Entertainment at Salisbury House

Ben Jonson (1608)

Historical Records

Records at Hatfield house include 3 accounts for this entertainment, with payments to Ben Jonson (playwright), John Allen (actor), Inigo Jones (set design), and a juggler and conjurer. Some of the boy actors are called 'the Flying Boye' and 'the 2 boys that played fancy and Barrahon' (Orgel and Strong 1.122).

One account begins:

1608 6 May Provided and delivered unto the Right

honourable The Earle of Salisburie Lord

high Treasurer of England on the 5th

Maye 1608 (Orgel and Strong 1.112).

Ian Donaldson suggests that he entertainment begins with the poem published in the 1616 works of Ben Jonson (240), which runs as follows:

TO THE SAME [Robert Earle of Salisburie]

Vpon the acceʃsion of the Treasurer-ʃhip to him

Not glad, like thoſe that haue new hopes, or ſutes,

With thy new Place, bring I theſe early fruits

Of loue, and what the golden age did hold

A treaſure, art: contemn'd in th' age of gold.

Nor glad as thoſe, that old dependents bee,

To ſee thy fathers rites new laid on thee.

Nor glad for faſhion. Nor to ſhew a fit

Of flatterie to thy Titles. Nor of wit.

But I am glad to ſee that time suruiue,

Where Merit is not ſepulcher'd alive.

Where good mens vertues them to honors bring,

And not to dangers. When ſo wiſe a king

Contends t'have worth enioy, from his regard,

As her own conſcience, ſtill, the ſame reward.

Theſe (noblest CECIL) labour'd in my thought,

Wherein what wonder ſee thy name hath wrought?

That whil'st I meant but thine to gratulate,

I'have ſung the greater fortunes of our ſtate.

(The Workes of Beniamin Jonson, 1616, p. 785-786, available on EEBO)

There is also an extant sketch of Inigo Jones's set design for this entertainment. (for the facsimile, see Orgel & Strong, 1.122-123). The set involved rocks and an archway.

Theatrical Provenance

Performed at Salisbury House, hosted by the Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury to celebrate hiss appointment as Lord Treasurer (McMillin 156; Donaldson 240).

Performed the 6th of May, 1608: one contemporary note mentions "the shewe in the library mad the 6th of Maye 1608" (Donaldson 481, n. 15).

Probable Genre(s)

Royal Entertainment (Schoenbaum).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Scott McMillin summarizes the historical documents at Hatfield relating to four Jonsonian entertainments from 1606-1609. Hatfield discusses the actors listed in the primary documents, the rates of pay to Jones and Jonson, and the staging and costumes. McMillin suggests that "for the poet and the designer, high cash rewards and growing fame were probably the chief benefits of the entertainments; and the absence of the 1608 and 1609 pieces from Jonson's Folio indicates the extent of his concern for their literary posterity" (166).

James Knowles examines Jonson's masques for the Cecils, including The Entertainment at Britain's Burse, An Entertainment of the King and Queen at Theobalds and the Salisbury House show. Knowles demonstrates Cecil's interest in architecture and calls these masques Jonson's architectural masques. According to Knowles, Jonson likely removed the Entertainment at Salisbury House and The Entertainment at Britain's Burse from the folio to accentuate his royal service (and not service to the Cecils) and to promote his writing of the masques rather than the design work (192).

Grace Ioppolo compares the rates of pay with other Jonsonian masques. She points out that Jonson may have acted in the masque too, as he and Jones were paid as "rewards to the actors and devisors of the showe" (59).

For What It's Worth

Gabriel Heaton discusses the patronage relationship between Cecil and Jonson in Writing and Reading Royal Entertainments: From George Gascoigne to Ben Jonson (Oxford: OUP, 2010).

Works Cited

Donaldson, Ian. Ben Jonson: A Life. Cambridge: CUP, 2011.

Ioppolo, Grace. Dramatists and their Manuscripts in the Age of Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton and Heywood. New York: Routledge, 2006, p. 53.

Knowles, James. "'To raise a house of better frame': Jonson's Cecilian Entertainments. Patronage, Culture and Power: The Early Cecils. Ed. Pauline Croft. New Haven & London: Yale UP, 2002. 181-198.

McMillin, Scott. "Jonson's Early Entertainments: New Information from Hatfield House." Renaissance Drama, n.s. 1 (1968): 155-166.

Orgel, Stephen and Roy Strong. Inigo Jones : the theatre of the Stuart court ; including the complete designs for productions at court for the most part in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire together with their texts and historical documentation. 2 vols. London : Sotheby Parke Bernet; Berkeley : University of California Press, 1973.

Schoenbaum, S. Annals of English Drama 975-1700: A Second Supplement to the Revised Edition Evanston, IL: Northwestern U, 1970, p. 3.

Site created and maintained by Laura Estill; updated 3 February, 2012.