King and the Subject

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Massinger, Philip (1638)

Historical Records

Office of the Revels

On 2 June 1638, Sir Henry Herbert noted:

Received of Mr. Lowens for my paines about Messinger's play called The King and the Subject, 2 June 1638, 1l.0.0.

And on 5 June 1638 he entered a more substantial memorandum on "The King and the Subject."

The name of The King and the Subject is altered, and I allowed the play to bee acted, the reformations most strictly observed, and not otherwise, the 5th of June, 1638.
At Greenwich the 4 of June, Mr. W. Murray gave mee power from the king to allowe of the play, and tould me that hee would warrant it.

Herbert then included a 7-line quotation from the play:

Monys? Wee’le rayse supplies what ways we please,
And force you to subscribe to blanks, in which
We’le mulct you as wee shall thinke fitt. The Caesars
In Rome were wise, acknowledginge no lawes
But what their swords did ratifye, the wives
And daughters of the senators bowinge to

Their wills, as deities, &c.'

And also included a background story on the play and the excerpt:

This is a peece taken out of Philip Massingers play, called The King and the Subject, and entered here for ever to bee remembered by my son and those that cast their eyes on it, in honour of Kinge Charles, my master, who, readinge over the play at Newmarket, set his marke upon the place with his owne hande, and in thes words:

This is too insolent, and to bee changed.

Note, that the poett makes it the speech of a king, Don Pedro king of Spayne, and spoken to his subjects.

(Bawcutt, items 385, 386a, pp. 203-04; Herbert, pp. 22-23)

Theatrical Provenance

The ascription to Phillip Massinger and the payment by John Lowen of the £1 confirm assignment to the King's players at their usual venues.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragedy (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Information welcome.

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Malone identified "The King and the Subject" as "The Tyrant" in the 1821 edition of Shakespeare's plays and poems: "I suspect it ["The King and the Subject"] was new named The Tyrant" (Malone, iii.230). Malone knew "The Tyrant" to be also lost.

Fleay concurred: "The title had also to be altered, perhaps to The Tyrant, which was entered S. R. 1660, June 29, and one of the unlucky Warburton MSS" (BCED 1.229).

Bentley, picking up the issue of an altered title, repeats Malone's association with "The Tyrant" and labels it scholars' favorite choice. He provides information about the registration of "The Tyrant" at Stationers' Hall to Humphrey Moseley on 29 June 1660. "The Tyrant" appeared on the list made by John Warburton and was included in his sale of 1759 (4.795). Bentley pauses over Herbert's fee of £1, which he had initially considered too slight to indicate the registration of a new play (1.107n), and corrects himself by agreeing with Greg (BEPD, 2.1002-3) that Herbert was put to much trouble with this play and consequently was paid the £1 extra (4.796).

Greg, in addition to repeating the information in Herbert and Malone, does comment in terms of Bentley's initial thoughts on the £1 payment that "the fee represents additional remuneration for special trouble involved: the normal fee would be more naturally recorded together with the licence (the second of Herbert's notes), and it never does to assume that Malone's or Chalmer's extracts are complete" (BEPD, 2.1003). He adds this caution: "The identification of two non-extant plays on the ground of similarity of title must clearly be hazardous, even when they are ascribed to the same author and a change of title is recorded. Moreover, it may be pertinent to ask whether Herbert, if he thought the title The King and the Subject came too near the quick, would have tolerated that of The Tyrant (BEPD, 2.1003). He takes further time to discard identification of the play with Believe as You List, The Double Marriage, and (by indirection) Heywood's The Royal King and the Loyal Subject.

For What It's Worth

(Information welcome)

Works Cited

Malone, Edmond. The Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare, with the Corrections and Illustrations of Various Commentators. Vol.3. London, 1821. (Internet Archive)

Site created and maintained by William Proctor Williams, Professor, University of Akron; updated 4 March 2013.