Fortune's Tennis, Part 2

Anon. (1602?)

Historical Records

British Library Add. MS.10449, f.4

"The [plot of the sec]ond part of fortun[e's tenn]is" is one of the six surviving backstage plots (the others being "The Dead Man's Fortune", "Frederick and Basilea", "Troilus and Cressida", The Battle of Alcazar and "The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins". (Another plot, for the first part of the lost "Tamar Cham" play was transcribed by George Steevens and published in 1803, but has since disappeared).

Theatrical Provenance

Admiral's, probably at the Fortune.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy (Harbage); occasional piece (Chambers); tragedy (McInnis).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

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References to the Play

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Critical Commentary

Collier associated this play's title with the Fortunatus plays in the Admiral's repertory (173).

Chambers suggested the title might bear some relation to Munday's "The Set at Tennis" (180).

Greg believed that "[v]ery little can be gleaned from this, the most fragmentary of all the plots. Several readings are doubtful and the inferences that can be drawn have not much weight as evidence" (HP 150). He did not believe the character names in the plot provided much assistance in identifying it:

The characters do not help much towards an identification. The direction “Enter Orleans melancholike” occurs in Old Fortunatus (ed. Scherer, l.1315), a play which also recalls the title, but the other characters show no correspondence. (HP 144)

He noted, though, that Henslowe’s use of the definite article (“the fortewn tenes”) is “curious”, and wondered if Henslowe had rather meant “the Fortune of Tennis” (Greg II, 215). He later revised this supposition, arguing that “If, as is not unlikely, the manuscript was inscribed, ‘The Booke of the Whole of Fortunes Tennis’, it would account for the anomalous use of the article in Henslowe’s entry. When, a few months earlier, Dekker recast the old two-part play of Fortunatus into a single piece, this is called by Henslowe, ‘the vvholle history of fortewnatus’” ("Evidence", 271n).

Beckerman agreed with Greg about the limited value of attending to the plot, noting that it “exists only in the most fragmentary form,” and not offering any substantial commentary on it (109).

For What It's Worth


Reconstruction of title of this plot depends on external evidence; on 6 September 1600, Henslowe lent Robert Shaw 20s to pay Thomas Dekker for “his boocke called the fortewn tenes”. This in turn helps date the plot, because the fact that Dekker's play was not specified as either "part 1" or "part 2" encourages the belief that it was the first part, and that a second part had not yet been written. "The plot of the second part of Fortune's Tennis" should therefore postdate the payment to Dekker in 1600. Following a conjectural reading first offered by Greg (Dramatic Documents 135), McInnis observes that Dick Juby's probable inclusion in the plot implies a 1600-1602 date range for the plot, since these are the years when Juby was associated with the Admiral's (McInnis 112).


Although Greg thought that "[o]nly seven actors are named" in the plot, the following ten names or partial names are visible:

Tho[mas] (Parsons? Towne? Hunt? Downton?)
somerton (George Somerset? Or possibly a character name?)
dic[k Juby] (Dick Juby)
mr. singer (John Singer, the renowned clown)
Pau[y] (William Pavy)
Geo[rge] (If not George Somerset, this George remains untraced)
R. Tail[o]r (Robert Tailor)
w. Cartwright (William Cartwright)
Sam (Samuel Rowley)
Ch[ar]l[es] (Charles Massey)

(Further information about each can be found via David Kathman's Biographical Index of English Drama Before 1600 or in Nungezer's Dictionary of Actors).

Works Cited

Beckerman, Bernard. “Theatrical Plots and Elizabethan Stage Practice.” Shakespeare and Dramatic Tradition. ed. W. R. Elton and William B. Long. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1989.
Chambers, E. K. William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems, vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930.
Collier, John Payne. The Diary of Philip Henslowe. London: Printed for the Shakespeare Society, 1845.
Greg, W. W. “The Evidence of Theatrical Plots for the History of the Elizabethan Stage.” RES 1.3 (1925): 257-74.
McInnis, David. " '2 Fortune's Tennis' and the Admiral's Men." Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England. ed. David McInnis and Matthew Steggle. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 105-126.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 24 June 2014.