Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary
Fol. 10v (Greg. I.20)
ye 28 of novmber 1594 ………. Res at warlamchester ………. xxiijs ye 30 of novmber 1594 ………. Res at warlamchester ………. xxxviijs ye 12 of desember 1594 ………. Res at warlamchester ………. xvs
Fol. 11v (Greg. I.22)
ye 29 of aprell 1595 ………. Res at warlamchester ………. xxixs ye 10 of maye 1595 ………. Res at warlam chester ………. xxixs
Fol. 12v (Greg. I.24)
ye 30 of maye 1595 ………. Res at warlamchester ………. ixs ye 16 of June 1595 ………. Res at warlamchester ………. xxvs
Admiral's Men at the Rose. The play is not marked with Henslowe's enigmatic "ne," so it is possible that "Warlamchester" had been performed before its debut at the Rose.
Saint's life? Anglo-Roman history?
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
Warlamchester (one of numerous variant historical spellings) was the Saxon name of the settlement previously known by the Romans as Verulamium. It subsequently came to be called St Albans in memory of the martyr executed there in the third century.
The use of the Saxon name in the play's title suggests that its subject matter is derived from the period prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066. One obvious possibility is the martyrdom of St Alban, referred to in the first volume of Holinshed's Chronicles (1577), in the chapter entitled "Asclepiodotus duke of Cornewall" (Oxford Holinshed Project, p. 88)).
The other obvious possibility is the earlier destruction of Verulamium during the revolt of Boudicea, referred to in the first volume of Holinshed's Chronicles (1577), in the chapter entitled "Aruiragus" (Oxford Holinshed Project, p. 64).
References to the Play
Malone, who enters the play by the date of 30 November, makes no comment on the play (p. 296); Collier points out only that the play is neither new nor the same as "The Wise Man of West Chester" (p 45, n. 4). Fleay, BCED, without comment, enters the name of the play as "Warlam Chester" (2.#139, p. 301). Greg II, citing Hazlitt's title choice of "Wars of Lancaster," rejects it both because "that play" (i.e., Shakespeare's "Contention") "never belonged to the Admiral's men" and "such a miswriting is impossible" (#61, p. 172).
Wiggins, Catalogue #860 focuses on the location of St. Albans and leans toward "the town itself [as] the play's leading 'character' . He leans away from "either the Roman destruction of Verulamium ... or the martyrdom of St Alban [because] neither would explain the use of the anachronistic name" (3.46).
For What It's Worth
Sally-Beth MacLean provides a civic and commercial context for plays in the West of England during the medieval period that featured saints. She argues that the most popular saints culturally were St. Nicholas and St. George, yet this popularity is not reflected in surviving evidence of plays featuring either one. Rather, the subject of the most saints' plays that survive in this area of England is "female martyr saints" (p. 51). According to MacLean, "Shrewsbury, home of an important shrine to a female virgin saint, is a likely urban centre for production of saint plays such as the two on record" (p.51). One of these featured Saints Feliciana and Sabina; the other featured St. Katherine of Alexandria (p. 55).
Site created and maintained byTom Rutter, University of Sheffield Hallam; updated 22 April 2010.