John Ford The Chronicle History of Perkin Warbeck, A Strange Truth, was first printed in 1634, having been listed in the Stationers' Register on February 24 of the same year. When it was written or first staged is not known; the phrase "acted (some-times)" on the title page might mean that the play had been performed well before its printing.1 Ford could not have written it before 1622, the publication date of one of his principal sources, Bacon History of the Reign of King Henry VII. This, with Thomas Gainsford True and Wonderful History of Perkin Warbeck (1618), provided Ford with the major materials of his drama. Many lines in the play are quite similar to passages in one or the other of these works, and Ford's acknowledgment, in his dedication, of some indebtedness to "a late both learned and an honourable pen" is very likely a reference to Bacon. As for the verbal parallels (see explanatory notes), Ford seems to borrow from the two histories about equally: more from Bacon in Acts II and V, more from Gainsford in Acts III and IV, and about the same from both in Act I. Six of the eighteen scenes show no such use of the sources. For one of the six, King James's giving of Katherine to Warbeck (II.iii), Ford has at his disposal Gainsford's expanded and euphuistic account of Warbeck's wooing of Katherine, but rejects it; if any character speaks in Gainsford's style, it is Daliell (I.ii), Katherine's ill-fated suitor, whose stilted phrases are ridiculed by Katherine's father, the Earl of Huntley.
Taking his plot from the two histories, Ford adds to, omits from, and alters their accounts very effectively. In his emphasis, he follows Bacon more closely than he does Gainsford, especially in portraying Henry VII. Bacon surpasses all other chroniclers in his analysis of the king's character, and most of his conclusions are complimentary. Ford is even more favorable, often changing the sequence of historical events to enhance Henry's foresight. Gainsford pays scant attention to personality and motives.
For an adequate appreciation of the play, some knowledge of the . . .