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

IV. Early English Tragedy



Buchanan, while a master at the Collège de Guyenne at Bordeaux, 1539–42, translated into Latin Euripides’s Medea and Alcestis and wrote two Latin tragedies, Jephthes and Johannes Baptistes, to be performed by his pupils. They were printed, the former in 1554, and the latter, which is described by the author as his primus foetus, in 1576. Several translations exist, one of Baptistes, ascribed to Milton, others, more recent, by Gibb, A. (1870) and Mitchell, A. Gordon (1902). Ascham, in a well known passage of The Scholemaster, commends, together with Jephthes, Thomas Watson’s Absalon—perhaps the Latin tragedy preserved in Stowe MS. 957 in the British Museum. This Thomas Watson (1513–84) must be distinguished from the author of the Latin translation of Sophocles’s Antigone, printed in 1581, of which Gabriel Harvey writes in his copy of Gascoigne in the Bodleian library: “magnifice acta solenni ritu et verè tragico apparatu.” Nicholas Grimald’s Archipropheta, a tragedy on the subject of John the Baptist, was printed at Cologne in 1548, and, apparently, written in 1547, when its author was elected a senior at Christ Church, Oxford. It is an adaptation of Johannes Decollatus by Jacob Schoepper of Dortmund, ptd. at Cologne in 1546. (A translation by Charles J. Tibbits was published in 1906.) Beza’s tragedy of Abraham’s Sacrifice (in which Satan appears as a monk) appeared in a translation by Arthur Golding in 1577. (Edited by Wallace, M. W., University of Toronto Studies, 1907.) John Foxe’s Christus Triumphans, published in 1556, and translated into English by Richard Day (1578), is a religious drama of an early type. A list of university plays in Latin is given in Fleay’s English Drama, vol. II, p. 359, and a fuller list, prepared by Churchill, G. R. and Keller, W., in Shakesp. Jahrb. vol. XXXIV, p. 221. See also Notes on some English University Plays, by Moore Smith, G. C., in The Modern Language Review, vol. III, p. 141.


The following list is arranged according to date of publication. It does not include translations or other plays not intended for stage representation. In view, however, of the influence of Seneca on Early English Tragedy details as to the collective edition of the ten Senecan tragedies, and the original editions of translations of the several plays are given in a note based on Greg’s List of Plays. Plays ascribed to Shakespeare or to his leading contemporaries will be found under the bibliography of the particular author. As to Bale’s Kynge Johan, an earlier Tudor morality partaking largely of the nature of the chronicle history, see below under Sec. III and bibliography to Chap. III, Sec III C.

The Tragedie of Gorboduc, whereof three Actes were wrytten by Thomas Nortone, and the two laste by Thomas Sackvyle. Sette forthe as the same was shewed before the Quenes most excellent Majestie, in her highnes Court of Whitehall, the .xviii. day of January, Anno Domini 1561. By the Gentlemen of Thynner Temple in London. 1565. [Another edition, 1590.]

The Tragidie of Ferrex and Porrex, set forth without addition or alteration but altogether as the same was shewed on stage before the Queenes Majestie, about nine yeares past, vz., the xviii. day of Januarie. 1561. by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple. Seen and allowed, etc. [c. 1570.]

Rptd. in Dodsley (1744), vol. II, in Origin of E. D., vol. II, in Reed’s Dodsley, vol. I, in Ancient B. D., vol. I, in Collier’s Dodsley, vol. I, in (Old) Shakesp. Soc. Publ., 1847, in Manly’s Specimens, vol. II, and in E. E. D. Publ. (1906) and Tudor Facsimile Texts (1908). See, also, below under Sec. IV, Sackville-West, K. W., and Smith, L. T.

A New Enterlude of Vice Conteyninge, the Historye of Horestes with the cruell revengment of his Fathers death, upon his one naturtll Mother. by John Pikeryng. 1567.

Rptd. in Collier’s Illustrations of Old English Literature (1866), vol. II, and in Brandl’s Quellen. As to the identity of this play with the “Orestes” acted at Court 1567–8, see Feuillerat, Documents, p. 119, and note on p. 449.

A lamentable Tragedie, mixed full of plesant mirth, containing the life of Cambises king of Percia, from the beginning of his kingdome, unto his death, his one good deede of execution, after that many wicked deedes and tyrannous murders, committed by and through him, and last of all, his odious death by God’s Justice appointed. Done in such order as followeth. By Thomas Preston. [Stationers’ register, 1567–8.]

Rptd. in Origin of E. D., vol. I, and in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vol. IV.

The excellent Comedie of two the moste faithfullest Freendes, Damon and Pithias. Newly Imprinted, as the same was shewed before the Queenes Majestie, by the Children of her Graces Chappell, except the Prologue that is somewhat altered for the proper use of them that hereafter shall have occasion to plaie it, either in Private, or open Audience. Made by Maister Edwards, then beynge Maister of the Children. 1571. [Stationers’ register, 1567–8.]

Rptd. in Dodsley (1744), vol. I, in Reed’s Dodsley, vol. I, in Ancient B. D., vol. I, in Collier’s Dodsley, vol. I, in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vol. IV, and in E. E. D. Publ. (1906) and Tudor Facsimile Texts (1908.)

Jocasta: A Tragedie written in Greke by Euripides, translated and digested into Acte by George Gascoygne, and Francis Kinwelmershe of Grayes Inne, and there by them presented. 1566. [Part of A Hundreth sundrie Flowres, published 1573; reprinted in Gascoigne’s Posies, 1575, and in the 1587 edition of Gascoigne’s Works.]

Rptd. in Four Old Plays (1848), in Hazlitt’s and in Cunliffe’s Gascoigne. (See, also, below under Secs. III (Jocasta) and IV (Cunliffe, J. W., and Schelling, F. E.)

A new Tragicall Comedie of Apius and Virginia, Wherein is lively expressed a rare example of the vertue of Chastitie, by Virginias constancy, in wishing rather to be slaine at her owne Fathers handes, then to be deflowred of the wicked Judge Apius. By R. B. 1575. [Stationers’ register, 1567—8.]

Rptd. in Dilke’s O. E. P., vol. V, in Collier’s Dodsley, vol. XII, in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vol. IV, and in E. E. D. Publ. (1908), and Tudor Facsimile Texts (1908).

The Right Excellent and famous Historye, of Promos and Cassandra; Devided into two Commicall Discourses. In the fyrste parte is showne, the unsufferable abuse, of a lewde Magistrate: The vertuous behaviours of a chaste Ladye: The uncontrowled leawdenes of a favoured Curtisan. And the undeserved estimation of a pernicious Parasyte. In the second parte is discoursed, the perfect magnanimitye of a noble kinge, in checking vice and favouringe Vertue: Wherein is showne, the Ruyne and over-throwe, of dishonest practises: with the advauncement of upright dealing. The worke of George Whetstones, Gent. 1578.

Rptd. in Six Old Plays, vol. I, in Hazlitt, Shakespeare’s Library, vol. VI, and in Gollancz’s Shakespeare Classics (1909), under the title Promos and Cassandra the Source of Measure for Measure.

Certaine devises and shewes presented to her Majestie by the Gentlemen of Grayes-Inne at her Highnesse Court in Greenewich, the twenty-eighth day of Februarie in the thirtieth yeare of her Majesties most happy Raigne. 1587. Includes The Misfortunes of Arthur, by Thomas Hughes.

Rptd. in Five Old Plays (1828 and 1833), and in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vol. IV. (See also below under Sec. IV, Grumbine, H. C.)

The Troublesome Raigne of John King of England, with the discoverie of King Richard Cordelions Base sonne (vulgarly named, The Bastard Fawconbridge); also the death of King John at Swinstead Abbey. As it was (sundry times) publikely acted by the Queenes Majesties Players, in the honourable Citie of London. 1591. [Later editions, 1611 and 1622.]

Rptd. in Six Old Plays, vol. II, and in Hazlitt, Shakespeare’s Library, vol. V. Facsimile quarto ed. 1888.

The Tragedie of Tancred and Gismund. Compiled by the Gentlemen of the Inner Temple, and by them presented before her Majestie. Newly revived and polished according to the decorum of these daies. By R. W. 1591.

Rptd. in Dodsley (1744), vol. XI, in Reed’s Dodsley, vol. II, in Collier’s Dodsley, vol. II, and in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vol. VII. (See, also, below under Sec. III, Gismond of Salerne.)

The Life and Death of Jacke Straw, A notable Rebell in England: Who was kild in Smithfield by the Lord Maior of London. 1593.

Rptd. in Hazlitt’s Dodsley, vol. V.

The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinall of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of Jack Cade: And the Duke of Yorkes first claime unto the Crowne. 1594.

Another edition in 1600; combined in 1619 with the True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke (see below) under the title, The Whole Contention betweene the two Famous Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. With the Tragicall ends of the good Duke Humfrey, Richard Duke of Yorke, and King Henrie the sixt. Divided into two Parts: And newly corrected and enlarged. Written by William Shakespeare, Gent. The Whole Contention was included by Steevens and Knight in their editions of Shakespeare; the earlier quartos were rptd. in (Old) Shakesp. Soc. Publ., 1843, in Hazlitt, Shakespeare’s Library, vols. V. and VI, and in The Cambridge Shakespeare (1863–6), vol. V. (Second edition, 1893, vol. IX.) Facsimiles by Charles Praetorius, 1889 and 1891.

The First part of the Tragicall raigne of Selimus, sometime Emperour of the Turkes, and grandfather to him that now raigneth. Wherein is showne how hee most unnaturally raised warres against his owne father Bajazet, and prevailing therein, in the end caused him to be poysoned: Also with the murthering of his two brethren, Corcut, and Acomat. As it was playd by the Queenes Majesties Players. 1594.

Rptd. in Grosart’s and in Churton Collins’s Greene, in the Temple Dramatists and in Malone S. Publ. (1908).

The True Tragedie of Richard the Third: Wherein is showne the death of Edward the fourth, with the somethering of the two yoong Princes in the Tower: With a lamentable ende of Shores wife, an example for all wicked women. And lastly the conjunction and joyning of the two noble Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. As it was played by the Queenes Majesties Players. 1594.

Rptd. in (Old) Shakesp. Soc. Publ., 1844, and in Hazlitt, Shakespeare’s Library, vol. VI.

The Warres of Cyrus King of Persia, against Antiochus King of Assyria, with the Tragicall ende of Panthaea. Played by the children of her Majesties Chappell. 1594.

Rptd. in Shakesp. Jahrb. vol. XXXVII, 1901.

The Lamentable Tragedie of Locrine, the eldest sonne of King Brutus discoursing the warres of the Britaines, and Hunnes, with their discomfiture: The Britaines victorie with their Accidents and the death of Albanact. No lesse pleasant then profitable. Newly set foorth, overseene and corrected. By W. S. 1595.

Rptd. in Third and Fourth Folios of Shakespeare, by Walker, R. and by Tonson, J. (1734), in Simms, W. G., Supplement to Shakspeare (New York, 1848), in Tyrrell’s and in Hazlitt’s Doubtful Plays of Shakespeare, in Malone S. Publ. (1908), and in Tucker Brooke, C. F., Shakespeare Apocrypha (Oxford, 1908).

The True Tragedie of Richard, Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt, with the whole contention betweene the two Houses, Lancaster and Yorke, as it was sundrie times acted by the Right Honourable the Earle of Pembrooke his servants. 1595. [Another edition, 1600.]

Rptd. with The First Part of the Contention, etc.; see above.

The Raigne of King Edward the third: As it hath bin sundrie times plaied about the Citie of London. 1596.

Rptd. in Capell’s Prolusions (1760); in Tyrrell, Doubtful Plays, in Delius, Pseudo-Shakespere’sche Dramen (1854); in Dr. Furnivall’s Leopold Shakespere (1877); in Warnke and Proescholdt’s Pseudo-Shakespearian Plays (1886); by Moore Smith, G. C., in the Temple Dramatists (1897); and in Tucker Brooke, Shakespeare Apocrypha.

The Famous Victories of Henry the fifth: containing the Honourable Battell of Agin-court: As it was plaide by the Queenes Majesties Players. 1598. [Another edition, 1617.]

Rptd. in Six Old Plays, vol. II, and in Hazlitt, Shakespeare’s Library, vol. V. Facsimile quarto, ed. 1887.

A warning for Faire Women. Containing, The most tragicall and lamentable murther of Master George Sanders of London, Marchant, nigh Shooters hill. Consented unto By his owne wife, acted by M. Browne, Mistris Drewry and Trusty Roger agents therin: with their severall ends. As it hath beene lately diverse times acted by the right Honorable, the Lord Chamberlaine his Servantes. 1599.

Rptd. in Simpson, vol. II.

The Famous Historye of the life and death of Captaine Thomas Stukeley. With his marriage to Alderman Curtis Daughter, and valiant ending of his life at the Battaile of Alcazar. As it hath beene Acted. 1605.

Rptd. in Simpson, vol. I.

The True Chronicle History of King Leir, and his three daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella. As it hath bene divers and sundry times lately acted. 1605. [Henslowe’s Diary, 6 and 8 April, 1594: “Kinge Leare” acted by “the Quene’s men and my lord of Sussexe togeather.” Stationers’ register, 17 May, 1594: The most famous Chronicle historye of Leire Kinge of England and his Three Daughters.]

Rptd. in Six Old Plays, vol. II, in Hazlitt’s Shakespeare’s Library, vol. VI, in Malone S. Publ. (1907), and by Lee, S., in Gollancz’s Shakespeare Classics (1909).


Jocasta A tragedie written in Greke by Euripides translated and digested into Acte by George Gascoign and ffraunces Kynwelmershe of Grays ynne. 1566. The title page bears the inscription DURUM PATI 68, and the autograph of Roger second baron North, to whom the MS. formerly belonged. It is now in the British Museum.

The MS. readings have been collated by Cunliffe, J. W., and set forth in his edition of the Jocasta in Gascoigne, vol. I, Cambridge English Classics, 1907, and in Heath’s Belles Lettres Series, 1906.

Gismond of Salern in Love (Lansdowne MS., 786). The Tragedie of Gismond of salerne (Hargrave MS., 205, B.M.). The earlier version, acted at the Inner Temple in 1567, of The Tragedie of Tancred and Gismund, printed 1591.

The manuscripts have been collated and ptd. in Brandl’s Quellen.

Kynge Johan. MS. in Devonshire library. Edited by Collier, J. P., for Camden Society, 1838; rptd. in Manly’s Specimens, vol. I, and E. E. D. Publ. (1907). [Probably the same as the play in idiomate materno included by John Bale in his Summarium Scriptorum Illustrium majoris Brytanniae under his own name with the title De Joanne Anglorum rege.]

Reproduced in facsimile in Bang’s Materialien, vol. XXV.

Sir Thomas More (no title in the original MS., Harleian 7368). Edited by Dyce, A., for the Shakesp. Society, 1844, and included in the Shakespeare Apocrypha. Ed. Tucker Brooke, C. F. (Oxford, 1908).

Edmund Ironside: The English King. A trew Chronicle History called War hath made all friends. Egerton MS., 1994, ff. 97–118.

Extract printed in Bullen’s Old English Plays, vol. II, pp. 420–1.

The tragedy of Thomas Woodstock (no title in original, ff. 161–185 b of Egerton 1994, B.M.).

Printed by Halliwell, J. O., 1870, as A Tragedy of King Richard the Second, concluding with the Murder of the Duke of Gloucester at Calais, and by Wolfang Keller as Richard II, Part I, in Shakesp. Jahrb. vol. XXXV (1899).


Brandl’s Quellen.

Chambers, E. K. Court Performances before Queen Elizabeth. Mod. Lang. Rev. vol. II, pp. 1–13.

Churchill, G. B. Richard the Third up to Shakespeare. Palaestra, vol. X, 1900.

Cloetta, W. von. Die Anfänge der Renaissance-Tragoedie. Beiträge zur Litteraturgeschichte des Mittelalters und der Renaissance, vol. II. Halle a. S., 1892.

Courtney, L. H. The Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex. Notes and Queries, Ser. II, vol. X, pp. 261–3, 1860.

Creizenach, W. Vol IV. Das Engl. Drama im Zeitalter Shakesp.’s. Part I.

Cunliffe, J. W. Gascoigne’s Jocasta, with Biographical and Critical Introduction. Boston, 1906.

—— Gismond of Salerne. Mod. Lang, Assoc., vol. XXI, pp. 435–461, 1906.

—— The Influence of Italian on Early Elizabethan Drama. Modern Philology, vol. IV, pp. 597–604, 1907.

—— The Influence of Seneca on Elizabethan Tragedy. 1893.

Durand, W. Y. Palaemon and Arcyte, Progne, Marcus Geminus, and the Theatre in which they were acted, as described by John Bereblock (1566). Mod. Lang. Assoc., vol. XX, pp. 502–528, 1909.

Erbe, T. Die Locrinesage und die Quellen des Pseudo-Shakespeareschen Locrine. Halle a. S., 1904.

Fischer, R. Zur Kunstentwicklung der Englischen Tragoedie von ihren ersten Anfängen bis zu Shakespeare. Strassburg, 1893.

Gaud, W. S. The Authorship of Locrine. Modern Philology, vol. I, pp. 409–422, Jan., 1904.

Greg’s List of Plays.

Grumbine, H. C. The Misfortunes of Arthur. With Introduction. Berlin, 1900.

Herford’s Literary Relations.

Hubbard, F. G. Repetition and Parallelism in the Earlier Elizabethan Drama. Mod. Lang. Assoc., vol. XX, pp. 360–379, 1905.

Koch, F. Ferrex and Porrex. Eine litterarhistor. Untersuchung. (Diss.) Halle, 1881.

Moorman, F. W. The Pre-Shakespearean Ghost. Mod. Lang. Rev., vol. I, pp. 85–95.

Neri, F. La tragedia italiana del Cinquecento. Florence, 1904.

Reynolds, G. F. Some Principles of Elizabethan Staging. Modern Philology, vol. II, pp. 581–614; vol. III, pp. 69–97, April and June, 1905.

Sackville-West, R. W. The Works of Thomas Sackville, with Biographical Memoir. 1859.

Schelling, F. E. The Life and Writings of George Gascoigne. Publications of the University of Pennsylvania. 1893.

—— The English Chronicle Play. 1902. (Table and Play List, pp. 276–286.)

—— Elizabethan Drama. (Especially chaps. XIII and XIV and Bibliographical Essay.)

Schmidt, H. Seneca’s influence upon Gorboduc. Mod. Lang. Notes, vol. II, pp. 56–70.

Smith, L. T. Gorboduc. With Introductory Essay. Heilbronn, 1883.

Thorndike, A. H. Tragedy. Boston and New York, 1908.

Tilley, M. P. Shakespeare and his Ridicule of Cambyses. Mod. Lang. Notes, December, 1909, pp. 244–7.