- 1 Historical Records
- 2 Theatrical Provenance
- 3 Probable Genre(s)
- 4 Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
- 5 References to the Play
- 6 Critical Commentary
- 7 For What It's Worth
- 8 Works Cited
Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe's Diary)
Fol. 105v (Greg I.168)
- Lent vnto the companye the 5 of maye 1602
- to geue vnto antoney monday & thomas deckers
- J earnest of a Bocke called Jeffae
- as may apeare the some of . . . . vll
Payments, Miscellaneous (Henslowe's Diary)
Fol. 105v (Greg I.168)
- Layd owt for the companye when they
- Read the playe of Jeffa for wine at
- the tavern dd vnto thomas downton . . . . .ijs
N.B. This entry appears in the Diary between entries dated 16 May and 18 May.
Payments for Properties and Apparel (Henslowe's Diary)
Fol. 106v (Greg I.170)
- Lent vnto Thomas downton the 8 of
- maye 1602 to bye cottes for the
- playe of Jeffa the some of . . . . vjll
- Lent vnto thomas downton the 12
- of June 1602 to by Rebatous & other
- thinges for the playe of Jeffa the some
- of . . . . iiijll
- pd at the apoynt of thomas downton
- vnto the tayller for mackynge of sewtes
- for Jeffa the 25 of June 1602 some of . . . . xxxs
- Lent vnto the company 1602 the 27 of
- June to paye vnto hime wch made ther
- propertyes for Jeffa the some of . . . . xxvs
- Lent vnto thomas downton the
- 5 of July 1602 to paye the cvter
- for the play of Jeffa the some of . . . . xxijs
N.B. The date of the first entry (8 May) is apparently Henslowe's mistake for 8 June given its position in the Diary following entries for late May and early June.
Acquittance from William Playstowe (Henslowe Papers)
- Receved of mr Henslowe the iiijth of Agust 1602
- for one monthes pay due vnto my mr mr Edmund
- Tylney vppon the xxxjth day of July last past
- the som of iijll J say R[eceived] . . . . iijll
- per mei Will Playstowe
- bookes owinge for /5/
- baxsters tragedy
- Tobias Comedy
- Jepha Judg of Jsrael & the Cardinall
- loue parts frendshipp
- (Dulwich College, MSS I, article 37; qtd. Greg, Henslowe Papers, 58-59)
Performed by the Admiral's Men at the Fortune, perhaps in July.
Biblical History (Harbage).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
The story of Jephthah is told in Judges 11-12. Born an illegitimate son to a Gileadite named Gilead, Jephthah is cast out by his legitimate half-brothers. However, when Israel is attacked by the Ammonites, the Gileadite elders solicit Jephthah's leadership in battle; he agrees on the condition that he will be their head. They agree, and Jephthah begins negotiations with the Ammonites, whose grievance concerns land ownership. An impasse is reached, and Jephthah prepares for battle. Upon reaching the Ammonites, "Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering" (11:30-31). After conquering the Ammonites, Jephthah returns to his home, where he is greeted, "with timbrels and with dances," by his daughter. Jephthah laments the unpreventable catastrophe, "for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back" (11:35). His daughter submits to her fate, requesting only permission to bewail her virginity for the space of two months (11:37). Upon her return, Jephthah "did with her according to his vow which he had vowed" (11:39). While the story of his daughter's death is the key narrative event with which Jephthah is associated, he is described as serving as a judge of Israel for six years (12:7): in particular, his war with the Ephraimites is remembered for the Gileadites' strategy of discerning their enemy by asking them to pronounce the word shibboleth (12:6).
John Christopherson dramatized the story of Jephthah in his Greek tragedy Iephte (c. 1544) as did George Buchanan in his Latin Iephthes sive votum (Paris, 1554). The story also enjoyed circulation in ballad form. In 1567-68, the Stationers' Register records the entrance of "a ballett intituled the songe of JESPHAS Dowgther at his [i.e. her] death" (Arber I.355). An allusion to one such ballad appears in Hamlet: after taunting Polonius as "Jephthah, judge of Israel," Hamlet recites the tetrameter lines, "One fair daughter and no more, / The which he loved passing well" (Jenkins, ed., 2.2.399, 403-4). These lines are found in the ballad "Jepha Judge of Israel," which is preserved in the Shirburn manuscript, c. 1603-1625 (British Library, Add MS 82932, f. 183v; qtd. Clark 174-76), and in a surviving broadside printed c. 1658–64 (Roxburghe Collection 3.201; Roxburghe Ballads 6.685-66; Jenkins, ed., 475-77).
Perhaps the closest analogue to the Admiral's play might have been Munday's own treatment of the story in his The Mirror of Mutabilitie (London, 1579), in which Jephthah, a "right and rare example for all men to take heed of vaine othes" (sig. G3v), delivers a 66-line complaint, including a reminiscence of his exchange with his daughter. The concluding moral is: "Stil vow no more then well perfourme you may: / And so be sure you cannot goe astray" (sig. H1r).
References to the Play
Collier identifies the subject of Henslowe's "Jeffa" as the biblical Jephthah and draws the connection to the ballad in Hamlet (220). He also adds: "Who or what was 'the cuter for the play of Jeffa' it is not easy to conjecture: the sum is too considerable, or we might suppose it to be payment to the man who played the executioner. A cutter was a well-known character, and Heywood was paid for writing the part of cutting Dick; but if introduced into the tragedy of Jephthah, the actor would hardly have been paid separately" (223-224n).
Sypherd notes that Munday "was familiar with the subject of Jephthah, as already in 1579 he had told the story of Jephthah to illustrate the quality of Rashness" (145).
Astington argues that Edward Alleyn would have played the title role and that his "performance of anguish must have been especially impressive" (133). It may even be that the allusions to Jephthah in Hamlet were occasioned by Alleyn's role: "Across the river, about the same time, talk of 'the best actors in the world' triggered the mocking reply 'O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!,' in the mouth of Richard Burbage."
Marino observes that the allusions to Jephthah in Shakespeare's Hamlet occur near references to several other characters who served as subjects of Admiral's Men plays, such as "Marshal Osric" and "Caesar's Fall" (97–100). Since all three of these Admiral's plays were acquired by the company in 1602, Marino proposes that the combination is less likely coincidental than it is evidence that Q2 Hamlet (1604-5) represents a state of the play revised shortly before its publication, perhaps even after James Roberts's S.R. entrance for the play on 26 July 1602 (103–4).
Pollard notes that Dekker and Munday's play, like Buchanan's on the same subject, may have evoked Greek tragedy, specifically the sacrificed daughter of Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis (1086).
For critical commentary on the Admiral's biblical plays, see the entry for "Samson."
For What It's Worth
Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, University of Toronto; updated 09 June 2016.