Heywood, Henslowe and Hercules: Tracking 1 and 2 Hercules in Heywood’s Silver and Brazen Ages

Douglas Arrell


Some scholars have suggested that Heywood's The Silver Age and The Brazen Age (published in 1613) are the same plays as 1 and 2 Hercules, listed in Henslowe's Diary as having been performed by the Admiral's company in 1595-96. The article argues that Heywood did write 1 and 2 Hercules, and that the Silver and Brazen Ages are based on them, but that a number of scenes portraying some of Hercules' labours have been replaced by other scenes from Greek mythology. Heywood describes in An Apology for Actors seeing what was probably 1 and 2 Hercules; it is clear that the play he describes ends in the same way as does The Brazen Age but that many of the exploits of Hercules he describes are not in the Ages plays. There is evidence in the texts that Hercules scenes have been cut and others substituted. Heywood was active as a writer in 1594 and his early poem Oenone and Paris is echoed in The Brazen Age. A number of features of the Hercules scenes, including their debt to Tamburlaine, their adaption to the unique talents of Edward Alleyn, their use of a presenter and shows between the acts, their Ovidian subject matter, and their attempt to exploit the popularity of Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, suggest a date in the mid 1590s. Finally, their apparent reliance on Warner’s Albion’s England for the few elements they contain that are derived from the version of Hercules’ life as portrayed in Caxton's The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troy suggests a date before Heywood read that work (reissued 1596), which strongly influenced Heywood’s later treatments of Greek mythology.


Thomas Heywood; Philip Henslowe; Hercules; The Silver Age; The Brazen Age; An Apology for Actors; Tamburlaine; Edward Alleyn; Venus and Adonis; William Warner; William Caxton; Ovid

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