Resolute Queen

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Anon. (1623-29)

Historical Records

Sir Henry Herbert's Office Book (Bawcutt, 211):

18th. Feb: for allow: of a certayne P. called the Resolute Queene upon Sr. Robert Cottons letter who had perused the booke the sayd P. to be acted only one night by certayne young men of the Strand & others no profec't players. -12s.

Theatrical Provenance

The year of the allowance is not recorded, but Bawcutt points out that Cotton died in 1631, establishing that year as a terminus ad quem (with 1623, the year that Herbert's mastership began, as the obvious terminus ad quo). However, Cotton fell from royal favor and lost much of his political prestige after his arrest in November 1629; it is possible that, since Herbert puts his trust in Cotton's perusal of the script of the play (and hence seems to count on Cotton's name and reputation in case the play gets him into trouble), the licensing of The Resolute Queen predates Cotton's arrest.

No information about the theatrical provenance of this play is available. It was evidently staged by amateur actors (not professional, or "profec't" [i.e., "profess'd"], players), possibly apprentices, under the authority and perhaps guidance of Sir Robert Cotton. It may have been similar to the performance of Robert Tailor's Hog Hath Lost His Pearl by a troupe of apprentices at Whitefriars and then the Red Bull in 1613 and W. Smith's The Hector of Germany "by a company of young-men of this city" at the Red Bull in 1614. The fact that Herbert licensed the performance implies that it may have been public (though not necessarily; see Bawcutt, 41-2).

Probable Genre(s)

Based upon the probable source of the play (see below), it was likely an English chronicle history.

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The phrase "resolute queen" does not appear in early modern printed works, but later writers consistently use the epithet to describe Queen Margaret of Anjou (1430-82), wife of England's King Henry VI (see, for example, Loades 49). The play thus may have been about events during the Wars of the Roses. This possibility is given further credibility by Cotton's own deep and lifelong interest in English history; while it is unlikely that he wrote the play (if he had, Herbert's use of the word "perused" would make little sense), Cotton may have instigated its composition and performance.

References to the Play

There are no contemporary references to the play or its performance. Cotton's letter to Herbert is apparently no longer extant.

Critical Commentary

No critics or historians (including Bentley) mention or comment upon the play.

For What It's Worth

It is intriguing that Herbert only charged 12 shillings for licensing the play. This is far less than his usual fee of one to two pounds. In other instances his fee is around 10-12 shillings only for the licensing of a new act for an old play (see, for example, his allowance of "a new act in an ould play" on May 13, 1629; Bawcutt, 168). Perhaps the fact that the play was to be staged by amateurs who may not have charged admission caused him to reduce his rate. Perhaps also because Herbert thought of his fee as paying for perusal of plays, not for their licensing, he felt it improper to charge the full amount when Cotton had already done most of his work for him.

It is also intriguing that Herbert was willing to delegate retroactively his authority to "peruse" the script to Sir Robert and that he accepted Cotton's word without seeing the script himself. This is a courtesy that the Master of the Revels did not grant to very many other individuals, lending further credence to dating the play as before Cotton's arrest in November 1629.

Works Cited

Loades, David M. Politics and Nation: 1450-1660. 5th edn. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999. Print. Blackwell Classic Histories of England.

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