Among the twenty-one plays registered on the Stationers' Register by Richard Marriott in late 1653 occurs:
- The Eunuch a Tragedy
If the play is the same as The Fatal Contract (see Critical Commentary below), it was first staged by Queen Henrietta's Men (as per the 1653 title-page). Morley (265) dates the play to c.1633-4, when the company were playing at the Phoenix-Cockpit, while other critics have suggested it was acted by the company at Salisbury Court after the long plague closure of 1636-7. It was seen into print by "A.T.", possibly the actor Anthony Turner, and Andrew Pennycuicke, actor turned printer.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
References to the Play
Critics have debated whether the title in the S.R. entry can be identified with William Heminge's The Fatal Contract, a tragedy whose featuring a eunuch (who is ultimately revealed to be a woman in disguise). The first quarto of The Fatal Contract, dated 1653, was printed "for I.M.," perhaps John Marriott, the father of Richard Marriott; in the quarto of 1687, Heminge's play is titled The Eunuch.
Greg (BEPD, 2:830) noticed that the 1687 quarto seems to have been printed from a distinct manuscript than the 1653 quarto, suggesting the possibility that "[s]uch a manuscript may indeed have been in existence early enough for Marriot to have entered it in 1653." However, it is telling that this title was not used for the 1653 quarto, leading Greg to assume that "[s]uch a manuscript" did not, ultimately, serve as that quarto's copy. Greg also notes that "I.M." need not necessarily be identified with John Marriott, since "other stationers with the same initials [were] in business at this time." Greg's "more serious objection" to the identification is that a title entered so late in the year would most likely have been printed with the following year's date (i.e. 1654, as was Glapthorne's Revenge for Honour, another title in Richard Marriott's entry) unless it was already in print; however, this would raise the further difficulty that the entered title does not match the published one. Ultimately, Greg found the identification "possible, but improbable" (BEPD, 2.990).
Bentley was inclined to identify the two plays: his discussion of the Richard Marriott S.R. entry of 1653 assumes as much (5:1446). Adding to Greg's suggestion of an alternatively titled manuscript, Bentley noticed that the 1653 quarto's dedication mentions that the play was already in circulation in "private Transcripts" (sig. A2r). However, Bentley found Greg's objections strong enough that he concluded, "I must reluctantly defer to his authority" (4:544).
Morley argued in favor of identification, concluding that "The Eunuch was Heminge's working title, surviving in manuscript, but changed to the distinct and tantalizing Fatal Contract for performance" (245). In Morley's account, the manuscript that Marriott received bore the original title, although it was decided by the publishers that it should be printed under the title familiar to audiences.
Wiggins (#2380), repeating Greg's arguments that the two plays were distinct, concludes that "[p]resumably other tragic eunuchs were conceivable" and categorizes "The Eunuch" as a lost play.
See Marriott's List (1653) for further details and discussion.
For What It's Worth
Terence's Eunuchus—so called because one of the characters disguises himself as a eunuch—is a comedy.