George Chapman



The Poems of George Chapman, ed. Phyllis Brooks Bartlett (London, 1941)


L. A. Cummings, Geo: Chapman his Crowne and Conclusion: A Study of his Handwriting (Saltzburg, Austria, 1989)

Eccles, SP (1946)

Mark Eccles, ‘Chapman's Early Years’, Studies in Philology, 43 (1946), 176-93.


Samuel A. Tannenbaum, Shaksperian Scraps and other Elizabethan Fragments (New York, 1933), Chapter IX: ‘George Chapman Autographs and Forgeries’ (pp. 142-52).

Urbana edition, Comedies

The Plays of George Chapman: The Comedies, general editor Allan Holaday (Urbana, 1970).


Autograph Inscriptions

None of Chapman's literary works is known to survive in his own handwriting, but some miscellaneous examples of his hand are to be found. The most interesting are his inscriptions to friends and patrons written in various printed exempla of his translations of Homer and some other works (ChG 18-27). Some of these inscriptions were regarded by Tannenbaum in the 1930s as ‘indubitable’, ‘clumsy and barefaced’ forgeries. Since Professor Tannenbaum tended, however, to regard any irregularities of penmanship as the ‘patching and mending’ of modern fabrication and thus to see forgeries everywhere, his objections can be safely dismissed. Various other exempla of Chapman's Homer, as well as of his of plays and poems, contain early MS corrections, some perhaps made in the printing house and some even by the author (although a very close scrutiny and comparison would be necessary to determine this more clearly). Those corrections found in exempla of the comedies have been collated in the Urbana edition and are recorded in the entries below.

Other known speciments of Chapman's hand occur chiefly in the so-called ‘Diary’ of Philip Henslowe, which is preserved chiefly at Dulwich College, but portions of which were excised in the nineteenth century by John Payne Collier and are now widely scattered (ChG 31-33).


Another important manuscript relating to Chapman is the so-called ‘Dobell-White MS’ (Folger, MS V.a.321). This volume of transcripts of letters originally written c.1582-1613 includes some by Ben Jonson (JnB 744) and a number which can be attributed to Chapman (*ChG 30). The recent discovery of a partial transcript of this volume (Cardiff Central Library, MS 1. 172) throws at least some light on its providence, being owned in the eighteenth century by John Arden, High Sheriff of Cheshire.

One of the anonymous letters in the Dobell-White MS (No. 21: f. 19v), which Eccles originally attributed to George Chapman, has been attributed to the dramatist's brother Thomas Chapman in Albert H. Tricomi, ‘Two Letters concerning George Chapman’, Modern Language Review, 75 (1980), 241-8. Tricomi also prints here Thomas Chapman's petition to Sir Edward Phelips, Master of the Rolls, 18 November 1611, now in the National Archives, Kew (C31/A1/169).


Other documents of biographical interest relating to Chapman (in the National Archives, Kew) are discussed in Eccles; in Jean Robertson, Modern Language Review, 40 (1945), 157-65; and in C.J. Sisson and Robert Butman, ‘George Chapman, 1612-22: Some New Facts’, Modern Language Review, 46 (1951), 185-90.

Among the items given entries below, a few of Chapman's poems and some extracts from his plays are found copied in seventeenth-century miscellanies (notabaly Nicholas Burghe's: ChG 1, ChG 2, ChG 5). For some musical pieces, largely preserved in manuscript sources which may belong to entertainments by Chapman see Four Hundred Songs and Dances from the Stuart Masque, ed. Andrew J. Sabol (Providence, Rhode Island, 1978), passim (esp. Nos. 78, 90-2, 106, 109, 183, 261-8).

Some 34 documents or entries relating to Chapman's The Memorable Masque...of the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn presented at Court in 1613 are edited by Tucker Orbison in Malone Society Collections Volume XII (Oxford 1983), and by John R. Elliott in Collections XV (Oxford, 1993), 171-94 (pp. 173-7). The Masque of the Twelve Months (1619) which was first printed, in a garbled format, by J.P. Collier in 1848 is now also generally accepted as by Chapman, despite the unreliability of Collier, even though the manuscript he used is still untraced (ChG 11.5).

Chapman's name is among those inscribed in the anonymous manuscript play The Second Maiden's Tragedy (British Library, Lansdowne MS 807, ff. 29-56), but which is now attributed to Thomas Middleton (see MiT 20.8). An anonymous masque in the British Library (Egerton MS 1994, ff. 212r-23r) incorporates borrowings from Chapman's Tragedy of Byron but is almost certainly not his work: see J. D. Jump, ‘The Anonymous Masque in MS. Egerton 1994’, Review of English Studies, 11 (1935), 186-91; 12 (1936), 455. This masque has been edited by Diane W. Strommer as Time's Distraction (Texas A & M University Press, 1976). The manuscript play Charlemagne or the Distracted Emperor, also in Egerton MS 1994 (ff. 119r-35r), has been similarly attributed to Chapman but on no real evidence: see W.W. Greg's edition, Malone Society (Oxford, 1938).

Peter Beal