Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary
- Fol. 11v (Greg I.22)
ye 21 of febreary 1594 . . . . ne . . . . Rd at the macke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iijll
"The Mack" enjoyed a single performance by the Admiral's men at the Rose (its debut, according to Henslowe's "ne"); it appears in no other extant theater records.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
References to the Play
Malone observed that "The Mack," like "The Set at Maw," named a card game (p. 296).
Collier repeated Malone's observation, then added his own guess that it "was perhaps written in consequence of the success of the Maw, already many times represented" (p. 49).
Fleay, BCED (1.136), as he had for "The Set at Maw," identified "The Mack" with a much later play by John Day, Come see a Wonder, 1623. He believed that Day's play was the second generation of Thomas Dekker's The Wonder of a Kingdom (1623), and that at some deeper level it was the lost "Mack": "The original Dekker play was a "Card play" (see the last nine lines), probably The Mack, an Admiral's play of 1595." Fleay further surmised a revival "at the Bull," by which he apparently meant not "The Mack" but the Dekker play, with bits of "The Mack" incorporated.
Greg II dutifully considered Fleay's lumping of "The Mack" with John Day's Come See a Wonder," which was published under authorship of Thomas Dekker and = title of Wonder of a Kingdom. Although he thought the case "better" than Fleay's for linking "The Set at Maw" with Match Me in London, he thought that Wonder of a Kingdom was only "possibly" the Admiral's play called "The Mack."
Gurr has nothing to say about "The Mack" beyond its having received one performance marked "ne" in Henslowe's records (p. 94).
Wiggins, Catalogue (#990) resurrects the suggestion of Collier that "The Mack" was "probably a follow-up to the previous year's Set at Maw. Addressing the possible story of the play, he suggests that the script might have "followed the structure and process of the game; but in this case the rules are unknown" (#990). He is therefore thinking of a card game other than "Maw," the rules of which are known (aee For What It's Worth, below).
For What It's Worth
Friend of the LPD, Cassidy Cash, volunteers some historical context for an interest in the game of Maw at the highest level of early modern English society. Indeed, Mary Queen of Scots was credited with having introduced Maw to the English Court, and Elizabeth I was known to have an official set of rules for the game. James I was a huge fan (the game is said to have been a Scottish game originally).
Cash points out that a key feature of Maw is the Jack, which is one of three trump cards in the game (Knave and Fool being the others). Cash also locates a ballad, The Groome-porter's Lawes, which outlines the official rules of the game: (EBBA #37082), and is transcribed below:
The Groome-porters lawes at Mawe, to be observed in fulfilling the due orders of the Game. 1. If you change hands, it is the losse of the Set, 2. If you renounce, it is the losse of the Set, 3. If you leade when your Mate shoulde, it is the loss of that game and vied cardes. 4. If you lose Dealing, it is the losse of fower cardes, but if the loser of the dealing deale not againe, you acquire the fower, and no gain to either of both parties. 5. If you look either on ye asked carde, or the bottom carde, it is the losse of that game and vied cardes, in whom the fault is found. 6. If you roub (not having the Ace) you lose fower, & al the vied cards although you lay down the same carde which you took up. 7. If you make out the carde when your Mate rubbeth it is the loss of fower, for the roubber must make out the carde himself. 8. If you turne vp the Ace of Hartes you gaine fower thereby. 9. If you turne vp the Ace of Hartes, and thereby make either partie aboue xxvi, the contrary part must haue Liuings, but if the contrary part be xxv, by meanes whereof Liuings sets them out, then is he who turned vp the Ace of Hartes to make for the Set, so that he make not one Game nor the first Tricke, without the consent of both parties. 10. The partie that asketh a carde, may not vie any carde, before the first tricke be played. 11. You may not vie it after your card is led, but the contrary part may. 12. Three cardes crossed, no carde by any meanes giuen backe. 13. Neither partie may giue backe his owne vied car, though none be crossed. 14. You may not aske a carde to set the contrary parte or your selfe at Liuings or out. 15. Prouided alwaies, that if the contrary parte bee xxiii, or aboue, byreason that fower sets the other partie behinde the Liuings, it shalbe lawfull for the partie which is behinde to aske a carde, although the carde so asked put the other to Liuings. 16. Prouided also that if you meane to lead a helpe, you may vie it vpon your owne asked carde, so as it be done before the helpe be out of your hand, the contrary part may pledge you a card after he seeth your helpe vpon the boord, so it be done before his owne card be played.
Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 8 January 2021.