Troilus and Cressida

Henry Chettle and Thomas Dekker (1599)

N.B. This page is still under construction.

Historical Records

Henslowe's Diary

F. 54v (Greg I.104)

Lent vnto Thomas downton to lende
aprell 7 vnto mr dickers & harey cheattell in
daye 1599 earneste of ther boocke called Troyeles &
creasse daye the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . iijli
Lent vnto harey cheattell & mr dickers in pte
of payment of ther boocke called Troyelles &
cresseda the 16 of Aprell 1599 . . . . . . . . xxs

F. 63 (Greg I.109)

Henslowe also appears to have confused the play with another on a Greek subject also co-authored by Chettle and Dekker:

Lent vnto mr dickers & mr chettell the 26 of
maye 1599 in earneste of a Boocke called troylles
& creseda the tragede of Agamemnon the some of . . . . . xxxs


One of the seven extent backstage-plots (British Museum MS. Add 10449, fol. 5) is generally assumed to belong to Dekker and Chettle's "Troilus and Cressida." Greg noted that the actors names that appear in the plot connect it to the Admiral's Men and date it between March 1598 and July 1600, making the 1599 Troilus the most likely of several possible candidates (Dramatic Documents, II.138). (For dissent, see Hillebrand, who proposes the "troye" play that Henslowe records in June 1596 (461).)

The plot was transcribed by Greg in 1904 (Henslowe Papers, App. II.5, 142). A facsimile was published and the transcription corrected in Greg, Dramatic Documents, I, Plate V. This transcription is reprinted in Bullough, Narrative Sources, v. 6, pp. 220-21; and another facsimile appears in Bullough, "The Lost 'Troilus and Cressida'," facing p. 38.

Theatrical Provenance

"Troilus and Cressida" was to be performed by the Admiral's Men at the Rose. Payments made "in earnest" to Dekker and Chettle are recorded in April 1599. Although Henslowe did not record the completed payment, this can be accounted for by a gap in the Diary between April 17 and May 26 (Greg, Dramatic Documents, 138; Gurr 29, 243n).

The existence of a backstage-plot means that a staging of the play was being prepared and that a performance was anticipated. Plots were usually the final documents created before the performance of a play, and the extant plot for "Troilus" suggests that a performance did take place, although it does not necessarily constitute proof (cf. Stern 227).

The details of the plot that identify it with Dekker and Chettle's play provide us with evidence about its casting. In the plot, Richard Jones is cast as Priam. Jones's boy is cast as a waiting maid. John Pigge, Alleyn's boy, is probably cast as a beggar (Greg, Dramatic Documents, II.142). Thomas Hunt is mentioned without a character name. "Proctor" may refer to an actor of whom this is the only mention (Chambers II.335; Gurr 285) or to a character, "perhaps a steward [or] factor of a spital-house," perhaps performed by Hunt (Greg, Dramatic Documents, II.141-42). "Stephen," cast as a beggar, may have been Stephen Maget, the tire-man mentioned by Henslowe in 1596 (Greg, Dramatic Documents, II.65).

Probable Genre(s)

Classical Legend (Harbage). (See Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues below.)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Possible sources and analogues include classical accounts of the Trojan war (Homer, Virgil), Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, Henryson's Testament of Cressid, Lydgate's Troy-Book, Caxton's Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, and early modern works on Troy. The existence of a backstage-plot gives us rare insight into not only the narrative content of this lost play, but also its dramatic structure. For conjectural reconstructions of these scenes, contextualized within the literary tradition of Troy, see Tatlock 697-703 and Bullough.

References to the Play

(Information welcome.)

Critical Commentary

Greg, Dramatic Documents, II.138-43

Tatlock, 697-703


Jenkins, 218-225

For What It's Worth

(Content welcome.)

Works Cited

Bullough, Geoffrey. "The Lost Troilus and Cressida." Essays and Studies n.s. 17 (1964): 24-40.

Greg, Walter W., ed. Henslowe Papers, Being Documents Supplementary to Henslowe's Diary. London: A.H. Bullen, 1907.

Greg, W.W. Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1931.

Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594–1625. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009.

Hillebrand, Harold N., ed. The New Variorum Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1953.

Jenkins, Harold. The Life and Work of Henry Chettle. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1934.

Stern, Tiffany. Documents of Performance in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009.

Tatlock, John S. P. "The Siege of Troy in Elizabethan Literature, Especially in Shakespeare and Heywood." PMLA 30 (1915): 673-770.

Thompson, Ann. Shakespeare’s Chaucer: A Study in Literary Origins. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 1978.

Site created and maintained by Misha Teramura, Harvard University; updated 21 July 2012.