Sir Martin Skink

Richard Brome and Thomas Heywood (c.1634)

Historical Records

Stationers' Register, 8 April 1654:

Mr. Mosely. Entred for his Copies Two plaies called. The Life and Death of Sr. Martyn Skink. wth ye warres of ye Low Countries. by Rich. Broome. & Tho: Heywood. & The Apprentices Prize, &c.

(Bentley, 3.76)

Theatrical Provenance

The King's Men have the best claim, because they were the company who performed the one extant Brome/Heywood collaboration (see below). But In his ODNB article on Brome, Martin Butler adds that both this play and The Apprentice's Prize have "titles that sound most suited to the plebeian amphitheatres".

Probable Genre(s)

History play, tragedy

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Maarten Schenk Van Nydechem (1549-1589) was a military leader in the Dutch wars. In the description of Geoffrey Parker, he was "a military entrepreneur of ability, who throughout the 1580s transferred his services from Spain to the States and back again with the ease of a shuttlecock" (Parker, 17-18). In the later 1580s, Schenk allied himself with the English, fighting alongside Sir Francis Vere, but after a series of daring military escapades his luck ran out and he was drowned in the course of an unsuccessful assault upon the town of Nijmegen.

Edward Grimeston's translation of The Generall Historie of the Netherlands (1608) contains a long and detailed account of Schenk's career, concluding with the following summary:

Thus did Sir Martin Schenck of Nydeck (one that had tried his fortunes on both sides to his great honour and reputation) end his life, beeing one of the most resolute, valiant and polliticke captaines in his time, which his worthie enterprises and exploites doe well witnesse, as his many victories, his releeuing of the castle of Blyenbecke, where hee beseeged the beseegers, and forced them to leaue the seege. His stratagems were likewise notable, as the winning of Nymeghen and Breda from the Duke of Parma, but beeing badly rewarded for his seruice, hee left him and went to ayde the Elector Trucses and his adherents.
In his youth hee was first page to captaine Enchuisen, and after that to the Earle of Ielsteyn whome hee with other captaines beseeged in a sconse before Goore, and there hee tooke his maister prisoner. Hee did winne Werle in Westphalia, and behaued himselfe pollitickely and valiantly in the taking of Bonna, with many other memorable enterprises, which deserue an honorable remembrance: hee was made knight by the Earle of Lecester: when hee died hee was but young; hee was verie stronge and hardie, and alwaies brought vp in the warres; a great enterpriser, and actiue beyonde all measure, and soden in his actions, for when as the enemie thought him to bee dronke and fast a sleepe, hee would bee manie times either vpon their walles, or before their gates: hee was liberall and well beloued of his souldiars. His verie enimies would confesse and say of him that hee knewe how to take townes and fortes, but hee could not hold them when hee had them, but that was no disgrace, nor any blemish to his reputation beeing but a priuate Gentleman, and no King nor Prince, for hee left the keeping of them to his captaines. Being high minded, some-what willfull and rough of behauiour, he was many times held in disgrace with the Estates, but at the last hee applied himselfe to the time...

(Grimeston, Generall Historie, 1022).

There is a fuller biography of Schenk, in Dutch, including a portrait, here.

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

Brome and Heywood's one surviving collaboration, The Witches of Lancashire, was written for the King's Men at the Globe in summer 1634. Bentley therefore estimates the date of this play therefore to be around 1634, but queries the company it was for, observing that "the title sounds more like those in vogue at the Red Bull and Fortune" (3.76). Butler, in his ODNB entry on Brome, concurs. For a discussion of the other lost Brome/Heywood collaboration, The Apprentice's Prize, click here.

Greg raised the possibility that it might be identical with the lost Play of the Netherlands referred to as existing in print in 1656: a suggestion treated with scepticism by Bentley (5.1382), and further undermined by Ralph Leavis, who argues that the Netherlands in that entry might well be an error of transcription.

Catherine M. Shaw makes the plausible argument that the phrasing of the record could indicate that this work was actually two separate plays, in the same way as the two parts of Tamburlaine, or the two Bussy plays (108). This argument would obviously have implications for what one makes of the other item in the Stationers' Register entry, The Apprentice's Prize. Martin Butler (234-5) contextualizes this play in terms of a wave of 1630s dramas about the Dutch, including Glapthorne's Albertus Wallenstein (?1634). In 1635, Schenkenschans, formerly Skink's personal fortress, was captured by the Spanish, and Butler also raises the possibility that this play might be associated with that news. Heather Hirschfeld discusses Brome and Heywood's likely collaborative practices. Finally, Matthew Steggle (63) observes the dramatic possibilities of the choice of story, especially in the context of the 1630s' fascination with the Elizabethan period: "Schenk, in short, was a gift to English dramatists; a Tamburlaine-like overreacher, an Anglophile, and an Elizabethan by proxy".

For What It's Worth

Grimeston's Generall Historie is – one might suggest - surely likely to have been the principal source for Brome and Heywood's work, either in its first edition of 1608 or its second of 1627. It gains this status by being perhaps the only book printed in English before the required date which gives a detailed account of Schenk's career. As such, it was certainly the source most readily available to the two playwrights. Adding further plausibility to this suggestion is the fact that Grimeston's other translations of books on contemporary European history were rich hunting grounds for dramatists such as George Chapman, who used them for his Bussy plays. Therefore, anyone seeking a flavour of what was in Sir Martin Skink might well start by reading Grimeston's account.

Works Cited

Butler, Martin. ‘Brome, Richard (c.1590–1652)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 [[1]].
Butler, Martin. Theatre and Crisis 1632-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
Hirschfeld, Heather. "Collaborating across generations: Thomas Heywood, Richard Brome, and the Production of The Late Lancashire Witches", Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30 (2000): 339-374.
Leavis, Ralph. "Two ghost plays", Notes and Queries 29 (1982):148.
Parker, Geoffrey. The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road, 1567-1659: The Logistics of Spanish Victory and defeat in the Low Countries' Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
Shaw, Catherine M. Richard Brome. Boston: Twayne, 1980.
Steggle, Matthew. Richard Brome: Place and Politics on the Caroline Stage. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, 1 December 2009.