Eunuch, The

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William Heminge (c.1633-4)? (not lost)

Historical Records

Marriott's List (1653)

Among the twenty-one plays registered on the Stationers' Register by Richard Marriott in late 1653 occurs:

The Eunuch a Tragedy


Theatrical Provenance

If the play is the same as The Fatal Contract (see Critical Commentary below), it was first staged by Queen Henrietta's Men (as per the 1653 title-page). Morley (265) dates the play to c.1633-4, when the company were playing at the Phoenix-Cockpit, while other critics have suggested it was acted by the company at Salisbury Court after the long plague closure of 1636-7. It was seen into print by "A.T.", possibly the actor Anthony Turner, and Andrew Pennycuicke, actor turned printer.


Probable Genre(s)

Tragedy


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

n/a


References to the Play

n/a


Critical Commentary

Critics have debated whether the title in the S.R. entry can be identified with William Heminge's The Fatal Contract, a tragedy featuring a eunuch (ultimately revealed to be a woman in disguise). The first quarto of The Fatal Contract, dated 1653, was printed "for J.M.," perhaps John Marriott, the father of Richard Marriott; in the quarto of 1687, Heminge's play is titled The Eunuch.

Greg (BEPD, 2:830) noticed that the 1687 quarto seems to have been printed from a distinct manuscript than the 1653 quarto, suggesting the possibility that "[s]uch a manuscript may indeed have been in existence early enough for Marriot to have entered it in 1653." However, it is telling that this title was not used for the 1653 quarto, leading Greg to assume that "[s]uch a manuscript" did not, ultimately, serve as that quarto's copy. Greg also notes that "J.M." need not necessarily be identified with John Marriott, since "other stationers with the same initials [were] in business at this time." Greg's "more serious objection" to the identification is that a title entered so late in the year would most likely have been printed with the following year's date (i.e. 1654, as was Glapthorne's Revenge for Honour, another title in Richard Marriott's entry) unless it was already in print; however, this would raise the further difficulty that the entered title does not match the published one. Ultimately, Greg found the identification "possible, but improbable" (BEPD, 2.990).

Bentley was inclined to identify the two plays: his discussion of the Richard Marriott S.R. entry of 1653 assumes as much (JCS, 5.1446). Adding to Greg's suggestion of an alternatively titled manuscript, Bentley noticed that the 1653 quarto's dedication mentions that the play was already in circulation in "private Transcripts" (sig. A2r). However, Bentley found Greg's objections strong enough that he concluded, "I must reluctantly defer to his authority" (4.544).

Kelliher observes, in support of identification, that the quartos of The Fatal Contract and another one of Richard Marriott's 1653 titles, Revenge for Honour, both carry dedications to James and Isabella Compton, earl and countess of Northampton (166). (For more on this, see For What It's Worth below.)

Morley argued in favor of identification, concluding that "The Eunuch was Heminge's working title, surviving in manuscript, but changed to the distinct and tantalizing Fatal Contract for performance" (245). In Morley's account, the manuscript that Marriott received bore the original title, although it was decided by the publishers that it should be printed under the title familiar to audiences.

Wiggins (#2380), repeating Greg's arguments that the two plays were distinct, concludes that "[p]resumably other tragic eunuchs were conceivable" and categorizes "The Eunuch" as a lost play.

See Marriott's List (1653) for further details and discussion.


For What It's Worth

Terence's Eunuchus—so called because one of the characters disguises himself as a eunuch—is a comedy.

Matthew Steggle argues in his discussion of Richard Marriott's 1653 list that the entry's first four titles can each be linked to Richard Heton's acting company at Salisbury Court in the 1630s. External evidence from Henry Herbert's Revels Office records place both "Love's Aftergame" (1634) and Brome's "The Florentine Friend" (1638) at Salisbury Court, performed respectively by the King's Revels Company and by Queen Henrietta's Men (which had merged with the former). That Glapthorne's Revenge for Honour might have been performed under the same auspices can be inferred from the printed dedicatory epistle signed by William Cartwright, Jr., and Curtis Greville, "both of whom worked with Heton at Salisbury Court through the 1630s." This context supports the identification of "The Eunuch" with The Fatal Contract, the 1653 title page of which indicates that the play "was Acted with great Applause by her Majesties SERVANTS."


John Marriott as Publisher of The Fatal Contract

Perhaps the most important single factor in identifying "The Eunuch" with The Fatal Contract is the identification of "J.M." as John Marriott. There are some difficulties, however, in this assumption, the chief being that there may be some reason to believe that Marriott had effectively retired before 1653. In 1650–51, two reprints of titles owned by Marriott seem to indicate that he was no longer selling books: copies of the 1650 edition of Donne's Poems (Wing D1869) were "Printed for Iohn Marriot, and are to be sold by Richard Marriot at his shop," while copies of the 1651 edition of Francis Quarles's Argalus and Parthenia (Wing Q98) were printed "by M. F. for I. M. [i.e. John Marriott] and are to be sold by John Stafford, at his house in St. Brides Church-yard, near Fleet-stheet [sic]." On 3 May 1651, John Marriott transferred his rights to nearly 40 titles to his son Richard (Eyre 1:366–67). Thereafter the only title page explicitly naming John Marriott as publisher appears to be The Covenant Acknowledged by an English Covenanter (Wing M913), entered 2 May 1660 (Eyre 2:263) and printed in that year. (Marriott was buried at St Dunstan in the West on 12 June 1662 [London Metropolitan Archives, P69/DUN2/A/004/MS010345, fol. 220r], and his will was proved on 1 July 1662 [National Archives, PROB 11/308/494].)

It may be, as Greg suggested (BEPD 2:830), that the 1653 Fatal Contract quarto was "more or less private, and that the stationers were really acting on behalf of the editors who sign the dedication," namely, "A.T." and "A.P.", the latter of whom is apparently the sometime actor Andrew Pennycuicke, named as the publisher on the cancel title page (dated 1654) of a reissue of the same edition (Wing H1423), while the former ("A.T.") is often speculated to be the Salisbury Court actor Anthony Turner (Morley 240). In support of this possibility, it might be worth noting that in 1636 John Marriott had published Massinger's The Great Duke of Florence (STC 17637), which was licensed for performance by Queen Henrietta Maria's Men when they performed at the Phoenix in 1627, so perhaps was known to the members of the company from this connection. However, if this is the case, it is curious that the dedicatory leaf added to Revenge for Honour, printed by Richard Marriott and entered at the same time as "The Eunuch," is signed by two other actors: William Cartwright, Jr., and Curtis Greville. Did the Marriotts acquire multiple plays from the same company from multiple sources at the same time (as suggested by the single 1653 entry)?


Dedications

Kelliher's argument in favor of identification by citing the shared dedication of The Fatal Contract (1653) and Revenge for Honour (1654) to the Earl and Countess of Northampton is complicated by the fact that neither dedication is entirely stable in the extant quartos. As first noted by Anne Hargrove, the Boston Public Library copy of the 1653 Fatal Contract quarto carries a dedication to "Tho. Earl of South-hampton, &c"—namely, Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton. The situation here apparently resembles that of two other plays that Pennycuicke published: Massinger's The City Madam and Ford and Dekker's The Sun's Darling (Morley 421). Copies of Pennycuicke's 1658 quarto of The City Madam (Wing M1046) bear dedications to five separate addressees: Lady Ann, Countess of Oxford (25 extant copies); "Mr. Lee, Esquire" (2 copies); Thomas Freake; Richard Steadwell; John Wrath (Edwards and Gibson, 4.6; Wiggins #2373). Copies of the 1656 quarto of The Sun's Darling bear four distinct dedications to: Thomas Wriothesley, 4th Earl of Southampton (most copies); Robert Pierrepont, 1st Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull, and Henry Pierrepont, 1st Marquess of Dorchester; Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland; and Lady Elizabeth Newton (Bowers 4.1; Wiggins #2085). In Bentley's words, "Pennycuicke was working a dedication racket" (Bentley 4.773).

While the extant copies of the 1653 Fatal Contract quarto seem to indicate that the Comptons were the main dedicatees (as the Countess of Oxford was for The City Madam), it may be telling that the Revenge for Honour dedication appears only in a single copy of the 14 copies consulted by Greg (BEPD 2:842). In the opinion of Kelliher: "It seems highly probable that the dedication of the Pforzheimer copy of The Revenge for Honour [sic] was only one of several printed off by Maxey for the actors who subscribed it" (166). Indeed, in light of the Interregnum theatre ban, actors "would be especially grateful of the opportunity to supplement their incomes in this way" (167). As such, it seems plausible that lost copies of the 1653 Revenge for Honour would have borne dedications to other potential patrons, of which the Comptons were simply two.



Works Cited

Bowers, Fredon, ed. The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker. 4 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1953–61.
Edwards, Philip, and Colin Gibson. The Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger. 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1976.
Kelliher, Hilton. "A Hitherto Unrecognized Cavalier Dramatist: James Compton, Third Earl of Northampton." British Library Journal 6 (1980): 158–87.
Morley, Carol A., ed. The Plays and Poems of William Heminge. Madison: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2006.


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