Beaumont and Fletcher folios

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The Beaumont and Fletcher folios were two large folio collections of the stage plays of John Fletcher and his collaborators. The first was issued in 1647, and the second in 1679. The two collections were important in preserving many works of English Renaissance drama.

The first folio, 1647

The 1647 folio was published by the booksellers Humphrey Moseley and Humphrey Robinson. It was modelled on the precedents of the first two folio collections of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623 and 1632, and the first two folios of the works of Ben Jonson of 1616 and 1640–1. The title of the book was given as Comedies and Tragedies Written by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher Gentlemen, though the prefatory matter in the folio recognised that Philip Massinger, rather than Francis Beaumont, collaborated with Fletcher on some of the plays included in the volume. (In fact, the 1647 volume "contained almost nothing of Beaumont's" work.)[1] Seventeen works in Fletcher's canon that had already been published prior to 1647, and the rights to these plays belonged to the stationers who had issued those volumes; Robinson and Moseley therefore concentrated on the previously unpublished plays in the Fletcher canon.

Most of these plays had been acted onstage by the King's Men, the troupe of actors for whom Fletcher had functioned as house dramatist for most of his career. The folio featured a dedication to Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke, signed by ten of the King's Men – John Lowin, Joseph Taylor, Richard Robinson, Robert Benfield, Eliard Swanston, Thomas Pollard, Hugh Clark, William Allen, Stephen Hammerton, and Theophilus Bird – all idled by the closing of the theatres in 1642. It also contained two addresses to the reader, by James Shirley and by Moseley, and 37 commendatory poems, long and short, by figures famous and obscure, including Shirley, Ben Jonson,[2] Richard Lovelace, Robert Herrick, Richard Brome, Jasper Mayne, Thomas Stanley, and Sir Aston Cockayne.

The 1647 folio contains 35 works – 34 plays and 1 masque.

The 1647 folio has attracted significant attention from scholars and bibliographers, and various specialised studies of the folio (books on the book) have been written.[3] As with Shakespeare's First Folio, the typesetting of individual compositors and the work of individual printers has been traced and analysed – including that of Susan Islip, one of the rare instances of a female printer in the 17th century.

The second folio, 1679

The second folio, titled Fifty Comedies and Tragedies, was published by the booksellers Henry Herringman,[4] John Martyn, and Richard Marriot; the printing was done by J. Macock. The three stationers had obtained the rights to previously-published works,[5] and added 18 dramas to the 35 of the first folio, for a total of 53. The second folio added features that the first lacked. Many songs in the plays were given in full. Cast lists were prefixed to 25 of the dramas, lists that provide the names of the leading actors in the original productions of the plays. These lists can be informative on the companies involved and the dates of first productions; the cast list prefixed to The Honest Man's Fortune, for example, reveals that the play was originally staged by the Lady Elizabeth's Men in the 1612–13 period.

On the negative side, the texts in the second folio were set into type from the previously-printed quarto texts, and never from manuscript; the texts of the plays in the first collection were printed from manuscript sources.[6]

Content, authorship, and canon

The implicit canon, nearly realized by the contents of the second folio, comprises dramatic works written by Beaumont or Fletcher; either alone, together, or in collaboration with other playwrights. By this rule, three plays (The Laws of Candy by John Ford, Wit at Several Weapons by Middleton and Rowley, and The Coronation by James Shirley) should be excluded, and three more extant plays (Barnavelt, A Very Woman, and Henry VIII) should be included. A Very Woman was printed in a volume of Massinger's plays in 1655, while Sir John van Olden Barnavelt remained in manuscript until the 19th century. Henry VIII was first published in the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623.

At least five plays, no longer extant, may also belong in the canon. Four of these were entered to Moseley in the Stationers' Register between 1653 and 1660, possibly with the intent of printing them in the second folio: Cardenio (Shakespeare and Fletcher?), A Right Woman (Beaumont and Fletcher?), The Wandering Lovers (Fletcher?), and The Jeweler of Amsterdam (Fletcher, Field, and Massinger?). A fifth non-extant play, The Queen was questionably attributed to Fletcher by a contemporary.[7]

The folios contain two works that are generally thought to be the work of Beaumont alone – The Knight of the Burning Pestle and The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn – and fifteen that are solo efforts by Fletcher, and perhaps a dozen that are actual Beaumont/Fletcher collaborations. The rest are Fletcher's collaborations with Massinger and other writers.[8]

  • 1st Act — Year the play was first acted. Dates are approximate and, unless otherwise noted, follow Gurr.[9]
  • 1st Pub — Year of first publication as given by Glover & Waller, unless otherwise noted.[10]
  • Authorial attributions — Though there is general consensus, scholars still debate the exact contributions of authors. Unless otherwise noted attributions are of those of Cyrus Hoy.[11]
Title 1st Act 1st Pub 1647 1679 Fletcher Massinger Beaumont Other
Mad Lover The Mad Lover 1615-16[12] 1647 1 12 x
Spanish Curate The Spanish Curate 1622 1647 2 7 x x
Little French Lawyer The Little French Lawyer 1619-23 1647 3 17 x x
Custom of the Country The Custom of the Country 1620 1647 4 5 x x
Noble Gentleman The Noble Gentleman 1624-26[12] 1647 5 40 x x
Captain The Captain 1609-12 1647 6 26 x x
Beggars' Bush Beggars' Bush 1615-22 1647 7 9 x x x
Coxcomb The Coxcomb 1608-09 1647 8 42 x x
False One The False One 1619-23 1647 9 16 x x
Chances The Chances 1617 1647 10 20 x
Loyal Subject The Loyal Subject 1618 1647 11 13 x
Laws of Candy The Laws of Candy 1619-23 1647 12 15 Ford
Lovers Progress The Lovers' Progress 1621-23[12] 1647 13 24 x x
Island Princess The Island Princess 1619-21 1647 14 39 x
Humorous Lieutenant The Humorous Lieutenant 1619? 1647 15 10 x
Nice Valour The Nice Valour 1621-24[12] 1647 16 50 x Middleton
Maid in the Mill The Maid in the Mill 1623 1647 17 33 x Rowley
Prophetess The Prophetess 1622 1647 18 27 x x
Bonduca Bonduca 1611-14 1647 19 29 x
Sea Voyage The Sea Voyage 1622 1647 20 43 x x
Double Marriage The Double Marriage 1619-23 1647 21 32 x x
Pilgrim The Pilgrim 1621? 1647 22 25 x
Knight of Malta The Knight of Malta 1616-19 1647 23 34 x x Field
Woman's Prize The Woman's Prize 1609-12[12] 1647 24 38 x
Love's Cure Love's Cure 1625[13] 1647 25 35 x x x
Honest Man's Fortune The Honest Man's Fortune 1612-15[12] 1647 26 51 x x Field
Queen of Corinth The Queen of Corinth 1616-18 1647 27 28 x x Field
Women Pleased Women Pleased 1618-21[12] 1647 28 36 x
Wife for a Month A Wife for a Month 1624 1647 29 23 x
Wit at Several Weapons Wit at Several Weapons 1613[14] 1647 30 44 Middleton, Rowley
Valentinian Valentinian 1610-14 1647 31 18 x
Fair Maid of the Inn The Fair Maid of the Inn 1625 1647 32 45 x x Ford, Webster
Love's Pilgrimage Love's Pilgrimage 1612-15[12] 1647 33 31 x x Jonson
Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn 1612[15] 1612? 34 52 x
Four Plays, or Moral Representations, in One Four Plays, or Moral Representations, in One 1608[16] 1647 35 53 x Field
Maid's Tragedy The Maid's Tragedy 1610 1619 1 x x
Philaster Philaster 1609 1620 2 x x
King and No King A King and No King 1611 1619 3 x x
Scornful Lady The Scornful Lady 1612-15[12] 1616 4 x x
Elder Brother The Elder Brother 1625? 1637 6 x x
Wit Without Money Wit Without Money 1614[17] 1639 8 x Unknown
Faithful Shepherdess The Faithful Shepherdess 1608 1609-10 11 x
Rule a Wife and Have a Wife Rule a Wife and Have a Wife 1624 1640 14 x
Monsieur Thomas Monsieur Thomas 1612-15[12] 1639 19 x
Rollo, Duke of Normandy Rollo, Duke of Normandy 1624-28[12] 1639 21 x x Chapman, Jonson
Wild Goose Chase The Wild Goose Chase 1621? 1652 22 x
Knight of the Burning Pestle The Knight of the Burning Pestle 1607 1613 30 x
Night Walker The Night Walker 1614[18] 1640 37 x Shirley
Coronation The Coronation 1635 1640 41 Shirley
Cupid's Revenge Cupid's Revenge 1608 1615 46 x x
Two Noble Kinsmen The Two Noble Kinsmen 1613? 1634 47 x Shakespeare
Thierry and Theodoret Thierry and Theodoret 1613-21 1621 48 x x x
Woman Hater The Woman Hater 1606 1607 49 x x
Henry VIII Henry VIII 1613 1623[19] x Shakespeare
Barnavelt Barnavelt 1619 1883[20] x x
Very Woman A Very Woman 1634[21] 1655[22] x x

Later editions

The folios limited but did not extinguish the market for individual editions of the plays; such editions were printed when the chances for profit seemed favourable. Humphrey Robinson and Alice Moseley (Humphrey Moseley's widow) issued a quarto of Beggar's Bush in 1661, for example. During the Restoration era and into the 18th century, the plays in the Beaumont/Fletcher canon were very popular – though they were often performed in adapted versions rather than in the originals; and the adaptations then appeared in print. An adaptation of The Island Princess was published in 1669; and adapted version of Monsieur Thomas was printed in 1678. Beggar's Bush became The Royal Merchant, published in 1706 – and later, The Merchant of Bruges.[23] This trend in favour of new adaptations over original versions made it easier for Herringman, Martyn, and Mariot to obtain permissions to reprint those originals in their 1679 collection.

See also


  1. ^ Lee Bliss, in Kinney, p. 524.
  2. ^ Jonson, a decade dead by 1647, was posthumously represented with an excerpt from his poem to Beaumont.
  3. ^ Logan and Smith, pp. 83–5.
  4. ^ Herringman was a member of the syndicates of stationers who issued the Fourth Folio of Shakespeare's plays in 1685, and the third Ben Jonson folio in 1692.
  5. ^ The 17 printed before 1647, and The Wild Goose Chase, which had been published in 1652.
  6. ^ Maxwell, pp. 3–4.
  7. ^ Bowers 1966, p xxxi.
  8. ^ See under Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.
  9. ^ Gurr 1992, pp 233-43.
  10. ^ Glover & Waller 1905-12.
  11. ^ Hoy 1962, pp 85-86.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gurr 2004, pp 284-86.
  13. ^ In James Shirley's revision of Fletcher's 1605 original. Gurr 2004, p 286.
  14. ^ Taylor & Lavagnino 2007, p 981.
  15. ^ Glover & Waller 1905-12; vol 10, p 378.
  16. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 614-15.
  17. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 621.
  18. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 592.
  19. ^ Gurr 2004, p 295.
  20. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 544.
  21. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 618.
  22. ^ Gurr 2004, p 301.
  23. ^ Potter, p. 5.


  • Bowers, Fredson, ed. The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon: Volume 1. Cambridge University Press, 1966.
  • Glover, Arnold and A. R. Waller, eds. The Works of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. 10 volumes. Cambridge University Press, 1905-12.
  • Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. Third edition. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Gurr, Andrew. The Shakespeare Company 1594-1642. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Hoy, Cyrus. "The Shares of Fletcher and His Collaborators in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon." Studies in Bibliography. Seven parts: Vols. VIII-IX, XI-XV, 1956-62.
  • Kinney, Arthur F., ed. A Companion to Renaissance Drama. London, Blackwell, 2002.
  • Logan, Terence P., and Denzell S. Smith, eds. The Later Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama. Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 1978.
  • Maxwell, Baldwin. Studies in Beaumont, Fletcher, and Massinger. Chapel Hill, NC, University of North Carolina Press, 1939.
  • Oliphant, E. H. C. The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher: An Attempt to Determine Their Respective Shares and the Shares of Others. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1927.
  • Potter, Alfred Claghorn. A Bibliography of Beaumont and Fletcher. Cambridge, MA, Library of Harvard University, 1890.
  • Schelling, Felix E. Elizabethan Drama 1558-1642. 2 vol. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908.
  • Sprague, Arthur Colby. Beaumont and Fletcher on the Restoration Stage. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1926.

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