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==Probable Genre(s)==
 
==Probable Genre(s)==
 
   
 
   
Tragi-comedy (Harbage); the story material would indicate a series of generically mixed playlets bound by the frame story of the seven masters and their tales, the stepmother's tales, and the son's tale.
+
Tragi-comedy (Harbage); the story material offers a series of similarly themed playlets in pairs, capped by the son's tale, all framed by the story of the emperor and his second wife, who attempts to disinherit her stepson.
  
 
<br><br>
 
<br><br>
Line 75: Line 75:
 
'''The Frame Story'''  
 
'''The Frame Story'''  
 
<br>
 
<br>
Poncianus, the emperor of Rome, marries a king's daughter with whom he has a son, Dioclesian. When the child is seven, his mother becomes ill. On her deathbed, she begs the emperor to remarry but to protect their son from the new wife's governance and power. As his mourning ended, Poncianus summoned seven wise masters to undertake the education of his son: Pantyllas, Lentulus, Craton, Malquydrac, Joseph, Cleophas, and a seventh unnamed. The masters agree to take the boy out of Rome so that his education might be undisturbed. Soon after, Poncianus remarries; when the new wife realizes that she might not conceive an heir herself, she plots the death of Dioclesian. Her opportunity arrives when the boy, now a young man, returns home from his schooling. She attempts to seduce him but is unsuccessful. However she tells Poncianus that Dioclesian attempted to rape her. In his fury, Poncianus orders his son to be taken to the gallows and hanged. The wise men, unable to dissuade the emperor, succeed in postponement for a trial. The empress, eager to see Dioclesian executed swiftly and the seven masters discredited (if not also executed), tells the emperor a parable about a great tree that was hewed down to allow a lesser plant to flourish, the result of which was that the lesser plant died also. The emperor vows then to have his son executed without a trial, at which point the masters delay the execution with serial story-telling. The resulting structure of "Seven Wise Masters" is a pairing of stories: the masters illustrate the villainy of women (after which the emperor halts the execution), and the empress illustrates the disloyalty of sons (after which the emperor reissues the order for immediate execution).  
+
Poncianus, the emperor of Rome, marries a king's daughter with whom he has a son, Dioclesian. When the child is seven, his mother becomes ill. On her deathbed, she begs the emperor to remarry but to protect their son from the new wife's governance and power. As his mourning ended, Poncianus summoned seven wise masters to undertake the education of his son: Pantyllas, Lentulus, Craton, Malquydrac, Joseph, Cleophas, and a seventh unnamed. The masters agree to take the boy out of Rome so that his education might be undisturbed. Soon after, Poncianus remarries; when the new wife realizes that she might not conceive an heir herself, she plots the death of Dioclesian. Her opportunity arrives when the boy, now a young man, returns home from his schooling. She attempts to seduce him but is unsuccessful. However she tells Poncianus that Dioclesian attempted to rape her. In his fury, Poncianus orders his son to be taken to the gallows and hanged (perversely, the son will not speak in his own defense). The wise men, unable to dissuade the emperor, succeed in postponement for a trial. The empress, eager to see Dioclesian executed swiftly and the seven masters discredited (if not also executed), tells the emperor a parable about a great tree that was hewed down to allow a lesser plant to flourish, the result of which was that the lesser plant died also. The emperor vows then to have his son executed without a trial, at which point the masters delay the execution with serial story-telling. The resulting structure of "Seven Wise Masters" is a pairing of stories: the masters illustrate the villainy of women (after which the emperor halts the execution), and the empress illustrates the disloyalty of sons (after which the emperor reissues the order for immediate execution).  
  
 
<blockquote>
 
<blockquote>
Line 82: Line 82:
 
A knight had a young son whom he adored, as well as a beloved greyhound and falcon. A lover of tournaments, the knight hosted one that attracted great crowd, including his wife and the baby's nurses, who left the boy in his cradle guarded by the greyhound and the falcon. A serpent, seizing the opportunity, crept out of his hole to attack the child, but the falcon made such a racket that the greyhound awakened and killed the snake, upturning the cradle and bloodying the floor in the fight. Exhausted, he lay down by the child to lick his wounds. The nurses returned from the tournament, saw the cradle and bloodied dog, and told rhe wife (as she returned) that the dog has killed the child. At that moment, the knight returned, and the wife told him what the nurses had said. The dog, hearing his master, came forward to greet him, but the knight in anger struck off his head. Only then does the knight check the cradle, find the child safe, and see the dead snake. Broken-hearted at his error in believing his wife's word, the knight splintered his sword and left for wars in the Holy Land.  
 
A knight had a young son whom he adored, as well as a beloved greyhound and falcon. A lover of tournaments, the knight hosted one that attracted great crowd, including his wife and the baby's nurses, who left the boy in his cradle guarded by the greyhound and the falcon. A serpent, seizing the opportunity, crept out of his hole to attack the child, but the falcon made such a racket that the greyhound awakened and killed the snake, upturning the cradle and bloodying the floor in the fight. Exhausted, he lay down by the child to lick his wounds. The nurses returned from the tournament, saw the cradle and bloodied dog, and told rhe wife (as she returned) that the dog has killed the child. At that moment, the knight returned, and the wife told him what the nurses had said. The dog, hearing his master, came forward to greet him, but the knight in anger struck off his head. Only then does the knight check the cradle, find the child safe, and see the dead snake. Broken-hearted at his error in believing his wife's word, the knight splintered his sword and left for wars in the Holy Land.  
 
<br> <br>
 
<br> <br>
<u>The Counter-story of the empress:</u>
+
<u>The counter-story of the empress:</u>
 
<br>
 
<br>
 
An emperor wanted a boar in his forest destroyed, so he offered his daughter's hand in marriage as well as his kingdom to anyone who could kill it. The only taker was a shepherd who saw a chance to advance himself and his family. Armed only with his staff, the shepherd entered the forest, aroused the boar, and scrambled up a tree to avoid being killed. To stop the boar from knocking down the tree, the shepherd dropped fruit from the tree on the boar, who ate so much that he fell asleep. The shepherd then came down from the tree, cut the boar's throat, married the daughter, and took over the kingdom when his father-in-law died.  
 
An emperor wanted a boar in his forest destroyed, so he offered his daughter's hand in marriage as well as his kingdom to anyone who could kill it. The only taker was a shepherd who saw a chance to advance himself and his family. Armed only with his staff, the shepherd entered the forest, aroused the boar, and scrambled up a tree to avoid being killed. To stop the boar from knocking down the tree, the shepherd dropped fruit from the tree on the boar, who ate so much that he fell asleep. The shepherd then came down from the tree, cut the boar's throat, married the daughter, and took over the kingdom when his father-in-law died.  
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<u>The story of the second master, Lentulus</u>
 
<u>The story of the second master, Lentulus</u>
 
<br>
 
<br>
<u>The Counter-story of the empress</u>
+
An old man married a young woman who sneaked out at night to see her lover. In this town, anyone caught outside when the morning bell was rung was humiliated publicly by being pilloried. One night the old man awoke, found his wife missing, and locked the door against her. When she returned before dawn to sneak into the house, he cursed her and said she had to stay outside until "the wakers" came. Threatening to drown herself in the nearby well, she instead threw in a great stone, but the old man was fooled and came running out, leaving the door of the house open. The wife now locked him out and left him to the mockery of the town as the wakers put him in prison and then on the pillory.
 +
<br><br>
 +
<u>The counter-story of the empress</u>
 
<br>
 
<br>
 
+
In the time of Octavian, there was a knight who squandered his fortune on hunting and tournaments. He confided his poverty to his son, grieving also that his daughters would be penniless, and the son persuaded him to steal from Octavian's Tower of Gold, over which the knight had charge. Father and son then successfully tunneled into the tower and escaped with a fortune, which the father soon squandered. When the keeper of the tower discovered the theft, he devised a trick to catch the thief: he positioned a vessel of pitch at the hole where the thieves had entered. When the father and son returned for more gold, the father fell in the pitch. Unable to escape and eager to protect his son, the father insisted that his son behead him to conceal his identity. The son complied. Octavian, to find the thieves, ordered that the body be bound to the tail of a horse and dragged through the city; he told his men to arrest anyone who cried out at the sight of the mutilated corpse. The son and daughters were in the crowd, and the daughters shrieked and wept at the sight of their father; the son, however, cut himself in the mouth to deceive the officers into thinking that his wound was the reason the women were crying. He succeeded in this ruse, and the father's body was the only one displayed on the gallows.
 
</blockquote>
 
</blockquote>
 
<br>
 
<br>
 
<blockquote>
 
<blockquote>
 
<u>The story of the third master, Craton</u>
 
<u>The story of the third master, Craton</u>
<br>
 
<u>The Counter-story of the empress</u>
 
 
<br>
 
<br>
 
+
A rich man had pie (magpie) that he loved and taught to speak Latin and Hebrew. He also had a young wife who slipped out of the house to meet her lover whenever the husband was away on business. The pie told the master what his wife was doing, and he believed the bird, knowing it could not lie. When the husband was next out of town, the wife brought her lover to the house. She had a plan to prove the pie a liar: she faked a gigantic storm by pelting the bird with stones and water through a hole she had made in the roof above the birdcage. When the husband returned, the pie told him about the visit from his wife's lover as well as the near-deadly storm. However, the husband knew the night to have been calm, so he broke the pie's neck for lying. Only then did he look up and see the hole in the roof and realize the truth. Disconsolate at the rash killing of his beloved bird, the husband exiled himself, leaving everything behind.
 +
<br><br>
 +
<u>The counter-story of the empress</u>
 +
<br>
 +
A Roman emperor had seven wise masters who ruled him so completely that he never challenged their authority. To maintain their power, they bewitched him so that he could see only when he was in the palace but was blind when he went out. This condition lasted many years, and the seven masters enriched themselves by running a dream-interpreter's business at the palace. Finally the emperor became weary of being blind and asked his wife's advice. She told him to challenge the masters to find a remedy. The masters, confounded, went out in the city where they observed a child interpreting a dream about an orchard and its springs. Impressed, the masters asked the child (name: "Merlin") to solve their dilemma with the emperor. He (Merlin) returned with them to the palace and there told the emperor to lead him into the bedchamber where he had the bed stripped to reveal a well with seven springs. Merlin then said that the emperor would remain blind as long as the springs were unquenched; the way to quench the springs was to behead each of the masters. The emperor had the masters beheaded, and his sight was restored.
 
</blockquote>
 
</blockquote>
 
<br>
 
<br>
 
<blockquote>
 
<blockquote>
 
<u>The story of the fourth master, Malquydrac</u>
 
<u>The story of the fourth master, Malquydrac</u>
<br>
 
<u>The Counter-story of the empress</u>
 
 
<br>
 
<br>
 
+
An old childless knight, on the counsel of his friends, took a young wife with whom he was soon besotted even though she was apparently barren. The wife, discontented with her husband's lovemaking, decided she wanted to take a priest to bed and asked her mother how she should proceed. The mother told her to test her husband by a series of offenses—cutting down his favorite tree, slamming his favorite dog against the bedroom wall so that he soiled the rich bedcovers, and disrupting a feast-day meal attended by important guests. The husband forgave her the first and second offenses but not the third. He hired a barber to punish her by letting blood from each of her arms. Chastened, the wife vowed (even to her mother) not to love anyone but her husband.
 +
<br><br>
 +
<u>The counter-story of the empress</u>
 +
<br>
 +
There was an emperor in Rome (Octavian) who loved gold. In the city also, there was a magician (Virgilius) who created a tower that contained an image (figure?) for every province in the country; each figure held a golden ball in one hand and a bell in the other. When there was rebellion in a given province, the bell sounded the alarm. Having finished this marvel, the magician made a light that burned eternally for the poor, as well as two baths for the populace: one hot, for washing; the other cool, for drinking. After some years a clerk, suspecting some treasure under the light, struck it down and it (along with the baths) vanished. Seeking redress, the poor took their grievances to a council, where four knights stepped forward to destroy the tower and its images (as well as get the gold for themselves). Aided by an elaborate ruse that involved drowning the figures, gold, and dreams, the knights undermined the tower and rode away with the gold. When the senators saw how the emperor had been deceived, they punished him by pouring molten gold down his throat. Soon after Rome was invaded and everyone was destroyed.
 
</blockquote>
 
</blockquote>
 
<br>
 
<br>
Line 114: Line 120:
 
<u>The story of the fifth master, Joseph</u>
 
<u>The story of the fifth master, Joseph</u>
 
<br>  
 
<br>  
<u>The Counter-story of the empress</u>
+
<u>The counter-story of the empress</u>
 
<br>
 
<br>
  
Line 122: Line 128:
 
<u>The story of the sixth master, Cleophas</u>
 
<u>The story of the sixth master, Cleophas</u>
 
<br>  
 
<br>  
<u>The Counter-story of the empress</u>
+
<u>The counter-story of the empress</u>
 
<br>
 
<br>
  
Line 130: Line 136:
 
<u>The story of the seventh master (name not provided)</u>
 
<u>The story of the seventh master (name not provided)</u>
 
<br>  
 
<br>  
<u>The Counter-story of the empress</u>
+
<u>The counter-story of the empress</u>
 
<br>
 
<br>
 
(story)
 
(story)

Revision as of 16:45, 30 June 2020

Henry Chettle, John Day, Thomas Dekker, William Haughton (1600)


Historical Records

Payments to Playwrights (Henslowe Diary)


F. 67v (Greg, I. 118)

Receaved of mr hinchlowe the 1 march to paye to
harry chettell Thomas decker william hawton & John daye
for a boocke calld the 7 wise mrs the some of ………. xls
W birde.


Lent vnto Samewell Rowly the 8 of march 1599
to paye vnto harey chettell & John daye in fulle
payment of a boocke called the vij wisse masters
the some of ………. ls
Samuell Rowlye


F. 68 (Greg, I. 119)

Lent vnto hary chettell the 2 of march 1599
in earnest of a Boocke called the 7 wisse
masters the some of ………. xxxs


Payments, Miscellaneous (Henslowe's Diary)


F. 68 (Greg, I. 119)

Receaued of Mr Henslowe to lay out for the playe of
the 7 wise Mrs in taffataes & sattyns the some of
in behalfe of the …….. by me Robt Shaa
Company ………. xxll


Receaued more of mr Henshlowe to lay out
for the play of the 7 wise Maisters in behalf
of the Company ………. xli


Receaued more of Mr Henshlowe to lay out
for the play of the 7 wise maisters in behalf
of the Company ……….. viijli
by me Robt Shaa



Theatrical Provenance


The Admiral's men acquired "The Seven Wise Masters" in the spring of 1600. The company was still at the Rose playhouse, though construction of the new Fortune playhouse had already begun (Edward Alleyn bought the lease on 22 December 1599). The company moved into the Fortune in the fall. The payment of £38 for materials and other things for "The Seven Wise Masters" suggests a relatively sumptuous production.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragi-comedy (Harbage); the story material offers a series of similarly themed playlets in pairs, capped by the son's tale, all framed by the story of the emperor and his second wife, who attempts to disinherit her stepson.



Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The story cycle known variously as The Seven Wise Masters and The Seven Sages of Rome is as ancient as Sanskrit, Persian, and Hebrew, languages in which analogues existed. One story of its origin attributes it to the Indian philosopher Sindibad/Syntipas in the first century CE (Wikipedia).

Printed Sources Michael L. Hays compiled a list of the manuscripts and printings extant for The Seven Sages [Wise Masters] of Rome, which had been written c. 1300-1333. That by Wynkyn de Worde in 1506 appears to have been the seminal English text (Gomme, iii). Those likely to have been available to Chettle, Day, Dekker, and Haughton are the following:

* Purfoot, 1576 (STC 21299.3): Thomas Purfoot's title page, which calls itself the Seven Wise Masters, advertised that it was a new edition of an old printing on the title page: "Now newly corrected with a pleasant stile, &purged from all old and rude wordes and phrases which were lothsome or tedious to the reader". The Purfoot edition was printed again twice in 1602 (STC 21299.5, 21299.7), perhaps evidence of the perennial popularity of the story set.


* Ross, 1578 (STC 21254): The title page of the edition by John Ross or Rolland (for Henry Charteris) called itself the "Seven Sages" and advertised that it was translatit out of prois in Scottis meter; it also advertised the rich compendium of stories available: "ane moralitie efter euerie doctouris tale, and siclike efter the Emprice Tale, togidder with ane louing and laude to euerie doctour efter his awin tale [and] ane exclamation and outcrying vpon the empreouris wife efter hir fals contrusit tale."


* Smith, 1592 (STC 21255): The title page advertisement of the edition by Robert Smith echoes that of Rolland's in using Sages and being in Scots meter; it carries an abbreviated version of Rolland's claims of moral commentary on the doctors' tales (praise) and that of the Emperor's wife (condemnation).

The Frame Story
Poncianus, the emperor of Rome, marries a king's daughter with whom he has a son, Dioclesian. When the child is seven, his mother becomes ill. On her deathbed, she begs the emperor to remarry but to protect their son from the new wife's governance and power. As his mourning ended, Poncianus summoned seven wise masters to undertake the education of his son: Pantyllas, Lentulus, Craton, Malquydrac, Joseph, Cleophas, and a seventh unnamed. The masters agree to take the boy out of Rome so that his education might be undisturbed. Soon after, Poncianus remarries; when the new wife realizes that she might not conceive an heir herself, she plots the death of Dioclesian. Her opportunity arrives when the boy, now a young man, returns home from his schooling. She attempts to seduce him but is unsuccessful. However she tells Poncianus that Dioclesian attempted to rape her. In his fury, Poncianus orders his son to be taken to the gallows and hanged (perversely, the son will not speak in his own defense). The wise men, unable to dissuade the emperor, succeed in postponement for a trial. The empress, eager to see Dioclesian executed swiftly and the seven masters discredited (if not also executed), tells the emperor a parable about a great tree that was hewed down to allow a lesser plant to flourish, the result of which was that the lesser plant died also. The emperor vows then to have his son executed without a trial, at which point the masters delay the execution with serial story-telling. The resulting structure of "Seven Wise Masters" is a pairing of stories: the masters illustrate the villainy of women (after which the emperor halts the execution), and the empress illustrates the disloyalty of sons (after which the emperor reissues the order for immediate execution).

The story of the first master, Pantyllas:
A knight had a young son whom he adored, as well as a beloved greyhound and falcon. A lover of tournaments, the knight hosted one that attracted great crowd, including his wife and the baby's nurses, who left the boy in his cradle guarded by the greyhound and the falcon. A serpent, seizing the opportunity, crept out of his hole to attack the child, but the falcon made such a racket that the greyhound awakened and killed the snake, upturning the cradle and bloodying the floor in the fight. Exhausted, he lay down by the child to lick his wounds. The nurses returned from the tournament, saw the cradle and bloodied dog, and told rhe wife (as she returned) that the dog has killed the child. At that moment, the knight returned, and the wife told him what the nurses had said. The dog, hearing his master, came forward to greet him, but the knight in anger struck off his head. Only then does the knight check the cradle, find the child safe, and see the dead snake. Broken-hearted at his error in believing his wife's word, the knight splintered his sword and left for wars in the Holy Land.

The counter-story of the empress:
An emperor wanted a boar in his forest destroyed, so he offered his daughter's hand in marriage as well as his kingdom to anyone who could kill it. The only taker was a shepherd who saw a chance to advance himself and his family. Armed only with his staff, the shepherd entered the forest, aroused the boar, and scrambled up a tree to avoid being killed. To stop the boar from knocking down the tree, the shepherd dropped fruit from the tree on the boar, who ate so much that he fell asleep. The shepherd then came down from the tree, cut the boar's throat, married the daughter, and took over the kingdom when his father-in-law died.


The story of the second master, Lentulus
An old man married a young woman who sneaked out at night to see her lover. In this town, anyone caught outside when the morning bell was rung was humiliated publicly by being pilloried. One night the old man awoke, found his wife missing, and locked the door against her. When she returned before dawn to sneak into the house, he cursed her and said she had to stay outside until "the wakers" came. Threatening to drown herself in the nearby well, she instead threw in a great stone, but the old man was fooled and came running out, leaving the door of the house open. The wife now locked him out and left him to the mockery of the town as the wakers put him in prison and then on the pillory.

The counter-story of the empress
In the time of Octavian, there was a knight who squandered his fortune on hunting and tournaments. He confided his poverty to his son, grieving also that his daughters would be penniless, and the son persuaded him to steal from Octavian's Tower of Gold, over which the knight had charge. Father and son then successfully tunneled into the tower and escaped with a fortune, which the father soon squandered. When the keeper of the tower discovered the theft, he devised a trick to catch the thief: he positioned a vessel of pitch at the hole where the thieves had entered. When the father and son returned for more gold, the father fell in the pitch. Unable to escape and eager to protect his son, the father insisted that his son behead him to conceal his identity. The son complied. Octavian, to find the thieves, ordered that the body be bound to the tail of a horse and dragged through the city; he told his men to arrest anyone who cried out at the sight of the mutilated corpse. The son and daughters were in the crowd, and the daughters shrieked and wept at the sight of their father; the son, however, cut himself in the mouth to deceive the officers into thinking that his wound was the reason the women were crying. He succeeded in this ruse, and the father's body was the only one displayed on the gallows.


The story of the third master, Craton
A rich man had pie (magpie) that he loved and taught to speak Latin and Hebrew. He also had a young wife who slipped out of the house to meet her lover whenever the husband was away on business. The pie told the master what his wife was doing, and he believed the bird, knowing it could not lie. When the husband was next out of town, the wife brought her lover to the house. She had a plan to prove the pie a liar: she faked a gigantic storm by pelting the bird with stones and water through a hole she had made in the roof above the birdcage. When the husband returned, the pie told him about the visit from his wife's lover as well as the near-deadly storm. However, the husband knew the night to have been calm, so he broke the pie's neck for lying. Only then did he look up and see the hole in the roof and realize the truth. Disconsolate at the rash killing of his beloved bird, the husband exiled himself, leaving everything behind.

The counter-story of the empress
A Roman emperor had seven wise masters who ruled him so completely that he never challenged their authority. To maintain their power, they bewitched him so that he could see only when he was in the palace but was blind when he went out. This condition lasted many years, and the seven masters enriched themselves by running a dream-interpreter's business at the palace. Finally the emperor became weary of being blind and asked his wife's advice. She told him to challenge the masters to find a remedy. The masters, confounded, went out in the city where they observed a child interpreting a dream about an orchard and its springs. Impressed, the masters asked the child (name: "Merlin") to solve their dilemma with the emperor. He (Merlin) returned with them to the palace and there told the emperor to lead him into the bedchamber where he had the bed stripped to reveal a well with seven springs. Merlin then said that the emperor would remain blind as long as the springs were unquenched; the way to quench the springs was to behead each of the masters. The emperor had the masters beheaded, and his sight was restored.


The story of the fourth master, Malquydrac
An old childless knight, on the counsel of his friends, took a young wife with whom he was soon besotted even though she was apparently barren. The wife, discontented with her husband's lovemaking, decided she wanted to take a priest to bed and asked her mother how she should proceed. The mother told her to test her husband by a series of offenses—cutting down his favorite tree, slamming his favorite dog against the bedroom wall so that he soiled the rich bedcovers, and disrupting a feast-day meal attended by important guests. The husband forgave her the first and second offenses but not the third. He hired a barber to punish her by letting blood from each of her arms. Chastened, the wife vowed (even to her mother) not to love anyone but her husband.

The counter-story of the empress
There was an emperor in Rome (Octavian) who loved gold. In the city also, there was a magician (Virgilius) who created a tower that contained an image (figure?) for every province in the country; each figure held a golden ball in one hand and a bell in the other. When there was rebellion in a given province, the bell sounded the alarm. Having finished this marvel, the magician made a light that burned eternally for the poor, as well as two baths for the populace: one hot, for washing; the other cool, for drinking. After some years a clerk, suspecting some treasure under the light, struck it down and it (along with the baths) vanished. Seeking redress, the poor took their grievances to a council, where four knights stepped forward to destroy the tower and its images (as well as get the gold for themselves). Aided by an elaborate ruse that involved drowning the figures, gold, and dreams, the knights undermined the tower and rode away with the gold. When the senators saw how the emperor had been deceived, they punished him by pouring molten gold down his throat. Soon after Rome was invaded and everyone was destroyed.


The story of the fifth master, Joseph
The counter-story of the empress


The story of the sixth master, Cleophas
The counter-story of the empress


The story of the seventh master (name not provided)
The counter-story of the empress
(story)


The story of Dioclesian


(frame concluded)

References to the Play

Information welcome.

Critical Commentary

Foakes notes (as Greg does not) that the entry on 1 March 1600 (above) is entirely in Birde's hand; that the signature for the entry of 8 March is Rowley's; and the second entry above for £8 is entirely in Shaa's hand (131, 132).

Knutson notes that "The Seven Wise Masters" shared the spring repertory in 1600 with the two-part "Fair Constance of Rome," which has not one but two wicked mothers (mothers-in-law, in Constance's case). She notes other Admiral's plays in the genre of tragedy with the stepmother motif: "Ferrex and Porrex" and "The Stepmother's Tragedy" (29). Linking the "Seven Masters" play further with its repertory mates, Knutson notes that the two-part "Constance" as well as yet another lost play, "The Golden Ass and Cupid and Psyche," are serial or co-joined plots, the latter probably also mixed in generic design. Taking a name commonly associated with the prince in the source stories, Knutson calls the young man 'Diocletian.'

For What It's Worth

In Gomme's 1885 edition of Wynkyn de Worde's seminal version, the ruler's name is Poncianus and his son is Dyoclesian (1). The masters are named Pantyllas, Lentulus, Craton, Malquydrac, Joseph, and Cleophas (the seventh master is unnamed); the stepmother is called "Empress" (5-6).

Gomme (iv) calls attention to the German woodcuts in de Worde's edition and cites an essay by W. M. Conway on the "history of the woodcuts of the Lubeck edition of the Seven Wise Masters" (Bibliographer, vol. 2, p, 70).

Works Cited

Gomme, George Laurence (ed.) The History of The Seven Wise Masters of Rome. London: The Villon Society, 1885.
Hays, Michael L. "A Bibliography of Dramatic Adaptations of Medieval Romances and Renaissance Chivalric Romances First Available in English through 1616," RORD [Records of English Drama], 28 (1985): 87-109, esp. 93.
Knutson, Roslyn L. "Toe to Toe across Maid Lane: Repertorial Competition at the Rose and Globe, 1599-1600." in June Schlueter and Paul Nelsen (eds.) Acts of Criticism: Performance Matters in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Madison & Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005, 21-37.


Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 30 October 2009.