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Historical Records


For apparel and "diuers thinges" in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 49v (Greg I.94)

Lent vnto Thomas dowton the 21 of aguste
1598 to by a sewte & a gowne for vayvode
the some of tene pownde J saye lent . . . . xll
wittnes mr willsone

Lent vnto Thomas dowton the 22 of aguste
1598 to by diuers thinges for vayvode
the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxxvjs

Lent vnto Thomas dowton the 24 of aguste
1598 to bye diuers thinges for vayvode
the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . xiiijs

For artisans in Philip Henslowe's diary

Lent vnto Robart shaw the 25 of aguste
1598 to paye the lace manes byll ijll xvjs vjd
& the tayllers bylle xxviijs vjd some is . . . . . iiijll vs
for vayvode

To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary

Lent vnto hary cheattell the 29 of aguste
1598 at the apoyntment of thomas dowton
ffor his playe of vayvode the some of . . . . . xxs

To Edward Alleyn for the play in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 53 (Greg I.101)

pd vnto my sonne Edward alleyn the 21 of
Janewary for the playe of vayvod for the company
the some of xxxxs J saye pd . . . 1598 . . . . .xxxxs


Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library

List of playbooks

Greg, Papers (APX. I, art. i, col. 2, l. 198, p. 121)

Heading: A Note of all suche bookes as belong to the Stocke, and such as I have bought since the 3d of March 1598

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's Men purchased properties for "Vayvode" in August 1598, presumably for performance at the Rose.

Probable Genre(s)

Foreign History (?) (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

N.B. This section is under construction.

A "vaivode" is a "local ruler or official in various parts of south-eastern Europe (in older use esp. in Transylvania)" (OED). If "Vayvode" of the Admiral's Men's play denotes such a ruler, there are a few contenders for the role. Gömöri (111) proposes János Hunyadi, with János Zápolya and Zsigmond Báthori as possible alternatives.

John Hunyadi (c. 1407–1456)

John Hunyadi is referred to in Foxe's Acts and Monuments not only with the title of vaivode, but also with an apparent slip that this is his name: "Amurathes y[e] great Turke […] inuaded the realme of Hu[n]gary: where Huniades surnamed Vaiuoda, Prince of Transiluania, ioining with the new King Vladislaus, did both together set against the Turke" (1583 ed., p. 720). The key event with which Hunyadi appears to be associated in Foxe (and other 16th-century sources) is the Battle of Varna (November 1444), in which Hunyadi assisted King Władysław III of Poland against Sultan Murad II ("Amurath"). Having settled a truce with Amurath, Władysław is convinced by the papal legate Julian Cesarini to break his oath with the Turks, and embarks on an ultimately disastrous crusade into the Balkans. The Battle of Varna is described as lasting "three daies and three nightes together, with great courage & much bloudshed on each side: insomuch that the field did stand with lakes of bloud" (p. 736). Władysław and Cesarini die. Hunyadi survives and is praised by Foxe as "of all Captaines that euer went against the Turkes, most famous & singular, prudent in wit, discret in counsaile, expert and politike in warre, prompt of hand, circumspect before he attempted, quicke in expedition: in whom wa[n]ted almost no good propertie requisite in a warlike Captaine." […] (p. 736). Similar accolades are elsewhere attributed to his son Matthias Corvinus (later King Matthias I of Hungary): "The noble actes of Iohn Huniades, and of this Mathias hys sonne, were not onely great stayes to Hungary, but almost to al Christendom, in repelling backe ye Turke. For beside the other victories of Iohn Huniades the father, afore mentioned, thys Mathias also his sonne succeeding no lesse in the valiantnes, then in the name of hys father…" (p. 722). Foxe also gives a less detailed account of the Siege of Belgrade (1456), fought against Mehmed II:

Not long after this, the Turke wyth a great power of fighting men, to the number of an hundreth and fifteene thousande, arriued in Hungarie, where he laid siege to the Citie Alba. But through the mercifull hand of God, Iohn Huniades, and Capistranus a certaine Minorite, wyth a small garrison of Christian souldiors, gaue him the repulse and put him to flight, wyth all hys mighty hoste: whereof more (Christ willing) heereafter. […] Huniades shortly after this victorie, deceased. (p. 721)

Besides his martial adventures, accounts of Hunyadi's life could have offered material for interesting subplots. Foxe also describes the unsuccessful conspiracies against Hunyadi by the "wicked Ulricus Earle of Cilicia" (Ulrich of Celje), as well as the dissimulation of the Hungarian king (Ladislaus the Posthumous) after Hunyadi's death and the plot to kill his two sons (Ladislaus and Matthias) under the pretext of rebellion, which results in the death of the elder:

The king being come to Buda (whether of his owne head, or by sinister counsell set on) when hee had them at a vauntage, caused bothe the sonnes of Huniades: to witte, Ladislaus and Mathias, to be apprehended. And first was brought foorth Ladislaus the elder sonne, to the place of execution, there to be beheaded: where meekely he suffered, being charged wyth no other crime, but thys, published by the voyce of the cryer, saying: Thus are they to be chastened, which are rebelles against their Lord. Peucerus wryting of his death, addeth thys moreouer, that after the hangman had 3. blowes at his necke, yet notwythstanding the sayd Ladislaus hauing his hands bound behinde hym, after the thirde stroke, rose vpright vppon hys feete, and looking vp to heauen, called vpon the Lord, and protested his innocency in that behalf: and so laying downe his necke againe, at the fourth blowe was dispatched. Mathias the other brother was led captiue with the king vnto Austria. (p. 721)

When the King dies shortly thereafter, the captive Matthias is chosen as his successor (p. 722).

John Zápolya (1487-1540)

Another vaivode of Transylvania, John Zápolya, is mentioned several times with that title in Foxe's life of Suleiman. At first mentioned coming to the aid of the young King Louis II of Hungary, Zápolya is subsequently depicted as a rival of Ferdinand, archduke of Austria and Louis's successor in 1526. Suleiman assists Zápolya by taking Buda and establishing him as King: "Solyman setting contention betwixt Ioannes Vaiuoda and Ferdinandus for the kingdom of Hungarie, spedde his viage to the Citie of Buda, whych also in short time he made to be yelded vnto hym vpon condition that they should escape with their liues and goodes: whych co[n]dition some say he kept, and some say he did not" (p. 748). Ferdinand counters the advances of the Turks and expels Zápolya, who then solicits aid from Suleiman: "Wherupon Vaiuoda flying to the Turke, desired his ayde. The Turke glad to take that occasion, wyth great preparatio[n] addressed him selfe to returne into Hungary, where he recouering againe the Citie of Buda, which Ferdinandus had gotten from him a little before, remooued his armye into Austria, spoyling and destroying by the way all that came to hys handes, shewing many examples of great cruelty & tyranny most lamentable to here and vnderstand." After a lengthy description of the 1529 Siege of Vienna (in which the Turks are successfully repelled) and subsequent conquests of Suleiman, Zápolya reappears at the moment of his death, appointing his infant son (John Sigismund Zápolya) as his successor: "This Vaiuoda liuing not long after, left behinde him a sonne, whome being an infant he committed to the gouernance of one Georgius Monachus: who being left tutour vnto the infant, reduced all Transiluania, Buda, Pesta, with other parties of Hungary, which belonged to Vaiuoda before, to the subiection of the child" (752). Ferdinand again lays claim to Hungary and, after an ill-fated negotiation between him and Monachus, the Hungarians call upon the assistance of Suleiman, "[Monachus] promising that he would surrender to him free possession of Hungary, if he woulde come and vanquish the army of Ferdinandus lying about the siege of Buda. The Turke maketh no long tarying, but taketh the occasion, and with a mighty power, flieth into Hungary, and eftsoones discharging the host of Ferdinandus, and putting them of from the siege of Buda, getteth the Citty into his own handes, commaunding the sonne of Vaiuoda with his mother, to follow after his camp."

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Collier: "It seems likely that the play called Vayvode related to the adventures of the Vayvode Michael of Wallachia, in his struggle for independence against the Turks in 1597." (xxxii); "See Painter’s "Pal. of Pleasure," ii., fo. 140, &c., respecting "Vayvode."" (132n.)

N.B. Collier's reference to Painter appears to contain a typo. On fol. 240r (not ‘fo. 140’). of the 1580 edition, a character refers to having "serued vnder the Vaiuoda in Transiluania, agaynst the Turke."

Hazlitt: "This drama, no longer known, was possibly founded on the current incidents in the war between Transylvania and Austria." (244)

Greg II: "This was evidently an old play belonging to Alleyn revised by Chettle on the occasion of its revival. 'The Vaivode,' says Hazlitt, 'was possibly founded on the current incidents in the war between Transylvania and Austria.' Vaivode, or Voivode, is a title equivalent to general or governor in certain Slavonic countries. Collier remarks: 'See Painter's "Palace of Pleasure," ii., p. 140, &c., respecting "Vayvode."' The reference is evidently to the edition of 1567, tome ii., novel 21, the story of Anne, Queen of Hungary. Since, however, the hero of this tale is one Philippo dei Nicuoli of Cremona, secretary to the Lord Andrea Borgo, and that no such person as a Vaivode is mentioned therein, this misleading suggestion may be at once dismissed. The piece appears in the play-list of the Admiral's inventories (Apx. I. i. l. 198b) apparently before its purchase from Alleyn. Fleay accuses Halliwell of taking his entry 'Vayoode, by Henry Chettle' from Collier's index, adding: 'He did not see that this was a preparation for an "interlineation" in the Diary.' The idea of Collier starting to make a forgery by inserting an entry in the index of his edition is sufficiently absurd, but Fleay has, moreover, overlooked the entry of 29 Aug. It may be doubted whether the invention of forgeries is any more desirable than their perpetration." (#150, p. 197)

Wann: "it is likely that Vayvode was a conqueror play or tragedy similar to Scanderbeg, treating of the long struggle between one of the Vayvodes of Wallachia and the Ottoman Turks." (428)

Chambers, ES: "As to Vayvode, the entries are rather puzzling. In August Chettle received £1 'for his playe of Vayvode', and the purchase of properties show that the production took place. But in the following January there was a payment of £2 to Alleyn 'for the playe of Vayvod for the company'. Possibly Alleyn had some rights in the manuscript, which were at first overlooked." (II. 170)

Jenkins: "At the same time as he was busy on Cataline's Conspiracy, Chettle was at work on a play called Vayvode, for which Henslowe paid him one pound on August 29th, 1598. Chettle's function was evidently to revise an old play which the Admiral's Company wished to revive. They were already buying properties for its production before Chettle had finished his task. Vayvode is named among the plays belonging to the Admiral's in an inventory for 1598, but a certain share in the manuscript, at least, belonged to Alleyn privately. Henslowe ultimately purchased the play from him on behalf of the Company on January 21st, 1598/9." (215)

Feuillerat: "The modifications made on a play called Vayvode may be said to fall in the category of simple improvements. This play was one of those belonging to the actor Edward Alleyn […] Since Alleyn, as we have seen, had sold it, and since Chettle received only 5s. [sic] […] the supposition is that Chettle was not really the author but was merely responsible for a reworking. Nothing is known of this play with its mysterious title, and further conjecture would be futile." (9) "Hazlitt believed that the play was based on incidents in the war between Transylvania and Austria, since the word "vaivode" was a title used in the Balkans to denote the chiefs of the army or the state. This is indeed an ingenious proof of an equally ingenious hypothesis." (9n.)

Limon: "That Poland was not completely unknown to [the Admiral's] company may be evidenced by two plays that we know of from their repertory thematically connected with that country. The first one, Voyvode, for which Henslowe paid £1 to Chettle on 29 August 1598 and on which he spent £17.5 for properties), was probably, as Greg suggested […], 'an old play belonging to Alleyn revised by Chettle on the occasion of its revival'. In the past, a 'voivode' had mainly military duties. Today, 'voivode' is a title equivalent to governor of a province in Poland, hence the country is divided into 'voivodeships'. It seems likely that the play was written after Olbracht Łaski's visit to England in 1583. Łaski was a voivode at Sieradz and was known in England as 'Alasco', and his visit aroused a good deal of interest all over England (it was described, for instance, by Holinshed and Camden; there is also a vast amount of official correspondence in this matter). The second play [is] Strange News out of Poland…" (197-98)

Carson: "Vayvode" "must have been an old one belonging to Edward Alleyn, for the Admiral's Men purchased it from their former leading actor in January 1599 (f. 53). The work was very likely being rehearsed in August, for costumes were purchased between 21 and 25 August. The most likely explanation of Chettle's involvement is that he was called in to make some revisions just before the play opened." (62) "Chettle's contribution was probably a prologue or alteration requested by the actors after rehearsals had begun." (74)

McJannet: "Its probable subject is the exploits of the Protestant János Zápolya, the Vayvode (or Governor) of Wallachia, who successfully allied himself with Suleyman to wrest control of Transylvania and Wallachia from the Emperor Ferdinand. If Zápolya is the hero, it is likely that his main ally would be viewed positively." (202n.)

Wiggins, Catalogue: "It is possible that the play was simply an invented romance set around the south-eastern frontier between Christendom and the Turks. If it was based on historical events, there are a number of possible candidates for the title character. John Hunyadi […] was the Vaivode of Transylvania who took part in the successful defence of Belgrade in 1456, and who was mentioned in passing by Thomas Nashe in Lenten Stuff […] Vlad the Impaler (1431–1476), the Vaivode of Wallachia who is now better known as Dracula, was the target of a series of atrocity stories circulating in Russia and Germany from the fifteenth century onwards. Stephen III (1433–1504), Vaivode of Moldavia, maintained the integrity of his principality against both Hungarians and Turks, but ultimately only at the price of paying tribute to the latter and becoming an Ottoman satellite. John Zapolya (1487–1540), Vaivode of Transylvania, usurped the throne of Hungary in 1526 after King Ladislaus died in the retreat from the Turks. (The rightful heir was Ferdinand of Austria, who became King of Bohemia at the same time.) Zapolya later helped Suleiman in his plans to invade Austria. […] [T]he English often mistook [the word vaivode] for a proper name. For example, John Foxe's Acts and Monuments gives it as the surname of John Hunyadi, and a story in William Painter's Palace of Pleasure (2.28) contains a passing reference to Lord Vaivoda of Transylvania, who fought the Turk" (#1141).

Teramura endorses John Hunyadi as the most likely candidate, noting the importance he plays in the 1570 edition of Foxe's Acts and Monuments (which was widespread in parish churches by order of the privy council) and the enthusiastic citations by English Renaissance writers of Hunyadi's martial achievements against the Turks, especially (if paradoxically) at the notorious Battle of Varna (1444). A play by the Admiral's Men on the subject of Hunyadi could have put a triumphalist Christian twist on the lucrative model of Marlowe's Tamburlaine, a strategy similarly employed by Oxford's Men in their "George Scanderbeg" (S.R. 1601). In fact Tamburlaine may have provided direct inspiration, given its veiled staging of the Battle of Varna in the first act of Part 2. The playwright may have had access to other detailed sources on Hunyadi besides Foxe, such as Bonfinius' Rerum Ungaricarum Decades, a Hungarian history written under the patronage of Hunyadi's son. Teramura concludes by considering three other candidates—John Zápolya, Michael the Brave, and Vlad the Impaler—and suggests that their claims might well be strengthened with further research.

For What It's Worth

John Hunyadi

On the whole, John Hunyadi seems to have been a popular figure, and one can find occasional allusions to "Huniades" as a celebrated military commander. A few examples include of texts that cite Huniades include: Painter's Palace of Pleasure (1566), Novel XL; Nashes Lenten Stuffe (1599), Florio's translation of Montaigne (publ. 1603, p. 407), and Thomas Heywood's Troia Britanica (1609).

Somewhat less cryptic than the title "Vayvode" is that of "George Scanderbeg," which appears in a Stationers' Register entry in July 1601 as having been recently performed by the Earl of Oxford's players. (The title appears there as "the true historye of GEORGE SCANDERBARGE": for much more on that play, see the relevant LPD entry here.) If that play's title refers to George Kastrioti, who (like John Hunyadi) became famous for successfully repulsing Turkish invasions in the mid-15th century, it might suggest that the theme was considered bankable in the years around the turn of the century (Wann 428) and serve as further evidence that Hunyadi is the subject of "Vayvode."

It is possible to speculate that, if "Vayvode" treated the heroic Hunyadi's battles with Turks in the fifteenth century, it may have represented an attempt by the Admiral's Men to capitalize on the enduring popularity of Marlowe, in particular the Tamburlaine plays. As Knutson observes, "the company owners of Marlowe's old plays recognized their individual commercial value but recognized as well that their value would be enhanced by a complementary repertory that duplicated, exploited, or exaggerated certain of their features" (25). These include: the two parts of the lost "Tamar Cham," which might well have depicted of the conquests of Genghis Khan (Greg II.155; Greg, Dramatic Documents, II.161-62; Knutson 33; McInnis 78) and "The Tartarian Cripple, Emperor of Constantinople" (entered in the Stationer's Register in 1600) may have been another iteration of Tamburlaine on stage, one mounted by a rival company (Knutson 34; McInnis 79; LDP entry). As McInnis has recently observed, the Oxford's Players' "George Scanderbeg" may have been another example of a play capitalizing on Marlovian popularity. Besides the contemporaneity of Tamburlaine and Scanderbeg, "[t]he two leaders' opposition to the Turks united them further in the popular imagination, and as at least one critic has suggested, the Tamburlaine/Bajazeth dynamic may conceivably have been replicated in the form of the Scanderbeg/Mahomet II relationship" (77). McInnis draws further parallels with the broader trends of "Turk plays" and depictions of Christian heros in the East (78-79). At the very least, one could imagine both "Vayvode" and "George Scanderbeg" as triumphalist Christian versions of the martial victories of Tamburlaine in the East.

Vlad the Impaler

It is tempting to imagine that the "Vayvode" of the Admiral's Men's play might have been the notorious Vlad the Impaler (1431–1476) of Wallachia (Lima 281). Allusions in English texts to Vlad as a cruel and sadistic tyrant appear to postdate the entries for "Vayvode" in Henslowe's Diary. For example, in 1635: "The mountainous part of Transylvania was lately subdued by Matthias Huniades, whose surname was Corvinus, and afterward by Stephen King of Hungary. This Matthias tooke alive one Dracula, a Vaivode or Prince of the mountainous Transylvania, a man of unheard of cruelty, and after ten yeares imprisonment, restored him to his former place" (Hondius, p. 174). It is not impossible that there may be some relevant allusions before 1598: content on this question would certainly be welcome. One of the key texts that propagated the familiar picture of Vlad was Bonfinius's Rerum Ungaricarum decades (Basel, 1543 and 1568). Unlike German broadsides and Russian manuscripts that we may safely suppose would have been inaccessible, Bonfinius was apparently known to some English writers in the 16th century, and appears cited in Of the Russe common wealth by Giles Fletcher (London, 1591) and as one of the historical authorities for "The Historie of George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg" (London, 1596). A vivid description of Vlad's technique of impaling his enemies appears in 1603, slightly postdating the Admiral's Men's play, in Richard Knolles's The Generall Historie of the Turkes, when Mehmed II ("Mahomet") pursues the Wallachians under Vlad ("Wladus") in 1462:

As he marched along the countrey, he came to the place where the Bassa and the secretarie were hanging vpon two high gibbets, and the dismembred Turks empailed vpon stakes about them: with which sight he was grieuously offended. And passing on farther, came to a plaine containing in breadth almost a mile, and in length two miles, set full of gallowes, gibbets, wheels stakes, and other instruments of terrour, death, and torture; all hanging full of the dead carkases of men, women, and children, thereupon executed, in number (as was deemed) about twentie thousand. There was to be seene the father, with his wife, children and whole family, hanging togither vpon one gallowes; and the bodies of sucking babes, sticking vpon sharpe stakes; others with all their limbes broken vpon wheeles, with many other strange and horrible kinds of death: so that a man would haue thought, that all the torments the Poets faigne to bee in hell had been there put in execution. All these were such as the notable, but cruell prince, jealous of his estate, had either for just desert, or some probable suspition, put to death; and with their goods rewarded his souldiours: whose cruell manner was, togither with the offender to execute the whole family, yea sometimes the whole kindred. Mahomet, although he was by nature of a fierce and cruell disposition, wondred to see so strange a spectacle of extreame crueltie: yet said no more but that Wladus knew how to haue his subjects at commaund. (pp. 362-63)

The same event is mentioned in Foxe, although the description of Vlad's cruel treatment of his enemies is absent.

Works Cited

Carson, Neil. A Companion to Henslowe's Diary. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988.
Feuillerat, Albert. The Composition of Shakespeare's Plays: Authorship, Chronology." New Haven: Yale UP, 1953.
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Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-89). 8 vols. London, 1887.
Gömöri, George. "The Image of János Hunyadi and Matthias Corvnius in 16th-17th Century England." Matthias Corvinus and the Humanism in Central Europe. Ed. Tibor Klaniczay and József Jankovics. Budapest: Balassi Kiadó, 1994. 109-118.
Hazlitt, W. Carew. A Manual for the Collector and Amateur of Old English Plays. London, 1892.
Heywood, Thomas. Troia Britanica. London, 1609.
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McJannet. Linda. The Sultan Speaks: Dialogue in English Plays and Histories about the Ottoman Turks. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
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Nashe, Thomas. Nashes Lenten Stuffe. London, 1599.
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Teramura, Misha. "The Admiral's Vayvode of 1598." Early Theatre 18.1 (2015): 79–99.
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Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, University of Toronto; updated 21 May 2013.