The fragmentary English translation of Cornelius Schonaeus' Latin play Iuditha survives in National Library of Wales, Peniarth MS 350, pp. 3–9, where the translation appears on the recto side of each leaf with the corresponding Latin text on the verso side (i.e. not a "facing-page" translation). The manuscript fragment opens with an abbreviated list of the characters' names (see Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues below). The manuscript ends midway through the play's first scene, and although the final page of the translation (p. 9) is torn, it is evident from the fragment that the text does not continue and indeed the verso side of the leaf (p. 10) begins a new text, "Cato contstrued." The manuscript may be written in the hand of the translator or it may represent an incomplete transcription of a separate lost translation. (See For What It's Worth below.)
The transcription below is based on that prepared by Jones (2–4). Complete digital images of the manuscript can be found here.
O yee most worshipfull and gentle citisones,
all haile vnto you, whosoever of you came hethe[r]
to see theese plesaunt anid ioifull commedies hou[ld?]
on I will not stay you here with any longe speach
But whatsoever wee are aboute to do, wee wi[ll]
declare vnto you a commedie beinge in presens with
few wordes. but who is he which made this com
medie, it is one sconevs a master of our scoole. for
he purposed to shew this his industrie vnto you
afore this time now he declareth an other comme
die, it is not vaine but also holy and godly ta
ken out of the holy bible. And what vacaunte so
ever he had, the scoleres beinge absente he wil
ingly applied, all that time vnto this studie.
And he thinketh his laboure not to be vnprofi
table vnto himself not vnto you vnacceptable
if you would dedicate your mindes ether vnto
divine learninge or vnto politike artes,
ffor evenas he confesseth, his commedie to bee far
differinge from the stile and phase [sic] of aunci
ente Poetes, so if there be any losse or b[reak]
inge herin let evrie man iudg of it as they will
for heare is nothinge
Which is eather absurde or dishoneste, or any
thinge vnworthy to be be [sic] harde, but only chaste ho
nest and godly, which you are aboute to heare
Wherby you shall trie all things wether they be
trew or not. And so there be no learned men
wantinge which will reade and allow his comme
dies. vnto whose commedie yee seeme to obay
whom I see most attentiue and heedfull and
givinge greate yeare hearvnto. Now least that
any man by your iudgmente shall thinke me
to haue ben longe aboute it, if I hould you
wh heare any longe time: give yeare vnto
me while I shew you the argumente of
The argument of the commedie.
Holefernes a captaine of the Asirienes mi
ghtie in war and doinge many noble actes,
compased the citie Betulia with great siege, the
citiesones beinge seperated on from an other by
theire strenghe [sic] desired aide of god. then they
beinge vexed with scarsnes of water sayd they
would yeeld to theire enimies vnlesse in five
daies god would help them, as soone as this
came came [sic] vnto Juditha her eare she consul
ted with Ozia her lifte tenaunte. herevpon
she being brethed by hevenly powe[r]s by night
and tooke her hande maide with her, and wente
to the tentes of her enimies:
And shee moste craftily deceved Holefernes by
her fained decetes. whom after he beinge ov[er]
whelmed by over much drinkinke [sic] of wine
immoderatly when shee had kut of his heade
and brought it to the citie. by and by the eni
mies fled away beinge frightened with greate
feare. then the Izaralites havinge gotten
the victorie gaue greate praise vnto god.
By Iubiter it is graunted vnto me
for whatsoever I do it happeneth vnto
me most prosperously. for into what
parte soever of the worlde I goe with my
armie I presently rise great feare & trem=
blinge. Nether is there any citie any
wheare or region valiaunte in armie
which kan resiste againste mee. for all
men as soone as they heare me to have comm
vnto me somwhat neare vnto them by
& by they com vnto me: and will yeld vnto me
both themselfes theire regiones goodes & ar
mes vpon which they put theire truste &
daily resistinge againste them and will
ever do it/
They giue & yeeld them selfes vnto me willin
gly: and in all respectes obainge my
praeceptes & commaundements. by obtaininge
the which thinges truly so happily and vali
auntly I thinke I shall obtaine greate pra
ise and gorgeouse rewarde as I haue hether
vnto gotten wonderfull greate renowne
and glorie for my selfe and my posterities [sic]
sith that this is the only way for noble and
princlike men, wherby they may never droune
nor leese theire eternall honor and glorie,
when the fame of shothfull [sic]
men and cowar
de dishonestly decaith with the life
which dishonestlie I know I have avoided
hethervnto and I hope I[?]
The page in the manuscript is torn, rendering half of the last line illegible; the equivalent of this line in Schonaeus's original Latin is "In posterum me spero vitaturum sedulo".
None known. While Schonaeus' Latin prologue was composed for a performance, there is no indication that the English translation received (or was intended for) a performance. Harbage designates it a closet play; Jones (6) suggests it was prepared as a school exercise.
Sacred Comedy (Harbage).
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
The English text is a translation of Cornelius Schonaeus' Iuditha, a dramatic adaptation of the deuterocanonical Book of Judith, first published in 1592 in a collection titled Sacrae comoediae sex, printed at Haarlem. A London edition appeared shortly after—a 1595 octavo titled Terentius Christianus, sive Comoediæ duæ, pairing Iuditha with Tobaeus—and nine further editions printed in England before 1650 testify to the popularity of the work.
While the surviving fragment of the English translation only contains the prologue, the argument, and a portion of the first scene, the character list follows that found in the complete text of Schonaeus' play. These are Holofernes (the Assyrian general); Moabus and Ammonides (military leaders); Achior (an Ammonite); Thraso and Labrax (Assyrian soldiers); Bagoas (Holofernes' bedchamber servant); Ozias (magistrate of Bethulia); Ioachimus (high priest); Sadocus, Melchias, and Azarias (citizens of Bethulia); Juditha (designated in the list of characters as vidua, widow); and Abra (Judith's maid).
References to the Play
Horwood (106) catalogues the volume as "a manuscript of the 16th century" but admits that he did not inspect it himself.
Wynne (118) assigns the volume to the "seventeenth century."
According to note dated 1895 in the manuscript itself (p. 1a), George F. Warner, Deputy Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum, considered the volume early Jacobean.
Harbage assigns the translation to 1595, the year in which Schonaeus' play was first published in England.
Wiggins, Catalogue (#1411), departing from Harbage, assigns the play to 1603 on the grounds that "it seems prudent to allow some time for the edition to circulate."
Wiggins (#1411) notes that the name "Henry Evans" is inscribed at the bottom of the first page of the manuscript volume and speculates that the translation may be in Evans's hand.
Jones (5-6) argues that the translator attempted to reproduce the Latin meter of Schonaeus in English. Accordingly, Jones's transcription supplies line breaks not present in the manuscript. She also judges, based on "its unfinished condition, and the halting character of its style, this version of the Judith was a school exercise."
For What It's Worth
The contents of National Library of Wales, Peniarth MS 350, can be described as follows:
- p. 1: memoranda in Welsh relating to relics of the Crucifixion
- p. 2: pen trials
- p. 1a: a torn page, apparently once containing a list of names
- pp. 3–9: English translation of Iuditha (unfinished)
- pp. 10-99: transcription of Cato Construed (complete)
- p. 100: transcription of "The Poor Man's Petition to the King" (unfinished)
The most substantial element of the manuscript is a transcription of a printed text of Cato Construed, a grammatical explication of the Distichs of Cato, which begins with a transcription of the title page:
The form of the title and combined with the imprint information indicates that the transcriber was working from a copy of the 1584 edition (STC 4858).
The final text in the manuscript represents an unfinished transcription of "The Poor Man's Petition to the King." The text, in its most complete witness, constitutes a series of seventeen itemized requests addressed to the new King James, dated 7 May 1603 (British Library, Additional MS 22601, ff. 10v-11v, qtd. Heaton 107-8; "Poor"). The version in Peniarth MS 350 only contains the first two items:
- The poor mans petition to the kinge
- O good kinge let there by an vnformitie
- in true Religion without any disturbance of Papists or puritance.
- good kinge let good preachers come to theire
- livinges be well prouided for and without
- any briberie... finis
The presence of this text supports Warner's assignment of a Jacobean date for the manuscript.
The final page also seems to contain another signature by "Henry Evans," supporting Wiggins's contention that his may be the hand in which the manuscript is written. However, perhaps more significantly, the fact that the vast majority of items in the volume represent transcriptions might suggest that the text of the Iuditha translation that appears in the manuscript may not be an autograph.
The Welsh memoranda on the manuscript's first page suggest that its compiler lived in Wales, and an additional inscription on the final page potentially narrows the geographical range further: "My true Love mistres Katherine Jones borne in Gloneth & baptized in the parish church of Conwey in the County of Carnarvon" (p. 100). The reference to Conwy, Caernarfonshire, may perhaps locate the manuscript's compiler somewhere in northern Wales. ("Gloneth" is less clear: it may refer to Glynneath, a town in southern Wales, or—just possibly—an alternative spelling of Gwynedd, located closer to Conwy.)
Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, University of Toronto; updated 18 September 2020.