Tereus with a pastoral

Anon. ("M. A.") (probably 1607-1642)

Historical Records

Hill's List of Early Plays in Manuscript

Hill's List was compiled by the book collector Abraham Hill (1635-1721): "The list seems to have been Hill's record of the stock of some bookseller, set down between 1677 and 1703, but it is notable that nearly all the identifiable plays and playwrights of the list are Jacobean or Caroline" (Bentley, 5.1283). The list was transcribed by J. Q. Adams, who also added numbers for ease of reference. Adams's Record 34 runs as follows:

34 Tereus with a pastoral M.A
Actors. Agnostus Eupathus &c
Actors Mufti Nassuf &c

Sloane ms 2893 p190.jpg

Theatrical Provenance

Unknown. Of the other play-titles on the list, ten can be associated with the professional theatre; however, see speculation under For What It's Worth which may associate this play with the Christmas Prince cycle at St. John's, Oxford.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

"Tereus with a pastoral" sounds like an extremely unlikely combination of subject and genre, if the titular character does indeed refer to the Tereus, husband of Procne, who wronged Philomela (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 6.422-674). However, see For What It's Worth below.

References to the Play

(Information welcome)

Critical Commentary

Bentley claims that "neither Tereus nor any of the character names is familiar from other seventeenth-century records" (3.1).

For What It's Worth

The title might possibly be a reference to the Latin tragedy Philomela from the Christmas Prince cycle of 1607. What is more, even if this is a separate play from that one, the St. John's play provides some sort of clue to the possible range of ways of dramatizing the Tereus story. Furthermore, the St. John's play includes the un-Ovidian characters Faustulus and Faustula who are shepherd and shepherdess, thus lending some credence to a "Tereus with a pastoral" title. As Dana F. Sutton explains in his edition of Philomela, "The setting is in front of the royal palace of Thrace, as the characters enter from the direction of the harbor. King Tereus had gone to Athens to visit Pandion, the father of Procne and Philomela, and to fetch Philomela. Rather uncharacteristically for a tragedy, Philomela requres two onstage “houses” on either side of the stage, one representing the Thracian royal palace, and the other the hut of Faustulus and Faustula, where Philomela is concealed after her rape, and the action oscillates between the two sides of the stage, sometimes within the same act" (Philomela, 1.1.SDn)

Harbage ("Authorship of the Christmas Prince") shows that texts associated with The Christmas Prince, especially Periander (which exists in a separate MS at the Folger, MS J.a.1 (11)) had a separate life circulating in manuscript, hence it is technically possible that the Philomela play and the "Tereus with a pastoral" play are vaguely related somehow.

It is not clear whether the line "Actors. Agnostus Eupathus &c" which follows "Tereus with a pastoral" in Hill's list is meant to refer to actors who participated in the Tereus play. (In separate work, Matthew Steggle has demonstrated that "Actors Mufti Nassuf &c" refers to a discrete play). "Eupathus" appears as a character in Brome's The Love Sick Court as a "gentleman belonging to the King". Intriguingly, "Agnostus" appears as a character ("an Impostor", sig.[a4]) in a pastoral by Ralph Knevet, Rhodon and Iris· A pastorall, as it vvas presented at the florists feast in Norwich, May 3. 1631 (London, 1631).

Works Cited

Adams, Joseph Quincy. “Hill’s List of Early Plays in Manuscript,” The Library 20 (19 39): 71-99.
Brome, Richard. The Love Sick Court. ed. Eleanor Lowe. Richard Brome Online. London: Royal Holloway, University of London, 2010.
Harbage, Alfred. "The Authorship of the Christmas Prince." Modern Language Notes 50.8 (1935): 501-5.
Knevet, Ralph. Rhodon and Iris· A pastorall, as it vvas presented at the florists feast in Norwich, May 3. 1631 (London, 1631)
Steggle, Matthew. "A Lost Turk Play: Actors Mufti Nassuf &c (1614-42)", Ben Jonson Journal 19.1 (May, 2012): 45-64.
Sutton, Dana F., ed. The Anonymous Tragedy, Philomela (1607): A Play from the Christmas Prince Cycle. Philological Museum. 2006.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne, with Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University; updated 08 June 2017.