Catiline's Conspiracies

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Stephen Gosson (1578)

Historical Records

Stephen Gosson, The School of Abuse (1579), 24-25 (EEBO-TCP, open access):

Catilins conspiracies vsually brought in to the Theater: ... bicause it is knowen too be a Pig of myne owne Sowe, I will speake the lesse of it; onely giuing you to vnderstand, that the whole marke which I shot at in that woorke, was too showe the rewarde of traytors in Catilin, and the necessary gouernment of learned men, in the person of Cicero, which forsees euery dāger that is likely to happen, and forstalles it continually ere it take effect. Therfore I giue these Playes the commendation, that Maximus Tyrius gaue too Homers works: These Playes are good playes and sweete playes, and of al playes the best playes and most to be liked, woorthy to bee soung of the Muses, or set out with the cunning of Roscius himself, yet are they not fit for euery mans dyet: neither ought they commonly to bee shewen.

Theatrical Provenance

It was "usually" performed at the Theatre by 1579, possibly by Leicester's Men.

Probable Genre(s)

Didactic history (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Sallust, De coniuratione Catilinae or Cicero, In Catilinam; on the availability of these texts to a dramatist and for a brief outline of Catiline's biography, see the discussion under the 1598 play, "Catiline's Conspiracy".

References to the Play

In his response to Gosson's School of Abuse, Thomas Lodge criticised Gosson and accused him of plagiarism for his Catiline (for a fuller discussion of Lodges's text, see the entry for "Short and Sweet"):

But after your discrediting of playmaking, you salue vppon the sore somewhat, and among many wise workes there be some that fitte your vaine: the practise of parasites is one, which I meruel it likes you so well since it bites you so sore. but sure in that I like your iudgement, and for the rest to, I approue your wit, but for the pigg of your own sow, (as you terme it) assuredly I must discommend your verdi[c]t, tell me Gosson was all your owne you wrote there: did you borow nothing of your neyghbours? out of what booke patched you out Ciceros oration? whence fet you Catulins inuectiue. Thys is one thing, alienam olet lucerni non tuam, so that your helper may wisely reply vpon you with Virgil.

Hos ego versiculos feci tulit alter bonores.

I made these verses other bear the name.
(42-43, EEBO-TCP, open access)

Critical Commentary

Hattaway believes the phrase "aspiring Catiline" appearing in place of "murderous Machiavel" in the octavo version of William Shakespeare's 3 Henry VI is "probably a player's recollection" of Gosson's lost play on Catiline (8).

For What It's Worth

The use of the plural in the title may be construed as suggesting that the play dramatized both the so-called "First Catilinarian Conspirary" – a failed plot to murder the consuls in 65 BCE (Catiline's involvement in which is now disputed) – and Catiline's conspiracy proper.

Works Cited

Protogenes can know Apelles by his line though he se him not, and wise men can consider by the penn the aucthoritie of the writer thoughe they know him not.. London : Printed by H. Singleton?, 1579. (STC (2nd ed.), 16663); EEBO-TCP, open access)
Gosson, Stephen. The School of Abuse. Printed at London: for Thomas Woodcocke, 1579. EEBO-TCP, open access
Hattaway, Michael. "The Shakespearean History Play." The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's History Plays. Ed. Michael Hattaway. Cambridge: CUP, 2002. 1-24

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