Fool and Her Maidenhead Soon Parted
Edict issued by the Lord Chamberlain, 10 August 1639
Wheras William Bieston Gent’ Gouuernor &c’ of the kinges and Queenes young Company of Players at the Cockpitt in Drury Lane hath represented vnto his Matye that ye seuerall Playes hereafter mentioned (vizt) Witt without money: The Night Walkers: The Night of the burning pestill: Fathers owne sonne Cupids Reuenge: The Bondman: The Renegado: A new way to pay debts: The great Duke of Florence: The maid of honor: The Traytor: The Example: The young Admirall: The opportunity: A witty fayre one: Loues cruelty The wedding: the Maids reuenge: The Lady of pleasure The schoole of complement: The gratefull seruant: The Coronation: Hide parke: Philip Chabot Admirall of France: A mad couple well mett: Alls Lost by Lust: The Changeling: A fayre quarrel: The Spanish gipsie: The World: The Sunnes Darling: Loues Sacrifice: Tis pitty shee’s a Whore: George a greene: Loues Mrs: The Cunning Louers: The rape of Lucrece: A trick to cheat the Diuell: A foole & her maidenhead soon parted King Iohn & Matilda. A Citty night cap: The bloody banquett: Cupids Vagaries: The conceited Duke & Appius & Virginia doe all & euery of them properly & of right belong to the sayd House, and consequently that they are all in his propriety: And to the end that any other Companies of Actors in or about London shall not prsume to act any of them to ye preiudice of him the said William Bieston and his Company: his Maty hath signified his royall pleasure vnto me: therby requiring mee to declare soe much to all other Companyes of Actors heerby concernable: that they are not any wayes to intermeddle wth of Act any of th’aboue mentioned Playes: Whereof I require all Masters & Gouuernors of Playhouses & all others whome it may concerne to take notice & to forbeare to impeach the sayd Wm Bieston in ye Premisses as they tender his Mates displeasure and will answere the Contempt. Giuen &c’ Aug 10. 1639.
(Cited in Bentley I.330-31; emphasis added).
Among the twenty-one plays entered on the Stationer's Register by the printed John Marriott in 1653 is listed:
- A Fool & her maiden head soone Parted.
In 1639, it belonged to Beeston's Boys at the Cockpit Theatre. If it is an original play by Robert Davenport (see below), it is unlikely to be much earlier than 1624, the date of the earliest records of his writing career: but it is not certainly by Davenport, so its earliest possible date remains unclear. On the date, see also "For what it's worth".
Harbage (124) credits this play to Queen Henrietta's Men, but does not give a reason. Presumably it is on the basis of its juxaposition with King John and Matilda, a Davenport play which certainly was performed by Queen Henrietta's Men.
Unknown (Harbage): comedy?
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
References to the Play
On the 1639 list, A Fool and Her Maidenhead Soon Parted appears in between two plays certainly written by Robert Davenport. Fleay (2.336) deduces that therefore the 1639 list implicitly credits this play too to Davenport. Bentley (5.1335-6) demonstrates that the list is by no means consistent in this respect, interleaving, for instance, one Alexander Brome play (The Cunning Lovers) between two belonging to Heywood. The attribution to Davenport has therefore only a sketchy basis.
Davenport (fl.1624-40), whom David Kathman calls "one of the most obscure dramatists of the Caroline era", is an interesting and little-studied figure. Kathman describes a career which seems to have involved time spent in Ireland, and at sea, as well as playwriting in London; an output which includes religious poems and prose dialogues; and extant plays including the comedies The City Night-Cap and A New Trick to Cheat the Devil, and the history play King John and Matilda. Kathman also notes that a number of lost plays are attributed to him, often on shaky grounds.
All that the 1639 list does show, for certain, is that the play was in existence by 1639, and that it belonged, at that date, in the repertory of Beeston's Boys at the Cockpit. The 1653 entry is also somewhat mysterious. For discussion of that entry as a whole, click the following link: Marriott's List (1653).
Hartley Coleridge (Introduction, ix) considers this play-title evidence of the immorality of late Caroline theatre: one of the "plays whose very title a modern father would scruple to pronounce before a woman or a child… Three years afterwards the theatres were closed by authority of Parliament. I really think that it was almost time".
For what it's worth
Coleridge is indeed right to observe that this is an unusually bawdy and misogynistic title. It sounds as if one is in the territory of the fabliau here, and it is true that Davenport has "form" for using Boccaccio as a source. (In The City Nightcap: Bentley, 3.227-8). However, Davenport did not necessarily have anything to do with this play. One is further struck by the similarity of the title to that of Thomas Heywood's comedy A Maidenhead Well Lost, licensed, performed "with much applause", and printed all in the year 1634 (Bentley, 4.583). Perhaps this play was trading on the success of Heywood's.
All these are of course guesses: as is shown by the example of 'Tis Pity She's A Whore, titles can be deceiving.
EEBO-TCP has plenty of examples of the proverb "A fool and his money soon parted", but no variants (that I can currently detect) applying it to anything other than money.
Coleridge, Hartley, ed., The Dramatic Works of Massinger and Ford (London: Routledge, 1863) Googlebooks
Kathman, David. ‘Davenport, Robert (fl. 1624–1640)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
Page created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University; updated 16 February 2012.