Textual History                                                          






                   Plot A: Galeas and Lucretia                        

                   Plot B: Laura and Jaspero                          

                   Plot C: Lodowick and Isabella                   


Themes And Contexts                                               


                   Generations and Conflicting Interests          

                   A Second Lucretia?                                   




Editorial Procedures                                                  

                   Spelling and Punctuation                            

                   Names and Places                                     

                   Stage Directions                                        




The Characters of the Play                                       






Textual History




The Fatal Marriage is anonymous in its origin. It is difficult to even speculate upon its authorship, and despite repetitive usage of the term ‘y’are’, which is a form typical of Ford and Dekker, it would be nothing more than conjecture to attempt to identify an author.




The earliest existing form of the play is to be found in a handwritten manuscript, currently in the possession of the British Library. It originally belonged to a private collection, and was bought by the British Museum in 1865. The Fatal Marriage is the seventh of thirteen plays in the manuscript, three of which were probably the work of Thomas Heywood, the rest of which there is very little known of. [1] The play is in something of a state of disrepair; there are several deletions and over-writings, text obliterated by the deterioration of the paper at the corners, and writing undistinguishable due to ink soaking through from the other side of the page.


The lineation of the play implies that it may well have been dictated to a scribe for copying, or have been transcribed from another source. The structure of the verse is corrupted throughout large sections of the play, but can often be corrected with slight alterations to the lineation, thus suggesting that, at some points, technically sound iambic verse has been reproduced by somebody without the awareness, or inclination, to do so correctly. This is not always the case, however, as at points the verse is simply quite clumsy, not correctable without actually altering the content of the text. For details on how I have approached these problems in this edition, see the Editorial Procedures section.


The copy text I have used for this edition is Younghughes, Jenkins and Wilson’s 1958-59 transcript of the play,[2] which replicates the features of the original manuscript text as accurately as possible.




The date of the play’s emergence is another point on which there is little accepted knowledge. There is, however, unlike the authorship issue, enough interesting evidence to open debate on the subject. The brief introduction to the copy text states that:


            All that one can say with safety is that the play belongs to the

            early seventeenth century, and that a conjectural date in the

            sixteen-twenties would find no evidence to contradict it.


Among the evidence provided to support this statement is Jacomo’s reference to French galoshes,[3] which, according to Iris Brooke, were a style of overshoe that were only introduced to Britain after 1620. [4] Also highlighted is the reference to ‘That horse that runs upon the top of Paul’s (St Paul’s Cathedral)’,[5] which describes an actual historical event, placing the play in the seventeenth century.


Further examples of evidence to support the proposition of Younghughes et al are what appear to be references to Ben Jonson’s Volpone. In the same passage as the previous example, Jacomo says ‘No; your fox can but believe/Baboons bear glasses’.[6] This is reminiscent of a scene in Jonson’s play, when Peregrine mocks Sir Politic Would-Be’s gullibility by saying that ‘I have heard sir,/That your baboons were spies’.[7] The reference to the fox, and the possibility that glasses borne by the baboons could be spy glasses, make this a fairly solid reference, dating the play after Volpone’s first performance in 1605/06.


Another indicator of the play’s era of production is its themes; the idea of the fatality of marriage, and of its corrupting and seductive influence, would be extremely topical in the mid 1620’s, when public and political unrest was high over prince Charles’s prospective arranged marriages to foreign, and, more importantly, Catholic, princesses. This theme, and its relation to historical events at that time, will be discussed in more detail later in the introduction.


Not all of the evidence, however, supports a date in the 1620’s. The introduction to the copy text also states that:


            The unusual name of the hero has led to suggestions that The Fatal

            Marriage might be the same as the lost play Galiaso (Harbage, 1936,

            Annals of English Drama, p 158; see also TLS, 1936 p523), which

            was performed by the Admiral’s men nine times from June-Oct 1594.[8]


It goes on to state that Harbage believes the style is also fitting for that era. A point that favours this argument is the description given to the Duke of Parma by Galeas, after he has just defeated him in battle, which is unkind to say the least. [9] This suggested alternative date, two years after the death of Alessandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma whose heavy involvement in the Spanish Armada, and consistent undermining of English allies in the low countries, had made him a villain, would be perfect timing for a play involving a base Duke of Parma who had been recently overthrown.


A direct textual reference provides further support for the alternative date, when Leonora, attempting to entice Galeas’s will away from Lucretia, suggests some matches that she has arranged for him:


            What say’st thou to the duke of Urbin’s niece,

            The fair Gonzaga, or Ferrara’s heir?[10]


Ferrara was, for centuries, under the control of the Este family, until 1598, when their failure to produce a male heir took away their ducal chair. From this point onwards Ferrara became a Papal State, solely under the control of the pope, so any reference to ‘Ferarra’s heir’ must either pre-date 1598, or be anachronistic.


As it has already been established that the manuscript of the play is probably a transcription, it is worth considering that it may be 1620’s re-writing of a 1590’s original, incorporating both material as it appeared in the original piece, and text altered or added by the re-writer or scribe. Such a theory would explain the fragmented nature of the play, not just in the aforementioned problems of lineation, but also in plot; one might have expected to hear more of the duke of Parma after the lengthy ‘character’ given to him in the opening scene, but he vanishes without a trace after this.


The ‘re-writing’ theory is an attractive one, as it can incorporate all of the contradictory evidence in the play, and explains some of the wayward verse that it contains, but it would be unwise to assert its authority for these reasons. Despite the tantalising indicators of an earlier date, the statement that ‘a conjectural date in the 1620’s would find no evidence to contradict it’ remains true; it is not impossible for a scribe to copy badly, nor is it impossible for a playwright to make anachronisms or address topics that are twenty years out of fashion.






Due to the convoluted nature of the play’s plot, it is of use to provide a brief plot summary. I will do so by taking each of the three main plots and summarising them separately.


Plot A: Galeas and Lucretia


Galeas returns to Piacenza from a victorious military campaign against the duke of Parma. After he is re-united with his mother, Leonora, she urges him to give up combat in favour of a merchant’s lifestyle, and he agrees to her request to return to Parma and collect money owed to the family by a merchant named Giovanni. Giovanni is hospitable to Galeas and his servant, Jacomo, and agrees to pay the money immediately. When Galeas meets Lucretia, Giovanni’s daughter, he falls in love with her. Under orders from his master, Jacomo first convinces Lucretia of Galeas’s greatness, then kidnaps her and takes her to Piacenza. Galeas leaves Giovanni unaware of what has happened.


Returning to Piacenza, Galeas puts Lucretia into hiding. After Giovanni comes to Leonora in a rage over his missing daughter, she goes to Jacomo and convinces him to tell her what has happened. Upon her command, Jacomo removes Lucretia from her hiding place and takes her to the nearest monastery. Galeas, believing that Lucretia has been abducted by a company of men, slips into a wild rage. Leonora fails to convince him to take one of her more illustrious arranged matches, and, concerned at his obstinate fury, orders Jacomo to bring Lucretia back to him. Galeas speaks to Lucretia momentarily, and, to trick his mother, sends her back to the monastery, giving the impression that he has lost his taste for her. Delighted, Leonora leaves to fetch one of her proposed brides.


While Leonora is away, Galeas makes up a symbolic bed of flowers and herbs, which, he states, will serve either as a marriage bed for him and the new match, or as a funeral bed for him and Lucretia. Jacomo brings Lucretia back from the monastery, and is stabbed by Galeas. Lucretia then agrees to prove their love by dying with him, and they kill themselves. The play ends with their bodies being brought before the Duke, who, as a reconciliation, decrees that Leonora and Giovanni should be married.


Plot B: Laura and Jaspero


Laura and Jaspero are taken to one side by the duke, who, feigning his blessing, tricks them into professing their affection for one another. Outraged at his daughter’s lowly choice, he orders the marshal, Jaspero’s father, to keep a close watch on them.


Jaspero, having escaped from his bedroom, goes to Laura’s chamber window, where Laura appears on the balcony and they exchange pleasantries, although they are soon caught by the marshall and the duke. The marshall manages to dissuade the enraged duke from putting his son to death, and he is instead sent to a prison.


Having regained her father’s favour, Laura is granted one wish as a reward. She requests that Jaspero be banished, and is sent to see to it herself. Shortly afterwards, Jaspero reappears at court disguised as an Indian, and is allowed to join Laura’s train and be her pupil. Later, the duke catches Laura and Jaspero, still in his Indian disguise, professing their love to each other, and, declaring that it would have been better if she was still with Jaspero, sentences both of them to death. As Laura is preparing to be beheaded, Jaspero faints, and his identity is revealed. The duke is moved enough by the couple’s inseparability to grant them a pardon and his blessing.


Plot C: Lodowick and Isabella


The duke demands that his son, Lodwick,  abandon his affair with Isabella, the woodman’s daughter, and find a match more befitting his royal blood. He enlists the clown, Lodowick’s servant, to show him any letters that he may be asked to deliver to Isabella. The clown does as the duke asks, and Isabella is condemned to life imprisonment. She has also fallen sick, and the woodman compels Lodowick to ask the duke, on his behalf, for permission to see his daughter. The duke grants that Isabella may be visited, but only by the physician and the woodman. With the help of Galeas and the clown, Lodowick, disguised half as a doctor and half as the woodman, executes an elaborate plan to break Isabella from her hold.


The duke, disguised as a local old man, follows Lodowick and Isabella to their hideout in the woods, and surprises them. After gaining their trust, he frightens them with rumours that the prince and his concubine have run away, and that the duke is bent on revenge. Lodowick asks the duke to swap clothes with him so that he can go safely in disguise. Once he has Lodowick’s sword, the duke reveals his identity, and sentences them both to death, along with the clown.


After the duke has pardoned Laura and Jaspero, he grudgingly does the same for Lodowick and Isabella when they proclaim their solidarity. Shortly afterwards, however, the woodman reveals that he is in fact the great Ferdinand of Parma, who had come disguised to Piacenza to escape from the villanous duke that had until recently reigned there. Hearing this news, the duke declares the match as having his full blessing.




Themes and Contexts




As is clearly suggested by its title, the play has marriage as its central theme. The plot revolves around three prospective marriages, all of which are disapproved of by the established generation, and ends in a ‘nuptial jubilee’,[11] with a total of four marriages, if we include the symbolic fatal marriage of Galeas and Lucretia. It is these matches, particularly the fatal one, that are the source of all unrest in the play.


If we are to accept the proposal of Younghughes, Jenkins and Wilson that the play dates from the sixteen-twenties, then marriage, and its disruptive potential, is a highly topical contemporary issue. This decade saw massive controversy over the proposed match of prince Charles with the Spanish Infanta, Donna Maria, a marriage that would involve significant religious and ideological compromise on England’s part, and one that was, arguably, encouraged due to the marriage of Charles’s sister, Elizabeth, to Frederick V, the Elector Palatine, in 1613. In 1619, one year into the thirty years war that was raging in central Europe, Frederick was elected king of Bohemia, the country at the centre of the conflict, thus involving England in the issue for the first time. John Bowle explains James’s personal turmoil over the issue:


            When in early November the Elector and his wife were crowned in

            Prague, James was in a quandary. He had not the army or the revenue

            to make war on the Continent; the alternative, long envisaged, but now

            more difficult, seemed to be to defend his son-in-law’s and daughter’s

            interests by promoting the marriage of Prince Charles to an Infanta of

            Spain…in the unrealistic hope that the Habsburgs in Vienna might be

            influenced by the Habsburgs in Madrid.[12]


Within a year Frederick had been overthrown, and he and Elizabeth were in hiding, imploring King James for his help. Thus one ill fated marriage was leading James to eagerly try and secure what many people thought would be another; by 1623, while Charles and the Duke of Buckingham were in Madrid co-habiting with the Spanish Court and negotiating for the hand of the Infanta, political and public concern were rife in England over the heir to the throne socialising with a longstanding enemy, and a state of paranoia was settling in concerning the Catholic infiltration that the marriage would entail. This was not helped by the terms quite openly being demanded by the Spanish:


            Apart from the Infanta’s obvious rights to her own chapel, all English

            Catholics were to be entitled to use the same formula as that devised for

            the Infanta’s household; the education of any children of the marriage

            would be supervised by their mother until they were twelve, and Charles

            had to promise that the penal laws against Catholics would in time be



While this deal eventually collapsed due to overwhelming opinion and the deterioration of Charles and Buckingham’s relationship with the Spanish Court, a match with another Catholic princess, Henriette Marie of France, was soon arranged. This proved less unpopular, mainly because a match with France was preferable to one with Spain, and because the terms of the deal, although similar to those demanded by the Spanish, were kept secret. Despite the relative acceptance of this new match, which was to be seen through, the atmosphere of public mistrust of a Catholic presence in the English Court would remain.


This feeling towards the royal marriages of the time is reflected in The Fatal Marriage; the three main plots revolve around matches that are all opposed by the older generation, out of a fear of the corruption, or infection, of their ‘blood’; Laura is accused of being ‘false to thy blood!’[14], and Lodowick is reminded by his father of the responsibility he carries in his veins:


            Oh prince, that you should mix your royalty

            With peasant’s blood, why, you should rather add

            Unto your royalty; oh be not, then,

            The means to ruin it.[15]


Clearly the duke is worried about having his kin’s blood ruined and corrupted by that of lessers, but he appears also to be opposed to the idea of their blood being mixed at all, particularly in his daughter’s case. Laura displays this by adopting the same view in order to placate him:


            Laura                A man, why what’s one man more than another but

                        to fill number? I now esteem them all alike, and, indeed, excepting

                        whom I must except, your grace, not one good amongst them.


            Duke   Now speaks my daughter to her father’s mind[16]


Perhaps most worthy of note, as regards the play’s approach to the contemporary issues and marriage, is that the only match in the play which ends tragically, that of Galeas and Lucretia, is one that involves a young gentleman, pride of his state, travelling to a land that is a traditional and recent enemy and procuring a would-be bride.


It is safe to say that the issue of parents’ concern over the romantic choice of their young was not a new one in the seventeenth century, but it is certain that it would have been extremely sensitive one in the sixteen-twenties, and a topical central theme for a play.



Generations and Conflicting Interests


Perhaps the most significant feature of The Fatal Marriage is the divide between the generations within it. It is notable that virtually all of the conflict in the play is across the generations; the younger characters, in particular, are united throughout the play, and one has a sense that they are involved in each other’s plights. Galeas helps Lodowick by devising the plan to break Isabella from prison, Laura and Jaspero express their sympathy for the plight of Lodowick and Isabella, and even the clown, whose loyalty has appeared to be fairly arbitrary until this point, cannot bring himself to buy his own pardon by executing the other young characters.


The nature of the divide is one of conflicting interests; the younger generation are governed by sexual instincts, the older by parental ones. A dramatic tool used to display this is that there are no couples in the older generation; all five of the older characters are single, and, we may assume, although we only know this to be the case with Leonora, widowed. This allows for the older characters to have a singularity of interest; their only concerns are parental. Indeed, the only real conflict within the generation is down entirely to conflicting parental interests; when Leonora and Giovanni clash, he attempts to rescue his daughter, while she defends her son, even though she suspects his guilt. Furthermore, it is only when these characters’ parental interests have been removed by the death of their children that they can take on a romantic life and marry.


Not all of the older generation are directly opposed to the wills of the younger, however. The marshall can remember well the agony of love, and is reminded of it by his son’s plight:


            Had he still been in love, passions, fears, cares,

            Co-mixed with deep despair, would have disturbed

            Him with half waking dream, and not have suffered

            This deep soundness. This I know, since I was

            First a lover.[17]


The Marshal is possibly the most interesting character in the play, because he has personal conflicts of interest; he must be a father to his son and a servant to his duke. It is clear that he would be delighted for his son to marry Laura; this can be seen when, after going to absurd lengths to assure the duke that if his son harboured any intention towards Laura he would ‘let it out at a gaping wound’ [18] , he is duped along with Laura and his son by the duke’s false blessing, and expresses his wonderment at it:


            Why, what intends your grace

            To give my son in marriage to your daughter,

            A match I never dreamt of?[19]


Of course, as soon the duke reveals the nature of his ruse, the marshall reverts to hyperbolic vitriol against his son. This conflict within the marshall provides a comic tension to his relationship with the duke. The fact that it is, to an extent, mirrored in the duke enhances this; consistently throughout the play the marshall woefully bungles tasks that he has been given on pain of death, but the duke’s obvious affection for his servant stops his promise from ever being kept. It is, indeed, this element of compassion in the duke, conflicting with his duties as a state leader, which allows the young characters to live at the end of the play.


A Second Lucretia?


As is clearly implied by the play’s subtitle, A Second Lucretia, the play is intended, at least in the plot involving Galeas and Lucretia, to parallel the Roman ‘Lucretia’ myth. The story, well known throughout the Renaissance and the seventeenth century, tells how, after proving herself to be the most chaste and virtuous wife of the Roman court, Lucretia is raped by Sextus Tarquinus, the son of the king. Rather than perpetuate the disgrace to herself and her husband, Collatine, she kills herself. Junius Brutus, present at her death, uses the people’s sympathy for Lucretia and Collatine’s plight to stir an uprising, which results in the overthrow of the king, and the beginning of the Roman Republic.


This is a subject that had been dealt with several times already in renaissance literature, most famously with Shakespeare’s 1594 poem Lucrece. Thomas Heywood wrote a dramatic adaptation named The Rape of Lucrece, which was first performed in 1608, but which returned to the London stage in 1628. If The Fatal Marriage is from the latter end of the sixteen twenties, it is possible that it could be a response to it.


So does the play, or any of its characters, parallel the Lucretia myth in a way the title suggests it is going to? There are two very obvious correlations between the Lucretia of The Fatal Marriage, and the Lucretia of the myth; they both kill themselves, and are both called Lucretia. The similarities stretch further than this, however. The scene in which Lucretia is taken from her home alludes to the actual rape, Jacomo playing the role of Sextus. This is made clear by Jacomo himself, as he carries his quarry away:


            Jacomo           Tush, my oath hath made an armoury ’gainst tears;

                                    Now the rape’s made!


            Lucretia          Help! Help! Help!


            Jacomo           And yet, a marriage glove,

                                    Whose seams are sewed with riches, honour, love,

                                    Which all the world would wed to.[20]


While there is no physical sexual rape occurring here, there is a violation of Lucretia’s honour, and Jacomo asserts the link with the myth by calling the abduction a rape. He also emphasises the parallel with his description of the glove, which seems to refer directly to the stanza in Shakespeare’s Lucrece in which Sextus finds Lucretia’s glove, and has second thoughts about what he is about to do:


            And being lighted, by the light he spies

            Lucretia’s glove, wherein her needle sticks:

            He takes it from the rushes where it lies,

            And griping it, the needle his finger pricks;

            As who should say, ‘This glove to wanton tricks

                      Is not inured; return again in haste

                      Thou see’st our mistress’ ornaments are chaste.’[21]


Jacomo reminds us of this glove, but his is more of an inspiration than a deterrent; he highlights the difference between his glove and Shakespeare’s by calling it a ‘marriage glove’, reminding us that he is taking Lucretia for a marriage, not for a rape. Galeas also alludes to the myth when he urges Lucretia to avoid the temptations of human contact:


            Curtain your chamber like a cloistered cell;

            Collatine had a Lucrece would’ve done’t.[22]


This is a demand to which Lucretia submissively accedes. Indeed, it could be argued that the only apparent likenesses between Lucretia and her Roman counterpart are merely suggested by Galeas and Jacomo, and not born of any great displays of virtue on her part. If one draws a direct parallel with the Roman story, this second Lucretia makes few of the moral stands that her predecessor is famous for. In the original myth, Lucretia takes her own life after the rape to save herself, but also her husband and any future offspring, from the shame the event would bring; as Ian Donaldson point out, she makes a sacrifice for her husband.


            In a society in which a woman is regarded as a subordinate and

            property of her husband, her rape, even if she has resisted and

            detested it, may seem to bring disgrace not merely upon her, but –

            more importantly – upon her husband.[23]


The new  Lucretia makes no such moral stand after her ‘rape’. There is no sign of any concern on her part for the shame that her abduction will bring upon her father. In fact, she goes on to show more loyalty to her ‘rapists’ than to her immediate family.


Another point on which the parallel collapses is at the actual suicide. The myth has Collatine, Junius Brutus and Lucretius attempting to dissuade Lucretia from her will, and she remaining steadfast in her decision. Donaldson comments:


            The fact that she will kill herself despite their assurances that her

            death is not demanded by logic or necessity is a sign of Lucretia’s

            moral perfectionism rather than her moral fallibility. Her death is

            indeed the ultimate sign of her innocence, her crowning act of virtue.[24]


Despite everybody’s assurances that the disgrace is not hers and that she was not at fault, Lucretia is determined to take the action that she sees as morally correct. In The Fatal Marriage, however, Lucretia’s suicide is of something of a different tenor. Contrary to the circumstances faced by her counterpart, this Lucretia is actually made firmly aware by Galeas of the light she will be seen in if she does not join him in death:


                                     Now, Lucretia, if thou’lt wed

            Thy blood to mine, thou art a second Lucrece,

            For constancy and virtue, she of Rome

            Was forced from her love’s faith and so polluted;

            Forced hast thou been from me, and yet may’st live,

            If live thou wilt to be polluted so.

            But if thou dost, shame and my curse live with thee[25]


Galeas leaves little room here for an inspired individual act; he again transfers the reputation of Lucretia to his loved one without allowing her the opportunity to make her own moral evaluation of the situation, and she, again, quietly acquiesces. (The unfortunate Jacomo is given even less of an option.)


Another apparent disparity between the two stories is the lack of a public element to the Lucretia plot in The Fatal Marriage. The suicide of Galeas and Lucretia has none of the public impact of the first Lucretia’s; while Piacenza’s court is restored to tranquillity at the end of the play, and it is true that the deaths of Galeas and Lucretia allow the marriage of Leonora and Giovanni, little of this tranquillity is derived from their actions. By the time the court is made aware of the suicide, the lovers have already all been pardoned, and a sense of unity is abounding. The marriage of Leonora and Giovanni is the final reconciliation of the play, but serves more as a rounding up of the Galeas and Lucretia plot than as any portentous public event; there is no great repercussion to the suicide.


Beyond the most basic of comparisons, then, it seems that the play stakes a shaky claim to its subtitle A Second Lucretia. The majority of the comparisons to the Roman Lucretia seem to be attempts by Galeas, and probably the author, to glorify a character who barely speaks after her capture (she speaks 29 lines in the final three acts). These comparisons serve further purposes to Galeas, however. By imagining her in the terms of the original Lucretia, he transfers to her a kind of moral infallibility which, as they are companions, transfers back onto him, allowing him to justify the undeniably nefarious deed that won him his ‘bride’. His persistence with the conceit also proves to be a useful bargaining tool; as displayed in two passages quoted above, simply by reminding his Lucretia who she is being compared to, he is sure that her aspirations, or guilt, will bend her to his will.






In their transcript of the manuscript version of The Fatal Marriage, Younghughes, Jenkins and Wilson note that the play is a tragedy. There are several elements of the play, however, that leave this assertion open to discussion. The play clearly has its tragic qualities: Galeas is the tragic hero; his flaw is his love, or perhaps lust, for Lucretia, the strength of which leads him to abandon his morals and put himself, and the object of his desire, into a situation that they cannot escape except through death. Thus both characters die at the end of the play, a clear marker of tragedy.


This is far from being the only event at the close of The Fatal Marriage, however; while the plight of Galeas and Lucretia gives the play its name, this plot does not significantly outweigh the other two plots in the play, both of which end with marriage imminent. Even the title plot has shades of a happy ending; the parents of Galeas and Lucretia, after the deaths of their children, agree to be married, prompting the rhyming couplet from the duke which ends the play:



            Done, we’ll proclaim a truce, and think it good,

            To end in mirth what was begun in blood.[26]


The suggestion to end the play ‘in mirth’ is fitting, as closure with marriage is a definite trait of comedy. Lisa Hopkins defines this type of closure in contrast with that of tragedy:


               Marriage is appropriate as a provider of closure for comedy

            because it focuses primarily on the experience of the group, as

            opposed to the individualist, isolationist emphasis of tragedy. The

            tragic hero lives and dies a fundamentally lonely figure, traumati-

            cally separated from his God, his society and his surroundings.[27]


It is significant, then, that Galeas and Lucretia’s death is actually intended to symbolise a marriage; Galeas entreats Lucretia to ‘wed/Thy blood to mine’ [28] , and they commit suicide on his bridal bed of flowers and herbs. While this does not make it a comic feature, it certainly makes problematic the supposition that these deaths are tragic; neither Galeas nor Lucretia die alone, their death (along with Jacomo’s) is a group experience, and Galeas does not experience that moment of self realisation that typically provides the audience of a tragedy with its catharsis. It appears, then, that while The Fatal Marriage could not be called a comedy, it has too many elements of comedy, and too few of the truer tragic elements to be called simply a tragedy.


In deciding on a definition of the play’s genre, a useful precedent to observe is Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, which, having emerged in print in the first folio in 1623, may have provided some ideas for the author of The Fatal Marriage. The Winter’s Tale ends with the reconciliation of Leontes and Hermione, separated for sixteen years, and with the marriage of Florizel and Perdita, but by this point we have already witnessed the death of Antigonus, and see his widow, Paulina, share the stage with the rejoicing couples at the end. This generic indeterminacy in The Winter’s Tale has generally been solved by labelling it, for want of better terms, a tragi-comedy, and, as The Fatal Marriage exhibits a similar dilemma, this term will suffice in describing its genre also.




Editorial Procedures


The task of editing The Fatal Marriage, or A Second Lucretia gave rise to a number of difficulties, some more challenging than others. I will here attempt to briefly summarise the methods I have used to overcome these difficulties, and produce an edition that is comprehensible to the modern reader.


Spelling and Punctuation


Like any modern editor of a Renaissance text, spelling and grammar were an issue. The manuscript (designated from this point on in the edition by ‘MS’) exhibits typically early-modern irregularity of spelling, and contains very little punctuation. Throughout the play, wherever possible, I have modernised the spelling, and, by inserting punctuation, have introduced modern grammar structure to the play. These additions and alterations have been made silently.


Names and Places


I have altered several of the names to either modern equivalents or to contemporary standards, when the names in MS are deviation of these. For example, Plazenza has been changed to Piacenza, and Lodwick and Leonara have been changed to the standard Lodowick and Leonora respectively. Also significant in this area is the early modern non-distinct ‘I’ and ‘J’; this led me to alter Iacomo to Jacomo, Iaspero to Jaspero and Iovanny to Jovanny, and hence to the standard Giovanni.


Stage Directions


MS has virtually no stage directions. I have inserted stage directions where they are implied by gaps in the verse, and where the action dictates that they should be present.




As mentioned in the Textual History section of the introduction, MS was handwritten, and more than likely a transcript. Whether the play was dictated or copied from another written source, one of the results of this is that the play is extensively mis-lineated. Wherever appropriate, I have silently adjusted the lineation of sections of text to fit iambic pentameter. This was, without doubt, the most difficult problem to contend with while editing the play, and one that may be impossible to fully complete; there is no sure way of distinguishing between what is metrical verse that has been badly copied and non-metrical verse that has been copied perfectly, and editing the play has led me to believe that, while the majority of the problems are down to the former, some of them are certainly down to the latter.




Although I have endeavoured to avoid the eventuality, I have, on a small number of occasions, removed or altered words that are metrically or semantically inexplicable, in order to either to make a line scan, or make a passage make sense. I have marked any such alteration or deletion of words with footnotes in the text. I have also footnoted any alterations, of any nature, which I think are ambiguous, offering the alternative solutions which I decided against.


The Characters Of The Play




Duke of Piacenza


Lodwick                      His son, and Prince.


Laura                          The Duke’s daughter, and Princess.


Marshall                     Of the Duke’s court.


Jaspero                       His son.


Galeas                        War Captain.


Leonara                      His mother.


Giovanni                     A merchant of Parma.


Lucretia                      His daughter.




Isabella                       Daughter to the woodman.


Jacomo                       Servant to Galeas.


Clown                          Servant to Lodwick.


Curio                           Servant to Lucretia.


Watchmen 1, 2, 3 & 4



[1] For some rare analysis on the manuscript as a whole, see F.R.Boas’s Shakespeare and the Universities, although there is no comment here on The Fatal Marriage.

[2] Ed. Younghughes et al, The Fatal Marriage, Introduction, pg xi

[3] This edition, II, iv, 34. All subsequent line refs are taken from this edition.

[4] Brooke, I A History of English Footwear, pp 58-59.

[5] II, vi, 25.

[6] II, vi, 23-24.

[7] Jonson, B Volpone, II, i, 88-89.

[8] Younghughes et al, p X.

[9] I, i, 14-29.

[10] IV, iii, 90-1.

[11] V, ii, 165

[12] John Bowle Charles the First pp 55-56.

[13] Bowle, p 71.

[14] I, i, 208.

[15] I, i, 309-312.

[16] III, i, 5-9.

[17] II, ii, 3-7.

[18] I, i, 147.

[19] I, i, 199-201.

[20] II, vi, 75-80.

[21] William Shakespeare Lucrece, 316-322.

[22] III, ii, 19-20.

[23] Ian Donaldson The Rapes of Lucretia, p 11.

[24] Donaldson, p 22.

[25] V, i, 161-167.

[26] V, ii, 182-4.

[27] Lisa Hopkins The Shakespearean Marriage, p 17.

[28] V, i, 161-2.