuer denied anything to his faithfull friend Nicocles, was it not Friendship? What was it that vrged Damon to yeeld himselfe a pledge for the life of his companion Pithias, was it not Friendship? ... (B2v) Yea, to make our period, (though Friendships praise be infinite) such is the force therof, that mightie Kings haue desired it, it is so glorious: famous Philosophers haue honoured it, it is so specious: cruell tyrants haue been amazed at it, it is so victorious: al men in general haue praised it is is so precious: and yet few haue effectually at ay time attained unto it, it is so miraculous.

Lodowicke Lloyd, The Pilgrimage of Princes (1586 ed.)

p. 177: The faith and loue betwixt Damon and Pythias was so woondered at of king Dionisius, that though he was a cruell Tirant, in appointing Damon to die, yet was he most amazed to see the desire of Pithias, the constant faith, the loue and friendship prosessed in Damons behalfe, striuing one with an other to die, enforsced in spite of tiranny to pardon Damon for Pythias sake.

References to the Play

Satiromastix Jonson, Epicene: "embrace" like D&P

Critical Commentary

The definitive Chettle literary biography?

Stretter places the play in the context of the Admiral's 1590s repertory, which featured multiple plays (both extant and lost) celebrating male friendship, their "well-known stories all suggest[ing] a nostalgia for a lost age of 'true' friendship defined by loyalty, sacrifice, and a prioritization of homosocial values" (343). Stretter argues that Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing offer "a critique of the kind of triumphalist male friendship that appears in the legends of friends such as Alexander and Lodowick, stories in which the needs of the male friends take priority over wives, children, and sometimes even traditional notions of truth and morality" (332).

For What It's Worth

<Enter any miscellaneous points that may be relevant, but don't fit into the above categories. This is the best place for highly conjectural thoughts.>

Works Cited

Burton, William. A sermon preached in the Cathedrall Church in Norwich, the xxi. day of December, 1589. London: 1590.
Dorke, Walter. A Tipe or Figure of Friendship. London: 1586.
Lloyd, Lodowick. The Pilgrimage of Princes. London: 1573, 1586.
Stretter, Robert. "Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the Lost Friendship Plays of the Admiral's Men." Comparative Drama 55 (2021): 331–54.
White, D. Jerry. Richard Edwards' DAMON AND PITHIAS: A Critical Old-Spelling Edition. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1980.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 17 February 2012.