top of page
king leir
Anchor 1

Dramatis Personae: King Leir, the Fool.

Text & Context: Originally entered into the Stationer's Register in 1594. According to Philip Henslowe's notes, performed that year in concert with both The Queen's Men and Sussex's Men. In the Register's record, the stationer Adam Islip's name is crossed out and the name of his fellow stationer Edward White is substituted. It was registered again on May 8 1605 and published by Stafford for the bookseller John Wright as The moste famous Chronicle historye of Leire king of England and his Three Daughters because The True Chronicle History of King Leir wasn't long enough.


 Authorship is unknown, but has been variously ascribed to Munday, Kyd, Lodge, and Greene - the cadre of writers around de Vere, circa. 1580s. This is likely one of the plays worked on by a team of writers originally to be performed by the Queen's Men; an early version of Lear, before being reworked by Shake-speare, akin to The Troublesome Reign of King John, The Famous Victories of Henry the fifth, and Richard iii. Leir was likely one of the older plays registered to be published anonymously by speculators such as the broker William Shaksper, as ridiculed in Jonson' Poet-Ape, but prevented from publication due to some conflict as attested in the register. To capitalize on the success of the version reworked by the author and performed shortly before his death, Leir was re-registered in 1605 and published under the new title "The Most Famous" to confuse buyers.

The True Chronicle History of King Leir 

Anchor 2
the lovesick maid

Dramatis Personae: Cordelia.

Text & Context: While performed by the King's Men, this is not a play by Shakespeare at all, but by Ben Jonson's one-time servant, Richard Brome. In the same poem calling Pericles a mouldy tale and stale, Jonson rebukes Brome, employing for the upstart the not exactly evergreen epithet "Broom". A coincidence, then, that Jonson also oversaw the replacement of Ford's epithet Brook in the Folio version of Merry Wives of Windsor with that of Broom.

 In a broadside ballad of the same name which may or may not correspond to the play's plot, the dying Cordelia asks to see the strangely named Gerhead [ger, Old High German for "spear"]. Gerhead arrives too late and, wandering off to die, heart-broken, claims he will see his beloved Cordelia in the after-life. 

 Perhaps of note, Brome was hired by Richard Heton, the manager of Salisbury Court, to write three plays a year. This he found impossible to accomplish, averaging over his 15 year career 2 plays annually, which is generally considered the maximum output for a solo playwright. Stratfordian chronologies of Shakespeare's composition dates, however, often have 4 and as many as 6 plays written by their man in a given year; this on top of his day job as commodities trader.


bottom of page