Madon, King of Britain

Beaumont, Francis (?), c.(1606)

Historical Records

Stationers' Register

29 June 1660 (SR2, 2.271, CLIO)

Hum. Moseley
Entred for his copies under the hand of MASTER THRALE warden, the severall plays following that is to say . . . . xiijs

. . .

The History of Madon, King of Brittain, by F. Beamont.

Theatrical Provenance

Unknown. If the play really were by Beaumont, it might have belonged to the Children of the Queen's Revels or alternatively the King's Men.

Probable Genre(s)

Pseudo-History (Harbage); History (Wiggins).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Madon (or Madan), King of Britain, was son of Locrine (cf. the story of "Estrild"). After his father's death, Madon was not old enough to assume the crown himself; Guendoline, his mother, acted as Regent ("Britain's first woman ruler", as Wiggins notes, 1608). Guendoline passes power to Madon in due course, and he proves a tyrant.

The narrative of Madan's life is somewhat sketchy, and a playwright seeking to dramatise the king's history would probably have had to cobble together details from a variety of sources. The Mirror for Magistrates provides the greatest detail under the heading "Madan shewes how for his euill life he was slaine of Wolues, the yeare before Christe. 1009":

I am that Madan once that Britaine kings,
Was thirde that euer raigned in this lande,
Marke well therefore my death: as straunge a thinge
As some would deeme, could scarce with reason stande:
Yet when thou hast my life well throughly scande:
Thou shalt perceiue, not halfe so straunge as true:
All life: worse death, doth after still insue,

For when my mother Guendoline had raignde
In my nonage, full xv yeares she dyed:
And I but yonge not well in vertues trainde,
Was left this Realme of Britaynes for to guide:
Whereby when once, my minde was puft with pride:
I past for nought, I vsde my lust for lawe:
Of right, or iustice reckte I not a strawe.

No meane I kept, but ruled all by rage:
No boundes of measure, could me compasse in:
Durst none aduenture anger mine t'aswage,
If once to freate and fume I did begin:
And I excelde in nothing els but sinne:
So that welnighe all men did wishe my ende,
Saue such to whom for vice I was a frende.

In pleasures pleasaunt was my whole repaste.
My youth me led deuoyde of compasse quite,
And vices were so rooted in at last:
That to recure the euill it past my might.
For who so doth with will and pleasure fight,
Though all his force do striue them to withstande,
Without good grace they haue the vpper hande.

What licoure first, the earthen pot doth take:
It keepeth still the sauour of that same.
Full hard it is a cramocke straight to make:
Or crooked logges, with wainscot fine to frame:
Tis hard to make the cruel Tiger tame:
And so it fares with those haue vices caught,
Naught once (they saye) and euer after naught.

I speake not this as though it past all cure,
From bices vile, to bertue to retire:
But this I saye if vice be once in vre,
The more you shall, to quite your selfe requyre,
The more you plunge your selfe in fulsome myre.
As he that striues in soakte quicke sirtes of sande,
Still sinkes, scarse neuer comes againe to lande.

The giftes of grace may nature ouercame,
And God may graunt both time and leaue repeute:
Yet I did more in laps of lewdnes run,
And last my time in tyrauntes trade I spente.
But who so doth, with bloudy actes contente
His minde, shall sure at laste finde like againe:
And feele for pleasures, thousand panges of paine.

For in the midste of those vntrusty toyles,
When as I nothing fearde, but all was sure:
With all my trayne, I hunting rode for spoyles
Of them, who after did my death procure:
Those lewde delightes did boldly me alure,
To folow still and to pursue the chase:
At laste I came into a deserte place.

Besette with hilles, and monstrous rockes of stone,
My company behinde, me lost, or stayde:
The place was eke with hauty trees oregrowne
So wiste, and wylde it made me half afrayde,
And straight I was with rauening wolues betrayd:
Came out of caues, and dennes, and rockes a maint,
There was I rent in pieces, kilde and slaine.

(Mirror for Magistrates, fo.32v-33v EEBO)

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Chambers noted that "Madan is a character in Locrine, but even Moseley can hardly have ascribed that long-printed play to Beaumont" (3.233).

This lost play's evident interest in ancient British history led Tristan Marshall to suggest that it may have appealed to audiences who also paid to see Cymbeline, King of Britain (68).

McMullan suggests that it is "probable that Beaumont wrote Madon, King of Britain for a children's company, which may very possibly have been Paul's", and that he may have written it as early as 1605, before meeting Fletcher. (278n).

For What It's Worth

Unfortunately Moseley's registration of the title is also the only grounds for ascribing the play to Beaumont, and Moseley's ascriptions are far from certain. In this same batch of entries he registered "King Stephen', "Duke Humphrey", and "Iphis and Ianthe" to Shakespeare, and 6 years earlier he had registered "The Maiden's Holiday" to Marlowe and Day. Moseley seems to have had a number of old playscripts in his possession, one of which may well have actually been by Beaumont -- and as Wiggins (1608) notes, a number of plays dealing with early British history at the end of the first decade of the 17th century -- around the time Beaumont was most active -- makes the existence of a "Madon" play at least plausible.

Works Cited

Marshall, Tristan. Theatre and Empire: Great Britain on the London Stages Under James VI and I. Manchester: MUP, 2000.
McMullan, Gordan. The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 08 March 2016.