Hunting of Cupid, The

George Peele (1586)

Historical Records

Book Trade Records

Stationers’ Register

The title was entered in the Stationers' Register by Richard Jones on 26 July 1591:

26 lulij [1591]
Rich Iones     Entred vnto him for his copye vnder thandes
of the Bishop of London and Master Watkins
a booke intituled the Huntinge of Cupid vjd
wrytten by George Peele Master of Artes
of Oxeford.
Provyded alwayes that yf yt be hurtfull to
any other Copye before lycenced, then this
to be voyde.

(Liber B, fol. 278r; cf. Arber, S.R. I, 2:591.)

Quoted Fragments

Nine manuscript and print sources appear to preserve fragments that derive from Peele’s text.

The most important of these sources is National Library of Scotland, MS 2059, a miscellany of verse and prose, compiled by William Drummond of Hawthornden under the title Ephemeris. On fols. 352r–53r, Drummond wrote 92 lines of notes under the heading "The Hunting. of Cupid by George Peele of oxford. Pastoral," apparently made as he read a printed edition. (In the same section of the manuscript, Drummond has also made notes such works on John Marston's The Fawn [fols. 344r–48v], Francis Davison's A Poetical Rhapsody [fols. 353v–58r], and Samuel Daniel's Thetys' Festival [fols. 358v–59r]. For a list of Drummond's extracts from plays throughout this manuscript, see Estill 37n92.) Drummond's note-taking can be assigned to 1609, as "the hunting of cupid" appears among the list of "bookes red anno 1609 be [i.e. by] me" along with the other titles from which he took notes on the adjacent pages (fol. 361r; MacDonald 229). Drummond’s extracts of "The Hunting of Cupid" in MS 2059 have been edited in Dyce 2:259–62; Bullen 2:366–69; Greg 309–12; and Horne 204–7.

A passage included in Englands Parnassus (1600) attributed to "G. Peele" can be assigned to "The Hunting of Cupid" due to its parallels with Drummond's more abbreviated notes on the same passage (Greg lines 43–49). The passage appears in the section of excerpts on the theme of "Loue":

At Venus intreatie for Cupid her sonne,
These arrowes by Vulcan were cunningly done:
The first is Loue, as here you may behold,
His feathers head and body are of gold.
The second shaft is Hate, a foe to loue,
And bitter are his torments for to proue.
The third is Hope, from whence our comfort springs,
His feathers are puld from Fortunes wings.
Fourth, lealousie in basest minds doth dwell,
This mettall Vulcans Cyclops sent from hell.
G. Peele.
(sig. N1r, p. 177)

One of the songs in "The Hunting for Cupid"—beginning "What thing is love?"—appears in several witnesses. Drummond, in MS 2059, gives a 15-line version. An 11-line version, with variants from the text given by Drummond, appears in three manuscripts: Bodleian Library, MS Rawl. poet. 85 (fol. 13r), a quarto miscellany the compilation of which is dated by Beal to c. 1586–91; Bodleian Library, MS Rawl. poet. 172 (fol. 2v), a folio composite volume in multiple hands with texts ranging from 1580 to 1730; British Library, MS Harley 7392 (fol. 69r), a quarto composite miscellany compiled c. 1585–90s by St. Loe Kniveton of Gray's Inn. The song in MS Rawl. poet. 85 is subscribed "Mr G: Peelle" (Greg 313). An abbreviated version of the song (equivalent to the first 7 lines of the Drummond text) appears in the first scene of the the play The Wisdome of Doctor Dodypoll, acted by the Children of Paul's and printed in 1600. A distinct version of the song in 8 lines was printed with a musical setting in John Bartlet's A Booke of Ayres (1606), song XIV.

Another song, between Coridon and Melampus, also appears in multiple witnesses. Where Drummond's MS 2059 gives only two couplets (Greg, lines 57–60), a fuller version appears in Englands Helicon (1600), sig. E3r.

¶ Coridon and Melampus Song.
Cor. Melampus, when will Loue be void of feares?
Mel. When Iealousie hath neither eyes nor eares.
Cor. Melampus, when will Loue be throughly shrieued?
Mel. When it is hard to speake, and not beleeued.
Cor. Melampus, when is Loue most malecontent?
Mel. When Louers range, and beare their bowes vnbent.
Cor. Melampus, tell me, when takes Loue least harme?
Mel. When Swaines sweete pipes are puft, and Trulls are warme.
Cor. Melampus, tell me, when is Loue best fed?
Mel. When it hath suck'd the sweet that ease hath bred.
Cor. Melampus, when is time in Loue ill spent?
Mel. When it earnes meede, and yet receaues no rent.
Cor. Melampus, when is time well spent in Loue?
Mel. When deedes win meedes, and words Loues works doo proue.

The text of the song that Drummond transcribed in National Library of Scotland, MS 2060, fol. 236r, was apparently copied from Englands Helicon, which Drummond read in 1611 (MS 2059, fol. 360r; MacDonald 230).

Theatrical Provenance


Probable Genre(s)

Pastoral (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The play evidently involved a pastoral love plot as well as mythological plot involving Cupid. Wiggins (Catalogue, #765) proposes Moschus' Eros the Runaway (Eros drapetes in Greek, Amor fugativus in Latin) as a potential narrative source for the latter.

References to the Play

(Information welcome.)

Critical Commentary

Laing was the first to notice that Drummond had made extracts from Peele's "Hunting" in MS 2059 (68n14, 74).

Dyce was the first to edit Drummond's "curious jumble" of notes, using the transcription prepared by Laing. Dyce found these notes to be "decisive proof" that Peele's "Hunting" was printed (xxi). He also observed that Drummond's notes reveal the source of the Peele passages in Englands Parnassus, Englands Helicon, and MS Rawl. poet. 85.

Bullen modernized Laing's transcription of Drummond's notes for his own edition of Peele, judging the "amœbæan dialogue" between Melampus and Coridon to be "in Peele's best manner" (xxviii).

Greg provided a new edition of Drummond's "strangely muddled jottings" from photograph facsimiles of the manuscript, alongside texts from Englands Parnassus, Englands Helicon, The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypoll, and MS Rawl. poet. 85.

Fellowes noted the appearance of another version of the "What thing is love?" in Bartlet's 1606 Booke of Ayres (607).

Horne, based on the evident similarities with The Arraignment of Paris, proposed a composition date of 1581–1585 (154).

A Ghost Lost Play?

A number of scholars have worked with the assumption that "The Hunting of Cupid" was a play. Dyce described it as "evidently a dramatic pastoral" (xxi); Bullen as Peele's "second pastoral play" following The Arraignment of Paris (xxviii); and Greg as "Peele's other play of a pastoral or mythological nature" (307; cf. BEPD 2:965). Chambers registered the possibility of doubt that it was a play, although ultimately siding with the other editors (ES 3:462).

Cutts was the first to depart from this majority opinion. Cutts's most important piece of evidence for doubting its dramatic status was that in Drummond's reading lists in MS 2059 "every mention of a play is qualified with the nature of the play, comedy or tragedy, without exception" (122), leading him to conclude that "The Hunting of Cupid was not thus qualified because it was a pastoral poem" (123). He does concede that "Peele's poem may have had a greater tendency towards dramatization, and in this respect one could easily conceive of it as an entertainment in something like masque form, but this is purely hypothetical" (123). Cutts also doubted whether all of the notes made by Drummond under the heading of "The Hunting of Cupid" necessarily represented extracts from Peele's text: "May not a good many of the random jottings serve as Drummond's own comments on whatever material he was dealing with or Drummond's own spontaneous ideas interspersed between recognizable Peele?" (123).

For What It's Worth

In drawing on the evidence of Drummond's reading lists to refute the status of "The Hunting of Cupid" as a play, Cutts is not quite accurate in stating that "every mention of a play is qualified with the nature of the play, comedy or tragedy, without exception" (122). Importantly, Drummond's lists do not offer any generic qualifiers for pastoral plays: we find "Aminte de Torquato Tasso in frenche" in the 1607 list, "pastor fido de Guarini et en f." (i.e. "and in French") and "aminta of Tasso et en f." in the 1610 list; "Mirtilla” (by the Italian actress Isabella Andreini) and "pastor fido" in the 1614 list. The fact that Drummond in MS 2059 added to the heading of "The Hunting of Cupid" the generic distinction "Pastoral" may indicate that this information was on the title-page of the printed edition, as it was for the 1584 quarto of Peele's The Arraignment of Paris ("The Araygnement of Paris | A PASTORALL."). If Drummond was consistent in his book lists by omitting the generic designation for dramatic pastorals, then the absence of "comedy" after "the hunting of cupid" cannot serve as evidence that Peele's text was not a play.

Edmond Malone noticed the entrance for "The Hunting of Cupid" in the Stationers' Register and wrote to Thomas Percy on 14 March 1806 to ask whether he had ever encountered a copy of a printed edition (Bodleian Library, MS Malone 26, fol. 82; Tillotson 202); Percy had not.

Works Cited

Bullen, A. H., ed. The Works of George Peele. 2nd ed. 2 vols. London, 1888.
Dyce, Alexander, ed. The Works of George Peele. 2nd ed. 2 vols. London, 1829.
Cutts, John P. "Peele's Hunting of Cupid." Studies in the Renaissance 5 (1958): 121–32.
Estill, Laura. Dramatic Extracts in Seventeenth-Century English Manuscripts: Watching, Reading, Changing Plays. Newark: U of Delaware P, 2015.
Fellowes, E. H., ed. English Madrigal Verse, 1588–1632. Oxford: Clarendon, 1920.
Greg, W. W. "The Hunting of Cupid: A Lost Play by George Peele." Collections I, Parts IV and V. Oxford: Malone Society, 1911), 307–14.
Horne, David H., ed. The Life and Works of George Peele, gen. ed. Charles Tyler Prouty, Volume I: The Life and Minor Works of George Peele. New Haven: Yale UP, 1952.
Laing, David. "A Brief Account of the Hawthornden Manuscripts in the Possession of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; with Extracts, Containing Several Unpublished Letters and Poems of William Drummond of Hawthornden" [1828]. Archaeologica Scotica 4 (1857): 57–116, 225–40.
MacDonald, Robert H., ed. The Library of Drummond of Hawthornden. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1971.
Tillotson, Arthur, ed. The Percy Letters, gen. ed. David Nichol Smith and Cleanth Brooks, Volume I: The Correspondence of Thomas Percy & Edmond Malone. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1944.

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