God Speed the Plough

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Anon. (1594)

Historical Records

Henslowe’s Diary, F.8v (Greg I. 16):

Jn the name of god Amen begninge the 27 of
desem[r] 1593 the earle of susex his men
R[d] at good spede the plowghe . . . . . . . . .
iijll js
R[d] at god spead the plowe the 5 of Jenewary 1593 . . . .

Theatrical Provenance

Beginning on 27 December 1593, Sussex’s Men leased the Rose and played 12 plays through 6 February 1594. God Speed the Plough was their first offering of the new run (27 Dec); it is not marked “ne.” It received two performances and returned an average of 36s. to Henslowe.

Probable Genre(s)

Comedy? (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

John harrison Junior filius Johnnis harrison Senior
Entred for his Copye vnder the handes of master PASFEILD and the wardens A
booke called GOD spede the ploughe; Book; 1 March 1601

References to the Play

None known.

Critical Commentary

Greg notes the registration of the book, “God Speed the Plough,” on 1 March 1601, adding that the phrase was proverbial (II.157, Item 27).

For What It’s Worth

A ballad entitled “God speed the Plow, and bless the corn-mow, A Dialogue between the husband-man and the Serving-man” (Roxburghe ballads), is basically estate morality, with each man praising the pleasures of his profession. Predictably, the serving man likes the up-scale, busy, urban life, while the ploughman likes the joys of agricultural life and husbandry. It is an exchange not unlike the meeting of Touchstone and Corin in As You Like It (Internet Shakespeare Editions).

The proverbial phrase is not totally archaic; David Mamet wrote a play in 1988 called Speed-the-Plow.


Estate satire, country life

Works Cited

Ebsworth, J. Woodfall (ed). The Roxburghe Ballads. vol. 6, part 3. Hertford: Printed for the Ballad Society by Stephen Austin and sons, 1888. pp. 521-25. Archive.org

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated, 30 August 2009.