Phocasse (Focas)

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Anon. (1596)
(see also Phocas, 1618/19)

Historical Records

<Reproduce relevant documentary evidence from historical records here. (For example, entries from Henslowe's Diary).>

Theatrical Provenance

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Probable Genre(s)

Classical history (Harbage).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Phocas is often mentioned in early modern texts. For example, a 1554 reprint of John Lydgate's translation of Boccaccio contains a chapter, "Hovve the Emperoure Mauricius hys wyfe and hys children were slayne at Calcidony", which provides a brief summary:

In Asia this Emperour Maurice was slain,

In the cite that called is Calcidony,
Al his housholde and many good Romaine
By Phocas & perciēs (as had is in memorye)
And Phocas after for his vaynglory
Slaine by Heraclius, he thā was Emperour

Four & twenty wynter he was gouernour.

Purchase also summarises the key details of the Roman emperor's reign:

This Cosroes raigned nine and thirtie yeares. Hee held peace with the Romanes whiles Mauritius liued; but when Phocas cruelly and treacherously had slaine him, a world of euils at once assaulted the Empire. The Germanes, Gaules, Italians, Hunnes, and Persians, by their Armies afflicted the publike State; and the Roman Bishop then began to aspire to an vniuersall Soueraignetie, which that Murtherer first entitled him vnto. That Armie which was yet redde with the bloud of Mauritius, by the Persians sword was punished, and died in their owne bloud: who hauing ouerthrowne the Romanes in two battailes, possessed Mesopotamia, Syria, Aegypt, Palaestina, and Phoenicia. He entred Ierusalem, slew and captiued many Christians, and carried thence the Crosse. Against the Iberians, Armenians, Cappadocians, Galatians, Paph|lagonians, euen vnto Chalcedon, hee preuailed. Thus did GOD punish that Murtherer, and besides (to pay him in his owne coyne) Priscus, Heraclon, and Heraclius conspired against this Conspirer, and murthered the Murtherer, and hauing cut off his Priuities, and his Head, hurled him into the Sea, and destroyed his Issue. (308)

Greg observes that "Phocas, a centurion, was elected Emperor of Constantinople in 606, and was deposed and killed by Heraclius in 610" (Greg 2.180).

References to the Play

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Critical Commentary

Bentley notes that "[i]t is not likely that there was any connexion between Henslowe's play and that of the learned schoolmaster [Bernard]" (3.28).

For What It's Worth

<Enter any miscellaneous points that may be relevant, but don't fit into the above categories. This is the best place for highly conjectural thoughts.>

Works Cited

Bentley 3.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The tragedies, gathered by Ihon Bochas, of all such princes as fell from theyr estates throughe the mutability of fortune since the creacion of Adam, vntil his time wherin may be seen what vices bring menne to destruccion, wyth notable warninges howe the like may be auoyded. Translated into Englysh by Iohn Lidgate, monke of Burye. London, 1554.

Greg 2.

Purchase, Samuel. Purchas his pilgrimage. Or Relations of the vvorld and the religions obserued in all ages and places discouered, from the Creation vnto this present. In foure partes. This first containeth a theologicall and geographicall historie of Asia, Africa, and America, with the ilands adiacent. Declaring the ancient religions before the Floud ... With briefe descriptions of the countries, nations, states, discoueries, priuate and publike customes, and the most remarkable rarities of nature, or humane industrie, in the same. By Samuel Purchas, minister at Estwood in Essex. London, 1613.

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Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 16 Feb 2011.