Difference between revisions of "Play about the Duke of Florence (BL Add MS 88878)"

Line 42: Line 42:
 
[Fol. 1r]
 
[Fol. 1r]
 
         2.
 
         2.
And [I should] wrongue ye. iudgement of ye. highest policy
+
And [I should] wrongue y<sup>e</sup>. iudgement of y<sup>e</sup>. highest policy
 
The world adores. Goe my Alphonso goe
 
The world adores. Goe my Alphonso goe
 
Leaue vs alone; I & my deare cosen,
 
Leaue vs alone; I & my deare cosen,
           In priuat must discourse: Alphonso goe
+
           In p<sup>r</sup>iuat must discourse: Alphonso goe
 
     And all withdraw. 5
 
     And all withdraw. 5
 
     Alp: As your highnesse wills soe
 
     Alp: As your highnesse wills soe
Must bee or. motion: Exeunt.
+
Must bee o<sup>r</sup>. motion: Exeunt.
 
     Prince.      Why yf death weare heare
 
     Prince.      Why yf death weare heare
 
     And sett wide ope his iawes I would not shune
 
     And sett wide ope his iawes I would not shune
     The chamber for ye. grizlie monsters Companie. 10
+
     The chamber for y<sup>e</sup>. grizlie monsters Companie. 10
 
Not anie beaten soldier with lesse feare
 
Not anie beaten soldier with lesse feare
 
     Dares see the Canon firde. then with fixd eies
 
     Dares see the Canon firde. then with fixd eies
Line 59: Line 59:
 
     [death] for his [Page] attendant death.
 
     [death] for his [Page] attendant death.
 
     Lor:  By heau’n my Lord
 
     Lor:  By heau’n my Lord
     Not alle ye. witt I am Commander of
+
     Not alle y<sup>e</sup>. witt I am Com''m''ander of
 
     Can make mee [the] \a wise/ OEdipus and vnvolue
 
     Can make mee [the] \a wise/ OEdipus and vnvolue
     The mysterie of yr. Sphinx: I Came 20
+
     The mysterie of y<sup>r</sup>. Sphinx: I Came 20
     To bee ye. happie messenger of yr.
+
     To bee y<sup>e</sup>. happie messenger of y<sup>r</sup>.
     approachinge happinesse.
+
     approaching<sup>e</sup> happinesse.
 
           Prince:      Good good infaith
 
           Prince:      Good good infaith
 
     [And Can the] And Can theare bee an happy state
 
     [And Can the] And Can theare bee an happy state
Line 69: Line 69:
 
       Lor: What are you lucid Epictetus; or haue you read Boetius
 
       Lor: What are you lucid Epictetus; or haue you read Boetius
 
     de Consolatione or [haue you read] \els/ Catos sentences; well: it
 
     de Consolatione or [haue you read] \els/ Catos sentences; well: it
     is a Commendable thing in a Prince, I hope you
+
     is a Com''m''endable thing in a Prince, I hope you
 
     will in tyme write bookes, that the whole world may  
 
     will in tyme write bookes, that the whole world may  
 
     laugh at you. Yf you growe bookish wee must all 30
 
     laugh at you. Yf you growe bookish wee must all 30
Line 80: Line 80:
 
       Prince.  Can horrid Treason, which for intrailes hath 35
 
       Prince.  Can horrid Treason, which for intrailes hath 35
 
         The bowels of a serpent, and Conuerts
 
         The bowels of a serpent, and Conuerts
Into burnt choler what \soere/ eare hee <ea>tes
+
<sup>Into burnt choler what \soere/ eare hee <ea>tes</sup>
 
  Oppressed Euer with suspecting thoughts,
 
  Oppressed Euer with suspecting thoughts,
 
     sett such a face of harmelesse mirth on it?
 
     sett such a face of harmelesse mirth on it?
 
     Surely Castruchio banisht from his home 40
 
     Surely Castruchio banisht from his home 40
     [will] not by these false feares would make mee leaue apart
+
     [will] not by these false feares would make mee leaue apa''r''t
 
     In his proscription: heere Lorenzo read
 
     In his proscription: heere Lorenzo read
 
     [The Causes of Alexanders feares]
 
     [The Causes of Alexanders feares]
 
     \Then haue a hart to doe the mention deed/
 
     \Then haue a hart to doe the mention deed/
 
     But giue it mee againe; it is not fitt 45
 
     But giue it mee againe; it is not fitt 45
     That who are vigilant for or. safetie
+
     That who are vigilant for o<sup>r</sup>. safetie
 
     should putt in ieopardie theire owne teares the subscrip
 
     should putt in ieopardie theire owne teares the subscrip
 
     Now take and read;     tion
 
     Now take and read;     tion
         Lorenz.  Whats this? some bill exhibited by my Tailor. against  
+
         Lorenz.  Whats this? some bill exhibited by my Tailo<sup>r</sup>. against  
 
     mee for not discharging his bill; [slight] \why/ [yf] I hope 50
 
     mee for not discharging his bill; [slight] \why/ [yf] I hope 50
 
     ffauorites may runne in debt, and not bee forced to [bee]
 
     ffauorites may runne in debt, and not bee forced to [bee]
Line 101: Line 101:
 
     with his owne potle pots; besides withdrawing of my roaring 56
 
     with his owne potle pots; besides withdrawing of my roaring 56
 
     quaffers from him, his howse shall stand more emptie then  
 
     quaffers from him, his howse shall stand more emptie then  
     euer it did in ye. tyme of [plague] \a visitation/ : my anger shall bee more  
+
     euer it did in y<sup>e</sup>. tyme of [plague] \a visitation/ : my anger shall bee more  
     terrible than ye. red crosse!: Or it maie tis some \opprest/ damosell
+
     terrible than y<sup>e</sup>. red crosse!: Or it maie tis some \opprest/ damosell
         petition, who[se] hath thought it ye. hight of honor. to bee \all. one/ with your  
+
         petition, who[se] hath thought it y<sup>e</sup>. hight of hono<sup>r</sup>. to bee \all. one/ with your  
 
     [ffauorite] priuado, [and I] condescending to her ambition 61
 
     [ffauorite] priuado, [and I] condescending to her ambition 61
     [haue made her greate] and now fealing sicke of yt
+
     [haue made her greate] and now fealing sicke of y<sup>t</sup>
 
     mother, wo<uld> haue mee compeld by the title of a father  
 
     mother, wo<uld> haue mee compeld by the title of a father  
     to legitimate ye. vnlawfully begotten progenie; why  
+
     to legitimate y<sup>e</sup>. vnlawfully begotten progenie; why  
 
     yf thi\e/se \things/ should goe by compulsion I should haue as        65
 
     yf thi\e/se \things/ should goe by compulsion I should haue as        65
 
many wiues as Salomon: noe \noe/ weele haue it enacted that it  
 
many wiues as Salomon: noe \noe/ weele haue it enacted that it  
     shalbee comfort enough, and honor. enough for anie ladie  
+
     shalbee comfort enough, and hono<sup>r</sup>. enough for anie ladie  
     to bee ye. Mistresse of ye. Princes fauorite, and that Matri-
+
     to bee y<sup>e</sup>. Mistresse of ye. Princes fauorite, and that Matri-
     monie is a felicitie beyond ye. expecting of fraile Ladies in  
+
     monie is a felicitie beyond y<sup>e</sup>. expecting of fraile Ladies in  
     this vayle of miserie: but in ye. name of goodnesse lett mee 70
+
     this vayle of miserie: but in y<sup>e</sup>. name of goodnesse lett mee 70
 
  [Fol. 2r]
 
  [Fol. 2r]
    read.  my Honored. Lord. I wish        Hee reades ye. Prince atten-
+
    read.  my Hono<sup>red</sup>. Lord. I wish        Hee reades y<sup>e</sup>. Prince atten-
 
       tiuely marking him.  
 
       tiuely marking him.  
 
     you, what your nearest freinds would take from you  
 
     you, what your nearest freinds would take from you  
     safety. [Knowe you foster in yr. bosome a serpent:]
+
     safety. [Knowe you foster in y<sup>r</sup>. bosome a serpent:]
     Lorenzo Medices hath oft tymes avowed yr. death 75
+
     Lorenzo Medices hath oft tymes avowed y<sup>r</sup>. death 75
     and alteration of ye. gouernmt. I Could wish this  
+
     and alteration of y<sup>e</sup>. gouernm<sup>t</sup>. I Could wish this  
     latter; but not by ye. oblation of Cassius
+
     latter; but not by y<sup>e</sup>. oblation of Cassius
 
     sacrifice: [w] whosoeuer writt this was  
 
     sacrifice: [w] whosoeuer writt this was  
 
     a spartan on my life, hee writes soe laconicê
 
     a spartan on my life, hee writes soe laconicê
     breifly and to ye. purpose; with an abhominable 80
+
     breifly and to y<sup>e</sup>. purpose; with an abhominable 80
     deale of love to ye. generation of Hercules:
+
     deale of love to y<sup>e</sup>. generation of Hercules:
 
     Ile gett it without booke. read againe
 
     Ile gett it without booke. read againe
 
           Prince. Treason is like the Cockatrice once seene
 
           Prince. Treason is like the Cockatrice once seene
Line 137: Line 137:
 
who soe’re writt this caueat had infallible intelligence;
 
who soe’re writt this caueat had infallible intelligence;
 
         Prince:  why is it true?
 
         Prince:  why is it true?
         Lorenz:  as ye. first veritie
+
         Lorenz:  as y<sup>e</sup>. first veritie
 
But I am a better Phisitian then
 
But I am a better Phisitian then
 
     Æacides; hee hauing wounded curde 95
 
     Æacides; hee hauing wounded curde 95
Line 143: Line 143:
 
     My Lord, you shall preuent
 
     My Lord, you shall preuent
 
         Prince:  Preuent? what? and how?
 
         Prince:  Preuent? what? and how?
         Loren:  Treason: ye. mean[s]es anticipation.
+
         Loren:  Treason: y<sup>e</sup>. mean[s]es anticipation.
     Heere take this blade: and run quite through a Traitor.       100
+
     Heere take this blade: and run quite through a Traito<sup>r</sup>.       100
 
     And yf you want a hart, or hande to doe it,
 
     And yf you want a hart, or hande to doe it,
 
speake to Lorenzo, and Lorenzo shall
 
speake to Lorenzo, and Lorenzo shall
Line 150: Line 150:
 
Prince: why art thou faultie then?
 
Prince: why art thou faultie then?
 
[Fol. 2v]
 
[Fol. 2v]
     I knowe thou art not by ye. love thow owest mee tell       105
+
     I knowe thou art not by y<sup>e<sup>. love thow owest mee tell       105
     [Lor.]mee [what] is theare ye. least ground of this letter? why
+
     [Lor.]mee [what] is theare y<sup>e</sup>. least ground of this letter? why
     should that brest harbour ye. first thought of danger
+
     should that brest harbour y<sup>e</sup>. first thought of danger
 
     Towards Alexander, Alexander would
 
     Towards Alexander, Alexander would
 
     [Himselfe] with his owne hands saue thee a killing labor
 
     [Himselfe] with his owne hands saue thee a killing labor
Line 158: Line 158:
 
     <        > nearest freinds growe wearie of my being.
 
     <        > nearest freinds growe wearie of my being.
 
     <Taken> <>eep>  <                 >er doubtefull: I aduise thee
 
     <Taken> <>eep>  <                 >er doubtefull: I aduise thee
           Lor: well treason <is> a <  >gian devill an<d> y<our> <Hono>r  
+
           Lor: well treason <is> a <  >gian devill an<d> y<our> <Hono><sup>r</sup>
 
     a learned Co<    >r. it shall Comme vp, and appear  
 
     a learned Co<    >r. it shall Comme vp, and appear  
 
     in its likenesse but first hee \must/ make his waie. 115
 
     in its likenesse but first hee \must/ make his waie. 115
 
     first tell mee Prince what services of state
 
     first tell mee Prince what services of state
 
     haue I not done; how oft discouered
 
     haue I not done; how oft discouered
     Plots of ye. ban<isht> partie, who would innovate
+
     Plots of y<sup>e</sup>. ban<isht> partie, who would innovate
 
     The forme of g<o>uernment; who did preuent  
 
     The forme of g<o>uernment; who did preuent  
 
     <The> last surpri<se> soe [likely] probable 120
 
     <The> last surpri<se> soe [likely] probable 120
     by ye. conspiracie of saluiatto that man  
+
     by y<sup>e</sup>. conspiracie of saluiatto that man  
 
     of daunger <  >d for his Cardinalls cap.   
 
     of daunger <  >d for his Cardinalls cap.   
     < > ye. states of Italie;  
+
     < > y<sup>e</sup>. states of Italie;  
 
< >ie state.
 
< >ie state.
         Pr: ye. world saies soe: 125
+
         Pr: y<sup>e</sup>. world saies soe: 125
 
         Lor: Now I Come to proue my selfe treache< >us; Theare  
 
         Lor: Now I Come to proue my selfe treache< >us; Theare  
     are a thousand waies of doing \good/ services in a Common wealth,
+
     are a thousand waies of doing \good/ services in a Com''m''on wealth,
     but are not all \those who doe these services/ yr. statesmen greate  
+
     but are not all \those who doe these services/ y<sup>r</sup>. statesmen greate  
 
intelligencers and  
 
intelligencers and  
 
     without this intelligence Can theare bee anie thing done  
 
     without this intelligence Can theare bee anie thing done  
     in this \Common/ wealth:\er <  >/ why it is the spectacles wise men putt       
+
     in this \Com''m''on/ wealth:\er <  >/ why it is the spectacles wise men putt       
 
     on to reade others liues, and how they should direct 131
 
     on to reade others liues, and how they should direct 131
     their owne acts. some with infinite summes corrupt  
+
     their owne acts. some with infinite sum''m''es corrupt  
     those who are able to informe them; Consales ye.  
+
     those who are able to informe them; Consales y<sup>e</sup>.  
 
Graund Capitan, putt in fferdinands reckoning
 
Graund Capitan, putt in fferdinands reckoning
 
     a million of Crownes giuen to spies. Others with an 135
 
     a million of Crownes giuen to spies. Others with an 135
 
     easier way, and sweeter know their enemies secrets  
 
     easier way, and sweeter know their enemies secrets  
 
       namely by lying with their wiues or mistresses; this was seianus  
 
       namely by lying with their wiues or mistresses; this was seianus  
     tricke with Liuia ye. wife of Drusus; and in or. latter  
+
     tricke with Liuia y<sup>e</sup>. wife of Drusus; and in o<sup>r</sup>. latter  
 
     daies it hath beene much more putt in practice:  
 
     daies it hath beene much more putt in practice:  
 
     but for mee to doe Alexander service to deliuer 140
 
     but for mee to doe Alexander service to deliuer 140
     Ilium to ye. Argiues I haue put on ye. Person  
+
     Ilium to y<sup>e</sup>. Argiues I haue put on y<sup>e</sup>. Person  
 
     of sinon; spoke against Agammemnon, rayld against  
 
     of sinon; spoke against Agammemnon, rayld against  
     ye. Greekes, thereatened my Prince fauored ye. Exiles
+
     y<sup>e</sup>. Greekes, thereatened my Prince fauored y<sup>e</sup>. Exiles
     <&> all for ye. safety of my Prince, and to discouer ye. plots of ye. Exiles
+
     <&> all for y<sup>e</sup>. safety of my Prince, and to discouer y<sup>e</sup>. plots of y<sup>e</sup>. Exiles
  
 
</lpd-pre><br>
 
</lpd-pre><br>

Revision as of 00:27, 10 October 2019

Anon. (Webster?) (1630s)


Historical Records

BL Add MS 88878 (images)

This manuscript play fragment exists only as a single sheet of paper (2 folios / 4 pages) in length. The first page features a number at the top (2) and begins part-way through a scene, implying that the surviving sheet was at least conceived of as part of a series, whether or not the play was continued. (BL Add MS 88878):

BL Add MS 88878 1r.jpg BL Add MS 88878 1v.jpg
BL Add MS 88878, fol.1r. BL Add MS 88878, fol.1v.
BL Add MS 88878 2r.jpg BL Add MS 88878 2v.jpg
BL Add MS 88878, fol.2r. BL Add MS 88878, fol.2v.

All images (c) British Library. Reproduced by permission.


NB. The above images have been cropped into pages to display the text in order. The following openings illustrate the sheet of paper itself:

BL Add MS 88878 2v-1r.jpg BL Add MS 88878 1v-2r.jpg
BL Add MS 88878, fol.2v-1r. BL Add MS 88878, fol.1v-2r.




BL Add MS 88878 (transcription)


[Fol. 1r]
         2.
And [I should] wrongue ye. iudgement of ye. highest policy
The world adores. Goe my Alphonso goe
Leaue vs alone; I & my deare cosen,
          In priuat must discourse: Alphonso goe
    		And all withdraw.							5
    Alp: As your highnesse wills soe
Must bee or. motion: 			Exeunt.
    Prince.       Why yf death weare heare
    	And sett wide ope his iawes I would not shune
    	The chamber for ye. grizlie monsters Companie.			10
Not anie beaten soldier with lesse feare
    	Dares see the Canon firde. then with fixd eies
    	Marke his Carreir in the resounding aire
And heare his thundring whistle then I dare
    	Encounter Danger, though that daunger had				15
    	[death] for his [Page] attendant death.
     Lor:  By heau’n my Lord
    	Not alle ye. witt I am Commander of
    	Can make mee [the] \a wise/ OEdipus and vnvolue
    	The mysterie of yr. Sphinx: I Came					20
    	To bee ye. happie messenger of yr.
    	approachinge happinesse.
          Prince:      Good good infaith
    	[And Can the] And Can theare bee an happy state
    	Before man meetes with his last. fate.				25
      Lor: What are you lucid Epictetus; or haue you read Boetius
    	de Consolatione or [haue you read] \els/ Catos sentences; well: it
    	is a Commendable thing in a Prince, I hope you
    	will in tyme write bookes, that the whole world may 
    	laugh at you. Yf you growe bookish wee must all 			30
    	turne schollers, and euery one buie his horne book; marry 
    	those who are wedded, may [gett] obtaine such volumes by 
deed of guift; \without troubling the stationer/ When Dionisius studied 
Geometrie, theare
was not a Courtier but walkd with his Iacobs staffe.
[Fol. 1v]
      	Prince.  Can horrid Treason, which for intrailes hath				35
  	       The bowels of a serpent, and Conuerts
Into burnt choler what \soere/ eare hee <ea>tes
 	Oppressed Euer with suspecting thoughts,
    		sett such a face of harmelesse mirth on it?
    		Surely Castruchio banisht from his home				40
    		[will] not by these false feares would make mee leaue apart
    		In his proscription: heere Lorenzo read
    		[The Causes of Alexanders feares]
    		\Then haue a hart to doe the mention deed/
    		But giue it mee againe; it is not fitt					45
    		That who are vigilant for or. safetie
    		should putt in ieopardie theire owne			teares the subscrip
    		Now take and read; 						    tion
        Lorenz.  Whats this? some bill exhibited by my Tailor. against 
    		mee for not discharging his bill; [slight] \why/ [yf] I hope 		50
    		ffauorites may runne in debt, and not bee forced to [bee]
    		pay them, but bee borne out in greater matters
    		then [such small] pettie trifles: or ys it [some] \a/ Complaint
    		of some of my Tauerners for his recconings, slide yf
    		it bee Ile [Coniure his Coat] \clapperclaw/ the villaine, Ile braine him
    		with his owne potle pots; besides withdrawing of my roaring 	56
    		quaffers from him, his howse shall stand more emptie then 
    		euer it did in ye. tyme of [plague] \a visitation/ : my anger shall bee more 
    		terrible than ye. red crosse!: Or it maie tis some \opprest/ damosell
         petition, who[se] hath thought it ye. hight of honor. to bee \all. one/ with your 
    		[ffauorite] priuado, [and I] condescending to her ambition		61
    		[haue made her greate] and now fealing sicke of yt
    		mother, wo<uld> haue mee compeld by the title of a father 
    		to legitimate ye. vnlawfully begotten progenie; why 
    		yf thi\e/se \things/ should goe by compulsion I should haue as         65
many wiues as Salomon: noe \noe/ weele haue it enacted that it 
    		shalbee comfort enough, and honor. enough for anie ladie 
    		to bee ye. Mistresse of ye. Princes fauorite, and that Matri-
    		monie is a felicitie beyond ye. expecting of fraile Ladies in 
    		this vayle of miserie: but in ye. name of goodnesse lett mee 		70
 [Fol. 2r]
 	   read.   my Honored. Lord. I wish         Hee reades ye. Prince atten-
      tiuely marking him. 
    		you, what your nearest freinds would take from you 
    		safety. [Knowe you foster in yr. bosome a serpent:]
    		Lorenzo Medices hath oft tymes avowed yr. death			75
    		and alteration of ye. gouernmt. I Could wish this 
    		latter; but not by ye. oblation of Cassius
    		sacrifice: [w] whosoeuer writt this was 
    a spartan on my life, hee writes soe laconicê
    		breifly and to ye. purpose; with an abhominable				80
    		deale of love to ye. generation of Hercules:
    		Ile gett it without booke.		read againe
          Prince. Treason is like the Cockatrice once seene
    		It straite fals sicke, and after a few pangues
    		Giues vp the Ghoast. but heeres noe languishing   			85
    		Noe chaunge of hue, [bu<t>] noe guiltie feare driues back
    		The bloud in to the hart, and pales the face.
    		Hee is all innocent, and that cleare virtue
    		makes him vndaunted;
Lorenz:    Prince Alexander					        	90
who soe’re writt this caueat had infallible intelligence;
         Prince:   why is it true?
         Lorenz:   as ye. first veritie
But I am a better Phisitian then
    		Æacides; hee hauing wounded curde					95
But I before the blow bee giuen Can helpe.
    		My Lord, you shall preuent
         Prince:   Preuent? what? and how?
         Loren:   Treason: ye. mean[s]es anticipation.
    		Heere take this blade: and run quite through a Traitor.	      		100
    		And yf you want a hart, or hande to doe it,
speake to Lorenzo, and Lorenzo shall
Performe this Iustice:
Prince: why art thou faultie then?
[Fol. 2v]
    		I knowe thou art not by ye. love thow owest mee tell		      	105
    		[Lor.]mee [what] is theare ye. least ground of this letter? why
    		should that brest harbour ye. first thought of danger
    		Towards Alexander, Alexander would
    		[Himselfe] with his owne hands saue thee a killing labor
   I had I [h] hade liude a thousand yeares too longue				110
    		<        > nearest freinds growe wearie of my being.
    		<Taken> <>eep>  <	                 >er doubtefull: I aduise thee
          Lor: well treason <is> a <  >gian devill an<d> y<our> <Hono>r 
    		a learned Co<    >r. it shall Comme vp, and appear 
    		in its likenesse but first hee \must/ make his waie. 			115
    		first tell mee Prince what services of state
    		haue I not done; how oft discouered
    		Plots of ye. ban<isht> partie, who would innovate
    		The forme of g<o>uernment; who did preuent 
    		<The> last surpri<se> soe [likely] probable 	 			120
    		by ye. conspiracie of saluiatto that man 
    		of daunger <  >d for his Cardinalls cap.  
    		<		> ye. states of Italie; 
<		>ie state.
        Pr: ye. world saies soe: 							125
        Lor: Now I Come to proue my selfe treache< >us; Theare 
    		are a thousand waies of doing \good/ services in a Common wealth,
    		but are not all \those who doe these services/ yr. statesmen greate 
intelligencers and 
    		without this intelligence Can theare bee anie thing done 
    		in this \Common/ wealth:\er <  >/ why it is the spectacles wise men putt       
    	on to reade others liues, and how they should direct 			131
    		their owne acts. some with infinite summes corrupt 
    		those who are able to informe them; Consales ye. 
Graund Capitan, putt in fferdinands reckoning
    		a million of Crownes giuen to spies. Others with an			135
    		easier way, and sweeter know their enemies secrets 
      namely by lying with their wiues or mistresses; this was seianus 
    		tricke with Liuia ye. wife of Drusus; and in or. latter 
    		daies it hath beene much more putt in practice: 
    		but for mee to doe Alexander service to deliuer 			140
    		Ilium to ye. Argiues I haue put on ye. Person 
    		of sinon; spoke against Agammemnon, rayld against 
    		ye. Greekes, thereatened my Prince fauored ye. Exiles
    		<&> all for ye. safety of my Prince, and to discouer ye. plots of ye. Exiles




Theatrical Provenance

There is no recorded evidence of a performance of a play corresponding to this fragment of text. Nevertheless, it bears similarities to Act 2, Scene 1 of James Shirley’s play The Traitor, which was written in 1630, licensed for performance on May 4, 1631, and probably first performed by Queen Henrietta Maria’s company before being taken over by Beeston’s Boys (Bentley 1:226). Since the language of the manuscript ties it quite definitively to 1630–35, the precise period when The Traitor was written, performed, and published (Smith 2017), we must assume that the texts were at least contemporary with one another if not more closely connected. It is possible, but by no means definite, that the Melbourne Manuscript is a foul-paper (draft) version of The Traitor 2.1.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragedy, though the dramatic writing is interspersed with humour and bawdy jokes.


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The scene recorded in the manuscript presents the historical Duke of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici (1510–1537), here called Prince Alexander, and his cousin Lorenzino de’ Medici (1514–1548), here Lorenzo. The manuscript depicts a scene in which Alexander, having received a letter from a political exile, Castruccio, accusing Lorenzo of treason, dismisses his courtiers before confronting Lorenzo himself. Alexander makes Lorenzo read the letter to find out whether there is any foundation for this severe allegation. Lorenzo jokes about the letter’s style but admits the allegations are true. He then reminds Alexander of his previous loyalty and claims he was acting as a double agent in order to infiltrate enemy circles. The real-life Alessandro de’ Medici was in fact murdered by Lorenzino, who subsequently claimed he had acted in the civic interest by assassinating a tyrant, so we can might assume that Prince Alexander was eventually to be assassinated.

The most credible likely inspiration for Melbourne’s author is Paolo Giovio’s History of His Own Times (Latin edition 1550–52): a chronicle of the Italian Wars of 1494 to 1559. Although Carter points to Marguerite of Navarre’s Heptameron as a more likely source for Shirley’s equivalent play, Bawcutt discovered in the plots of both texts many more detailed similarities with Giovio’s History; specifically, the historical moment they dramatize is absent from Navarre’s version of the story, but present in Giovio’s. Smith (2017) accepted Bawcutt’s narrative as most persuasive in his 2017 edition of the Melbourne MS.


References to the Play

Aside from the thematic similarities tying Melbourne to Shirley’s Traitor, there do not seem to be any contemporary references to this play. Where Webster’s authorship has been considered, his dedicatory epistle in The Devil’s Law Case, addressed to Sir Thomas Finch, has been cited:
“Some of my other Works, as The white Deuill, The Dutchesse of Malfi, Guise, and others, you haue formerly seene” (Berger and Massai 1; Greg 388)
Guise”, now lost, was probably written c.1615. Although references to Guise imply it is a tragedy, no evidence supports any link to the Melbourne MS.


Critical Commentary

The text in the manuscript has received literary critical attention from Pryor, Hammond and Del Vecchio, and Smith (2017). Each comments on the richness of the drama, the comedy, characterisation, and the use of language, with Pryor describing the manuscript as “a richly worked, subtly ironic, dense piece of literary composition” and Smith asserting that “[t]he play, had it ever been completed, would have stood comparison with any of the great Jacobean or Caroline tragedies” (612).

Despite the text’s literary significance, the debate that has dominated academic discussion of this manuscript to date is one of authorship. The manuscript may have been composed by an otherwise unknown amateur author, albeit one of considerable skill, or one of the professional playwrights whose entire corpus is now lost. Modern academic discussions have pointed to only two serious contenders, John Webster and James Shirley.

Shapiro claimed the author must have been James Shirley on the basis of disputed palaeographical evidence. When Hammond and Del Vecchio examined the document in 1988, they concluded that Webster was the more likely candidate based on stylistic interpretations. Jackson significantly updated scholarship on the authorship question in 2006, producing stylometric conclusions that pointed to Shirley not just over Webster but over all other known contemporary dramatists. Although Webster is now out of favour and Shirley is currently considered the most likely candidate, the fragment’s authorship remains unknown; Beal’s CELM lists the manuscript among Shirley’s works, but with the caveat that “the matter remains unresolved”. Smith (2017) while acknowledging the stronger claims for Shirley, ultimately averred. Based on his reading of the palaeographical evidence, he suggested that Melbourne might have been “written by two hands”, and could thus constitute evidence of literary collaboration – necessarily muddying attempts to assign authorship through stylometrics.

A further critical discussion prompted by the manuscript’s discovery considers its bibliographical status: the Melbourne MS preserves ambiguous but illuminating evidence about a rarely witnessed stage in the production of early modern dramatic texts, the draft. Displaying evidence of deletions, corrections, and marginal additions, it is possible that the manuscript is a so-called “foul paper”, whether of Shirley’s Traitor or not. The term “foul paper” has been defined by The Oxford Companion to the Book as “a draft MS of a work” (Suarez and Woudhuysen), but contemporary writers used the term to mean a range of similar but not identical things, including “dirty, scrappy, or befouled paper” and “loose, ad hoc, careless, or confused notes”. Prompted by the manuscript, Smith investigates this term in a companion piece to his edition (Smith 2016). He concludes that Melbourne is a particular kind of draft or foul paper, one which was rejected or otherwise abandoned for some reason, and its survival enables us to add an unstated but bibliographically implicit definition of “foul paper” to the list: that of a discarded draft, repurposed as scrap or waste paper. It therefore illuminates rejection as a rarely glimpsed aspect of the process of textual production.

Rather than use Melbourne uncritically as an exemplar for all early modern theatrical drafts, Smith urges that we should be careful to define its precise bibliographical nature as a discarded and repurposed manuscript, whose value was seen in its function as scrap paper rather than in its literary merit. This “found” manuscript can therefore help conceptualise the many dramatic documents now lost, but without which no play is possible.


For What It's Worth

The Melbourne Manuscript was discovered by Edward Saunders in 1985 at Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire. It had been used to wrap a packet of letters in the custody of Sir John Coke (1563–1644), a principal secretary of state under Charles I. Pryor explains that “When the archive was listed for the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts at the end of the last century it was docketed ‘Packet 3,’ and for some reason passed over in silence. It ended up in a box containing plans for the garden.” There is some uncertainty as to the exact nature of Packet 3’s contents. Pryor notes that the packet contained “correspondence by Coke dating between 1601 and 1630, and Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke’s household accounts for 1602–03”, but Smith – secretly hoping for a connection to the papers of Coke’s fellow Secretary of State, Edward Conway – found no evidence in the records of Coke’s correspondence that might offer more specific information. Given that Saunders found such miscellaneous material within the packet, the manuscript was probably used to wrap documents already within the Coke household, rather than deliberately grouped items being sent to Coke. As such, it seems unlikely that the contents of the packet would cast light on the manuscript’s provenance.

Some attendees at Smith’s paper on the MS at the Cambridge Early Modern Interdisciplinary Seminar, were skeptical of the two-hands claim.


Works Cited

Bawcutt, N.W. “The Assassination of Alessandro De’ Medici in Early Seventeenth-Century English Drama.” The Review of English Studies 56/225 (2005): 412–23.

Beal, Peter, “James Shirley (1596–1666)”, CELM. Accessed September 22, 2019. 

Beal, Peter, “Papers Most Foul: A Lost Tragedy by John Webster?”, unpublished article commissioned by the Times Literary Supplement.

Bentley, G.E. The Jacobean and Caroline Stage, 7 vols (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1941–68).

Berger, Thomas L., and Sonia Massai (eds), Paratexts in English Printed Drama to 1642, 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Carter, John Stewart (ed.), James Shirley, The Traitor (London: Edward Arnold, 1965)

Hammond, Anthony and Doreen Del Vecchio. “The Melbourne Manuscript and John Webster: A Reproduction and Transcript.” Studies in Bibliography 41 (1988): 1–32.

Jackson, MacDonald P. “John Webster, James Shirley, and the Melbourne Manuscript.” In Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, edited by S. P. Cerasano, 21–44. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 2006. 

Pryor, Felix. “From Packet 3 to ‘The Duke of Florence’.” The Spectator, June 13, 1986.

Shapiro, I.A. “letter.” Times Literary Supplement, July 4, 1986, 735.

Smith, Daniel Starza. “Unvolving the Mysteries of the Melbourne Manuscript.” Huntingdon Library Quarterly 79, no.4 (2017): 1–43.

Smith, Daniel Starza. “Papers Most Foul: The Melbourne Manuscript and the ‘Foul Papers’ Debate.” In James Shirley and the Early Modern Theatre: New Critical Perspectives, edited by Barbara Ravelhofer, 124–138. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.

Suarez, Michael F., and H. R. Woudhuysen (eds), The Oxford Companion to the Book, 2 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). 




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