Unassigned Prologue - "Gentlemen, y'are welcome, but not from me"

Anon. (probably 1603-1625)

Historical Records

This prologue could be from a lost masque or from a known masque. If the latter is the case, it has not yet been connected to its masque because it was not included in the initial publication.

This prologue is found in Margaret Bellasys's verse miscellany, BL Add. MS 10309, f. 140v. According to a search of the Union First Line Index of English Verse and Literature Online (subscription only), this prologue is possibly not found in other early modern print or manuscript sources.

The full text runs as follows:

Verses before a Masque

Gentlemen y’are welcome, but not from me,
For god’s my iudge, doe but let you see
Men; whom of late, from out ye Northern sands

The sea belcht up, upon our fruitfull lands,

They are all males, put you but females to’um

They will not sticke in baudy termes to woo ‘um

I brought them hither for to make you sport

And when that’s done we’le whip them to ye court.

They’re skill’d in horne-pipes, Jigs, & country-rounds

God save King James, the divell take his hounds.

A facsimile of this manuscript is available through "British Literary Manuscripts Online" (subscription access).

Theatrical Provenance

The final line of this prologue suggests this masque was likely performed at court before King James.

Probable Genre(s)

Masque (Comedy?)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

There has not yet been any critical commentary on this masque or prologue.

For What It's Worth

This masque possibly involves a shipwreck as the prologue mentions men "the sea belcht up."

The prologue that welcomes the audience is common in plays and masques of this period.

Many prologues and epilogues circulated separately from their plays--on this, see Tiffany Stern's Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), particularly chapter 4.

For more on BL Add. MS 10309, see:

Ennis, Lambert. “Margaret Bellasys’ ‘Characterismes of Vices,’” PMLA 56.1 (1941): 141-50.
Estill, Laura. Dramatic Extracts in Seventeenth-Century English Manuscripts: Watching, Reading, Changing Plays. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2015. Esp. 25-28.
Moulton, Ian. Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Roberts, Sasha. Reading Shakespeare's Poems in Early Modern England. NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003. Esp. 179-183.
Taylor, Gary. “Some Manuscripts of Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 68 (1985-86): 210-46.

Works Cited

British Library Additional MS 10309

Site created and maintained by Laura Estill, University of Victoria, BC; updated 31 Jan 2012.