Sir John Oldcastle, Part 2

Michael Drayton, Richard Hathaway, Anthony Munday, Robert Wilson (1599)

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 65 (Greg I.113):

                this 16 of october 99
Receved by me Thomas downton of phillipp }
Henchlow to pay mr monday mr drayton & mr wilsson }
& haythway for the first parte of the lyfe of } 10li
Sr Jhon Ouldcasstell & in earnest of the }
Second parte for the vse of the compayny }
ten pownd J say receved ... }

Fol. 66v (Greg I.116)

NB. The following item is undated but it is entered between payments on the 19th and 26 of December 1599.
Receued of mr Henchlow for the vse }
of the Company to pay mr drayton } iiijli
for the second parte of SrJhon ould }
Casell foure pownd J say receud ... }
           þ me Thomas Downton

Miscellaneous expenses in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 68 (Greg I.119)

dd vnto the littell tayller at the apoyntment }
of Robart shawe the 12 of marche 1599 to macke } xxxs
thinges for the 2 þte of owld castell some of ... }

Simon Forman's notebooks

An entry in Simon Forman's casebooks records his attendance at a play identified as "Sir John Oldcastle" on 15 March 1600: "An Sedgwicke alias Catlyn in Aldersgate streat Right against the Cocke illam vidi at Sr Jhon old castell 1600 15 of march." The timing of the performance, occurring three days after the final payment in Henslowe's diary, suggests that Forman may have seen "Sir John Oldcastle, Part 2" (Rowse, p. 94; Lupić).

Bodleian Ashmole 236, 77v.jpg

(Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 236, fol. 77v, reproduced with permission of The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford)

Book Trade Records

Stationers' Register

11 August 1600 (CLIO, S.R.1, 3.63/169)

Thomas Pavier                Entred for his copies vnder the handes of master VICARS and the wardens. These iij copies
The first parte of the history of the life of Sir JOHN OLDCASTELL lord COBHAM.
Item the second and last parte of the history of Sir JOHN OLDCASTELL lord COBHAM with his martyrdom
Item ye history of the life and Deathe of Captaine THOMAS STUCLEY, with his Mariage to ALEXANDER CURTIS his daughter,
                        and his valiant endinge of his life at the battell of Alcazar ... xviijd

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's Men purchased Sir John Oldcastle in two parts starting on 16 October 1599 during their final year at the Rose. Sometime between 1 and 8 November 1599, the company paid the four poets (Drayton, Hathway, Munday, and Wilson) 10s. "as a gefte" at the debut of the first part (Greg I.113). The second part was finished by March 1600. Drayton had taken payment for it in mid-December, perhaps as representative of the consortium of poets or perhaps for completing the play on his own, and it went into production with the purchase of 30s. worth of things. Both parts were registered at Stationers' Hall by Thomas Pavier on 11 August, but only the first part apparently went on to the print shop of Valentine Sims; it was published in 1600 and 1619 (the latter with a date of 1600).

In August 1602 Worcester's Men paid Thomas Dekker 40s. "for new a dicyons in owldcastelle" (Greg I.179). They bought a suit for the play on 21 August, along with another suit and a satin doublet (£12). On the same day they also bought "the turckes head & ij wemens gownes mackenge & fresh watr for owld castell" (£3 10s). On 7 September 1602 they paid Dekker another 10s. "for his adicions in owld castell" (Greg I.181). What play is this? Greg II supposed that it was the Admiral's part one (#185 & #186, p. 206). Corbin and Sedge decide that both "plays were revived in late 1602" (9).

Probable Genre(s)

History (Harbage); Contemporary history (Wiggins, Catalogue (#1236)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The Oxford DNB includes the life of Oldcastle.

John Foxe describes the execution of Sir John Oldcastle in Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1419 (The Variorum Edition Oldcastle entry, 1570 ed).

The entry in the Stationers' Register makes it clear that the second part of the play dramatized the martydom of Oldcastle, "with galowes chaines, and fyre" (Foxe, 1570 ed).


References to the Play

None known, unless the epilogue of 2 Henry IV is an allusion. That text, printed in 1600, ends with this disclaimer: "for Oldcastle died [a] martyr, and this is not the man" (Epi.32).

Critical Commentary

Corbin and Sedge have little to say about the lost second part. Most of their attention is given to the restoration of Oldcastle's image in part one, in light of the political faux pas in Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV of Falstaff's name (initially "Oldcastle"). They do anticipate a scene in part 2 in which Powis betrays Oldcastle, Judas-like, which would be a contrasting parallel to scene 6 in part one in which Oldcastle secures Powis' pardon for the murder of Lord Herbert (p. 20). They add that the second part "no doubt ... placed considerable dramatic weight on the nature of Oldcastle's martyrdom" (p. 20).

Knutson considers the relative popularity of the two parts, vis a vis printing, and suggests that the dramatization of the martyrdom of Oldcastle would rival horrific scenes such as the skinning of Sisamnes in Cambyses and the impalement of Edward II. She continues, "such a scene of onstage violence is more likely to have generated an audience at the Rose in the winter of 1599-1600 than public empathy with the Cobhams' injured pride" (p. 317).

Wiggins, Catalogue (#1236) assumes also that the martyrdom of Oldcastle was dramatized in a manner :"faithful to the account in Foxe."

Taylor suggests that Hal's simile of "roasted Manningtree ox" refers to Oldcastle (1 Henry IV, 2.4.452 ISE), but as a textual moment it is too early to allude to the lost second part of the Admiral's play (95).

For What It's Worth

Worcester's Men at the Rose, 1602-3

Philip Henslowe recorded the following payments in August and September 1602 for the earl of Worcester's men. The first of these (17 August) was to pay Thomas Dekker for "new a/dicyons in owldcastelle" (see below). The question, of course, was whether Worcester's men had acquired the first part of Sir John Oldcastle, the second part, or both. (This possible collapsing of two parts into one is something Henslowe's accounts also do for the purchase of the two-part "Tamar Cham" play [fols. 108 & 116v].) On the chance that their acquisition was for both parts, the following are relevant to the stage and textual history of "2 Sir John Oldcastle."

Fol. 115 I.179)

Lent vnto the companye the 17 of aguste 1602 }
to paye vnto thomas deckers for new a } xxxxs
dicyons in owldcastelle the some of . . . . . }
Lent vnto John ducke & John thayer the 21 of }
aguste 1602 to bye a sewt for owld castell } xijll
& a sewt & a dublet of satten the some of . . . . }
Lent vnto John ducke to paye for }
the turckes head & ij wemens gownes }
mackenge & fresh watr for owld castell } 3ll xs
& the merser bill & harey chettell in }
earneste of a tragedie called . . . }
ye 24 of aguste 1602 . . . . . . . . . . }

Fol. 116 I.181)

Lente vnto John thare the 7 of septembʒ 1602 }
to geue vnto Thomas dickers for his adicions } xs
in owld castell the some of . . . . . . . . . . }

Works Cited

Corbin, Peter and Douglas Sedge (eds.) The Oldcastle Controversy. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991.
Knutson, Roslyn. Review. The Oldcastle Controversy. Shakespeare Studies 22 (1994): 314-8.
Lupić, Ivan. "Simon Forman and the Early Performances of Sir John Oldcastle." N&Q 65 (2018): 98–99. DOI: 10.1093/notesj/gjx206
Rowse, A. L. Simon Forman: Sex and Society in Shakespeare’s Age. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1974.
Taylor, Gary. "The Fortunes of Oldcastle." Shakespeare Survey, 38 (1985): 85-100.
Thomson, John A. F. "Oldcastle, John, Baron Cobham (d. 1417)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2008. Oxford DNB

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 23 January 2018.