Tristram de Lyons

Anon. (1599)

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 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), also Wiggins, Catalogue #1205)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Wiggins, Catalogue #1205 opines that Henslowe's title (i.e., identifying Tristam as "de Lyons") "is a clear indicator that the play's ultimate, and probably immediate, narrative source is Malory," that is, Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomoas Malory. See Wiggins for an enumeration of key moments in the Tristram story.

A remote possibility as narrative source 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). It was 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

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Greg II 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" (#184, p. 206). Wiggins, Catalogue #1205 renames the play, "Tristram de Lyonesse."

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

Greg II and Chambers, ES remain the gold standard in terms of what Philip Henslowe's payments for playbooks suggest about which plays in the diary are new and which are secondhand. Both consider £6 to be the most common payment in full for a new play, though there were instances of £7 as well as £5 (Greg, II.126; Chambers, 1.373). They also agreed that £2 was the usual price of secondhand plays, a fee they based on Henslowe's payments for old plays to Martin Slater in 1598 and Edward Alleyn in 1601-2 (Greg, II.119; Chambers, 1.372). They were less specific about plays for which payments higher than £2 but lower that £5 were made. Knutson sorted plays with partial payments into various categories:, one of which is "secondhand playbooks," and she puts "Tristram of Lyons" in that batch ("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.
Knutson, Roslyn L. “Toe to Toe Across Maid Lane: Repertorial Competition at the Rose and Globe, 1599-1600.” Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Ed. June Schlueter and Paul Nelsen. 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.