The Play                                                                      

                        Possible Influences and Sources                                   

                        Colonial References                                                     

                        Religious Allusions                                                       




                        Textual Editing                                                            

                        Works Cited                                                               

                        Dramatis Personae                                                       


                        Plays Containing Poison                                               

                        Deities Mentioned                                                                           







The emperor Claudius may appear to be the protagonist of the play The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero, but in fact it concerns the Emperor Tiberius, uncle to Claudius.  The narrative within the play is not complicated one but as the characters often share the same name, the plot can be confusing. The play is focused around the reign of Tiberius; it is violent and bloody.  The play was published anonymously by Francis Burton in 1607; it is not known whether the play was ever performed. 


The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero opens with the funeral of Augustus and the crowning of Tiberius, who feigns reluctance at becoming the next emperor of Rome.  In the play, Julius Celsus describes Tiberius as the, tiger, earth's infection,
Plague of the world, scourge of our happy Rome,
Treason's first born, hell's out-spewed vomit,
Prodigious homicide, and murder's law...

This is a very apt description of a despotic man willing to sacrifice everything and everyone in his quest to keep his title. Tiberius not only commits matricide, he also plots and instigates the murder of his wife, his son, his daughter, his husband and their two children. He kills Caius and Lucius, Asinius and Sabinus, He kills Caius and Lucius, Asinius and Sabinus, finally witnessing the agonising death of Sejanus under a burning crown. Tiberius is responsible for killing numerous others on his way with cold, merciless execution. In fact his last dying wish is one of genocide:

…yet would I had my wish;
Oh, that even all the people in the world,
Had but one neck that at one deadly blow,
I might unpeople all the world…

Ominous bird imagery is prevalent throughout the play, and Tiberius' name is regarded as synonymous with birds of prey - rapacious birds that gather in anticipation of death. The true character of Tiberius is appositely described in inauspicious metaphors: 'insatiate vulture', 'coal black raven', 'haggard kite,' informing the reader that a '…kite' has 'usurped the Eagle's place.' Furthermore, Nero recalls a disturbing dream consisting of a 'ravening bloody stork' fighting with a 'snowy milk white swan,' and joining this fight, a crane and a cock; Maximus describes seeing 'ghastly screech owls', the 'prodigies of fatal miseries.'


The main theme within the play is murder, and the playwright has been creative in his quest to perform death on his victims, using varying methods of death, for instance stale water; a poisoned apple; the eating of arms; starvation; strangling oneself with a chain; throwing oneself down a deep well; smothering; stabbing; a poisoned crown, and a burning crown and death by being literally ripped apart limb by limb. The play raises a multiplicity of issues concerning the human psyche, such as family, power, greed, ambition, lust, hate, jealousy, self-sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, duty and honour. The play hints at cannibalism, bastards, and military affairs. The play not only shows how corrupt the court was but how fickle court society was too. In the play Tiberius is finally murdered by his ambitious, scheming nephew, Claudius, who suffocates the aging Emperor before stabbing him; this differs from the account given by Suetonius, who records that Tiberius died of old age after contracting a cold; he was seventy seven and had been Emperor for twenty three years.

The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero provides a political commentary on Jacobean rule; through its narrative it explores and highlights the abuses of power open to criticism and accusations by those who brandish it. As playwrights were confronted by the problem of representing political life as they saw it, and to overcome parallels being made too obvious, it was easier to move the action of the play to the court of ancient Rome. Dramatists would often use the veil of the Roman play to express political feelings and observations surrounding the rule of James VI and I, calling into question the restrictions made on playwrights by James. Freedom of expression was not allowed if it was to contain damaging criticism of the monarchy or showed them in a bad light. Those in the position to impose the rationale behind such restrictions and objections, feeling the need to silence those brave enough to expose political abuse, had to be proof of malefactions within the court.





The Roman play appears to be a popular genre around the date that The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero was published. Shakespeare had already written Julius Caesar, and there was also Ben Jonson's play, Sejanus, and another anonymous play entitled Nero. Playwrights could express and highlight political opinions, as well as expose the failures of the king and his court.

Embedded within the play are references from the works of other playwrights, with numerous references to Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Act I scene v, Old Hamlet king of Denmark, recently dead, appears as a ghost to his son, Hamlet, to inform him of his murder by poison being poured into his ear while he slept in his orchard. The ghost then asks Hamlet to avenge his murder. This idea is mirrored in The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero, where Tiberius is in his orchard and the ghost of the murdered Germanicus appears to him and talks of revenge for his death. Another similarity to Hamlet within the play is when Germanicus, alone on the stage, comments on the awful prodigies in Rome; this speech is very similar to Horatio's in Act I scene i, 115-128. Shakespeare's reference to 'Nemean lion's name' in Act I, scene iv, 83 is again mirrored in The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero, when Tiberius refers to Nemea and lions. The chameleon mentioned by Sejanus, is also mentioned in, Hamlet, Act 3, scene ii, 93. Furthermore, 'Ides of March' is taken from a line in Julius Caesar, (Act I, sc.ii, 18). In the play there are several references to other plays, Tamburlaine, by Marlowe; Shakespeare's Richard II, and a line from a poem by Chidiock Tichborne, called 'Elegy', written while he was in the Tower of London before his execution for his involvement in the Babington affair in 1586 -'…my glass is run.'

Roman plays often represented those in hierarchal positions abusing the powers they had been allotted. The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero is set in the ancient court of Rome and emphasises the corruption within it. The play also makes allusions to Mary Queen of Scots, mother to James VI and I. England was under Protestant rule and the allusion the play makes towards Roman Catholics implies James' involvement with Catholics due to his connection with Mary Queen of Scots. Mary was a Catholic and charged with conspiring plots against the crown, she was executed in 1587 in the hall at Fotheringay Castle, and had chosen as her successor to her right to the crown, Philip of Spain; she had cast James aside because he was a Protestant.

The playwright would have derived his historical knowledge on the biographer to the Caesars, Suetonius; precise details of his life are not known, bur he was born around AD 69 and he died around AD 140. Suetonius wrote the book The Twelve Caesars, which 'provided a model for Einhard's Charlemagne in the ninth century and a source for Petrarch's Lives of the Illustrious Romans in the fourteenth. The English translation by Philemon Holland (1606), though diffuse, is spirited and popular.' (1)

Robert Graves (1895-1985) also based his historical novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God on the work of Suetonius. Another source of historical knowledge was the Roman historian, Tacitus (c.55-120) who wrote Historiae, which was a history of the empire from Galba in AD 68 to the assassination of Domitian in AD 96; he also wrote Annales, which is a history of the Julian line from Tiberius to Nero. (1) 'Tacitus' writings gave a critique of court corruption an implicitly radical political edge. James, for one, recognised this implicit political threat - he considered Tacitus anti-monarchical and was disturbed by his subjects increasing interest in the historian's writings.' (2)

The extensive knowledge of classical and mythological history demonstrated through the language of the characters shows their status and education. The allusion to the deities only serves to show the judgements and lives of the gods as unsuitable, a metaphor for God's anointed on earth, allowing parallels to be made between the corrupt, murderous Tiberius and King James VI and I.  

The playwright’s extensive knowledge of classical and mythological history is demonstrated by the language of his characters, this is designed to show their education and status.  The allusion to the deities often only shows that even the gods had unsuitable lives and judgements; a metaphor for God’s anointed on earth, allowing parallels to be made between the corrupt, murderous Tiberius and king James VI and I.

1. Tranquillus Gaius Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, translated by Robert Graves(London: Penguin Books, 2003) p. x.

2.      Magnus Magnusson (General ed.) Chambers Biographical Dictionary (Edinburgh: W &R Chambers Ltd. 1995), p. 1427







There is much evidence in the play to suggest the playwright had knowledge of writers of travel, which would have informed the people of the Renaissance of new geographical discoveries. The playwright displays his knowledge by mentioning these exotic and distant places throughout his text, such as Africa, Armenia, Babylon, Capri, the Danube river, Germany, Greece, the Orient, Sicily, and Thebes: he includes references to Indians and Pigmies, and mentions a wide variety of exotic animals: elephants, tigers, crocodiles, camels, bears, leopards and asses. James VI and I was also very interested in exotic animals and possessed several which he let roam free in James' Park. The inclusion of merchandise from distant countries hints at new found wealth: gold, pearls, diamonds and jasper, and exotic fruit such as the pomegranate are mentioned. All these references show the Renaissance was an expanding world.





During the reign of the emperor Augustus, Jesus Christ was executed; Tiberius was forty two years of age at this time and still had fourteen years before becoming emperor of Rome. There are several biblical references within the play: 'Palantia's leave her Lucifer', 'saviour of the world', 'Babylon', and 'blazing comets of the East'; Germanicus comments on the 'new devised religion / Of the inconstant Jews called Christians.' The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 demonstrated the lack of faith Catholics had with promises of freedom from persecution, and hopes of seeing the Roman Catholic faith established by law. James persecuted the Catholics and was perceived as a tyrant. Roman Catholics were treated with horrible contempt: no Roman Catholic was allowed to live in London, and no Catholic could be a lawyer or a doctor.

In the play Tiberius is portrayed as a kind of anti-Christ, ruthless and ambitious in his malicious quest for power. Tiberius is so full of evil he is unable to stop, and will not let anything or anybody stand in his way. Matricide is only the start of his unquenchable lust for keeping his crown, his unnaturalness is highlighted when he goes on to plot and kill the deaths of Germanicus and all his family, also innocent messengers who inform him of other victims' deaths, and not being satisfied with having the deaths of so many on his conscience he emulates the original sin by giving Agrippina a poisoned apple: a metaphor for Roman Catholics and the poison at court.

The pinnacle of his blood lust, Tiberius' dying wish for genocide where he would decapitate and 'unpeople' the entire world, only enforces the concern the playwright had, and encourages Christian (Protestant) audiences to question the moral motivations of the court.
Tiberius is not the only evil character within the play; Sejanus demonstrates qualities of not being at one with Christian doctrine. He describes the '…tumults in my cloven heart' which connotes similarities appertaining to the devil, one being possessed by devil-like qualities, inhuman, evil, showing no remorse or empathy with fellow human beings. This type of character can be seen in the persona of Aaron in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus; in the final Act of Othello, when Othello looks to see whether the feet of Iago are cloven like the Devil's; in The Tempest, when Caliban talks of 'cloven tongues' and in Troilus and Cressida, where Cressida speaks of a 'cloven chin'.

Through the characters of the play, the playwright highlights the violations made by James I's failings as a patriarchal ruler; instead of showing the court as an image of virtues and manners it is represented as morally and politically unstable. The implications of a corrupt court invoking the wrath of God could have terrible judgements made not only on the sinners but the nation as a whole.






Front Matter


To the Right Worshipfull Sir Arthur Mannering Knight, (Sonne and Heyre vnto Sir George Mannering of Eithfield in the Countie of Salop) Carver vnto Prince Henry his Grace.


‘In 1607 the publisher Francis Burton very cautiously dedicated The Tragedie of Claudius Tiberius Nero, to Sir Arthur Mannering, fearing reprehension “for this my Dedication” because “so many Plaies have formerly been published without Inscription unto particular patrons (contrary to Custome in divulging other Bookes)”’ (3) 


In 1611 Francis Burton made another dedication using the name of Sir Arthur Mannering in a volume of sermons written by Lancelot Andrewes (4) (1555-1626), called Scala coeli, which reads:


The right worshipful Sir George Mainwaring of Ightfield. Knight, and to the virtuous Lady, Madam Anne his beloved wife and to the right worshipful Sir Arthur, their son and heir, carver to Prince Henry, Prince of Wales. 


How Francis Burton came to be acquainted with Sir Arthur Mannering is not known. The interesting thing is, the more one delves into the life of Sir Arthur Mannering, the more relevant the themes within the play become to him.  


 Sir Arthur was born into a landed family deriving in Ightfield in Shropshire; a small rural village with scattered farmhouses, cottages and a church.  Sir Arthur Mannering was Carver to Henry, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of James VI and I; Henry died at the age of eighteen in 1611.  Sir Arthur’s name crops up at regular intervals in different documents. The Heralds’ Visitation of Shropshire, which was edited by Grazebrook and Rylands and was published by the Harleian Society in 1889, shows that Sir Arthur Mannering (sometimes spelt Mainwaring) was married in 1623 to Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Denny of Holcomb in the county of Devon.  Margaret died in 1649.  A manuscript(1) of the pedigree of the Mainwaring family of Ightfield, shows that Sir Arthur Mainwaring actually married twice, his second wife being, Grisilda, daughter of __ Woodruffe and relict (i.e. a widow) of Sir Francis Clerke.


It is ironic that Sir Arthur should have married twice, especially when he had fathered three children with the unfortunate Mrs Anne Turner, who endeavoured to gain matrimonial status with Sir Arthur without success.  Anne Turner was married to an eminent London physician, Dr George Turner, a Catholic, who was well aware of the situation between his wife, Anne, and Sir Arthur Mannering.  When he died in 1611, Doctor Turner bequeathed in his will the sum of ten pounds to Sir Arthur Mannering to buy his wife, Anne, a wedding ring.  He was even so good as to suggest an inscription for the inside of the ring: Fato junguntur Amantes (May the fates unite the lovers).  Sir Arthur never married Anne; he ‘would have been quite a catch for in 1609 he had been left a large estate worth £1,500 a year by his cousin’ (5)


The interesting connection with Sir Arthur Mannering and Mrs Anne Turner was her connection with Frances Howard, Countess of Essex and Somerset.  Both Anne Turner and Frances Howard were publicly tried and found guilty of the murder, by poison, of Sir Thomas Overbury (1581-1613).  Although the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury was in 1613, the connection that the play and Sir Arthur Mannering have, though distant, is an interesting one.  Sir Thomas Overbury was murdered by poison over a period of several months, finally being put out of his misery by being administered an enema of mercury sublimate on the 14th of September 1613: Overbury was found dead the next day, the 15th, at around 7.00 o’clock in the morning.  Anne Turner had procured poison for Overbury’s murder by consulting the astrologer, necromancer and physician, Dr Simon Forman; it was also proved at the trial that she had administered ‘love potions’ to Sir Arthur which were also given to her by Simon Forman. Anne Turner was hanged at Tyburn on the 14th of November 1616, her brother, who was a servant to Prince Charles, took her body down off the gallows and made sure she was buried in St. Martin in the Fields.  To the disgust and outrage of the public, Frances Howard was reprieved by James himself.


3.      Marta Straznicky, Reading the stage: Margaret Cavendish and Commonwealth closet drama, 
 p. 5.

4. Lancelot Andrewes was Bishop of Chichester in 1605; subsequently Bishop of Ely; and Bishop of Winchester in 1618.

5.     Anne Somerset, Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of James I  (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), p. 73.




Poison was regarded an ‘alien crime to the English character’ (Somerset 259) and Sir Edward Coke ‘claimed that there was no record of any convictions for poisonings between the reigns of Edward III and Henry VIII,’ (Somerset 260), a period of about two hundred years.  This is not strictly true, as Henry VIII regarded poisoning as ‘so odious’ that it should be regarded as high treason and that offenders of the crime should be boiled to death in hot water, ‘only to be immersed a little at a time to give the utmost pain.  This law was repealed in the reign of Henry’s son, Edward; as a result poisoning was classified as a felony, and the penalty for it was hanging.’ (Somerset 260).  


Poisoning became more widespread with the discovery of mineral compounds.  The culture of poisons was reflected in the drama of the Renaissance; Italy had a popular literary tradition with poison, as many books first found publication there as early as 1473, when a book by Peter of Abano (1250-1312) calledTractatus de venenis, printed in Padua.  This book on poisons was translated into French in 1593.  Works on poisons were often dedicated to Popes, such as the book written by Peter de Marra in 1362 and entitled The Papal Garland Concerning Poisons, addressed to Urban V (c.1310-1370)).  Ambroise Paré writes about poisons in his Oeuvres, which appeared in 1575 in twenty six volumes; Paré details the different effects of poisons on the body.  Although written to instruct surgeons, it would have aided dramatists who included differing aspects of death by poison in their plays. 


Playwrights include numerous ways of bringing about death by poison for unsuspecting victims, usually restricting it to two categories, death by slow poison, or one which was quick acting.  Not only could poison be put into food and drink, but it could also be administered externally affecting touch, smell and, in fact, every aperture of the body was considered a possible gateway for fatal poison. Dramatists often portray fatal poison on rapiers as a means of effecting immediate death.  The pouring of poison in the sleeper's ear is another theatrical device, as in Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, where Lighthorn boasts of the art (V.iv, 34-35).  We are told, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that Old Hamlet asleep in his orchard was poisoned by Claudius in his ear (Act I, sc.v) Ambroise Paré was himself accused of this in 1560 when he allegedly tried to kill king Francis II.    Poison was a useful way of destroying an enemy, and could be distributed in so many ways: pomanders, fumes of torches, tapers, candles, letters, garments, drinks and food, to name but a few.  Dramatists often reflected these various means of disposal in their dramas.  


The ‘sleeping’ potion first appeared in English drama in 1578-1579 in the Latin play, Hymenaeus, which was performed at Cambridge; this was a decade before Marlowe wrote The Jew of Malta, where the sleeping potion is used by Barabas to escape death (V.i, 80). It is also used in Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet, (1594-1595); and in Dekker’s, The Honest Whore, (1604-5).  As a convention on the English stage, poison appears to drift in around the early 1590s and drift out in the 1620s.  There are numerous plays using this method (see Appendix).  It may be of note to mention here that as far back as to the times of Jesus, Jews were given a kind of narcotic drink to alleviate the pain they were about to suffer when being crucified: this is mentioned in Matthew 27:34;  Mark 15:28, and John 19:29.


Poison, as a device for murder has to be one of the most evil, as premeditated and calculated stratagems have to be employed.  Poison as an artistic device upon the stage became popular and convenient, this may also be attributed to the rise and fall of the Machiavel. In The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero, the playwright uses his knowledge of the poison device frequently, with poisoned crowns, drinks and apples, alluding to the corruption of James VI and I, ‘in Jacobean London, the public theatres staged graphic revenge tragedies set in courts where devious poison plots seemed a staple of political activity.’(1)  Poison is also used as a symbol for the corruption within man himself, his incessant greed, ambition, hate and lust which infests not only his soul, but the life of others. 





The political allusion within The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero focuses its attention on the corruption that exists within the Roman court, which allows the court of James VI and I to be viewed and examined more closely.  Tiberius, like James, had his favourites, ‘all classes alike resented the king’s extravagance, his attachment to unworthy favourites, and the moral and financial corruption of the court circle.’(6)  The court of Rome, like the court of James, also had its spies and enemies, the plots against Tiberius reflect the plots and conspiracies against James, and in ‘Jacobean political culture, popish plots against the Protestant monarch was an accepted, even predictable, occurrence.’(7)   


To evaluate poison plots in early Jacobean drama and connect an association with James 1’s early years of reign, it must be understood that rumours of assassination plots against the king were rife.  Poison plot stories were convincing because contempories were culturally predisposed to take such rumours seriously.  Popish assassination plots against the monarch, both rumoured and actual, had surfaced with regularity during Elizabeth’s reign (8). 


Rumours of poisoning the monarch had extended beyond Elizabeth’s reign into the reign of James 1 and V1 both before and after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.  Because of the Gunpowder Plot, and the public trials followed by public executions, rumours were ubiquitous.  In 1606 a proclamation was made by John Chamberlain, to quell rumours that the king had actually been assassinated.  In 1611 when Prince Henry died, it was rumoured that he had been poisoned, and that Anne Turner had information regarding this, especially as she was strongly associated with Sir Arthur Mannering, who was Carver to the Prince at the time.  At her trial the Reverend Dr Whiting asked Anne Turner, amongst other prying and highly suggestive questions, whether she knew anything about the death of the Prince, Anne said that ‘she heard say the Prince was poisoned at Woodstock with a bunch of grapes.’ (9)


In 1594, a Portuguese Jew called Rodrigo Lopez, was hanged, drawn and quartered for attempting to poison the queen; he was believed to have been paid by papist agents.  Another would-be poisoner, Edmund Squire, was allegedly corrupted by Jesuits while a prisoner in Spain, Squire attempted to poison the queen by smearing poison onto the pommel of her saddle.  


The corruption within the Roman court in the play represented the corruption of the court of James.  It reflected the disorder and instability of the hierarchy within the court.  The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero, through the character of Tiberius, attacks James as a monarch and a man, showing his judgement in others, especially favourites, to be unwise.  As a king or father figure to the nation, he was portrayed as a failure, both iniquitous and unwise.


6.     Alastair Bellany, The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair, 1603-

        1660 (Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 2002), pp. 46-7.

7.     Douglas Bush, The Early Seventeenth Century 1600-1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 5.    

8.     Bellany, The Politics of Court Scandal, p. 200.

9.     Bellany, The Politics of Court Scandal, p. 200.              



Trying to stay close to the primary authority of the text has not been easy as the necessity to ‘modernise’ the text was my first priority, but as spellings and punctuation have been changed, the text is now only a variant of the original.  Distinguishing what exactly is meant by the word ‘original’ is not an easy task; the text I have been given ofThe Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero may have been corrupted by an indecipherable manuscript when first given to the publisher.  During the printing process a number of printing errors may have taken place; misreading of the original script, setting wrong type, the omissions of words, or sections of the text put in the wrong order.


AsThe Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero has no subsequent editions, it has been difficult to ascertain and evaluate textual intention; to use what W.W.Greg called ‘accidentals’ (punctuation, spelling, capitalisation and typographical matters like the use of italics) made it difficult to determine intentional or just grammatical errors, which I have changed to make sense syntactically.  Greg’s ‘substantives’ (words) have been changed to give a clearer understanding for the reader, though with reluctance.


Where it was not possible to find a ‘modern’ equivalent for a word, that word has remained in its ‘original’ form.  I have altered and changed commas, semi-colons, colons and full-stops.  Old spellings have been changed for ‘modern’ equivalents, and where the playwright has used dashes ‘---’,  I have changed to the recognisable ellipsis ‘… ’ .  I have divided the play into five acts and divided each act into scenes, as the original text had none.  Because the exercise was to modernise the text, I have also changed ‘Aye’ for ‘I’.  For the sake of clarification, I have added stage directions to make the text more lucid for the reader; these I have kept to a minimal.  Where the playwright has written prose, I have left, as it is often used to indicate feigned madness and status.  Obvious errors made by the playwright have been altered. 


I have attempted to provide readers with a modernised edition of the text with editorial emendations. My intention was not to eliminate authorial intention but in trying to produce a text as near to the original as possible it could be argued that by editing the text, I have done so.  I have included a glossary of words changed and where possible given a meaning to the words.*   Because of limited time, there are important and interesting issues omitted from this introduction.





Primary Texts


Bellany. A, (2002) The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair, 1603-1660 (Cambridge: The Press Syndecate of the University of Cambridge)


Berger. T. L., Bradford. C.W., Sondergard. S.L. (1998) An Index of Characters in Early Modern English Drama Printed Plays, 1500-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 


Bush. D, The Early Seventeenth Century 1600-1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press)


Graves. R (Translated by), Grant M (Revised: Introduction by), (2003) Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars (London: Penguin Books)


Magnusson. M (General ed.), (1995) Chambers Biographical Dictionary (Endinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd.)


Sadie. S. (ed.), 1980 The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: Volume6 (London: Macmillan Publishers Limited)


Sadie. S. (ed.), (1980) The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: Volume19 (London: Macmillan Publishers Limited)


Somerset. A. (1997) Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of James I (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson)


Stranznicky. M, Reading the stage: Margaret Cavendish and Commonwealth closet drama



Secondary Texts


Cox. J. D., and Kastan. D.S.(eds.), (1997) A New History of Early English Drama (New York, Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press)


Findlay. A. (1994) Illegitimate Power: Bastards in Renaissance Drama (Manchester: Manchester University Press)


Greenblatt. S. J. (1980) Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press)


Greetham. D. C., (1994) Textual Scholarship: An Introduction (New York, London: Garland Publishing, Inc.)


Jenkins. H (ed), (1994) The Arden Shakespeare: Hamlet (London, New York: Routledge)


Murphy. A. (ed.), (2000) The Renaissance Text: Theory Editing Textuality (Manchester: Manchester University Press)



Schenk. G. (1956) The Book of Poisons (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson)

Traister. B. H. (2001) The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: works and days of Simon Forman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)


White. B, (1965) Cast of Ravens: The Strang Case of Sir Thomas Overbury (London: William Clowes and Sons, Ltd)







Tiberius  Tiberius is the main protagonist in the play.  Tiberius was born in Rome on November 16th, 42 BC.  His full name was Tiberius Claudius  Nero Caesar.   When he was four, his mother divorced his father and married the triumvir Octavian, who eventually became Emperor Augustus.  His father, Nero, was quaestor and commanded Julius Caesar’s fleet during the Alexandrian War.  When Tiberius was nine his father died, and he delivered a eulogy for him at his funeral.


According to Suetonius, Tiberius was strong and heavily built, with a well proportioned body; he had eyes that could see in the dark and liked to grow his hair long over the nape of his neck. He was also a handsome man.  Tiberius, apparently, had an unusual talent; he could, with his left hand, ‘poke his finger through a sound, newly plucked apple or into the skull of a boy or young man.’!


Tiberius was married to Vipsania Agrippina, the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, (they had a son, Drusus).  He was forced to divorce her in 12BC and quickly marry the daughter of Augustus, Julia.  Julia was later banished to Pandataria in 2 BC where she starved herself to death.


Tiberius spent most of his adulthood as a soldier in Spain, Armenia, Gaul, Pannonia and Germany.  Tiberius spent seven years fighting in Germany, where the army of Rome had been annihilated under the  general, Publius Quintilius Varus. Tiberius was well rewarded when he returned to Rome.  Tiberius was a talented soldier and had proved his  loyalty to Rome.  Tiberius succeeded Augustus as emperor in AD 14. 


In the play, Tiberius is the protagonist.  He is shown as a callous, cruel, scheming murderer.  Tiberius dies at the hands of his nephew, Caligula, who succeeds him as emperor.  When Tiberius actually died on Capri in AD 37, the people of Rome‘ran through the streets yelling: “To the Tiber with Tiberius!”’


Sejanus  Praetorian prefect.  Feigned friend to Tiberius.  Assumes control of Rome while Tiberius is away on Capri.  Deceitful, scheming, ambitious and a violent murderer.  Sejanus shows his lust for Livia by sexually assaulting her.  He is finally killed by Tiberius, by the object of his desire, a crown which is placed on his head while it burns.


Julia    Mother of Tiberius.  She hints at her involvement in the murder of Augustus.  She plots with Sejanus to kill Tiberius.  She is finally banished to Pandataria, where she dies.


Livia Grand-daughter of Julia.  Lusted after by Sejanus.  Dies by throwing herself into a deep well.


Agrippina  Married to Germanicus and mother to Drusus, Nero and Caligula.   After the death of her husband, Germanicus, she is presented with his heart in a box.  She is killed by Tiberius, who feeds her a poisoned apple, then has her mouth crammed with food.


Drusus Son of Agrippina, brother of Caligula and Nero. Drusus is imprisoned  along with his brother, they are chained together and starved to death.


Nero  Brother to Drusus and Caligula.  Starved to death with his brother, Drusus. 


Caligula  Meaning ‘little boots’.  Caligula is the youngest son of Agrippina and Germanicus.  He feigns madness while he plots and schemes to become emperor of Rome.  He finally murders the aging Tiberius by smothering him and then stabbing him.  Caligula succeeds Tiberius as emperor.


Germanicus  Husband to Agrippina, father to Drusus, Nero and Caligula.  Brave, valiant and a respected soldier.  Germanicus is poisoned on the instructions of Tiberius who was jealous of him. 


Macro  Lieutenant to Sejanus.


Vonones  An Armenian, killed  with his son by Germanicus. 










Arch Flaman


Ghost of Germanicus








Aboone                        among

Ad Lectores                 Latin: to the readers

Administring                 administering

Adue                            adieu

Ænigmæs                      enigmas

Affricke                        Africa

Agriuarij                       original spelling

Archadie                      Arcady

Asse                             ass

Autor                           author

Aye                              I

Ayre                             air



Banisht             banished

Belcht                           belched

Beshrew                       bestrew

Bettors                         betters

Bewray                        betray

Blew                            blue

Brandusium                  Brindisi, Greece

Briaris                          mythical monster

Burganetto                    burgonet, a piece of armour



Carroll                          carol

Cassia                          any tree of the genus Cassia, bearing leaves from which senna is


Castrell             kestrel

Catastrophize               catastrophe

Catcht                          caught

Cato                             famous censor and author, idealised as the pattern of an ancient

                                    Rome; famous stoic and republican leader against Caesar.

Chaft                            chaffed

Chast                           chaste

Chasest                        chased

Chimicke                      chemical

Cipria                           Capri

Cittie                            city

Clitemnestræs               Clyemnestra

Clowed                        clothed

Cog                              type of ship

Cog                              cheat

Conioy’nd                    conjoined

Corslet                         a piece of armour

Cosen                          cousin

Cowe                           cow

Crockadile                   crocodile



Danubiaes                    Danube’s

Danubis                        Danube’s

Deifie                           defy

Demie                          demi

Desart                          dessert (ed)

Destinie                        destiny

Dianire                         Diana

Die                               dye

Displaies                       displays

Disse                            the underworld

Disse                            dice

Drayling                        trayling

Drufus                          Drusus

Durst                            dare

Dyrest                          direst



Eacus                           Æneas

Eies                              eyes

Eke                              each

Emperious                    imperious

Empery                        empery

Endiapred                     original spelling

Ere                               before

Epicycle                       epistle

Exeunt                          exit

Extreamite                    extremity



Fabij                            members of the Fabian family

Fact                             in its older sense of criminal deed

Fistila                           fistula

Fjnis                             finish

Flaminies                      flamen

Founts                          fount

Frantique                      frantic

Fye                              fie



Gage                            gave

Gallat                           gallant

Gallogretians                 French-Greeks: there were Greek colonies in southern France

Germaine                      German

Gesse                           guess

Ghoast                         ghost

Glozing             glazing

Goar                            gore

Gracia                          Greece

Guiues                          gyves

Gyues                           gyves



Habergeon                   a piece of armour

Had-iwist                     had I known

Hailde                          hailed

Harlles                          heartless

Harts                            hearts

Hasdruball                    a relation of Hannibal

Heel                             he’ll

Heyre                           heir

Honie                           honey



Iarre                             jar

Iarrs                             jars

Ille                                I’ll

Illion                             Illium

Imploy                          employ

Incamp’t                       encamped

Inioyn’d                        enjoin

Inrang’d                       arranged

Iorney                          journey

Ioynt                            joint

Ioynter                         jointer

Itis                                it’s

Iudeian                         Indian

Iury                              jury

Iustest                          justice? most just?

Iustifie                          justify

Iuuvelloped                   enveloped





Kild                              killed



Laconiades                   Laconians

Latonae                        Latona

Leach                           old word for doctor

Leaper                         leopard

Limes                           limbs

Linckt                           linked

Loe                              lo

Loe                              though

Louedst                        loved

Lucullus                        a Roman



Maist                            may

Manet                          Latin: he stays

Marie                           marry

Martichora                   some species of monster

Mathematiticke mathematic

Maugre                        in spite

Maugre                        meagre

Mervaile                       marvel

Meuse                          mews

Misliketh                      dislikes

Murther                        murder

Murtherer                     murderer



Navie                           navy

Nay                              no

Ne                               don’t

Numidia                       a place in Africa where slaves came from

Nune                            changed to arm

Nurst                            nursed



Oft                               often

Omnes                         Latin: everybody

Oppugning                    opposing

Ore                              over

Ouertoylde                   over toiled



Palphraies                     type of horse

Panaturia                      Pandataria

Panomphea                  just gossip

Pearelesse                    peerless

Pharsalie                       a big battle

Phisitians                      physicians

Pigmy                           original spelling

Pittie                             pity

Pollicie             policy

Pompeies                     Pompeii’s

Possest                         possessed

Poysd                           poised

Pressageth                    presses

Pretors                         praetors

Prorogu’d                     postponed

Proroque                      postpone

Ptolomie                       Ptolemy



Quire                            meaning a ream of paper / choir

Quirtes                         an order of minor Roman gentry

Quoined                       original spelling



Raigne                          reign

Raign’d                        reigned

Receyuing                     receiving

Recouerie                     recovery

Relique             relic

Riverets                        rivulets

Romish             Roman

Royaliize                       original spelling



Safetie                          safety

Saver                           saviour

Scaevola                      a Roman who had his hand cut off

Scaped                         escaped

Scapt                           scrapped

Scipio                           a Roman general

Searen                          seven

Sheele                          she’ll

Sinononimies                synonymies

Sirra                             sirrah

Sirrop                           syrup

Sith                              such

Sithence                       since

Sithian                          Sythian: a person from Sythia

Sodaine                        sudden

Solus                            alone

Sophonisba                  Carthaginian women

Staid                            stayed

Stayre                          stair

Stix                              Styx

Syphax             a general



Tane                             taken

Tarquinius                     Torquin

Taxus                           toxins

Tearmes                       terms

Terrhene                       sea near Italy

Thave                           they’ve

Theame                        theme

Thinketh                       thinks

Throane                        throne

Tois                              toys

Troth                            truth

Troynouant                   New Troy, name for London

Tryumphes                   triumphs

Tubants                        Numidian

Tung                             tongue



Uonones                       Vonones



Vassailes                      vassals

Veruice                        very nice?

Vnciuille                       uncivil

Vnquisht                       vanquished

Vnquoth                       uncouth

Vnpolilitiquely   impolitely

Vpo                             upon

Vtican                          like Cato, a censor




Welkins                        spies

Wilome                        while





Ye                                you









1589    The Jew of Malta                                                       C. Marlowe

1592    Arden of Faversham                                                  Anon. (T. Kyd?)

1592    Edward II                                                                    C. Marlowe

1592    Roxanna                                                                     W. Alabaster

1593    The Massacre at Paris                                              C. Marlowe

1594    Alphonsus of Germany                                              G. Peele (?)

1597    Romeo and Juliet                                                       W. Shakespeare

1600    Grim the Collier of Croydon                          W. Haughton

1602    How a Man May Choose a Good Wife                    T. Heywood

1602    Satiromastix                                                               T. Dekker

1603    Hamlet                                                                        W. Shakespeare

1604    The Honest Whore (The Converted Courtesan)      T. Dekker

1605    The Fair Maid of Bristow                                          Anon.

1607    The Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero                   Anon.

1607    Nero                                                                            M. Gwinne

1607    The Puritan                                                                 Anon. (T. Middleton?)

1607    The Revenger’sTragedy                                           T. Middleton

1607    The Devil’s Charter                                                   B. Barnes

1607    The Fleer                                                                    E. Sharpham

1608    Law Tricks                                                                 J. Day (G. Wilkins?)

1609    Every Woman in Her Humour                                  Anon.

1609    The Two Maids of Moreclacke                                R. Armin

1609    The Turk (Muleassees the Turk)                             J. Mason

1609    Cymbeline                                                                  W. Shakespeare

1611    Match in London                                                        T. Dekker

1612    The White Devil                                                         J. Webster

1613    The Knight of the Burning Pestle                             F. Beaumont (J. Fletcher?)

1615    Four Prentices of London                                          T. Heywood

1616    Four Plays in One                                                      J. Fletcher

1617    A Chaste Maid in Cheapside                                    T. Middleton

1618    The Knight of Malta                                                  J. Fletcher / N. Field /

P. Massinger

1620    The Costly Whore                                                      Anon.

1621    Women Beware Women                                            T. Middleton

1623    The Duke of Milan                                                    P. Massinger

1623    The Duchess of Malfi                                                J. Webster

1626    The Maid’s Revenge                                                 J. Shirley

1628    Lodovick Sforza                                                         R. Gomersall

1628    Julia Agrippina                                                           T. May

1631    The Traitor                                                                 J. Shirley

1634    The Shepherd’s Holiday                                            J. Rutter

1638    Cornelianum                                                               D. Randolph

1639    The Lovesick Court                                                   R. Brome

1640    The Arcadia                                                                J. Shirley                                 




                                                            DEITIES MENTIONED