Greek Maid, A

Anon. (1579)

Historical Records

Government Documents

Accounts of the Office of the Revels

"A Greek Maid" was among the six 'Histories and Invencions' performed at Richmond court during 'Christmas Newyeares tide Twelftide and the son day folowing' (December 1578-January 1579). The Office of the Revels entry for "A Greek Maid" reads as follows:…

{ An Inventyon or playe of the three Systers of Mantua shewen at
{ Richmond on Se Stephens daie at night enacted by thearle of warwick his
{ servauntes furnished in this office with sondrey thinges as was requisite for
{ the same.
{ The historie of
{ Richmond on St Iohns daie at night enacted by the children of the Quenes
{ maiesties chappell funished in this office with verie manie thinges aptly
{ fitted for the same.
Histories and              { An history of the creweltie of A Stepmother shewen at Richmond on
Invencions shewen    { Innocentes daie at night enacted by the lord Chamberlaynes servauntes
within the tyme                  { furnished in this office with sondrey thinges.
aforesaid vj.                { A Morrall of the marryage of Mynde and Measure shewen at Rich-
viz. { mond on the sondaie next after Newe yeares daie enacted by the children
{ of Pawles funished somethinges in this office.
{ A pastorell or historie of A Greeke maide shewen at Richmond on the
{ sondaie next after Newe yeares daie enacted by the Earle of Leicester his
{ servauntes furnished with some thinges in this office.
{ The historie of the Rape of the second Helene shewen at Richmond on
{ Twelf daie at night well furnished in this office with manie thinges for them.

Feuillerat p. 286

A 1578-79 record of payment in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber (222b) confirms that Leicester's men were paid for a performance on January 4th.

To Therle of Leicestres playrs vpon the Councelle War-
rūnte dated xvjto Ianuar' 1578 for pn̄ting a play before
hir Matie on sondaye iiijto Ianuar' 1578 vjli xiijs iiijd and
by waye of hir highnes especiall Rewarde lxvjs viijs viijd in all
the Som̄e of (Collections, VI, 16)

Theatrical Provenance

Leicester's, at Richmond. Based on a late 1578 order from the Privy Council (Dasent Vol X, 436) to allow public performances for certain companies, including Leicester's, to perform on public stages on or after December 24th, Wiggins holds that the play was possibly performed on a public stage before its recorded performance on 4 January at Richmond. Wiggins presumes that this production was at the Theater (sn 655).

The fact that the company was associated with James Burbage also points to the Theater. And given what looks to be the melodramatic theme of this play, it would fit with what is known about the nature of other public performances at this time at the Theater.

Probable Genre(s)

'Pastorell or history' (Feuillerat 286, 25), 'Pastorell' (Harbage 48); Melodrama?

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The title possibly points to the story of the rape and revenge of Timoclea or Timoclia of Thebes. The story of Timoclia is the third novel in The Second Tome of Painter's Palace of Pleasure (1567). William Painter's translations first appeared in the 1560s and were reprinted in 1575 and in 1580 (?). The story of Timoclea is recounted in a 1574 lost play entitled "Timoclea at the Siege of Thebes." The most obvious source would be from the life of Alexander in Plutarch's Lives. It should be noted that Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives was issued in folio the same year, so the Painter version would have been better known to the general public and perhaps even to members of court audiences.

The story as related by Painter and Plutarch tells of when the forces of Alexander the Great seized Thebes. At that time the Thracian army pillaged the city, and the Thracian captain raped the maid, Timoclia. The captain then asked her if she knew where any treasure was hidden. She led him to her garden, and told him there was money hidden in her well. When the Thracian captain look into the well, Timoclia pushed him in, and then killed the captain by hurling stones on him. Timoclia was seized and brought before Alexander. Alexander was impressed by her dignified presence. He remembered that her brother had fought with Alexander's father. Alexander ordered that Timoclia be released and go unpunished.

References to the Play

Because the title of this play points to the story of 'Timoclia of Thebes' from the second tome of Painter's Palace of Pleasure, it is very possible that this play fell in with the group of other popular adaptations maligned by Stephen Gosson. In Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582), Gosson lists 'the Palace of pleasure' as one of the books that had been 'ransackt, to furnish the Play houses in London'. The larger passage reads:

I may boldely say it, because I haue
seene it, that the Palace of pleasure,
the Golden Asse, the AEthiopian hi-
storie, Amadis of Fraunce, the
Rounde table, baudie Comedies in
Latine, French, Italian, and Spanish,
haue beene throughly ransackt, to fur-
nish the Playe houses in London. (D6v).

Wiggins holds that there may have been a public performance of this play 'by Leicester's Men on or after Wednesday, 24 December 1578' on the basis of a Privy Council directive to the Lord Mayor of London, Richard Pype, that instructed him 'to allow public performances by the companies selected to give court performances that Christmas' (Wiggins, sn 655). See also Dasent, 1577-8, Vol X, 436.

The Revels accounts list the play as 'A pastoral or history of A Greeke maid,' noting that it was show at Richmond on the Sunday next after New Year's day (4 January), by Leicester's Men (Feuillerat 286). The Acts of the Privy Council on the January 16 (dated 1578, old style, but actually 1579) where Leicester and Warwick were subscribers, (Dasent, 20) marks (on the next page) among 'Six several warrantes to the Threasurer of her Majesties Chamber', payment to the 'Erle of Leicester' for one play (Dasent, 21). The full entry, which includes warrants for six plays also recorded in the Office of Reveals account, is included in the 'For What It's Worth' below.

Critical Commentary

In the first volume of 'Elizabethan Drama: 1558 to 1642', Felix E. Schelling remarks that this play 'may not impossibly have been on the subject of Mahomet and Hiren the Fair Greek, a later popular play of Peele's' (118).

For What It's Worth

Painter claims that he drew the story of Timoclia of Thebes from Plutarch's De claris mulieribus. He seems to be confusing Plutarch with Boccaccio, who wrote on the lives of famous women. However, the story of the rape of Timoclea is included in Plutarch's life of Alexander the Great.

The six 'several warrantes to the Threasurer of her Majesties Chamber', in the 16 January 1579 Acts of the Privy Council read as follows:

Six severall warrantes to the Threasurer of her Majesties
Chamber for plaies presented before her Majestie, viz ; by the
Children of Poules one, by the Children of [the] Chappell one,
by the Lord Chamberlaines two, and the Erle of Leicester
one, and by the Erle of Warwicke [one}. (Dasent 21).

When crossed referenced with the records of the Office of the Revels, it appears that the January 1579 (1578, old style) warrants were for as follows: The Children of Paul's played 'Marriage of Mind and Measure', the Children of the Chapel played 'The History of Richmond', the Lord Chamberlaine's players played The Cruelty of a Stepmother and The Rape of the Second Helen, Leicester's men performed 'A Greek Maid' (this play), and Warwick's men performed The Three Sisters of Mantua (see Feuillerat 286).

Works Cited

Collections, Vol. VI, Malone Society Publications (1961).
Dasent, Volume X and Volume XI.
Gosson, Stephen. Plays Confuted in Five Actions. London: Thomas Gossson, 1582. EEBO-TCP (text only). STC (2nd ed.), 12095.
North, Thomas (Trans.). The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, compared together by that grave learned philosopher and historiographer, Plutarch of Chæronea (London: Thomas Vautroullier,1579). EEBO-TCP (text only). STC (2nd ed.), 20065.
Painter, William. The Second Tome of the Palace of Pleasure. (London: Nicholas England, 1567). EEBO-TCP (text only). STC (2nd ed.), 19124.
Schelling, Felix E. Elizabethan Drama: 1558 to 1642, vol. 1 (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1908). Internet Archive.

Site created and maintained by Thomas Dabbs, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo; updated 27 March 2017. Updated by Roslyn L. Knutson in February 2023.