Tristram de Lyons

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Anon. (1599)

Historical Records

Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe's Diary)

F. 64v (Greg, I.112)

the 13th of october 1599
Lent vnto Thomas Downton for the
Booke of Trystram de Lyons ..……………… 3li

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's players paid Thomas Downton, one of their players and sharers, £3 for the playbook of "Tristram de Lyons" on the 13th of October 1599. In the fall of 1599, the company was in its last year at the Rose; it would move to the new Fortune playhouse in Middlesex at the end of the summer of 1600.

Probable Genre(s)

Romance (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Entered in the Stationers' Register by Thomas Gosson and John Danter, 20 Jan 1595/96 (Clio, S.R.I, 3.57):

Entred for their Copie vnder th[e h]andes of bothe the wardens a
booke intituled. The ffirste part of the famous histories of CHINAN of
England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vjd

The text in question is Christopher Middleton's The famous historie of Chinon of England with his strange aduentures for the loue of Celestina daughter to Lewis King of Fraunce. VVith the worthy atchiuement of Sir Lancelot du Lake, and Sir Tristram du Lions for fair Laura, daughter to Cador Earle of Cornewall, beeing all knights of King Arthurs round table (1597).

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Greg did not refer to the Middleton narrative as a source for the Tristram narrative, noting instead that "[n]othing whatever is known of this piece"; he did add that "Lyons" is a "corruption of Lionesse" (Greg, II.206, Item : 184).

Knutson observes that The Famous Historie of Chinon of England by Christopher Middleton (S. R. 20 Jan 1596, Q1597) carries a sub-title that names Tristram of Lyons: "With the worthy Atchieuement of Sir Lancelot du Lake, and Sir Tristram du Lions for faire Laura." She notes that the Admiral's players had performed "Chinon of England" in 1596, positing that the publication of Middleton's Chinon was "a bit late for the debut of "Chinon" on January 3, 1596, but it was perfect timing for a spin-off on Tristram in 1599-1600" ("Toe" 29).

For What It's Worth

Following Greg and Chambers, who note that sums lower than £5 in Henslowe's payments for plays raise questions about whether the plays were completed or new, Knutson categorizes "Tristram de Lyons" as completed but possibly secondhand ("Commercial" 119, 160).

Works Cited

Knutson, Roslyn L. "The Commercial Significance of the Payments for Playtexts in Henslowe's Diary, 1597-1603." Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, 5 (1991): 117-63.
---. “Toe to Toe Across Maid Lane: : Repertorial Competition at the Rose and Globe, 1599-1600,” in June Schlueter and Paul Nelsen (eds) Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005), 21-37.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professsor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 1 March 2013.