Difference between revisions of "Uther Pendragon"

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Revision as of 10:29, 5 January 2022

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Historical Records

Performance Records

Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary


Fol. 26v (Greg 1.52)


Aprell 1597
|2|9 ne.. tt at vterpendragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02|00|01 — 01 — 03
Maye 1597
|[''4'']3| tt at vterpendagon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|05|00 — 01 — 00
|7| tt at pendragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00|14|00 — 04 — 00
|12| tt at pendragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0|[0]17|00 — 00 — 00
wittsone
mvnday
|16| tt at pendragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 02|19|00 — 14 — 00



Fol. 27 (Greg 1.53)

June 15 |97|
|2| tt at pendragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 00|16|00 — 04 — 06
|13| —— tt at pendragon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01|00|00 — 10 — 00



Inventories

Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library


Greg, Papers (APX. I, art. 1, p. 115. l. 29)

Under the heading “The Enventary of the Clownes Sewtes and Hermetes Swetes, with dievers other sewtes, as follweth, 1598, the 10 of March:
Item, ... merlen gowne and cape



Theatrical Provenance


The Admiral's men acquired "Uther Pendragon" after Easter Term had begun in 1597 and played it at the Rose frequently into the summer (and perhaps beyond).

Probable Genre(s)

Pseudo-History (Harbage), legendary history (Wiggins, Catalogue #1070])



Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues


The story of Uther Pendragon was familiar in the 1590s by way of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae. Other standard sources of historical/mythical narratives were also ubiquitous, including Holinshed's Chronicles, Malory's Morte D'Arthur, and The Mirror for Magistrates. See Paul Whitfield White in Critical Commentary below for real-world instances of the impersonation of Uther Pendragon in royal circles at ceremonies such as the Accession Day Tilts.



References to the Play


None specifically referencing the Admiral's play have been identified.


Critical Commentary


Malone had no comment on "Uther Pendragon" nor did Collier except to point out that Uther Pendragon was King Arthur's father. Fleay, BCED contributed the assignment of Merlin's cap and gown in Henslowe's inventory to this play (2. #193, p. 305; A Chronicle History, p. 114). Greg II agreed with the assignment of the costume; further, he suggested a link with The Birth of Merlin, attributed in print to William Shakespeare and William Rowley (#105; p. 184).


Paul Whitfield White discusses a cluster of plays in the Admiral's repertory in the 1590s, connecting "Uther Pendragon" specifically as sequel to "Vortigern" but also a member of the theatrical family that also included "Chinon of England." He suggests that, "in the xenophobic anti-Catholic fever of 1590s London," Uther Pendragon might have been seen as a "Protestant hero" in his defeat of the usurper, Vortigern (153). Describing an analogous depiction in Elizabeth's court, White cites the frequent impersonation of Uther Pendragon by George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, apparently beginning at the queen's Accession Day Tilts in 1590. Summarizing documents from the time, White describes Clifford/Uther Pendragon "riding into the tiltyard on a lavishly decorated pageant wagon, perhaps featuring the crest of the fiery red dragon which the Cliffords shared with Uther and Arthur. ... Clifford arranged for an actor dressed as Merlin to deliver a speech recalling the tale of the two dragons in Vortiger's castle" (154).


Misha Teramura puts "Uther Pendragon" in an even wider frame that included plays in the Admiral's repertory with Virgilian narratives ("Troy", "Dido", "Agamemnon") and pre-Arthurian narratives ("The Conquest of Brute", "Brute Greenshield", "Ferrex and Porrex"). He perceives the collective stories from Virgil and Geoffrey of Monmouth as sharing themes of conquest, revenge, and catastrophe.



For What It's Worth



Works Cited

Misha Teramura, "Brute Parts: From Troy to Britain at the Rose, 1595-1600," in David McInnis and Matthew Steggle, ed. Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014. 127-47
White, Paul Whitfield, "The Admiral's Lost Arthurian Plays," in David McInnis and Matthew Steggle, ed. Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014. 148-62





Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 15 November 2019.