Play of Perkin Warbeck

Anon. (1618)

NB. "Play of Perkin Warbeck" is a recent assignation (from Wiggins 1869) for this untitled play. The name is used here for convenience.

Historical Records

Thomas Gainsford appears to allude to a stage play about Perkin Warbeck that predates John Ford's treatment of the subject matter:

How Perkin Warbeck, for all his exhaled vapouring, went forward assisted by the Scottish policie, Flemmish credulitie, and inueterat malice of the Duches of Burgundy, against the house of Lancaster, our stages of London, haue instructed those which cannot read...

The true exemplary, and remarkable history of the Earle of Tirone (1619), sig.B1v

Theatrical Provenance

Unknown, though presumably performed on the London stages by the time Gainsford had registered his book for publication in late 1618.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The historical Perkin Warbeck was a pretender to the throne of England, styling himself Richard IV. He gains the support of the Duchess of Burgandy and the King of Scotland, misleads the Flemish, and leads a rebellion in England but Henry VII's army defeats him, according to Gainsford's account.
Wiggins (1869) points to several available source texts, including Holinshed, Stow, and Speed.

References to the Play

(Information welcome).

Critical Commentary

O'Connor, who first noticed the allusion to the lost Perkin Warbeck play, argued that Gainsford seems to have actually seen the play on stage. O'Connor traces Gainsford's well documented travels throughout the first two decades of the seventeenth century to determine when Gainsford might have been able to see a performance in London, concluding that "Gainsford is probably writing of a play he saw either in the years 1608-1610 or 1614-1618" (567). O'Connor further assumes that "[h]is comment implies that there were many performances" (567), and suggests that Ford may have been influenced by it when he wrote his own play on the subject, and urges critics "to consider to what extent the uniqueness of Perkin Warbeck in the Ford canon is to be explained by reference to the earlier play" (568).

For What It's Worth

(Information welcome)

Works Cited

Gainsford, Thomas. The true exemplary, and remarkable history of the Earle of Tirone. London, 1619.
O'Connor, John J. "A Lost Play of Perkin Warbeck". MLN 70 (1955): 566-68.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 17 March 2017.