William Longsword (William Longbeard)
To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary
Fol. 52v (Greg I.100)
Lent vnto thomas downton the 20 of Janewary } 1598 to lend vnto mr drayton in earneste of } xxxxs his playe called wm longberd the some of . . . . . }
Fol. 31 (Greg I.59)
J receued forty shillingees of mr } Phillip Hinslowe in part of vjli for } the playe of William longsword } xxxxs to be deliur prsent wth 2 or three dayes } the xxjth of January/1598/ } Mih Drayton
Dramatic records of Sir Henry Herbert
Revels Documents, 1660-1673 (Bawcutt 249, item R29):
- A declaration under William Earle of Pembrokes Hande of the Antient powers of the Office dated the 20th of Nouemb. 1622.
- Seuerall Plays allowed by Mr Tilney In 1598. which is .62. years since.
- Sir William Longsword allowed to be Acted the. 24. May. 1598
- The Faire Mayd of London
- And Richard Cordelyon.
- Kinge and noe Kinge to be Acted In 1611 & ye same to be printed,
- Allowed by Sir George Bucke
- And Hogg Hath Loste His Pearle by Sir George Buck.
- Richard Hall
A variation of this note was subsequently reproduced in the "Breviat of Sir Henry and Simon Thelwall v. Thomas Betterton" (Bawcutt 255, item R33):
- A Declaration under William Earle of Pembrokes hand of the Ancient Powers of the Office Dated Nouember 20. 1622.
- Seuerall Plays allowed by Mr Tilney In 1598. As
- Sr William Longsword Allowed to bee Acted in 1598.
- The Fair Maid of London
- Richard Cor de Lyon.
- See the Bookes
- See the Bookes
- Allowed by Sir George Buck
- King and Noe Kinge to bee Acted in 1611. and the same to bee Printed
- Hogg hath lost his Pearle and hundreds more
- Richard Hall
In January 1598 (i.e. 1599) Michael Drayton promised to deliver to the Admiral's men within two or three days his play of "Willm longsword," having been advanced two pounds by Henslowe against an agreed total fee of six pounds. The Diary offers no further proof that Drayton delivered on this promise, and there are no corresponding signs of production expenses for a play by his title.
Among the papers Sir Henry Herbert preserved into the Restoration period were records of Elizabethan licences by his predecessor Edmund Tilney, including the entry "Sir William Longsword allowed to be Acted the. 24. May. 1598." If Herbert and Tilney had their dates right there was at least one (anonymous) "Longsword" play completed and performed in the late sixteenth century. The relationship between the play licensed in May 1598 and the play Drayton was working on in January 1598  is unclear. The license may refer to Drayton's project, or to another "Longsword" play altogether (possibly for another company).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
A third play, "The History of Will Longsword, Son to Rosamund" was certainly completed by Philip Massinger for Prince Charles's men playing at the Red Bull in 1639, its licence recorded by Herbert: "Massinger, History of Will: Longesword, son to Rosamund, lic. to the bull 1639" (Bawcutt 205). Massinger may have revised or adapted earlier dramatic material; it seems that Ellis Worth, an actor then with Prince Charles's troupe, had some access to older manuscripts. Herbert's entry identifies the likely subject of all the Longsword dramas: William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury (1167-1226), soldier and diplomat. Early modern romantic legend identified him as the son of Henry II (which he was) and Rosamund Clifford, "the fair Rosamund" (which he was not: see The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). Dramatic treatments of his career are likely to have made much of his military successes against the French, and his political involvement in the difficult reign of King John. Some contemporaries of Drayton and Massinger might have known that William's funeral effigy stood, as it still stands, in Salisbury cathedral, showing him as an armoured knight with a large shield displaying his arms of six rampant lions.
References to the Play
For What It's Worth
Henslowe's first entry refers to a 'William Longbeard' rather than 'Longsword' -- it may be worth noting that legends of such an individual were in circulation, perhaps most relevantly in the prose text by the playwright Thomas Lodge, The life and death of william Long beard, the most famous and witty English traitor, borne in the citty of London Accompanied with manye other most pleasant and prettie histories, by T.L. of Lincolns Inne, gent. Printed at London by Rychard Yardley and Peter Short, dwelling on Breadstreat hill, at the Signe of the Starre. 1593. This text tells of
- Howe Willyam Long beard betraied his elder bro∣ther vnto his death, of his falling in acquaintance with the Abbot of Cadonence in Normandy and how cunningly and coulourably they got authority from the Kinge to accomplish their ambitious pretences.
- How William with the long beard handled the cause of Pe∣ter Nowlay a Cobler, who was iniuried by Robert Be∣sant, sometime Bailife of London.
- How William with the long beard behaued himselfe towardes the Courtiers, and of his loue to his faire Lemman Maude∣line.
- How William with the long beard slew Arthur Brown, who deceiued him of his Maudline.
- How William with the long beard after long trouble was taken by the kings officers, and executed for his misdemeanors.
- William Long beards Epitaph.
It is available in the open-access version of EEBO TCP: