Alexander and Lodowick

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Historical Records


To Philip Henslowe

Fol. 23 (Greg 1.45

Res at elexsander & ladwicke the 14 of Janewary the }
fyrst tyme yt wasse playde 1597 in ꝑte . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .} vli

Performance Records

Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 25v (Greg 1.50)

Under the heading, "Jn the name of god amen begininge the 25 of novembʒ 1596 as foloweth the lord admerall players":

ye 14 of Jenewary 1597 . . . . ne . . Res at elexsander & lodwicke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . lvs

Fol. 26 (Greg 1.51)

|11| . . . . ne . . tt at elexander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03|05|00 — 17 — 00
|12| tt at elexander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|14|09 — 13 — 00
begynyng in leant
Marche 1597
|5| tt at elexsander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|15|00 — 13 — 00
[not pd] |[10]9| tt at lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|16|07 — 04 — 00
|20| tt at elexsander & lodovicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|17|00 — 04 — 02
[Easter] tewsday |29| tt at elexsander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|16|07 — 04 — 00
Aprelle 1597
|5| tt at elexander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|02|00 — 03 — 05

Fol. 26v (Greg 1.52)

Aprelle 1597
|12| tt at elexsander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00|14|03 — 00 — 01
|27| Res at elexsander & lodwick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [1]02|14|00 — 00 — 00
Maye 1597
|9| tt at lodwicke & elexand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00|14|00 — 00 — 00
T |17| tt at elexsander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03|00|00 — 03 — 04
|28| . . . . mr pd . . . . tt at elexsander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 03|13|01 — 10 — 00

Fol. 27 (Greg 1.53)

June 1597
S petterss daye |29| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . tt at elexsander & lodwick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|02|00 — 14 — 00

Fol. 27v (Greg 1.54)

July 1597
|15| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . tt at elexsander & lodwicke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00|08|00 — 13 — 00


To acquire playbooks in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 45v (Greg 1.86):

Lente vnto the company the 16 of maye 1598 to buye . }
v boocks of martine slather called ij ꝑtes of hercolus . } vijll
& focas & pethagoras & elyxander & lodicke wch laste}
boock he hath not yet delyuerd the some of . . . . . . . . . .}

Fol. 47v (Greg 1.90)

pd vnto marteyne slawghter the 18 of July . . }
for a boocke called elexsander & lodwicke .} xxs
the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . }

Miscellaneous expenses in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 54v (Greg 1.104)

Lent vnto Jewbe the 31 of marche 1598 . . . }
to bue divers thinges for elexander & lode} vli
wicke the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }


Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library

List of playbooks

Greg, Papers (APX. I. art. 1, col. 1, l. 192)

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

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's men played "Alexander and Lodowick" at the Rose playhouse from January through (at least) July in 1597. They considered it a valuable commodity as late as May 1598, at which time they purchased the playbook from Martin Slater in a job lot including also " Hercules| (both parts), " Phocas," and "Pythagoras." In a subsequent separate transaction, the company paid Slater another 20s for the book (18 July 1598). Henslowe listed the playbook among those inventoried in March 1598/99. In that same month (March (1599), the company purchased "divers thinges" for the play, evidently for a revival.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

One available trove of narrative for the play was the many editions of The Seven Wise Masters of Rome, a frame story in print in England by 1493 (STC 21297) and still in print in 1602 (STC 21299.5; 21299.7).

In that story, a Roman emperor named Poncianus sends his son, Dioclesian, to seven masters to be educated in the art of government. Later, the emperor remarries, and his new wife asks that the son return home. On his return, she attempts to seduce him, but he rejects her. In revenge, she tells the father that Dioclesian tried to rape her. Furious, the ruler orders him to be hanged. The seven masters defend him, each telling a story per day, and the stepmother counters with a story of her own. Dioclesian tells the final story. Persuaded that his son is virtuous, the ruler orders the stepmother to be executed. This final tale is the story of Alexander and Lodowick.

According to the version in the 1506 edition (STC 21298), "Alexander and Lodowick" is itself a story within a story. Its frame reflects the larger frame of "Seven Wise Masters" in that a powerful man sends his precocious son to a master in a faraway country to be educated. After seven years, the father calls the son home; one day after his return, the boy is with his parents, listening to a nightingale. The father wishes he understood the bird's song, and the son offers to interpret but fears his father will be angry. When the father says in effect "try me," the boy says the song celebrates the son's rise to become greater than the father. Indeed angry, the father cast the son into the sea, but he is rescued by sailors who subsequently sell him to a foreign nobleman, the king of Egypt. Here too the boy's precocity drives the tale in that he soon wins the favor of the duke by interpreting another avian riddle (of three ravens), and this time the boy—who reveals his name to be "Alexander"—pleases with his answer and is rewarded by being made the duke's heir. Growing into manhood and having acquired martial skills, Alexander asks to travel to the court of the emperor, Titus, to hone his skills further. The father agrees, offering wealth plus his daughter in marriage prior to the trip, but Alexander puts the marriage off until he returns with even more honors.

Alexander arrives at Titus's court where he soon becomes the emperor's favorite. Some time later, a new adventurer arrives at court: Lodowick, son of the king of France. He too is well received, and it is widely noted that Alexander and Lodowick were so alike in looks and stature that they couldn't be told apart, except that Alexander was the more manly of the pair and Lodowick the more feminine. On a day, Titus, mistaking one for the other, sends Lodowick on an errand to his daughter, Florentine; she recognizes him correctly and (after some wooing by Alexander on behalf of Lodowick) and agrees to secret nightly visits from Lodowick. Alexander, hearing that his father is dead, returns home but warns Lodowick and Florentine that others at court know of their assignation and plan trouble.

That trouble arrives in the form of another itinerant prince, Guido, son of the king of Spain. He spies on the lovers and reports their betrayal to Titus. Lodowick (falsely) protests his innocence, but Titus insists on single combat to determine the truth-teller. Lodowick and Florentine buy time by claiming Lodowick's father is near death, and Lodowick travels instead to Egypt where he begs Alexander to switch places with him in the battle, Alexander's skills being so much the superior. At first Alexander hesitates because the morrow is his wedding day. But then he agrees to a substitution if Lodowick agrees not to bed the bride. Lodowick agrees, and on the wedding night he sets a naked sword between himself and the bride, who, though astonished, made no complaint. Meanwhile Alexander arrives at the emperor's court, engages in battle with Guido (keeping up the deception both of persons and deflowering of the daughter), and defeats him, sending Floentine Guido's head. Alexander (as Lodowick) uses Lodowick's fake excuse of a dying father to leave, returning to Egypt, where he switches again with Lodowick and beds his wife.

She, however, is furious at Alexander when she learns of the Lodowick switch, and she enlists a knight at court with whom she had been too familiar to poison Alexander. The poison is not fatal, but it does turn him into a leper, causing him to be driven out of the kingdom. He travels to Lodowick's kingdom, where he enlists a porter to convey that he, Alexander, is among the lepers at the gate. Lodowick brings Alexander to court and consults physicians on a cure, but they offer nothing but a recommendation of prayers. After some time, Alexander hears a voice that says the only cure is for Lodowick to slit the throats of his infant twin boys and bathe Alexander in their blood. Alexander keeps this horrific news to himself, but Lodowick soon also hears the voice and acts on it. The cure works, and Alexander is restored to health. When Florentine is astonished at Alexander's recovery, Lodowick confesses about the voice's call for infanticide, and she enthusiastically accedes. Lodowick confesses that he's already slain the boys, yet when he takes Florentine to the nursery, the boys are playing happily (each neck has a circular thread of gold where the knife cut). Alexander, returning home, executes his wife and her lover.

Home again at last with his kingdom restored to power and married to Lodowick's sister, Alexander has one more mission: to find the parents who threw him into the sea. At first they pretend they were childless, but when pressed, they confess to the abandonment of their son due to fury at the interpretation of the bird's song. Because of their (belated) honesty, Alexander takes them back to his kingdom where everyone lives happily ever after.

There was also a popular ballad of Alexander and Lodowick, called "The Two faithfull Friends" (EBBA [1]).

The blurb on the ballad is as follows:
The pleasant History of Alexander and Lodwicke , who were so like one ano
ther, that none could know them asunder: wherein is declared how Lodwike
married the Princesse of Hungaria in Alexanders name, and how each night
he layd a naked sword betweene him and the Princesse , because he
would not wrong his friend.
To the tune of Flying Fame.

The ballad begins with the tournament, modified narratively to be a contest for the daughter of the Emperor of Germany. Among the combatants are Prince Lodowick of France, Prince Guido of Spain, and Prince Alexander of Hungary (not Egypt). Alexander wins the fight, but he loves a princess back home; therefore, he gives the German princess to Lodowick, who desires her dearly. Guido is not pleased, and seeks revenge by telling the emperor that his daughter is unchaste. Alexander, to protect Lodowick, sends him to Hungary and masquerade as Alexander, marrying the king's daughter but with the proviso of preserving her virginity. Alexander then defeats Guido in renewed combat. Returning to Hungary and sending Lodowick back to Germany and the tournament-prize princess, Alexander takes up both the crown and his supposed bride, only to learn that she was so vexed to have lain nightly with her "husband" with a sword between them preventing consummation that she enlisted a lord to help her poison him. As in the "Seven Wise Masters" story-set, Alexander becomes a leprous beggar, goes to Lodowick's court, and offers the remedy of infanticide. Lodowick performs the murders and heals Alexander; his wife, when told, runs to the nursery, where she finds the babies alive and at play. Alexander returns home, defeats his enemies, and dooms the lord and queen to hideous deaths.

References to the Play

As Wiggins, Catalogue notes, there is a reference in The Duchess of Malfi to "Alexander and Lodowick" (#1055).

Duchess … and if you please,
Like the old tale, in Alexander and Lodowick,
Lay a naked sword between us, keep us chaste.

However, the reference might refer to the story, not specifically the play.

Critical Commentary

Malone does not comment on "Alexander and Lodowick" (p.299). Collier comments only on its possible source, a "ballad of the two friends," but he is unsure whether the ballad precedes or follows the play (p. 84, n. 3); he flags the purchase of "divers thinges" for the play on 31 March 1598 as evidence that the play was being revived (p. 147, n.3). Fleay, BCED lists the play as anonymous (2.#189, p. 305) and mentions Slater ("Slaughter") as the original owner but does not tag him as also the author.

Greg II provides the title of the ballad broadly assumed to be the narrative source for the play: "The Two faithful Friends. The pleasant History of Alexander and Lodowick, declared how Lodwicke married the Princesse of Hungaria in Alexanders name, and how each night he layd a naked sword betweene him and the Princesse, because he would not wrong his friend" (#99). He considers Slater the owner of the play at the time of the sale to the Admiral's men, but he does not does not specifically address whether he was also the author (p. 310-11). Curious whether a lawsuit between Slater and three players who had left Pembroke's men in 1597 to join the Admiral's men (William Bird, Thomas Downton, and Gabriel Spencer) might have been about the plays Slater had sold to the Admiral's men in May 1598, Greg says he would "like to have the breviate" of the case for evidence on the question of Slater's ownership (pp. 310-11).

Gurr attributes the play to Martin Slater (p. 94). He doesn't explain his reasoning but perhaps he was influenced by the fact that Slater was paid an extra 20s. for "Alexander and Lodowick" in a separate and later payment in March 1599. In yet another entry concerning "Alexander and Lodowick," Gurr addresses the set of payments for four plays in January 1597 (specifically £7 on February 23 for "Alexander and Lodowick" [Fol. 23]); he suggests that Henslowe might have been entering "cross-payments to whoever owned the playbooks, probably [Martin] Slater and [Edward] Alleyn, although they were recorded as 'Rd', or receipts, not as outgoings" (p. 94). Frustrated by his inability to reconcile these cross-payments with "more routine entries" for the four plays in the playlists, Gurr observes wryly that "[n]othing in the Diary explains to any would-be auditor what these figures mean" (p. 94).

Stretter, considering the play's medieval and early modern narrative sources, places it in the context of the Admiral's 1590s repertory, which featured multiple plays (both extant and lost) celebrating male friendship, their "well-known stories all suggest[ing] a nostalgia for a lost age of 'true' friendship defined by loyalty, sacrifice, and a prioritization of homosocial values" (343). Stretter argues that Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing offer "a critique of the kind of triumphalist male friendship that appears in the legends of friends such as Alexander and Lodowick, stories in which the needs of the male friends take priority over wives, children, and sometimes even traditional notions of truth and morality" (332).

For What It's Worth

An extended maiden run, or a revival?

The payment recorded by Henslowe for "divers thinges for "Alexander and Lodowick" on "31 of marche 1598" could be a replenishment of properties or apparel for the run of the play that began on February 11, 1597 (uncharacteristically, Henslowe made the dating change from 1596 to 1597 on January 2 of 1597; but did not change from 1598 to 1599 until April 7, the payment immediately following the March 31 payment for "divers thinges" for "Alexander and Lodowick"). Presumably, then, the play continued in performance well beyond its last recorded performance of July 15, 1597. Did that run continue on past March 1599? If so, the run was unusually long. It is possible, then, that "Alexander and Lodowick" was revived in March 1599. However, the revival of a play so recently on stage is unusual too.

Martin Slater

Slater's career as player and theatrical businessman is relatively well documented, but the role of dramatist is conjectural. Even so, the conjecture is appealing. As we become more aware of the appetite for new plays across the theatrical industry, it seems reasonable that more than one player-businessman was also a playwright.

A lost play called "Guido" joined the Admiral's repertory five weeks after the "ne" performance of "Alexander and Lodowick." The "Guido" of the title has not been definitively identified, but there is one item that narrows the choices: the identification of a tomb for the play in Henslowe's inventory Greg, Papers (APX. I. art. 1, p. 116, l. 57):. Even though the tomb is not suggested by the story line of the Guido in "Alexander and Lodowick," it is noteworthy that "Guido"—when introduced for five performances in the late spring of 1597—was scheduled in tandem with "Alexander and Lodowick" for three of those dates:
19 March, "Guido," at its debut; 20 March, "Alexander and Lodowick"
29 March, "Alexander and Lodowick"; 30 March, "Guido"
4 April, "Guido"; 5 April, "Alexander and Lodowick"
There are also payments by Henslowe for silks ("sylckes" 9 March 1597) and an inventoried cloak of russet with copper lace (13 March 1598), but these garments could fit any of the worldly Guidos suggested as the title character of the lost play, including the villainous Guido in "Alexander and Lodowick."

Works Cited

Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Stretter, Robert. "Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the Lost Friendship Plays of the Admiral's Men." Comparative Drama 55 (2021): 331–54.

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