Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe’s Diary)
F. 106v (Greg I.168)
Lent ^ vnto bengemy Johnsone at the a poyntment of E Alleyn } & wm birde the 22 of June 1602 } in earneste of a Boocke called Richard } xli crockbacke & for new adicyons for } Jeronymo the some of }
Presumably performed by the Admiral's Men at the Fortune, possibly in late summer 1602, although the lack of evidence makes it impossible to ascertain whether the play was indeed ever completed or performed.
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
The history of Richard III had remained very popular throughout the Tudor era, which means Jonson had quite a wide range of dramatic and non-dramatic sources he could look at.
As Donaldson (183) usefully summarises, Jonson:
would have been familiar with Shakespeare's Richard III (probably completed by 1593) and the anonymous True Tragedy of Richard the Third, published in 1594 but probably composed a few years earlier [...]. He may also have known the Latin play Ricardus Tertius by Thomas Legge, Master of Caius College, Cambridge, acted c. 1579. He certainly studied with close attention Thomas More's influential but unfinished account of the life of Richard III, as his heavy markings in his personal copy of the 1566 Louvain edition of More's Omnia Latina opera reveal [...]. It was More who had given fullest currency to the traditional portrait of Richard III which Jonson (to judge at least from the title of this lost play) seems to have inherited.
References to the Play
There may be a reference to the play in a memorandum from Robert Shaa (or Shaw) to Henslowe, scribbled on the back of a note dated 8 November 1599. The memorandum reads: "see: K Rick: Catesb: Louell. Norf. Northumb: Percye" (Donaldson, 183). As Donaldson (183—184) argues, if the memorandum and the note are roughly contemporary, the former "could refer to an earlier play on the subject of Richard III which the Lord Admiral's Men had in their repertoire, which Jonson's play was designed to replace or update. If the memorandum is of a later date, it may conceivably refer to Jonson's own play. The evidence is tantalizingly inconclusive."
Donaldson (183) suggests that the play may have never been completed or performed, possibly because of Jonson's illness.
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.>
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