Pope Joan

Anon. (1592)

Historical Records

Performance Records

Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary

A single record of performance survives in Henslowe’s accounts for early 1592 (new style):

Fol. 7 (Greg I, 13)

Res at poope Jone the 1 of marche 1591
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvs

Theatrical Provenance

Henslowe's Diary reports that Lord Strange's men performed this play at the Rose Theatre on March 1, 1591/92. Since Henslowe does not mark it as a new play, "Pope Joan" had evidently been performed earlier, but no record of such performances has survived.

Probable Genre(s)

foreign pseudo-history (Harbage); history (Wiggins, Catalogue #894)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Wiggins points out that a possible source on the Pope Joan controversy (including a biography) by John Mayo had been published in 1591 (#894). That book, The Pope's Parliament, carries the following opinionated subtitle: " ... containing a pleasant and delightful historie, wherein are throughly deliuered and brightly blazed out, the paltry trash and trumperies of him and his pelting prelats, their mutinies, discord, and dissentions, their stomacke and malace at Pope Ioane, their shifting and foisting of matters for defence of her, and their antichristian practises, for maintenance of their pompe and auarice. Whereunto is annexed an Anatomie of Pope Ioane. more apparantly opening her whole life and storie. Written by Iohn Mayo." Mayo's screed was printed by Richard Field.

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Malone makes no comment on "Pope Joan" (p. 290). Collier implies a narrative connection with "The Anatomie of Pope Joane" (1624), which he suggests might be "a reprint of an earlier tract" (p. 22 n.1). Fleay, BCED does not pick up on Collier's observation (2.297 #104), but Greg II does, without further explanation of any plausible linkage (#9, p. 152).

Wiggins considers this play to belong to his category of old plays in the repertory of Strange's men that were nearing the end of their runs when Henslowe began to keep records (see Wiggins, both #894 [for "Pope Joan" specifically] and #878 [for his argument about the repertorial age of non-"ne" plays in Strange's 1592 repertory]).

Manley and Maclean conjecture that the play, given its implied anti-Catholic subject matter, might previously have belonged to the "more staunchly Protestant repertory of Leicester's Men" (31, 146). At least three players in the company of Strange's men had formerly been members of Leicester's men: George Bryan, Will Kempe, and Thomas Pope.

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Site created and maintained by Craig M. Rustici, Hofstra University; updated 24 August 2016. Updated 2 November 2018 by Roslyn L. Knutson.