The Bondman: An Antient Storie

By Philip C. Massinger; Benjamin Townley Spencer et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

I. DATE OF COMPOSITION

HE composition of The Bondman may safely be assigned to the latter part of the year 1623. The license for acting it appears in Sir Henry Herbert's office book under the date, December 3, 1623:

"For the Queen of Bohemia's Company; The Noble Bondman: Written by Philip Messenger, gent."1

Moreover, the unmistakably topical allusions in V, Ult., 248,2 to the fall of a room in Blackfriars on October 26 of that year, and to the burning of Sir William Cockaine's house on November 12, offer reasonable evidence of Massinger's not having finished the play until within three weeks of the issuance of the acting license.

In the absence of other definite allusions (except for the reference to the gold thread monopoly, an abuse extending over many years prior to the production of The Bondman; see the note on II, iii, 70), further conjectures as to the period over which the composition extended are nearly valueless. Gifford accepted Gilchrist's interpretation of I, i, 46-8 as a reference to the Duke of Buckingham's introduction of sedan-chairs into England. If Gilchrist's view of the passage is correct (I think it is improbable, as the note on the passage shows), Massinger did not begin the play until after the Prince's and the Duke's return, October 5, 1623, unless he inserted the passage later. Such a conception, however, crowds the composition of the play into less than two months at most, and is scarcely justified in view of the careful philosophic and structural unity apparent in the drama. Moreover, the political feeling which the play expresses and reflects was so largely a cumulative attitude involving a period of several years that it offers nothing specific to guide one in fixing the date more definitely.3 Yet the height of such feeling, reached during the closing months of

____________________
1
The Dramatic Records of Sir Henry Herbert (ed. J. Q. Adams), p. 26.
2
See the note on the line.
3
The contemporary historical element is discussed in IV, SOURCES, 2. Contemporary Events.

-1-

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