Difference between revisions of "Jephthah"

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The story of Jephthah is told in Judges 11-12. Born an illegitimate son to a Gileadite named Gilead, Jephthah is cast out by his legitimate half-brothers. However, when Israel is attacked by the Ammonites, the Gileadite elders solicit Jephthah's leadership in battle; he agrees on the condition that he will be their head. They agree, and Jephthah begins negotiations with the Ammonites, whose grievance concerns land ownership. An impasse is reached, and Jephthah prepares for battle. Upon reaching the Ammonites, "Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering" (11:30-31). After conquering the Ammonites, Jephthah returns to his home, where he is greeted, "with timbrels and with dances," by his daughter. Jephthah laments the unpreventable catastrophe, "for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back" (11:35). His daughter submits to her fate, requesting only permission to bewail her virginity for the space of two months (11:37). Upon her return, Jephthah "did with her ''according'' to his vow which he had vowed" (11:39). While the story of his daughter's death is the key narrative event with which Jephthah is associated, he is described as serving as a judge of Israel for six years (12:7): in particular, his war with the Ephraimites is remembered for the Gileadites' strategy of discerning their enemy by asking them to pronounce the word ''shibboleth'' (12:6).
 
The story of Jephthah is told in Judges 11-12. Born an illegitimate son to a Gileadite named Gilead, Jephthah is cast out by his legitimate half-brothers. However, when Israel is attacked by the Ammonites, the Gileadite elders solicit Jephthah's leadership in battle; he agrees on the condition that he will be their head. They agree, and Jephthah begins negotiations with the Ammonites, whose grievance concerns land ownership. An impasse is reached, and Jephthah prepares for battle. Upon reaching the Ammonites, "Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering" (11:30-31). After conquering the Ammonites, Jephthah returns to his home, where he is greeted, "with timbrels and with dances," by his daughter. Jephthah laments the unpreventable catastrophe, "for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back" (11:35). His daughter submits to her fate, requesting only permission to bewail her virginity for the space of two months (11:37). Upon her return, Jephthah "did with her ''according'' to his vow which he had vowed" (11:39). While the story of his daughter's death is the key narrative event with which Jephthah is associated, he is described as serving as a judge of Israel for six years (12:7): in particular, his war with the Ephraimites is remembered for the Gileadites' strategy of discerning their enemy by asking them to pronounce the word ''shibboleth'' (12:6).
  
The biblical story seems to have been told in ballad form in the sixteenth century. In 1567-68, the Stationers' Register records the entrance of "a ballett intituled ''the songe of JESPHAS Dowgther at his'' [i.e. her] ''death''" (Arber [http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/cul/texts/ldpd_6177070_001/pages/ldpd_6177070_001_00000401.html I.355]). An allusion to one such ballad appears in ''Hamlet'': after taunting Polonius as "Jephthah, judge of Israel," Hamlet recites the tetrameter lines, "One fair daughter and no more, / The which he loved passing well" (Jenkins, ed., 2.2.399, 403-4). These lines are found in the ballad "Jepha Judge of Israel," which is preserved in the Shirburn manuscript, c. 1603-1625 (British Library, Add MS 82932, f. 183v; qtd. Clark [http://archive.org/stream/shirburnballads100claruoft#page/174/mode/2up 174-76]), and in a surviving broadside printed c. 1658–64 (Roxburghe Collection [http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ballad/31618/album 3.201]; ''Roxburghe Ballads'' [http://archive.org/stream/p3roxburgheballa06chapuoft#page/684/mode/2up 6.685-66]; Jenkins, ed., 475-77).  
+
John Christopherson dramatized the story of Jephthah in his Greek tragedy ''Iephte'' (c. 1544) as did George Buchanan in his Latin ''Iephthes sive votum'' (Paris, 1554). The story also enjoyed circulation in ballad form. In 1567-68, the Stationers' Register records the entrance of "a ballett intituled ''the songe of JESPHAS Dowgther at his'' [i.e. her] ''death''" (Arber [http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/cul/texts/ldpd_6177070_001/pages/ldpd_6177070_001_00000401.html I.355]). An allusion to one such ballad appears in ''Hamlet'': after taunting Polonius as "Jephthah, judge of Israel," Hamlet recites the tetrameter lines, "One fair daughter and no more, / The which he loved passing well" (Jenkins, ed., 2.2.399, 403-4). These lines are found in the ballad "Jepha Judge of Israel," which is preserved in the Shirburn manuscript, c. 1603-1625 (British Library, Add MS 82932, f. 183v; qtd. Clark [http://archive.org/stream/shirburnballads100claruoft#page/174/mode/2up 174-76]), and in a surviving broadside printed c. 1658–64 (Roxburghe Collection [http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ballad/31618/album 3.201]; ''Roxburghe Ballads'' [http://archive.org/stream/p3roxburgheballa06chapuoft#page/684/mode/2up 6.685-66]; Jenkins, ed., 475-77).  
  
John Christopherson dramatized the story in his Greek tragedy ''Iephte'' (c. 1544) as did George Buchanan in his Latin ''Iephthes sive votum'' (Paris, 1554).
+
Perhaps the closest analogue to the Admiral's play might have been Munday's own treatment of the story in his ''The Mirror of Mutabilitie'' (London, 1579), in which Jephthah, a "right and rare example for all men to take heed of vaine othes" (sig. G3v), delivers a 66-line complaint, including a reminiscence of his exchange with his daughter. The concluding moral is: "Stil vow no more then well perfourme you may: / And so be sure you cannot goe astray" (sig. H1r).
Munday himself had treated the subject in his ''The Mirror of Mutabilitie'' (London, 1579), where Jephthah's story is told to exemplify Rashness.
 
  
  

Revision as of 08:08, 9 June 2016

Anthony Munday, Thomas Dekker (1602)


Historical Records

Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe's Diary)

Fol. 105v (Greg I.168)

Lent vnto the companye the 5 of maye 1602
to geue vnto antoney monday & thomas deckers
J earnest of a Bocke called Jeffae
as may apeare the some of . . . . vll


Payments, Miscellaneous (Henslowe's Diary)

Fol. 105v (Greg I.168)

Layd owt for the companye when they
Read the playe of Jeffa for wine at
the tavern dd vnto thomas downton . . . . .ijs


Payments for Properties and Apparel (Henslowe's Diary)

Fol. 106v (Greg I.170)

Lent vnto Thomas downton the 8 of
maye 1602 to bye cottes for the
playe of Jeffa the some of . . . . vjll


Lent vnto thomas downton the 12
of June 1602 to by Rebatous & other
thinges for the playe of Jeffa the some
of . . . . iiijll


pd at the apoynt of thomas downton
vnto the tayller for mackynge of sewtes
for Jeffa the 25 of June 1602 some of . . . . xxxs


Lent vnto the company 1602 the 27 of
June to paye vnto hime wch made ther
propertyes for Jeffa the some of . . . . xxvs


Lent vnto thomas downton the
5 of July 1602 to paye the cvter
for the play of Jeffa the some of . . . . xxijs


Acquittance from William Playstowe (Henslowe Papers)


Receved of mr Henslowe the iiijth of Agust 1602
for one monthes pay due vnto my mr mr Edmund
Tylney vppon the xxxjth day of July last past
the som of iijll J say R[eceived] . . . . iijll
per mei Will Playstowe
bookes owinge for /5/
baxsters tragedy
Tobias Comedy
Jepha Judg of Jsrael & the Cardinall
loue parts frendshipp


(Dulwich College, MSS I, article 37; qtd. Greg, Henslowe Papers, 58-59)



Theatrical Provenance

Performed by the Admiral's Men at the Fortune, perhaps in July.


Probable Genre(s)

Biblical History (Harbage).


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The story of Jephthah is told in Judges 11-12. Born an illegitimate son to a Gileadite named Gilead, Jephthah is cast out by his legitimate half-brothers. However, when Israel is attacked by the Ammonites, the Gileadite elders solicit Jephthah's leadership in battle; he agrees on the condition that he will be their head. They agree, and Jephthah begins negotiations with the Ammonites, whose grievance concerns land ownership. An impasse is reached, and Jephthah prepares for battle. Upon reaching the Ammonites, "Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering" (11:30-31). After conquering the Ammonites, Jephthah returns to his home, where he is greeted, "with timbrels and with dances," by his daughter. Jephthah laments the unpreventable catastrophe, "for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back" (11:35). His daughter submits to her fate, requesting only permission to bewail her virginity for the space of two months (11:37). Upon her return, Jephthah "did with her according to his vow which he had vowed" (11:39). While the story of his daughter's death is the key narrative event with which Jephthah is associated, he is described as serving as a judge of Israel for six years (12:7): in particular, his war with the Ephraimites is remembered for the Gileadites' strategy of discerning their enemy by asking them to pronounce the word shibboleth (12:6).

John Christopherson dramatized the story of Jephthah in his Greek tragedy Iephte (c. 1544) as did George Buchanan in his Latin Iephthes sive votum (Paris, 1554). The story also enjoyed circulation in ballad form. In 1567-68, the Stationers' Register records the entrance of "a ballett intituled the songe of JESPHAS Dowgther at his [i.e. her] death" (Arber I.355). An allusion to one such ballad appears in Hamlet: after taunting Polonius as "Jephthah, judge of Israel," Hamlet recites the tetrameter lines, "One fair daughter and no more, / The which he loved passing well" (Jenkins, ed., 2.2.399, 403-4). These lines are found in the ballad "Jepha Judge of Israel," which is preserved in the Shirburn manuscript, c. 1603-1625 (British Library, Add MS 82932, f. 183v; qtd. Clark 174-76), and in a surviving broadside printed c. 1658–64 (Roxburghe Collection 3.201; Roxburghe Ballads 6.685-66; Jenkins, ed., 475-77).

Perhaps the closest analogue to the Admiral's play might have been Munday's own treatment of the story in his The Mirror of Mutabilitie (London, 1579), in which Jephthah, a "right and rare example for all men to take heed of vaine othes" (sig. G3v), delivers a 66-line complaint, including a reminiscence of his exchange with his daughter. The concluding moral is: "Stil vow no more then well perfourme you may: / And so be sure you cannot goe astray" (sig. H1r).



References to the Play

None known.


Critical Commentary

[Under construction.]

Marino 101-4.


For What It's Worth

[Under construction.]


Works Cited

[Under construction.]



Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, Harvard University; updated 09 June 2016.