William the Conqueror

Anon. (1593)

Historical Records

Performance Records

Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 8v (Greg, I.16)

In a listing headed as follows:
Jn the name of god Amen begninge the 27 of
desembʒ 1593 the earle of susex his men
Res at william the conkerer the 4 of Jenewary 1593 [i.e. 1594]. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxiis

Theatrical Provenance

Sussex's Men at the Rose Playhouse. The play is only known from this single performance. It is not marked "ne".

Wiggins, Catalogue (#903) backdates "William the Conqueror" to 1591, based on its solo performance that is not marked "ne." In the entry for this play, Wiggins explains his reasoning for similarly backdating other plays in Sussex's Rose repertory that Henslowe did not mark "ne."

Probable Genre(s)

Romantic comedy? (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

See Critical Commentary and For What It's Worth below.

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

Malone does not comment on the narrative of this play (p. 293), nor does Collier (p. 31).

Hazlitt notes of this play: "A play on this subject is also mentioned in Heywood's Apology for Actors, 1612" (p. 253).

Fleay, BCED, 2.298, #122 makes a new suggestion: "Query Fair Em, retained from L.Strange's Men, like The Jew of Malta." That is to say, he 'lumps' it with the extant play Fair Em, or the Miller's Daughter of Manchester, with the Love of William the Conqueror. Fleay's suggestion has met with fairly general acceptance: for instance, Greg II (#32, p. 158), Harbage, and more recently Knutson.

Wiggins, Catalogue #903, on the other hand, describes the play without assuming that it is Fair Em, and offers a summary of its possible content in terms of the usual features of William the Conqueror's career in chronicle histories. That is, it describes the conquest of Britain by William in 1066.

For What It's Worth

Hazlitt is presumably thinking of this passage from the Apology for Actors:

Thirdly, playes haue made the ignorant more apprehensiue, taught the vnlearned the knowledge of many famous histories, instructed such as ca~ not reade in the discouery of all our English Chronicles: & what man haue you now of that weake capacity, that can not discourse of any notable thing recorded euen from William the Conquerour, nay from the landing of Brute, vntill this day. (Heywood, Apology, F1r)

It is not very clearly an allusion to any specific William the Conqueror play.

Works Cited

Heywood, Thomas. An Apology for Actors. London, 1612. EEBO.
Knutson, Roslyn L. "What's So Special About 1594?" Shakespeare Quarterly 61.4 (2010): 449-467.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University; updated 12/9/2016.