Huon of Bordeaux

Anon. (1593)

Historical Records

Henslowe's Diary

F. 8v (Greg, I.16)

Res at hewen of burdoche the 28 of desember 1593 ………. iijli xs
Res at hewen of burdockes the 3 of Jenewary 1593 ………. xiiijs
Res at hewen the 11 of Jenewary 1593 ………. vs

Theatrical Provenance

Beginning on 27 December 1593, Sussex’s players leased the Rose and performed 12 plays through 6 February 1594. "Huon of Bordeaux" was their second offering of the new run (28 Dec); it is not marked “ne.” It received three performance; due to its huge opening day take (70s.), it returned an average a bit higher than 28s. to Henslowe, even though its receipts fell off significantly. It does not appear in subsequent theater documents.

Probable Genre(s)

Romance (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Hays cites the following potential sources and analogues for "Huon of Bordeaux":

Bourchier's The Book of the Duke (de Worde, 1534c (STC 13998.5), Purfoot, 1601 (STC 13999)
Purfoot, SR III, 576 (a mass entry, 7 Nov 1615, his daddy's books; one = "The history of HUON of Burdeaux")

Greg refers to the romance, translated from the French by Lord Berners, dated 1601

References to the Play

In Thomas Dekker's Satiromastix, the blow-hard captain Tucca is confronted by Asinius Bubo in a comic duel. Bubo's boy, in fine youthful loyalty, claims he'll fight alongside his master. Tucca, who frequently weaves tag-lines from plays and references to well-known theatrical characters into his speech, answers the boy with these lines:

"Well said Cockrell, out-crowe him: art hardy noble Huon? art Magnanimious? licke-trencher; looke, search least some lye in ambush; for this man at Armes, has paper in's bellie, or some friend in a corner, or else hee durst not bee so cranke" (Bowers, I:IV.ii.42-45).

Critical Commentary

Greg pointed out that the only Elizabethan version translated by Lord Berners was printed in 1601, but he added that "many editions have probably perished" (II. Item 28, p. 158)).

Knutson, in an argument that challenges the perception of Sussex's players "as the poster child for ... turmoil' in the playhouse world in 1593, points out that seven plays of the company's twelve old plays (i.e., those without "ne") returned "more than 30 shillings on average to Henslowe" (462, 464). "Huon of Bordeaux" fell just short of that mark, despite its impressive opening-day return of 70s.

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Hays, Michael L. A Bibliography of Dramatic Adaptations of Medieval Romances and Renaissance Chivalric Romances First Available in English through 1616. Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 28 (1985): 87-109.
Knutson, Roslyn L. "What's So Special About 1594." Shakespeare Quarterly 61.4 (2010): 449-467).

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 10 February 2012.