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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

X. Plays of Uncertain Authorship Attributed to Shakespeare

§ 13. The Puritane

The Puritane Or The Widdow of Watling-streete was one of the plays acted by the choristers of St. Paul’s, and it was published in 1607 as “written by W.S.” It is a realistic comedy of intrigue, bordering, at times, upon farce, and its main object is ridicule of the puritan party and of London citizens. The scenes are mainly in prose, and the few passages in verse are wholly wanting in poetic feeling. The five acts are constructed out of a number of episodes of shrewd knavery, which follow one another in swift succession, but hardly form a plot. The moving spirit in these knavish tricks is a certain George Pyeboard, who makes the puritan family in Watling street his dupes up to the very last scene of the play, when the intervention of the nobleman as a deus ex machina exposes the chain of fraud. At least one of Pyeboard’s knaveries is taken from the so-called Merrie Conceited Jests of George Peele, and it has long since been pointed out that, under the name of George Pyeboard, George Peele was intended.

There is no reason whatever for associating the play with Shakespeare; but its author, doubtless, was familiar with that dramatist’s work, and refers in act IV, sc. 3 to the appearance of Banquo’s ghost in Macbeth. It has been argued, with considerable show of reason, that it was written either by an Oxford student, or by a dramatist newly come from that university. The hero of the play is a student adventurer, who is acquainted with the academic phraseology of his university, while the author exhibits a fondness for Latin phrases, and lays much stress on the fact that a university scholar is a gentleman. Tucker Brooke ascribes the play to Middleton, and compares it with Eastward Hoe.