England's Joy

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Richard Vennar (1602)

Historical Records

The Printed "Plot"

Englands Joy LPD.jpg
"The Plot of the Play, Called Englands Joy", STC 2nd ed. / 24636.7, (c) The Society of Antiquaries of London Library, reproduced with permission.
Permission for the commercial and non-commercial use of the image should be obtained directly from the Society.

The broadside Plot of the Play, Called Englands Joy (STC 24636.7) exists in a single copy, currently in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries. It measures 12¾ by 17¾ inches (Lawrence 68). No stationer's name appears on the document, but the decorative blocks used suggest that it was printed by John Windet (Greg, Dramatic Documents, 1.171).

To be Playd at the Swan this 6. of Nouember. 1602.

FIRST, there is induct by shew and in Action, the ciuill warres of England
from Edward the third, to the end of Queene Maries raigne, with the
ouerthrow of Vsurpation.
2 Secondly then the entrance of Englands Ioy by the Coronation of our
Soueraigne Lady Elizabeth; her Throne attended with peace, Plenty, and ci-
uill Pollicy: A sacred Prelate standing at her right hand, betokening the
Serenity of the Gospell: At her left hand Iustice: And at her feete Warre,
with a Scarlet Roabe of peace vpon his Armour: A wreath of Bayes
about his temples, and a braunch of Palme in his hand.
3 Thirdly is dragd in three Furies, presenting Dissention, Famine, and Bloudshed, which are throwne
downe into hell.
4 Fourthly is exprest vnder the person of a Tyrant, the enuy of Spayne, who to shew his cruelty
causeth his Souldiers dragge in a beautifull Lady, whome they mangle and wound, tearing her gar-
ments and Iewels from off her: And so leaue her bloudy, with her hayre about her shoulders, ly-
ing vpon the ground. To her come certaine Gentlemen, who seeing her pitious dispoylment,
turne to the Throne of England, from whence one descendeth, taketh vp the Lady, wipeth her
eyes, bindeth vp her woundes, giueth her treasure, and bringeth forth a band of Souldiers, who
attend her forth: This Lady presenteth Belgia.
5 Fiftly, the Tytant more enraged, taketh counsell, sends forth letters, priuie Spies, and secret vnder-
miners, taking their othes, and giuing them bagges of treasure. These signifie Lopus, and certaine
Iesuites, who afterward, when the Tyrant lookes for an answere from them, are shewed to him in
a glasse with halters about their neckes, which makes him mad with fury.
6 Sixtly, the Tyrant seeing all secret meanes to fayle him, intendeth open violence and inuasion
by the hand of Warre, whereupon is set forth the battle at Sea in 88. with Englands victory.
7 Seuenthly, hee complotteth with the Irish rebelles, wherein is layd open the base ingratitude
of Tyrone, the landing there of Don Iohn de Aguila, and their dissipation by the wisedome and va-
lour of the Lord Mountioy.
8 Eightly, a great triumph is made with fighting of twelue Gentlemen at Barriers, and sundrie re-
wards sent from the Throne of England, to all sortes of well deseruers.
9 Lastly, the Nine Worthyes, with seuerall Coronets, present themselues before the Throne,
which are put backe by certaine in the habite of Angels, who set vpon the Ladies head, which re-
presents her Maiestie, an Emperiall Crowne, garnished with the Sunne, Moone and Starres; And so
with Musicke both with voyce and Instruments shee is taken vp into Heauen, when presently ap-
peares, a Throne of blessed Soules, and beneath vnder the Stage set forth with strange fire-
workes, diuers blacke and damned Soules, wonderfully discribed in their seuerall torments.

John Manningham's Diary

12 November 1602

Vennar, a gent[leman] of Lincolnes, who had lately playd a notable cunnicatching tricke, and gulled many under couller of a play to be of gent. and reverens, comming to the Court since in a blacke suit, bootes and golden spurres without a rapier, one told him he was not well suited; the golden spurres and his brazen face unsuited[?]
(British Library, Harley MS 5353, fol. 59v; qtd. Sorlien 123.)

27 November 1602

When one said that Vennar the graund connicatcher had golden spurres and a brazen face, "It seemes," said R.R., "he hath some mettall in him."
(fol. 70v; qtd. Sorlien 141.)

John Chamberlain's Correspondence

Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, 19 November 1602

And now we are in mirth I must not forget to tell you of a cousening prancke of one Venner of Lincolns Ynne that gave out bills of a famous play on Satterday was sevenight on the Banckeside, to be acted only by certain gentlemen and gentlewomen of account. The price at comming in was two shillings or eighteen pence at least and when he had gotten most part of the mony into his hands, he wold have shewed them a fayre payre of heeles, but he was not so nimble to get up on horsebacke, but that he was faine to forsake that course, and betake himselfe to the water, where he was pursued and taken and brought before the Lord Cheife Justice, who wold make nothing of yt but a jest and a merriment, and bounde him over in five pound to appeare at the sessions: in the meane time the common people when they saw themselues deluded, revenged themselves upon the hangings, curtaines, chaires, stooles, walles and whatsoever came in theyre way very outragiously and made great spoyle: there was great store of goode companie and many noble men.
(The National Archives: SP 12/285, fol. 149v; qtd. McClure 1:172.)

Richard Vennar, An Apology (1614)

In his autobiographical apologia, published in 1614, Vennar addresses at some length what transpired on 6 November 1602. The very title page of the book itself recognizes the notoriety of the incident, since Vennar himself is now "abusively called Englands Ioy." In the narrative, Vennar addresses the unavoidability of the incident: "for who can excuse my publique default of the Swan, where not a collier but cals his deere 12 pense to witnesse the disaster of the day? How should I, without blushing, deny the name of England's Joy, who had so many gossips at my Christening?" (6-7). According to Vennar, after his penury and unjust imprisonment following a visit to Scotland in 1600, he observed the lucrative industry "at the Globe on the Banke-side" and "concluded to make a friend of Mammon" (9).

My devise was all sorts of musique, beginning with chambers, the harpe of war, and ending with the hounds, the cry of peace, of which I was doubly provided for Fox and Hare.
     The report of gentlemen and gentlewomens actions, being indeed the flagge to our theater, was not meerely falcification, for I had divers Chorus to bee spoken by men of good birth, schollers by profession, protesting that the businesse was meerely abused by the comming of some beagles upon mee that were none of the intended kennell: I meane baylifes, who seizing mee before the first entrance, spoke an Epilogue instead of a Prologue. (9-10)

Vennar's description implies that he had delivered six lines of a prologue before his arrest ("Neither is it strange to have so much mony for six verses" [11]). After the narrative, Vennar attempts to excuse himself with "a series of witty arguments to prove that he had not cheated his spectators in 1602" (Berry 263), such as the argument that the very notoriety of the event provided a year's worth of entertainment ("one twelve pence afforded mirth for a twelve-month after" [10]). He also promises to vindicate himself by staging the play in the near future:

I heere promise the next tearme, with the true history of my life, to bee publiquely presented, to insert, in place of musicke for the actes, all those intendments prepared for that daies entertainement: which, feeling it must rest in your beliefes till then, I will be content so long to weare your apellation… (10)

John Taylor, A Cast Over the Water (1615)

Apparently the play was performed in 1615, although not, it seems, at the Swan; William Fennor, an "educated pamphleteer," acted in it (Berry 263). (Vennar himself was imprisoned in the Wood Street Compter, where he would die on 13 October 1615 [Berry 265].) In the same year, the "Water Poet" John Taylor published A Cast Over the Water, a collection that included poetic diatribes against Fennor (“him I hold too vnworthy to be my foe" [sig. Bv]). In a poem that serves as a riposte to Fennor's own Defense against Taylor (published also in 1615), he insults Fennor's performance in Vennar's play:

Thou brag’st what fame thou got’st vpon the stage
Indeed, thou set’st the people in a rage
In playing Englands Ioy, that euery Man
Did iudge it worse then that was done at Swan.
I neuer saw poore fellow so behist,
T’applaud thee, few or none lent halfe a fist:
Some stinkards hands, perhaps went pit to pat,
Who ignorantlie lik’d they knew not what;
Besides thou know’st, thou promist in thy Bill,
In rare Extemporarie to shew thy skill.
When all thou spok’st, thou studied’st had before,
Thou know’st I know, aboue a month and more.
Besides, the best conceits that were in it
(Poore Foole) thou had’st them from a better wit
Then is thine owne, thy beggerly conceit
Could neere haue mounted to so high a height. (sig. B5v)

The poem goes on to recall an anecdote in which Fennor swindled "poore old Vennor, that plaine dealing man, / Who acted Englands Ioy first at the Swan": Taylor's reference to Vennor as "honest" is probably ironic, since he then comments, "So the deceiuer is by thee deceiu'd" (sig. C3).

Theatrical Provenance

A performance of the play was announced for 6 November 1602 at the Swan. Although an audience was present, the play was not performed in its entirety: Richard Vennar may have delivered some lines of the prologue before leaving the theater, either voluntarily or under arrest. Apparently, the play was finally staged in 1615, although not at the Swan; William Fennor acted in it.

Probable Genre(s)

Historical Pageant; "Hoax Show" (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The content of the play is described in the printed Plot (see Historical Records above). Vennar was also likely the author of a separate poem about Mountjoy's victory at Kensale, one of episodes in the play (see For What It's Worth below).

References to the Play

John Savile, King James His Entertainment at Theobalds (1603)

In his "Salutatorie Poeme" celebrating the accession of King James, John Savile heralds the new monarch as a "Mortall God, Englands true Ioy" (sig. B4r). Later in the poem, he connects this epithet to Vennar's play:

I cannot deeme it now gulling toye,
Which Vennard inspir'd) intituled Englands Ioye.
I rather gesse hee did our good diuine
Not daring to disclos't before full time,
Be bold, goe on, nowe's thy præsaging plaine,
King Iames is Englands ioy, long hop'd for gaine… (sig. C2r-C2v)

Day, Rowley, and Wilkins, The Travailes of the Three English Brothers (1607)

S. Ant. I partly credit thee, but what Playe of note haue you?
Kemp. Many of name, some of note, especially one, the name was called Englands Ioy, Marry hee was no Poet that wrote it, he drew more Connies in a purse-nette, then euer were taken at any draught about London. (sig. E4)

Ben Jonson, Love Restored (1612)

ROB. […] I would faine know if there be a maske, or no.
PLV. There is none, nor shall be, sir; do's that satisfie you?
ROB. Slight, a fine trick! a piece of Englands ioy, this. (Workes, sig. 4O3v, p. 990)

Richard Brathwaite, A Strappado for the Diuell (1615)

Now generous spirits that inhabit heere,
And loue to see the wonders of this Isle,
Compar'd with other nations, draw but neere
And you shall see what was exprest ere-while,
Your pay's but pence, and that's not halfe so deere,
"If you remember, as was that same toy,
"Of Banks his horse, or Fenners Englands ioy. (sig. L8v)

The stanza above comes from Brathwaite's poem "Vpon a Poets Palfrey, lying in Lauander, for the discharge of his Porunder. An Epigram." The allusion to "Banks his horse" refers to William Banks and his performing horse Morocco; incidentally, one of their signature tricks was to collect coins from spectators in a purse, and have Morocco return the coins to their proper owners (Atkins).

Henry Parrot, The Mastive (1615)

In an epigram, Parrot compares a debtor's attempt to mislead his creditors with Vennar's deception:

Plus mendax, Mendicus
DAcus giues out for payment of his debts,
He shall a wondrous wealthy Widdow wed:
Which 'mongst his Creditors much hope begets,
That constant are 'twill be accomplished.
Meane while young Dacus takes vp ten times more,
Tells them the mariage day is short at hand,
When hee'll no lesse then double all restore,
Which neede no question now of Bill or Band.
But Dacus makes it a more gulling toy,
Then that old Cosenage of new Englands-ioy. (sig. F3v)

(Thanks to Matthew Steggle for this reference.)

Ben Jonson, The Masque of Augures (1621)

SLVG. And were three of those Gentlewomen, that should haue acted in that famous matter of Englands Ioy, in sixe hundred and three. (sigs. A3v-A4)

John Suckling, The Goblins (1638)

   1 Th. No, none of these:
They are by themselves in some other place;
But here's he that writ Tamerlane.
   P. I beseech you bring me to him,
There's something in his Scene
Betwixt the Empresses a little high and clowdie,
I would resolve my selfe.
   1 Th. You shall Sir.
Let me see — the Author of the bold Beauchams,
And Englands Ioy.
   Po. The last was a well writ peice, I assure you,
A Brittane I take it; and Shakespeares very way:
I desire to see the man […] (sig. C7)

Suckling's allusion to "the bold Beauchams" apparently refers to "Bold Beauchamps," another lost play which is referred to in The Knight of the Burning Pestle.

Critical Commentary

Park (198) supposed that the Plot was produced "for the use of the audience, and as a substitute for the ancient Chorus," and characterizes the play itself as "a sort of political pageant."

Lawrence (68), discusses the Plot in relation to the development of the theatrical programme, noting: "Whether or not it was intended for use as a programme, it certainly was designed for distribution as a lure"; however, given the small size of the type, "one can readily divine it was not intended for a poster," and the historical evidence suggests that "a separate poster must also have been issued." As such, Lawrence argues that "the projected device was not a play but a masque," and drew on courtly masquing tradition, in which "it was customary to present the King, and probably one or two other notable people, with a 'pasteboard' or scenario of the performance" (70).

Chambers (3.501, 503) notes that the Plot "appears to be a 'bill'," and compares the "England's Joy" affair with a story from 'Mery Tales, Wittie Questions, and Quicke Answeres (1567), in which a "mery man called Qualitees, on a tyme sette vp billes vpon postes aboute London, that who so euer woulde come to Northumberlande place, should here suche an antycke plaie, that both for the mattier and handelyng, the lyke was neuer heard before. For all they that shoulde playe therin were gentilmen"; on the day of the performance, Qualitees collects the money and, after locking the audience in the hall, flees (sigs. I2v–I3v). Chambers also identifies what he took to be an allusion to "England's Joy" in the prologue to Sir William Davenant's The Siege of Rhodes: The Second Part (performed 1661, published 1663), although neither Vennar nor the play are explicitly named:

WHat if we serve you now a Trick? and do
Like him who posted Bills that he would show
So many active feats, and those so high,
That Court and City came to see him fly?
But he, good man, carefull to empty still
The Money-Boxes, as the House did fill,
Of all his Tricks, had time to shew but one:
He lin'd his Purse, and, Presto! he was gone! (sig. b)

Greg (Dramatic Documents, 1.171) observes that the "right of printing players' 'bills' belonged at this date to James Roberts [(Arber 2.652)], but there were circumstances in the present case that might suggest recourse to a less authoritative press." He also suggests that, while the Plot "bears no definite relation to the technical theatrical Plots" (e.g. those of "Troilus and Cressida," "Fortune's Tennis, Part 2," etc.), "its form may have been in some measure suggested by them."

Gurr (91) draws on the Plot of "England's Joy" (specifically the description of the ninth scene) to reinterpret the de Witt sketch of the Swan: what appear to be beams supporting the stage might in fact be "gaps in the hangings which were draped round the stage to conceal the under-stage area," "because it was from under the stage that devils were expected to run amongst the audience in England's Joy." Gurr also suggests that these were the "hangings" upon which the duped audience revenged itself.

Stern clarifies the genre of the Plot. Whereas some critics have identified it as a playbill, Stern compares the information provided therein against the contemporaneous references to the event, finding that the Plot "contains no reference either to the gentility or the sex of the players; moreover, it is printed by John Windet, though the single official printer of playbills at the time was James Roberts. The surviving plot is, evidently, not the playbill" (71). Rather, the broadside more closely resembles the explanatory "Arguments given out at court and perhaps indicates that Vennar is equating his gentlemen and women players to a courtly or royal entertainment" (71-72). Stern also gives special attention to the literary qualities of the Plot, such as the cunning word play in its description of the fourth scene: "bringeth forth a band of Souldiers, who attend her forth" (72). Yet the genre might have, in effect, changed: if in 1602 the Plot was part of a hoax—and represented a play that did not in fact exist—then later, in 1614, it may have served as the outline for an actual script, "an audience-plot in reality becom[ing] a plot-scenario, in that Vennar (or perhaps Fennor) then wrote a play from the plot" (72).

Smith interprets the appearance of "Lopus" with "certaine Iesuites" as evidence that Elizabethans thought the "defining feature" of Roderigo Lopez to be "his conspiratorial alliance with Spain and Catholicism, rather than his own religious identity" as a Jew (194).

For What It's Worth

A published poem, signed by "R.V." (Richard Vennar) and also called Englands Ioy (STC 24636.3), celebrates the defeat of Irish rebels and their Spanish allies under Don Juan de Aguila by Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy—the same subject as the seventh section of the dramatic "England's Joy." The date of the published poem is unknown, but a date of 1602 seems plausible: Mountjoy's victory at Kensale took place on 24 December 1601, and titles on the battle began to appear in the Stationers' Register in late January 1602 (Arber 3.200-202).

The copy of the broadside owned by the Society of Antiquaries bears some distinctive manuscript markings: the title is underlined and borders are drawn around the printer's ornaments. Alan H. Nelson notes that this is characteristic of how the royal proclamations owned by Humphrey Dyson (1582–1633) were prepared. (Compare, for example, Dyson's copy of STC 8000 at the Folger Shakespeare Library.) This suggests that the "England's Joy" broadside was acquired by Dyson in seventeenth century and entered into the possession of the Society of Antiquaries in the eighteenth century among Dyson's larger collection of historical broadsides (Lemon iv).

Works Cited

Atkins, Sidney H. "Mr. Banks and His Horse." N&Q 167 (1934): 39–44.
Berry, Herbert. "Richard Vennar, England's Joy." ELR 31 (2001): 240–65.
Brathwaite, Richard. A Strappado for the Diuell. London, 1615.
Davenant, William. The Siege of Rhodes: The Second Part. London, 1663.
Day, John, William Rowley, and George Wilkins, The Travailes of the Three English Brothers. London, 1607.
Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage 1574–1642. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1970.
Jonson, Ben. Love Restored. In The Workes of Beniamin Jonson. London, 1616.
Jonson, Ben. The Masque of Augures. [London], 1621.
Lawrence, W.J. The Elizabethan Playhouse and Other Studies: Second Series. Stratford-Upon-Avon: Shakespeare Head Press, 1913.
Lemon, Robert. Catalogue of a Collection of Printed Broadsides in the Possession of the Society of Antiquaries of London. London, 1866.
McClure, Norman Egbert, ed. The Letters of John Chamberlain. 2 vols. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1939.
Mery Tales, Wittie Questions, and Quicke Answeres. London, 1567.
Nelson, Alan H. Personal communication. 7 April 2017.
Park, Thomas, ed. The Harleian Miscellany. Volume X. London, 1813.
Parrot, Henry. The Mastive, or Young-Whelpe of the Olde-Dogge. Epigrams and satyrs. London, 1615. STC 19333.
Savile, John. King Iames his entertainment at Theobalds. London, 1603.
Smith, Emma. "Was Shylock Jewish?" Shakespeare Quarterly 64 (2013): 188–219.
Sorlien, Robert Parker. The Diary of John Manningham of the Middle Temple, 1602-1603. Hanover, NH: UP of New England, 1976.
Stern, Tiffany. Documents of Performance in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009.
Suckling, John. The Goblins. London, 1646. Wing S6129.
Taylor, John. A Cast Over the Water. London, 1615.
[Vennar, Richard.] The Plot of the Play Called Englands Joy. [London, 1602.]
V[ennar], R[ichard]. Englands Ioy. London[, 1602]. STC 24636.3.
Vennar, Richard. An Apology. Ed. J. Payne Collier. Illustrations of Old English Literature. Vol. 3:4. London, 1866.

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