Noble Husbands

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Henry Glapthorne (c.1633-1642)

Historical Records

Hill's List

The forty-first play on Hill's list of play manuscripts (BL Sloane MS 2893 is:

the noble husbands Henry Glaptho[rne]
Actors Cataloche le dirard &c

Sloane ms 2893 p190.jpg

Theatrical provenance

Unknown. Glapthorne is known to have been active throughout the 1630s, for a range of different dramatic companies (see below). The dates given are from Harbage.

Probable genres

Unknown. Marriage comedy is certainly a possibility given the title (see "For what it's worth").

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

None known

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

Henry Glapthorne is one of the unsung journeymen of Caroline drama. His six surviving plays include comedy, tragicomedy, and the tragedy Revenge for Honour/The Parricide; his playwriting career seems to have extended from around 1630 to around 1640, and to have involved a range of companies including the King's Men, Queen Henrietta's Men, and Beeston's Boys. His surviving work tends towards the derivative and repetitive, but that does not make it uninteresting: indeed, Julie Sanders comments that "Glapthorne's plays have slipped from notice but they remain strong examples of Caroline drama and of the age's sensibility and taste."

Bentley (4.287-8) observes: "For only two other plays on his list has Hill listed any actors." (This, of course, makes the conjecture that the list of characters applies to The Noble Husbands: not an unreasonable conjecture, but still a conjecture). Hill's List is transcribed and discussed more fully here.

Bentley also observes a similarity between the title of this play and another lost play attributed to Glapthorne, The Noble Trial. Indeed, a number - perhaps one might call them a cluster - of lost plays have the word "noble" in the title. (See the list of Categories at the foot of this page).

For what it's worth

"Noble husbands" is fairly frequent in EEBO-TCP, although none of the uses of the phrase are obviously allusions to a play. There is a striking use of the phrase (not currently found by EEBO-TCP) in Glapthorne's own work, where at the conclusion of the comedy Wit in a Constable Constable Busy congratulates the young heroines on having rejected unworthy suitors and married the right men:

I thought
There was no wit in't, that you two should cast
Your selves away on two such gulls, your portions.
Deserv'd more noble husbands…


This seems unlikely to be a direct allusion to The Noble Husbands, but it indicates a specific meaning of the phrase "noble husbands" in the discourse of comic drama. The parallel would suggest that The Noble Husbands, too, might have been a marriage-comedy involving at least two marriages, but other interpretations are certainly possible.

The most baffling aspect of the play is the character-names (or name?) given by Hill. EEBO-TCP - or, failing that, google - ought to be able to make some progress on "Cataloche" and "Dirard", but no purchase has yet been gained on either word using those tools. Both words appear to be hapax legomena. The best one can say at the moment is that they sound French. There is surely more to be found out about them.

Works Cited

Glapthorne, Henry. Wit in a constable A comedy. London: Io. Okes, 1640.

Page created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University. Last revised March 23 2010.