A Dictionary of Old English Plays

James O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Old English Plays, Existing Either in Print or in Manuscript, From the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century, Including Also Notices of Latin Plays Written by English Authors During the Same Period. (1860)

Halliwell's Dictionary gives brief descriptions of all existing plays then known, and also includes information on some lost plays, as well as masques and operas.


Play References

Abdelazar
Behn
p. 1

ABDELAZAR; or, the Moor’s Revenge. Tragedy by Mrs. Aphra, or Afra, Behn. Acted at the Duke of York’s theatre, in 1671. 4to. 1677. This play is an alteration of Lust’s Dominion, or the Lascivious Queen, q. v. From it Dr. Young took the hint of his tragedy of the Revenge; the death of a father, and loss of a crown, being the prime motives of resentment equally in Abdelazar and Zanga. A similar reluctance appears in both at the descending to acts of villainy for the gratification of it, and both alike declare the sum of their crimes at the completion of their revenge. Genest observes that “Mrs. Behn has made some considerable changes in the fifth act, and improved the whole play. Abdelazar is a striking character; the outlines of Zanga are evidently borrowed from it; but the two parts differ in this, Zanga has one object only in view, revenge; whereas Abdelazar is instituted not only by the desire of revenge, but also by jealousy, ambition, and love. The part of Zanga is admirably written, and uniformly supported throughout; but after all Abdelazar is the more spirited character of the two; we detest him, but cannot despise him; and must feel some sort of respect for his courage: he does not descend to the low arts that Zanga does. Abdelazar’s avowal of his guilt in the last scene is an addition by Mrs. Behn.”

The Abdicated Prince
Anonymous
p. 1

ABDICATED PRINCE; or, the Adventures of four Years. Tragi-comedy, acted at Alba Regalis, by several persons of great quality. 4to. 1690. This piece, which was published anonymously, is entirely political, and seems not to have been intended for the stage: it contains under feigned names, the transactions of the English court and nation during the reign of James II., with the abdication of that prince, the Duke of Monmouth being made the hero; and personal abuse following a popular scandal in charging the King with the death of his brother, Charles the Second. This play needs no key; Alba Regalis evidently being meant for the English court, and the very names of the personages so closely pointed to real history, as to be obvious to any one acquainted with the public transactions of that period. One of the characters observes of James that “certainly never man took such pains to win a kingdom, as this unhappy prince does to lose one.”

Abraham and Lot
Anonymous
p. 2

ABRAHAM AND LOT. A Scriptural drama thus noticed in Henslowe’s Diary,—“received at Abrame and Lotte, the 9 of Jenewary, 1593, lij.s.” Mr. Collier thinks that it may have been some modification of an old miracle-play.

Abraham's Sacrifice
Golding
p. 2

ABRAHAM’S SACRIFICE. A Tragedie of Abraham’s Sacrifice, written in French by Theodore Beza, and translated into English by A. G., finished at Powles Belehamp, in Essex, the 11th day of August, 1575; with wood cuts. Printed by Vautrouillier. 18mo. 1577. The translator’s initials are those of Arthur Golding. It is a very faithful translation from Beza.

Absalom
Anonymous
p. 2

ABSALOM. A Scriptural drama alluded to in Henslowe’s Diary, ed. Collier, p. 241,—“paid for poleyes and workmanshipp for to hange Absolome, xiiij. d.” Bale wrote a play on the subject, but it is hardly probable that his work is the production here referred to.

Absalom
Bale
p. 2

ABSALOM. A Scriptural drama alluded to in Henslowe’s Diary, ed. Collier, p. 241,—“paid for poleyes and workmanshipp for to hange Absolome, xiiij. d.” Bale wrote a play on the subject, but it is hardly probable that his work is the production here referred to.

Abuses
Anonymous
p. 2

ABUSES. On July the 30th, 1606, there was a play so called, which was performed before the Kings of Great Britain and Denmark during the stay the latter made in this country. According to a contemporary authority, “the youthes of Paules, commonly called the children of Paules, plaide before the two Kings a play called Abuses, containing both a comedie and a tragedie, at which the Kinges seemed to take delight, and be much pleased.”

The Academie
Barnes
p. 2

THE ACADEMIE; or, the Cambridge Duns. Comedy by J. Barnes. This play has never been published, but still remains in MS. in the library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. It appears to have been written about the year 1675; and from circumstances referred to, it may be conjectured to have been acted somewhere in the university.

Achademios
Skelton
p. 2

ACHADEMIOS. A comedy by Skelton, no copy of which is now known to exist. It is mentioned in the Garlande of Laurell,—“his commedy, Achademios callyd by name.”

Achilles
Boyer
p. 2

ACHILLES; or, Iphigenia in Aulis. Tragedy by Abel Boyer. Acted at Drury Lane. 4to. 1700. This is a translation from the Iphigenia of Racine. It was acted in December, 1699, without auy success. On the appearance of the Victim, by Charles Johnson, in 1714, Boyer republished this play, under the title of the Victim, or Achilles and Iphigenia in Aulis, 12mo.; and in the preface to it says, that it passed the correction and approbation of Dryden.

Acolastus
Palsgrave
p. 3

ACOLASTUS. This play is no more than a translation, for the use of children, of a Latin play of the same name, written by Fullonius, on the story of the Prodigal Son. It is printed in black-letter, 4to., and dedicated to the King,—“Joannis Palsgravii Londoniensis Ecphrasis Anglica in Comediam Acolasti.—The comedye of Acolastus, translated into oure englyshe tongue, after such maner as chylderne are taught in the grammar-schole; fyrst, worde for worde, as the Latyne lyeth; and afterwarde, accordynge to the sense and meanyng of the Latin sentences; by shewing what they do value and countervayle in our tongue, with admonitions set forth in the margyn, so often as any such phrase, that is to say, kynde of spekyng used of the Latyns, which we use not in our tonge, but by other wordes expresse the said Latyn maners of speakinge, and also adages, metaphores, sentences, or other fygures, poeticall or rhetoricall do require, for the more perfyte instructynge of the lerners, and to leade theym more easilye to see howe the exposition gothe; and afore the seconde sceane of the fyrst acte, is a brefe introductory to have some general knowledge of the dyvers sortes of meters used of our auctour in this comedy. And afore Acolastus balade is shewed of what kyndes of meters his balade is made of. And afore the syxte sceane of the fourthe acte, is a monition of the rhetorycall composytion used in that sceane, and certayne other after it ensuyinge. Interpreted by John Palsgrave, anno M. D. XL. Wylliam Fullonius, the maker of this presente comedy, did set it forthe before the bourgeses of Hagen in Holand, anno M. D. XXIX.”

Actaeon and Diana
Cox
p. 3

ACTÆON AND DIANA. An interlude, by Robert Cox, with a pastoral story of the nymph Œnone, followed by the several conceited humours of Bumpkin the huntsman, Hobbinal the shepherd, Singing Simkin, and John Swabber the seaman. 4to, no date, and 1656. The story is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. In the second edition, 8vo. 1656, it is said to have been acted with great applause at the Red Bull. In this edition is the addition of Simpleton the Smith, not before extant. These drolls were afterwards published in Kirkman's collection, called the Wits, or Sport upon Sport, 1672.

Adelphi
Bernard
p. 3

ADELPHI. English translations of the Adelphi of Terence are included in Bernard’s Terence in English, 1598, 1607, 1614, 1629,1641; in Hoole’s Six Comedies of Terence, 1663, 1670, 1676; and in the Comedies made English by L. Echard and others, 1694.

Adelphi
Hoole
p. 3

ADELPHI. English translations of the Adelphi of Terence are included in Bernard’s Terence in English, 1598, 1607, 1614, 1629,1641; in Hoole’s Six Comedies of Terence, 1663, 1670, 1676; and in the Comedies made English by L. Echard and others, 1694.

Adelphi
Echard
p. 3

ADELPHI. English translations of the Adelphi of Terence are included in Bernard’s Terence in English, 1598, 1607, 1614, 1629,1641; in Hoole’s Six Comedies of Terence, 1663, 1670, 1676; and in the Comedies made English by L. Echard and others, 1694.

Adrasta
Jones
p. 4

ADRASTA; or, the Woman’s Spleen and Love’s Conquest. Tragi-comedy by John Jones, never acted, but printed in 4to. 1635. The intrigue in the third act is taken from Boccaccio, Day 8, Novel. 8. It has very little merit, and was refused by the actors. It is dedicated to Eugenius, by which name he desires to comprehend all his friends, subscribing himself, Musophilus; Langbaine, p. 281.

The Amorous Prince
Behn
pp. 15-16

AMOROUS PRINCE; or, the Curious Husband. Comedy by Mrs. Behn. Acted at the Duke of York's Theatre. 4to 1671. The plot of this play is built on the novel of the Curious Impertinent in Don Quixote, and on Davenport's City Night-cap. Mrs. Behn has, however, greatly excelled that play, and even improved on the novel itself. Scene, the Court of Florence.

The plot Halliwell-Phillips refers to as borrowed from Cervantes is the secondary plot of the play, involving a chastity test. In Cervantes' version, the test ends in tragedy; Behn brings it to a comic ending, instead.

The Beauty and Good Properties of Women
Anonymous
p. 30

BEAUTY OF WOMEN. “A new commodye in Englysh in manner of an enterlude ryght elegant and full of craft of rhethoryk, wherein is shew’d and dyscrybyd as well the bewte and good propertes of women, as theyr vycys and evyll condicions, wiht a morall conclusion and exhortacyon to vertew.” Folio. This curious interlude was printed by Rastel about the year 1530.

The Bloody Banquet
Anonymous
p. 34

THE BLOODY BANQUET. Tragedy printed in 4to. 1620, and 4to. 1639, with the letters T. D., but is, in some of the old catalogues, ascribed to Tho. Barker. It was however probably written by Robert Davenport, being enumerated with some other of his pieces in a list of plays that formerly belonged to the Cock-pit theatre. The letters T. D. were perhaps printed by mistake in the title-page instead of R. D. In 1639, the copyright belonged to the company at the Cock-pit in Drury Lane.

The 1620 edition listed here likely never existed.

Charles Duke of Byron Part 1
Chapman
pp. 35-36, 39

BORBONNE. A play under this title is mentioned by Henslowe as amongst the stock of the Rose Theatre, in 1598. It is no doubt the same drama elsewhere called Berowne, or Byron, q.v. Henslowe also mentions it as the play of Burbon, as having been acted at the Rose, on November 2nd, 1597.

BYRON. A play whose title is spelt, in Henslowe's Diary, Berowne and Burone, under the year 1602, may be perhaps Chapman's Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles Duke of Byron, printed in 1608. Byron was often spelt Berown, as in the early copies of Love's Labour's Lost.

1602 is likely too early for this play, which may have been based on a biography first printed in 1607, and the references given here by Halliwell are very likely from a different play, of which nothing is otherwise known.

Bussy D'Ambois
Chapman, d'Urfey
pp. 38-39

BUSSY D'AMBOIS. Tragedy by G. Chapman. 4to. 1607; 4to. 1608; 4to. 1616; 4to. 1641; 4to. 1657. Entered on the Stationers' Registers, June 3rd, 1607. Reprinted in Dilke's Old Plays. This play was often presented at Paul's, in the reign of James I., and after the Restoration was revived with success at the Theatre Royal. The plot of it is taken from the French historians of the reign of Henry III. of France. Dryden has spoken of it in terms of unwonted severity. "I have sometimes wondered," he says, "in the reading, what was become of those glaring colours which amazed me in Bussy d'Ambois upon the theatre; but when I had taken up what I supposed a fallen star, I found I had been cozened with a jelly: nothing but a cold dull mass, which glittered no longer than it was shooting, a dwarfish thought dressed up in gigantic words, repetition in abundance, looseness of expression, and gross hyperboles; the sense of one line expanded prodigiously into ten: and, to sum up all, uncorrect English, and a hideous mingle of false poetry and true nonsense; or, at best, a scantling of wit, which lay gasping for life, and groaning beneath a heap of rubbish. A famous modern poet used to sacrifice every year a Statius to Virgil's manes; and I have indignation enough to burn a d'Ambois annually to the memory of Jonson." Durfey says that, about 1675, he saw "the Bussy d'Ambois of Chapman acted by Mart, which in spight of the obsolete phrases and intolerable fustian with which a great part of it was cramm'd, had some extraordinary beauties which sensibly charmed me, which, being improved by the graceful action of that eternally renowned and best of actors, so attracted not only me, but the town in general, that they were obliged to pass by and excuse the gross errors in the writing, and allow it amongst the rank of the topping tragedies of that time."

BUSSY D'AMBOIS; or, the Husband's Revenge. Tragedy by T. Durfey. Acted at the Theatre Royal. 4to. 1691. This is a revival of Chapman's play, with some improvement in the character of Tamyra. For the intrigue of Bussy and Tamyra see Rosset's Histoires Tragiques, Hist. xvii. p. 303, under the feigned names of Lysis and Silvie. The scene lies at Paris. Dedicated to Edward Earl of Carlisle, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, &c. The principal character in it, formerly acted by Hart, was now successfully undertaken by Mountfort.

The 1616 edition listed here likely never existed.

Caesar and Pompey Part One
Anonymous
pp. 39-40

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.

Caesar and Pompey Part Two
Anonymous
pp. 39-40

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.

Caesar and Pompey
Anonymous
p. 39

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.

Pompey
Anonymous
pp. 39-40

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.

The Wars of Pompey and Caesar
Chapman
pp. 40, 267

CAESAR AND POMPEY. A Roman Tragedy, declaring their wars, out of whose events is evicted this proposition, only a just man is a free man. By Geo. Chapman. 4to. 1631. The plot of this play is taken from the Roman history. Scene, Rome and Pharsalia. In some copies the titlepage runs thus: “The Warres of Pompey and Caesar. Out of whose events,” &c. This was perhaps a second title-page, issued for some trade reason. Reprinted in 4to, 1653.

THE WARRES OF POMPEY AND CAESAR. By G. Chapman. This is the title of the second edition, 1631, of the tragedy of Caesar and Pompey.

Calistus
Anonymous
p. 41

CALISTUS. A tragi-comedy mentioned in a Second and Third Blast of Retrait from Plaies and Theatres, 1580, “wherein the baudress, Scelestina, inflamed the maiden Melibea with her sorceries.” This is supposed by Mr. Collier to be the same play as the Beauty and Good Properties of Women, printed about 1530.

Celestina
Anonymous
p. 44

CELESTINA. “The Tragie Comedye of Celestina, wherein are discoursed in most pleasant style many philosophicall sentences and advertisements, very necessarye for younge gentlemen, and discoveringe the sleights of treacherous servants, and the subtle cariages of filthye bawdes.” This tile is entered on the books of the Stationers’ Company, October 5, 1598, by William Aspley; but whether printed or not, we are unable to say.

A Christian Turn'd Turk
Daborne
p. 48

A CHRISTIAN TURN’D TURK; or, the tragical Lives and Deaths of the two famous Pirates Ward and Dansiker. A tragedy by Robert Daborne, not divided into acts. 4to 1612. The story is taken from an account of the overthrow of those two pirates, by Andrew Barker, 4to 1609.

Halliwell’s attribution of the story to the Barker pamphlet alone is inaccurate, as the Barker story, which does not include the pirates’ “overthrow” but ends with them still marauding on the seas, serves only as a backdrop for Daborne’s mostly invented tragedy.

Claracilla
Killigrew
p. 51

CLARICILLA. A tragi-comedy by Thomas Killigrew, acted at the Phoenix in Drury Lane. 12mo. 1641; fol. 1664. It was performed at the King’s House after the Restoration.

John of Gaunt
Hathwaye, Rankins
p. 57

THE CONQUEST OF SPAIN. A play by Hathway and Rankens, written in 1601. It is once mentioned in Henslowe’s Diary as “the Conquest of Spain by John of Gaunt.”

Pallantus and Eudora
Killigrew
pp. 57, 187

THE CONSPIRACY. A tragedy by Henry Killigrew. 4to, 1638. This piece was intended for the entertainment of the King and Queen at York House, on occasion of the nuptials of Lord Charles Herbert with Lady Mary Villiers, and was afterwards acted on the Black Friars stage. It was written at seventeen years of age, and the commendation bestowed on it by Ben Jonson and Lord Falkland created the author some envy among his contemporaries. The edition above mentioned was a surreptitious one, published while Killigrew was abroad, and without his consent or knowledge. He afterwards, however, gave the world a more genuine one, in fol. 1653 ; but was so much ashamed of this first edition, that, to prevent its being known as the same piece, he altered the name of it to Pallantus and Eudora, q. v. The scene lies in Crete.

PALLANTUS AND EUDORA. A tragedy by H. Killigrcw. Fol. 1653. It was originally published, but in an imperfect state, under the title of the Conspiracy. 1638.

Cornelia
Bartley
p. 60

CORNELIA. A play by Sir W. Bartley, acted in Gibbon's Tennis Court Vere Street, Clare Market, June 1st, 1662. Not printed.

Jack Straw
Anonymous
p. 131

JACK STRAW. The Life and Death of Jacke Straw, a notable Rebell in England, who was ild in Smithfield by the Lord Maior of London; Printed at London by John Danter, and are to be sold by William Barley, 1593, 4to. Another edition, printed for Thomas Pavier, 1604. In four acts only. The plot is founded on the history of Jack Straw, as related in the chronicles. This play was entered on the registers of the Stationers' Company by John Danter, Oct. 23rd, 1593.

The Jew
Anonymous
p. 132

THE JEW. A play, the subject of which was the “greediness of worldly chusers, and the bloody minds of usurers,” mentioned in Gosson's School of Abuse, 1579, as having been played at the Bel Savage.

Halliwell-Phillipps is mistaken; Gosson attributes this play to the Bull, not the Bel Savage.

Mock Pompey
Anonymous
p. 173

MOCK POMPEY. This seems to have been a droll. It is mentioned as a rhyming farce, with Simpleton the Smith, in Notes and Observations on the Empress of Morocco, 1674, p. 23.

Pompey
Philips
p. 198

POMPEY. A tragedy by Mrs. Catherine Philips. 4to. 1663. This play, a translation from the Pompée of Corneille, was undertaken at the request of the Earl of Orrery, and published in obedience to the commands of the Countess of Corke; to whom, in consequence, it was dedicated by its fair author.

Pompey the Great
Godolphin, Sackville, Sedley, Waller
p. 198

POMPEY THE GREAT. A tragedy, by Edmund Waller. 4to. 1664. This is a translation of the same play as the foregoing, and was acted by the Duke of York's servants. Waller, who translated only one act, was assisted in it by the Earl of Dorset and Middlesex, Sir Charles Sedley, and Godolphin.

Cornelia
Kyd
p. 198

POMPEY THE GREAT HIS FAIRE CORNELIA'S TRAGEDIE, effected by her Father and Husbandes Downecast, Death, and Fortune, by Thomas Kyd. 4to. 1595. This is a translation from an old French author, Robert Gamier, who distinguished himself as a poet during the reigns of Charles IX. Henry III. and Henry IV., and died at Mans in 1602, in the 56th year of his age. The translation is in blank verse, with only now and then a couplet, by the way of closing a paragraph or long sentence, and choruses which are written in various measures of verse, and are very long and sententious. It was first published under the title of Cornelia.

Ptolemy
Anonymous
p. 203

PTOLOMY. A play mentioned by Gosson in the School of Abuse, 1579, and said to have been performed at the Bel Savage.

Halliwell-Phillipps is mistaken; Gosson attributes this play to the Bull, not the Bel Savage.

The Spanish Bawd
Mabbe
p. 233

THE SPANISH BAWD, represented in Celestina; or, the Tragicke Comedy of Calisto and Melibea; wherein is contained, besides the Pleasantness and Sweetnesse of the Stile, many philosophical Sentences, and profitable Instructions necessary for the younger Sort: Shewing the Deceits and Subtilties housed in the Bosomes of false Servants and Cunny-catching Bawds. Fol. 1631. This play is the longest that was ever published, consisting of twenty-one acts. It was written originally in Spanish, by El Bachiler Fernanda de Roxas de la Puebla de Montalvan, whose name is discoverable by the beginning of every line in an acrostic or copy of verses prefixed to the work. The translator also, James Mabbe, pretends to be a Spaniard, and has taken on himself the disguised name of Don Diego Puedeser. The scene lies in Spain.

Telomo
Anonymous
p. 242

TELOMO. “A Historie of Telomo, shewed before her Majestie at Richmond on Shrovesundaie at night, enacted by the Earle of Leicester’s servauntes,” Revels’ Accounts, 1583.

The Weeding of Covent Garden
Brome
p. 268

THE WEEDING OF THE COVENT GARDEN; or, the Middlesex Justice of Peace. A comedy by Richard Brome. 8vo 1658. The running-title of this play is, The Covent Garden weeded. It is called on the title-page, “a facetious comedy, a posthume of Richard Brome, an ingenious servant, and imitator of his master, that famously renowned poet, Ben Johnson.”