Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary
F. 27v (Greg 1.54)
octobʒ —— tt at hardwute. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00|16|00 — 00 — 1 — novembʒ 1597 |3| tt at knewtvs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00|10|00 — 14 — 00
Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library
Greg, Papers (APX. I, art. 1, p. 121. l. 187)
- Under the heading “A Note of all suche bookes as belong to the Stocke, and such as I have bought since the 3d of Marche 1598:
The history of dating "Hardicanute" is influenced by its appearance without the sign of "ne" in Henslowe's playlists in October 1597. Harbage grouped it with plays as old as those offered by Strange's men at the Rose in 1592 (see his "1590, addenda"). Greg II and Wiggins, Catalogue date the play by its order in Henslowe's entries, though both consider it to have had a stage history already. Greg II thought it was "[n]o doubt an old play of Pembroke's men" (#113, p. 186). Wiggins, Catalogue considers the possibility that "Hardicanute" was one of the Admiral's men's "back-catalogue items" but settles on Pembroke's ownership as the stronger "likelihood"; reasoning thus, Wiggins assigns the play to Pembroke's new offerings during their run at the Swan in 1597 (#1069).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
Wiggins, Catalogue #1069 suggests Holinshed's Chronicles (). The 1577 and 1587 editions tell the basic story: Hardicanute was the son of King Canute (Cnut) and his second wife, Emma; he was born in 1017. When his father died in 1035, Hardicanute inherited the kingdoms of Denmark and England. According to Holinshed, when Hardicanute arrived on the coast of England at Kent, he "was ioyful|ly receyued and proclaymed king, & crowned" by the Archbishop. His reign was a brief two years, however. As Holinshed puts it, "as hee ſatte at Table at a greate feaſt holden at Lambheth, he fell downe ſodenly with the [...]ot in his hande, and ſo dyed, not without ſome ſuſpition of poyſon." The historical source thus offers much opportunity for invention on the part of the dramatist/s.
References to the Play
Malone does not comment on the character or story in this play (p. 300), nor do Collier (91) and Fleay, BCED (2.#198 p. 306). Greg II guesses that its original owners were Pembroke's men (#113, p. 186).
Knutson groups "Hardicanute" among the plays in the Admiral's men's repertory on British history, the first of which documented by Henslowe was "Cutlack," 1594, including the two parts of "Earl Godwin and His Sons", the two parts of "The Conquest of Brute," (1598), "Mulmutius Dunwallow," (1598), and "Ferrex and Porrex," 1600 (p. 47).
Teramura, noting that Brute was the great-grandson of Aeneas (p. 127), intertwines those pre-Arthurian history plays (adding "Brute Greenshield," 1599) with ones on Trojan history such as "Troy" in 1596, contemporary "Dido [and Aeneas]" in 1598, and successor "Troy's Revenge" in 1599 to demonstrate further the rich dramatization of early English mythology and history before the Norman Conquest (pp. 128-9).
McInnis features "Hardicanute" in the discussion of a repertorial complex linking the Admiral's men and Chamberlain's men in the late 1590s. He looks at the two-part "Earl Godwin" plays as well as "Hardicanute" as a historical set on the Matter of Denmark to which the Chamberlain's men reacted with Shakespeare's Hamlet and perhaps other plays now lost (p. 95 ff.).
For What It's Worth
Yet another play that participates in the narrative history of "Hardicanute" is Edmund Ironside, which is extant in manuscript and whose theatrical provenance and repertorial context is uncertain. Harbage groups it with plays in 1595. Wiggins, Catalogue, although providing a date range of 1593-1603, considers 1597 to be the "best guess" (#1604).
Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; 1 July 2019.