Beaumont and Fletcher folios

The Beaumont and Fletcher folios are 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, 1647Edit

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belonged to the stationers who had issued those volumes; Robinson and Moseley therefore concentrated on the previously unpublished plays in the Fletcher canon.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, 1679Edit

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 canonEdit

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, likely, four plays should be excluded (The Laws of Candy by John Ford, Wit at Several Weapons by Middleton and Rowley, The Nice Valour by Middleton, and The Coronation by James Shirley), and three more extant plays should be included (John van Olden Barnavelt, A Very Woman, and Henry VIII). A Very Woman was printed in a volume of Massinger's plays in 1655, while 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.

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

Later editionsEdit

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.[26] 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 alsoEdit


  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. ^ Gurr 1992, pp 233-43.
  9. ^ Glover & Waller 1905-12.
  10. ^ Hoy 1962, pp 85-86.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gurr 2004, pp 284-86.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Bowers (1996, pp 751-52) marks this attribution as being less secure than others.
  13. ^ Scholars' estimations of Fletcher's contributions to The Nice Valour have steadily decreased over time. While in 1962, Hoy attributed the play to Fletcher and Middleton (p 86), Bowers later marked Fletcher's contribution as less secure (1996, pp 751-52). In 1979, Jackson found "no evidence" for Fletcherian authorship, while more recent opinion has tended toward sole authorship for Middleton (Taylor & Lavagnino 2007 Companion, pp 423-24).
  14. ^ In James Shirley's revision of Fletcher's 1605 original. Gurr 2004, p 286.
  15. ^ Taylor & Lavagnino 2007 Works, p 981.
  16. ^ Bowers (1996, pp 751-52) attributes the play to Fletcher, Middleton, and Rowley. However, Fletcher's authorship is rejected in the Oxford Middleton, which asserts that the play has been "definitively re-established as the work of Middleton and Rowley." (Taylor & Lavagnino 2007 Works, 980)
  17. ^ Glover & Waller 1905-12; vol 10, p 378.
  18. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 614-15.
  19. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 621.
  20. ^ a b Bowers (1996, pp 751-52) adds this attribution, but marks it as being less secure than others.
  21. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 592.
  22. ^ Gurr 2004, p 295.
  23. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 544.
  24. ^ Schelling 1908, vol 2, p 618.
  25. ^ Gurr 2004, p 301.
  26. ^ Potter, p. 5.


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