John Speed (1635)

Historical Records

Anthony a Wood:

Stonehenge, a pastoral - Acted before Dr. Rich Baylie the president and fellows of the said coll. in their common refectory, at what time the said doctor was returned from Salisbury, after he had been installed dean thereof an. 1635. The said Pastoral is not printed, but goes about in MS. from hand to hand.
(Wood, Athenae Oxonienses 2.660, cited from Bentley 5.1182).

Theatrical Provenance

St. John's College, Oxford

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Probably extant as The Converted Robber.

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

The Converted Robber, a play surviving in manuscript (British Library, MS Add. 14047), is a pastoral comedy set around Stonehenge, which is sometimes ascribed to George Wild, author of other plays in the same collection. However, The Converted Robber itself bears no ascription of authorship, and instead a note stating that it was performed at St. John's College in 1637. Apart from the slight inconsistency of dates, there is an obvious similarity between Wood's description of a St John's College play about Stonehenge, and the play in the British Library manuscript. W. W. Greg proposed, and his proposal has generally been accepted, that The Converted Robber is one and the same with Speed's Stonehenge (Greg, Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama, 382-3; Bentley, 5.1182-4).

Stonehenge/The Converted Robber has been published recently (Werth and Szymanski). Greg offers the following summary of its action:

The story is simple enough. A band of robbers and a company of shepherds and shepherdesses keep on Salisbury Plain in the neighbourhood of Stonehenge--'stoynage ye wonder yt is vpon that Playne of Sarum'--which forms the background of the scene. It chanced that the shepherdess Clarinda, falling into the hands of the robbers, was saved from dishonour by their chief Alcinous, an action which won for him her love, and having escaped, she returned dressed as a boy in order to serve him. Meanwhile the robbers have decided to make a raid upon the shepherd folk, and Alcinous, disguising himself as a stranger shepherd, mixes among them, while his companions Autolicus and Conto lie in wait hard by. During a festival Alcinous seeks the love of Castina, Clarinda's sister, and finding her unmoved by entreaty threatens force. At this she attempts to stab herself, and the robber chief is so struck that he vows to reform and is converted to the pastoral life. His companions, left in the lurch, fall upon the shepherds of their own accord, but are soon brought to see reason by the hand and tongue of their chief, and are content to follow him in his conversion. Clarinda now discovers herself and marries Alcinous, while Castina and her fellow shepherdess Avonia consent to reward their faithful swains, Palaemon and Dorus.
(Greg, Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama, 383).

To add further complications, there is another record of a lost play associated with the area: Salisbury Plain a comedy, recorded on Marriott's List (1653). Bentley suggests that "it is possible" that this, too, is Stonehenge/The Converted Robber (5.1405), a possibility pursued in more detail on this page: Salisbury Plain.

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Greg, W. W. Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama. London: Bullen, 1906. Project Gutenberg
Werth, Tiffany Jo, and Nathan Szymanski. "The Converted Robber, or Stonehenge, a Pastoral." ELR 48 (2018): 191–255.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University; updated 3 June 2018.