Performance Records (Henslowe's Diary)
F. 37v (Greg, I. 70)
Layd owt for the company of my lord admeralles } men for to by tafetie & tynsell to macke a payer } of bodeyes for a womones gowne to playe allece perce } xxs for wch I dellyuered vnto the littell tayller Jn Redey } money the 8 of desembʒ 1597 the some of }
- wittnes E Alleyn
layd owt mor the same tyme for makynge & a payer } of yeare sleavse of the bodeyes of pyges gowne } vjs vijd
lente vnto Robart shawe for to by cop lace } of [gowne] sylver to lace a payer of hosse for alles perce } xvjs the 10 desembʒ 1597 the some of }
- wittnes wm Borne Jube
- & gabrell spencer
F. 43v (Greg, I. 82)
layd owt for the companye to by tafetie & tynssell } for the bodeyes of a womones gowne to playe allce perce } xxs wch J dd vnto the litell tayller the 8 of desembʒ 1597 }
- wittnes E Alleyn
Greg, Papers (Appx. I, art. 1, p. 116. l. 53)
Under the heading “The Enventary of all the aparell for my Lord Admeralles men, tacken the 10 of Marche 1598. —Leaft above in the tier-house in the cheast.
- Item, ... j payer of bodeyes for Alles Pearce
- Alls Perce.
The listing of "Alls Perce" among the books Henslowe had in stock or had bought "since the 3d of March 1598," as well as the payments for apparel for the play in December of 1597, confirms acquisition by the Admiral's men. It also locates that acquisition in the wake of the breakup of Pembroke's men, who had been playing at the Swan in July 1597 and attracting unwelcome governmental attention because of one of their repertory items, "The Isle of Dogs." This coincidence influenced Greg II to assume that "Alice Pierce" had "been brought in [to the Admiral's holdings] by Pembroke's men," i.e., players including William Bird, Robert Shaa, and Gabriel Spencer (p. 187). If so, the play was performed at both the Swan and Rose playhouses in 1597-8.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
A digest of historical sources conveys the key events in the story of Alice Perrers (d. 1499/01), the mistress of King Edward III. At court as a lady in waiting to Edward's queen, Philippa, Alice kept the affair private until the queen died (1369); at about this time also, Alice married Sir William Windsor). Her coming-out party as royal concubine occurred in 1375, when the king held a tournament at Smithfield and presented Alice as the Lady of the Sun. Neither courtiers nor commoners nor poets (William Langland, Geoffrey Chaucer) approved of Alice's immoral behavior and acquisitiveness; an illustrative detail is the rumor that she stole the king's rings as he lay dying (1377). After the king's death, Alice fought (sometimes unsuccessfully) political attempts to imprison her and family attempts to strip her of properties granted her by the king (Given-Wilson).
References to the Play
Malone (I, pt. 2, pp. 302, 307) did not offer an opinion on the identity of the title character, but Collier, in a footnote to the entry recording the Admiral's purchase of material for Alice's gown on 8 December 1597, called her "the mistress to Edward III" (116n). Neither Fleay, BCED (2.306, #205) nor Greg II (p. 189, #120) repeated that identification, but it has now become widely accepted. Gurr, however, does not comment on Alice's possible historical identity (he spells the surname "Pearce").
Wiggins, Catalogue doesn't question the identification of Alice as Edward III's mistress. Describing the plot, he emphasizes the king's public display of her at Smithfield and her theft of his rings as he lay dying. In something of an aside, he points to Acts and Monuments, in which Foxe recounts an episode in which Alice got a friar's help in bewitching the king. Wiggins observes that the use of this story "would obviously have a bearing on exactly how black the play painted its title character" (#1091).
For What It's Worth