Strange News Out of Poland

William Haughton, "Mr Pett" (1600)

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 69 (Greg I.121)

Receaued of Mr Henshlowe the 17th of may 1600 }
[to] in behalfe of the Company to pay Will: Haulton } vjli
& mr Pett [fo] in full payment of a play }
Called straunge newes out of poland . . . . . . . . . . }

For properties in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 69v (Greg I.122)

l s d dd vnto the littell tayller at the }
21- 07- 00 apoyntment of Robart shaw the 25 of }
maye 1600 for to macke sewtes for the } iijli
playe called strange newes owt of powland }

Theatrical Provenance

The Fortune playhouse was under construction in May 1600 when the Admiral's Men paid William Haughton and Mr. Pett £6 in full for "Strange News out of Poland." The expenditure of £3 in the same month for suits suggests that the play went immediately into production.

Probable Genre(s)

Foreign History (Harbage); Strange Wonders play (?)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

No specific tract or news broadside has been connected to this play, but often printed items with the wording "strange news" tell of wondrous, incredible, or monstrous events.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Fleay, BCED queried whether "Pett" is not a mistake by Henslowe for "Chett," or Henry Chettle. He adds that the only "Pett" he knows is Peter Pett, author of Time's journey to see his daughter Truth, a verse publication in 1599. Flea also adds "A shrew play" (I.273).

Greg II was not persuaded by Fleay's reading of "Pett" as a mistake for "Chettle." His reluctance is that Henslowe, while he does use "Cett" for "Chettle," does not use "Mr" with "Cett" (#205, p. 213). Beyond clarifying that Fleay's phrase about a shrew play as a misplaced tag from "The Devil and his Dame," Greg does not conjecture on the subject matter of the play.

Pangallo: Dismissing the John Pett who wrote The Great Circle of Easter in 1583 as too unlikely, Pangallo looks closely at a Pett family of shipbuilders from Deptford with three brothers: Phineas, the elder; Peter, the middle brother, often called Peter of Wapping; and another Peter, or, Peter the Younger. Each of the brothers has a claim on being Henslowe's Mr. Pett but not a definitive one. Phineas had a loose connection with the Lord Admiral; he "received a commission from the Lord Admiral to take over as shipwright at Chatham" on 25 June 1600, but there is no evidence of his having been a writer. Peter the Younger was between jobs (so to speak) in the spring of 1600, and so might have looked to the theater for work, yet like Phineas he had no manifest literary skill. Even so, the fact that Peter the Younger sickened in mid-June of 1600 and died on the 21st would explain no further diary references to a Mr. Pett. The middle brother remains a viable candidate also (this man is Fleay's Mr. Pett). But Pangallo stops short of urging his selection as the author of Strange News because Peter of Wapping was avowedly an amateur writer. Pangallo finds it "difficult to imagine a proudly amateur poet entering—or wanting to enter—Henlsowe's bullpen if doing so meant progressing towards status as a professional, commercial writer" (EMLS).

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Pangallo, Matteo. "Identifying 'Mr Pett? A Forgotten Early Modern Playwright," Early Modern Literary Studies 17.1 (2014) (web)

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 15 January 2015.