William Haughton (1600); William Bird, Samuel Rowley (1602)

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 69v (Greg I.122)
Lent vnto wm harton the 27 of maye 1600 }
in earneste of a Boocke called Judas the some } xs
                                       W Haughton.

Fol. 95 (Greg I.151)
pd vnto wm Borne at the apoyntment of }
[a Boocke] company the 20 of desembʒ 1601 }
Jn earnest of a Boocke called Judas wch } xxs
samewell Rowly & he is a writtinge some of ... }

Fol. 95v ((Greg I.152)
pd at the apoyntment of the company }
[1601] in fulle payment for a Boocke } vli
called Judas vnto wm Borne & Samvvelle }
Rowley the 24 of desembʒ 1601 some of }

For apparel in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 95v (Greg I.152)
Lent vnto antony Jaffes the 3 of Janewary }
1601 to bye cloth for the playe of Judas } xxxs
the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's Men paid William Haughton 10s. on 27 May 1600 for "Judas" but there are no further payments for it until December 1601, when William Birde and Samuel Rowley are paid in full for a play by that name. The purchase of cloth for the play in January suggests that "Judas" went into production at the Fortune in late winter 1602.

Probable Genre(s)

Biblical History (Harbage); Romance? Wiggins, Catalogue (#1316); see also White in Critical Commentary, below.

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The biblical narrative of Judas Iscariot is the logical narrative source, but Judas Maccabeus is also a possibility. For more information on both, see Critical Commentary below.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Greg II considers that the Haughton project was suspended and that Bird and Rowley later completed the play, perhaps with Haughton's "rough sketch" at hand (#207, p. 214). Subsequent scholars have agreed with Greg's reasoning, but see White, below.

Sharpe cites the genre of biblical plays as an example of repertorial difference between the Admiral's Men and Chamberlain's Men. He supposes that the Chamberlain's Men "did not feel that plays on Bible subjects would appeal to their clientele" (28); the Admiral's Men, in contrast, were "catering to the more old-fashioned Puritans" (28-29), and thus acquired not only "Judas" in 1600, plus five other biblical plays in 1602. He wonders if "they had very special reasons for such piety" then, hinting that they might have been currying the favor of Sir Robert Cecil. Sharpe expands his commentary by suggesting that the biblical plays were the Admiral's "characteristic way of taking advantage of the current vogue of satire—by harking back to the religious-ethical type and justifying their scurrilities to their relatively unsophisticated audience by uttering them as jeremiads" (p. 136).

O'Connell suggests Judas Maccabeus "and the heroic story drawn from the Apocrypha" as an alternative to Judas Iscariot as the narrative focus of the play (p. 111).

Connolly puts the biblical plays of the 1590s in the context of the Admiral's Men and their Marlovian repertory, seeing "Judas" as possibly influenced by the action-figure model of a Tamburlaine, particularly if Judas Maccabeus was the subject of the play EMLS, ¶18.

Gurr also notes the sequence of biblical plays in 1602 (signaled in Haughton's single payment of 1600) and finds it "tempting to think that the impulse came from Alleyn wishing to assert his Christian credentials" (p. 41) in possible anticipation of his future gift to Dulwich and the College of God's Gift (p. 42). Gurr also points out difficulties in using the narrative of Judas Iscariot for a play and suggests that the subject of Judas Maccabaeus had promising subject matter (p. 42).

Wiggins, Catalogue focuses exclusively on Judas Iscariot as the subject of the play, which he considers to be biographical (#1316). He lists "Pontius Pilate" as a separate play, but does consider that it and "Judas" "might have been one and the same" (#1318). On authorship, Wiggins names Haughton along with Bird and Rowley (#1316).

White reconsiders the relationship of the payment to Haughton for "Judas" in 1600, the payments to William Bird and Samuel Rowley in December 1601 for "Judas," and the payment on 14 January 1601/2 to Thomas Dekker for a prologue and epilogue for a play called "ponescioues pillet" (i.e., "Pontius Pilate"). He finds several scenarios plausible. One is that the payment to Haughton was "for a script that was shelved" (if it was focused on Judas Iscariot) but possibly completed if the subject was Judas Maccabeus (p. 199). He likes better the scenario that Haughton's play-draft was "finished by Bird and Rowley" in December 1601 (p. 199). He considers also the possibility "that the Admiral's staged only one play centering on Judas Iscariot and Pilate," but he is uncomfortable with the then-necessary assertion that Henslowe used two names ("Judas," "Pontius Pilate") for the same play (p. 199). His preference that the "Judas" titles indicate a single finished play leads him to consider the "Pilate" play with the new prologue and epilogue to be "an earlier play" (p. 199), refreshed by Dekker, who was "an expert in the composition of religiously controversial drama" (p. 200). On the intertwining of the lives of Judas and Pilate in medieval lore, White footnotes two sources: Paul Baum, "The Medieval Legend of Judas Iscariot," PMLA 31.3 (1916): 481-632; and Lawrence Besserman, A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, ed. David Lyle Jeffrey (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992: 418-20).

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Connolly, Annaliese. "Peele's David and Bethsabe: Reconsidering Biblical Drama of the Long 1590s." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 16 (October, 2007) 9.1-20 Early Modern Literary Studies.
Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's company 1594-1625. Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2009.
O'Connell, Michael. The Idolatrous Eye: Iconoclasm and Theatre in Early-Modern Drama. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.
Sharpe, Robert B. The Real War of the Theaters. Boston: D. C. Heath, 1935.
White, Paul Whitfield. "'Histories out of the scriptures': Biblical Drama in the Repertory of the Admiral’s Men, 1594–1603," in Loss and the Literary Culture of Shakespeare's Time, eds. Roslyn L. Knutson, David McInnis, and Matthew Steegle. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 191-213.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 4 November 2009.