French Doctor

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Anon. (1594)
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Historical Records

Performance Records (Henslowe's Diary)

F. 10 (Greg, I.19)
ye 18 of octobʒ 1594 Res at the frenshe docter xxijs

F. 10v (Greg, I.20)

ye 28 of octobʒ 1594 Res at the frenshe docter xvs
ye 18 of novmbʒ 1594 Res at the frenshe docter xxvijs

F. 11 (Greg, I.21)

ye 3 of Jenewary 1594 Res at the frenshe docter xxjs
ye 30 of Jenewary 1594 Res at the frenshe docter xviijs
ye 7 of febreary 1594 Res at the frenshe docter xxjs

F. 11 v (Greg, I.22)

ye 24 of febreary 1594 Res at the frensh doctor xxxxxiiijs
ye easter mondaye 1595 Res at the ffrenshe doctor liijs
ye 3 of may 1595 Res at the frenshe docter xjs

F. 12 v (Greg, I.24)

ye 2[3]4 of maye 1595 Res at the frenshe docter xxijs

F. 13 (Greg, I.24)

ye 19 of septmbʒ 1595 Res at the frenshe doctor xvjs

F. 21v (Greg, I.42)

ye 4 of July 1596 Res at frenshe dacter xiiijs

F. 25 (Greg, I.49)

ye 29 of octobʒ 1596 Res at the frenshe docter xvs
ye 9 of novmbʒ 1596 Res at the frenshe docter xiiijs

Payments to Edward Alleyn for Playbooks

F. 96 (Greg. I.153)

pd at the apoyntment of the companye the }
18 of Janewary 1601 vnto E Alleyn for iij boockes }
wch were played called the french docter the } vjli
massaker of france & the nvtte the some of }

Theatrical Provenance

The Admiral's men brought "The French Doctor" to the stage of the Rose in October 1594 and continued it into the autumn season of 1596-7. However, any clarity about its pre-October provenance is complicated by the fact that Henslowe did not mark the play "ne" at its debut in his records (autumn, 1594). Theater historians consequently assume that the play was in revival. See Critical Commentary for issues of provenance.

But where had it been when new, and with which company?

Harbage, under the heading "1590, Addenda," lists "The French Doctor" with more than several dozen plays that appear in Henslowe's diary in playlists for Strange's men (1592-3) and the Admiral's men (1594-5) without his distinguishing "ne" (he includes also "Hester and Ahasuerus"). He thus implies a pre-1590 debut for each item, though he assigns each to the company that performed it when Henslowe was entering performances and payments in his diary (in the case of the Admiral's men, a pre-1590s version of the company is not considered identical to the 1594 version).

Wiggins, Catalogue focuses on Edward Alleyn as the key to the pre-1594 provenance of "The French Doctor" (#833; see also #785 for a broader treatment of the Admiral's non-"ne" plays in 1594-5). Offering several scenarios for the stage life and company/player ownership of "The French Doctor" before October 1594, he is comfortable only with the conclusion that the play had been in Alleyn's hands for some time before its sale to the Admiral's men in 1602.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy? (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

See Critical Commentary for scholarly thinking on plays and narratives related to "The French Doctor" if its title is a mask for some other play.

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Collier, seeking an extant play that featured a French doctor, associated The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypol with "The French Doctor" (p. 43, n1).

Fleay, BCED followed Collier's logic to a different play, suggesting that "The French Doctor" was "[p]robably" Thomas Dekker's lost "Jew of Venice" (I, Dekker, #3; II, Anon., #137). Pursuing the Dekker connection, Fleay suggested further a connection with the German play, The Righteous Judgment of a Girl Graduate, or The Jew of Venice."

Greg II added "The Venetian Comedy," a play sharing the 1594-5 repertory of the Admiral's men with "The French Doctor," to the brew of plays in some way duplicating one another (p. 170, #57). Influenced (apparently) by Fleay's linking of "The French Doctor" with Dekker's "Jew of Venice," Greg offered this explanation: "If then VC ["the Venetian Comedy"] and FD ["The French Doctor"] were identical, they must have contained the story of the Jew of Venice, and were presumably the same as Dekker JV ["Jew of Venice"]."

Knutson applies the concept of duplication to plays "with similar characters or with similar titles" (Repertory, 49). She sees these duplications not as "mistakes in the diary for one seminal text and/or versions, revisions, or thefts of a single text" (as Fleay's duplications imply), but as evidence that companies copied "the subject matter and genre of popular offerings" in their own repertory and that of their competitor (Repertory, 50). As an example, she examines the scheduling of two plays staged by the Admiral's men along with "The French Doctor": "The Wise Man of West Chester" and Marlowe's Doctor Faustus in 1594-5 when the three appear "to have formed a trio ... in the sense that one play or another was offered in twenty-eight of the thirty-two weeks" from late September 1594 through June 1595 ("Marlowe Reruns, 37). To this confluence, she adds closely related scheduling in October 1596 ("The French Doctor," Doctor Faustus) and the revivals of friar/doctor plays in 1602-3, now including a "Friar Bacon."

Gurr tentatively assigns the play a date of 1593 (210); commenting on its age, he observes that the "relatively small initial taking also suggest that it was not new" (210, n26).

Wiggins, Catalogue questions the genre of the play; he points out that, based on doctor characters generally, this French doctor "may have been either a comic figure or a poisoner" (#833).

For What It's Worth

Although an old play in October 1594, “The French Doctor” had commercial value for a decade or so.

1. Its receipts for the dozen performances in the 1594-5 season averaged a respectable 26s per show.
2. Its receipts for two shows in the 1595-6 season and two more at the start of the 1596-7 season drop to an average of 15s, but the very fact that it continued to be staged suggests another category of value: playability. That is, after having been retired in September 1595, it could be revived months later (July 1596) for a single show.
3.Its commercial value was further demonstrated in the autumn of 1596. The season at the Rose started late: October 27 (compared to June 15 in 1594 and August 25 in 1595). Further, the Admiral’s men did not introduce a “ne” play for more than a month (“Valteger,” December 4; comparatively, in June 1594 and August 1595, they had a new play up in about a week). The company therefore was relying on nine plays from its old repertory to begin its season, one of which was “The French Doctor.”
4. Five years later (January 1602), "The French Doctor" was still a valuable enough property for the Admiral's men to buy it from Edward Alleyn, along with another old play (“Crack Me This Nut,” which also had last been on stage in 1596-7) and even older but more recently revived Massacre at Paris (c. November 1601).

Works Cited

Collier, John Payne, ed. The Diary of Philip Henslowe, from 1591 to 1609. London: Shakespeare Society, 1845.
Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Knutson, Roslyn L. "Marlowe Reruns." In Marlowe's Empery. Ed. Sara Munson Deats and Robert A. Logan. Cranbury, NJ: Univeristy of Delaware Press, 2002. 25-42.
Knutson, Roslyn L. The Repertory of Shakespeare's Company, 1594-1613. Fayetteville, AR: The University of Arkansas Press, 1991.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 17 June 2019.