An excellent old play.


Found out by a person of honour and given

to the publisher, Alexander Gough.[1]


Αυτις ετ' αλλο τεταρτον επι χθονι πουλυβοτειρη
Ζευς Κρονιδης ποιησε, δικαιοτερον και αρειον,
[ανδρων] Hρωων θειον γενος, οι καλεονται

Hesiod, Book 1.[2]


Cedat iam Graia vetustas

Peltatas mirata Nurus, iam Volsca Camillas

Cedat, & Assyrias quæ foemina flectit habenas

Fama tace, Majore cano.[3]



Printed by T. N. for Thomas Heath, in Russell Street,

near the Piazza of Covent Garden, 1653.[4]


[5]To the virtuously noble and truly honourable lady, the Lady Catherine Mohun, wife to the Lord Warwick Mohun, Baron of Okehampton, my highly honoured lord.[6]


May it please your ladyship,


Madam, emboldened by your accustomed candour and unmerited favours to things of the like nature, though disproportioned worth (because this excellency seems to contract those perfections her sex has been invested with, which are as essential to your ladyship as light to the sun) I presumed to secure this innocent orphan from the thunder-shocks of the present blasting age, under the safe protecting wreath of your name; which (I am confident) the virtues of none can more justly challenge than those of your ladyship; who alone may seem to quicken the lifeless scene, and to demonstrate its possibility; reducing fables into practics;[7] by making as great honour visible in the mirror of your daily practice. Your pardon, madam, for daring to offer such adulterate metals to so pure a mine; for making the shadow a present to the substance; the thoughts of which was an offence, but the performance, a crime beyond the hopes of pardon. When my fate had cast me on the first, I esteemed myself unsafe (with the politician) should I not attempt the latter, securing one error by soaring at a greater: but my duller eyes endured not the proof of so glorious a test, and the waxed juncture of my ill-contrived feathers melt me into the fear of a fall. Therefore (with the most desperate offenders) I cast myself on the mercy of the bench and, since I have so clement a judge as yourself, do not wholly despair of absolution, by reason my penitential acknowledgement atones part of the offence, and the remission of the whole will eternally oblige,


The humblest of your ladyship’s servants,

Alexander Gough.


To Mr Alexander Gough upon his publishing the excellent play called

The Queen: or the Excellency of her Sex.

If plays be looking-glasses of our lives

Where dead examples quickening art revives,

By which the players dress themselves and we,

By them, may form a living imagery;

To let those sullied lie in age in dust

Or break them with pretence of fit and just

Is a rude cruelty, as if you can

Put on the Christian and put off the man.

But must all moral handsomeness undo,

And may not be divine and civil too?

What though we dare not say the poet’s art

Can save while it delight,[8] please and convert;

Or that Blackfriars we hear,[9] which in this age

Fell when it was a church, not when a stage;

Or that the presbyters[10] that once dwelt there,

Prayed and thrived though the playhouse were so near.

Yet this we dare affirm—there is more gain

In seeing men act vice than virtue feign;

And he less tempts a danger that delights

In professed players than close hypocrites.

Can there no favour to the scene be shown

Because Jack Fletcher was a bishop’s son?[11]

Or, since that order[12] is condemned, do you

Think poets therefore antichristian too?

Is it unlawful since the stage is down

To make the press act?[13] Where no ladies swoon

At the redcoats’ intrusion,[14] none are stripped,

No histriomastix[15] has the copy whipped,[16]

No man dons women’s clothes, the guiltless press

Wears its own innocent garments, its own dress,

Such as free nature made it. Let it come

Forth, midwife Gough, securely;[17] and, if some

Like not the make or beauty of the play,

Bear witness to’t and confidently say—

Such a relic[18] as once the stage did own,

Ingenuous reader,[19] merits to be known.

                                                                   R. C.[20]


For Plays.

Do you not hawk? Why mayn’t we have a play?

Both are but recreations. You’ll say

Diseases which have made physicians dumb

By healthful exercise are overcome.

And crimes escaped[21] all other laws have been

Found out and punished by the curious[22] scene.[23]

Are stages hurtful for the ill they teach

And needless for the good which pulpits preach?

Then sports are hurtful for the time they lose,

And needless to the good which labour does.

Permit them both—or, if you will allow

The mind no hawk, leave yours and go to plough.

                                                                           Edmond Rookwood.


To Mr Gough, upon the publication of the play called, The Queen: or the

Excellency of her Sex.

Gough—in this little present you create

Yourself a trophy, may become a state,[24]

For you that preserve wit may equally

Be ranked with those defend our liberty;

And though in this ill-treated scene of sense[25]

The general learning is but in pretence—

Or else infused like th’Eastern prophet’s dove[26]

To whisper us, “Religion, Honour, Love;”—

Yet the more generous race of men revives

This lamp of knowledge and, like primitives

In caves, fearless of martyrdom, rehearse

The, almost breathless now,[27] dramatic verse.

How, in the next age, will our youth lament

The loss of wit, condemned to banishment.

Wit that the duller rout[28] despise, ’cause they

Miss it in what their zealous priests display—

For priests in melancholy zeal admit

Only a grave formality for wit,

And would have those that govern us comply

And cherish their fallacious tyranny.

But wherein states can no advantage gain

They harmless mirth improperly restrain—

Since men cannot be naturally called free

If rulers claim more than security.

How happens then this rigour o’er the stage

In this restored, free, and licentious age?

For plays are images of life and cheat

Men into virtue, and in jest repeat

What they most seriously think. Nor may

We fear lest manners suffer—every day

Does higher, cunninger, more sin invent

Than any stage did ever represent.

It may indeed show evil, and affright,

As we prize day by th’ugliness of night;

But in the theatre men are easier caught

Than by what is in clamorous pulpits taught.

                                                                           T. C.


Persons of the Play.[29]

     Queen of Aragon.[30]

      Petruchi, a young lord.

      Bufo, a captain[31]—member of the King’s party.

      Pynto, an astronomer—member of the King’s party.

      Muretto, member of the King’s party.[32]

      Velasco, the Queen’s general.

      Lodovico, his friend.[33]

      Alphonso, afterwards King.

      Collumello, counsellor to the Queen.

      Almado, counsellor to the Queen.

      Herophil, the Queen’s woman.

      Salassa, a widow—mistress to Velasco.

      Shaparoon, her friend.[34]

      Mopas, Velasco’s man.[35]






[1] Alexander Gough,‘Goughe’ in Q. The son of the Robert Gough (sometimes ‘Goughe’ or ‘Goffe’) who was one of the ‘Principall Actors’ of the King’s Men listed in the 1623 First Folio. Dodsley’s Old Plays (1744) relates that Alexander was baptised on August 7th, 1614 and that he went on to become an actor, specializing in women’s rôles. Gough is mentioned in James Wright’s Historia Histrionica (1699) in a passage that gives an interesting insight into drama’s survival during the suppression of the theatres:

                Afterwards in Oliver’s time, they used to Act privately, three or four Miles, or more, out of Town, now here, now there, sometimes in Noblemens Houses, in particular Holland-house at Kensington, where the Nobility and Gentry who met (but in no great Numbers) used to make a Sum of them, each giving a broad Peice, or the like. And Alexander Goffe, the Woman Actor at Blackfriers, (who had made himself known to Persons of Quality) used to be the Jackal and give Time and Place. [Wright’s Historia, C1r]

[2] Hesiod, the lines are from Hesiod’s Works and Days (book 1, lines 156–160):

But when earth had covered this generation also, Zeus the son of Cronos made yet another, the fourth, upon the fruitful earth, which was nobler and more righteous, a god-like race of hero-[men] who are called demi-gods, the race before our own, throughout the boundless earth.

The word ‘andrôn’ (ανδρων - ‘men’) is missing from the quotation in Q. Given the concentration on female heroism in the following Latin epigraph, the dropping of andrôn (which denotes gendered rather than generic ‘men’) might well be intentional.

[3] Cedat iamI have been unable to find a source for this Latin epigraph and it may be a contemporary composition. I am indebted to Dr Matt Steggle for his assistance with the following tentative translation:

Yield now Ancient Greece, admired nurse of shield-bearers,

Let Camilla of the Volscians now give way,

And she who commanded the Assyrian reins;

Fame, be silent: that of which I sing  is greater still.

Camilla of the Volscians appears in Book XI of The Aeneid. The female commander of the Assyrians is a reference to Semiramis. The epigraph deals with classical female types of warrior-heroism and implies that we are to be introduced to a modern equivalent. However, the Queen of the play is no warrior, which suggests that these lines may not have been written specifically for the publication of this quarto. On the other hand, the dropping of andrôn in the Greek epigraph suggests that these verses have been chosen for this publication for a reason. In Ford’s moral universe, the Queen’s resolve to obey her husband, even at the cost of her own life, is a form of heroism. See Section 6 of the introduction.

[4] T. N. = Thomas Newcomb, who printed a number of books for Thomas Heath. He was apprenticed in 1641 to Gregory Dexter and went on to a successful career: “[He] married Ruth Raworth, the printer of Milton’s Minor Poems, 1645. And Newcomb himself, between 1650 and 1660, was to do the major part of Milton’s printing.” (Parke, Contributions. p 438). In 1650 Newcomb printed Eikonoklastes, Milton’s counter-blast to the Eikon basilike of [pseudo-] Charles I. A number of title-pages have him: dwelling in Thamestreet over against Barnards-Castle (for instance A declaration of the generals at sea [1653] accessible via EEBO).

[5] The head-note to A2v of Q calls this letter, “The Epistle DEDICATORY.”

[6] Lady Catherine Mohun. Née Catherine Welles of Brember, Hampshire. Lord Warwick Mohun was the 2nd Baron Oakhampton; he fought briefly on the Royalist side in the Civil War and died in 1665. Catherine, a Roman Catholic, died in April 1692. In 1668 she was ordered by the King to raise her children “in the Protestant religion,” []. Dugdale Sykes believed “[the play’s] authorship was clearly unknown to the publisher,” (p 173); if he is correct, then it is no more than a coincidence that Catherine Mohun’s Catholicism, her struggle with the state over the religious education of her children, and her place as a dedicatee to a play of John Ford’s (albeit unknown at the time) links her to the aristocratic group with whom Ford seemingly mixed in the 1620s and ’30s—cf: the chapter ‘A Catholic coterie?’ in Lisa Hopkins’ John Ford’s Political Theatre.

[7] practics = practicalities (OED 1c); ‘practicks’ in Q.

[8] delight, ‘delights’ in Q. Dropping the ‘s’ brings it into agreement with “please and convert,” all three being seen as subjunctive forms in the hypothetical statement introduced by “What though...”

[9] hear, Bang conjectured ‘have’, but followed it with two question marks, presumably because it gives little better sense than Q’s ‘hear’.

[10] In Q an asterisk precedes ‘presbyters’ referring the reader to a side-note that states, “In the original, it is puritans.”

[11] bishop’s son: John Fletcher the playwright (1579–1625) was son of Richard Fletcher, Bishop of London.

[12] that order = the episcopacy.

[13] Cf: Marta Straznicky’s comment on “the relative safety of the ‘guiltless presse’,” in  Section 2 of the introduction.

[14] redcoats’ intrusion, the OED has ‘redcoats’ denoting soldiers since the 16th century. In the Civil War period, it “was commonly applied to the parliamentary troops,” though here it appears to be a generic term for actors dressed as soldiers on the stage. However, the coupling of ‘redcoats’ and ‘none are stripped’ suggests a reference to the seizure of wardrobe properties from strolling players by soldiers during the early Commonwealth period, as mentioned in Wright’s Historia Histrionica:

                When the Wars were over, [] most of ’em [the professional actors] who were left alive gather’d to London, and for subsistence endeavour’d to revive their Old Trade, privately. […] In the Winter before the King’s Murder, 1648, They ventured to Act some Plays with as much caution and privacy as cou’d be, at the Cockpit […] a Party of Foot Souldiers beset the House, surprised ’em about the midle of the Play, and carried ’em away in their habits, not admitting them to Shift [… then] they Plunder’d them of their Cloths and let ’em loose again. [Wright’s Historia, B4v]

 Isaac D’Israeli comments that:

                Among the stage directions of the time may be found among the exits and the entrances, these; Enter the red-coat—Exit hat and cloak, which were, no doubt, considered not as the least precious parts of the whole living company: they were at length obliged to substitute painted cloth for the splendid habits of the drama. [D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature]

[15] histriomastix, ‘Hystriomastix’ in Q. From ‘histrion’ = stage actor, and ‘-mastix’ frequently in 17C affixed to Latinate stems when denouncing or satirizing an idea, class or person. A play, probably by John Marston, was called Histrio-mastix, or, the Player Whipt (published 1610 but late Elizabethan), but the reference is to William Prynne’s prose work Histriomastix: the Players Scourge, a puritan attack on the theatre published 1632/33.

[16] has the copy whipped = ‘has swiftly learnt his script’; OED cites Miege’s French dictionary (1687) “To whip off a thing, to make short work with it: expedier.” There is also a glance at the subtitles of Prynne’s text and Marton’s old play (see preceding note).

[17] securely = confidently.

[18] relic, ‘relict’ in Q.

[19] ingenuous reader = ‘one of noble character’ (OED 2) rather than the somewhat later ‘guileless, innocent’ (OED 4b)

[20] R. C., Bang conjectures Robert Chamberlain (bap. 1607). He wrote many commendatory verses and had [coincidentally?] connections with John Ford’s Devon; see DNB entry by Lisa Hopkins.

[21] crimes escaped, ‘which have’ is understood.

[22] curious = ‘carefully wrought’, cf: OED I1a: “careful, attentive.”

[23] Cf: Hamlet 2.2.523: “I have heard / That guilty creatures sitting at a play / Have by the very cunning of the scene / Been struck so to the soul that presently / They have proclaimed their malefactions.” A possible source is an anonymous play A Warning For Fair Women performed by the Chamberlain’s Men in 1599.

[24] state = a position of high rank (‘which’ is to be understood before ‘may’).

[25] scene of sense = the phenomenal world.

[26] th’Eastern prophet’s dove, a type for fraudulent pronouncements. A medieval tradition suggested that Mohammed enticed a dove to appear to speak to him by secreting grains of wheat in his ear. Compare 1Hen6,  1.2.140: “Was Mahomet inspired by a dove?”

[27] almost breathless now, because no longer spoken.

[28] rout = “A company, assemblage, band, or troop of persons,” (OED I1)

[29] The order and, substantially, the wording are as in Q.

[30] Aragon, ‘Arragon’ in Q, here and throughout the play.

[31] Bufo, combines elements of the military braggart of the Miles Gloriosus type and the word-mangling clown.

[32] Muretto, arguably the most interesting character in the play. He appears to embody two distinct types identified by Ford in A Line of Life—the ‘flatterer-parasite’ and, paradoxically, the ‘good man’. His language shows sophisticated and deliberate code-switching depending on his interlocutor (eg: 1.1.106). This occilation between linguistic registers feeds into the indeterminacy of his character.

[33] Ludovico, a ‘merry gentleman’ who, particularly at the play’s dénouement, seems to be a very distant cousin of Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing.

[34] Shaparoon, a ‘cousin’ of Lodovico’s (1.2.20) but evidently of a lower rank; when Mopas refers to her as a “middle-aged countess,” (2.1.86) he is probably playing on genitalia rather than title. At 4.3.190, Salassa is described as Shaparoon’s ‘lady’, implying that she is a dependant of some kind. She is in the ‘bawd’ tradition.

[35] Mopas, within the play he is variously described as a “wise servant” and a “fool” (1.2.19), a “jester” (2.1.63) and “Velasco’s gentleman usher” (3.2.121)—this last is Mopas’ description of himself.