Jugurtha, King of Numidia

William Boyle (1600)

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 67v (Greg I.1180

lent vnto me W birde the 9 of febreary 1599 to paye }
for a new booke to Will: Boyle. cald Jugurth xxxs } xxxs
wc if you dislike Ile repaye it back ... }

Government Documents

Dramatic Records of Sir Henry Herbert

1624, May 3. "An Old Play, called, Jugurth, King of Numidia, formerly allowed by Sir George Bucke." (Herbert 28)

Citing George Chalmers (A Supplemental Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare-Papers. London, 1799, 218), Adams adds the following in a footnote:

"Elsewhere Chalmers writes (S. A. 203): 'On the 3d of May, 1624, Sir Henry Herbert states, that he had licensed, without a fee, Jugurth, an old play, allowed by Sir George Bucke, and burnt, with his other books.'" Adams then quotes the entry in Henslowe's Diary (above) for the payment to William Boyle and adds: "Apparently this is the play now licensed by Herbert" (Herbert p. 28).

See also Bawcutt, which adds "burnt, with his other books" to the Herbert entry (above) on 3 May 1624 (p. 151, #99). Bawcutt adds the clarification by Bentley (below) that "the books destroyed by fire were those belonging to the Fortune theatre, burnt down on 9 Dec. 1621, not those in the private library of Sir George Buc" (note to #99).

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's Men paid William Bird 30s. on 9 February 1600 "for a new booke" by William Boyle during that early spring season of heavy expenditure on plays when their competitors were in full swing across Maid Lane at the Globe and their own plans for the building of the Fortune were underway. The 30s. solo payment is well below the cost of a new play (usually £6), but scholars have assumed that the script was completed both because of Bird's wording ("for a new booke") and the licensing of "Jugurtha, King of Numidia" by Henry Herbert and the tagging of that play as old and previously "allowed" by Sir George Buc, Deputy Master of the Revels in 1600. Reaching further, scholars have seen some kind of survival for the Boyle play in a seventeenth-century manuscript for a play called Jugurtha, or The Faithless Cousin German.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragedy ? (Harbage), Classical Tragedy (Knutson)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The story of Jugurtha (c. 160-104 BCE) was widely known from the Roman historian, Sallust (Internet Archive). Jugurtha was the king of Numidia in North Africa; he was loosely allied with Rome until he decided to expand his kingdom. He incurred Rome's wrath by killing some Italian merchants in the course of battle with a neighboring warlord. Jugurtha was captured, brought to Rome, and executed in 104 BCE.

References to the Play

In 1654, in Pleasant Notes upon Don Quixot, Edmund Gayton says the following:

"I have known upon one of these Festivals, but especially at Shrovetide, where the Players have been appointed, nothwithstanding their bils to the contrary, to act what the major part of the company had a mind to; sometimes Tamerlane, sometimes Jugurth, sometimes the Jew of Malta, and sometimes parts of all these, and at last, none of the three taking, they were forc'd to undresse and put off their Tragick habits and conclude the day with the merry milk-maides" (Bentley, JCS 3.37).

Because The Jew of Malta and Tamburlaine were still being performed post-1624 when the "Jugurtha" licensed by Herbert was current, it is not clear whether Gayton was referring to the 1624 or the 1600 play. However, his anecdote does support stage performances of some version of a play on the Numidian king.

Critical Commentary

Collier, impressed by the fact that William Boyle's name does not appear again in the diary, surmised that Henslowe "'disliked' the piece, and that W. Birde ...was obviged to refund the money" (p. 164, n.2).

Fleay identifies the play at the Rose with the item licensed by Buc and theorizes further that "Boyle" is "merely a nom de plume for" William Bird (alias, Borne), who was a player with and writer of dramatic bits for the Admiral's men (BCED, I.33).

Bentley, JCS, repeating the information in Herbert's entry and notation, saw reason to identify the lost Admiral's play with the item allowed by Herbert in 1624 (3.36). He observed that the fire "was probably" the fire at the Fortune on 9 December 1621 (3.36), there being "no good evidence" that the fire might have been at Buc's office (3.37). Hinting at acceptance of Fleay's identification of Boyle as Bird/Borne, Bentley suggested that the proximity of Bird's tenure with the former Admiral's company to Buc's licensing in 1624 encourages the identification of Buc's "Jugurth" with the 1600 play (3.36). He supported further the link between the play handled by Herbert and the allusion to "Jugurth" in Edmund Gayton's Pleasant Notes upon Don Quixot (1654). From the play in manuscript at the Bodleian, Bentley transcribed the list of characters as well as a couple of stage directions (see For What It's Worth, below). He concluded that features of the Bodleian manuscript text distance the identification of it from the Admiral's play rather than tighten the identification: "various features suggest "a Restoration rather than a Jacobean or a Caroline, much less an Elizabethan, play" (3.38).

Carson theorizes that Boyle, who is not otherwise known as a dramatist, was paid so little for his play because he was a novice (p. 60).

Knutson sees a plausible responsiveness of "Jugurtha" to offerings in the repertory of the Chamberlain's Men in 1600 such as Julius Caesar (on the basis of Roman history), Titus Andronicus (North African characters), and "The Tartarian Cripple" ("motifs of conquest and exotic warlords" [p. 25]).

Wiggins, Catalogue (#1234) finds that "Bentley, who bent over backwards in search of anything which might represent Elizabethan material incorporated into a later palimpsest play, could only point to the clown scene (4.1), which has little to do with the Jugurtha plot and could have come from anywhere." He decides that "the extant Jugurtha seems most unlikely to have anything to do with the lost Admiral's Men Jugurth."

Kiefer presents the most detailed argument currently available to suggest that "William Boyle's 1600 Jugurtha may be "lost," but its avatar may survive in the Bodleian manuscript" (p. 25). Labeling his proposal "speculation" (p. 22), he opines that "it seems just a little odd that anyone would have wanted to write a new play about an ancient historical figure whose career had been dramatized six decades earlier" (p. 22). He observes that the story of the historical Jugurtha is so complex that a seventeenth-century playwright might have been intimidated had he not "had at hand an extant play about Jugurth" (p. 23). He thus offers for consideration that the Bodleian manuscript, Jugurtha, or the Faithless Cousin German, "may preserve some version of the play performed before the closing of the theaters in 1642" (p. 22).

For What It's Worth

Scholars since Chalmers have been inclined to identify the 1600 "Jugurtha" by Boyle with the "Jugurtha" licensed by Herbert because it is referred to as an old play formerly licensed by Sir George Buc. Scholars also have assumed that the book burning specified in Chalmers's note on the "Jugurtha" in 1624 refers to the fire at the Fortune in 1621. Bentley, JCS described a manuscript entitled Jugurtha or the Faitless [sic] Cosen German a Tragedy, which is preserved in the Bodleian Library (Bodleian MS. Rawl. poet.195). He connected this manuscript to the play licensed by Herbert, labeling the manuscript "an incomplete and inexpert Restoration adaptation of Boyle's old play" (3.38). The manuscript in the Bodleian Library ends at IV.i, with "three or four sketched-in scenes following, and, after a break of three pages, four smaller pages of rought unintegrated material" (3.37). Bentley provided the list of characters from the manuscript, second folio, verso:

Jugurtha partner in the Kingdome of Numidia Supposed Sonn of Monstabales and adopted Son Mysipsa [?] late King of Numidia & ffather to the Brothers
Atherball partner in the Kingdome of Numidia Brother to Hyempsall in love with Seraphina
Hyempsall partner in the Kingdome of Numidia in Love with Seraphina
Marius The Roman Consull
Calphurnius his Generall
Nabdalsa Generall of Iugurtha's Army
Octavia Marius Daughter in Love with & beloved by Iugurtha
Seraphina Sister to Iugurtha in Love with Hyempsall
Lysandra Seraphina's Woman of Honour and Confident to Atherball

Concerning two scenic notations ("Scane Thala or thereabouts," "Actus primus Scene a pallace"), Bentley believed both are marks of a post-, not pre-, Restoration play (3.28).

Gurr, gathering the evidence that links the undated Bodleian manuscript and Herbert license in 1624 to the 1600 play by Boyle, adds that "Heywood published a translation of Sallust's history of the Catiline conspiracy and the life of Jugurtha of Numidia in 1608" (p. 250, #145, n.109). He shares a popular opinion that after the fire at the Fortune, Palgrave's men had "a struggle to retrieve copies" and suggests that "Jugurtha and probably others they re-copied from old manuscripts that survived and had re-licensed" (p. 271, #215, n.147).

Works Cited

Carson, Neil. A Companion to Henslowe's Diary. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988.
Chalmers, George. A Supplemental Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare-Papers'. London, 1799.
Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare’s Opposites: The Admiral’s Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Kiefer, Frederick, "Lost and Found: William Boyle's Jugurth," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 28 (2015): 17-29.
Knutson, Roslyn L. “Toe to Toe Across Maid Lane: Repertorial Competition at the Rose and Globe, 1599-1600.” Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Ed. June Schlueter and Paul Nelsen. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005. 21-37.
Pollard, Alfred. The Catiline and Jugurtha of Sallust, Translated into English. London: Macmillan and Co., 1882. Internet Archive

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 4 March 2013.