Henry Chettle, workaday playwright

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Date: Annual 2017
Publisher: Associated University Presses
Document Type: Biography
Length: 5,809 words

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About this Person
Born: 1560 in England
Died: 1607 in England
Nationality: English
Occupation: Playwright
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Henry Chettle, who wrote part or all of more than forty-eight plays from the 1590s into the early 1600s, has long been considered an exemplar of the workaday playwright in the employ of companies at the Rose and Fortune playhouses. The label, however, has not been a compliment. E. K. Chambers characterized such men as "extremely out-at-elbows" (2.162). Noting the partial payments frequently made on scripts by Philip Henslowe in his book of accounts (or "diary"), Chambers blamed these playwrights for "unbusinesslike methods ... [that] kept down the price of plays" (2.163). He considered Chettle to be "one of the most impecunious" of the lot, and that judgment has stuck. Harold Jenkins, Chettle's literary biographer, offered a summary portrait: "always miserably poor, struggling against poverty, turning his hand to any sort of hackwork for any meager reward, resorting to various devices to obtain the most insignificant sums of money, yet repeatedly in trouble and sometimes in prison for debt" (29). Carol Rutter spun that assessment toward caricature: "Chettle ... was normally one of the least reliable playwrights the [Admiral's] Company employed.... [He] was quick to propose plots and to accept initial payments on scripts, but he was slower to deliver a finished play. He was also constantly in debt to the Admiral's Men.... [He] defaulted on twelve plays out of forty-five ... and ... the suspicion arises that these nameless plays may have been spurious, sleights of hand that would wind up in his own pocket clutching a few shillings" (140).

In recent years, the reputation of the workaday playwright has improved. Theater historians no longer scorn utilitarian practices such as piecework and collaboration. Furthermore, playhouse businessmen have been rehabilitated. Due in large part to the scholarship of Bernard Beckerman, R. A. Foakes, and S. R Cerasano, Philip Henslowe is no longer characterized "as a kind of Scrooge, concerned only for profit" but as an executive, politician, and financier within a network of kin, theatrical associates, and acquaintances of considerable social and political standing in the community (HD, viii). (1) So situated, he is the figure at the center of what Craig Muldrew calls a "culture of credit" in which a man loaned money to family, friends, and associates because he was "willing to trust [them] to pay [him] in the future" (3). And Henslowe had money due to the cash that flowed through the playhouse, even though there were "chronic shortages of coin" in commodity markets generally. (2) Henry Chettle's business dealings with companies at the Rose and Fortune look different in the context of a rehabilitated Henslowe. In what follows, I examine Chettle's work habits, finances, professional networks, and dramatic product. I argue that the Chettle who "suddenly comes clearly before us in the records of Henslowe" (Jenkins, 29) was not the impecunious hack scholars have labeled him. Rather, he was a man of his time; lacking family money and independent benefactors but possessing marketable talents, he applied himself with sufficient industry to make a living and earn the respect of his professional colleagues.

Work Habits

Chettle first appears in Henslowe's book of accounts on Saturday, February 25, 1598, in an entry in which he was paid 20s "in part of paymente of the seconde parte of Robart hoode," a play soon to be licensed, staged, and published (HD, 87). (3) For the next five years through March 12,1603, he received dozens of payments from the Admiral's Men for plays, in part or full. From August 24, 1602 through May 9, 1603, he received payments also from Worcester's Men. Chambers gave Chettle credit for forty-eight plays (in whole or part), of which five or six survive (3.263). (4) However, Chettle's appearance in the diary is not the beginning of his professional career. As biographers have noted, he was apprenticed in 1577 to Thomas East of the Stationers' Company, from which trade he acquired his freedom in 1588 (Smith). His work as printer brought him into the acquaintanceship of writers including Robert Greene, Anthony Munday, and Thomas Nashe, who are generally accounted his friends. (5) The association with Munday may have brought Chettle into a team of playwrights on the script of Sir Thomas More, c. 1592. That in turn located him within the community of players and playwrights at the Rose playhouse where he could have written plays for any of the adult companies active in the London area in subsequent years. Evidence of Chettle's other dramatic output before 1598 is lost, but Francis Meres knew something of it. In Palladis Tamia (1598), he listed Chettle as "best for Comedy" (Oo3v) along with sixteen others including his friends Greene, Munday, and Nashe as well as fellows of his also writing plays for the Admiral's Men in 1598 (Chapman, Hey wood, Porter, Wilson, and Hathway).

Playhouse documents do not offer quantitative data on Chettle's work habits until Henslowe begins late in 1597 to enter payments in his book of accounts for plays and apparel. Contrary to Rutter's claim, the entries show that Chettle was a reliable playwright. For example, in the months from March through August 1598, Chettle was a team member on ten scripts, for eight of which the Admiral's Men paid in full and presumably subsequently staged: "Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales," two parts of "Earl Godwin and his Sons," two parts of "Black Bateman of the North," "The Funeral of Richard Coeur de Lion," "Hot Anger Soon Cold," and "Chance Medley" (part one of an eleventh play, "The Conquest of Brute," was begun in August 1598 but not paid in full until October). (6) These projects appear to be normal financial transactions between the company and playwrights. An apparent exception is "The Funeral of Richard Coeur de Lion," in that the final payments double as an accounting of loans. Henslowe, having recorded seven payments totaling 105s in earnest for the script over a twelve-day period (June 13-24), completed payment for the play by paying Chettle 10s and Robert Wilson 20s (for a total of 135s). To the Chettle payment, Henslowe added that "all his parte of boockes to this place are payde wch weare dew vnto hime [is payd] & he Reastes be syddes in my Deatte the some of xxxs" (HD, 91). To the Wilson payment, Henslowe added "& so mrwillson Reasteth in my deate al&einge pay de" interlining "[xxvs] [pd xs Rest to paye xs]" (HD, 92). I discuss loan payments in more detail below, but the important point here is that the loans to Chettle and Wilson (which are co-mingled with payments to both men in full for their share in the script) apparently did not impede the completion of the play or threaten continued employment. (7) Two plays by Chettle and a team of playwrights did not receive 120s (considered the norm for payment in full): "Pierce of Exton" and "Catiline." There is no way to know from extant records whether either play reached the stage, but Chettle alone cannot be blamed if the projects were abandoned. The other team members--Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, and Robert Wilson for "Pierce of Exton"; Wilson for "Catiline"--might also have been responsible for the outcome. In this same six-month period, Chettle worked solo on two projects: "A Woman's Tragedy" and "Vayvode." Of these, "Vayvode" was completed. The company made four payments for apparel and divers things even before Chettle was paid 20s; furthermore, Edward Alleyn sold the script to the company for 40s in January 1599. The case of "A Woman's Tragedy" is unclear. In the one diary entry for the play, Chettle was paid a substantial initial fee of 100s, but Henslowe specified that Chettle was "eather to dd [deliver] the playe or els to paye the mony wth in one forthnyght" (HD, 93). No following record provides a resolution; even so, scholars including Chambers (2.163) and Jenkins (23) assumed the play was not completed. But it is at least possible that Chettle forfeited the remaining balance as payment on his debt (see "Loans," below).

Another six-month set of Henslowe's entries provides more of a challenge to Chettle's reliability. From July 24 through December 17, 1599, Chettle worked on his own or with other playwrights on six projects: "The Stepmother's Tragedy" (with Dekker, payment in full); "Robert II, King of Scots" (with Dekker, Jonson, and another "Jentellman" [HD, 124], payments in earnest totaling 90s); Patient Grissel (with Dekker and Haughton, Q1603); a "play unnamed" (solo; 10s in earnest); "Orphanes Tragedy" (solo, 20s partial payment); and "Arcadian Virgin" (with Haughton, 15s in earnest). The latter three projects feed Rutter's narrative that Chettle was "quick to propose plots and to accept initial payments on scripts, but ... slower to deliver a finished play" (140). However, in charging specifically Chettle with failure, scholars overlook evidence that provides a broader view of repertorial commerce. In that same six-month time frame (July to December 1599), the Admiral's Men authorized payments on twenty play projects. That number represents nearly as many new scripts as Henslowe recorded for the company for the entire year of 1594-95 (twenty-one marked "ne") and more than he recorded for 1595-96 (seventeen marked "ne") and 1596-97 (fourteen marked "ne"). (8) In the following six months (January to June 1600), the company authorized payments on another eighteen projects. It defies commercial logic to assume that the company expected to bring thirty-eight new plays to the stage over a twelve-month period. It makes more sense to regard the records as evidence that the repertory system encouraged a certain amount of speculation in the submission of proposals for plays. Whatever the company's motive, Chettle was not the only playwright with partial payments, July to December 1599. Others include George Chapman, 40s for a "Pastoral Tragedy," July 17; Thomas Dekker, 40s for "Bear a Brain," August 1; William Haughton, 30s for "Poor Man's Paradise," August 20 and 25; John Marston, 40s "in earneste of A Boocke" on September 28; and a dramatist unnamed, 60s for "Tristram of Lyons" on October 13. In the first half of 1600, 12 of the 17 play projects received less than 100s in payments.

Chettle's work ethic is also evident in the pace at which he turned out copy and the sheer volume of his production. During the summer of 1598, Chettle worked on nine projects, six of which were collaborations and paid for in full: "2 Earl Godwin," "The Funeral of Richard Coeur de Lion," "2 Black Bateman," "Brute," "Hot Anger Soon Cold," and "Chance Medley." He alone received payments for "A Woman's Tragedy," "Catiline," and "Vayvode." These perhaps were not finished at that time, but apparel and "diuers thinges" were bought for "Vayvode" in August (HD, 97). There are months in Henslowe's records when Chettle does not appear: December 1598, June 1599, January 1600, April 1602, and April 1603. He is also absent for nearly a year (from June 19, 1600 to March 31, 1601). (9) However, Henslowe's records from June 1600 to December 1600 are themselves spotty. (10) A little more than a year after he returned to employment by the Admiral's Men, Chettle was writing also for Worcester's Men, who were at the Rose now that the Admiral's Men had moved into their new Fortune playhouse. As soon as Worcester's took up residence, he began write for them. He received 30s plus some part of 3 [pounds sterling] 6s for a project Henslowe called "Chettle's tragedy." (11) He also completed "Lady Jane" in October with Dekker, Heywood, Smith, and Webster; "Christmas Comes but Once a Year" with Heywood, Webster, and Dekker; an unnamed play with Hey wood; and "Shore's Wife" with John Day. Meanwhile, for the Admiral's Men, he was completing "Felmelanco" in September and the two-part "London Florentine" December through March.


Chettle is vulnerable to the charge of serial debtor because more of his borrowings are recorded by Henslowe than are those of other playwrights or players. (12) Scholars see two kinds of loans in Henslowe's entries: those connected to Chettle's work for the company and those assumed to be personal. The loans bundled with company work are the following;

* June 24, 1598, for "The Funeral of Richard Coeur de Lion" (discussed above); Chettle receives 10s but remains in debt for 30s (HD, 91)

* September 16, 1598, for "Brute"; Chettle receives 5s but remains in debt for 8 [ponds sterling] 9s (HD, 98)

* October 22, 1598, for "Brute"; Chettle, receiving 50s in full payment for the play, puts his name to a pledge that he owes Henslowe another pound (total: 9 [ponds sterling] 9s [HD, 100])

* February 27, 1599, for "Troy's Revenge/Polyphemus"; Chettle receives 50s, erasing his debt to date but adding a new debit of the same amount, 50s (HD, 105)

* April/May 1599, Henslowe says Chettle is "stricken of his deate" in payments of 50s for "his boocke of polepheme" and 10s for "his boocke of the spencers" (HD, 118)

Considering the latter entry, Chambers inferred in regard to playwrights at the Rose in general "that credit obtained for an unfinished play had sometimes to be redeemed out of the profits of a finished one" (2. 163). (13) Jenkins personalized Chambers's description of this practice, imagining Chettle not "waiting for inspiration to put pen to paper; urgent necessity drove him to work on any plays which any of the Company's dramatists had in hand, and to write not as perfectly but as rapidly as possible" (23). On closer inspection, there are relatively few plays for which Chettle worked alone but received far less than the usual 6 [ponds sterling]. (14) The other solo projects are '"Tis No Deceit to Deceive the Deceiver," for which Chettle received 30s. in November 1598; "The Orphanes Tragedy," 10s in November 1599 and another 10s in September 1601; "The Wooing of Death," 20s between April 26 and May 6, 1600; and "A Danish Tragedy," 20s on July 7, 1602. (15) No debts among the loans bundled for dramatic work or personal reasons fit neatly with either payment on "The Orphanes Tragedy," but there coincidental debts in proximity to "'Tis No Deceit" and "The Wooing of Death": for the former, Chettle had acknowledged a 9 [pounds sterling] 9s debt to Henslowe a month earlier (HD, 119); for the latter, he borrowed 5s at the same time that he took that project on (HD, 134). Finally, he received 20s on July 7, 1602 for "A Danish Tragedy," which coincides but may have nothing to do with Hoffman, for which he also received partial payment, and the unnamed tragedy he was soon writing for Worcester's Men (see "Chettle's tragedy," above). Amidst these apparently failed beginnings, Chettle completed six plays as sole recorded author: "Polyphemus/Troy's Revenge" (1599), "Damon and Pythias" (1600), "All is not Gold" and "Cardinal Wolsey" (1601), "Tobias" and Hoffman (1602).

In general, scholars have not been as critical of the professional debts as the personal ones' and, for whatever reason, there are not loans to Chettle bundled with partial payments in Henslowe's book of accounts after mid1599. The personal loans, however, continue as follows:

* January 17, 1599: Henslowe gives Chettle 30s on the authority of Thomas Downton, an Admiral's man, to pay his charges for release from the Marshalsea prison (HD, 103)

* February 27, 1599: Henslowe loans Chettle 50s more after Chettle paid that same amount off (see above, "Troy's Revenge" [HD, 105])

* March 27, 1599: Henslowe lends Chettle 5s (HD, 106)

* May 2, 1599: Henslowe pays Dekker and Chettle 20s to "descarge [Chettle] of his A Reste frome Ingrome" (HD, 119)

* October 13, 1599: three marginal notes, each being "lent h chettell some of vs", followed by a loan of 3 s and another for 2s, both also marginalia (HD, 125)

* May 6, 1600: Henslowe lent 5s to Chettle on the authority of Richard Alleyn (HD, 134)

* July 18, 1601: loans of Is and 2s entered in the margin of payments to Haughton for "3 Tom Stroud" (HD, 177)

* July 17, 1601: loan of 20s to pay Mr. Bromfeld (apparently to redeem the script of "Cardinal Wolsey" from pawn [HD, 177])

* September 8, 1602: Henslowe lent Chettle 10s on the authority of John Thare, a player with Worcester's Men (HD, 216)

* November 12, 1602: Henslowe lent Chettle 3s on the authority of John Lowin, a player with Worcester's Men (HD, 220)

* March 7, 1603: loan of 20s to redeem a play unnamed from Mr. Bromfeld (HD, 208)

These loans--which show Chettle pawning copies of his scripts, getting arrested, and going to prison--offer scholars fodder for disparaging his character further. What has not been taken into account is the monetary environment in which these loans were made. Cerasano argues that the "early playhouses were not only experiments in architecture, they were experiments in finance" ("Economics," 19). Henslowe was the center of a family business that "was more than a household unit" (Grassby 414). He was financier-inchief of a "series of partnerships with both outsiders and kin" (414). Entries in the diary show Henslowe loaning money to his nephew, Francis, to become a shareholder in the Queen's Men in 1593 and 1595 (HD, 7, 9); he continued to assist his nephew in a 1597 loan on a house (HD, 120). There are in addition loans to Edmond Henslowe, his elder brother, to purchase property in 1593 (HD, 76), and to the family in conjunction with Edmond's death (HD, 77, 78, 79). Henslowe gave loans to numerous players and playwrights. Chambers listed ten playwrights including Chettle, all of whom were at one time his collaborators except for Anthony Wadeson (in so far as is known); Chambers listed twenty-four players, most of whom would have performed in Chettle's plays (1.363 n3). Even more compelling as evidence of Henslowe as banker are his loans to men of distinction. These include his attorney, Richard Fuller, who borrowed 20s on August 24, 1594 (HD, 79); fellow Grooms of the Chamber, including Thomas Chaloner (i.e., HD, 43), Valentine Harris (i.e., HD, 61), Roger Evans (i.e., HD, 45), and John Palmer (i.e., HD, 65). One of Henslowe's distinguished clients was Arthur Langworth, who not only borrowed money frequently but signed for large sums such as the 206 [pounds sterling] note on December 7, 1594 (HD, 171-2). Chettle was therefore not unusual as a member of the Henslowe family business networks. (16) His serial debts detail the strategies of a man living (in modern parlance) paycheck to paycheck. (17) He was using the means at hand: perhaps taking less than full payment for his work, borrowing for emergencies such as arrest for debt, pawning (and redeeming from pawn) as his cash flow required. On the whole, these strategies seem to have been successful: the loans bundled through the purchase of scripts disappear in 1600. Personal loans continued, but their amounts were comparatively insignificant.

Professional Networks

Chettle obviously worked well with others, as Henslowe's entries confirm. In addition to those playwrights named above (many of whom he collaborated with more than once), Chettle wrote with Henry Porter, John Day, Wentworth Smith, Richard Hathway, Thomas Heywood, John Webster, and a man named Robinson. Also obvious is that Chettle worked on some of the biggest productions mounted by the Admiral's Men. An example is "Seven Wise Masters," for which the company paid Chettle, Dekker, Haughton, and Day 120s in March 1600. Several features of "Seven Wise Masters" suggest that the company expected it to be a blockbuster. One is timing: it was commissioned in the spring of 1600 when the Admiral's Men were competing full bore with the Chamberlain's Men newly situated across Maid Lane from the Rose; also, they were building the Fortune playhouse and thus anticipating a repertory of strong offerings for the fall. Another is cost. The Admiral's Men spent 38 [pounds sterling] for satins and taffetas and other things for "Seven Wise Masters," in addition to the 120s for the script. This outlay makes clear that the company put its trust in the playwrights to craft a show that would reward their investment. A second example of blockbusters is "Cardinal Wolsey," which the Admiral's Men commissioned Chettle exclusively to write in June 1601 in anticipation of a second fall season at the Fortune. The company invested more than 38 [pounds sterling] for cloth, doctors' gowns, and divers things for the play. Significantly, Chettle was getting loans throughout June, and in July he redeemed a script from pawn. Even so, on August 24, the company commissioned him to write a prequel, "The Rising of Cardinal Wolsey," with Munday, Drayton, and Smith. If the Admiral's Men had finally tired of Chettle's behavior, mid-June 1601 would have been a good time to let him go, or not rehire him, because he had been absent from their employ most of the previous twelve months (June 1600 to March 1601). Instead, on March 25, 1602, they signed a 3 [pounds sterling] bond with him to write for them. By August 1602, he was writing also Worcester's Men (now at the Rose) for whom he worked on five projects. One of his collaborators in 1602-3 in both companies was Thomas Hey wood, who was a sharer in Worcester's Men. In my opinion, Chettle's continued employment, plus his collaboration with the most successful commercial playwrights working for the Admiral's Men and Worcester's Men, is ample evidence of his value as a professional.

Dramatic Product

One charge against Chettle remains unchallenged here: it is, in Jenkins's words, that he put his hand to "any sort of hackwork" (29). I submit that Chettle is paying the price for having so many of his plays lost. Without a doubt, The Tragedy of Hoffman, the only extant play thought to be solely by him, cannot compete as poetry with the plays of Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare. But the Chettle canon can compete in productivity, generic diversity, variety of subject matter, and originality of sources. There are no doubt plays lost from c. 1592, when Chettle collaborated on the manuscript of Sir Thomas More, (18) to February 1598, when his name first appears in the diary, but the forty-two plays associated with him in Henslowe's entries for plays and apparel into 1603 are sufficient to illustrate his command of the topics popular with Elizabethan audiences. By far the most populous category for Chettle was the history play. (19) At least twenty-six of the lost plays, 1598-1603, are based on historical subject matter. Eight of these--"The Arcadian Virgin," "Catiline," "Agamemnon," "Orestes' Furies," "Troilus and Cressida," "Polyphemus, or Troy's Revenge," "Cupid and Psyche (The Golden Ass)," and "Damon and Pythias"--are classical in story line. One, "Tobias," is biblical. Two are Mediterranean: "Vayvode" and "Sebastian, King of Portugal." The two-part "Black Bateman" might have its origin in ballads, possibly of a disappointed lover or a cohort of Robin Hood (LPD). The rest address English history. Beginning with the two-part "Conquest of Brute," Chettle's projects include narratives of invasions (the two-part "Earl Godwin and his Sons"), early attempts at governance ("The Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales"), consequences of the crusades ("The Funeral of Richard Coeur de Lion"), rulers of neighboring yet adversarial kingdoms ("Robert II, King of Scots"), disruptive court figures ("The Spencers," "Jane Shore," "Pierce of Exton"), and contemporary history (the two-part "Cardinal Wolsey," "Lady Jane"). Misha Teramura argues that the "Brute" plays participate in an even larger cycle in the Admiral's repertory: "a sweeping yet disjointed survey of Britain's deep mythical prehistory and its earliest legendary rulers" (129). In this grouping, he includes the Troy-related plays written by Chettle, by himself or with collaborators such as "Troy's Revenge," "Troilus and Cressida," "Agamemnon," and "Orestes' Furies." The six plays most likely to have been tragedies also show Chettle's awareness of sub-categories. Not much can be deduced from titles such as "A Woman's Tragedy" or "The Danish Tragedy," but "The Orphanes Tragedy" and "The Stepmother's Tragedy" sound like tear-jerker soap operas. "The Wooing of Death" invokes the supernatural, whereas "Hot Anger Soon Cold" suggests real-world testosterone-driven quarrels like that dramatized by Heywood in the Mountford sub-plot of A Woman Killed with Kindness. A few of the plays resist categorization because their titles do not hint at a particular narrative: for example, "Chance Medley," and "Felmelanco." Another, "Christmas Comes but Once a Year," is unmistakably festive. Still another, "The Seven Wise Masters," identifies its root story complex but not the manner of dramatization. The proverbial titles, "'Tis No Deceit to Deceive the Deceiver" and "All is Not Gold that Glisters" sound comedic but might also have had dark undertones as suggested by the titles of "Love Parts Friendship" and "Too Good to be True." Of the likely comedic plays, only the two-part "London Florentine" suggests a contemporary satire, perhaps on fashion or foreign merchants. These lost plays may indeed have been hackwork, but the virtue of Chettle's canon is unarguable: he worked with source material as diverse as any of his fellow playwrights, and he did not always rely on ready-made plots.

The workaday playwright has risen in scholarly estimation as the focus of theatrical commerce has turned to the workings of the repertory system employed at the Rose and Fortune playhouses. In that system, companies did not put a price on new plays according to their literary merit; the playwrights deemed now by scholars to be the most gifted were not paid more if their dramatic poetry was exceptional. Neil Carson, attempting to calculate what members of a collaborative team might have made from a payout of 6 [pounds sterling], observes that Henslowe himself might not have known "how the money he was paying out was to be shared" (66). (20) Jenkins's characterization of Chettle as an impecunious hack has been the standard by which scholarly opinion has taken its cue, even though Jenkins also judged Chettle to be "one of the staunchest and most versatile of Henslowe's playwrights, one who can be depended on to produce--not great literature, but, at any rate, sound and competent work of almost any kind at very short notice" (29). In his own time, Chettle's fellows spoke even more generously of him. In "A Knight's Conjuring" (1607), Thomas Dekker paid tribute to a life of poetical labor in the playhouse world. He concluded his tract with a scene in which the poets and players arrived in the afterworld to the general acclaim of those who had preceded them. The last to arrive was Henry Chettle. The gathered company rose to welcome him "because he was of olde acquaintance," then fell on their knees "to drinck a health to all the Louers of Hellicon' (Llv). This judgment, fanciful though it may be, gives Chettle a reputable place among his peers.


I wish to thank Tom Rutter and Katherine Attie, who led the seminar entitled "Everyday Shakespeare" at the 2016 World Shakespeare Congress, for the opportunity to defend Chettle and workaday playwrights.

(1.) In this essay, I use the second edition of Henslowe's Diary' edited by Foakes, abbreviated here and subsequently as HD. John Payne Collier called Henslowe "an ignorant man, even for the time in which he lived and for the station he occupied" largely because Henslowe "kept his book ... in the most disorderly, negligent, and confused, manner" (xv). Frederick Gard Fleay described the diary as "the old, pawn-broking, stage-managing, bear-baiting usurer's MS" (94). It became commonplace to characterize Henslowe as a ruthless taskmaster: "By keeping the povertystricken dramatists in debt to him for small sums, Henslowe secured a strong hold over them, so that they could scarcely have taken the plays elsewhere, had they so desired" (Jenkins, 22). Following Foakes, Beckerman rejected received wisdom on Henslowe, praising him for "commonplace diligence" and characterizing him as a "reasonably able, reasonably decent businessman of the Elizabethan age, one who discovered ... that the theatre could be a profitable venture" (61). Cerasano, who calls Henslowe a "courtier-entrepreneur" ("Geography," 340), describes his political activity as complement to business ventures connected with the playhouse.

(2.) The phrase is Perry's; he adds that such shortages "meant that a great deal of buying and selling at all levels of society involved informal credit" (40).

(3.) The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon, licensed on March 25, 1598, was published in 1601.

(4.) Wiggins has entries on each of these plays (vols. 4 and 5); see also the Lost Plays Database.

(5.) Jenkins, 8-18; McMillin discusses Chettle's early personalprofessional associations (145-50); Hamilton points to the prefatory material printed with The second booke of Primaleon of Greece in 1596 as evidence "that Munday, Chettle, and [Michael] Drayton were colleagues by at least 1594, and possibly earlier" (The Stanford Global Shakespeare Encyclopedia).

(6.) Lost plays are indicated by quotation marks, extant plays by italics.

(7.) Although no entry claims to be payment in full for "The Funeral of Richard Coeur de Lion," scholars consider it an addition to the cluster of Robin Hood plays illustrated by the Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntingdon and Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon (completed in the winter of 1597/8). The "shelde, with iij lyones" in Henslowe's inventory dated 10 March 1598 (but possibly 1599) is sometimes assigned to the "Funeral" play (HD, 320).

(8.) Theater historians agree that "ne"--whatever it meant for Henslowe-most often indicates that the play so marked was in its maiden run.

(9.) Jenkins, disinclined to think Chettle was on holiday or in debtors' prison, supposes that he "was working for another company during these nine months" (25).

(10.) Cerasano suggests that Henslowe's duties at court might account for the "irregular intervals" at which he made "entries related to loans" ("Geography," 340, 339).

(11.) Wiggins (#1339) rejects "[m]isconceived attempts to identify" Chettle's tragedy for Worcester's Men with Hoffman, for which the Admiral's Men paid him 5s on December 29, 1602; Hoffman, published in 1631, is the only surviving play of those for which Chettle is sole author.

(12.) Greg considered the fact of incomplete records of payments for plays and decided that "we have certainly not got record of all" (Henslowe's Diary, 2. 126). Carson, asking "how Henslowe could have supervised his various business enterprises without a fuller set of books," cautions "that the diary contains only a partial record of Henslowe's activities, albeit a record maintained by a reasonably painstaking individual" (13).

(13.) Another angle on the flow of payments is suggested by a note from Robert Shaa to Henslowe in January 1602 in which Shaa asks for the rest of the money due the Admiral's Men on "Too Good to be True." The note implies that Henslowe on occasion was slow to pay playwrights in full (Greg, Henslowe Papers, 58 [Article 36]).

(14.) See Knutson, "Commercial Significance," 160-63. For "A Woman's Tragedy" (discussed above), Chettle received 100s, which is not far off the 120s norm.

(15.) Chettle received 20s for part two of "The London Florentine" on 12 March 1603; this entry is nearly Henslowe's last for Admiral's plays (HD, 209).

(16.) Jenkins himself sensed another dynamic at work in the men's commercial relationship when--marveling that "the mercenary Henslowe gave way so regularly to [Chettle's] appeals" for cash--Jenkins conjectured that Henslowe "had some special regard for the distressed and hard-worked dramatist" (20-21).

(17.) Cerasano observes that in the Elizabethan period "the concept of 'making a living' vis-a-vis theater was being tested for the first time" by players ("Theater Entrepreneurs," 391); the same was surely true of workaday playwrights.

(18.) Opinions differ on which members of the consortium composed the initial script and which additions were early or late. Here, I follow McMillin's opinion that Chettle (Hand A) belonged to the original team (145).

(19.) The boundaries between generic terms in Chettle's time were notoriously vexed; I speak here of "history" in the broadest possible sense of a play with historical subject matter.

(20.) There is one entry concerning Chettle in the diary in which Henslowe specified individual payments. On June 10, 1598, for the second part of "Earl Godwin and His Sons," Michael Drayton received 30s in the distribution of 50s; Robert Wilson and Chettle each received 10s. However, nothing in the entry indicates what portions of the script these payments represent (HD, 90).

Works Cited

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Cerasano, S. P. "The Geography of Henslowe's Diary." Shakespeare Quarterly 56.3 (2005): 328-53.

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Knutson, Roslyn L. "The Commercial Significance of the Payments for Playtexts in Henslowe's Diary, 1597-1603." Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 6 (1991): 117-63.

"Lost Plays Database." Eds. Roslyn L. Knutson, David McInnis, and Matthew Steggle <www.lostplays.org>. 2009.

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Meres, Francis. "Palladis tamia. Wits treasury being the second part of Wits common wealth." (1598).

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Perry, Curtis. "Commerce, Community, and Nostalgia in the Comedy of Errors." In Money and the Age of Shakespeare: Essays in New Economic Criticism, ed. Linda Woodbridge. 39-51. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Rutter, Carol Chillington. Documents of the Rose Playhouse. Manchester University Press, 1999.

Smith, Emma. "Henry Chettle (d. 1603x7)." The Oxford Dictionary' of National Biography (2004): online ed., 2008.

Teramura, Misha. "Brute Parts: From Troy to Britain At the Rose, 15951600." In Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England, eds. David McInnis, and Matthew Steggle. 127-47. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

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Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A507951375