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Directed readings: paratext in a Game at Chess and The Tragedie of Philotas.

It has become a commonplace in studies of early modern reading practices to argue that seventeenth-century readers interpreted written works analogically. A. H. Tricomi best articulates this view in his 1986 article, "Philip, Earl of Pembroke, and the Analogical Way of Reading Political Tragedy." Developing his argument through a close analysis of the notes with which one seventeenth-century reader filled the margins of a printed play text, Tricomi contends that, in contrast to twentieth-century readers, whose interpretative habits had been influenced by formalist assumptions, seventeenth-century readers "read politically ... looking for analogues," and applied the matter of dramatic texts to contemporary events. (1) Tricomi's study has enhanced our understanding of early modern play-reading; still, the practice of analogical interpretation may be further scrutinized. The practice can be examined not only through readers' recorded responses to plays in print, but also through the strategies employed by authors and printers in the presentation of play texts. This essay will analyse the reading habits promoted by disparate deployments of paratext, those textual elements which Gerard Genette describes as the "threshold" of a text, comprising "verbal or other productions, such as an author's name, a title, a preface, illustrations" which together constitute "a privileged place of a pragmatics and a strategy, of an influence on the public, an influence that--whether well or poorly understood and achieved--is at the service of a better reception for the text and a more pertinent reading of it (more pertinent, of course, in the eyes of the author and his allies)." (2) The examination of paratextual material to elucidate the meaning with which an author or printer sought to invest a printed work is a strategy that has been fruitfully pursued by others: John Jowett has discussed Ben Jonson's use of paratext (which Jowett terms "outer" text) to "intensify and narrow the reader's response to the 'inner' text" of the 1605 Quarto of Sejanus and Evelyn Tribble has similarly noted Jonson's "attempt to circumscribe ... irresponsible interpretation" of his work through the strategic deployment of marginalia. (3)

This essay will examine the reading habits promoted by the paratext of two seventeenth-century plays in print: Thomas Middleton's A Game at Chess (1625) and Samuel Daniel's The Tragedie of Philotas (1605). Two of the Jacobean period's most notorious examples of plays censored in performance on the grounds of seditious topicality, Middleton and Daniel's plays are apt subjects for an exploration of the notion of analogical interpretation. The two plays share similar reception histories: both were allowed by censors, only to be suppressed in performance when controversy arose over their perceived analogical subtext. The inquiries conducted by the Privy Council into the alleged topicality of the two plays did not result in serious punishment, and both plays were subsequently published in print without official interference and with considerable commercial success. Yet the marked differences in the print presentation of the two plays suggest that the compilers of the two publications pursued differing strategies in responding to the accusations of subversive content levelled against the plays in performance. Those responsible for the publication of A Game at Chess presented the printed text as a re-creation of the play's performance and used its paratext to stress the play's most controversial elements and highlight its subversive political topicality. By contrast, Daniel's presentation of Philotas dissociates the published play from its stage history: his paratext stresses the play's literary rather than theatrical qualities and, while avoiding overt reference to the controversy over the play's meaning, obliquely rebuts accusations of contemporary applicability. These opposing strategies suggest that the practice of analogical reading was contested and could be manipulated by authors and printers to achieve a variety of interpretative effects.

A Game at Chess was interpreted as a satire of Anglo-Spanish relations in which political manoeuvring was allegorized as chess play and high-ranking Spaniards such as Don Diego Sarmiento de Acuna, Conde de Gondomar and ex-Ambassador of Spain, and Catholic clergymen such as Marc Antonio de Dominis, Archbishop of Spalato, were irreverently personated in the characters of the Black House. The play was performed in August 1624 against the political backdrop of the Thirty Years' War, as Protestant forces led by Frederick V, Elector of the Palatinate and son-in-law of James I, battled the Catholic powers of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain. James I had long favored an Anglo-Spanish alliance, believing that once allied with Spain through the marriage of Prince Charles to the Spanish Infanta, he would be able to secure a diplomatic settlement between Frederick and Philip IV. However, the English public, the House of Commons, and a strong faction at court led by William Herbert, Lord Chamberlain and Earl of Pembroke, desired active intervention on the side of Frederick on both religious and familial grounds. Following a disastrous visit to Spain in 1623, Prince Charles and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, joined the anti-Spanish faction at court, and on 20 April 1624 James I reluctantly annulled the marriage treaties, initiating a reversal of English foreign policy.

Thus, when A Game at Chess was read by Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, on 12 June 1624, the play criticized a policy no longer in place and individuals no longer in favor, and the political and religious content of the play did not impede its allowance. The play's satirical treatment of living individuals was also allowed, presumably, Richard Dutton has argued, because the personations were sufficiently veiled in allegory to be acceptable to a censor expected only to block overt attacks and "not ... to pry too closely into adequately coded and distanced works." (4)

A Game at Chess was performed at the Globe Theatre and ran for nine consecutive days (excluding Sunday) in early August 1624, while James I was on progress in the Midlands. (5) Consecutive performances were unheard of at this time and their occurrence in this instance demonstrates both the play's enormous popularity and the players' fear that the play might soon be disallowed. (6) The play was immensely popular with all strata of London society. Don Carlos Coloma, who had replaced Gondomar as the Spanish ambassador, estimated that in the space of four days "more that twelve thousand persons ... all heard the play" and John Chamberlain noted that the play was "frequented by all sorts of people old and younge, rich and poore, masters and seruants, papists and puritans ... churchmen and statesmen ... and a world besides." (7)

The performance of A Game at Chess proceeded without interference until Coloma complained to the king. Demanding that the author and actors of the play be punished "in a public and exemplary fashion" or that he be given a ship to sail from England, Coloma made of the play a diplomatic incident. (8) Middleton and the players were summoned before the Privy Council. Middleton could not be found, although he may later have served a short prison sentence; the players were examined and prevented from acting for ten days; the play itself was "antiquated and sylenced." (9) Dutton has interpreted this response as an instance of pragmatic rather than ideological censorship, a practical reaction to the political situation of the moment. However, Dutton also points out that James I was sensitive to the issue of personation. (10) Contemporary testimony indicates that the satirical representations which had been veiled in allegory on the page were made explicit in performance. The players made use of a litter and a suit of clothes recognizable as Gondomar's in order to draw out the satirical allusions encoded in the text. James I was concerned to discover those responsible for the play's personations and reminded the Privy Council that there was "a commaundment and restraint giuen against the representinge of anie moderne Christian kings in those Stage-playes." (11) The logic of the play's allegory makes it inevitable that one associate James I with the White King, and Alvise Valaresso, the Venetian ambassador, may have hit upon the cause of the king's concern in his observation that "the Spaniards are touched from their tricks being discovered, but the king's reputation is affected much more deeply, by representing the ease with which he was deceived." (12)

Despite the furor raised over the play in performance, no effort was made to prevent the print publication of A Game at Chess. Within a year of the play's performance, four editions of A Game at Chess had appeared, although the extent of Middleton's involvement in the print publication of his play is uncertain. A Game at Chess was never legally licensed for print. (13) The first quarto of the play makes no reference to the agent or place of its surreptitious publication (see fig. 1), and the third quarto flaunts its illicit foreign publication, its title page proclaiming the play to have been "Ghedruckt in Lydden by Ian Masse." (14) The print publication of A Game at Chess thus perpetuates the defiant attitude that characterized the play in performance.


The form and presentation of the text suggest the role envisaged for the printed play. Published as a single work in quarto form, A Game at Chess was conveniently packaged for those wishing to obtain a witness of the play's notorious stage production. The plain layout and "abominabl [e]" print quality of Quarto 1 (much ameliorated in Quarto 3) suggest that the printed text served as a practical means of re-creating the play's performance rather than as an aesthetic object attesting to the artistic value of the work which it contained. (15)

The print version of A Game at Chess derives its authority from its claim of fidelity to the performance that preceded it. Thomas Middleton's name does not appear on the title page, and he is nowhere mentioned as the authorizing source of the play. Instead, the title of Quarto 1 proclaims the text to be A Game at Chaess as it was Acted nine days to gether at the Globe on the banks Side, while Quarto 3 similarly presents itself as A Game at Chesse as It hath bine Sundrey times Acted at The Globe on the Banck Side. No attempt is made to dissociate the printed work from its origins in the theatre or to fashion an identity for the play autonomous from the stage. The engraved images employed on the title pages of the printed editions recall the visual nature of performance. The engraving that appears on the title page of Quarto 1, depicting the kings, queens, dukes, and bishops of "The Black House" and "The White House" seated around a chess board, suggests the play's basic premise of political and religious manoeuvring analogized as a chess game. The image of "the Fatte Bishop" and "the Black Knight" declaiming their lines in speech bubbles that adorns the title pages of both Quarto 1 and Quarto 3 calls to mind the play's enactment, while the representation of the bag into which the members of the Black House are eventually cast summarizes the action of the play. Conveying its message pictorially, the title page of A Game at Chess is easily "read" and recalls the experience of the play's stage production.

The engravings that adorn the published quartos of A Game at Chess are also significant for the manner in which they direct readers' interpretation of the play. The features of the characters depicted on the title pages are copied from portraits of the individuals satirized in the play: even in the details of their dress, the Fat Bishop resembles Marc Antonio de Dominis and the Black Knight, Gondomar. (16) The engravings thus reproduce the most controversial aspect of the play's stage production, perpetuating the personations that were in large part responsible for the suppression of the play in performance. (17) By once again making visually explicit the connection between the characters of the play and the public figures who were the targets of the satire, the engravings confirm the accusations of subversive topicality made against the play in performance and authorize the reader to interpret the play as a satirical commentary on Anglo-Spanish relations and an attack on the individuals depicted.

The poem which prefaces the text of A Game at Chess in Quarto 1, "The Picture plainly explained, after the manner of the Chesse-play," offers a summary of the play's action and illustrates in the process the primary focus of the print version of A Game at Chess. The poem's assertion that the White Knight "giues Check-mate by Discouery / To the Blacke Knight; and so at last / The Game ... [is] won" (Alv) misrepresents the rules of chess, in which a game is ended by the checkmate of the king; nevertheless, the poem accurately reflects the events of the play. (18) This suggests that, to the compilers of the edition, fidelity to the play's action was of greater importance than scholarly accuracy. This ordering of priorities is consistent with the publication's overall emphasis upon facilitating the imaginative re-creation of the play's performance and therefore has its own validity.

The conception of printed drama that guided the presentation of A Game at Chess is also evident in the marginal notes that accompany the text in Quarto 1. The edition's copious marginalia consist entirely of stage directions. They describe the costumes and props used in performance, thus enhancing the reader's capacity to envision the stage production of the play and illustrating as well the degree to which the progress of A Game at Chess depends upon physical action and visual detail. References to props such as an "Altar ... with Tapers, and Images standing on each side" (I2v) assist the reader in imagining the appearance of the stage. Visual details also reinforce the play's meaning: the treachery of the White King's Pawn is highlighted by the fact that his "upper garment being taken off he appeares black under' (F3v). References to distinctive props, such as the Black Knight's "Litter" (I2) which in performance was recognizable as belonging to Gondomar, function as reminders of the controversial topicality of the stage production. (19) An elaborate stage direction, noting, "Enter Blacke Queenes Pawne with a light, conducting the White Queenes Pawne to a Chamber and fetching in the Blacke Bishops Pawne conveyes him to an other, puts out the light, and followes," recreates in print the wholly visual and performative effect of a "Dumb shew" (H4). The marginal directions include references to special effects used to enhance the performance: "Musicke," a "Records" and "Images [that] mooue in a Daunce" (I2v, H4, I2v). The marginal notes also recall the spatial aspect of the stage production, distinguishing between action taking place on- and off-stage through references to noises and voices heard "within" (D1v, I4). The marginalia in A Game at Chess suggest that the reading of the text is primarily intended to reproduce the experience of the play's stage production and thus to recall the context in which the play was performed and the contemporary significance of that performance.

The print presentation of A Game at Chess invites a topical interpretation, thereby supporting Tricomi's claim that seventeenth-century readers sought to parallel the matter of dramatic works with contemporary events. However, the textual presentation of other plays of the same period reveals an effort to dissociate printed drama from the politics of the present and to situate these works instead relative to the literary tradition of classical antiquity. Ben Jonson's 1605 Quarto of Sejanus is one such work; (20) the antehumous editions of Samuel Daniel's Philotas constitute another example. As the performance and publication of Philotas preceded that of A Game at Chess by twenty years, the contrasting methods of reading promoted by the two plays in print cannot be treated as an indication of a progressive shift from topical interpretation towards literary criticism. Rather, the differences between the paratexts of the two works suggest the co-existence of disparate interpretative tendencies within the reading culture of early seventeenth-century society.

Daniel's attitudes towards the production of his play on stage and its publication in print contrast greatly with those of Thomas Middleton and the compilers of the print version of A Game at Chess. Daniel was a "purist" and a neoclassicist in his approach to drama. (21) Scorning native English dramatic traditions and disparaging the public stage, he took Senecan tragedy (written for recitation rather than performance) as his ideal and French neoclassical drama and the dramatic verse of the Countess of Pembroke's coterie as his models. (22) In his conception of drama and his textual presentation of dramatic works, Daniel resembled Ben Jonson, although the two playwrights were adversaries rather than collaborators. Like Jonson, Daniel sought to elevate drama to the status of literature. His background in the writing of history made him conscious of his use of sources, and he was closely involved in the revision and publication of the majority of his printed works.

Daniel maintained that he had not intended Philotas to be publicly staged: the play had been conceived as dramatic poetry to provide "priuate recreation" for "certaine Gentlemens sonnes" ("Apology" 254), and "necessitie" alone had "driuen [him] to doo a thing vnworthy of [him], and much against [his] harte, in making the stage the speaker of [his] lynes." (23) Regardless of its intended purpose, the play was performed during the winter of 1604-1605 by the Children of the Queen's Revels, a boys' company for which Daniel served as Licenser. The date and location of the play's performance cannot be conclusively determined. (24) A note in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber (dated 24 February 1604/05) mentions a payment made to "Samuel Danyell and Henry Evans ... for twoe Enterludes or plaies presented before the Kings Ma[jes]tie by the Quenes Ma[jes]t[ie]s Children of the Revells, the one on Newyeres day at night 1604 and the other on the thirde day of Januarye at nighte next followinge." (25) This reference has given rise to the assumption that the play was performed at court on January 3, 1605. It is also possible, however, that the play was performed at the Children's regular venue, the indoor, up-market Blackfriars Theatre, an alternative which has the advantage of making Daniel's disdain for the public staging of his play more comprehensible than it would be were he speaking of a court performance. In either case, the setting in which Philotas was performed was exclusive and elite in comparison to public theatres such as the Globe (where A Game at Chess would subsequently be acted nine days together), a fact which allowed Daniel to retain his sense that his play was reserved for an audience of some discernment.

Philotas was performed only once. The play was suppressed and an undated entry in the Calendar of State Papers indicates that Daniel was called before the Privy Council "in question for the tragedy of Philotas." (26) Daniel's own allusions to the incident suggest that he was accused of seeking in his account of Philotas (a favorite of Alexander the Great accused, tried, and executed for conspiring against the king) to represent sympathetically the rebellion, trial, and execution of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and one-time favorite of Elizabeth. Daniel responded to this accusation in writing, composing letters to Robert Cecil, Lord Cranborne, and to the Earl of Devonshire and also penning an Apology apparently intended for readers of Philotas but not published with the play until 1623, four years after Daniel's death. In these defensive writings, Daniel protested that he had composed the first three acts of his play in 1600, well before Essex's rebellion, and that his themes were of universal significance rather than topical relevance.

John Pitcher notes that "the current consensus view is that [Daniel] did indeed mean there to be some kind of parallel between the Essex and Philotas episodes." (27) However, Daniel appears to have viewed the print publication of Philotas as an opportunity to reinvent his play, divesting it of the topical significance associated with the play in performance and giving it new life as a work of literature.

Philotas appeared in print in 1605, within a year of its performance. In contrast to the printing of A Game at Chess, which bypassed authorized methods of licensing and publication, the printing of Philotas followed convention. Daniel's play was legitimately licensed for the press, entered in the Stationers' Register on 29 November, 1604. (28) The title page of the 1605 collection, Certaine Small Poems, in which Philotas was first published, announces its reputable publication "at London ... by G. Eld for Simon Waterson" (see fig. 2). Rather than confirming his play's transgression of authority through illicit publication, Daniel aligns Philotas with the established order through his participation in the conventional printing process.


The form in which Philotas was marketed is indicative of the role that Daniel envisaged for his play. Philotas was not published alone during Daniel's lifetime. Instead, it was included in a series of collections published in 1605, 1607 (two different collections appeared in this year), and 1611 (two reprints of the 1607 Certaine Small Workes were issued at this time), as well as in the posthumous collection of Daniel's Whole Workes in 1623. The 1605 collection, Certaine Small Poems Lately Printed: with the Tragedie of Philotas, mentions the play but does not give it top billing. One of the 1607 collections--which in addition to the play contains "A Panegyrike Congratvlatorie to the Kings most excellent Maiestie" and "A Defence of Ryme" that locate the play within an orthodox political and literary context--was published under the title, The Tragedie of Philotas. In the remaining collections, the play is not even mentioned on the general title page. This reticence suggests that Daniel was reluctant to market Philotas on the basis of its notorious performance. Embedding the play in volumes of non-controversial verse, he sought recognition for his play as part of his larger body of literary "workes" and discouraged its purchase by those interested solely in a souvenir of the play's single performance. Instead, he used the play's inclusion in collections of poetic verse to disseminate Philotas to an audience wider than that normally receptive to dramatic texts.

Daniel's typographic presentation of Philotas demonstrates his aspirations to literary seriousness. The print quality of his collections is superior to that of the first quarto of A Game at Chess, and the ornamental borders and embellished letters that decorate his collections suggest that the volumes contain work of significance. He links his play to the literature of the classical past through intertextual references, quoting his sources, Plutarch and Quintus Curtius Rufus, in scholarly marginalia. As Evelyn Tribble remarks of Jonson's even more copious use of scholarly marginalia in the 1605 Quarto of Sejanus, "this strategy ensures that the reader's frame of reference (almost literally) will be classical rather than contemporary." (29) Daniel prefaces the 1607 Certaine Small Workes (and its 1611 reprints) with a list of "The Poems herein contained," a textual luxury facilitating access to the works within the volume. Such touches suggest that, unlike the compilers of the printed text of A Game at Chess, Daniel wished to assert the literary quality of his work. (30)

The title pages of Daniel's collections are simple and sedate, employing an orderly layout and small, tasteful emblems set against a clean white background to convey the impression of authoritative and serious work. Daniel's authorship is prominently noted on the title page of each of his collections; the title page of the 1607 Certaine Small Workes (and of its 1611 reprints) goes so far as to declare the collection to have been "heretofore divulged by Samuel Daniel ... & now againe by him corrected and augmented," emphasizing Daniel's authority as the source of the works contained within the volume and stressing as well his continuing control over the collected material. Neither on the general title pages of his collections nor on the title pages of Philotas contained within the volumes is any reference made to the stage history of the play. As a result of Daniel's desire to distance the print version of Philotas from the play's performance and from the controversy that surrounded it, the fidelity of the printed text to the stage production is not used as an indicator of its authenticity. Instead, Daniel presents Philotas as a work of literature. He asserts the high seriousness of his writing through his inclusion of Latin epigraphs on his title pages. Daniel's use of Latin is itself an indication of his aspirations to literary profundity and learned exclusivity. Furthermore, the meaning of the phrase which adorns the title page of the 1607 and 1611 Certaine Small Workes--"AEtas prima canat veneres postrema tumultus" ("let the first age sing of love, the latter of confusion")--suggests that, although he views his own era as diminished in comparison to the golden age of the classical past, he sees himself as writing within the classical literary tradition still, if only of disorder and confusion. This paratextual strategy confirms an inclination already evident in the text of Philotas, where Daniel's choice of antique subject matter, his use of "the ancient forme of a Tragedy" ("Apology" 254), and his neoclassical style indicate his desire to align his work with the literary tradition of the classical past.

As might be expected of a work consciously constructed as literary, Philotas is accompanied by considerably more prefatory matter than is A Game at Chess. In the material prefacing the collections published during his lifetime, Daniel avoids overt reference to the performance of Philotas and the controversy it aroused, an omission which suggests Daniel's belief that the rehabilitation of his play could best be achieved by obliterating all memory of its suppressed performance. Nevertheless, he employs his prefatory matter to obliquely rebut accusations of subversive intent and to discourage his audience from interpreting his work as having purely topical relevance.

Daniel's address "To the Reader" in Certaine Small Workes serves as a preface to the collection as a whole. (31) Considered in relation to Philotas specifically, the address can be read both as Daniel's assertion of his authorial right to refute false readings of his work and as a plea for his audience to forget his past errors of poetic and political judgement. Daniel asserts his authorial control over his material through his declaration that "howsoeuer be it well or ill / What I have done, it is mine owne I may / Do whatsoeuer therewithall I will" (15-17). He also stresses his authorial right to oppose the assessments of his work offered by others, for while he confesses that "these curious times ... do driue / Me to examine my defects the more / And oft would make me not my selfe belieue" (34-37), he maintains that
        the world wherein I liue,
   Neither is so wise, as that would seeme
   Nor certaine judgement of those things doth giue
   That in [sic] disliks, nor that it doth esteeme.

However, Daniel's address to the reader also functions as a lament over the past "errors of [his] iudgement" (86), and although Daniel never refers to the play overtly, hints within the address suggest that Daniel is writing with Philotas in mind. The theatrical metaphor contained in his declared desire to "unrehearse" (87) past errors calls to mind the stage production of Philotas, even as it suggests Daniel's wish that the performance had never taken place. Daniel's hope that "England," representative of both the state authorities and the reading public, "neuer will take note" of his errors, coupled with his declared willingness to "disavow [his] act / And wish it may for euer be forgot" (91-93), suggests his eagerness to distance himself from the performance of Philotas and to erase the memory of the play's suppression from public consciousness. Closing his preface to the reader with the plea that he may have that which he wrote "in [his] own againe" (97), Daniel reintroduces his desire to assert control over material that has been appropriated from him through the public's interpretation of it. Read in relation to Philotas, Daniel's address to the reader suggests his desire to erase all memory of his play's controversial past and to reclaim the work, now in printed form, through his own interpretation of its meaning.

The prefatory texts relating to Philotas specifically, the dedication "To the Prince" and "The Argvment" which accompany the play in all its seventeenth-century editions, seem similarly intended to control readers' interpretations. Daniel dedicates his play to Prince Henry, James I's eldest son, a choice that in itself suggests Daniel's desire to align his play with royal authority. (32) The substance of the dedication further demonstrates Daniel's wish to associate Philotas with political orthodoxy, for Daniel presents the play as a didactic exemplum, useful as a means of illustrating to the prince the potential threats to civil order arising from "th' intricate designes / Of vncontented man" (4-5). Asserting that his work will "to after times relate [his] zeale / To kings, and vnto right, to quietnesse, / And to the vnion of the common-weale" (102-4), Daniel presents the play as an aid to authority that exposes rather than condones agents of subversion and rebellion.

"The Argvment" that summarizes the action of Philotas similarly stresses the play's alignment with the interests and outlook of authority. (33) Daniel contends that the play portrays Philotas as an agent of disruption and champions Ephestion and Craterus, Alexander's "most especiall Councellors," for having "grauely and prouidently discerned" the threat posed by Philotas and for having prosecuted him "in that manner as became their neerenesse, and dearenesse with their Lord and maister, & fitting to the safetie of the state" (A7). Daniel also seeks to control his audience's interpretation of Philotas by denouncing the play's Chorus, which at several points expresses sympathy for Philotas and disapproval of his persecutors. He argues that the Chorus voices the unexamined opinion of "the multitude and body of a people, who vulgarlie according to their affections carryed rather with compassion on great mens misfortunes, then with the consideration of the cause" (A7-A7v).

Daniel's dedicatory epistle "To the Prince" offers a further argument against the accusation of subversive topicality levelled at Philotas. Daniel presents the play as a tale of perpetual relevance that reflects the universal human condition rather than particular contemporary events. Arguing that "men haue, doo, and alwayes runne / The selfe same line of action" (26-27), Daniel implicitly rebuts the charge that he intended a specific parallel between the story of Philotas and the Essex affair. That this declaration is intended as a defence against accusations of his play's subversive topicality is supported by the fact that Daniel employed the same argument of universality in 1605 in letters to Robert Cecil and the Earl of Devonshire in which he explicitly contested the charge that he had incorporated heterodox topical analogies into the story of Philotas. In his letter to Cecil, Daniel argues that there exist "vniuersall notions of the affayres of men, w[hi]c[h] in all ages beare the same resemblances, and are measured by one and the same foote of vnderstanding," and he pleads, "therefore good my lord let no misapplying wronge my innocent writing." (34) He presents a similar defence in his letter to the Earl of Devonshire, arguing that "there was nothing in [the play] ... but out of the vniuersall notions of ambition and envie the p[er]p[e]tuall argum[en]ts of bookes and tragedies." (35) Daniel contests not only the allegation that his play championed subversion but also the assumption that the play's message was significant solely in its applicability to a contemporary situation. Having sought first to establish his play as a literary work through association with the classical tradition, Daniel suggests that Philotas has universal relevance as a timeless work of literature.

The Whole Workes of Samvel Daniel Esquire in Poetrie (posthumously published in 1623) contains an "Apology" which Daniel appears to have written in the autumn of 1605 but which he omitted from the collections released during his lifetime. (36) "The Apology" comprises Daniel's only overt, published response to the performance of Philotas and the controversy that arose from it. Acknowledging that some had "most ignorantly resembled" his play to the Essex affair, Daniel denies that he intended "any particular acquaintance" with contemporary events and argues that his material has only "a generall alliance to the frailty of greatnesse, and the vsual workings of ambition, the perpetuall subjects of bookes and Tragedies" (254). "The Apology" reiterates Daniel's argument that his play has universal relevance as an eternal work of literature. The most significant aspect of "The Apology," however, is its absence from the collections published during Daniel's lifetime, for its omission demonstrates Daniel's belief that the universal applicability of his play would be most convincing if all reference to the accusations of its contemporary topicality were erased.

The marginalia employed in Philotas once again locate the play within a literary tradition. (37) Originally composed as a closet drama not intended for public performance, Philotas is a play oriented towards scholarly reading. The play in printed form employs relatively little marginalia and that which does appear consists as often of scholarly citations as of stage directions for performance. Daniel acknowledges "Plutarch in the life of Alexander" (C3v) and "Q. Curtius lib.6." ("Argvment" A6v) as his sources and subsequently offers fragments of Latin from these classical authors as corroboration for the argument of his play (E2v, F5v). The few directions relevant to staging that supplement the play text are noticeably passive. Participating characters are identified as being present at the opening of each scene but are only rarely described as actively entering or as performing action of any sort (B4). Even the most elaborate opening descriptions in Philotas explain only who is present, not what is being done: the remarks that preface Act 4, scene 2, state simply, "Alexander with al his Councel, the dead body of Dymnus: the reuealers of the conspiracie, Philotas" (D7). The notes that do call for action are basic and brief, no more than the obligatory "Exit" and "Exeunt." The only exceptions to this rule consist of instructions for verbal variation as much as physical action: "Philotas reading his Fathers letter;" "Crat. reads it [a letter]" (B1, D8). This lack of active stage business is fitting for a closet drama not originally intended for performance. Similarly, the only props referred to in the marginal notes of Philotas are letters, in themselves readerly objects (B1, D8). Even the difference between the act and scene identifiers used in A Game at Chess and Philotas indicates the performative quality of Middleton's play and the literary character of Daniel's, for while both play texts employ Latin headings to introduce act and scene divisions, the acts in Quarto 1 of A Game at Chess are introduced by statements such as "Incipit Secundus" and "Finit Actus Secundus" (C3v, E3v), terms which suggest the progressing action of a performance to a greater degree than the passive headings, "ACTVS II. SCENA I." (B7v) employed in Daniel's literary play text.

In "Samuel Daniel and the Authorities," John Pitcher presents evidence corroborating the existence of multiple seventeenth-century reading strategies. Adopting a method of analysis similar to that employed by A. H. Tricomi, he examines the annotations left by a single reader--Sir Anthony Benn, a London judge--in the margins of his copy of Daniel's 1605 Certaine Small Poems. Pitcher finds in Benn's marginal notes a commentary that is "aesthetic as much as political": Benn offers comparisons between Daniel's poetic progress and that of the poets of antiquity and notes parallels between Daniel's narrative and classical works. (38) Benn's commentary locates Daniel within the tradition of classical literature rather than analysing the contemporary applicability of his dramatic work. Pitcher's analysis of Benn's marginalia suggests that, concurrent with the habit of topical political interpretation, there existed an aesthetic or literary-critical approach to the reading of contemporary texts. Daniel's paratextual directives to read Philotas as a work of literature thus appear to have met with a receptive audience.

The contrasting examples of A Game at Chess and Philotas suggest that the analogical method of play-reading took multiple forms and that authors and printers used their paratextual material to manipulate play-readers' application of printed drama. The print publications of A Game at Chess and Philotas encouraged differing interpretations of the two plays through the promotion of contrasting conceptions of the function of dramatic texts. The printed text of A Game at Chess was presented as a re-creation of the play in performance and was used to perpetuate the stage production's controversial personations. This ensured the continued association of the printed play with the political context in which it was performed and invited topical interpretation. Samuel Daniel, by contrast, distanced Philotas from the original context of its performance, avoiding all reference to the play's stage production or the controversy it inspired. Instead, he encouraged readers to regard his play as literature and to interpret Philotas as having the eternal relevance and universal applicability of a timeless work of art. Neither Samuel Daniel nor the compiler of the print publication of A Game at Chess was a disinterested interpreter of his own text. The arguments that the plays' authors and printers employed functioned as strategic responses to the accusations of political subversion levelled against the plays in performance. Nevertheless, the contrasting arguments that they put forward demonstrate the existence of competing interpretative strategies within the tradition of analogical play-reading.

Lincoln College, Oxford


(1) A. H. Tricomi, "Philip, Earl of Pembroke, and the Analogical Way of Reading Political Tragedy," JEGP 85 (1986): 336.

(2) Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Cambridge U. Press, 1997), 1-2.

(3) John Jowett, "Jonson's Authorization of Type in Sejanus and Other Early Quartos," New Ways of Looking at Old Texts: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1985-1991, ed. W. Speed Hill (Binghampton: Renaissance English Text Society, 1993), 179; Evelyn B. Tribble, "Genius on the Rack: Authorities and the Margin in Ben Jonson's Glossed Works," Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (U. Press of Virginia, 1993), 147.

(4) Richard Dutton, Licensing, Censorship, and Authorship in Early Modern England: Buggeswords (New York: Palgrave, 2000), 138.

(5) The performance dates usually given for A Game at Chess are 6-17 August 1624; T. H. Howard-Hill, however, maintains that the play ran from 5-14 August 1624. Please see: T. H. Howard-Hill, introduction, A Game at Chess, by Thomas Middleton, The Revels Plays (Manchester U. Press, 1993), 17, 56n.

(6) Dutton, 133.

(7) Don Carlos Coloma, letter to the Conde-Duque Olivares, 20 [10] August 1624, qtd. in Howard-Hill, appendix I, A Game at Chess, 197; John Chamberlain, letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, 21 August 1624, qtd. in Howard-Hill, appendix I, A Game at Chess, 205.

(8) Don Carlos Coloma, letter to James I, 17 [7] August 1624, qtd. in Howard-Hill, appendix I, A Game at Chess, 193.

(9) The Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain, letter to the President of the Council, Viscount Mandeville, 27 August 1624, qtd. in Howard-Hill, appendix I, A Game at Chess, 207.

(10) Dutton, 144.

(11) Sir Edward Conway, Secretary of State, letter to the Privy Council, 12 August 1624, qtd. in Howard-Hill, appendix I, A Game at Chess, 200.

(12) Alvise Valaresso, Venetian Ambassador, letter to the Doge and Senate, 30 [20] August 1624, qtd. in Howard-Hill, appendix I, A Game at Chess, 204.

(13) Evelyn Mary Albright, Dramatic Publication in England, 1580-1640: A Study of Conditions Affecting Content and Form of Drama (New York: D.C. Heath & Co., 1927), 168.

(14) This essay will focus on Quarto 1 and Quarto 3 of A Game at Chess, for, while Quarto 2 is a straightforward reprint of Quarto 1, Quarto 3 is based on a different manuscript and has distinct features of its own. Quarto 4 is a reprint of Quarto 3.

(15) Howard-Hill, introduction, A Game at Chess, 8.

(16) Howard-Hill, introduction, A Game at Chess, 6.

(17) Dutton, 144.

(18) Unless otherwise stated, my references to A Game at Chess refer to Quarto 1. Thomas Middleton, A Game at Chess as It Was Acted Nine Days To Other at the Globe on the Banks Side ([London?]: n.p., [1625?]); the prefatory poem's misrepresentation of the rules of chess has caused scholars to argue that Middleton (who was himself clearly familiar with the game) was not the author of this prefatory poem. Thomas Middleton, A Game at Chess, ed. J.W. Harper (London: Benn, 1966), 96.

(19) Dutton, 137.

(20) See Jowett, "Jonson's Authorization of Type in Sejanus and Other Early Quartos;" Jowett, "'Fall before this Booke': The 1605 Quarto of Sejanus," Text: Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholarship, ed. D. C. Greetham and W. Speed Hill, vol. 4 (New York: AMS Press, 1988); and Tribble, "Genius on the Rack: Authorities and the Margin in Ben Jonson's Glossed Works."

(21) Laurence Michel, preface, The Tragedy of Philotas, by Samuel Daniel, Yale Studies in English 110 (Yale U. Press, 1949), v.

(22) Michel, introduction, The Tragedy of Philotas, 9.

(23) Samuel Daniel, "The Apology," The Whole Workes of Samvel Daniel Esquire in Poetrie (London: Simon Waterson, 1623); Daniel, letter to Robert Cecil, Lord Cranborne, 1605, qtd. in Michel, "The Essex Affair," The Tragedy of Philotas, 37.

(24) John Pitcher, "Samuel Daniel and the Authorities," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 10 (1998): 119.

(25) Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, 24 February 1604/5, qtd. in Hugh Gazzard, "'Those Graue Presentments of Antiquitie': Samuel Daniel's Philotas and the Earl of Essex," RES 51 (2000): 423-24.

(26) Calendar of State Papers, [1604?], qtd. in Michel, "The Essex Affair," The Tragedy of Philotas, 37.

(27) Pitcher, "Samuel Daniel and the Authorities," 119.

(28) W.W. Greg, A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration, vol. 1 (Oxford U. Press, 1951), 349.

(29) Tribble, "Genius on the Rack," 152.

(30) The majority of Daniel's collected editions reveal a high quality of presentation. The 1607 Certaine Small Workes and its 1611 reprint are exceptions: John Pitcher notes that in these editions "the type is badly set, the cancels and headlines are muddled, and the texts are inaccurate;" however, he attributes this lapse to a period of illness that Daniel suffered in 1607 which prevented him from overseeing the printing of his collection. Pitcher, "Editing Daniel," New Ways of Looking at Old Texts: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1985-1991, ed. W. Speed Hill (Binghampton: Renaissance English Text Society, 1993), 70.

(31) Daniel, "To the Reader," Certaine Small Workes Heretofore Divulged by Samuel Daniel One of the Grottoes of the Queenes Maiesties Priuie Chamber, & Now Againe by Him Corrected and Augmented (London: Simon Waterson, 1607).

(32) Daniel, "To the Prince," Certaine Small Poems Lately Printed: with the Tragedie of Philotas (London: Simon Waterson, 1605).

(33) Daniel, "The Argument," Certaine Small Poems.

(34) Daniel, letter to Robert Cecil, qtd. in Michel, "The Essex Affair," The Tragedy of Philotas, 38.

(35) Daniel, letter to the Earl of Devonshire, [1605?], qtd. in Michel, "The Essex Affair," The Tragedy of Philotas, 38.

(36) Michel, "The Essex Affair," The Tragedy of Philotas, 42.

(37) All references to marginalia in The Tragedie of Philotas refer to Daniel, The Tragedie of Philotas, Certaine Small Poems.

(38) Pitcher, "Benefiting from the Book: The Oxford Edition of Samuel Daniel," Yearbook of English Studies 29 (1999): 80; Pitcher, "Samuel Daniel and the Authorities," 126, 129.
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Author:Alt, Christina
Publication:Philological Quarterly
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Date:Mar 22, 2004
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