SEVERAL entries in Philip Henslowe’s Diary mention a play entitled Sir John Oldcastle. On 16 October 1599, Michael Drayton, Richard Hathway, Anthony Munday, and Robert Wilson received payments for The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle, on which they were jointly working, and in earnest of The Second Part, which was to follow. The First Part was performed as early as the first week of November of the same year, on which occasion Henslowe again paid money to Munday ‘& the Reste of the poets’.1 Between 19 and 26 December 1599 a further payment was disbursed for The Second Part. Finally, on 12 March 1600 Henslowe paid 30 shillings for some properties, probably costumes, needed for the production of The Second Part: ‘dd [i.e. dedi, I gave] vnto the littell tayller at the apoyntment of Robart shawe the 12 of marche 1599 [i.e. 1600] to macke thinges for the 2 parte of owld castell some of xxxs’.2 However, Henslowe’s Diary gives no indication as to the date or dates on which The Second Part of Sir John Oldcastle was performed. Martin Wiggins’ increasingly authoritative British Drama, 1533–1642: A Catalogue asserts that there was a performance of Sir John Oldcastle by the Admiral’s Men at the Rose on Thursday, 16 October 1600, some nine months after the last mention of the play in Henslowe’s Diary. It is further stated that the audience included Simon Forman. This later performance is mentioned in Wiggins’ entries for both parts of Sir John Oldcastle because it appears unclear which part is referred to in the historical record.3 But what record? While Wiggins is silent about his source for this piece of information, it is almost certain that he came across it in a scholarly article published in Shakespeare Quarterly in 1993 and listed among the references at the end of each of his two entries. The article in question is S. P. Cerasano’s ‘Philip Henslowe, Simon Forman, and the Theatrical Community of the 1590s’, where the following observation is found: ‘On 16 October 1600, in the final performances of the Lord Admiral’s Men at the Rose, Forman attended Sir John Oldcastle, although it is unclear whether Forman saw Part 1 or Part 2 of the play. Unlike other performances that Forman attended, the play seems not to have involved the occult, and so he seems not to have taken specific notes on it.’4 Cerasano cites as her source MS Ashmole 236, fol. 77v, preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Unfortunately, the information Cerasano provides is inaccurate. Manuscript Ashmole 236 is one of a series of fascinating casebooks that once belonged to Simon Forman (1552–1611) and into which he entered information relating not just to his consultations with clients that he conducted as an astrologer but also to his own life as a busy and curious citizen of London who frequented, among other establishments, the city’s playhouses. Folio 77v of Ashmole 236 is a good illustration of the diversity of information Forman records in his manuscripts, which at times assume the form of a diary. The first entry on this page, written on 2 March 1600, states that there were 775 children in Christchurch Hospital, of whom 100 were suckling children. This is followed by a note which records that on 2 March 1600 ‘in the morninge Mr web dremte that his wife was with child and when yt was borne he overhard his wife when she said yt was like Sr thomas walsingame’. This curiosity is followed by a lengthy account of ‘the plai of Cox of Cullinton’ (variously modernized as Cox of Collumpton or Cox of Cullompton), which Forman saw at the Rose on 9 March 1600 and for whose plot he is our sole source of information, as the play is non-extant.5Cox of Cullinton seems to have been quite a spectacle. In one of its scenes, a spirit appears in the likeness of a bear and frightens one of the characters so terribly that he loses his wits, is placed in a dark house, and soon beats out his brains against a post. But what seems to have especially attracted Forman’s interest was the idea that bad things happen on St Mark’s Day. It is in the note following the account of Cox of Cullinton that Forman mentions Sir John Oldcastle. The note reads as follows: ‘An Sedgwicke alias Catlyn in Aldersgate streat Right against the Cocke illam vidi at Sr Jhon old castell 1600 15 of march.’ It is clear from this that Forman saw a performance of Sir John Oldcastle on 15 March 1600, not on 16 October. This makes perfect sense. On 12 March Henslowe made a payment to the tailor for his work relating to the production of The Second Part of Sir John Oldcastle. Four days later Forman saw Sir John Oldcastle, and given the closeness of these dates the most plausible interpretation is that the play Forman saw was indeed the freshly mounted second part. This was the interpretation endorsed in passing by A. L. Rowse in his biography of Simon Forman.6 Interestingly, the information about the performance of The Second Part of Sir John Oldcastle survived not because Forman wanted to record that he saw the play, but because he wanted to record that he saw a certain Ann Sedgwick while attending the performance. He seems to have managed to obtain her address from her, and the point of the entry is to preserve this important fact. She lived ‘right against the Cock’, a travelers’ inn on Aldersgate Street. While on Saturday, 15 March 1600 Forman obtained the address of a potential sexual partner at the performance of Sir John Oldcastle, on Wednesday, 19 March 1600 he is found worrying about his own wife’s infidelity. ‘Nota’, he states in the final note on fol. 77v, ‘that the 19 of march 1600 ☿ [i.e. Wednesday]’ a man called Ledsome ‘went vp priuily to my priuie. priuily. vnknowen to me’. Footnotes 1 Henslowe’s Diary, ed. W. W. Greg (London, 1904–8), I, 113. Throughout, I have checked Greg’s transcriptions of the relevant data against the original documents. Greg’s transcriptions agree with what is found in Henslowe’s Diary, ed. R. A. Foakes [and R. T. Rickert], 2nd edn (Cambridge, 2002). 2 Henslowe’s Diary, I, 119. The information from the Diary relating to the payments for Sir John Oldcastle is conveniently summarized in Henslowe’s Diary, II, 206. 3 Martin Wiggins, in association with Catherine Richardson, British Drama, 1533–1642: A Catalogue, Volume IV: 1598–1602 (Oxford, 2014), entries 1211 and 1236. Henslowe mentions Sir John Oldcastle again much later, in 1602, in connection with a payment disbursed to Thomas Dekker for his additions to the play. By this point the play has moved from the Admiral’s to Worcester’s men. See Henslowe’s Diary, II, 206. 4 S. P. Cerasano, ‘Philip Henslowe, Simon Forman, and the Theatrical Community of the 1590s’, Shakespeare Quarterly, xliv (1993), 145–58, at 158. 5 See Wiggins, British Drama, 1533–1642: A Catalogue, Volume IV: 1598–1602, entry 1215. While in this entry Wiggins mentions the Ashmole manuscript directly, he is wrong to state that, like Henslowe, Forman calls the play Cox of Collinster. Forman calls it Cox of Cullinton. Forman’s note on the play is transcribed in full by Cerasano, ‘Philip Henslowe, Simon Forman, and the Theatrical Community of the 1590s’, 157–8, where the following corrections should be made (mere differences of spelling are not noted): for ‘Item the plai’ read ‘Item in the plai’; for ‘way lyed in a darke house’ read ‘was lyed in a darke house’; for ‘where he way sleying’ read ‘when he was sleying’; for ‘betray him selfe’ read ‘bewray him selfe’; for ‘was executed for yt’ read ‘& was executed for yt’; for ‘1600 9 of march’ read ‘1600 9 march’. 6 A. L. Rowse, Simon Forman: Sex and Society in Shakespeare’s Age (London, 1974), 94. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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