Jealous Comedy, The
Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary
One record of performance survives in Henslowe’s accounts for early 1592 (new style):
- Fol. 8 (Greg I, 15)
ne . . . . Rd at the gelyous comodey the 5 of Jenewary 1592 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxxiiijs
When Lord Strange's men returned to the Rose playhouse at Christmastide 1592-3, "The Jealous Comedy" was their sixth offering and the only one to be marked "ne" until The Massacre at Paris was entered at its first performance on January 30th (1593).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
References to the Play
Malone added a bracket to the title of "The Jealous Comedy" with the name, "Julian of Brentford." Collier took him to task for the assumption thereby implied of a specific narrative (Collier also pointed out Malone's misreading, and thus misspelling, of "gelyous"). Collier's opinion was that Malone's implied source, Julian of Brentford's Testament, was "very far-fetched" because it was a "piece of scurrility and indecency [that] could by no possibility be formed into a play" (p. 29, n.4). Collier took the opportunity further to slam Henslowe for his spelling, one of several reasons Collier referred to Henslowe frequently as an "ignorant old manager" (p. 29, n.4). Here, Collier corrected Henslowe's "gelyous" to Julius but did not explain what a play called "The Julius Comedy" might have dramatized.
Fleay, BCED (2.298, #118) kept Malone's "Brentford" implication alive by referencing Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor (see For What It's Worth, below). Greg II (#24, p. 156) dismissed that link as "rather slender." Instead, he puzzled over the solo performance of "The Jealous Comedy" and suggested that its continuation might be concealed in the two performances of "The Comedy of Cosmo" that followed at intervals that mirror the timing of second and third performances of a given play (12 January, 25 January). Chambers, ES (2.123) offered another Shakespearean identification of "The Jealous Comedy": The Comedy of Errors.
Manley and MacLean, separating "The Jealous Comedy" from "The Comedy of Cosmo", group it with other plays they consider generic hybrids "based on erotic rivalry and incorporating the melodramatic potential of jealousy and betrayal" (p. 177). In this category they include A Knack to Know a Knave and Fair Em. They suggest also that Strange's men might have been looking back to the precedent of the Queen's men and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, in which "Prince Edward observes through Bacon's magic glass his proxy suitor Lacy wooing Margaret of Fressingfield for himself" (p. 179). They draw an additional comparison with The Massacre at Paris, which was soon to be in Strange's men's own repertory (January 30); they are thinking of "the Guise's discovery of his wife's secret affair with Mugeron," a moment they characterize as "a creepy theatrical coup" (p. 179).
For What It's Worth
The propinquity of early modern comedies to offer comedic plots based on jealousy means that "The Jealous Comedy" could be lumped with an extant play. Fleay, BCED thought that the text of The Merry Wives of Windsor was "just what we might expect in an alteration of the old Gelyous Comedy, hurriedly made by command" (II.184-5 #19).
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