Maiden's Holiday, The

Christopher Marlowe and John Day (>1593)

Historical Records

Book Trade Records

Stationers’ Register

Entered in the Stationers’ Register by Moseley on 8 Apr. 1654 as “A comedie called The Maidens Holiday by Christopher Marlow & John Day” for “vjd(S. R. II, 1.445).

Warburton’s List

“The Mayden Holaday by Chris. Marlowe” appears as the 13th play noted by John Warburton (1682-1759) in his list of the unprinted MS plays formerly in his collection until destroyed by Warburton’s cook:

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

Unknown. In his introduction to Marlowe’s works, Alexander Dyce grapples with how these two playwrights may have been involved in the writing of the comedy: “In matters of authorship the Stationers’ Books are not always to be trusted; and that Marlowe and Day should have written in conjunction is rendered highly improbable by the fact, that we find no notice of Day as a dramatist earlier than 1599. Still, there is a possibility that Marlowe may have so far mistaken his own powers as to attempt a comedy, that he may have left it unfinished at his death, and that Day may have completed it” (Dyce, “Introduction” lvii). Bullen thought that Day had most likely added to the play in a subsequent revival: “If the comedy was written by Marlowe and Day, then we must suppose that Day completed a sketch that had been left by Marlowe, or that he revised the play on the occasion of a revival” (lxxxiii).

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (Harbage) Pastoral comedy (Steggle)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues


References to the Play

None known, except the historical records above.

Critical Commentary

Fleay notes that "As the manuscript was destroyed by Warburton's servant, we cannot ascertain the truth as to the authorship of this play" (BCED 2.64).

Bakeless, operating on the assumption that some of the plays written by Marlowe must have been lost, is receptive to the idea of Marlowe having written The Maiden’s Holiday (1.276). He finds it interesting as it "provides the only suggestion that Marlowe ever wrote comedy, and it records the only play in which there is external evidence of collaboration, except Dido." He qualifies this statement with the acknowledgement that "Since, however, Day is not known as a dramatist prior to 1599, six years after Marlowe's death, he may have completed an unfinished script or brought an old play of Marlowe's up to date" (2.277).

Schelling, by contrast, sees as little reason to suppose Marlowe’s co-authorship of The Maiden’s Holiday as he sees for Marlowe’s supposed authorship of The Taming of a Shrew: “A bookseller’s ascription, in 1654, of The Maiden’s Holiday (one of the Warburton manuscripts) to Marlowe and Day must be regarded as equally preposterous” (234n).

Lisa Hopkins is similarly cynical about Marlowe’s possible involvement: “in 1764 David Erskine Baker in his Companion to the Playhouse declared that Marlowe and Day co-authored The Maiden’s Holiday. However, nothing further is known of this and, whatever The Maiden’s Holiday was, there seems no reason to suppose that Marlowe had any connection with it” (45).

In work undertaken for the Lost Plays Database, Steggle uses electronic resources to interrogate the title “The Maiden’s Holiday”. He notes that there are five early modern dramas that have the word “holiday” in their title - Dekker, ‘’The Shoemaker’s Holiday’’ (perf. 1599); Jonson, ‘’Pan’s Anniversary, or The Shepherd’s Holiday’’ (perf. 1621); Joseph Rutter, ‘’The Shepherd’s Holiday’’ (perf. 1635); Edward Denny, ‘’The Shepherd’s Holiday’’ (written 1651); and Anon., ‘The Lovers’ Holiday’.

Dramatic texts of the format ‘The X’s Holiday’, then, tend towards comedy, which fits with Moseley’s description of ‘The Maiden’s Holiday’ as a ‘comedie’. Invariably in the available sample they conclude by staging the eponymous holiday. As it happens, three of the four surviving specimens are pastoral, while the other one, The Shoemaker’s Holiday, invokes a distinctly olde-worlde idea of holiday festivity. Regardless of where modern editors place the apostrophe largely lacking in the early texts of these titles, these dramas depict a number of people of the type described – shoemakers or shepherds – in a community celebration.
(Steggle, 246)

Secondly, what does a maidens’ holiday mean, specifically? EEBO-TCP furnishes several examples which tend to suggest that “when young women and holidays are linked, the frame of reference is pastoral”. For instance, Milton's’’ L'Allegro’’ links maidens and holidays in a pastoral context. Milton imagines a scene

When the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound
To many a youth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequered shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday.

Strikingly, many of the examples found are specifically from texts which have been identified by previous scholars as part of the reception history of Marlowe’s famous pastoral lyric, “Come Live with Me and Be My Love”, as indeed is the case with this Milton lyric.

As well as documenting this extensive reception history, Steggle links “The Maiden’s Holiday” to the extant works of John Day.

Day’s extant works are noted for a stylistic purity that chimes with how the seventeenth century praised Marlowe’s poems. They contain direct echoes of Marlowe and other Elizabethan texts, and they contain examples of Day writing pastoral drama. A Jacobean pastoral comedy by Day, working in the idiom exemplified by ‘Come live with me’, could well, by the mid-century, have passed for something Marlowe actually wrote. In this respect, the attribution to Marlowe in 1654 becomes, in a way, part of the play’s meaning. Far from being a sign of the 1650s’ deafness to Marlowe, it is a sign of what the 1650s heard in him.
(Steggle, 256)

For What It's Worth

Dyce suggested that “there is a possibility . . . that we possess a fragment of The Maiden’s Holiday in that pastoral “Dialogue” attributed to “Kitt Marlowe”, which was recently discovered among the Alleyn Papers” (Dyce, “Introduction” lvii). The fragmentary dialogue is available to view at Internet Archive.

Bakeless notes that "the Dialogue in Verse which Collier claimed to have found among the Alleyn Papers at Dulwich College ... [is] almost certainly not Marlowe's and were probably never part of an ordinary play for the professional stage" (2.277).

Works Cited

Bakeless, John. The Tragical History of Christopher Marlowe. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1942.
Bullen, Arthur Henry, ed. The Works of Christopher Marlowe. Vol. 1. London, 1885.
Dyce, Alexander. The Works of Christopher Marlowe with notes and some account of his life and writings. London, 1850. Internet Archive
Greg, W. W. “The Bakings of Betsy.” The Library, 3rd series. 7.11 (1911): 225-259.
Hopkins, Lisa. Christopher Marlowe, Renaissance Dramatist. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2008.
Schelling, Felix Emmanuel. Elizabethan Drama, 1558-1642: A History of the Drama in England from the Accession of Queen Elizabeth to the Closing of the Theaters. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1908. Internet Archive
Steggle, Matthew. "Marlowe's Lost Play: 'The Maiden's Holiday'" in Kirk Melnikoff and Roslyn L. Knutson, eds., Christopher Marlowe, Theatrical Commerce, and the Book Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018), 243-257.]

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated, 19 April 2017. Revised by Matthew Steggle, University of Bristol, 12 November 2019.