Historical Records


For apparel in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 44 (Greg I, 83)

Layd [of] owte for copr lace for the littell boye & for a valle for the boye a }
geanste the playe of dido & enevs the 3 of Jenewary 1597 } xxixs

Miscellaneous expenses in Philip Henslowe's diary

Lent vnto the company when they fyrst played }
dido at nyght the some of thirtishillynges }
wch wasse the 8 of Jenewary 1597 J saye… } xxxs


Philip Henslowe's papes in the Dulwich College Library

List of properties

Greg, Papers, APX. I, art. 1, p. 116, l. 57

The Enventary tacken of all the properties for my Lord Admeralles men, the 10 of Marche 1598.
Item, j tome of Guido, j tome of Dido, j bedsteade.

Greg, Papers, APX. I, art. 1, p. 117, l. 72

The Enventary tacken of all the properties for my Lord Admeralles men, the 10 of Marche 1598.
Item, Cupedes bowe, & quiver; the clothe of the Sone & Mone.

List of apparel

Greg, Papers, APX. I, art. 1, p. 120, l. 162

The Enventorey of all the aparell of the Lord Admeralles men, taken the 13th of Marche 1598, as followeth:
Item, Dides robe.

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's men had "Dido" in production by 8 January 1598, apparently its debut performance (or perhaps its first performance) "at nyght" (Greg I, 83). Gurr conjectures that the evening performance was "for a private event, not at the Rose" (231, n.74). Menzer, putting Henslowe's entry in the context of performances at city inns, considers the item evidence that professional men's companies did under certain circumstances perform in London at night (177).

Probable Genre(s)

Harbage labels the play a classical legend (62-3); Wiggins, Catalogue, #1100 labels it a tragedy.

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Virgil's Aeneid is the only source a playwright would need, though there were previous dramatic versions with which he might have been familiar, the most obvious being that by Christopher Marlowe (and in some way also Thomas Nashe) published in 1594.

References to the Play

None known to this play specifically.

Critical Commentary

Marlowe and Nashe's play?

Scholars have differed in assessing the likelihood of whether the Admiral's play may have represented some form of Dido, Queen of Carthage by Marlowe and Nashe (printed 1594). Collier suggested it was "[p]erhaps some alteration and revival of Marlowe and Nash's 'Dido, Queen of Carthage,' printed in 1594' but allowed that "it might, however, be a new production on the same subject" (117, n.3). Fleay, BCED resisted the identification because he saw no path by which the Admiral's men could acquire a play that had belonged to the Chapel children's company; he had an alternate conjecture: that this "Dido" was the fruit of Jonson's plot for which he was paid on 3 December 1597 (2.#206, p. 306). Greg II found the identification with Marlowe and Nashe's play "doubtful" given the absence of any evidence for the Admiral's acquisition of it, and he also rejected the association with Jonson's plot (II, 148, II, 306). Greg, Papers agreed, noting that the tomb listed in the Admiral's inventory of properties does not appear in Marlowe's play (APX. I. art. 1, p. 116 n.57). Nonetheless, the inclination to lump this play with Marlowe's persists. Gurr considers it "[m]ost likely" that this "Dido" was a revival "if the theory that almost all of Marlowe's plays went to the company [Admiral's] in 1594 has any value" (231, n.74).

Jonson's play?

Having dismissed Marlowe and Nashe as authors of the Admiral's "Dido", Fleay proposed Jonson: "on 3rd Dec. 1597 there is an entry of a plot of a play by Jonson to be delivered at Christmas, and this Dido apparently was delivered at Christmas; certainly no other play by Jonson was so" (BCED II, 306-7). He went on to propose that this may have been the source of the Dido and Aeneas play in Shakespeare's Hamlet, described as "caviare to the general" and "never acted above once." Greg II rejected Fleay's hypothesis, finding it difficult to imagine the characteristically slow Jonson moving from plot to completion by 8 January, moreover without publishing the finished play (189-90). Wiggins, Catalogue considers an identification of the Jonson payment (#1099) with the delivery of "Dido" but remains unconvinced (#1100).

Pembroke's Men's play?

Greg II, rejecting Fleay's suggestion that Jonson's December plot lay behind this play, found the most likely possibility for the provenance of "Dido and Aeneas" to be that it was "an old play brought in by Pembroke's Men" (#123, p. 90).

For What It's Worth

Fleay was not done with the identification of "Dido and Aeneas" by linking it to Jonson's plot. Adding to this guess, Fleay brought up the reference in Hamlet to a play on Dido; in a rare self-deprecating (but snarky) mood, Fleay then added: "I am rather diffident about putting forth this conjecture, because my former ephemeral hypothesis published in a magazine many years since, and not very absurd in our then state of knowledge, was raked out of its congenial dust-heap by my friend Mr. A. H. Bellen. This poor little butterfly was impaled by him with the ticket, 'Titanic absurdity, gross as a mountain, open, palpable'" (2.#206, p. 306).

Works Cited

Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare’s Opposites: The Admiral’s Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Menzer, Paul. "The Tragedians of the City? Q1 Hamlet and the Settlements of the 1590s,' Shakespeare Quarterly, 57.2 (2006): 162-82.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, UA-Little Rock; updated 15 October 2019.