Huntsman in Green Apparel, A
Deposition Concerning Thomas Napleton of Faversham
- 14o ffebruary 1616 [i.e. 1616/7]
- It is pitty that ever this king came to the Crowne of England, for he hath more regard of his dogges then he hath of his subiectes or common wealth. These wordes were spoken by Thomas Napleton of ffauersham aboute five or six yeres since at the howse of the sayd Thomas in ffauershame in the kitchin ther, in the presence of Anthony napleton ye yonger Anthony Napleton the elder deceased william Tomlyn & the wife of the said Thomas
- The wordes were spoken vpon this occasion, william Tomlyn was telling of some parte of a playe, wherin ther was one played the parte of an huntesman in greene apparell, which person was thought to present the kinges person, to whome another actor sayd that he had rather heare a dogg barke then a Cannon rore meaning that person that represented the king, vpon which occasion the sayd Thomas spake as above
- (signed) Anthony Napleton
- (signed) Iohn Philpot Maior
- (signed) Edward Hales
National Archives: SP 14/90, f., quoted from James M. Gibson, Records of Early English Drama: Kent, 3 vols (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 569.
Unknown company, at unknown venue, c.1611. Of those present at the meeting, only William Tomlyn has seen the play performed, it seems, and is describing it to the others, but it is unclear even whether the performance he is describing took place locally or in London.
Dramatic sources or analogues
Although this record has been known for a long time, no title has previously been proposed for the play under discussion. The title A Huntsman in Green Apparel originates with this Lost Plays Database entry, and will, I hope, facilitate further study.
The record of the play is in a document relating to the Kentish town of Faversham, fifty miles from London, and best known to most early drama specialists as the setting of the domestic tragedy Arden of Feversham. Gibson (cxxxvii) notes that this document is one of a series of depositions in the State Papers relating to Thomas Napleton's allegedly seditious remark, and that this is the only one of those documents to mention a play.
Of the people named in this document, most are easily visible in Faversham records. John Philpot was Mayor of Faversham; Thomas Napleton, Edward Hales, and William Tomlyn all also served as Mayors of Faversham between 1615 and 1622 (Gibson, 569). Anthony Napleton the elder, who died in July 1616, served as a common councillor in the town. The participants, then, are a group of fairly important and wealthy Faversham citizens, some of whom were gathered in Thomas Napleton's kitchen five or six years before the accusation itself.
Calendared in the nineteenth century, this record has quite frequently been referred to by dramatic historians alongside other lost plays including A King with His Two Sons. P. J. Finkelpearl, for example, comments:
- Even after the children's companies faded as a significant part of the London theatrical scene around 1612, we can discern occasional violations of the libel laws as extreme as any discussed thus far. On or around 1617 a publicly performed play (unidentifiable but mentioned in a lawsuit) represented the sport-obsessed, peace-loving King James as a huntsman who says that he had rather hear a dog bark than a cannon roar.
Finkelpearl's allusion to the play is typical of other scattered passing references to this record, in that it considers the incident as part of a catalogue of known political reference in Renaissance drama. Note also that the play is misdated to around 1617, and rather approximately described, an effect of working from the CSPD summary of this document. The full record, reproduced above, makes it clear that the play itself was considerably earlier than 1617.
Even with the full record, all one can actually reconstruct of the play is that it featured a huntsman in green apparel, thought to represent King James I; and a second character, talking to him, who said words to the effect of, "you had rather hear a dog bark than a cannon roar". As Finkelpearl observes, the implicit allusion is to King James's noted love of hunting, and dislike of war.
For what it's worth
This deposition is a strange and rather unsettling insight into Jacobean thinking about sedition. Happily, since Thomas Napleton went on to serve as Mayor of Faversham, one can be confident that the accusation did him no serious harm.
Finkelpearl, P. J. "The Comedians' Liberty: Censorship of the Jacobean Stage. Reconsidered," English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986): 127-39.
Gibson, James M. Records of Early English Drama: Kent, 3 vols (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 569.
Page created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University. Revised 9 June 2010.