Man in the Moon Drinks Claret

Anon. (1621 or earlier)

Historical Records

From a Lord Chamberlain's warrant book, now Inner Temple Library MS. 515, No. 7.

6° Marcii. A warrant for allowance of xxtie Marks for two plaies to the Princes Servaunts the one 27° Decembris 1621, called the man in the moone drinks Clarett the other the 29 of the same Moneth called the Witch of Edmonton, and for a reward for bothe xx nobles.

(Murray, 2:193; see also Bentley, 5:1370)

Theatrical Provenance

Prince Charles's (I) Men, at court.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

A ballad in the Roxburghe collection may be connected with this play. It is entitled "The Man in the Moon Drinks Clarret. As it was lately sung at the Curtain, Holy-Well" (Chappell 2:256-8, ); EBBA 37280 dates it "1688-1709?". Bentley (6:135-6) observes that since the Prince's Men were using the Curtain theatre in the early 1620s, it is possible that "the ballad was sung by the Prince's men in the course of Curtain performances of the play" (6:136). He acknowledges that it might have been sung there after a premiere at court, but finds a "first performance at the Curtain" to be "at least as likely" (6:136). However, Wiggins, Catalogue (entry 1973) casts doubt on a connection with the play, noting that the Curtain remained standing until 1698 and the ballad might have been sung there at a time closer to its publication date.

Wiggins notes that, in addition to the ballad noted above, there is another ballad in the Roxburghe collection, sung to the same tune, entitled "New Mad Tom of Bedlam, or the Man in the Moon Drinks Clarret, with Powder-Beef, Turnip and Carret" (2:259-61); it is sung by the ghost of Tom o' Bedlam on his return from hell (see Chappell 2:259-61, EBBA 37279).

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

The date is not certain. G.E. Bentley notes that the play need not have been new when performed at court in 1621 and "may be one of [the Prince's Men's] earlier plays of which we have no record until 1621" (5:1370).

As to the subject matter, various possibilities have been suggested:

  • Since the ballad sung at the Curtain (see above) is about "riotous drinkers", Bentley suggests that the play was "a roistering, possibly a satiric" one (6:136).
  • Wiggins suggests that the play might have portrayed the 'new world in the moon', a topic of much interest following the publication of Galileo's Starry Messenger in 1610. He notes that Ben Jonson's masque News from the New World Discovered in the Moon, which depicts lunar creatures travelling to earth, was performed at court the year before The Man in the Moons Drinks Claret.
  • Alternatively, Wiggins suggests, the play could have been more about the claret than the moon. He notes that calling for alcohol for the Man in the Moon may have been proverbial, since Thomas Randolph's Hey for Honesty contains the line, "call for canary for the Man i' th' Moon" (5.1), and thus speculates that the play's title might refer to a room in a tavern. He also observes a reference to a tavern in Cheapside called The Man in the Moon that only served claret, citing Humphrey Crouch's England's Jests (1687), sigs. E3v-E4r.

For What It's Worth

From the above evidence,it is clear that the title was proverbial. Another example of it can be found in a 1639 jest-book (Conceits, 65).

Works Cited

English Broadside Ballad Archive, 37279 and 37280.

Murray, John Tucker. English Dramatic Companies: 1558-1642. 2 vols. 1910; repr. New York: Russell and Russell, 1963.

Site created and maintained by David Nicol, Dalhousie University; updated 15 May, 2020.