is an early Jacobean era stage play, a satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...
and city comedy
City comedy, also called Citizen Comedy, is a common genre of Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline comedy on the London stage from the last years of the 16th century to the closing of the theaters in 1642...
written by Thomas Dekker and John Webster
John Webster was an English Jacobean dramatist best known for his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which are often regarded as masterpieces of the early 17th-century English stage. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.- Biography :Webster's life is obscure, and the dates...
, and first published in 1607
The year 1607 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*February 2 - The King's Men perform Barnes's The Devil's Charter at Court.*June 5 - John Hall marries Susanna, daughter of William Shakespeare....
. Northward Ho
was a response to Eastward Ho
Eastward Hoe or Eastward Ho, is an early Jacobean era stage play, a satire and city comedy written by George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston, printed in 1605. The play was written in response to Westward Ho, an earlier satire by Thomas Dekker and John Webster...
(1605) by Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...
, George Chapman
George Chapman was an English dramatist, translator, and poet. He was a classical scholar, and his work shows the influence of Stoicism. Chapman has been identified as the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Minto, and as an anticipator of the Metaphysical Poets...
, and John Marston
John Marston was an English poet, playwright and satirist during the late Elizabethan and Jacobean periods...
, which in its turn was a response to Westward Ho
Westward Ho is an early Jacobean era stage play, a satire and city comedy by Thomas Dekker and John Webster that was first published in 1607...
(c. 1604), an earlier play by Dekker and Webster. Taken together, the three dramas form a trilogy of "directional plays" that show the state of satirical and social drama in the first decade of the 17th century.
could not have been staged prior to Eastward Ho,
which was in existence by September 1605
The year 1605 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*January 1 - The Queen's Revels Children perform George Chapman's All Fools at Court....
. John Day
John Day was an English dramatist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.-Life:He was born at Cawston, Norfolk, and educated at Ely. He became a sizar of Caius College, Cambridge, in 1592, but was expelled in the next year for stealing a book...
's play The Isle of Gulls
The Isle of Gulls is a Jacobean era stage play written by John Day, a comedy that caused a scandal upon its premiere in 1606.The play was most likely written in 1605; it was acted by the Children of the Revels at the Blackfriars Theatre in February 1606. It was published later in 1606, in a quarto...
onstage in February 1606
The year 1606 in literature involved some significant events.-Events:*May 27 - The English Parliament passes An Act to Restrain Abuses of Players, which tightens the censorship controls on public theatre performances, most notably on the question of profane oaths.*December 26 - Shakespeare's King...
, refers to all three of the directional plays. This suggests that the last of them, Northward Ho,
must have been performed during the last half of 1605.
was entered into the Stationers' Register
The Stationers' Register was a record book maintained by the Stationers' Company of London. The company is a trade guild given a royal charter in 1557 to regulate the various professions associated with the publishing industry, including printers, bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers in England...
on August 6, 1607, and was published later that year in quarto
The size of a book is generally measured by the height against the width of a leaf, or sometimes the height and width of its cover. A series of terms is commonly used by libraries and publishers for the general sizes of modern books, ranging from "folio" , to "quarto" and "octavo"...
by the printer George Eld
George Eld was a London printer of the Jacobean era, who produced important works of English Renaissance drama and literature, including key texts by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Middleton....
. The title page of the first edition identifies the two authors, as well as the playing company
In Renaissance London, playing company was the usual term for a company of actors. These companies were organized around a group of ten or so shareholders , who performed in the plays but were also responsible for management. The sharers employed "hired men" — that is, the minor actors and...
that staged the work, the Children of Paul's
The Children of Paul's was the name of a troupe of boy actors in Elizabethan and Jacobean London. Along with the Children of the Chapel, the Children of Paul's were the most important of the companies of boy players that constituted a distinctive feature of English Renaissance theatre.St...
— the same troupe that performed Westward Ho.
Scholars agree that Dekker is the predominant partner in the authorship of Northward Ho
as in Westward Ho,
while Webster in the minority contributor; yet as with the earlier play, scholars disagree on the proportions of the two authors' shares. Peter Murray's argument, that Webster wrote about 40% of each play, is the high-end estimate; other commentators give him less. Webster's hand has been perceived most often in Act I and in Act III, scene i.
The plot device of the ring that is employed in Northward Ho
can be found in at least two collections of stories, the Ducento Novelle
of Celio Malespini and Les Cent nouvelles Nouvelles
of Antoine de la Sale
Antoine de la Sale or la Salle was a French writer.-Family and Early Years:He was born in Provence, probably at Arles, the illegitimate son of Bernardon de la Salle, a celebrated Gascon mercenary, mentioned in Froissart's Chronicles. His mother was a peasant, Perrinette Damendel.-At the Court of...
Commentators from Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...
to Fredson Bowers have regarded Northward Ho
as superior in quality to Westward Ho.
According to Bowers, "Critical opinion is unanimous in thinking Northward Ho
to be the better of the two Dekker/Webster plays...."
F. G. Fleay's
Frederick Gard Fleay was an influential and prolific nineteenth-century Shakespeare scholar.Fleay, the son of a linen draper, graduated from King's College London and Trinity College, Cambridge , where he received mathematical training that was key to his later achievements...
argument that the character Bellamont in Northward Ho
represents George Chapman has been accepted by some critics.
The play's opening scene, set in the town of Ware north of London, introduces two "gallants," Featherstone and Greenshield, and portrays their situation. The men have long been trying to seduce a citizen's wife, Mistress Mayberry, without success (a type of situation often depicted in the city comedy of the period). In consequence, they have decided to play a malicious prank on her husband. They encounter Mayberry and his friend Bellamont, seemingly by chance, and tell the two men a story of how they (Featherstone and Greenshield) have both seduced the wife of a London tradesman; they keep her name secret at first, but then let it slip as if by accident. Most critically, they possess a ring the Mayberry recognizes as his wife's.
The two pairs part; Mayberry is deeply distressed at the idea that his wife has been unfaithful to him. His older and wiser friend Bellamont protests, and points out the obvious unlikelihood of the encounter: that the two gallants should just happen to have seduced the same woman, who just happens to be Mayberry's wife, strains credulity. Bellamont suggests that Mayberry is clearly being manipulated, and manages to salve the other man's wounded pride. Back in London, Mayberry confronts his wife; she is stung by his suspicion, but explains how Greenshield, while courting and pestering her in the Mayberrys' shop, slipped her ring from her finger and escaped with it. (This idea, of citizens' wives being courted by gentlemen while they staff their husbands' businesses, is another staple of the literature of the era.) Mayberry's suspicions are allayed — but he has a strong desire for revenge against the two gallants.
Bellamont has a son named Philip who, like many young men, enjoys the pursuit of drink, women, and gambling. In his first scene he is shown being arrested by sergeants in the outer room of a tavern, over an unpaid debt of £80. His friends Leverpool and Chartley and the prostitute Doll witness the arrest and are tempted to intervene, but Philip stops them; he sends a tavern servant to his father for bail. Doll and company decide to set up a confidence game, what was then called "coney-catching." They rent a house and present Doll as a wealthy young countrywoman, very eligible for marriage, who has just come to the city. Leverpool and Chartley masquerade as her servants. She is courted by, and exploits, various potential suitors, including a Dutch visitor named Hans van Belch, a local grocer called Allum
Alum is both a specific chemical compound and a class of chemical compounds. The specific compound is the hydrated potassium aluminium sulfate with the formula KAl2.12H2O. The wider class of compounds known as alums have the related empirical formula, AB2.12H2O.-Chemical properties:Alums are...
, and a Welsh soldier, Captain Jenkins. (In Westward Ho,
the character Justiniano has an Italian name but speaks and acts like an Englishman. Northward Ho,
in contrast, employs blatant stereotypical
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...
ethnic and dialect humor.)
In pursuit of his revenge, Mayberry maintains a friendly relationship with Featherstone and Greenshield. Greenshield's "sister" has just arrived in London from York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...
, and Mayberry offers the three of them lodging at his summer house. There, a conversation between two young servingmen, Featherstone's servant Leapfrog and Mayberry's servant Squirrel, reveals the true circumstances of the threesome. Greenshield's "sister" Kate is actually his wife; and Kate is having a clandestine romantic affair with her husband's friend Featherstone. She fools Greenshield by pretending to suffer from sleepwalking
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a sleep disorder belonging to the parasomnia family. Sleepwalkers arise from the slow wave sleep stage in a state of low consciousness and perform activities that are usually performed during a state of full consciousness...
; on her nighttime rambles she often ends up in Featherstone's room.
Philip, playing a joke on his father, has Doll summon Bellamont for a potential commission. (Bellamont is a poet, and provides verses for fees.) Bellamont comes to Doll's establishment, but quickly penetrates the ruse and understands the nature of Doll's profession and her current activities. When Doll asks Bellamont what he thinks of her, he calls her "a most admirable, brave, beautiful whore." Once Bellamont leaves, Doll reveals that she is attracted to him. Captain Jenkins comes to Bellamont to commission a madrigal
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....
for Doll. While he's there, Doll herself arrives; Bellamont has Jenkins hide behind the arras
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length and those parallel to the width ; the warp threads are set up under tension on a...
, and Doll reveals the truth about herself. Jenkins exposes her to her other "gulls," and Doll and company find it expedient to leave the city; they flee northwards.
Featherstone, in pursuing his own sexual and financial goals, has set himself and the Greenshields on a trip to Ware; Bellamont and the Mayberrys travel along as part of their revenge plan. Along the way, the group stops at Bethlem Royal Hospital
The Bethlem Royal Hospital is a psychiatric hospital located in London, United Kingdom and part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Although no longer based at its original location, it is recognised as the world's first and oldest institution to specialise in mental illnesses....
, or "Bedlam," to view the madmen; the others play a joke on Bellamont, and make the keeper think that the poet is a lunatic who has been fooled into coming to the hospital. Bellamont has a fit of temper and hits the keeper before the others come to his rescue. At Ware, the play's schemes bear their final fruit: a disguised Greenshield is tricked into offering his masked wife to Mayberry's amorous attentions...only to have their true identities exposed to each other. Featherstone's adultery with Kate is also exposed — but Featherstone is not left to triumph, since he is fooled into marrying a disguised Doll. Featherstone is appalled to learn that he has married a prostitute; but Doll asserts that she's reformed and promises to be a good and faithful wife. The would-be adulterers and seducers receive their just punishment; the others are none the worse for wear.
In Westward Ho,
the trio of citizens' wives, Mistresses Tenterhook, Honeysuckle, and Wafer, are largely indistinguishable and interchangeable. The three female characters in the sequel are far more distinct, extending along the full range of morality: Mrs. Mayberry being the chaste and virtuous wife, Kate Greenshield the "bad" adulterous wife, and Doll the professional prostitute.