History play including the death of Percy

John Day (1601)

Historical Records

Dulwich College MS I, article 35v

A manuscript fragment in Day’s own handwriting adorns the verso of a note from Samuel Rowley to Henslowe requesting payment for Day and Haughton’s "The Six Yeomen of the West". It reads:

brother they were two nebers [i.e. neighbours] of our state
yet both infected wth a strong disease
& mortal sicknes proud ambytion
wch being ranck & villanously neare
had they not been prevented might have proved
fatall & dangerouse then synce proud scornfull death
hath like a skillfull artist cured that feare
wch might have proved so hurtefull to or selves
lets bear them hence vs Commit in sad and mournfull sound
there worthes to fame there bodyes to the ground
for the brave dead percy bore a gallant mynd
Jngland has my prayers left behind

Greg, Henslowe Papers, 57-58

Theatrical Provenance

Unknown; Day was writing for the Admiral's at the time but the subject matter does not correspond to anything he was known to have written for Henslowe.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Various historical texts, depending on the identity of the 'dead Percy' mentioned.

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Wiggins, Catalogue (#1285) entertains a number of possibilities but concludes that "the most plausible explanation is indeed that the lines belong to a history play written by Day without Henslowe's financial involvement" and that "All we can say is that Day probably provided the scrap paper on which the note was written; it might have been a sheet from the foul papers of a play he had written for one of the other London companies".

For What It's Worth

Wiggins, Catalogue (#1285) briefly considers the possibility that, instead of Hotspur, the dead Percy might be one of two other fifteenth-century candidates: the first and second Dukes of Northumberland. (NB. in fact, the other two Percys were not actually Dukes of Northumberland but Earls, the Dukedom being created in the sixteenth century. Henry Percy, the first Earl, is the Northumberland of Shakespeare's 1 & 2 Henry 4).

Works Cited

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 11 May 2017.