Edited with Introduction and Notes by Tim Seccombe, Sheffield Hallam University, 2008.


            This introduction comprises six sections:

·         a scene-by-scene[1] synopsis of the play

·         a discussion of the 1653 quarto edition

·         a brief review of the play’s authorship and date

·         some mention of the editorial procedures used in producing this modernized text

·         an overview of the play’s critical reception

·         a short essay discussing a possibly hitherto unremarked parallel phrase from Ford’s canon, the source of which might shed a little light on both the contradictory character of Muretto and the ethical foundation for the (to modern sensibilities) problematic moral codes represented in the play.


1. The Play—A Scene-by-Scene Synopsis:

Act 1 scene 1:


            The play is set in Aragon and opens in the aftermath of a civil insurrection. Three ragged supporters of the defeated general Alphonso (Pynto, an astrologer-scholar; Bufo, a captain-Miles Gloriosus, and Muretto, apparently a flatterer-parasite) are given their freedom and immediately fall to bickering with one another.

            Alphonso is brought to face execution; his motivation for rebellion was hatred of a woman’s rule:

                                                                       my ground

Was pity of my country, not malice to’t.

I sought to free wracked Aragon from ruin,

Which a fond woman’s government must bring. (ll. 135ff)

            As the axe is about to fall, the Queen enters and halts the execution. She asks Alphonso if he repents his rebellion—he shows no remorse:

                                                                    I am not sorry,

Nay more, will not be sorry! Know from me

I hate your sex in general—not you

As y’are a Queen, but as y’are a woman.  (ll. 218ff)


Admiring this (“His spirit flies out in his daring language,”), the Queen pardons him, much to the astonishment of her advisers. Alphonso is released and he, the Queen and court leave the stage. Moments later a messenger arrives with gold to tell the three former rebels to buy new clothing and attend the court where Alphonso is to be crowned King.

Act 1 scene 2:

            Velasco, the Queen’s victorious general, is mocked by his friend Lodovico because he loves a (young) widow, Salassa. He has, however, asked his cousin Shaparoon, who knows Salassa, to act as match-maker.

            The Queen and Alphonso, now married, enter. As King, he announces that he will remain “a married bachelor one se’nnight,” (l. 54) so that he might work on overcoming his misogynistic prejudices; for that week, he insists, there can be no contact between his court and the Queen’s. She submits to her husband’s wishes.

Act 2 scene 1:

            Lodovico rails at Salassa for the disabling effect Velasco’s love for her is having on his friend. Salassa agrees to see Velasco, which calms Lodovico’s anger: “Do this, and by this hand I’ll ask you pardon for my rudeness, and ever heartily honour you,” (l. 135).

Act 2 scene 2:

            Alphonso’s “se’nnight” has stretched to a month. Bufo, suffering from “the itch of concupiscence” brought on by the ease of court life, attempts a lewd wooing of Herophil, a gentlewoman of the Queen’s. Alphonso, however, staunchly denies that he is subject to any such ‘itch’: “Shall I be forced to be a woman’s slave, / That may live free and hate their fickle sex?” (l. 59).

            Two of the Queen’s counsellors, Almado and Collumello, plead with the King to return to the Queen but Alphonso will not be moved. His reply emphasizes his reliance on Muretto:

                        As I am King, the tongue

Forfeits his head that speaks another word!

Muretto, talk we not now like a King? (ll. 94ff)


            The Queen herself enters to ask how she has offended her husband; he answers: “you married me / Against my will,” (l. 113). She light-heartedly takes this to be a test (and in an aside, Alphonso admits, “She would persuade me strangely,” l. 129). He then goes into a misogynistic rant which concludes with an accusation of lechery[2] whereupon he storms out.

            The Queen is devastated yet accepts her husband’s will and prepares to live apart from him. Muretto offers himself as a go-between but, as one of the King’s men, is chased away by Petruchi, a young lord of the Queen’s party.

Act 2 scene 3:

            The Velasco / Salassa subplot develops. The general visits the widow and declares his love.[3] He begs a kiss which she grants if he will accept “a light burden.” He vows that he will do whatever she demands and, having received his kiss, she reveals his task:

                                              I command,

For two years’ space, you shall not wear a sword,

A dagger or stiletto—shall not fight

On any quarrel, be it ne’er so just.  (ll. 90ff)

Velasco, having already sworn that he will accept whatever is asked of him, is appalled but bound by his oath.

Act 3 scene 1:

            Alphonso tells Almado, one of the Queen’s counsellors, that Muretto has prevailed upon him to love the Queen; he commands the entire court to drink in celebration of this reconciliation. Almado joyfully leaves to inform the Queen of Alphonso’s change of heart. The King, in a brief soliloquy,[4] reveals that this is all ‘policy’: “I will not strike and frown, / But laugh and murder” (l. 31).

            Muretto begins to hint at the Queen’s infidelity with Petruchi, convincing the King of his wife’s adultery. While Petruchi plays the cuckolding Cassio to Alphonso’s Othello, Velasco displays another facet of Cassio as he is caught up in the drinking despite insisting “’tis a profession I dare not practise” (l. 78). Kicked and beaten by Bufo and a Groom he does not retaliate. He is saved by the intervention of his ‘man’ Mopas and Lodovico, but Alphonso banishes him from the court for his cowardice.

Act 3 scene 2:

            Overjoyed at the King’s change of heart, the Queen prepares to visit her husband. Muretto arrives from the King and gives a ring to Petruchi sent to him by Alphonso. Seeing the ring, the Queen exchanges it for one of her own that she might wear Alphonso’s ring.

Act 3 scene 3:

            The scene opens with Alphonso, Pynto and Bufo preparing the trap. When the Queen and her followers enter, Alphonso sees the ring he sent to Petruchi on the Queen’s finger and the trap is sprung. The Queen and Petruchi are arrested. The King declares that she will be beheaded unless a champion challenges him within a month, in which case the duel will decide her fate. The Queen, however, demands an oath of her supporters:

                                     I conjure ye

Never to levy arms against the King,

Singly or openly, and never else

To justify my right or wrong in this.  (ll. 92ff)


            The Queen’s counsellors privately decide to offer a reward to anyone who can produce a champion to challenge the King.

Act 4 scene 1:

            Hearing of the reward, Salassa realizes that she can claim it if she releases Velasco from his oath.

Act 4 scene 2:

            Muretto gives equivocal advice to the King, praising the Queen’s beauty yet continually casting doubts on her fidelity. Alphonso’s love for her is now explicitly stated, but he cannot bear the thought of cuckoldry. The Queen and Petruchi are brought in and Alphonso’s mental dilemma is played out on the stage: “Between my comforts and my shame I stand / In equal distance” (l. 91).[5] The Queen maintains her innocence, but also her complete submission to her husband’s will.

Act 4 scene 3:

            Salassa has promised the Queen’s counsellors that she can persuade Velasco to challenge the King—if she fails she will lose her life. However, the general refuses: “My oath is booked, no human power can free me” (l. 94). Although Velasco’s resolution means her death, her mercenary cynicism is overcome by his unbending honour: “Velasco, I begin to love thee now” (l. 122).

            Salassa’s move from avarice to love is parodied by Pynto’s wooing of Shaparoon in the mistaken belief that she is a wealthy gentlewoman. Bufo’s desire for Herophil is further established.

  Act 5 scene 1:

            Salassa is brought to execution. From the scaffold, she moralizes on her fate, saying she is an example to all women:                                       

                                   O women, in my fall

Remember that your beauties, youth and pride

Are but gay tempters. ’Less you wisely shun

The errors of your frailties, let me ever

Be an example to all fickle dames,

That folly is no shrine for virtuous names.  (ll. 75ff)


She also begs Velasco’s forgiveness.

            Velasco (who has been disguised) halts the execution and offers himself as champion for the Queen, although he disdains Salassa and all her sex:

Base woman, take thy life, thy cursèd life;

I set thee free, and for it pawn a soul,

But that I know heaven hath more store of mercy

Than thou and all thy sex of sin and falsehood.  (ll. 92ff)


Salassa is given her life, but is distraught that she has lost Velasco’s love.

Act 5 scene 2:

            The Queen is brought on for her execution. Velasco enters to challenge the King, despite the Queen’s protests:

                                           Traitor to loyalty!

Rash and unknown fool, what desperate lunacy

Hath led thee on to draw thy treacherous sword

Against thy King.  (ll. 84ff)


Petruchi (freed by Bufo at the instigation of Herophil) also enters to challenge Alphonso, and then Muretto does the same: “Here, as ready to stand in defence of that miracle of chaste women as any man in this presence” (l. 34).

            Muretto explains that, to cure Alphonso of his hatred of women, he incited the King’s jealousy by raising his suspicions over Petruchi while, at the same time, emphasizing the Queen’s unmatchable beauty. In this way he awoke Alphonso’s love for his wife. All are delighted by Muretto’s device.

            Other loose ends are tied up—Lodovico and Herophil are to marry. Pynto has discovered that in Shaparoon he has promised himself to a bawd and Bufo has almost married a cross-dressed Mopas in mistake for Herophil. Alphonso orders that Bufo and Pynto are dressed in their original rags and banished.

            Finally, Salassa, dressed as a penitent, declares that she is to enter a convent. The King and Queen ask Velasco to forgive her—he does so and confesses his love. The noble characters are united and the subversive lower orders are confounded. “Thus,” concludes Alphonso:

                           after storms a calm

Is ever welcomest. Now we have past

The worst, and all, I hope, is well at last.  (ll. 321ff).




2. The Quarto:


            The Quarto was published in 1653 although, as the subtitle, An Excellent old play, tells us, the play was somewhat older—an “innocent orphan [secured] from the thunder-shocks of the present blasting age,” as it is called in the dedicatory letter. A large number of play texts were published during the “blasting age” that marked the suppression of the theatres (1642–1660), in part because of the resultant poverty of the actors:

The players, urged by their necessities, published several excellent manuscript plays, which they had hoarded in their dramatic exchequers, as the sole property of their respective companies. In one year appeared fifty of these new plays.[6]


The publication of such manuscripts also implies a continuing public appetite for plays, and Alexander Gough, the publisher of The Queen and himself an actor, was ‘the Jackal’ who informed people when and where semi-licit private performances were to be held.[7]

            The three commendatory verses which follow Gough’s ‘epistle dedicatory’ ignore the play which they ostensibly preface and instead protest the closure of the theatres, arguing that morality can be taught at least as effectively from the stage as from the pulpit.[8] These verses make explicit what is already implicit in the appearance of printed plays in a society in which drama was prohibited—the publication of the quarto was a political act. Marta Straznicky has suggested that:

Emboldened by the relative safety of the ‘guiltless presse,’ [a phrase she takes from the first of the commendatory verses to The Queen] many authors and publishers used the anti-stage ordinances as a springboard for general attacks against Parliament. […] Such prefatory materials constitute a kind of interface between the private act of play-reading and the political exigencies which have forced previously performed drama into the closet.[9]


            I have been unable to find any published work on the nature of the copy which underlies the Quarto. Willi Bang, when first attributing the play to John Ford, noted the occurrence of the ‘Fordian’ forms d’ee and t’ee (for d’ye and t’ye)[10] which perhaps suggest that the compositor’s copy was in Ford’s autograph.

            One suggestive detail which I have not seen mentioned elsewhere, is that the character-name ‘Almado’ is spelt ‘Almada’ ten times in Q, always in stage directions. Where he is named in the text (three times) he is ‘Almado’.[11] The implication I tentatively draw from this is that the stage directions may have been added by a person other than the author.

            There were no other quarto editions after 1653. In 1906, Professor Willi Bang edited a reprint of Q and attributed the play to Ford. His edition contains a short introduction and endnotes, all in German, in which Bang presented evidence for his attribution and suggested alternative readings where he felt the Q text to be corrupt.

            Facsimiles of two copies of Q are available at Early English Books Online, one held by the British Library and the other by the Harvard University Library; there is also a searchable full-text transcription of the Harvard copy.[12] The present edition is built on this transcription, and both facsimiles have been closely consulted.[13]


3. Author and Date:

            The play was first attributed to the dramatist John Ford in the 1906 reprint of Q by Willi Bang. His evidence was largely based on parallel phrases from known Ford plays[14] as well as a general recognition of Ford’s style. Two years later, Stuart P Sherman summed up Bang’s methodology thus:

Long familiarity with his author, a genuine relish for the true Ford flavor, an immediate sense of the idiosyncrasies of his style—that is the basis on which Professor Bang makes his decision […] To those intimate with Ford, the corroborative testimony of vocabulary, parallel passages, etc., is interesting but almost superfluous.[15]


            Later scholars have added to the evidence and Bang’s attribution seems never to have been challenged. The Queen is by John Ford (1586–1639+).[16]

            There is no evidence for the date of the play’s composition. Bang suggested that the influence of Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy meant a terminus a quo of 1621 (the date of its publication). He also had a gut-feeling (“Gefühl”) that its composition was close to The Broken Heart and Love’s Sacrifice but he had no evidence for this.[17]

            Dorothy Farr felt that:

The play’s weaknesses suggest that it may be of an early date, a conclusion slightly supported by the evidence of a no more than theatre-goer’s interest in Othello as against Ford’s extensive borrowings from that play in Love’s Sacrifice.[18]       


            Tucker Orbison, however, using stylometric evidence based on rhyme and line-endings, placed it later than Love’s Sacrifice and concluded, “perhaps a dating of c. 1624–1633 for The Queen may not be far astray.”[19] The weight of critical opinion[20] would tend towards the earlier end of that range, if not earlier still, based on perceived weaknesses in the play compared to Ford’s greatest work.



4. Editorial Practice:


            This is a modernized text. The orthography and punctuation have been modernized silently unless a significantly altered reading results (eg: 3.1.30, 3.1.66 and 5.1.44) in which case the change is discussed in an endnote. Where words or phrasing seem to me potentially obscure I have attempted to provide a gloss in an endnote.

            The stage directions in Q are generally good and I have tended to retain their original wording. I have attempted to treat the text as an acting edition and have occasionally inserted stage directions when the action is not immediately obvious. Any editorial additions have been placed within square brackets.[21]

            I have tried to balance conservatism with clarity when dealing with possible cases of textual corruption. Every case is different and each is discussed in an endnote. Many, though not all, of Bang’s suggested emendations have been adopted and I have added a few others (eg: 5.2.43 and the Speech Prefix at 5.2.121). Each emendation is defended in its individual endnote (unless the context makes the reasoning clear). The following table lists the substantive emendations[22] that have been made to Q’s text:

This Edition






you ’Gyptianly man i’th’moon

your Gipsonly may i’th’moon

















… who looks not any …

… who looks any …









our our









long lives









and and

















… would find his grace …

… would his grace …




















... loose for a ducat now

... loose which fit a ducat now





… this is not the promise …

… this not the promise …



some some






Iustly [justly]














Alphonso [speech prefix]







            I have probably taken a less conservative approach towards lineation. In a number of instances I have changed Q’s verse to prose and vice versa. Occasionally, too, irregular verse has been regularized by adjusting Q’s line-breaks. In each case the reasoning behind the decision, and sometimes alternative lineations, are given in the appropriate endnote.


5. Critical Reception:


            “A general flatness of tone and a falling short of purpose are characteristic of this play;”[25] thus Dorothy Farr expresses a view held by many of the few who have noticed The Queen. The ‘low comic’ elements have come in for particular critical sniffiness: “a seasoning of not very agreeable comedy;”[26] “the would-be comic scenes and characters of this play are […] about on a level with Ford’s usual attempts at lightness;”[27] “the aimless quarrels of a ‘rascal rout’.”[28] More recently, Farr conceded that “Bufo’s bawdry and Pynto’s visions have some life in them [though] neither contributes anything to the dramatic intention.”[29]

            The main elements of the plot have fared little better. Dugdale Sykes felt that, “The Queen falls far below the level of Ford’s dramatic work at its best;”[30] although Sherman would not place it quite in the bottom rank: “The Queen is a much better play than the Fancies or the Lady’s Trial, but, on the whole, I think it belongs in the class with them […] we do not think it will greatly enhance the reputation of its author;”[31] Farr concurred: “[It] adds nothing to Ford’s reputation and is misleading as an example of his art.”[32]

            In 1968, Mark Stavig called for a reassessment of Ford’s work: “Modern readers are too apt to read modern values into the plays through failing to realize that the plays are written in a traditional, symbolic mode.”[33] Others from the 1960s onwards have seen Ford in a new light: “Ford’s plays have a capacity to disturb that they share with those of contemporary obsessive playwrights such as Becket and Pinter.”[34] Unfortunately, little seems to have been published specifically on The Queen from this re-evaluative standpoint.

            No doubt the play fails to match the dramatic achievement of The Broken Heart, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore or Perkin Warbeck, but a reassessment based on Stavig’s identification of a Fordian “traditional, symbolic mode” might help to balance what seems to be the established view—that:

The Queen of Arragon, who out-Grissils Griselda in patience and wifely obedience, is but little better than a lay figure, a colourless image of perfections incapable of rousing more than a tepid interest in her sorrows, while the King is equally remote from the semblance of humanity—a morose monomaniac […whom] not all Ford’s lofty eloquence can render tolerable or plausible.[35]



6. ‘An Erected Heart’: Reading  John Ford’s A Line of Life into The Queen:

            In a play full of improbable emotional responses, perhaps the first is the Queen’s reaction to Alphonso’s diatribe against women, moments before his execution:


            Had I a term of life could last forever,

            And you could grant it, yes, and would, yet all

            Or more should never reconcile my heart

            To any she alive. Are ye resolved?


            His spirit flies out in his daring language.  (1.1.222ff)


She has moved from pity (“Alas, poor man”) sixteen lines earlier to an admiration of ‘his spirit’ which heralds, we soon discover, the onset of an absolute, unconditional love. Alphonso’s “Are ye resolved?”—‘Is that now clear?’—has indeed clarified any indeterminacy in the Queen’s heart; she has found the man who will be both Aragon’s King and her own.

            By the final scene of the play, her choice of husband is about to cost the Queen her life. Urged by Muretto to confess her adultery and trust in the mercy of the King, she replies, “But how if I be free [from guilt]?” Muretto’s counsel is, for once, unequivocal:

By any means, for your honour’s cause, do not yield then one jot. Let not the faint fear of death deject you before the royalty of an erected heart. (5.2.23)


            “An erected heart”—a heart fortified against temptation, one that will not bend to the exigencies of temporal demands—this is, in effect, what the Queen personifies in the play, and, therefore, what makes her ‘character’ (if it can be called such) so problematic for the modern reader. I will explore a way of approaching The Queen that may suggest the importance of ‘an erected heart’ in the play.

            Since Bang’s attribution of The Queen to John Ford in 1906, much scholarship has been expended on building up a bulwark of supporting evidence based on verbal parallels, and many have been found. Brian Vickers comments:

Ford is notorious for the degree to which he repeated phrases, clauses, indeed whole sentences from one play to another [… he] created a vast series of intertextual links between his plays, and between them and his poems and prose works.[36]


‘An erected heart’ is just such a phrase, and one that I have not seen noted elsewhere. It occurs in Ford’s pamphlet A Line of Life, Pointing at the Immortalitie of a Vertuous Name from 1620:[37] “What infinite inticers hath a man as he is a meere man, to withdraw him from an erected heart?” (p 33).

            A Line of Life is a philosophical tract, drawing on Classical precedents (and contemporary exemplars) in order to provide a straight path through “the Labyrinth and Maze of this naturall & troublesome Race of frailtie,” (p 9). If we follow the “intertextual link” provided by “an erected heart” and start to read A Line of Life into The Queen, then we begin to notice other similarities—the play appears to offer its audience ideas and traits first encountered in A Line of Life, but now brought to life in the theatre (be it of the Phoenix, the Cockpit or Blackfriars, or the theatre of the mind).

            When Ford warns the ‘Publike Man’[38] against “swarms of dependants, being creatures to his greatnesse,” (p 68), one thinks of Muretto, Pynto and Bufo who become ‘made men’ when Alphonso marries the Queen.[39] Muretto, in the early scenes of the play, seems to embody a type that Ford rails against at length in A Line of Life—the Flatterer:

A Flatterer is the onely pestilent bawd to great mens shames; the nurse to their wantonnesse; the fuell to their lusts; and with his poyson of artificiall villanie, most times doth set an edge vnto their ryot, which otherwise would be blunted and rebated in the detestation of their violent posting to a violent confusion. (p 64)


            As the play opens and the three former rebels are released, Muretto points to what saved them from “the hangman’s clutches; […] mark what good language and fair words will do,” (1.1.15); Muretto’s self-praise of his eloquence enrages Pynto: “Good language! […] the poison of a flatterer’s tongue is thousand times more deadly than the twinges of a rope,” (1.1.18). As his rage increases, Pynto applies further epithets: “Rascal! Cannibal that feedest upon man’s flesh!” (l. 57) and “I scorn thee, parasite,” (l. 70). In A Line of Life, Ford decries “the Adulation of a Parasite,” (p 85) and “these Anthropophagi, Those men-eaters,” (p 70). The flatterer-parasite was a recognized Renaissance type, and Ford ensures that Muretto is seen as one. Muretto’s switch to a courtly register when turning from his confrères to those in authority is clear and riles Pynto (“The chime goes again,” 1.1.109); and Petruchi warns the Queen against him, “Madam, believe him not, he is a parasite,” (2.2.213).[40]

            And yet it emerges that Ford has been painting Muretto as a flatterer only to deceive.[41] By the end of the play, Muretto represents another of the types from A Line of Life: ‘the Good Man’. In his pamphlet, Ford tells us that “This man neuer flatters Folly in Greatnesse, but rather pitties, and in pittie striues to redresse the greatnesse of Folly,” (pp 92–93). Moreover:

Hee is a Physitian to other mens affections as to his own, by comprimitting[42] such passions as runne into an insurrection, by strengthening such as decline, by suppling such as are inflamed, by restraining such as would runne out, by purging such as ouerabound. (p 98)


At the dénouement, Muretto describes how he “felt [the King’s] disposition in every pulse,” and, finding that Alphonso “was most addicted to this pestilence of jealousy,” acted as “the only instrument to incense [him] to this distemperature,” (5.2.148ff)―by feeding the King’s jealousy, Muretto succeeds in purging it.[43]

            According to A Line of Life, the prime attribute that one must possess “to patterne and personate an excellent man [is] RESOLVTION. For by it are exemplified the perfections of the minde, consisting in the whole furniture of an enriched soule,” (p 14–15).  The Queen is shot through with characters displaying resolution, some more successfully than others.

            Having encouraged Alphonso into a disastrous insurrection through his astrological predictions (1.1.60ff), Pynto declares, “I will burn my books, forswear the liberal sciences, and that is my resolution,” (1.1.178). Twenty or so lines later he is once again an adherent of the ‘liberal science’ of astrology: “the moon is now Lady of the Ascendant,” (1.1.199), but even in this he is irresolute—by line 281 he declares “Venus is Lady of the Ascendant.” Pynto’s planets are governed by whether lunacy or love prevail on earth, not vice versa.

            Lodovico mocks the resolution with which Velasco holds to his oath of pacifism:

Velasco                 Lodovico, know:

            I have resolved never to fight again.

Lodovico  ’Tis a very safe resolution; but have you resolved      never to be beaten again? (3.2.104)


but, like the Queen, Lodovico has nothing but admiration for Alphonso’s equanimity at the executioner’s block, “A gallant resolution, even in death,” (1.1.188). ‘Resolve’ is an attribute associated with each of the three (interrupted) executions in the play: Velasco tells Salassa to show “A noble piety, to bear your death / With resolution,” (4.3.117) and the final scene opens with Alphonso’s question to the Queen, “Are you resolved to die?” (5.2.1). A Line of Life holds up Socrates as an exemplar of ‘resolution’ (pp 103–104); never more so, of course, than in his death.

            Throughout the play, true resolution attracts admiration and love. Shaparoon declares that Salassa is “most virtuously resolved” (2.1.84) to meet Velasco, though it becomes clear that virtue has nothing to do with it—Salassa is playing a game, “I am resolved to put ye to the test, servant, for your free fool’s heart” (2.1.40). It is not until she witnesses Velasco’s own resolution to keep his oath regardless of the consequences (ironically, the consequence being her own death) that virtue finally asserts itself: “Velasco, I begin to love thee now. / Now I perceive thou art a noble man” (4.3.122).[44]

            However, if Alphonso’s resolution in the face of death was noble, his subsequent resolve to live apart from his wife is warped, as mirrored in the distorted logic and syntax with which he debates ‘equality in love’ with the Queen (3.3.17ff). Her confusion is clear: “I would your words / Dissented not from your resolvèd thoughts, / For then, if I mistake not, you would feel / Extremity of passion…” (3.3.24ff, my emphasis).

            It is Muretto who diagnoses Alphonso’s ‘distemperature’:

I saw with what violence he pursued his resolutions not more in detestation of the Queen in particular than of all her sex in general […] I bent all my studies to devise which way I might do service to my country, by reclaiming the distraction of his discontents. (5.2.153ff)


Only once the distorted nature of the King’s resolve has been cured can he take up his rôle as a Good Man as defined in A Line of Life: “To be a man, the first branch of resolution is to know, feele and moderate affections.” (p25). While he was torn between his love for the Queen and his jealously (as exemplified in the emblematic staging of 4.2), he mirrored Ford’s ‘samplar’ of the Bad Man, “Sir Waltir Ravleigh, […] a man subiect to as many changes of resolution, as resolute to bee the instrument of change,” (p 50).

            It is an irony, given the subtitle to Ford’s treatise, ‘Pointing at the Immortalitie of a Vertuous Name’, that the one character who appears best to follow the recommended line of life—the one who will not be drawn from the fortress of her ‘erected heart’—is also the one whose name we never discover. The Queen may not be a successful dramatic character, but she does personify an ideal of female married chastity and obedience. Throughout the play, even when faced with the executioner’s block, she maintains the ‘abject’ stance of unconditional love adopted by Katherina in the final scene of The Taming of the Shrew.[45] Vickers notes “Ford’s admiration for the aristocracy, as possessing both honour and virtue, nobility and education,” and his habit of “portray[ing] characters with noble qualities confronting hostile fortune [and] penchant for praising those who exemplified nobility in adversity.”[46] In The Queen, it is the anonymous yet eponymous heroine who displays these qualities—and those set out in A Line of Life. At no point does she “yield […] one jot,” nor does she let “the faint fear of death deject [her] before the royalty of an erected heart.”




Primary Material:


The Queen. Online facsimile of the British Museum copy of 1653 Quarto. Accessed via


The Queen. Online facsimile of the Harvard University Library copy of 1653 Quarto. Accessed via


The Queen. Full Text Transcription of the HUL Q (no FTT exists for the BM Q). Accessed via


A Line of Life. Pointing at the Immortalitie of a Vertuous Name. Online facsimile of 1620 pamphlet. Accessed via


Other Ford quotations are from the play-texts available via, except for:


John Ford. Love’s Sacrifice (1633) AT Moore (ed). Revels Plays edition. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2002.


Shakespeare quotations and line references are taken from the latest Arden edition (as of May 2008). I have also quoted from Brian Morris’ introduction to the Arden2 edition of The Taming of the Shrew.


Jonson / Fletcher / Middleton. The Widdow. A Comedie. Accessed via


Thomas Kyd. The Spanish Tragedy (1592), P Edwards (ed). Revels Plays edition. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1988.


Christopher Marlowe. Doctor Faustus, JD Jump (ed).  London, Methuen, 1973 [1962].

Nathaniel Richards. The Tragedy Of Messalina, The Roman Empress (1640), S Gibbs (ed). Accessed via


Other works cited:


Abbot EA. A Shakespearian Grammar. New York, Dover Publications, 1966 [1870]


Bang W. The Queen: Nach der Quarto 1653 in Neudruck Herausgegeben. Louvain, Uystpruyst, 1906 [Kraus Reprint, Vaduz, 1963].


Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable:Millennium Edition’. London, Cassell, 2001.


Crystal D & Crystal B. Shakespeare’s Words: a glossary & language companion. London, Penguin, 2002.

D’Israeli I. ‘The History of the Theatre During its Suppression’ in Curiosities of Literature, a compilation of book-lore. Accessed via

Eccles M. ‘Recent Studies in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama’ in Studies in English Literature 1500–1900, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Spring 1969), pp 351–378.


Farr DM. John Ford & The Caroline Theatre. London, Macmillan, 1979.


Gatty I. ‘Whip-Tops and Battledores and Shuttlecocks, Folklore > Vol. 56, No. 2, 1945, 270-273. Accessed via


Hawkes T. ‘Review of Mark Stavig’s John Ford and the Traditional Moral Order’ in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring 1969), pp 67–69.


Hesiod. Works and Days. Accessed via


Hopkins L. John Ford’s Political Theatre. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1994.


Kastan DS. A Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford, Blackwell, 1999.


Maguire LE. ‘The Craft of Printing (1600)’ from DS Kastan (ed), A Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford, Blackwell, 1999.


Muir K. ‘Folklore and Shakespeare’, Folklore > Vol. 92, No. 2, 1981, 231–240. Accessed via


Orbison T. ‘The Date Of The Queen’ from Notes & Queries > July 1968, pp 255–256. Accessed via


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online. Accessed via


Oxford English Dictionary Online. Accessed via


Parke WR. Contributions toward a Milton Bibligraphy. Accessed via


Powell R. ‘The Adaptation of a Shakespearean Genre: Othello and Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore.’ Renaissance Quarterly, Vol 47, No. 3 (Autumn 1995), pp 582–592.


Sargeaunt MJ. John Ford. New York, Russell & Russell, 1966.


Sensabaugh GF. The Tragic Muse of John Ford. New York, Blom, 1944.


Sherman SP. ‘A New Play by John Ford’ from Modern Language Notes > Vol 23, No. 8, Dec. 1908, pp 245–249. Accessed via


Straznicky M. ‘Reading the stage: Margeret Cavendish and Commonwealth closet drama’, from Criticism > Summer 1995, Vol 37, No. 3, p 355–390. Accessed via


Sykes HD. Sidelights on Elizabethan Drama. London, Cass, 1966 [1924].


Vickers B. Counterfeiting Shakespeare: Evidence, Authorship, and John Ford’s ‘Funerall Elegye’. Cambridge, CUP, 2002.


Wells S. Shakespeare: For All Time. London, Macmillan, 2002.


Wright J. Historia Histrionica (1699). Accessed via


[1] Note that the quarto edition of the play does not have scene divisions, though it is separated into acts.

[2] It should be noted, given later events, that at this stage Muretto has not been seen to encourage any suspicions of the Queen’s infidelity.

[3] We learn that Velasco first met and fell in love with Salassa when resting at her house during the recent civil war—thus tying the action of the subplot to that of the main plot, as will the ramifications of his oath.  On the thematic level too, there are a number of connections between the primary and secondary plots. Velasco’s journey (from ‘subservient’ love, through resolute determination to keep his oath, to a final reconciliation in which the love-object, Salassa, occupies her ‘proper’ place in the economy of married love) is a mirror of Alphonso’s move from his hatred of women in general, through resolute celibacy despite his awakening love, to healthy union with his Queen. Salassa’s rôle as cynical, mercenary lover provides a marked contrast with the noble unconditionality of the Queen’s love, though both are brought to the point of death at the executioner’s block—as the action of the two plot strands (as well as the themes) once again comes into balancing reflection.

[4] Reminiscent of the Vice-like Richard of Gloucester from 3 Henry VI.

[5] Cf: the discussion of symbolic stage tableaux in other Ford dramas, especially The Broken Heart, in the ‘Emblematic Staging’ section of Lisa Hopkins’ Political Theatre, pp 162ff.

[6] Isaac D’Israeli’s ‘The History of the Theatre During its Suppression’ from his Curiosities (1823); accessed as an unpaginated web document—see Bibliography.

[7] For details of Gough and his rôle in the ‘underground’ drama during the Commonwealth, see Endnote 1 to the Introductory Matter of the play. The previous year, 1652, Gough had published the Jonson/Fletcher/Middleton comedy, The Widdow, “Printed by the original copy.”

[8] Such arguments counter those used by William Prynne in his Histriomastix: the Players Scourge from the early 1630s; a work that is glanced at in the first of these poems, cf: Endnote 15 to the Introductory Matter.

[9] Straznicky, ‘Reading the Stage’ (1995), accessed as an unpaginated web document—see Bibliography.

[10] H Dugdale Sykes made use of the same forms when attributing The Spanish Gypsy to Ford.

[11] The form ‘Almado’ appears only once out of eleven occurrences in SDs. See Endnote 43 to Act I for details of the ‘Almado’ variants. The character-name Collumello is also inconsistently spelt in SDs.

[12] The full-text transcription contains a large number of transmission errors, most of them due to ‘long-s’/‘f’ and ‘r’/‘t’ confusion, but some due to heavy inking and other accidental marks on the Harvard copy. I have found no evidence of press correction—the BL and HUL copies appear to be identical.

[13] I am aware of two other editions: Joe Andrews Sutfin, 1964, ‘Ford’s Love’s Sacrifice, The Lady’s Trial, and The Queen. Critical, Old-spelling Editions of the Texts of the Original Quartos’, PhD Dissertation, Vanderbilt University; and Douglas Sedge, ‘An Edition of The Queen; or, The Excellency of her Sex’, MA thesis, the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham; both cited in Vickers, ‘Counterfeiting’ Shakespeare. Neither has been published, nor are they currently available online. I have been unable to consult either one.

[14] I have drawn attention to many of these in endnotes to the present text.

[15] Sherman, ‘A New Play’ (1908), p 246.

[16] There is no record of Ford’s death. The last firm evidence for his being alive is his dedication and motto in the 1639 quarto of The Lady’s Trial. The publication of The Queen in 1653 marks the terminus ad quem since Ford took an active interest in the publication of his work and so it is unlikely the play would have been anonymous were its author still alive. See Ford’s DNB entry.

[17] Ich habe das Gefühl das The Queene zeitlich The Broken Heart und Love’s Sacrifice nahesteht, hebe aber ausdrücklich hervor dass mein Gefühl nich massgebend sein kann,” Bang, p viii.

[18] Farr, Ford and the Caroline Theatre, p 165.

[19] Orbison, ‘The Date of The Queen’ (July, 1968), N&Q, p 256. His date for Love’s Sacrifice seems problematically early.

[20] Michael Neill, writer of Ford’s DNB entry, concurs with Farr’s judgement. Raymond Powell, writing in 1995, states, “[The Queen is] now generally reckoned to be an early work,” Powell, ‘Adaptation’, p 582.

[21] See the endnote to 3.1.113 for a discussion of a staging crux brought about by the mention of ‘aloft’.

[22] ‘tatters’, ‘mules’ and ‘bever’, are not strictly emendations but actually modernized forms of C17 variants.

[23] Cf: also 2.1.97 (though in a different usage).

[24] And also at 1.2.66, 2.3.34 and 3.1.42.

[25] Farr, op cit, p 164.

[26] Sykes, ‘Posthumous Play’ from Sidelights, p 175.

[27] Sargeaunt, John Ford, p 190.

[28] Sherman, op cit, p 248. In fact, the ‘aimless’ quarrels serve to establish their character ‘types’.

[29] Farr, op cit, p 164.

[30] Sykes, op cit, p 181.

[31] Sherman, op cit, pp 248–249.

[32] Farr, op cit, p 166.

[33] From Stavig’s John Ford and the Traditional Moral Order, quoted in Eccles, ‘Recent Studies’, Studies in English Literature (1969), p 376.

[34] Hawkes, ‘Review’ in Renaissance Quarterly (1969), p. 67

[35] Sykes, op cit, p 182. Sykes was writing in 1917, the ‘Griselda’ allusion was first used by Sherman in 1908 and repeated by Sargeaunt (“Mr Dugdale Sykes comes nearer the truth [in the quotation just given]” p 193) in 1966. Griselda is a type for wifely patience drawn from Chaucer’s ‘The Clerk’s Tale’.

[36] Vickers, ‘Counterfeiting’ Shakespeare, p 497

[37] A facsimile of the British Library copy, with a searchable full-text transcription, is available at All quotations are taken from this facsimile.

[38]  ie: one who has risen to political greatness.

[39] Amongst the “inticers” that can draw a man from “an erected heart” are “the Lethargie and disease of an infectious Court-grace,” (p 34)—an infection related to “the itch of concupiscence” that the “court diet, cost, lodging, change of clothes, and ease,” brings on in Bufo (2.2.45).

[40] Through his encouragement of Alphonso’s jealousy, Muretto is often likened to Iago, but the parallel with the “onely pestilent bawd to great mens shames; the nurse to their wantonnesse; the fuell to their lusts,” in A Line of Life suggests that it was the archetypical flatterer-parasite that Ford was attempting to portray.

[41] Dorothy Farr is not strictly accurate when she claims that, until “late in the fifth act,” Muretto reveals “nothing of his purpose in asides or soliloquys [as] is typical of Ford,” (Farr, op cit, p 164); the soliloquy at 4.2.174 reveals his “honest intentions,” and 3.1.66, though not marked as such in Q, is probably an aside that hints at things not being as they seem.

[42] ‘Comprimit’ is unrecorded in the OED but is presumably related to ‘comprimate’, a C16 medical term meaning to compress (suppress).

[43] Cf: Sensabaugh, Tragic Muse. Sensabaugh shows that Muretto’s methodology is based on Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), but Ford’s tract, published the previous year, indicates that similar ideas were in the air.

[44] We have already seen how Alphonso’s “daring language,” (which climaxed on the word “resolved,”) awakened the Queen’s love.

[45] Writing of Katherina’s ‘obedience speech’ in his edition of The Taming of the Shrew, Brian Morris notes that it is “completely in accord with normal Elizabethan opinions on the rights and status of wives,” (Arden2 p 146).

[46] Vickers, op cit, pp 269 & 268.