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or, A Story of Pompey

or, Caesar and Pompey

an anonymous play

About the Play

Three independent sources refer to a play on the subject of Pompey presented around the year 1580 or 1581:

  • Anthony Munday’s 1580 anti-theatrical pamphlet, A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theaters, discusses modern playwrights’ fast and loose interpretation of “the life of Pompey [and] the martial affaires of Caesar.” This suggests that the subject had recently come upon the London stage.
  • The account of the Master of Revels lists a play called A Story of Pompey as having been performed on Twelfth Night (January 5) in 1580; because the new year at that time began in March, not in January, this is what we would now consider January of 1581 on the Julian calendar.
  • Stephen Gosson, in his 1582 anti-theatrical pamphlet, Playes Confuted, discusses a play he calls Caesar and Pompey.

With only these references to go on, we cannot definitively prove that these references are to a single play. But the cluster of evidence makes it at least plausible. It is also, of course, possible that there was more than one play presented in London on what was a perennially popular subject. For a complete list of plays on the subject of Pompey and his war against Caesar published or attested to before 1700, see the entry for Caesar and Pompey (1607).

References from Secondary Sources

  • Peter Cunningham, ed., Revels' Accounts (1842)

    The children of Pawles: A storie of Pompey, enacted in the hall on twelfnighte whereon was ymploied newe, one great city, a senate howse, and eight ells of dobble sarcenet for curtens, and xviij paire of gloves.

  • Stephen Gosson, Playes Confuted in Five Actions (1582)

    ...if a true Historie be taken in hand, it is made like our shadows, longest at the rising and falling of the Sunne, shortest of all at hie noone....

    So was the history of Caesar and Pompey, and the Play of the Fabii at the Theater, both amplified there, where the Drummes might walke, or the pen ruffle; when the history swelled and ran to hye for the number of ye persons that shoulde playe it, the Poet with Proteus cut the same fit to his owne measure; when it afoorded no pompe at al, he brought it to the racke to make it serve. Which inuincible proueth on my side that Plays are no Images of trueth, because sometimes they handle such thinges as neuer were, sometime they runne vpon truethes, but make them seem longer, or shorter, or greater, or lesse then they were, according as the Poet blowes them vp with his quill, for aspiring heades, or minceth them smaller for weaker stomakes.

  • James O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Old English Plays (1860)

    CESAR AND POMPEY. The Tragedy of Caesar and Pompey; or Caesar's Revenge. Acted by the Students of Trinity College, in Oxford. 4to. 1607. Of this play there is, in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire, another edition, apparently an earlier one, without a date, and with no mention of its having been acted by the students of Trinity College. There was also a very ancient play on this subject, entitled, the History of Caesar and Pompey, exhibited before 15S0. See Gosson's School of Abuse. A new play, under the same title, was produced by Henslowe's company in 1594, and a second part in the following year.

    Halliwell is in error here; Gosson mentions a play on the subject of Caesar and Pompey not in the School of Abuse, published in 1679, but in his Playes Confuted, published in 1682.

  • William Carew Hazlitt, The Play-Collector's Manual (1892)

    Caesar and Pompey: A play mentioned by Gosson in his School of Abuse, 1579. It is doubtless the “Story of Pompey” performed at Court by the Children of Paul’s, January 6, 1581.

    Following Halliwell (1860), Hazlitt mistakenly identifies Gosson’s reference as coming from 1679’s School of Abuse rather than the correct pamphlet, 1682’s Playes Confuted.

  • Anthony Munday (attr.), A Second and Third Blast (1580)

    And if they write of histories that are knowen, as the life of Pompeie; the martial affaires of Caesar. and other worthies, they give them a newe face, and turne them out like counterfeites to showe themselves on the stage.