Pastor Stapilton

Stapylton, Sir Robert? (before 1656)

Historical Records

Extract from Rogers and Ley, "exact and perfect Catalogue of all Playes that are Printed", appended to Thomas Goffe, The Careles Shepherdess (1656), A2-A4v.

Picture, Messinger.
Perkin warbek.
Play of the Netherlands.
Pitty shee's a whore.
Prisoners, Killigrew.
Pilgrim, B. F.
Passionate lovers two parts.
Pastor fido 12.
Pastor Stapilton.

For a full transcription of the list, and page images, see Rogers and Ley's List (1656).

Theatrical Provenance


Probable Genre(s)

Pastoral; closet drama (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Guarini, Pastor Fido

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

"Pastor Stapilton" does not sound at all right for a play title. W. W. Greg made the plausible suggestion - which has generally been accepted - that this is an error for "Pastor Stapilton": that is, the play's title is given as "Pastor" - suggesting it might be another translation of Guarini's hugely successful pastoral work, Pastor Fido - and the author as "Stapilton", which would indicate the dramatist and translator Sir Robert Stapylton (Greg, List xcvii). Bentley agrees "that the title may represent an unknown translation of Pastor Fido ascribed to Sir Robert Stapleton. Though the suggestion is not entirely convincing, I know of no better one" (Bentley, 4.1187). Pastor Fido certainly enjoyed considerable success throughout Renaissance Europe, and at least two translations of it into English are known to have been printed in the first half of the seventeenth century. This would seem to be evidence of a third, lost, printed translation of Guarini's work.

Harbage (153) also accepts Greg's suggestion that this is a lost translation of Pastor Fido. However, he further identifies this lost work with The Royal Choice, a lost play ascribed to Stapylton in Marriott's List (1653), seeing The Royal Choice as an alternative title for a translation of Pastor Fido.

Sir Robert Stapylton (1607x9?–1669), translator and playwright, was born in Snaith, Yorkshire, to an aristocratic family which was staunchly Catholic. He travelled to Douai, and was educated in the school there, briefly enrolling as a Benedictine monk before returning, in 1626, to England. There he remained, renouncing his vows, and becoming a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Prince Charles. Various texts also attest to Stapylton's interest in drama during the Caroline era: he wrote commendatory verses for Shirley's Grateful Servant (1630), Harding's tragedy Sicily and Naples (1640), the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio (1647), and Cartwright's Comedies (1651). Stapylton fought for King Charles in the Civil War, and was knighted by him. When Charles II assumed the throne, Stapylton became again a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to him, dying in London in 1669. (See Kelly; Bentley, 4.1186-7).

As well as the commendatory verse mentioned above, Stapylton wrote several translations, of which the best-known is his translation of Juvenal (1647). He also wrote three extant plays, performed after the Restoration: The Slighted Maid, The Stepmother, and Hero and Leander, respectively comedy, tragicomedy, and tragedy.

For what it's worth

First of all, Harbage's assumption that this play is also The Royal Choice seems unlikely to the point of being untenable. The titles in question are simply entirely different.

Secondly, I hesitate to invoke an entirely lost printing of an entirely lost play. The two extant translations of Pastor Fido at this date are:

the translation of Pastor Fido, anonymous but often credited to John Dymocke, printed in 1602 and reissued in 1633 in duodecimo.
Il pastor fido The faithfull shepherd : a pastorall written in Italian by Baptista Guarini, a Knight of Italie ; and now newly translated out of the originall (London: R. Raworth, 1647). This translation was anonymous in its first appearance in print, but was actually by Sir Richard Fanshawe.

Greg is surely right in identifying "Pastor fido 12", the play immediately above this one in the list, as the 1633 duodecimo (hence the "12"). "Pastor fido 12" is the only play on the entire list identified in terms of its publication format: presumably, this is because a) this is almost the only occasion when Rogers and Ley have to distinguish two different dramatic texts with the same title, and b) they don't know the name of the 1602/1633 translator. Given this, the other Pastor Fido one would expect to see next to "Pastor fido 12" is the 1647 translation by Fanshawe.

Admittedly, Rogers and Ley do list the 1647 translation under "F", under its English name, The Faithful Shepherd (and without giving a translator's name). But another comparable contemporary list of plays in print - that of Edward Archer appended to the comedy The Old Law (1656) - lists Fanshawe's translation twice over, once under "F" and once under "P", crediting it to Fanshawe on both occasions (and not mentioning any version by Stapylton). In Rogers and Ley's list, where one would expect a reference to Fanshawe's Pastor Fido, one has instead a reference to a Pastor [Fido] by Stapylton.

Could Rogers and Ley have mistaken the authorship of the extant 1647 translation of Pastor Fido? This would have been easy to do, since in its original edition the book was entirely anonymous. (See Wing G2174; Wing G2175, an edition with extra material, dated 1648, does reveal the author). In a preface printed in the anonymous 1647 edition, the translator coyly hints at his identity and allegiances, addressing Prince Charles:

Whilst I had the honour to serve your Highnesse, I did it (how weakly soever) with that fidelity and dutifull affection to your Person, which found your gracious acceptance, together with some encouragement from your own mouth to hope a new and more fixt relation to you in the future; the onely suit I was bold to make: as having ever esteemed that to serve your Highnesse, would of it self be an abundant reward for having served you. (A3r)

For anyone who possessed a copy of the 1647 edition, but who did not know who wrote it, it would certainly be an easy mistake to assume from this preface that the anonymous author was Sir Robert Stapylton, translator, drama-lover, and Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to the Prince. I would therefore propose that Pastor Stapilton is a misattribution of Fanshawe's Pastor Fido. This would dispose of any link with The Royal Choice; and would make Pastor Stapilton a "found lost play".

Works Cited

Davidson, Peter. ‘Fanshawe, Sir Richard, first baronet (1608–1666)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 5 Feb 2010.

Greg, W. W. A list of masques, pageants, &c: supplementary to a List of English plays‎. London: Bibliographical Society, 1902. Internet Archive

Kelly, L. G. ‘Stapylton , Sir Robert (1607x9?–1669)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 3 Feb 2010.

Massinger, Philip (attr.) The excellent comedy called, The old law, or, A new way to please you by Phil. Massinger, Tho. Middleton, William Rowley ... ; together with an exact and perfect catalogue of all the playes, with the authors names, and what are comedies, tragedies, histories, pastoralls, masks, interludes, more exactly printed than ever before. London: Edward Archer, 1656.

Page maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University; updated 18 May 2015.