London Against the Three Ladies

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Anon. (1581?)

Historical Records

Gosson, Playes confuted in fiue actions (1582)

Stephen Gosson describes an alternative ending to Robert Wilson's Three Ladies of London which does not survive in either quarto of that play, then proceeds to comment on a play apparently written in direct response to the success of Wilson's Three Ladies:

Whether this be the practise of Poets in these dayes you may perceiue by the drift of him that wrote the play termed the three Ladies of London, which in the Catastrophe maketh Loue and Conscience to be examined how thrie good ladishippes like of playes? Loue answeres that she detesteth them, because her guttes are tourned outward, and all her secret conueighaunce, is blazed with colours to the peoples eye. Conscience like a kindharted gentlewoman doth alow them.

In this pointe the Poet makes so much hast to his iorneyes end, that he throwes him selfe headlong downe the hill. For neither Loue disliked them, before he had maried her to Dissimulation, whose prope[r]tie is to say one thing and thinke another: nor Conscience allowed them, before he had spotted her with all abhomination, whose nature is to allowe that which is like her selfe, filthie, corrupt, spotted, and defiled. The writer of the plaie called London against the three Ladies confesseth in his prologe that he made it partly for enuie, partly for a vaine glorious minde. For enuie: because his stomack would not beare the commendations, that other men gaue to the three Ladies in his hearing. For vaine glorie: because he straue to do better himselfe, and misd [?] the cushion; somewhat I graunt he bettered it in shewe, touching the substance he doth but cauill as I woulde declare, if it were not from the matter I take in hand. By these fewe you may gather of all the rest, and perswade your selues that as stages and Theaters are not allowed by the lawes of God, or man, to medle with disorders. (sigs.D1v-D2v)

Theatrical Provenance


Probable Genre(s)

Moral (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Inasmuch as the play's prologue identifies it as a response to Wilson's Three Ladies of London, it is possible that "London Against the Three Ladies" was in some way related to the plot or reprised characters from Wilson's play.

References to the Play

(None other than Gosson's; further information welcome)

Critical Commentary

Lloyd Edward Kermode cites this lost play as evidence of the impact of Wilson's play and its "constant presence in the literary imagination of the rest of the sixteenth century" (72).

Wiggins #703.

For What It's Worth

(Information welcome)

Works Cited

Gosson, Stephen. Playes confuted in fiue actions prouing that they are not to be suffred in a Christian common weale, by the waye both the cauils of Thomas Lodge, and the play of playes, written in their defence, and other obiections of players frendes, are truely set downe and directlye aunsweared. 1582.
Kermode, Lloyd Edward. Aliens and Englishness in Elizabethan Drama. Cambridge: CUP, 2009.

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