In the following chapter from Wraight's Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn she finds connections to the writing of 1 King Henry VI and Henslowe's new Rose Theatre. She gives us evidence from the various hands in the text which tells us just who the writers of this play were.
Chapter 8: A New Play at The Rose with its New Look
IN THE EARLY MONTHS of 1592 circumstances gave rise to an unusually close collaboration between Edward Alleyn and Christopher Marlowe, together with two of his fellow dramatists, Robert Greene and George Peele; both of them well known to Alleyn, for their works were being performed by his company.
Alleyn had just formed his alliance with Strange’s Men and together this syndicate formed the strongest acting troupe then in existence. They included many experienced actors, among the principals being Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope, John Hemminge, George Bryan, William Sly, and probably William Kempe and Richard Burbage. The latter’s name appears in a leading role in the ‘Platt” or plot of The Seven Deadly Sins, a play by the famous comedian Richard Tarlton who had died in 1588, and which must have been the play performed under the name Four Plays in One given at the Rose this season. If the ‘Platt’ , which is among Allyen’s possessions at Dulwich, dates from 1592 (and why else should it have been among Alleyn’s personal papers if this were not the case?) then Burbage was certainly with them at the Rose. Alleyn had quarreled with the elder Burbage the previous May, but presumably Richard Burbage was won over by the prospect of staying with the best actors of the company, and maybe inducement to play leading roles instead of the minor parts he had hitherto played. At any rate, there is no evidence of his presence with any other company than Strange’s Men.
Henslowe had just spent a goodly sum on his renovations, and was doubtless anxious to recoup this. The Rose, in its spanking new paintwork, stood ready inviting theatre-goers to cross the river to see what was on offer, and it was probably with some sense of occasion that he took a new page in his Diary and inscribed it with an opening flourish for what he hoped would be a profitable season.
In the name of god Amen 1591
Beginge the 19 of febreary my
Lord stranges mene A ffoloweth
Rd at fryer bacvne the 19 of febreary . . . satterdaye . . . xvijs iijd
Rd at mvlomvrco the 20 febreary . . . . . . xxixs
Rd at Orlando the 21 of febreary . . . . . . xvjs vjd 1
Two plays by Greene, his Friar Bacon and Orlando Furiouso, and one by Peele, for Henslowe’s ‘mvlomvrco’ must be his Battle of Alcazar. Between them Alleyn and Strange’s Men possessed a repertoire of proven old favourites with which to begin their season, but if they hoped for a good box office they were disappointed. They had opened on a Saturday and played on Sunday (which was strictly against the law, but it was often bent), and through a seven-day week with only moderate success. Alleyn was ambitious to impress in his alliance with Henslowe, and he realized that what was urgently needed was a new play with some startling attraction that would make theatrical news. The matter was urgent and called for speed and ingenuity to attract audiences to the Bankside as the fashionable theatrical resort of the future. These, then, are the circumstances which gave birth to the play that boosted box office records and fully vindicated Alleyn’s choice of author, subject and style of production, for it remained a winner. It was a new history play named harey the vj. [Henry VI, Part 1] With great satisfaction Henslowe noted in his Diary the takings of the new play:
Ne – Rd at harey the vj the 3 of marche 1591 … iijli xvjs 8d 2
£3 16s 8d! The play was performed no less than fourteen times during the season, more than any of the other plays in their repertoire, and once having taken to the ferries to cross to the smartly refurbished Rose, the audiences were happy to come again and again to see their old favourites. Box office takings remained high for the entire season. Edward Alleyn and Christopher Marlowe had woven their magic once again, for as we shall see, it was this winning combination in another variant which achieved this breakthrough for Henslowe.
The play which Henslowe recorded in his Diary as harey the vj has been identified for us by a contemporary reference to it by Tom Nashe in his Pierce Peniless: His Supplication to the Diuell, (entered in the Stationers’ Register on August, 8, 1592 and published that year) in which next to his marginal note, ‘in defence of playes’ he describes the ecstatically emotional reaction of the audience at the death of the hero, Talbot. He is evidently writing particularly with history plays in mind.
‘First, for the subiect of them (for the most part) it is borrowed out of our English Chronicles, wherein our forefathers valiant acts (that haue line long buried in rustie brasse and worme-eaten bookes) are reuiued, and they themselues raised from the Graue of Obiuion, and brought to pleade their ages Honours in open presence: than which, what can be a sharper reproofe to these degenerate effeminate dayes of ours?
‘How would it haue ioyed braue Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyne two hundred yeares in his Tombe, hee should triumphe againe on the Stage, and haue his bones newe embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least, (at seuerall times) who, in the Tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding?’
Nashe is not exaggerating, for the total of the fourteen performances it received in 1592 came to considerably more than ten thousand spectators.
The play in which brave Talbot, ‘the Frenchmens only scourge’ dominates as a hero figure until he nobly and movingly expires at the end of Act IV, can be none other than the opening play of the trilogy on the Wars of the Roses which appears in the First Folio as The first Part of Henry the Sixt, taking its place there before the Second and Third Parts which were The Contention and The True Tragedy discussed in an earlier chapter, which Marlowe had but recently written for the Pembrokes Men. The additional scenes which were later written to marry (literally) the First and Second Parts to form a consecutive trilogy by introducing the marriage of the young Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou, and which bear clear evidence of later interpolation, did not yet exist.
The first Part of Henry the Sixt, as the play is printed in the First Folio, is the subject of our study, and we shall find it a most revealing text. The play shows every sign of hasty composition, and it is certainly the worst and most unevenly written of the Henry VI plays. Indeed it is unique among the dramatic works attributed to Shakespeare in its descent at times to literary mediocrity and even banality, but – caviar to the general it proved. The Elizabethan audiences loved it, and probably not lest because of the spectacular production which the ingenious Alleyn devised for it, which must have made theatrical history at the time. He had in mind to make striking theatrical use of a new feature with which the renovation of the Rose had adorned this theatre. It now sported a turret from which the flagpole with its flying pennant rose into the air. And this little superstructure was, as we shall see, very much in Alleyn’s mind when he commissioned the new play.
Alleyn’s career, hitherto an unalloyed success story, was at a crucial point. In May of the previous year, 1591, he had fallen out with the elder Burbage, at whose theatres in Shoreditch he had been playing as leading actor with the Strange’s Men; and the upshot was he completely broke with James Burbage and taking the better part of Strange’s Men with him had allied himself with Henslowe on Bankside. Having burned his boats he simply could not afford to have a failure in their new season at the Rose. The success of the new play was to be his saving, and he evidently bent all his energies to meeting the need of the moment. Above all, he urgently requited a new play that would be a sure-fire ‘hit’. And the dramatist to whom Alleyn would naturally turn would have been Christopher Marlowe, who had written his greatest roles for him and whose plays had never failed as box office triumphs. No other dramatist could claim such a record of unfailing successes. It is inconceivable that Alleyn, in this moment of urgent need, should have turned to any one other than Marlowe – and assuredly not to the unknown William Shakespeare even if he had been around in London, for which we do not have any valid evidence.
The hypothetical reconstruction is as follows. Speed in putting the new play on the boards was vital, and it was therefore agreed to call in two or three more dramatists to write the scenes simultaneously once the plotting and division of the parts had been determined. Collaboration was a common enough practice, though Marlowe always preferred to work alone, but in the exceptional circumstances pertaining he agreed. As we shall see, the men called in to assist on this urgent project were well known to both Marlowe and to Alleyn, all having plays currently in the Strange’s repertoire. We can visualize the four of them – for there were four in this little consortium – sitting around a table together having a pre-production conference; Marlowe outlining the plot of the play and deciding, agreeing, how best to allocate the scenes to suit the talents and inclinations of his co-dramatists, with Alleyn explaining his ideas as to how the Rose’s new turret would be featured in the staging. The subject of the play was evidently carefully chosen to provide opportunities for Alleyn to use this novel structural addition in a theatrically striking way.
For his inspiration Marlowe had turned to history once more, to a period he was already steeped in, having but recently written two plays for Pembroke’s Men on the Wars of the Roses [The Contention, The True Tragedy], so that he would have been well primed for writing a play at such short notice on the earlier part of the reign of the young Henry VI, then still a minor, which part would certainly have been played by a boy in the original production of harey the vj. There was an additional reason for shocking this part of his turbulent reign as the subject for the new play, as its history is set in the wars in France, and this held great topical interest for Englishmen at this time. News of the siege of Rouen, where the Earl of Essex was prosecuting the war on behalf of Queen Elizabeth’s ally, Henry IV, formerly Henry of Navarre, the champion of the Huguenots, had been reaching Londoners all through that December, and by February news was received that the Duke of Parma was marching to the relief of Rouen. The Earl of Essex had arrived back in London on 19th January 1591/2 hoping to persuade Elizabeth to sanction desperately needed additional support for the French King, which, with her usual parsimony in such matters, she at first flatly refused. However, by late February she relented and signed an order for the levying of 1600 men, to be raised partly in Kent, Sussex and London, where masterless men might expect to find themselves taken up. This was the background then, which doubtless influenced the choice made by Marlowe to write a play about a war in France more than two hundred years ago, between the English and France led by Joan of Arc, in which Rouen is largely featured, the city being taken in the play first by the French led by Joan of Arc, and then re-taken by the English led by the valiant Talbot. What could be better suited to tickle the taste for topicality in their theatrical entertainment which the Elizabethan relished?
It is significant that this topicality of the historic background relating to Rouen has, in part, been superficially imposed, for the exaggerated importance given to Rouen in the action of the play was, in fact, historically inaccurate. The military incidents depicted occurred to other French towns, but were transferred to Rouen in the play. This underlines the correctness of the identification of the new play at the Rose, harey the vj, with I Henry VI (on which doubt has sometimes been expressed), for such topicality written into the play at the expense of historicity would only have been done for a purpose. Rouen was being especially ‘featured’ to give the added spice of topicality, and the historical inaccuracies were quite deliberate.
Against this background we now consider the evidence presented by Dr. Allison Gaw, whose meticulous research has vividly reconstructed for us the production of harey the vj as it was first presented at the Rose on 3rd March 1591/2 in his delightful book, The Origin and Development of 1 Henry VI.
Retracing Dr. Gaw’s detailed investigation of the collaborative authorship of harey the vj assumes special importance for the present thesis because it reveals Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn in an actual working relationship in the theatre. The making of this hybrid play also sheds a sharp light on the relationship between Alleyn and Greene in the last months of Greene’s life. Apparently these two almost came to blows during this production – or so the evidence suggests. This play was, I believe, the genesis of Greene’s vitriolic attack on ‘Shake-scene’. Gaw’s study has therefore unique value for all students of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan theatre.
Dr. Gaw’s entire thesis is based on the First Folio text of The first Part of Henry the Sixt which has preserved for us unusually precise stage-directions relating to what must have been the original production of harey the vj, deriving from the play script written in the divers hands of the playwrights who were working collaboratively on the piece in order to complete it in some haste. The scenes allocated to them were probably being written simultaneously by the four playwrights in the consortium to meet the time-scale required by Alleyn and Henslowe who had commissioned it. From this point on we follow Dr. Gaw’s thesis.
Noticing the unusual detail of the stage instructions in the First Folio text of this play, Dr. Gaw comments:
‘That the manuscript was…the work of men not in the habit themselves of conducting the rehearsals of their work [is] indicated by the fact that stage-directions concerning details of acting, costume, and stage-management, comparatively rare in the typical Shakespearean text, here occur frequently, and usually phrased without the crisp curtness of the practiced actor-playwright.’
Stage The French leape ore the walles in their shirts.
Direction Enter severall wayes, Bastard, Alenson, Reignier,
In II, i. halfe ready, and halfe unready.
First Folio, Histories, p.101, 1.720
This seems to suggest the presence of Alleyn, hovering anxiously to precipitate the work, already thinking ahead how the action of the play was to be presented. The most interesting of these stage-directions refer to the new superstructure, the turret. In renovating his Rose theatre, Henslowe spared no expense. His long list of the charges and materials purchased rarely specifies the work carried out, but Dr Gaw has deduced from the stage-directions in 1 Henry VI that he added a wooden superstructure carrying the mast or flagpole, which was the first example of a turret topping the theatre which became a standard feature of all Elizabethan theatres. Dr Gaw suggests that it may have been the inspiration of Edward Alleyn, who conceived that this additional level could be used in a spectacular way in a play production especially written to feature it. As Gaw amusingly suggests:
‘the first new play presented in the rebuilt house…seems especially and uniquely to “feature” the turret, as the New York Hippodrome might ‘feature’ a new artificial lake.’
Evidence of the existence of this novel turret and the specially devised theatrical ‘featuring’ of it in the new play is substantiated by the First Folio text of The first Part of Henry the Sixt, which shows Alleyn must have worked out in detail how best he could exploit this theatrically exciting level to the full, and he undoubtedly had an eye to this in the writing of the play. Dr. Gaw comments:
‘The early Elizabethan audience loved scenes of extreme physical danger, torture and the like. In 2 Tamburlaine Marlowe had already hung a living man in chains upon the stage and directed volleys of musketry against him. In Holinshed’s Chronicles, one of the principal sources of 1 Henry VI . . . was described a scene employing a cannon – a scene into which it was possible for the author, or authors of the play to introduce the chief hero, giving him a sensational first entrance and at the same time, perhaps, featuring the new superstructure.’
This is exploited to the full in the play (I,iv) under what must have been the close instruction and guidance of Edward Alleyn who knew exactly what he wanted in the scene, in which he contrived, with a stroke of theatrical wizardry, to introduce both the play’s hero, Talbot, and the new turret simultaneously high-lighted, so to speak, early in the drama.
‘After a fifty-line description in I,i, of his almost superhuman exploits and his capture by the French, he [Talbot] enters in person in a scene (I,iv) the details of which are borrowed from Holinshed but with which historically Talbot had no connect’. (My italics)
We seem to have encountered something like this before – when Dover Wilson and Peter Alexander accused Marlowe of introducing historically transferred data into Edward II – done, as here, for dramatic purposes. Yet according to their view that Shakespeare wrote all the Henry VI plays, here he would be doing this same unforgivable thing.) But now to demonstrate the matter to our eyes, is the scene in question as it appears in the First Folio.
Enter the Master Gunner of Orleance, and his Boy
M. Gunner. Sirrha, thou know’st how Orleance is besieg’d,
And how the English haue the Suburbs wonne.
Boy. Father I know, and oft haue shot at them,
How e’re vnfortunate, I miss’d my ayme
M. Gunner. But now thou shalt not. Be thou rul’d by me
Chiefe Master Gunner am I of this Towne,
Something I must doe to procure me grace:
The Princes espyals haue informed me,
How the English, in the Suburbs close entrencht,
Went through a secret Grate of Iron Barres,
In yonder Towne, to ouer-peere the Citie,
And thence discouer, how with most aduantage
They may vex vs with Shot or with Assault.
To intercept this inconuenience,
A Peece of Ordnance ‘gainst it haue I plac’d,
First Folio, Histories p.99, 11.463-79
Having given instructions to his son to keep watch so that they can shoot any Englishmen who appear, he exits. In this dramatically tense situation with a ‘Peece of Ordnance’ trained onto it, Talbot and other of the English leaders make their entrance ‘on the Turrets’, as the stage direction tells us.
Enter Salisbury and Talbot on the Turrets with others
Salisb. Talbot, my life, my ioy, againe return’d?
How wert thou handled, being Prisoner?
Or by what meanes got’s thou to be releas’d?
Discourse I prethee on this Turrets top.
Talbot. The Earle of Bedford had a Prisoner,
Call’d the vrauke Lord Ponton de Santrayle,
For him was I exchang’d, and ransom’d.
But with a baser man of Armes by farre,
Once in contempt they would haue barter’d me:
Which I disdaining, scorn’d, and craued death,
Rather then I would be so pil’d esteem’d:
In fine, redeem’d I was as I desir’d.
But O, the treacherous Falstaffe wounds my heart,
Whom with my bare fists I would execute,
If I now had him brought into my power.
Salisb. Yet tell’st thou not, how thou wert entertain’d.
Tal. With scoffes and scornes, and contumelious taunts,
In open Market-place produc’t they me,
To be a publique spectacle to all:
Here, sayd they, is the Terror of the French,
The Scar-Crow that affrights our Children so.
Then broke I from the Officers that led me,
And with my nayles digg’d stones out of the ground,
To hurle at the beholders of my shame.
My grisly countenance made others flye,
None durst come neere, for feare of suddaine death.
In Iron Walls they deem’s me not secure:
So great feare of my Name ‘mongst them were spread,
That they suppos’d I could rend Barres of Steele,
And spurne in pieces Posts of Adamant.
Wherefore a guard of chosen Shot I had,,
That walkt about me euery Minute while:
And if I did but stirre out of my Bed,
Ready they were to shoot me to the heart.
Enter the Boy with a Linstock
Salisb. I grieue to heare what torments you endur’d,
But we will be reueng’d sufficiently.
Now it is Supper time in Orleance:
Here, through this Grate, I count each one,
And view the Frenchmen how they fortifie:
Let vs looke in, the sight will much delight thee:
Sir Thomas Gargraue, and Sir William Glandsdale,
Let me haue your expresse opinions,
Where is best place to make our Batt’ry next?
Gargraue. I thinke at the North Gate, for there stands Lords.
Glansdale. And I here, at the Bulwarked of the Bridge.
Talb. For ought I see, this Citie must be famisht,
Or with light Skirmishes enfeebled.
Here they sho [o]t and Salisbury falls downe.
Salisb. O Lord haue mercy on vs, wretched sinners.
Gargraue. O lord haue mercy on me, wofull man.
Talb. What chance is this, that suddenly hath crost vs?
Speake Salisbury; at least, if thou canst, speake:
How far’st thou, Mirror of all Martiall men?
One of thy Eyes, and thy Cheekes side struck off?
Accursed Tower, accursed fatall Hand,
That hath contriu’d this wofull Tragedie.
In thirteene Battailels, Salisbury o’recame:
Henry the Fift he first trayn’d to the Warres,
Whil’st any Trumpe did sound, or Drum struck vp,
His Sword did ne’re leaue striking in the field.
Yet liu’st thou Salisbury? Though thy speech doth fayle,
One Eye thou hast to looke to Heauen for grace.
The Sunne with one Eye vieweth all the World.
Heauen be thou gracious to none aliue,
If Salisbury wants mercy at thy hands.
Beare hence his Body, I will helpe to bury it.
Sir Thomas Gargraue, hast thou any life?
Speake vnto Talbot, nay, looke vp to him.
Salisbury cheare thy Spirit with this comfort,
Thou shalt not due whiles –
He beckens with his hand, and smiles on me:
As who would say, When I am dead and gone,
Remember to auenge me on the French.
Plantaginet I will, and like thee, [Nero]
Play on the Lute, beholding the Townes burne:
Wretched shall France be onely in my Name.
Here an Alarum, and it Thunders and Lightens.
What stirre is this? What tumult’s in the heauens?
Whence cometh this Alarum, and the noyse?
Enter a Messenger
Mess. My Lord, my Lord, the French haue gather’d head.
The Dolphin, with one Ioane de Puzel ioyn’d,
A hold Prophetesse, new risen vp,
Is come with a great Power, to rayse the Siege.
Here Salisbury lifteth himself Vp and groanes
Talb. Heare, heare, how dying Salisbury doth groane
It irkes his heart he cannot be reueng’d.
Frenchmen, Ile be a Salisbury to you.
Puzel or Pussel, Dolphin or Dog-fish,
Your hearts Ile stampe out with my Horses heeles,
And make a Quagmire of your mingled braines.
Conuey me Salisbury into his Tent,
And then wee’le try what these dastard Frenchmen dare.
The first Part of Henry the Sixt, I, iv. 11.489-585
First Folio. Histories pp. 99-100
Note that there was a blank left in the Folio text where editors have inserted [Nero] as though whoever was writing this scene could not recall the name of - ? who was it? –some Roman emperor or other and intended to ask one of the other dramatists to fill it in later. This lacuna in the text is surely a significant pointer to the author of this crude scene.. it seems highly doubtful that it could have been written by a university educated man, though certainly by one who knew a great deal about the theatrical tricks that go to achieving dramatic impact, as demonstrated by Dr Gaw in his reconstruction of the scene in performance which is quoted below.
This then is the first scene that ‘features’ the new turret simultaneously with the first entrance of the hero, Talbot. The novelty of all this no doubt obscured the banality of the writing in this scene from it fascinated Elizabethan audience, but seen on the printed page we cannot fail to be struck by the exaggerated histrionics it exhibits. Only expert production can present this to a modern audience without raising a guffaw,* Surely Marlowe (or Shakespeare) never wrote anything as bad as this! The authorial responsibility for this scene is discussed later, but here we first examine Dr Gaw’s suggestion that this play was especially commissioned to feature the Rose’s new turret. This is how he interprets the staging of this scene.
‘In the scene as written, I. iv, the Master Gunner and the Boy first place the piece of ordnance on the extreme front of the stage and explain its purpose, thus creating dramatic tension. Salisbury, Talbot Gargrave, and Glansdale then appear, probably on the turret platform in the DeWitt sketch. For the benefit of the audience Salisbury immediately identifies Talbot, inquires concerning his release from captivity, and calls attention to their (theatrically) novel position: Discourse I prethee on this Turrets [not Towers] top. Through eighteen lines Talbot complies, the tension of the audience increasing in the presence of the loaded cannon and the unsuspecting victims. On Talbot’s line, Ready they were to shoot me to the heart, the Boy enters below with the lighted fuse. The actors probably here enter the turret itself and appear at the window, looking through this narrow secret Grate. They are then facing generally east from the westerly located stage. They briefly consult as to the best method of attack on the city. From the stage level the fatal shot is fired, being probably aimed somewhat high. The hero is spared, but Salisbury and Gargrave fall below the level of the turret window. Talbot describes in some detail their wounds and actions, which are invisible to the audience; refers in his promise of revenge, to the one-eyed sun, then prominent in the southern heavens’ and likens himself to Nero, who from a similar height had Play[ed] on the Lute, beholding the Townes burne. At the entering Messenger’s tale of French success Salisbury, who while hidden has roughly changed his make-up, lifteth himself up to the window again, and groanes: and Talbot, for the benefit of the pit below, identifies the now lood-bespattered face fleetingly seen at the aperture: Heare, heare, how dying Salisbury doth groane, and with a climactic threat closes the scene.’
‘There is no possibility that this is an interpolation. It is the carefully prepared entrance of the hero. In literary style it is among the crudest scenes in the play, and it utterly lacks any trace of revision. It is certainly of the original stuff of harey the vj.’ 9
A further interesting observation merits quotation:
“In reply to Salisbury’s question, Where is best place to make our Batt’ry next? Gargrave answers, I thinke at the North Gate, for there stands Lords, i.e. ‘Lord’s” the headquarters of the Lord General, the citadel; and Glansford, And I here, at the Bulwarke of the Bridge….’ Now it certainly seems to be too striking to be a mere coincidence that as the actors stood in the turret of the Rose theatre in the Bankside suburb and looked out of the east window of the turret over the pit and over the theatre wall toward the eastern section of the city, the two most prominent structures before them were the Tower of London and London Bridge, the former, the citadel of London, there and the latter here just as described in the scene. When we remember the instinctive bent of the Elizabethan theatre 250. toward realism and the delight of the Elizabethan audience in seen London described under a foreign guise (a delight that Ben Jonson later brilliantly ministered to)….it seems highly probable that, on the mention of the citadel and the bridge, the actors in the turret pointed out over the theatre wall toward the Tower and the Bridge, while the audience, with the sudden thrill of pleasure that always comes in the theatre when more is meant than meets the ear, recognized that their own London was being made to serve as the imagined Orleans of the play. Here again would be an opportunity for an added element of novelty in the use of the turret: and it is certainly worthy of note that the Rose is the only theatre of London before 1599 that fits the indicated topography.’’ 10
Alleyn’s mind as direction and planner of both the production and the devising of the play in a way that is tailor-made to suit the renovated theatre is clearly evident in the above reconstruction of the first turret scene, which is set at Orleans, and his hand is equally evident in the second turret scene presenting the taking of Rouen. The sense of his energetic promotion of this theatrical project to achieve this successful coup for the Rose must have endeared him in the eyes of that careful businessman, Henslowe, to whom Alleyn was to ally himself by marriage before the year was out.
In harey the vj, in which Marlowe was again turning his hand to the imaginative recreation of history using characters culled from the pages of the Chronicles, the part of the hero, Talbot, calls for an energetic, agile actor to represent a valiant soldierly type, but the physical description of him given in the play accords not at all with the physique of the gigantic Alleyn. It would have presented a great opportunity for young Richard Burbage if he were with the company. I suspect that the part Alleyn would have chosen for himself would be that of the proud Cardinal Winchester, whose beard is mentioned pointedly in the text by Gloucester in their quarrel in I, iii:
Priest, beware your beard,
I meane to tugge it, and cuffe you soundly.
First Folio, Histories, p. 99 11.414-5
Winchester is an important, but not a large part in this play. Which would have suited him admirably. Alleyn must have been a very busy man working closely with the dramatists, for the conception of the turret scenes with their complementary text and precise stage-directions, mutually confirming each other, are intrinsic to the Folio play as printed. These were not superimposed. Even the little that has so far been presented of this play has, I suggest, pointed to the inescapable conclusion that it was of multiple authorship.
The story of creation, or perhaps one should rather say of the concoction, and bringing to birth of this curious hybrid piece, as reconstructed by Dr. Gaw by his interpretation of the internal evidence of the Folio text is admirably thorough and convincing. The belief that 1 Henry VI is a composite work written by several playwrights is subscribed to by a galaxy of orthodox scholars:
Sir Sidney Lee, F. G. Fleay, A.W. Ward, Grant White, F. E. Schelling, Barrett Wendell are eminent critics who all place Marlowe’s name high among the proposed authors, some favouring also Peele, Lodge, Kyd and especially Greene whose name features prominently though with little consensus on how much of the play could be attributed to him. Dr. A.W. Ward thinks he was mainly responsible, although ‘it can hardly be doubted that Marlowe – and perhaps Peele and Lodge – were prominently concerned in this strange, but by no means intrinsically improbable, partnership.’ Tucker Brooked and J. Q. Adams head a body of opinion favouring Shakespeare’s hand in the play only as the ultimate reviser whose work welded it into the trilogy as the First Part of the Henry VI plays. 12 But it was F. G. Fleay alone 13 who undertook the task of a comprehensive study in depth of the text as printed in the First Folio. This proved very revealing, providing a unique basis on which to detect the different hands in the play which has formed the springboard for Dr Gaw’s thesis.
It was Fleay’s inspired notion to seize upon the curious variations of the spellings of the proper nouns naming the main characters and places in this history which are a peculiarity of the Folio’s text. 14 Since the variant of a particular spelling was adhered to throughout a scene in which the name appeared he concluded that that scene had been the work of a particular author who favoured this spelling; consequently, he divided the play according to these spelling idiosyncrasies which must have been present in the manuscript delivered to the printer of the Folio text, and this represented the original manuscript version put together at the time of the first production, to which later interpolations (in revision) had been added without rewriting the whole. Now it may be objected that Elizabethan spelling, even of proper names, was far from consistent, and this is true. Yet if we study the Folio text of this play it is a fact that scene by scene there is amazing consistency in the variant spellings used within the play. Printers, used to dealing with a weird and wonderful range of spellings 252. In the manuscripts provided for them to print, were already exhibiting a trend towards a definite form of standardized spelling for many English words in general use, as can be seen in comparing extant manuscripts with printed texts of the period. However, in the case of proper nouns, the printer would accept the author’s version of the spelling as being correct and would not alter or ‘standardize’ it. In this instance, it is an interesting corollary of Fleay’s spelling-test-division of the play that it has led to the identification of four distinct authors on the <basis of the stylistic differences within the scenes thus apportioned.
The division Fleay made on the basis of the Folio’s spelling idiosyncrasies revealed groupings of scenes which were eminently sensible and coherent if one dramatist were to work on them simultaneously whilst others were writing the rest of the play. For instance, the scenes allocated on the spelling test formula to Author A. proved to include all those scenes which deal with the great Gloucester-Winchester rivalry which runs like a thread through the play. And this kind of coherence emerged with all the other spelling-test-divisions. This gave confidence that there was validity in pursuing this approach. Here are the divisions for the four groupings as made on this basis:
Author A. uses: Gloster (Gloucester by others: (and always dissyllabic, never trisyllabic) Reynold (Reignier or Reigneir by others) Roan (dissyllabic, whereas monosyllabic by others)
Author B. uses: Gloucester (once as Glocester which may be a misprint) Reignier (occasionally Reigneir) Joane de Puzel (Pucell by others)
Author C. uses: Burgonie (Burgundy or Burgundie by others) Pucelle (Puzel in Author B.) Joane (Jone in Author D) Roan (as a monosyllable)
Author D. uses: Gloucester (invariably) Reignier (never Reigneir as in B) Jone (Joane in B. and C.)
Dr Gaw comments:
‘One of the chief bases for this division, that of the spelling of certain proper names, is, as here employed, more or less mechanical; but for that reason it is all the more valuable, both as in general the result of the automatic operation of fixed spelling habits in the writer, and as not so liable to subjective errors of interpretation due to the personal equation of the investigator. Although largely ignored by commentators since Fleay’s discovery of them, these points must be accorded the consideration they deserve.’
See the chart showing which author wrote which parts here. (Page 253)
Dr. Gaw took Flea’s spelling formula as his own basis of investigation and developed his thesis from this stand-point, Fleay having left the work incompleted. After checking Fleay’s original approach he found that:
‘. . . differences of spelling in the cases of certain proper names are so distributed and vary so consistently in accord with the content and literary traits of the passages in which the variants occur as to make it impossible that they should originate either with play-house transcribers or with printing-house compositors, but are explicable only on a basis of differences in authorial manuscript.’ 16
As we shall see it was remarkable to find how closely the authorial styles on investigation bore out the correctness of this division. Here reprinted is Dr Gaw’s table analyzing the scene divisions, the authorial ascriptions, and the eventual revisions in the First Folio text which were additional to the original harey the vj and must have been carried out at some time after the other two history plays on Henry VI (The Contention and The True Tragedy) had been acquired from the Pembroke company to whom they original belonged.
[me: “This is the kind of discovery that excites anthropologists when they find artifacts in the earth that lead to whole buried cities. Because the scholar makes these discoveries in the kingdom of the mind, and they work against a tradition formed out of myth, it can be centuries before they are recognized.]
Authorship and Scene Division
As will be seen in the Table of Authorship and Scene-Division, the part allocated to Author A. starts with its powerful opening scene, which marks A. as the main plotter of the whole play. Dr Gaw comments:
‘The opening scene of 1 Henry VI is a studied preparation for the various elements in the ensuing play, combining with the outbreak of the Gloucester-Winchester dispute a vivid relation of the capture by the French of the heroic Talbot, together with an adroit hint foreshadowing the sorcery of Joan of Arc. It shows a realization of the power of detailed climax found, I believe, nowhere as in Marlowe among the pre-Shakespeareans.’17
Thus Marlowe’s hand is immediately detectable in A. as the chief dramatist.
The play opens with the Funeral of Henry V, and the first speech from Bedford confirms our suspicion that this must indeed be from Marlowe’s pen.
Hung be ye heauens with black, yield day to night;
Comets importing change of Times and States,
Brandish your crystal Tresses in the Skie,
And with them scourge the bad reuolting Stars,
That haue consensted vnto Henries death;
King Henry the Fift, too famous to liue long,
England ne’re lost a King of so much worth.
First Folio, Histories, p. 96 11.9-15
Echoes of Tamburlaine’s magnificent elegy on the death of Zenocrate immediately sound in our ears:
Black is the beauty of the brightest day;
The golden ball of heaven’s eternal fire,
That danc’d with glory on the silver waves,
Now wants the fuel that inflam’d his beams;
And all with faintness, and for foul disgrace,
He binds his temples with a frowning cloud
Ready to darken earth with endless night
The Second Part of Tamburlaine the Great, II, iv 11.1-7
Dr Gaw comments:
‘In this brief scene of 137 lines we have ten echoes from Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Contention, True Tragedy, Edward II, Jew of Malta, and Lucan – five dramatic works and one non-dramatic, the last [me: Lucan] not intended for oral delivery and not even registered for printing until September 28, 1593. The mind of the man who wrote the scene was permeated with the style, thought, and tricks of phraseology of Marlowe. Its metrics, too, are his: 2.1 peer cent of feminine endings, and 13.2 per cent of pyrrhic final feet.’ 18
Marlowe as Author A. is further supported by the choice of themes in the play allocated to him.
‘The Gloucester-Winchester passages immediately suggest Marlowe, all of whose greatest works emphasize a central study of some form of ambitious egotism. Conquest, magic, wealth, royal flattery, wholesale murder, are simply means by which Tamburlaine, Faustus, Barabas, Gaveston, and the Duke of Guise respectively satisfy their craving for dominance. Winchester is but another of their tribe. Further, Marlowe’s mature dramas except Edward II tend to inveigh against, not Christianity, but the non-Christian conduct of its professors. Here the spirit of passages in 2 Tamburlaine, The Jew of Malta, and The Massacre at Paris, again flames out in Gloucester’s attack on the Cardinal.’ 19
Worldly ambition is the motivating force of Winchester’s character as A. portrays him. It is his hypocrisy that Gloucester detests and the play has barely begun when the first taunt is flung:
Name not Religion, for thou lou’st the Flesh,
And ne’re throughout the yeere to Church thou go’st,
Except it be to pray against thy foes.
and a little later in a dramatic confrontation –
Thou that giu’st Whores Indulgences to sinne,
and again –
Presumptuous Priest . . . . . . . . . . . .
No Prelate, such is thy audacious wickednesse,
Thy lewd, pestiferous, and dissentious prancks,
As very infants prattle of thy pride.
Thou art a most pernitious Vsurer,
Froward by nature, Enemie to Peace,
Lasciuious, wanton, more then well beseemes
A man of thy Profession, and Degree
First Folio, Histories, p. 105, 11.1212-24
These views are essentially Marlowe’s, which he expresses again and again through the mouths of the characters in his plays. For him ignorance and hypocrisy were the two deadliest sins, and his iconoclasm was the expression of his revolt against them. As Dr Gaw has commented, the 257 appeal of the theme offered by the historical characters and events of the early part of this reign made it a natural choice:
‘And to what material would Marlowe most naturally turn but to a period of English history in which he had recently in imagination been living, and in which some of his most recent successes had been made? And in the course of the collaboration what characters and scenes would he most naturally choose to develop as his part of the work but those of the “Proud Cardinall of Winchester”, whose “Tragicall end” is featured on he title-page of the Contention, and the dominant Duke of York, he advertising power of whose name was so great that it gave the title to the True Tragedy, although the Duke himself dies before the play is one-quarter finished?’ 20
Dr Gaw remarks on a typically Marlowan touch in A.’s dramatic technique which is found in five of the scenes allocated to his hand. These scenes all end with –
‘the emptying of the stage of all the characters but one, who then utters a significant soliloquy. This technique is employed in the play 1 Henry VI only in the A. scenes.’ 21
He examines in great detail the scene depicting the death of Mortimer, which previous scholars had assigned to Shakespeare’s hand as an interpolation in what they have otherwise accepted as a collaborative play. Analyzing the versification Dr Gaw found that ‘the metrical peculiarities incline heavily on the side of Marlowe…Highly significant, too is the use in the scene of the verbal ending –ed abnormally pronounced as a separate syllable for the sake of the metre’, which is more common in Marlowe than in Shakespeare; ‘the characteristic echoes of idea and phrase’, and ‘the dramatic technique strongly confirms all this evidence assigning it to Marlowe.’ 22
Enter Mortimer, brought in a Chayre, and laylors
Mort. Kind Keepers of my weake decaying Age,
Let dyng Mortimer here rest himselfe.
Euen like a man new haled from the Wrack,
So fare my Limbes with long Imprisonment;
And these gray Locks, the Pursuiuants of death
Nestor-like aged, in an Age of Care,
Argue the end of Edmun Mortimer.
These Eyes. Like Lampes, whose wasting Oyle is spent,
Waxe dimme, as drawing to their Exigent.
Weake Shoulders, ouer-borne with burthening Griefe,
And pyth-lesse Armes, like to a withered Vine,
That droupes his sappe-lesse Branches to the ground.
Yet are these Feet, whose strength-lesse stay is numme,
(vnable to support this Lumpe of Clay)
Swift-winged with desire to get a Graue,
As witting I no other comfort haue.
But tell me, Keeper, will my Nephew come?
Keeper. Richard Plantagenet, my Lord, will come:
We sent vnto the Temple, vnto his Chamber,
And answer was return'd, that he will come.
Mort. Enough: my Soule shall then be satisfied.
Poore Gentleman, his wrong doth equall mine.
Since Henry Monmouth first began to reigne,
Before whose Glory I was great in Armes,
This loathsome sequestration haue I had;
And euen since then, hath Richard beene obscur’d,
Depriu’d of Honore and Inheritance,
But now, the Arbitrator of Despaires,
Iust Death, kinde Vmpire of mens miserie,
With sweet enlargement doth dismisse me hence:
Richard comes and receives long conference and advice, in which the dying Mortimer recounts the history of former reigns and reminds Richard of his royal lineage, concluding –
Thus the Mortimers
In whom the Title rested, were supprest.
Rich. Of which, my Lord, your Honor is the last.
Mort. True; and thou seest, that I no Issue haue,
And that my fainting words doe warrant death:
Thou art my Heire; the rest, I wish thee gather:
But yet be wary in thy studious care.
Rich. Thy graue admonishments preuayle with me:
But yet me thinkes, my Fathers execution
Was nothing lesse then bloody Tyranny.
Mort. With silence, Nephew, be thou politick,
Strong fixed is the House of Lancaster,
And like a Mountaine, not to be remou’d.
But now thy Vnckle is remouing hence,
As Princes doe their Courts, when they are cloy’d
With long continuance in a settled place.
With few more words Mortimer dies, and Richard ends the scene with a soliloquy, a kind of obsequy spoken over the dead body of his Uncle.
Rich. And Peace, no Warre, befall thy parting Soule.
In Prison has thou spent a Pilgrimage,
And like a Hermite ouer-past thy dayes.
Well, I will locke his Councell in my Brest,
And what I doe imagine, let that rest.
Keeper conuey him hence, and I my selfe
Will see his Buryall better than his Life.
Here dyes the duskie Torch of Mortimer,
Choakt with Ambition of the meaner sort.
And for those Wrongs, those bitter Iniuries,
Which Somerset hath offer’d to my House
I doubt not, but with Honor to redresse.
And therefore haste I to the Parliament,
Eyther to be restored to my Blood,
Or make my will th’aduantage of my good. Exit
The first Part of Henry the Sixt, V,v. 11.1186-1200
First Folio, Histories, pp. 104-5
Many of the stylistic traits referred to can be seen in this excerpt. These mark it clearly as part of the original work of Marlowe. Dr. Gaw claims that none of this represents later revision by Shakespeare, the entire scene being strongly characteristic of Marlowe.He sums up:
‘In view, therefore, of the dramaturgic necessity for such a scene in the original version; the adequacy of the dramatic technique of V, v, old-fashioned as it is, for the purpose; the lack of any indication that this is a rewriting of an earlier form or that it contains interpolated material; the facts that it is echoed in the succeeding original scene, and that it contains irremovably embedded within itself the kernel of later expansion into II, iv;…and its strongly Marlowan and absolutely un-Shakespearean metrics; - it seems to be impossible to avoid the conclusion that the scene is a part of Marlowe’s original contribution to the play, written on a somewhat higher poetic level than the subject matter of 1 Henry VI in general inspired in him.’ 23
In more ways than one harey the vj bears out the evidence of its circumstantial birth – in haste to meet a present urgent need.
‘…the play bears many evidences of hast. In the first place it is without doubt the work of many hands, and a man like Marlowe, who…had a prominent part in it, and whose great works are strictly individual compositions, does not turn over a large part of a play to several collaborators unless pressed for time…There are, too, a number of irreconcilable inconsistencies in the play, betraying work delivered before it had been matured.’ 24
The ‘irreconcilable inconsistencies’ will be more in evidence when we examine the work of the other collaborators than in Marlowe’s, for he was ever the professional. In this play there is no doubt that his way the guiding hand. But the haste and fragmentation off the play must have affected him, for Dr Gaw remarks that the scenes in his part ‘are by no means wholly typical of Marlowe at his best. They lack the poetic élan that we usually expect to find in him – he probably viewed the drama in general as a hurried hack order and could not fully rise to it.’25
I have not dealt with the analysis of versification in presenting the case of Author A. to which Dr. Gaw pays meticulous attention in making his authorial identification, because I have felt that matters of prosody can be misleading when presented in brief, as here when condensing the findings of another’s major work. Nevertheless, to conclude the case for Marlowe, Dr. Gaw has established that for those scenes given to A. ‘in 452 lines out of the total of 939, the metrical criteria . . . are wholly harmonious with the theory of Marlowe’s authorship’.
Such brief cullings as I have given do not do justice to Dr. Gaw’s detailed scene-by-scene examination of the text ascribed to the hand of Author A. But it is neither possible nor appropriate to give a fuller review here for Dr. Gaw’s book is the source to which the interested reader should turn.
Who then were the other men to whom Marlowe and Alleyn turned for help on this urgent task? We examine next the case for Author D, as his is a relatively uncomplicated matter involving the tying up of all the ends in the play. He has the end of the Talbot story, the end of the Joan story, and the end of the plays as it was originally written concluding with the declaration of ‘a solemne peace’ between England and France (Henry’s marriage to Margaret of Anjou being added in revision).
D.’s part includes the famous Talbot death scene, so praised by Nashe. In this he dies together with his young son, who had joined him in France merely to receive a training in arms, but valiantly insists on fighting in the war by his father’s side. D. writes in rhyming couplets, instead of blank verse, which adds to the mawkishness of this passage. Gaw finds the couplets with their ‘stichomythic lachrymose whine’ to be absolutely unlike the style of Shakespeare, or of Marlowe for that matter, but the audiences loved this weepy scene and it was left untouched by the revisionist, having proved its popular appeal – as testified by Nashe.
Alarums. Excursions. Enter old Talbot led.
Talb. Where is my other Life? Mine owne is gone.
O, where’s young Talbot? Where is valiant Iohn?
Triumphant Death, smear’d with Captiuitie,
Young Talbots Valour makes me smile at thee.
When he perceiu’s me shrinke, and on my Knee,
His bloodie Sword he brandisht over mee,
And like a hungry Lyon did commence
Rough deeds of Rage, and sterne Impatience:
But when my angry Guardant stood alone,
Tendring my ruine, and assayl’d of none,
Dizzie-ey’d Furie, and great rage of Heart,
Suddenly made him from my side to start
Into the clustering Battaile of the French:
And in that Sea of Blood, my Boy did drench
His over-mounting Spirit; and there di’de
My Icarus, my Blossome, in his pride.
Enter with Iohn Talbot, borne.
Serv. O my deare Lord, loe where your Sonne is borne.
Tal. Thou antique Death, which laugh’st Vs here to scorn,
Anon from thy insulting Tyrannie,
Coupled in bonds of perpetuitie,
Two Talbots winged through the lither Skie,
In thy despight shall scape Mortalitie.
O thou whose wounds become hard fauoured death,
Speake to thy father, ere thou yeeld thy breath,
Braue death by speaking, whither he will or no:
Imagine him a Frenchman, and thy Foe.
Poore Boy, he smiles, me thinkes, as who should say,
Had Death bene French, then Death had dyed to day.
Come, come, and lay him in his Fathers armes,
My spirit can no longer beare these harmes.
Souldiers adieu: I haue what I would haue,
Now my old armes are yong Iohn Talbots graue.” Dyes
First Folio, Histories, pp. 113-4, 11.2230-63
Apart from his favoured adoption of couplets D is differentiated in that he uses not Holinshed’s Chronicles, but Halle as his historical source. He over-emphasises Talbot’s age, but Halle as his historical source. He over-emphasises Talbot’s age, though this is perhaps dramatically valid here as contrast to his son’s youth – whereas elsewhere Talbot is presented as the virile, energetic leader and daring hero-soldlier. But his treatment of Joan presents the most extraordinary contradiction of characterization in the play, and is inexplicable unless this is assessed as the work of different hands. D’s part has the responsibility for dealing with Joan’s capture and death.
‘It is here that the unforgivable insult (far in excess of any foundation in their sources in the Chronicles) is offered to the memory of the Maid of France. She is shown actually begging aid of invisible Fiends whom, according to her statement she “had been wont to feed . . . with [her] blood” and she mingles her pleas with offers of unchastity:
My body shall
Pay recompense, if you will graunt my suite
While in V, iv, she repeatedly denies her father, mendaciously vaunts noble birth, lies concerning her sorcery, claims exemption from the stake on the grounds of pregnancy with the assignment successively to Charles, Alencon, and Reignier of the illicit fatherhood of her unborn child, and finally passes to her doom cursing her captors and curse by them. Except for a moment of elevation in Joan’s defense these scenes, like all of the D passages, are, from a literary point of view, at best mediocre.’ [My italics]
Significantly, Gaw points out – regarding the above italicized passage –
‘The one touch of elevation given to Joan, lines 32-35, contradicts the other parts of the scene…in putting into her mouth a defense in exalted language of her chastity and her heaven-sent power, and a scathing rebuke of her persecutors as
Polluted with your lustes,
Stain’d with the guiltless blood of Innocents,
Corrupt and tainted with a thousand Vices,
the whole in such elevated mood and with such dramatic power (both far above D’s level elsewhere) as curiously to defeat the obvious dramatic intention of the scene by re winning our admiration for the character whom D intended to make repulsive. An examination of the metrics of the passage unmistakably confirms the suspicion aroused by its superiority and by its incongruity with its surroundings. The 22.2 per cent of feminine endings in these lines, as compared wit 5.5 per cent in the remainder of the scene, marks this as an interpolation by Shakespeare. 29
This is clear evidence of the hybrid nature of the play.
Who was D? Dr. Gaw finds no difficulty in identifying him. After having meticulously examined the style, the versification, the use of classical allusion (marking him as a university educated man), and a certain tendency to the use of archaisms such as wot (God wot; We English warriors wot) which he states is ‘a favorite with Peele’, he comes down firmly in favour of George Peele, an older member of the University Wits who was more especially a friend of Marlowe’s than he was of Greene or Nashe. Dr. Gaw concludes his assessment of D thus:
‘After a careful comparison of D.’s work with that of Peele most closely analogous to it, I have not a shadow of doubt that D. was Peele.’ 31
Peele would doubtless have been glad to participate in this rush assignment for he was chronically short of money, and he was well known to Alleyn for his Battle of Alcazar was already in Alleyn’s repertoire at the Rose.
Author B. His part of the play consists of the Talbot scenes dealing with the siege, relief and final capture of Orleans; his visit to the Countess of Auvergne; his elevation to the rank of Earl; and his denunciation of Falstaff at the coronation of the King; all these forming a ‘homogeneous series of 508 lines, with no indication of rewriting or interpolation’ 32 – that is, by Shakespeare. Author B. uses Holinshed as his source, and although he invents freely ‘when necessary’, he follows his historic source more closely than A. or C. or D. sometimes even borrowing Holinshed’s phraseology; but his research was limited, not wide like Marlowe’s, who had already written The True Tragedy and knew that Henry was only a babe in arms of nine months when his father died and he inherited the crown, of which fact B. is unaware when he gives Henry the lines in greeting Talbot, for here he makes a historical gaff which it is quite unnecessary to slip into the speech:
When I was young, (as yet I am not old)
I doe remember how my Father said
A stouter Champion never handled Sword.
First Folio, Histories, p.109, III, iv. 11.1709-11
Dr. Gaw makes the point that young King Henry in this play must originally have been played by a boy, which later caused some difficulty when his marriage to Margaret was interpolated into the play in revision, in order to link it with The first Part of the Contention, which is another story.
Author B. remarks Dr Gaw, is notable or his ‘love of learned allusions’ which is a characteristic of that ‘Maister of Arts of two Universities’, Robert Greene, who loved to make a show of his erudition. He mentions:
‘ “Astraea’s Daughter”, “Adonis’ garden”, “Rhodope”, and the “rich jewell’d coffer of Darius”,… “Mars in his true moving”,… “the nine Sibyls”, “Debora” “Caesar” in a reference to a story from Plutarch, “Mahomet”, “Helen, the mother of Constantine”, and “St. Philip’s daughters”, alas well as a quotation (in oratio oblique) from Froissart, associated with mention of “Samsons and Goliasses” ’ 33
Many of these classical allusions appear in the speeches in praise of Joan of Arc, B.’s Puzel, which Gaw has pointed out are in his most elevated style.’
Greene’s biographer, J. C. Jordan, remarks of Greene’s variably successful dramatic works that his finest moments are always in the handling of women, his most credible and charming creations being such characters as Margaret in Friar Bacon, and contributing not a little to that play’s success. Jordan comments on another characteristic of Greene’s works, that he has the ability to blow the fresh air of the countryside through his pages; 34 pastorals not tragedies were his scene, and this, too, is apparent in B’s introduction of Joan at the court of the Dauphin, here called the Dolphin.
Puzel. Dolphin, I am by birth a Shepheards Daughter,
My with untrayn’ed in any kind of Art”
Heauen and our Lady gracious hath it pleas’d
To shine in my contemptible estate,
Loe, whilest I wayted on my tender Lambes,
And to Sunnes parching heat display’d my cheeks,
Gods Mother deigned to appeare to me,
And in a Vision full of Maiestie,
Will’d me to leaue my base Vocation,
And free my Countrey from Calamitie:
Her Ayde she promis’d, and assur’d successe.
In compleat Glory shee reveal’d her selfe:
And whereas I was black and swart before,
With those cleare Rayes, which shee infus’d on me,
That beautie am I blest with, which you may see.
Aske me what question thou canst possible,
And I will answer vnpremeditated:
My Courage trie by Combat, if thou dar’st,
And thou shalt finde that I exceed my Sex.
Resolue on this, thou shalt be fortunate,
If thou receiue me for thy Warlike Mate.
First Folio, Histories, p. 98, Iii. 11.274-94
Greene was too vain, self-indulgent and selfish to be capable of deep emotional attachment, but women were indispensable to him in real life and his interest in them is reflected in his literary and dramatic works. Drunkenness and lack of money Made his own life sordid, but he compensated by idealizing and romancing, yearning for repentance and better things; imagining himself capable of the true love and loyalty he lacked, he lifts himself to higher levels when his dramatic subject is female. B’s treatment of Joan of Arc is similar to that by A. (Marlowe) and in direct contrast to that given her by D. (Peele). Dr Gaw remarks:
‘B. rises into really musical eloquence in her praise in the 31 lines of I, vi.’ 35
Like A. the speeches B. puts into the mouth of the Maid of Orleans are ‘pure and elevated as to Joan’s own language, but eliciting an immediate declaration of love from Charles and sneers from the nobles as to the sexual situation.’ 36
Dr. Gaw further notes that ‘the dialogue after the entrance of Joan is of higher quality than B. shows himself capable of elsewhere save in I, vi; there is a real elevation of character in the speeches of Joan that is superior to B.’s characterization in other scenes;’
Dr H. D. Gray has remarked that the episode in which Talbot meets the Countess of Auvergne ‘has his [Greene’s] characteristic “smartiness” in the turning of the tables’. 38
Greene’s male characters are usually less successful. J. C. Jordan comments that they tend to be representations of types rather than fully realized people, and the portrayal of a forceful male personality to dominate a play was beyond him, as shown in his failure with Alphonsus King of Arragon and Orlando Furiouso, both very weak in the dramatization of the characters of the male title roles. The same criticism applies to B. whose male characters Gaw finds ‘show no subtlety of characterization, apparently not comprehending conflict of character in distinction from conflict of action.’ Dr. Gaw also finds B.’s dramatic technique weak, a weakness he shares with Greene, with one exception.
‘At only one place does B. show any real knowledge of how to create suspense, namely where in I, iv, at the ominous line
Read they were to shoot me to the heart
The boy enters with the linstock to the cannon below the turret, and after a pause of thirteen lines first the shot that kills two of the four English above.’
This, I suggest, is more than mere co-incidence. In this scene Dr Gaw has pinpointed a significant fact, that we have here the single instance of a successfully realized moment of dramatic suspense in B.’s part, and it is found in the first turret scene which also is the worst written so far as literary merit goes (‘among the crudest scenes in the play’) and in contrast to the other scenes allocated to B.’s hand exhibits 0.0 percentage of feminine endings compared to B.’s average of 9.1 per cent, which surely suggests that another hand wrote this scene. Whoever wrote the scene was obviously primarily concerned with the staging of the business which is carefully thought out to the last detail: how the wounded Gargrave will change his make-up while hidden from view and then rise up again to look through the secret Grate to show his blood-bespattered face to the audience, groaning in agony. The writing of the scene is essentially designed to complement this theatrical ‘business’. Moreover, the 267. Versification is a radical departure from B.’s usual style in being uncharacteristically alliterative and repetitive. As we shall see later, it has marked similarity to the writing of Author C. who had responsibility for the second turret scene.
The inference from the timing of this production in the Rose’s history, as well as from he internal evidence of the play is that it was designed to feature the theatre’s new turret as a ‘draw’ to bring in the audiences who had so far shown no great interest in crossing over to Bankside for their theatrical entertainment. . . In comparing the hand of Author C., with the writing of this turret scene in B.’s part we shall see that the similarities in the writing of B.’s turret scene, and Author C.’s turret scene bear out strongly the probability that these two turret scenes are the same hand, and, as I suggest, that had was none other than Edward Alleyn’s. The probability is that he interfered in B.’s part to rewrite the turret scene and in doing so he did not trouble to alter B.’s idiosyncratic spelling of Joane de-e Puzel which Dr Gaw has followed as the identification mark of Author B. and has, therefore, in this instance been misled.
Our first consideration is, however, to identify Author B. with as much certainty as possible. Dr. Gaw has already extracted many similarities favouring his identification with Robert Greene, and he is supported by Fleay, the only other commentator to have contributed really significant work on the authorial question to establish this as undoubtedly a collaborative play; and they are by no means alone in rating the name of Greene high among suspected authors, some critics even having attributed the authorship of the whole play to him, though without having studied it in depth. Gaw summarizes his conclusions, adding the following to the points already made:
‘The treatment of history by B. is about what might be expected of the author of Greene’s pseudo-historical plays if somewhat restrained by collaboration with one used to treating his English sources with some seriousness; and Greene’s stage technique is about on a level with that of B. except where he has some special inspiration in romantic atmosphere or essentially feminine interest, neither of which appear in B.’s section of 1 Henry Vi except in the first appearance of Joan of Arc at the French court, where B. likewise rises distinctly above his general level. B.’s rise into a higher poetic atmosphere in I, vi, to end the act, is also very much like Greene’s occasional upward vault, and requires something of Greene’s power; and the resemblance between Greene and B. in the use of classic allusion is striking. B.’s peculiar sing-song balance with its pivoting of passages on and, or, and the like, appears strongly at times in Greene, though at other times in the same play it will be entirely absent as also in B.’s 1 Henry VI, I, ii); the balanced line of the type, “The fainting army of that foolish king,” the percentage of which is 0.5 in James IV and 0.4 in Friar Bacon; and B.’s use of the odd phrase and of various then obsolescent compound conjunctions are among Greene’s most distinctive traits.’
‘All these points argue strongly that B. is Greene,’ concludes Gaw. Nevertheless he finds one, to his mind, insuperable difficulty, which prevents him from accepting this identification without reservation, namely, the variation in the percentage of feminine endings, fluctuating in 27 lines of I, iv, from 0.0 percent to 12.0, 13.3,0.8, 9.1, and 16.6 because Greene’s average for these ending in Friar Bacon are 3.5 and James IV 3.2, respectively. However, I do not find that Dr. Gaw has sufficiently taken into account the brevity of the scenes, which always artificially exaggerate the result. Wide fluctuations are shown in his table for Marlowe’s part in the play also because the text submitted to the test if of insufficient length. Additionally, in the case of B. no account has been taken – for the reason that Dr. Gaw did not consider this possibility of another hand in the writing of the first turret scene, I, iv, which occurs in B.’s part of the play, and numbers 111 lines. This, together with the brief scene following immediately upon the turret scene, which numbers 39 lines, are, as I hope to show, by another hand than B.’s so that Dr. Gaw’s claim that B.’s 508 lines are without ‘indication of rewriting or interpolation’ requires modification. He was rigorously adhering to the spelling test division in making this claim for all the scenes he and Fleay allocate to Author B. and he had only Shakespeare’s revision in mind, not the intrusion of another hand.
‘In I, iv, v,, vi and II, I, ii, they contain six cases each of the spellings Ioane (differentiating B. from D., who spells the name Ione) and Puzel, (differentiating B. from C. and D., both of whom spell it Pucell.) In III, iva, and IV, ia, are three cases of Glo(u)ceter, the one in dialogue being clearly tri syllabic in scansion (differentiating B. from A. who has only disyllabic Gloster. . . . and four cases of Burgundy (differentiating B. from C, whose form is Burgonie).
As already mentioned briefly, there is evidence for a strong suspicion that the writer of the two turret scenes in the play was the fourth man, C. whose style and versification are in marked contrast to all the other three – one cannot place him in the ranks of the University Wits! Allowing for this interpolation, we find that the similarities with Greene’s style are all in those scenes which are unaffected by this removal of part of B.’s supposed contribution, and his case is immediately strengthened thereby. [Greene’s as author B]
Dr. gaw does not mention that Greene’s long association with both Alleyn and Marlowe’s circle lends added credibility to his involvement in this rush job, though he considers Nashe (tentatively) a a possibility for Author B. on the very grounds of his known association with Marlowe, although in his case this is not supported by long connection with Alleyn as one of the dramatists working for him as Greene was regularly. No other candidate for the identity of B. has any of the necessary characteristics assembled by Dr. Gaw in what is an impressive list of concurrences with all we know about Robert Greene, and I have no doubt myself that this collaborator with Marlowe and Peele in the hastily written harey the vj was none other than Greene.
Turning now to Author C. Dr Gaw remarks:
Apparently his first interest was in the second turret scene.’ 42[My italics]
Only two scenes are allocated to this fourth writer; they are the consecutive III, ii and iii, forming a compact contribution to the play which impinges little on what has gone before or after, but slips neatly into the whole. The character given prominence in these two scenes is Burgundy (whom C. spells Burgonie), who had previously played only a very subordinate role in scenes by B. and D.
What is of significance in the history of this play, giving it the format of a collaborative work that makes it unique in the Shakespearean and Marlovian canon, is that it was intimately linked with the re-opening of the Rose, sporting its novel turret, and that the play was required especially to feature this.
Dr Gaw comments regarding Author C.:
‘…the exact identity of the author is of little consequence.’ [He was no literary genius]. ‘The important point is, the facts suggest that after Act IV had been assigned to D., a fourth writer discovered another method of utilizing the turret, and was therefore asked to work it out and to write the following scene, and that he made the 270. most of the scanty material left him. It is a striking fact that as the turret was employed to give a spectacular introduction to B.’s hero, Talbot, so a similar spectacular use was made of it to open the contribution of C.’ 43
Now, who this fourth writer would be, it is almost unnecessary to ask at this point in our investigations. Alleyn, I suggest, took over the writing of B.’s turret scene, when Greene, who was noted for being an extremely rapid writer, completed his part early but had not featured the turret as Alleyn wanted. Alleyn then rewrote this scene, but without altering Greene’s spelling of the names. This would explain why there is no trace of Greene’s hand in B.’s part relating to the use of the turret. It is entirely plausible to associate Alleyn with the writer who ‘discovered another method of utilizing the turret’ and ‘made the most of the scanty material left to him’. Here is a sample of his writing:
Enter Pucell disguised, with foure Souldiers with
Sacks vpon their backs.
Pucell. These are the Citie Gates, the Gates of Roan,
Through which our Pollicy must make a breach.
Take heed, be wary how you place your words,
Talke like the vulgar sort of Market men,
That come to gather Money for their Corne.
If we haue entrance, as I hope we shall,
And that we finde the slouthfull Watch but weake,
Ile by a signe giue notice to our friends,
That Charles the Dolphin may encounter them.
Souldier. Our Sacks shall be a meane to sack the City,
And we be Lords and Rulers ouer Roan,
Therefore wee’le knock.
Watch. Che la.
Pucell. Peasauns la pauure gens de France. *
Poore Market folks that come to sell their Corne.
Watch. Enter, goe in, the Market bell is rung.
Pucell. Now Roan, Ile shake thy Bulwarkes to the ground.
Enter Charles, Bastard, Alanson.
Charles. Saint Dennis blesse this happy Stratageme,
And once againe wee’le sleepe secure in Roan.
Bastard. Here entred Pucell, and her Practisants:
Now she is there, how will she specifie
Here is the best and sagest passage in.
Reig. By thrusting out a Torch from yonder Tower,
Which once discern’ed, shewes that her meaning is,
No way to that (for weaknesse) which she entred,.
Enter Pucell on the top, thrusting out a Torch burning.
Pucell. Behold, this is the happy Wedding Torch,
That ioyneth Roan vnto her Countreymen,
But burning fatall to the Talbonites.
III, ii. 11.1424-1455
[In a footnote Wraight refers to the line in French, above, saying, “ Marlowe, who grew up in Canterbury where there was a large community of French-speaking Huguenots, would have been able to help Alleyn with this smattering of French.”]
Dr Gaw comments: ‘his versification is markedly alliterative’. 44 Of alliteration one can find frequent examples elsewhere in the text, for it was widely present in the Elizabethan poetic idiom, but what is singular in C’s work is that it is too contrived, forced, even clumsy. C. is no poet. To quote from his two short scenes, III, ii, and iii:
France, thou shalt rue this Treason with thy tears,
If Talbot but suruiue this Trecherie 11.1464-5
God morrow Gallants, want ye corn for Bread? 1. 1471
Now where’s the Bastards braues, and Charles his glikes? 1.1569
Care is no cure, but rather corrosive, 1. 1588
Besides, all French and France exclaims on thee, 1. 1652
But what I have found even more striking is his penchant for repetition of the same word for emphasis, often combined with alliteration, as follows:
These are the Citie Gates, the Gates of Roan, 1.1424
Looke on thy Country, look on fertile France 1.1636
See, see the pining Maladie of France;
Behold the Wounds, the most unnaturall Wounds,
Which thou thy selfe has giuen her wofull Brest. 11. 1641-3
Now these same stylistic traits are markedly present in the first turret scene, also, and in the brief scene immediately following it, which (on the basis of Fleay’s spelling test, which Gaw adopts) both come into B.’s part, and which Gaw consequently accept as being from B.’s hand, for he had no reason to suspect that there had been any interference in his part. The following are taken from I, iv, which is B.’s turret scene.
How far’st thou, Mirror of all Martiall Men? 1.545
Accursed Tower, accursed fatall Hand, 1.547
Salisb. O Lord haue mercy on us, wretched sinners.
Gargraue. O Lord haue mercy on me, wofull man. 11.541-2
Speake Salisbury: at least, if thou canst speake: 1.544
Heare, heare, how dying Salisbury doth groane. 1.578
And from the brief scene that follows (of only 39 lines) presenting the skirmish between Talbot and the French led by Joane de Puzel, we have:
Here, here shee comes. Ile haue a bowt with thee:
Deuill, or Deuils Dam, Ile coniure thee. 11. 594-5
Goe, goe, cheare vp they hungry-starued men, 1.611
A Witch by feare, not force, like Hannibal, 1. 616
Are from their Hyues and Houses drien away. 1. 629
For none would strike a stroake in his reuenge. 1.632
One has the feeling that C. was an admirer of Marlowe’s early work, where, as in Tamburlaine, alliteration is used poetically, often to beautiful effect. C.’s is but lame imitation, but it seems obvious that it is Marlowe whom he is making a vain effort to emulate. All this is in marked contrast to the next scene which falls into B.’s part by the spelling test division, and to those other scenes in B.’s part from here on. The difference is well demonstrated in this excerpt from I, vi. Which is genuine B. alias Greene waxing lyrical in praise of a woman, the divinely inspired Joan.
Puzel. Aduance our wauing Colours on the Walls,
Rescu’d is Orleance from the English
Thus Joane de Puzel hath perform’d her word.
Dolph.Diuinest creature, Astrea’s Daughter,
How shall I honour thee for this successe?
273. Thy promises are like Adonis Garden,
That one day bloom’d, and fruitfull were the next.
France, triumph in they glorious Prophetesse,
Recouer’d is the Towne of Orleance,
More blessed hap did ne’re befall our State.
Reigneir. Why ring not out the Bells allowed,
Throughout the Towne?
Dolphin command the Citizens make Bonfires,
And feast and banquet in the open streets,
To celebrate the ioy that God hath giuen vs.
Alans. All France will be repleat with mirth and ioy,
When they shall heare how we haue play’d the men.
Dolph. ‘Tis Ioane, not we, by whom the day is wonne:
For which, I will diuide my Crowne with her,
And all the Priests and Fryers in my Realme,
Shall in procession sing her endlesse prayse.
A statelyer Pyramis to her Ile rear,
Then Rhodope’s or Memphis euer was.
In memorie of her, when she is dead,
Her Ashes, in an Vrne more precious
Then the rich-jewel’d Coffer of Darius,
Transported, shall be at high Festiuals
Before the Kings and Queenes of France.
No longer on Saint Dennis will we cry,
But Joane de Puzel shall be France’s Saint.
Come in, and let vs Banquet Royally,
After this Golden Day of Victorie.
I, vi, 11. 641-72
It is a splendid passage which takes its place worthily in a First Folio play, and shows Greene at his best. The contrast between this and what has just preceded is, to my mind, conclusive evidence of the hybrid nature of this play, and of the interference in the part originally allocated B. in that scene designed to ‘feature’ the turret, and its pursuivant skirmish. The fact that Dr Gaw has adhered rigorously to the spelling test divisions throughout in his investigation, meant that he necessarily lumped all these scenes together as being from the same pen. It is not surprising, therefore, that whilst he noted marked similarities linking B. with Greene, he also found dissimilarities, and being unable to account for these he finally pronounced his verdict as ‘Not proven’, albeit suspected.
The dissimilarities in B.’s part to Greene’s style, which I have isolated in the turret and skirmish scene following it, are matched by the marked similarities in the second turret scene and its follow-on scene constituting C.’s contribution to this play. The conclusion that C, was therefore responsible for both these turret scenes is not only entirely probable, it seems to be the only conclusion possible; and that he was a man who was particularly interested in making theatrically effective use of the Rose’s new turret is self-evident. All this points directly to Alleyn as Author C. a proper Iohannes fac totum’!
Author C. is in many other ways singular. Dr. Gaw summarizes his work as follows:
‘C.’s treatment of his sources, too, is distinctive. While none of the other collaborators hesitates to adapt and add to the historical facts freely in order to obtain dramatic effects, no one so extravagantly wrests history as C. Apparently his first interest was in the second turret scene. In order to obtain the effect of the appearance of Joan in the turret with the flaming signal (III,ii, 1-32) he combines details from the English capture of Evreux by stratagem, transferred from the English to the French credit, with the story of the cresset of light at the time of the French capture of Le Mans (in Holinshed twenty-one pages distant), and applies both to a wholly fictitious capture and recapture of Rouen. Again, in order to achieve the pathos of the ages and dying man sitting on a hair on the battlefield to encourage the English troops, he greatly exaggerates the age of Bedford and predates his death by four years, thereby . . . possibly forcing a later substitution of York for Bedford in the work of D. at V, iv. The change of date, by which the Duke of Burgundy’s defection from the English cause in 1435 is made to precede the capture and burning of Joan in 1431, must have been arranged in the original plotting of the play in order to prepare for IV,I, the work of B.; but C. is responsible for the fact that Joan’s argument to Burgundy in regard to the capture and release of the Duke of Orleans by the English is the exact reverse of the truth as the chroniclers give it, although C. was in personal touch with the account, as is evident by his alone using the spelling Burgo(g)nie and by his following Halle’s chronicle verbally in III, iii, 23-25. It is significant, too, that C. alone seems, in a search for additional material, to have resorted to Fabian and, either directly or indirectly, to Geoffrey of Monmouth. Stylistically, also, C. stands somewhat apart: he makes Joan speak of “the Talbot’, address the French King and nobles as ‘your honors’, and use the odd phrase “unto Parisward”; he employs the Latinisms “Talbonites”, “extirped”, and “expulsed”, and “prejudice [i.e. injure] the foe”;…and his versification is markedly alliterative.’ 45
The word ‘expulsed’ is a favourite of Alleyn’s which he uses frequently with reference to those of his aged pensioners who misbehaved and forfeited a place in his charitable institution by becoming drunk or fornicating with the aged sisters; and we have already noted that two plays suggested as being from his hand share the stylistic characteristic of being ‘markedly alliterative’. All Gaw’s findings point us in the same direction, that is is Alleyn’s hand that he has here detected.
One may pause here to ask, can there be a reason for the author ransacking for his source material the chronicles of Holinshed, Halle, Fabian and even Geoffrey of Monmouth? Whilst not unique, for Marlowe sometimes ranged widely in his searches, such a method is ideally suited to the collaboration of several writers on the play; but in no other work has his wide reading resulted in discrepancies and inconsistencies of interpretation of his material as here. These inconsistencies do not derive from a wide use of sources, but from the haste with which a collaborative work from several minds was put together.
Dr. Gaw sees slight indications of retouching and interpolation in C.’s scenes, but in essence he feels these stand as written by C. Having no comparison to make with a known author’s work he is cautious. He asks, ‘Who was C? it is difficult to say’. His final comment on Author C. touches the very point of my thesis concerning Edward Alleyn as a minor playwright of his day.
‘At the time there were undoubtedly writing for the theatre men whose very names have vanished, as witness many of the plays entered in the early records in Henslowe’s Diary.’
And so in Dr. Gaw’s thesis C. fades from our view into the limbo of the forgotten men of the theatre.
That Dr Gaw did not identify C.’s hand in B.’s part is not surprising for he had, so to speak, tied his hands in setting himself a task of identification based on the mechanical, and hence commendably objective, criteria supplied by the variant spellings of names dividing the play. As we saw, this arbitrary division was corroborated in examining the stylistic difference; only in B.’s case was uncertainty cast in Dr Gaw’s mind 276. because of what one could call a stylistic wobble, or hiccup, arising from the discrepancies caused by C.’s intrusion into B.’s part, which was masked by the spelling division still adhering to the scene. It is therefore gratifying to find that Dr Gaw’s well-tuned ear and sharp mind detected something of this, although he was unable to account for it. He nevertheless associated it with the Talbot scenes.
‘Even the central thread of the play, the Talbot story, is certainly by more than one writer, as if the original author had discovered that he could not complete his section within the necessary time and had found it necessary to obtain assistance.’ 47
Unwittingly he has hit the nail on the head. This is significant confirmation. Today the Fourth Man, who was collaborator C, on harey the vj, has, I suggest, been credibly resurrected in the towering figure of Edward Alleyn, that great actor and theatrical practitioner, who, being a most versatile, enterprising character also turned his hand to play writing in blank verse.
Conclusion: The Trigger for Greene’s “bombast a blanke verse”
If this conclusion is correct, it provides us with a tantalizing scenario which exactly mirrors the situation underlying the bitter antagonism, laced with smoldering hatred and a deep sense of injustice, that bursts forth from Greene in his death-bed accusation against the ‘vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.’
Can one conceive anything more galling to the vainglorious Greene, who had a high estimation of his own talents as a writer, than to have the upstart actor, Edward Alleyn, step into his shoes to take over the writing of a scene in his part of the play? The implication of the Groatsworth Letter is moreover that Marlowe and Peele would know exactly to what circumstance Greene is referring for they were all writing in collaboration on harey the vj. Greene was doubtless working under pressure to get the play finished, with Alleyn urging him on while explaining how he wanted the stage ‘business’ written into B.’s turret scene so that the audience would understand what was going on, and possible ‘talking down’ to the dramatist, - in such a situation one can imagine Greene’s resentment and and irritation boiling up. Matters which Alleyn, as a practicing actor, would understand so well are the very things that Greene, essentially a literary man, a writer of fanciful romantic novels for cultured Elizabethan ladies to read rather than by natural inclination a dramatist, would have had little understanding or flair for Perhaps Alleyn showed impatience with the dramatist, who could not have been in the best of health, for six months later Greene was dead. The red-bearded Roberto, one imagines, would not have been slow to anger, but with temper flaring would have exploded, uttering a sting of shocking oaths, and perhaps flounced out, leaving Alleyn to write the scene – or, more probably, he rewrote it, without altering the spelling of proper names, putting in all the theatrical business for which the scene is so remarkable, and which Gaw has so perceptively detected and demonstrated in his reconstruction of I, vi. (see pp, 245-249).
The situation would have been ripe for such an outcome. Greene and Alleyn had ever been on a collision course. Alleyn’s character was in every way the opposite of Greene’s for he was essentially practical, industrious, orthodox, religious and clean living; a man whose fastidiousness in matters of personal and domestic hygiene is reflected in his careful instructions to his wife, his ‘good sweet mouse’, when they were first married and he was on tour while she was still in plague-ingested London, and in his regulations for his college on health, diet and cleanliness. Such a man could but have viewed Robert Greene’s profligate life-style and drunken habits with distaste, probably with disgust. Towards the end of his life, at any rate, Greene may not have been clean and neat in his person – Gabriel Harvey tells us that in his last illness he harboured lice, and he disapprovingly mentions Greene’s ‘ruffianly haire’ and his ‘vnseemelly apparell’. Sympathy for Greene’s pleas of poverty would, one feels, have been scant on Alleyn’s part. Theirs was a business relationship, and it may be doubted if any love was lost on either side. Loans would have been strictly on a basis of advances on payment for work in progress and not as charitable hand-outs, with penalties for default in repayments. If this were not so, the charge of usury made in the Groatsworth of Wit Letter would have been pointless. It is a reasonable assumption, knowing the state of Greene’s finances at the end of his life, that he was already in debt to Alleyn, and hence his remuneration for the last work he did for him had probably already been consumed. Such is the implication in the Groatsworth accusation.
In the writing of harey the vj, if my reading of the evidence is correct, we have the very situation from which that bitter Letter written from the gall of his heart on his death-bed was engendered. If Alleyn took over the writing of this turret scene from Greene, this situation is precisely reflected in his most bitter fulminations against the ‘vpstart Crow’, in which he is giving vent to deeply felt emotions of humiliation, frustration, anger and injustice. His words are a heart-cry! -
‘Yes trust them not; for there is an vpstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the bet of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.’
How deeply mortified Greene would have been at being displaced by this upstart actor who contributed his blank verse to their play on a par with Marlowe and Peele! – this mere Player, who ‘supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you’!
All that had transpired between Alleyn and Greene over the writing of the turret scene for harey the vj he evidently told to Nashe, and it was ‘no newes’ to the two who were involved with Greene and Alleyn in this drama, and this fact is glanced at in Greene’s line: ‘now returne I againe to you three, knowing my miserie is to you no newes’. He is not referring to his illness, -for of that they probably had no knowledge – but to his miserable treatment by Alleyn in this recent collaboration. The insufferable arrogance of this ‘vpstart Crow’ in taking over Greene’s scene! If authors B. and C, had fallen out over the turret scene, then their quarrel would not have been a quiet affair. We know that Alleyn, when roused, had a temper for he had but recently stormed off to join Henslowe after an almighty quarrel with Burbage. Greene was an intemperate man, given to swearing as he himself confesses. It would have been quite a resounding tempest of words that rang through the Rose theatre when these two disagreed!
Is it not echoes of this that are still to be heard in Greene’s bitter Letter?
These scenes of personal interplay are conjectural, but then so are the supposed contacts between Greene and Shakespeare, and between Shakespeare and the Earl of Pembroke’s Men put forward so confidently by Peter Alexander on no shred of evidence to support them. Whereas the relationship between Greene and Alleyn is securely based on the consistent evidence of Greene’s attitude towards the ‘Roscius’ of the day in his writings, and on what has been established concerning the personalities, the predilections and the business dealings of Edward Alleyn and Greene. To this is added the evidence of Author S.’s involvement in harey the vj, whose prime interest in the turret scenes, and whose style of writing both fit Alleyn exactly. This identification is not wild surmise. It is built on the foundation of literary detection of F. G. Fleay and Allison Gaw; and it brings us full circle to the reason for Greene’s anguished Letter, shedding a new light on the circumstances and making that famous epistle fully understandable at last.
As I surmise, the final humiliation for Greene came when he swallowed his pride and turned in his desperate plight to Alleyn for another loan – and was refused. His promises that the case loan requested would be ‘in earnest’ of yet another new dramatic work from his pen would have been received with skepticism by Alleyn, for it must have been obvious that Greene was now a sick man, and probably dying. The door was shut in his face in his hour of pitiful need. And the destitute and ailing dramatist paid this tiger-hearted ‘vpstart Crow’ back in the only coin he had – bitter words in black ink.
That, I suggest, is the real story behind Roberto Greene’s agonized and envenomed Groatsworth Letter, which has for two hundred years been misread and misunderstood, this unfortunate misreading has been the result of treating Greene’s famous Letter with blind disregard for its genetic link with the dying author’s moralizing, autobiographical tale, so cleverly devised by him to present to his readers the ‘Player’ who employs the university-educated Roberto Greene to exploit his talents as his ‘Archplaimaking poet’ and who, moreover, dared to presume to ‘bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you’’ – you being his ‘Quondam acquiantance’ so recently engaged in writing harey the vj with him, in which the ‘Player’ rewrote Greene’s part to meet his theatrical requirement for featuring the turret. Greene himself leads us by the hand to his goal, carefully identifying for his readers the persons – on the one hand, the hated actor, Iohannes fac totum, he is bent on wreaking his revenge upon before he dies; and on the other, his legitimate collaborators in recent dramatic writings, thereby also shedding light on the play, harey the vj.
The vital importance of properly understanding Greene’s deathbed testimony cannot be overestimated. In taking Greene at his word and following his deliberately pinpointed signposts, it is a matter for rejoicing to find that every aspect of this theatrical history has been illuminated. Gaw’s thesis, begun by Fleay and so perceptively concluded by Gaw, falls perfectly into place, finally validated as the historical truth concerning the collaborative authorship of the curiously uneven text of 1 Henry VI. This has never been explained satisfactorily except by Dr Gaw.
In the light of Gaw’s thesis we now know why Greene was specifically addressing Marlowe and Peele. To tie up the last piece of evidence that the Groastworth gives us it is also necessary to identify the collaborative play that Greene tells us he wrote, shortly before his death, with his young friend, Nashe,
‘yong Iuuenall, that byting Satyrist that lastly with mee together write a Comedie?’
We are seeking a play that must be identifiable with Greene’s style, but must at the same time reflect the influence and style of Nashe. Again, it is the admirable work of previous scholars in the field that has effectively prepare the path leading to the identification of the topical, satirical comedy that neatly fits the bill.
Wraight analyzes the play Fair Em and finds its style similar to writer C., and deduces this was Edward Alleyn (Chapter VII in Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn)