Damon and Pithias

Henry Chettle (1600)

Historical Records

Henslowe's Diary

F. 29v (Greg I.57)

Receiued in part of paiment of [Gri] Damon and
Pythias this 16. of ffebruary 1599 ............... xxs
By me henry chettle./

F. 67v (Greg I. 118)

Layd owt for the company the 16 febrearye 1599
in earnest of a Boocke called damon &
pethyus as maye a pere some is ............... xxs
to hary chettell

F. 68 (Greg I. 119)

Lent vnto wm Birde the 10 marche 1599 to
geue harey chettell in earneste of his Boocke
called damon & pethias the some of ............... xxvjs

F. 68v (Greg, I.120)

Lent vnto harey chettell the 26 of aprell 1[59]600
in parte payment of a Boocke called damon
& pethias at the a poyntment of Robart shawe
the some of .............................. xxxs
henry Chettle./

[marginal note: 16 - 07 - 00]

payd to Harry Chettle in full payment of vjs for
his booke of Damon & Pithias xxxxiiijs ............... xxxxiiijs

F. 69 (Greg, I.121)

pd vnto the mr of the Revelles man for licensynge
of a Boocke called damon & pethias the 16 of
maye 1600 some of .............................. vijs

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's players purchased Damon and Pithias from Henry Chettle for 120s. (£6) from February through April, 1600. This season would have been their last at the Rose, as the Fortune was under construction and the company would move to the new playhouse in the fall.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The story of Damon and Pithias, having classical origins, was broadly familiar in the early modern period. A relatively contemporary dramatic analogue was Damon and Pithias by Richard Edwards (Q1571), which, according to the title page of the quarto, was played at court by the Children of the Chapel. Contemporary references to the narrative demonstrate that the primary context was friendship. Categories of works that exploit that thread include prose narratives of the Euphuistic type (Euphues. The Anatomy of Wit [1578], Narbonus, the Laberynth of Libertie [1580]) and sermons (William Burton, 1590).

Damon and Pithias by Richard Edwards

Miscellaneous Allusions in non-Dramatic Literature

William Burton, "A sermon preached in the Cathedrall Church in Norwich, the xxi. day of December 1589 ...

The last thing that from this reason I observe, is this: that seeing as the loue of God is so free, so continuall, so vndeserved, and so vnspeakeable, that therefore vvee set more by it then by any loue in the world, Great vvas the loue of Damon & Pithias, when one offered to die for another, but it was neither free, perpetuall, nor vndeserued, for Damon loued Pithias, because Pithias loued Damon, & so one friend loued another: but God loued vs vvhen vve vvere his enemies & hated him: their loue ended with their liues, Gods loue is eternall, as himselfe: ...

Austin Saker, Narbonus, The Laberynth of Libertie.

Narbonus' friend = Phemocles; work in two parts; TCP trace = "a faithlesse foe: If I proue Damon; he Damocles: he Theseus ..; or your selfe desire: And if Damon were faithfull to Pithyas ...; ... Lepidus to Laelius ...

Francis Meres, God's Arithmetic: under the section on the #1

It is friendship that maketh prosperitie more glorious, and aduersitie more tollerable. But in no kinde of society hath this friendship more gloriously appeared, nor more constantly continued, then betweene man and wife. Which we shall presently yeelde vnto, if wee goe no further then to the stories of the Heathen: The friendship of Pilades and Orestes, of Damon and Pythias, of Achilles & Patroclus, so much admired and extolled of the Grecian Writers for continuance was neuer more stable, for mutuall dutie and helpe more requisite, or for tendernes of affection and sincerity of true and vnfayned loue and loyaltie more commendable, then the loue of Alceste to her husband Admetus, who vnderwent the weightie burthen of death for him. Or of Tiberius Gracchus to his wife Cornelia, who for her tasted of the same cup, that Alcste did for her husband, so that it is a matter vndecideable, whether Alceste loued her husband, or Gracchus his Wife better. Damon and Pythias are much commended for beeing each others pledge in a capitall case, and for the returne at the prefixed day: But if you poyse with Damon and Pythias the loue of Mynian wiues to their Husbands, as the oue of the wife of Theopompus the Lacedomonian to him, the VVomens scale will farre prooue the weyghtyer.

Walter Dorke, A Tipe or Figure of Friendship.

thesis: (A3) all things can be overcome "either with the fortefied power of a patient minde, or with the fortunate presence of a faithfull friend. What comfort can there bee more propitiate or present to a penciue mind, than to powre out the plaints thereof into the secret bosome of a sincere friend, by whose sweete communication is receaued a sodaine delight, and souerraigne consolation, as a most cordiall medicine against any corrasiue."… "Dionisius the Tirant was so amazed at the friendship//A3v// of Damon and Pithias that it translated his minde from being tirannous towards them, to become almost with them, as it may appeare by his owne petition. Rogo ut me quoque in vestram amicitiam recipiatis. I beseeche you (saith he) receaue me also into your sacred societie."

////B2// Wherefore it may be well said, that wee vse neither water, nor fire, nor earth, nor aire, in more places than we doo Friendship. It maketh prosperitie to shine most glorious, and causeth aduersitie to seeme nothing grieuous It suffereth neither the heart to be daunted, nor the courage in any case quailed: wherefore being absent, yet are they present: being needie, they haue inough: being poore, they haue plentie: being weake, are strong: yea and I had almost said that which is more strange, being dead are aliue: insomuch, that the death of the one seemeth blessed, and the life of the other nothing blemished, so great is the honor, so gracious the remembrance, so godly the zeal that is bred in Friends one toward another. He yet loketh vpon his faithfull Friend, doth behold a perfect patterne of his owne person, being as it were an Alter ego, that is another himselfe. What was it that caused Phocion so say, he neuer denied anything to his faithfull friend Nicocles, was it not Friendship? What was it that vrged Damon to yeeld himselfe a pledge for the life of his companion Pithias, was it not Friendship? ... //B2v// Yea, to make our period, (though Friendships praise be infinite) such is the force therof, that mightie Kings haue desired it, it is so glorious: famous Philosophers haue honoured it, it is so specious: cruell tyrants haue been amazed at it, it is so victorious: al men in general haue praised it is is so precious: and yet few haue effectually at ay time attained unto it, it is so miraculous.

References to the Play

Satiromastix Jonson, Epicene: "embrace" like D&P

Critical Commentary

The definitive Chettle literary biography?

For What It's Worth

<Enter any miscellaneous points that may be relevant, but don't fit into the above categories. This is the best place for highly conjectural thoughts.>

Works Cited

Burton, William. A sermon preached in the Cathedrall Church in Norwich, the xxi. day of December, 1589. London: 1590.
Dorke, Walter. A Tipe or Figure of Friendship. London: 1586.
Lloyd, Lodowick. The Pilgrimage of Princes. London: 1573, 1586.
White, D. Jerry. Richard Edwards' DAMON AND PITHIAS: A Critical Old-Spelling Edition. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1980.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 17 February 2012.