Pierce of Winchester

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Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, and Robert Wilson (1598)

Historical Records

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

Theatrical Provenance

The payments for production expenses and the presence of the book of the play in their inventory suggest that the Admiral's men performed this play in 1598, when they were at the Rose.

Probable Genre(s)

Unknown (Harbage); romance (?) (Wiggins).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The subject of this lost play is somewhat mysterious; early scholars had no luck tracing the likely story (see Critical Commentary below) but Martin Wiggins has offered the first concrete suggestion, noting that "Pierce of Winchester is also the name of a subsidiary character in the later part of R. G.'s prose romance, Albion's Queen (1600): he is a self-serving political double-dealer who plays the story's various royal personages off against one another" (1147; see also Critical Commentary).

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Greg (2.195) tentatively suggests a "possible connection" to "Pierce of Exton" but admits that "none such can be established"; presumably his conjecture rests on no stronger ground than the name "Pierce" being common to both plays.

Wiggins (1147) qualifies his suggestion (see above) that the play of "Pierce of Winchester" may have some relationship to R.G.'s prose romance including a character of this name, by saying:

The relationship between the play and the romance is unclear. The latter was entered in the Stationers' Register on 24 December 1599, so it cannot be the play's source. However, the coincidence of the names is striking: I have found no other Pierce of Winchester in the literature of the period, nor in history. It would be tempting to hypothesize that the romance took its story from the play, were it not for the fact that Pierce is not central enough in that story to have been the title character.

For reasons that are not explained, McIntyre links this play to contemporary crime drama:

A Warning for Fair Women, like Arden of Feversham (printed 1592), dramatizes a crime, the murder of a London citizen by his wife and her lover, and their detection and punishment. Some lost Admiral's plays of 1597-99---Alice Pierce, The Woman's Tragedy, Pierce of Winchester, The Stepmother's Tragedy, Cox of Collumpton, and Thomas Merry--are thought to have concerned similar crimes, and suggest a fashion for plays on adultery and murder. (162)

No reference is provided for who thought these plays concerned similar crimes.

For What It's Worth

Information welcome.

Works Cited

McIntyre, Jean. Costumes and Scripts in the Elizabethan Theatres. Alberta: U of Alberta P, 1992.

Site created and maintained by David McInnis, University of Melbourne; updated 06 March 2015.