Pierce of Winchester

Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, and Robert Wilson (1598)

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 48 (Greg 1.91)

lent vnto mr deckers the same time vpon the }
15- 17- 8. . . next boocke called perce of winschester . . . . } xs
. . . . . . ll s d
. . . . . . 120-15-4

Fol. 49 (Greg 1.93)

Lent vnto the company the 8 of aguste 1598 }
to paye mr drayton willsone & dickers in pte } ls
of payment of a boocke called perce of winschester }
the some of . . . . . . . . . . }

Lent vnto the company the 10 of aguste 1598 to }
paye mr drayton willsone & dickers in fulle } ls
payment for a boocke called perce of winschester }
the some of . . . . . . . . . . }

For "diuers thinges" in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 50 (Greg 1.95)

Lent vnto the company the the [sic] 23 of septmbr 1598 }
to bye diuers thinges for perce of winchester the } xll
some of xll dd vnto thomas dowton J saye . . . . }

Lent vnto thomas dowton the 28 of sepmbƺ 1598 }
to bye diuers thinges for pearce of winchester } xxxxs
the some of . . . . . . . . . . }

Miscellaneous expenses in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 50v (Greg 1.96)

Lent vnto thomas dowton the 29 of septmbƺ 1598 }
to feche home a Riche cloacke wch they had } xijll
of mr langleyes the some of to bye diuers thinges for perce of winchester. }

Fol. 51 (Greg 1.97)

payd for the company the 12 of octobƺ 1598 }
vnto the lace man for the playe of Perce of } vll ijs
winchester the some of . . . . . . . . . . }


Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library

List of playbooks

Greg Henslowe Papers (APX. I, art. 1, p. 121, col. 2, l. 197):

Under Henslowe's title, A Note of all suche bookes as belong to the Stocke, and such as I have bought since the 3d of March 1598, is:
Perce of Winchester.

Theatrical Provenance

The payments for production expenses and the presence of the book of the play in their inventory suggest that the Admiral's men performed this play in 1598, when they were at the Rose.

Probable Genre(s)

Unknown (Harbage); romance (?) (Wiggins, Catalogue (#1147).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The subject of this lost play is somewhat mysterious; early scholars had no luck tracing the likely story (see Critical Commentary below) but Martin Wiggins has recently offered the first concrete suggestion, noting that "Pierce of Winchester is also the name of a subsidiary character in the later part of R. G.'s prose romance, Albion's Queen (1600): he is a self-serving political double-dealer who plays the story's various royal personages off against one another" (#1147; see also Critical Commentary).

The relevant section begins with Chapter 9, "How Vallentinus the bastard was crowned King, and how he through the perswasions of Perce of Winchester, caused his owne Mother with her paramour the wicked Barron, to be most strangely put to death" (sig.H3v). Other characters include King Edward, Queen Katherine, their son Prince Edmond, the bastard Vallentinus and his mother Caliope, and the Duke of Suffolk, amongst others.

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Malone renders Henslowe's "perce" as "Pierce" but offers no opinion on the subject (p. 310); Collier replicates Henslowe's spelling of "perce" (p. 131). F. G. Fleay renders the title character's name as "Piers" (Dekker, 1.123 #16; Drayton, 1.158 #13; Wilson, 2.284 #8).

Greg II (#144, p. 195) tentatively suggests a "possible connection" to "Pierce of Exton" but admits that "none such can be established"; presumably his conjecture rests on no stronger ground than the name "Pierce" being common to both plays.

Wiggins Catalogue (#1147) qualifies his suggestion (see above) that the play of "Pierce of Winchester" may have some relationship to R.G.'s prose romance including a character of this name, by saying:

The relationship between the play and the romance is unclear. The latter was entered in the Stationers' Register on 24 December 1599, so it cannot be the play's source. However, the coincidence of the names is striking: I have found no other Pierce of Winchester in the literature of the period, nor in history. It would be tempting to hypothesize that the romance took its story from the play, were it not for the fact that Pierce is not central enough in that story to have been the title character.

For reasons that are not explained, McIntyre links this play to contemporary crime drama:

A Warning for Fair Women, like Arden of Feversham (printed 1592), dramatizes a crime, the murder of a London citizen by his wife and her lover, and their detection and punishment. Some lost Admiral's plays of 1597-99---Alice Pierce, The Woman's Tragedy, Pierce of Winchester, The Stepmother's Tragedy, Cox of Collumpton, and Thomas Merry--are thought to have concerned similar crimes, and suggest a fashion for plays on adultery and murder. (162)

No reference is provided for who thought these plays concerned similar crimes.

For What It's Worth

Information welcome.

Works Cited

McIntyre, Jean. Costumes and Scripts in the Elizabethan Theatres. Alberta: U of Alberta P, 1992.
R. G. The famous historie of Albions queene VVherein is discoursed King Edwards ielosie, Queene Katherines chastetie, the Duke of Suffolkes loyaltie, and the Barron of Buckinghams treacherie. Imprinted at London : By VV. VVhite for T. Pauier, and are to be sold at his shop in Corne-hill neare to the Exchange at the signe of the Catte and Parrettes, 1600. (STC (2nd ed.) / 11502)

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 10 March 2015.