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The text of this edition is nearly that of the first

Quarto, the copy of which in the Dyce Library

at South Kensington has been carefully collated.

I have not noted minute variations. The German

editors, Warnke and Proescholt, give the

various readings of the three Quartos

and of later editions.

'Considering the various and marvellous gifts dis-
played for the first time on our stage by the great
poet, the great dramatist, the strong and subtle
searcher of hearts, the just and merciful judge and
painter of human passions, who gave this tragedy to
the new-born literature of our drama ... I cannot
but finally take heart to say, even in the absence of all
external or traditional testimony, that it seems to me
not pardonable merely or permissible, but simply
logical and reasonable, to set down this poem, a
young man's work on the face of it, as the possible
work of no man"s youthful hand but Shakespeare's.'
Mr. A. C. Swinburne.


Early Editions. On 3rd April, 1592, * The Tragedie of
Arden of Fever sham and BlackwalV^ was entered on the
Stationers' Registers to Edward White. In the same year
appeared, * The lamentable and true Tragedie of M. Arden of
Feversham in Kent. Who was most wickedlye murdered, by
the meanes of his disloyall and wanton wyfe^ who for the love
she bare to one Mosbie, hyred two desperat rujffins, Blackwill
and Shakbagy to kill him. Wherin is shewed the great mallice
and discimulation of a wicked womanly the unsatiable desire
of fit hie lust and the shamefttll end of all murderers. Im-
printed at London for Edward White, dwelling at the lyttle
North dore cf Patiles Church at the signe of the Gun. 1592.'
A second Quarto, with the same title, was printed in 1599. A
third, * by Eliz. Allde dwelling neere Christs Church,^ appeared
in 1633. The second and third Quartos are founded textually
upon the first, and their variations are of no value. The text
of the first Quarto is unusually good even when prose and
verse are mixed together, although the printer has apparently
no scientific knowledge of the nature of metre.

Place of the Play in the Elizabethan Drama. Arden of
Faversham is the finest extant specimen of a kind of play which
1 A misprint for Blackwill.

PREFACE Arden of Feversham

has been classified as Domestic Tragedy. A picturesque or
sensational murder in the sixteenth century was given to the
public first in popular ballads or pamphlets, and afterwards, if
sufficiently notable, in the more serious Chronicle. From the
popular pamphlet, or from the Chronicle, or from both together,
it found its way on to the stage. Four of these * murder- plays'
have come down to us, and the titles of many others. They
form a minor section of the Chronicle plays or Histories. They
did not attain any very striking literary development, owing
perhaps to the necessary bondage of the poet to his facts.
Arden of Faversham is a remarkable instance of the possi-
bilities of this class of play, but it is to be noted that the poet
used the narrative of a Chronicler who wrote twenty-seven
years after the date of the murder. A Warning for Fair
Women and Yarington's Two Tragedies in One are both inferior
to Arden, though influenced by it. The fourth * murder-play '
— The Yorkshire Tragedy — is distinct from the other three
in style and method. Several famous dramatists produced
' domestic ' tragedies, but none have survived. A Late Murder
of the Son upon the Mother^ in which Ford and Webster colla-
borated, must have been a notable piece of work.

Source of the Play. On Sunday, 15th February 1550-1,
Thomas Ardern of Faversham, gentleman, * was heynously
murdered in his own parlour, about seven of the clock in the
night, by one Thomas Morsby, a taylor of London, late servant
to sir Edward North, knight, chancellor of the augmentations,
father-in-law unto Alice Ardern, wife of the said Thomas
Ardern.' Thomas Ardern was Mayor of Faversham in 1548,
and his murder made such a stir that in 1577 the first edition

Arden of Feversham preface

of Holinshed's Chronicle devotes five pages (pp. 1703-8) to an
elaborate account of it. The chronicler begins thus : — * About
this time there was at Faversham in Kent a Gentleman named
Arden most cruelly murthered and slain by the procurement of
his own wife. The which murder for the horribleness thereof,
although otherwise it may seem to be but a private matter, and
therefore as it were impertinent to this History, I have thought
good to set it forth somewhat at large, having the instructions
delivered to me by them that have used some diligence to
gather the true understanding of the circumstances.' Our first
quotation was from the Wardmote Book of Faversham^ and
proves that Holinshed's narrative is not minutely accurate.
The Wardmote Book gives a curt account of the actual murder
on the Sunday evening with the names and fate of the culprits.
It tells us nothing of the previous failures of these culprits which
give to Holinshed's tale such a terrible and dramatic interest.
We need not speculate on Holinshed's sources. No doubt
there were many contemporary pamphlets and ballads which
recounted the murder. We know only of The Complaint . . .
of Mistress Arden of Feversham^ preserved among the Rox-
burghe Ballads, and reprinted by Evans and in Miss De
Vaynes' Kentish Garland. But this is dated by Mr. Bullen
about 1633, when the third Quarto of the play appeared, and
was probably occasioned by that re-issue. The important
point to bear in mind is the excellence of Holinshed's narrative.
To praise it adequately we must say that it is worthy of the fine
play founded upon it, which probably had no other source.
The play agrees always with Holinshed when Holinshed differs
from the Wardmote Book. When the play differs from Holin-
shed it differs also from the Wardmote Book. To the dramatic

PREFACE Arden of Feversham

instinct of the poet we must ascribe his suppression of the fact
that Arden winked at his wife's infidelity. Holinshed and the
Wardmott Book both explicitly assert this. Franklin, Arden's
friend, is also an invention of the dramatist.

Author of the Play. The three Quartos are all anonymous.
We know of no other edition till 1770, when Edward Jacob,
a Faversham antiquary, edited the first Quarto, and boldly
claimed the play for Shakespeare. Ludwig Tieck published in
1823 an excellent German translation, accompanied by a dis-
criminating statement of the case for the Shakesperean author-
ship. Delius, editing the play in 1855, agreed with Tieck, and
was followed by the French translator, Fran9ois Victor Hugo,
and more recently by Professor Mezieres. Owing to the sup-
posed Shakespearean authorship there have been at least three
translations into German, one into French, and one into Dutch.
In England opinion has been more divided. Henry Tyrrell,^
Charles Knight, and Mr. Swinburne ^ have supported the Shake-
spearean authorship. . Professor Ward' and J. A. Symonds
inchne to reject it. Professor Saintsbury considers that 'the
only possible hypothesis on which it could be admitted as
Shakespeare's would be that of an early experiment thrown off
while he was seeking his way in a direction where he found no
thoroughfare.'* Mr. Bullen, who edited a careful reprint of the
first Quarto in 1887, suspects *that Arden in its present state
has been retouched here and there by the master's hand.*

1 Doultful Plays of Shakespeare. 2 Study of Shakespeart.

• History of English Dramatic Literature.

* History of Elizabethan Literature.


Arden of Feversham preface

The latest German editors, Warnke and Proescholt (1888), 'are
of opinion that Shakespeare had nothing to do with Arden of

The Question of Shakespeare's Authorship. The only
reason for ascribing the play to Shakespeare is its merit. It
seems incredible that a drama so mature in its art should have
been written in 1592 by a writer otherwise unknown to us. In
three directions the art of the writer is mature. First, the
character of the base coward Mosbie, and of the * bourgeois
Clytemnestra,' Alice Arden, are drawn with an insight, delicacy,
and sustained power new to English literature in 1592, and not
excelled till Shakespeare excelled them. The picture of Arden,
as a man fascinated and bewitched by his wife and by his fate,
might match that of Mosbie and Alice if the artist had not
blurred his conception by the introduction of the jarring motives
of avarice and sacrilege. But the poet's aim is clear ; it is his
own, and it almost succeeds. Second, the picturesque ferocity
and grim humour of Black Will and Shakebag are described
with a firmness and ease and restraint of style which critics
have not sufficiently noted. I can compare it only with the
Jack Cade scenes of the Contention (and 2 Henry VI. ). The
prose of our poet is excellent. His humour has a clearly
defined character and style of its own. The character of
Michael, so admired by Mr. Swinburne, is as subtle and
well-sustained as Mosbie's or Alice Arden's, and it exhibits
our poet's special humorous gift. This gift, excellent as it
is, seems to me very definitely not Shakespearean. But
thirdly, the terrifying use of signs and omens and of an almost

PREFACE Arden of Feversham

Shakespearean irony — e.g. Arden's words, ' I am almost stifled
with this fog ! ' — combine to produce as the play proceeds an
impressive sense of ' the slow unerring tread of assassination,
balked but persevering, marching like a fate to its accomplish-
ment.' But the special excellencies of the play are all against
Shakespeare having written it by 1592. As Mr. Bullen insists,
the weak point in Mr. Swinburne's criticism is the phrase
• a young man's work. ' This play is not ' a young man's work. '
The copiousness of the young man Shakespeare's work is the
exact contrary of the deliberate anxious effort which marks the
style of Arden of Faversham except in the prose scenes. In
none of Shakespeare's plays can it be perceived that the poet
has taken such pains as the poet of Arden takes. Unless
Shakespeare wrote this play as soon as he reached London,
and then for a year or two wrote nothing else, it is impossible
to fit it into his work. And if he wrote the play as soon
as he reached London and then took up the studies which
resulted in Venus and Adonis and Lttcrece, would he have
written Love's Labour^ s Lost and Comedy of Errors on his
way back to work like Arden'i If Shakespeare wrote Arden
it is the most interesting fact in his literary development.
To suggest that Shakespeare revised the play is to shirk
the question. Its excellence is in its warp and woof, not in its

Literature. Mr. Bullen's Lntrodtidion is the best mono-
graph on the play. Warnke and Proescholt's Introduction
should be consulted, but lacks the distinction of style and the
critical insight of Mr. Bullen's essay. Excellent analyses and
criticisms of the play are in Charles Knight's Doubtful Plays

Arden of Feversham


(* Pictorial Shakespere ') ; J. A. Symonds' Shakspere's Prede-
cessors *y Alfred Mezieres' Prid^cesseurs et Contemporains de
Shakspeare. Mr. Fleay in his Biographical Chronicle of the
English Drama (1891) has suggested Kyd as the author of




Thomas Arden, Gentleman, of Feversham
Franklin, his Friend


Clarke, a Painter

Adam Fowle, Landlord of the Flo\ver-de-Luce

Bkadshaw, a Goldsmith

Michael, Arden's Servant


Richard Reede, a Sailor

J^^^^^^^^ I Murderers
Shakebag J

A Prentice

A Ferryman

Lord Cheinv, and his Men

Mayor of Feversham, and Watch

Alice, Arden's Wife
Susan, Mosbie's Sister



A Room in Ardeti^s House.
Enter Arden and Franklin.

Franklin. Arden, cheer up thy spirits, and droop no
more !
My gracious Lord, the Duke of Somerset,
Hath freely given to thee and to thy heirs.
By letters patents from his Majesty,
All the lands of the Abbey of Feversham.
Here are the deeds, \^He hands them.

Sealed and subscribed with his name and the

king's :
Read them, and leave this melancholy mood.

Arden. Franklin, thy love prolongs my weary life ;

And but for thee how odious were this life, lo

That shows me nothing but torments my soul,
And those foul objects that offend mine eyes !
Which makes me wish that for this veil of heaven
The earth hung over my head and covered me.

ACT I. Arden of Feversham

Love-letters pass 'twixt Mosbie and my wife,
And they have privy meetings in the town :
Nay, on his finger did I spy the ring
Which at our marriage-day the priest put on.
Can any grief be half so great as this ?

Franklin. Comfort thyself, sweet friend ; it is not
strange 20

That women will be false and wavering.

Arden, Ay, but to dote on such a one as he
Is monstrous, Franklin, and intolerable.

Fra7iklin. Why, what is he ?

Arden. A botcher, and no better at the first ;

Who, by base brokage getting some small stock,

Crept into service of a nobleman.

And by his servile flattery and fawning

Is now become the steward of his house,

And bravely jets it in his silken gown. 30

Franklin. No nobleman will countenance such a

Arden. Yes, the Lord Clifford, he that loves not me.
But through his favour let him not grow proud ;
For were he by the Lord Protector backed.
He should not make me to be pointed at.
I am by birth a gentleman of blood,
And that injurious ribald, that attempts
To violate my dear wife's chastity
(For dear I hold her love, as dear as heaven)
Shall on the bed which he thinks to defile 40


Arden of Feversham act i.

See his dissevered joints and sinews torn,
Whilst on the planchers pants his weary body,
Smeared in the channels of his lustful blood.

Franklin. Be patient, gentle friend, and learn of me
To ease thy grief and save her chastity :
Intreat her fair ; sweet words are fittest engines
To race the flint walls of a v/oman's breast.
In any case be not too jealous.
Nor make no question of her love to thee ;
But, as securely, presently take horse, 50

And lie with me at London all this term ;
For women, when they may, will not,
But, being kept back, straight grow outrageous.

Arden. Though this abhors from reason, yet I '11 try it,
And call her forth and presently take leave.
How ! Alice !

Here enters Alice.

Alice. Husband, what mean you to get up so early ?
Summer-nights are short, and yet you rise ere day.
Had I been wake, you had not risen so soon.

Arden. Sweet love, thou knowest that we two. Ovid-
like, 60
Have often chid the morning when it 'gan to peep.
And often wished that dark night's purblind steeds
Would pull her by the purple mantle back,
And cast her in the ocean to her love.
B 3

ACT I. Arden of Feversham

But this night, sweet Alice, thou hast killed my
heart :

I heard thee call on Mosbie in thy sleep.
Alice. 'Tis like I was asleep when I named him,

For being awake he comes not in my thoughts.
Ardeji. Ay, but you started up and suddenly.

Instead of him, caught me about the neck. 70

Alice. Instead of him? why, who was there but you?

And where but one is, how can I mistake ?
Franklin. Arden, leave to urge her over-far.
Arden. Nay, love, there is no credit in a dream ;

Let it suffice I know thou lovest me well.
Alice. Now I remember whereupon it came :

Had we no talk of Mosbie yesternight ?
Franklin. Mistress Alice, I heard you name him once

or twice.
Alice. And thereof came it, and therefore blame not

Arden. I know it did, and therefore let it pass. 80

I must to London, sweet Alice, presently.
Alice. But tell me, do you mean to stay there long ?
Arden. No longer there till my affairs be done.
Franklin. He will not stay above a month at most.
Alice. A month ? ay me ! Sweet Arden, come again

Within a day or two, or else I die.
Ardc7i. I cannot long b^^ from thee, gentle Alice.

Whilst Michael fetch our horses from the field.

Franklin and I will down unto the quay ;

Arden of Feversham act i.

For I have certain goods there to unload. 90

Meanwhile prepare our breakfast, gentle Alice ;
For yet ere noon we '11 take horse and away.

\_Exeunt Arden and Franklin.
Alice. Ere noon he means to take horse and away !
Sweet news is this. O that some airy spirit
Would in the shape and likeness of a horse
Gallop with Arden 'cross the Ocean,
And throw him from his back into the waves !
Sweet Mosbie is the man that hath my heart :
And he usurps it, having nought but this.
That I am tied to him by marriage. 100

Love is a God, and marriage is but words ;
And therefore Mosbie's title is the best.
Tush ! whether it be or no, he shall be mine,
In spite of him, of Hymen, and of rites.

Here enters Adam of the Flower-de-luce.

And here comes Adam of the Flower-de-luce ;

I hope he brings me tidings of my love.

— How now, Adam, what is the news with you ?

Be not afraid ; my husband is now from home,
Adam. He whom you wot of, Mosbie, Mistress Alice,

Is come to town, and sends you word by me no

In any case you may not visit him.
Alice. Not visit him?
Adam. No, nor take no knowledge of his being here.

ACT I. Arden of Feversham

Alice. But tell me, is he angry or displeased ?

Adam. It should seem so, for he is Avondrous sad.

Alice. Were he as mad as raving Hercules,

I '11 see him, I ; and were thy house of force,
These hands of mine should race it to the ground,
Unless that thou wouldst bring me to my love.

Adam. Nay, and you be so impatient, I '11 be gone. 120

Alice. Stay, Adam, stay ; thou wert wont to be my
Ask Mosbie how I have incurred his wrath ;
Bear him from me these pair of silver dice,
With which we played for kisses many a time,
And when I lost, I won, and so did he ; —
Such winning and such losing Jove send me !
And bid him, if his love do not decline.
To come this morning but along my door,
And as a stranger but salute me there :
This may he do without suspect or fear. 130

Adam. I '11 tell him what you say, and so farewell.

\Exit Adam.

Alice. Do, and one day I '11 make amends for all. —
I know he loves me well, but dares not come.
Because my husband is so jealous.
And these my narrow-prying neighbours blab,
Hinder our meetings when we would confer.
But, if I live, that block shall be removed.
And, Mosbie, thou that comes to me by stealth,
Shalt neither fear the biting speech of men.

Arden of Feversham act i.

Nor Arden's looks ; as surely shall he die 140

As I abhor him and love only thee.

Here enters Michael.

How now, Michael, whither are you going ?

Michael. To fetch my master's nag.
I hope you'll think on me.

Alice. Ay ; but, Michael, see you keep your oath,
And be as secret as you are resolute.

Michael. I '11 see he shall not live above a week.

Alice. On that condition, Michael, here's my hand :
None shall have Mosbie's sister but thyself.

Michael. I understand the painter here hard by 150

Hath made report that he and Sue is sure.

Alice. There 's no such matter, Michael ; beHeve it not.

Michael. But he hath sent a dagger sticking in a
With a verse or two stolen from a painted cloth,
The which I hear the wench keeps in her chest.
Well, let her keep it ! I shall find a fellow
That can both write and read and make rhyme too.
And if I do — well, I say no more :
I '11 send from London such a taunting letter
As she shall eat the heart he sent with salt 160

And fling the dagger at the painter's head.

Alice. What needs all this ? I say that Susan 's thine.

Michael. Why, then 1 say that I will kill my master,
Or anything that you will have me do.


ACT I. Arden of Feversham

Alice. But, Michael, see you do it cunningly.

Michael. Why, say I should be took, I '11 ne'er confess
That you know anything ; and Susan, being a

May beg me from the gallows of the sheriff.

Alice. Trust not to that, Michael.

Michael. You cannot tell me, I have seen it, I. 170

But, mistress, tell her, whether I live or die,
I'll make her more worth than twenty painters

can ;
For I will rid mine elder brother away,
And then the farm of Bolton is mine own.
Who would not venture upon house and land,
When he may have it for a right down blow ?

Here enters Mosbie.

Alice. Yonder comes Mosbie. Michael, get tnee gone,

And let not him nor any know thy drifts.

\_Exit Michael.

Mosbie, my love !
Mosbie. Away, I say, and talk not to me now. 180

Alice. A word or two, sweet heart, and then I will.

'Tis yet but early days, thou needst not fear.
Mosbie. Where is your husband ?
Alice. 'Tis now high water, and he is at the quay.
Mosbie. There let him be ; henceforward know me not.
Alice. Is this the end of all thy solemn oaths ?

Is this the fruit thy reconcilement buds ?

Arden of Feversham act i.

Have I for this given thee so many favours,

Incurred my husband's hate, and, out alas I

Made shipwreck of mine honour for thy sake ? 190

And dost thou say * henceforward know me not ' ?

Remember, when I lock'd thee in my closet,

What were thy words and mine ; did we not both

Decree to murder Arden in the night ?

The heavens can witness, and the world can tell,

Before I saw that falsehood look of thine,

'Fore I was tangled with thy 'ticing speech,

Arden to me was dearer than my soul, —

And shall be still : base peasant, get thee gone,

And boast not of thy conquest over me, 200

Gotten by witchcraft and mere sorcery !

For what hast thou to countenance my love,

Being descended of a noble house,

And matched already with a gentleman

Whose servant thou may'st be !— and so farewell.

Mosbie. Ungentle and unkind Alice, now I see
That which I ever feared, and find too true :
A woman's love is as the lightning-flame.
Which even in bursting forth consumes itself.
To try thy constancy have I been strange ; 210

Would I had never tried, but lived in hope !

Alice. What need'st thou try me whom thou ne'er
found false ?

Mosbie. Yet pardon me, for love is jealous.

Alice. So lists the sailor to the mermaid's song,

ACT I. Arden of Feversham

So looks the traveller to the basilisk :

I am content for to be reconciled,

And that, I know, will be mine overthrow.

Mosbie. Thine overthrow ? first let the world dissolve.

Alice. Nay, Mosbie, let me still enjoy thy love,

And happen what will, I am resolute. 220

My saving husband hoards up bags of gold
To make our children rich, and now is he
Gone to unload the goods that shall be thine,
And he and Franklin will to London straight.

Mosbie. To London, Alice ? if thou 'It be ruled by rne,
We '11 make him sure enough for coming there.

Alice. Ah, would we could !

Mosbie. I happened on a painter yesternight,
The only cunning man of Christendom ;
For he can temper poison with his oil, 230

That whoso looks upon the work he draws
Shall, with the beams that issue from his sight,
Suck venom to his breast and slay himself.
Sweet Alice, he shall draw thy counterfeit,
That Arden may, by gazing on it, perish.

Alice. Ay, but Mosbie, that is dangerous,
For thou, or I, or any other else.
Coming into the chamber where it hangs, may die.

Mosbie. Ay, but we '11 have it covered with a cloth

And hung up in the study for himself. 240

Alice. It may not be, for when the picture's drawn,
Arden, I know, will come and show it me

Arden of Feversham act i.

Mosbie. Fear not ; we '11 have that shall serve the turn.

This is the painter's house ; I '11 call him forth.
Alice. But Mosbie, I '11 have no such picture, I.
Mosbie. I pray thee leave it to my discretion.

How! Clarke!

Here enters Clarke.

Oh, you are an honest man of your word ! you
served me well.

CLirke. Why, sir, I '11 do it for you at any time,

Provided, as you have given your word, 250

I may have Susan Mosbie to my wife.

For, as sharp-witted poets, whose sweet verse

Make heavenly gods break off their nectar draughts

And lay their ears down to the lowly earth.

Use humble promise to their sacred Muse,

So we that are the poets' favourites

Must have a love : ay, Love is the painter's muse,

That makes him frame a speaking countenance,

A weeping eye that witnesses heart's grief.

Then tell me, Master Mosbie, shall I have her ? 260

Alice. 'Tis pity but he should ; he '11 use her well.

Mosbie. Clarke, here's my hand: my sister shall be

Clarke. Then, brother, to requite this courtesy,
You shall command my life, my skill, and all.

Alice. Ah, that thou couldst be secret.

Mosbie. Fear him not ; leave ; I have talked sufficient

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