Christmas Comes but Once a Year

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Thomas Heywood, John Webster, Henry Chettle, and Thomas Dekker (1602)

Historical Records

Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe's Diary)

F. 117v (Greg I.184)

Lent vnto Thomas hewode & John webster }
the 2 of novmber 1602 in earneste of a playe }
called chyssmas comes bute one ayeare the }
some of } iijli

F. 118 (Greg, I.185)

Lent vnto John dewcke the 23 of novmber 1602 }
to paye vnto hareye chettell & thomas deckers }
in parte of paymente of a playe called crysmas }
comes but once a yeare the some of } xxxxs

pd at the a poyntment of Thomas hawode the }
26 of novmber 1602 … to harey chettell in }
fulle paymente of a playe called cryssmas }
comes but once a yeare the some of } xxxxs

Payments for Properties (Henslowe's Diary)

F. 118v (Greg, I. 186)

Layd owt for the companye the 9 of novmber }
1602 to by ij calleco sewtes & ij buckerom }
sewtes for the playe of cryssmas comes but }
once a yeare the some of } xxxviijs 8d
Sowld vnto the company the 9 of desember }
1602 ij peces of cangable taffetie to macke }
a womones gowne & a Robe some of } iiijli xs
for the play of crysmas comes but once a year

Theatrical Provenance

"Christmas Comes but Once a Year" was written for Worcester's players while they were at the Rose, 1602-3; the purchase of apparel in December 1602 invites the conjecture that the play was in performance by February 1603.If so, its maiden run would have been disrupted by London playhouse closures due to the fatal illness of Queen Elizabeth in mid-March 1603 and further by the general raggedness of theatrical schedules later in the spring due to the onset of plague.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The impetus behind the play is likely to have been the proverbial saying that is repeated in the title. Books of proverbs record the appearance of the phrase as early as 1573, in Five hundredth points of good Husbandrie ... by Thomas Tusser (Tusser).

References to the Play

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Critical Commentary

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For What It's Worth

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Works Cited

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citation goes here

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Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 28 March 2015.