Job, The History of

Robert Greene (?) (1586-93?)

Historical Records

John Warburton’s list of lost manuscripts is the sole authority for this play’s existence. The Lansdowne manuscript (Mss. 807) catalogues the play as:

Hist. of Jobe by Rob. Green

Lansdowne ms 807 f001r.jpg

(British Library, Lansdowne MS 807, fo.1r. Reproduced by permission of the British Library. Click image to view full page; click here for more information on Warburton's list)

Theatrical Provenance


Probable Genre(s)

Biblical History (Harbage), Biblical Tragedy

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The most likely source for The History of Job is the Book of Job from the Bishops' Bible (1586).

References to the Play

None Known

Critical Commentary

W. Carew Hazlitt (121), J. Churton Collins (43-44) and Connolly mistakenly claim that the lost play The History of Job was entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1594. No reference to the play appears in the Register. It seems likely that this error originated in Stephen Jones’s Biographia Dramatica (346).

W. W. Greg dismissed the attribution of the play to Greene. In his article of 1911 "The Bakings of Betsy," Greg argued that Warburton’s reference to "Rob. Green" was most likely an abbreviated version of "S r Rob. le Green," an author who is listed earlier in the inventory ("Nothing Imposeble to love T. C. Sr. Rob. le Green") and whom Greg identifies as "Le Grys" (Greg, "Bakings" 252, 230; see Warburton's List). W. W. Greg also observes thatThe History of Job is frequently confused with a piece called Job’s Afflictions written by R. Radcliffe, a biblical interlude of 1547 called Jube the Sane (ie. Job the Saint) and Daniel Baker’s sacred poem of 1706, The History of Job (Greg, "Bakings" 259).

Kirk Melnikoff and Edward Gieskes's Writing Robert Greene (2008) lists Job in their apocrypha of Greene's works (Melnikoff, 225)

See also Wiggins serial number 805.

For What It's Worth

There is only one reference to the story of Job in Greene’s other works. In Greenes Vision (1592), the narrator makes a passing reference to the "deuill that grudged at the sinceritie of Iob" (sig. E2).

Together with Thomas Lodge, Robert Greene wrote another biblical drama, A Looking Glass for London and England (c. 1589). The play dramatises the Prophet Jonah’s struggle to encourage the inhabitants of Nineveh to repent their sins. The play, which is frequently read allegorically, depicts the corrupt court of Rasni, a king, who surrounded by flatters, is blind to the possible repercussions of his sinful behaviour. Along with George Peele’s David and Bethsabe (c. 1593-4), A Looking Glass constitutes one of the final attempts to revive the tradition of biblical drama in England. Between 1590 and 1620 contemporary records show that at least thirteen biblical plays were commissioned (Connolly, 1-20).

Works Cited

Collins, J. Churton ed. The Plays and Poems of Robert Greene. Vol. I. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905.
Connolly, Annaliese. "Peele’s David and Bethsabe: Reconsidering Biblical of the Long 1590s." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 16 (2007), 9.1-20.
Greene, Robert. Greenes Vision. London, 1592.
Greg, W. W. "The Bakings of Betsy." The Library, 3rd series. 7.11 (1911): 225-259.
Hazlitt, W. Carew. A Manual for the Collector and Amateur of Old English Plays. New York: Burt Franklin, 1966.
Jones, Stephen. Biographia Dramatica; or, a Companion to the Playhouse. Vol. II. London: Longman, 1812.
Melnikoff, Kirk, and Edward Gieskes eds. Writing Robert Greene: Essays on England's First Notorious Professional Writer. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008.

Site created and maintained by Jenny Sager, University of Cologne, Germany; updated 22 June 2011.