Anon. (1608)

Historical Records

The Christmas Prince

The play is alluded to in the manuscript account of the 1607-8 Christmas revels at St. John's College, Oxford, known as The Christmas Prince. While the manuscript preserves the texts of several entertainments that were presented, the performance of "Yuletide" was only alluded to in the description of the Christmas Prince's visit to Christ Church:

On the Thursday following, the Prince was solemnely invited by the Canons of Cristchurch to a Comedy called Yuletide, where many thinges were either ill ment by them, or ill taken by vs but wee had very good reason to thincke the former, both for that the whole towne thoughte so, and the whole play was a medley of Christmas sportes, by wch occasion Christmas Lords were much jested at, and our Prince was soe placed that many thinges were acted vpon him, but yet, Mr Deane himselfe then Vice-chancelor. very kindly sent for the Prince and some others of or howse, and laboured to satisfie vs protesting that no such thing was mente, as was reported, wherevpon wee went away contented, and forbore the speaking of many things, wch otherwise were afterwards intended, for aunswering of them in their owne kind.
(Oxford, St. John's College Library, MS 52, p. 170; qtd. Boas and Greg 189; cf. REED: Oxford 1:364-65).

Theatrical Provenance

Performed on 21 January 1608 at Christ Church, Oxford. The performance happened adjacent to "The Christmas Prince" plays, which were being performed at St. John's during the Christmas season. Thomas Tucket (the St. John's Christmas Prince) was attended the performance.

Probable Genre(s)

Burlesque (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

"Yuletide" seems to have been a burlesque of the Christmas Lord of Misrule tradition, emblematized by the St John's Christmas Prince, along with other traditional Christmas pastimes.

References to the Play

None known. (Information welcome.)

Critical Commentary

Boas and Greg note that Christ Church's burlesque was a "retort" to the theatrical challenge posed by the less well-established St. John's (vi).

Hegarty agrees, suggesting that the Christ Church performers were "manifestly jealous" and were "spurred to respond to the resounding success" of The Christmas Prince with their own burlesque (xlix).

Ingram argues that the title of the play reveals the nature of its critique: "Since 'Yuletide' is the reformed term for Christmas, the Christ Church comedy is meant as an explicit corrective to the traditionalist St. John's 'Christmas' entertainments," and "the incident was clearly meant to provoke, if not chastise, Tucker's crew" (362).

For What It's Worth

(Content welcome.)

Works Cited

Boas, Frederick S. and W.W. Greg, eds. The Christmas Prince. Malone Society. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1922.
Hegarty, Andrew. A Biographical Register of St. John's College, Oxford, 1555-1660. Oxford Historical Society n.s. 43. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2011.
Ingram, Jill Phillips. "Avant-garde Conformists and Student Revels at Oxford, 1607-08." Anglican and Episcopal History 80 (2011): 349-72.

Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, University of Toronto; updated 21 December 2016.