Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary
Fol. 26 (Greg 1.51):
||3|||tt at oserycke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||01|09|03-02-01|
|Shrove mvnday|||7|||——||tt at oserycke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||00|14|07-16-00|
There is no doubt that a play Henslowe called "Osric" belonged to the Admiral's men during the late winter of 1597, but there is also no evidence to mark its introduction to the stage and identify its initial company owners. This title disappears from theater records after its brief appearance in February 1597.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
No one has identified an historical or literary character who is persuasively the Osric for whom the play was named; consequently no source material has been suggested as the basis of the dramatic narrative. Wiggins, Catalogue (#867) considers several Anglo-Saxon kings but acknowledges that "the relative dearth of specific narrative about them" is a problem: Osric of Deira, A.D. 625-35; Osric of Northumberland, A.D. 718-29; and Osbert, c. 849-63.
References to the Play
Without a plausible historical or literary character named "Osric," scholars have been inclined to identify the play with another title. Malone does not offer an opinion (p. 299), nor does Collier (p. 85). Fleay, however, suggests A Knack to Know a Knave, which contains a character named Osric (BCED, 2.301 [#147]). Greg II rejects that connection, offering with tepid interest "another play on the same story" as A Knack to Know a Knave "of which a fragment survives in MS" as well as the also lost "Marshal Osric," which was written for Worcester's company in 1602 by Thomas Heywood and Wentworth Smith (#101, p. 182; #265, p. 230).
Gurr, following Greg's offhand observation, repeats a possible link of "Osric" with the later lost play, "Marshal Osric," adding the conjecture that the 1602 play was "a rewrite" of the Admiral's 1597 play (p. 227, #64, n.63).
For What It's Worth
Fleay, BCED, in a collective note on Henslowe's plays from 1594 to 1597 that are not marked "ne," avers that they all "must have belonged to the Admiral's men on 3 June 1594 [and] have been originally produced before June 1592" (2, p. 302).
Wiggins, Catalogue (#867) uses the entry of "Osric" to gather together a set of apparently old plays brought to the stage briefly by the Admiral's men, 1595-97, without a hint of their previous stage lives. As he observes ruefully, "no single hypothesis [on their provenance] will necessarily cover them all." Those other plays are "The Grecian Comedy," #785; "Martin Swarte," #953; "Diocletian," #973; and "Time's Triumph," #1022.
Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; 19 November 2019.