Untitled Play by Henry Burnell

Revision as of 21:37, 3 March 2021 by Laura Estill (talk | contribs) (Added note about last possible date of composition)

Henry Burnell (1636-1639)

Historical Records

None known.

Theatrical Provenance


Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues


References to the Play

In Burnell's play Landgartha (performed, 1640; published, 1641), the Prologue explains why they are dressed as an Amazon: "marvell not / The present author (having not forgot / How in 's first Play, he met with too much spite) / Sho'd send an armed Amazon" (sig A4v). The ill-received "first Play" that Burnell wrote is now lost.

Critical Commentary

For What It's Worth

Bentley assumes that it is this reference to Burnell's previous, unknown play that led Harbage to ascribe "The Toy" and "The Irish Gentleman" to Burnell (3.96-97). As Rankin notes, however, there “is no evidence for this” (ODNB).

Burnell's Landgartha was "the first extant play by an Irishman to be performed at the first theater in Dublin" (Rankin, "Kinds," 111); Landgartha was also the last performance by Ogilby's Men at the Werburgh Street Theatre in Dublin. It is possible that Burnell's earlier, now-lost play was performed under the same auspices.

Landgartha was first performed on St. Patrick's Day (17 March), as the quarto announces: "This Play was first Acted on S. Patricks day, 1639" (sig. K1v); Bentley notes that would be 1639/40 (3.97). Given that Landgartha's Amazonian prologue refers to costume, it was likely written for the first performance, which creates a terminus ad quem for the composition and performance of Burnell's earlier lost play.

Works Cited

Bentley, Gerard Eades. The Jacobean and Caroline Stage: Plays and Playwrights. Vol. 3. Oxford: Clarendon, 1956, reprinted 1967.

Harbage, Alfred. Annals of English Drama, 975-1700. 1st ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940.

Rankin, Deana. "Burnell, Henry (fl. 1640–1654), playwright." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. Date of access 6 Oct. 2020.

Rankin, Deana. "Kinds of Irishness: Henry Burnell and Richard Head." A Companion to Irish Literature. Ed. Julia M. Wright. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 108-24.

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