Hannibal and Hermes

Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, and Robert Wilson (1598)

NB. sometimes referred to as "Part 1" or as "Worse Afeared than Hurt", owing to a series of alterations in Henslowe's diary (see below).

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 47v (Greg 1.90)

lent vnto mr willsone the 17 of July 1598 }
in earneste of a comodye called haneballe & } xs
hearmes the some of . . . . . . . . . . }
ll - s - d lent vnto mr willson mr drayton & mr dickers }
101 - 12 - 8 the 17 of July 1598 for a Boocke called Haneballe } iijll
& hermes the some of . . . . . . . . . . }

Fol. 48 (Greg 1.91)

lent vnto mr willsone the 26 of July 1598 vpon }
a Boocke called Haneballe & hermes the some of } xxs
Lent vnto mr willso drayton & mr dickers the }
27 of July 1598 in pt of a Boocke called Haneballe } xxxs
& Hermes the some of . . . . . . . . . . }
pd vnto mr drayton & mr deckers the 28 of July }
1598 in full payment of a boocke called haneball } xs
& hermes other wisse called worsse feared then hurte }

NB. At this point in Henslowe's records, a total of £6 10s had already been paid to Wilson, Drayton and Dekker for their play -- a figure which corresponds approximately to the price of an entirely new play being purchased in full. However, the final entry on 28 July 1598 supplies an alternative title for the play, "worsse feared then hurte". The following entries may therefore be relevant in that they refer to a play of that alternative name, but given the expenditure for that title (£5) it seems more likely to be a discrete play altogether (see, therefore, the entry for "Worse Afeared Than Hurt").

Fol. 50 (Greg 1.95)

Lent vnto the company the 30 of aguste 1598 }
to geue in earneste of a boocke called bad }ls
may a mende worse a feard than hurte vnto mr drayton & dickers }
the some of . . . . . . . . . . }
Lent vnto the company the 4 of aguste [sic, September] 1598 }
to paye in fulle payment for a Boocke called }ls
worse a feared then hurte vnto mr drayton }
& mr dickers the some of . . . . . . . . . . }

NB. Henslowe also mistakenly applied the alternative "Worse Afeared Than Hurt" title to another play, "Chance Medley", but realised his error and corrected it:

Fol. 49v (Greg I.94)

pd vnto mr. drayton the 24 of aguste 1598 }
in fulle payment of a Boocke called chance }xxxvs
medley or worse a feared then hurte the some of . . }

Theatrical Provenance

The sum paid by Henslowe suggests the play was new and completed; it would therefore presumably have been performed in the late summer of 1598 by the Admiral's at the Rose.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (Henslowe); Unknown (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Although the title "Hannibal and Hermes" offers two clear names whose narratives ought to be recoverable, the conjunction of an historical (Carthaginian) name, Hannibal, with a mythological (Greek) name, Hermes, is somewhat confusing. Hannibal invaded Italy in the Second Punic War; Hermes/Mercury is the messenger of the gods. Henslowe's designation of the play as a comedy might suggest a lack of fidelity to historical sources. See Critical Commentary below for Wiggins' conjecture on how these two characters might co-exist in a play.

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

As Wiggins, Catalogue (#1137) notes, "It may be relevant that another Carthaginian play, Dido and Aeneas (#1100), was in the repertory earlier in the year. In extant versions of that story, Hermes (Mercury) plays a crucial role in summoning Aeneas away from Carthage to occupy Italy, so that his descendants can found Rome, the African city's antagonist in the Punic Wars. Perhaps in this play Hermes returns to Carthage to develop the conflict between the two Mediterranean powers". He briefly suggests that an "alternative possible referent is the apocryphal mystical philosopher, Hermes Trismegistus".

Harbage, Greg II and Sibley (70-71) assumed this play was Part 1, with "Worse Afeared Than Hurt" a Part 2 (though by Greg's own admission, it is "never so styled", #142 & #151, pp. 194-5). Harbage uses the names "[I] Hannibal and Hermes ([I] Worse (A)feared Than Hurt)" and "[II] Worse (A)feared Than Hurt (II Hannibal and Hermes)" to hedge his bets.

Knutson tentatively includes "Hannibal and Hermes" in her discussion of serial plays on the basis that "Greg thinks they [the Admiral's men] acquired a sequel" (p. 51).

For What It's Worth

Information welcome.

Works Cited

Knutson, Roslyn Lander. The Repertory of Shakespeare's Company, 1594-1613. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1991.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 05 March 2015.