Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher: Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon



The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, general editor Fredson Bowers, 10 vols (Cambridge, 1966-96).


The Works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher: Variorum Edition, general editor A.H. Bullen, 4 vols [of a proposed 12-volume edition] (London, 1904-12).


The Works of Beaumont and Fletcher, ed. Alexander Dyce, 11 vols (London, 1843-6).


The Dramatic Canon

The respective shares of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher in the traditional Beaumont and Fletcher canon have always been a subject of scholarly debate, as also have the possible contributions made by Chapman, Jonson, Massinger, Middleton, Shakespeare, Tourneur, and others. For discussions of the canon, see, inter alia, Cyrus Hoy, ‘The Shares of Fletcher and his Collaborators in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon’, Studies in Bibliography, 8 (1956), 129-46; 9 (1957), 143-62; 11 (1958), 85-106; 12 (1959), 91-116; 13 (1960), 77-108; 14 (1961), 45-67; 15 (1962), 71-90; and Bertha Hensman, The Shares of Fletcher, Field, and Massinger in Twelve Plays of the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, 2 vols (Salzburg Studies in English Literature, Jacobean Drama Studies No. 6, 1974). The entries include those plays chiefly printed in the 1647 Folio of Comedies and Tragedies. Now generally excluded from the canon is The Faithful Friends, an early manuscript of which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Dyce MS 10, Pressmark 25. f. 10) and which has been edited by G.M. Pinciss, G.R. Proudfoot and R.F. Hill (Malone Society (Oxford, 1975)).

Songs and Extracts

Besides a number of important early scribal copies of complete dramatic texts (B&F 1, B&F 27, B&F 43, B&F 58-9, B&F 167, B&F 192), the entries include various seventeenth-century copies of songs and other extracts from the plays. Like those in many other plays of the period, the songs evidently have a textual history quite independent of the plays in which they occurred, those copies with music having particular interest. Various anonymous popular songs of the day are also quoted in The Knight of the Burning Pestle (London, 1613; ed. C. Hoy in Bowers, I, 1-110), some of which are found in manuscript sources given separate entries (B&F 199-211).

A song beginning ‘Bring out the cold chine’ is thought by John P. Cutts to have a possible connection with The Bloody Brother: see ‘Seventeenth-Century Songs and Lyrics in Edinburgh University Library Music MS. Dc. 1. 69’, Musica Disciplina, 13 (1959), 169-94 (p. 180). Copies are found in the Bodleian (MS Mus. d. 238, pp. 16-17), Edinburgh University Library (MS Dc. 1. 69, f. 11r-v), University of Glasgow (MS Euing R.d.58-61: i, f. 40v; iii, f. 40v; iv, f. 25), and New York Public Library, Music Division (Drexel MS 4041, No. 98). For the manuscript music for The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn see Four Hundred Songs and Dances from the Stuart Masque, ed. Andrew J. Sabol (Providence, Rhode Island, 1978), passim.

Prompt-books, Cast Lists, Prologues and Epilogues

Besides a very few seventeenth-century prompt-books (see B&F 76.5, B&F 166.5, B&F 167, B&F 167.5, B&F 167.8, B&F 190.5), a few eighteenth-century prompt-books of adapted versions of plays by Fletcher are recorded: see Edward A. Langhans, Eighteenth Century British and Irish Promptbooks: A Descriptive Bibliography (New York, Westport, Conn., & London, 1987). Some other sources that throw light on the theatrical history of the plays may be mentioned briefly.

Some manuscript cast lists for seventeenth-century performances of The Maid's Tragedy, Philaster, and The Spanish Curate are discussed by David George in ‘Early Cast Lists for two Beaumont and Fletcher Plays’, Theatre Notebook, 28 (1974), 9-11, and in ‘Pre-1642 Cast-lists and a New One for The Maid's Tragedy’, TN, 31 (1977), 22-7; also by G. Blakemore Evans in Shakespearean Prompt-Books of the Seventeenth Century, I (Charlottesville, 1960), p. 8. A cast list for Beggars' Bush as played at the Red Bull in 1659 or 1660 is in the Folger (Bd in B1582.8). A prologue for Beggars' Bush (beginning ‘A Begger haunts, where he good Dole receives’) is found with other, similar pieces in a miscellany of c.1634-5 compiled by the minor dramatist John Clavell (1601-43), now in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives (865/502, f. [2v rev.]). An epilogue for the same play (the last line reading ‘There is no Liberty like Beggars Bush’) is inscribed on sig. Kkr of pages 73-96 extracted from an exemplum of the 1647 Folio of Comedies and Tragedies. Sig. Kkv also contains a manuscript cast list. This item was sold at Christie's, 22 March 1972, lot 307, to Quaritch. A prologue to Philaster (beginning ‘Beaumont and fletcher, wonders of the age’) and an epilogue to the play (beginning ‘The play is done, yet something we must say’), both written by Peter Calfe (1610-67), occur in Calfe's miscellany in the British Library (Harley MS 6918, f. 99r-v). The prologue is quoted in part (from a transcript made by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, in Folger, MS W.b.165) in David George's article in TN (1977). Another prologue (beginning ‘The wisest men haue tride what follies meant’) and epilogue (beginning ‘Now wee haue done, and yow haue seene our play’) were written by Thomas Salusbury for a performance of The Scornful Lady at Thornton, 12 January ‘1638’, and are preserved in the National Library of Wales (NLW MS 5390 D, pp. 291-2).

Peter Beal