Spanish Viceroy, The

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Anon. (1624)


Historical Records

Master of the Revels record

In October 1633, nine years after the original offence, the Master of the Revels Sir Henry Herbert copied into his office-book an apology by the King’s Men (the names of the actors undersigned) for apparently staging a play without a licence:

To Sir Henry Herbert, Kᵗ. master of his Maᵗͥ ͤˢ Revels.
After our humble servise remembered unto your good worship,

Whereas not long since we acted a play called The Spanishe Viceroy, not being licensed under your lordships hande, nor allowd of: wee doe confess and herby acknowledge that wee have offended, and that it is in your power to punishe this offense, and are very sorry for it, and doe likewise promise herby that we will not act any play without your hand or substituts hereafter, nor doe any thinge that may prejudice the authority of your office: So hoping that this humble submission of ours may bee accepted, wee have thereunto sett our hands. This twentiethe of Decem. 1624.

Joseph Taylor. John Lowen.
Richard Robinson. John Shancke.
Elyard Swanston. John Rice.
Thomas Pollard. Will. Rowley.
Robert Benfeilde. Richard Sharpe.
George Burght.

Bentley, vi.21: ‘the letter of apology is preserved only in a copy made by Sir Henry Herbert on the occasion of another company indiscretion nine years later’; Bawcutt (183) records: ‘(in margin ’Tis entered here for a remembrance against their disorders)’.

Stationers’ Register

From the long list of titles entered by Humphrey Moseley on 9 September 1653:

The Spanish Viceroy or the honor of women … } by Phill. Massinger.


(S.R.2, 1.429; Greg, i.61; Bentley iv.790)


Theatrical Provenance

King's Men. Bentley argues that '[t]he date of the letter [Herbert's 1633 transcription, above] makes it fairly certain that the questionable play was acted at Blackfriars' (vi.21).

Probable Genre(s)

Political satire

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The staging of "The Spanish Viceroy" by the King’s Men continued a theme: the company had performed another lost play, "The Spanish Duke of Lerma", the previous year, and in August 1624 A Game at Chess at the Globe precipitated a diplomatic incident. Other companies had similarly responded to the crisis over England’s relations with Spain. The Lady Elizabeth’s Men, for example, put on The Changeling (licensed in 1622 and almost certainly staged earlier than its first recorded performance, at court, in January 1624) and The Spanish Gypsy in 1623. It is difficult to imagine that "The Spanish Viceroy" did not in some way participate in this narrative.


References to the Play

Herbert's office-book entry (1633) (see Historical Records above).

The 1653 entry in the Stationers’ Register is regarded as unreliable, chiefly on the grounds that Humphrey Moseley elsewhere enters two plays as one so as to avoid paying the fees for separate entries. Although a viceroy does feature in the extant Honour of Women, he is a minor character.

Critical Commentary

Noting that in the Prologue to A Very Woman, or The Prince of Tarent, Massinger explains that he had "raised new piles upon an old foundation" (i.e. revised/adapted an older play), Fleay identifies A Very Woman with "The Spanish Viceroy" (BCED 1.228).

For What It's Worth

The puzzle with "The Spanish Viceroy" is that the King’s Men should risk the ire of the Master of the Revels so soon after the banning of A Game at Chess, especially since Sir Henry Herbert had had himself to account for why he had licensed the play in June 1624. While it may be ‘difficult to imagine that the players were so bold as to try a second anti-Spanish play within five months’ (Bentley, i, 15) the title, as well as the apparent attempted evasion of the Master of the Revels, surely points to precisely that scenario. Since scholars now believe that A Game at Chess was not staged at a moment of political crisis as such – that would have been too dangerous – but months after relations between the two countries had deteriorated steadily so that in August 1624 Middleton’s play captured a general, popular anti-Spanish mood, it may well be that the King’s Men felt, four months further on, that another satirical treatment of Spain would be in tune with the times. But this does not explain the failure to submit the play to Herbert. Indeed, the rather grovelling apology indicates at best a colossal miscalculation on the part of the actors. If Herbert had been embarrassed before the Privy Council over the Game at Chess affair, when in their defence the actors presented the licence Herbert had provided, it seems that the actors presented him with an opportunity in December to reassert his authority.

If "The Spanish Viceroy" represented or alluded to Gondomar then it is possible that the company sought to exploit the fame that the earlier play continued to enjoy, which now was only available in presentation manuscripts prepared by Middleton and the company’s scribe, Ralph Crane. The play would not be printed in quarto until the following year. Alternatively, it is possible that the ‘viceroy’ of the title refers to the Duke of Osuna, news of whose death had reached England while A Game at Chess was on the stage (Chamberlain refers to it in a letter to Carleton on 21 August). Osuna had been viceroy of Sicily and subsequently of Naples: in Sicily he waged war against the Turks and in Naples he became embroiled in geopolitical conflict with France and Venice. Osuna’s career as a soldier, politician, and, latterly, victim of court politics that saw him brought down at the hands of his rival, Count-Duke Olivares, offered English playmakers material ideally suited to the genre of Spanish/Catholic plays. That Osuna had been a member of the delegation to London that had made peace in 1604 offered a ‘local’ ingredient that might have proved troubling to the authorities, but this is purely supposition. It is possible that the company felt the personation of a figure recently dead would be safer than depicting the still living Gondomar again. What seems clear is that, in the political climate of late 1624, a play with this title can only have referred to the international situation between England and Spain.


Works Cited

Bromham, A.A. and Bruzzi, Zara. ‘The Changeling’ and the Years of Crisis: A Hieroglyph of Britain, 1619-1624. London: Pinter Publishers, 1990.
Dutton, Richard. Mastering the Revels: The Regulation and Censorship of English Renaissance Drama. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991.
Hutchings, Mark. ‘The Spectre of Gondomar in the Wake of A Game at Chess’, The Seventeenth Century 27.4 (2012), 435-53.
McClure, Norman Egbert ed. The Letters of John Chamberlain 2 vols. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1939.
Taylor, Gary, ed. ‘A Game at Chess: General Textual Introduction [Appendix G: Contemporary References to the Play, 1624-63]’, in Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino, gen. eds., Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007, 712-873 [865-73].




Site created and maintained by Mark Hutchings, University of Reading; updated 03 October 2014.