Play of Paul of Japan

Anon. (1624)


Historical Records

Registrum Audomarensis Anglorum gymnasii

Pauli Iaponensis pueri cer
tamen virile productu[m] est a Gra
maticis in scena[m] 3o Idus Iunii
vt proluderent novo magistratu
um instaurationi, quæ sic
institutua est:
(British Library, Add. MS 9354, fol. 17r; Takenaka 135)

Takenaka (12) offers the following translation: "The manly contest of the boy Paulus of Japan is produced on the stage by the Grammar class [i.e. the boys of the fourth year of school] on the third day before the Ides of June [11 June] to celebrate the arrival of the new masters. It begins in this way."


Theatrical Provenance

Performed at the English Jesuit College at St. Omers on 11 June 1624.


Probable Genre(s)

Religious play.


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

See Critical Commentary below.


References to the Play

(Information welcome.)


Critical Commentary

McCabe proposes that the subject was "probably one of several Pauls martyred at Nagasaki with the Jesuit Charles Spinola in 1622" (363).

Takenaka discusses the play in the context of other Jesuit plays at St. Omers that take Catholics in Asia as their subject, including Antipelargesis (extant in a manuscript at Stonyhurst) and Sanctus Franciscus Xavierius (Wiggins #2163). He endorses McCabe's suggestion of the play's subject (12).

Wiggins (#2117) offers as a candidate Paul Miki (1564–97), whose Jesuit seminary was sacked in 1582. As Wiggins describes, "One of the schoolmasters tries to evacuate the boys by water, but the boatman robs them of all their possessions, and only the providential intervention of a Christian nobleman saves them from being murdered."

Keener proposes an alternative candidate found in Edmund Neville's translation of The Palme of Christian Fortitude, printed at Saint-Omer in 1630 (891–92). In Palme, an eleven-year-old martyr named Paul who joyously greets the news of his impending execution in 1622: "Then might you haue seene in the face of this manly child a picture of his ioyfull hart, so did he on the sudden pull vp his spirits and with marueilous alacrity make ready for death" (G6v). As Keener notes, Neville's use of "manly" recalls "virile" in the Register's description of the play "Pauli Iaponensis pueri," suggesting him as the most likely candidate.


For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Keener, Andrew S. "Japan Dramas and Shakespeare at St. Omers English Jesuit College." Renaissance Quarterly 74 (2021): 876–917.
McCabe, William H. "The Play-List of the English College of St. Omers (1592-1762)." Revue de littérature comparée 17 (1937): 355–75.
Neville, Edmund, trans. The Palme of Christian fortitude, Or the glorious combats of Christians in Iaponia. [By João Rodrigues.] Saint-Omer, 1630. STC 18482.
Takenaka, Masahiro. Jesuit Plays on Japan and English Recusancy. Tokyo: The Renaissance Institute at Sophia University, 1995.


Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, University of Toronto; updated 25 September 2021.